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making a balanced potting soil mix

Posted by gw409 none (My Page) on
Sat, May 12, 12 at 11:14

hello:

i have been using "miracle grow potting mix" to plant all of my "patio" trees and vegetables (anything in a container or planter)

as you know this soil can get expensive when you start using large volumes. what ingredients and in what proportions can i use to create my own mix?

any help is appreciated
thank you


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I suggest that you visit the Container Forum, where the mixing of potting medium is discussed at great length. Miracle-Gro, by the way, is not a favored product over there, lol.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

i have used the compost I make as potting soil for years with good results and there have been, here, numerous discussions about potting soils. I could not get much of anything doing a search at the FAQ, maybe I asked the wrong question, but that should bring up something. A web search for potting soil, container soil, recipes probably would bring up more information then you want.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Your biggest money saving tip is going to be to make your own compost. You can then amend most any soil with the compost to make it "better."

Maybe it's me, but if I'm planting in containers, I do like to go with the "good" stuff. Typically that means I will buy the bagged stuff or mix compost, peat, perlite, vermiculite together.

For my garden area, I simply use the existing soil n just amend it with compost n manure (over time, it turns in to some pretty good stuff).


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

There are two type of Als mixes the gritty and the other one. The other one is a peat moss, bark firs and perlite, but that is good for moisture loving plants. The gritty is for well drained plants. It is one part quarter inch 1/4 granite, 1 part 1/4 turface and one part 1/4 bark. All of them must be 1/4 inch size. The secret to draining is all the particles must be the same size more or less. Will this save you any money? I don't think so, but it will be a better planting mix.

If using your native soil mixed with compost works for you as a planting mix. That would save money. I have had problems using a container mix that contains soil. It may be ok at first, but over time it becomes more compacted. The gritty mix will last for three years at least before you need to repot.

If you can find the ingredients locally and buy in bulk that would save money. If you go to a landscaping wholesaler you can buy large amounts provided you can lift and carry all of that. Soil amending is a real pain due to the expense of buying browns in bags. If I don't buy bagged browns I don't get great results. There are money saving things you can do like collect leaves or sheared paper for browns, but those are more time consuming. It's money vs. time. Would you rather spend a lot of time looking for free things to compost or just buy a bag and be done with it.


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I wanted to add this for mix 1

The first mix has the ratio of 5 1 1. I could not find it at first. Mix one is fir bark 5 parts to 1 part perlite and one part peat moss. I did not have it on hand, because I have not made that mix yet. I only made the gritty so far.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I just made some potting soil for my Strawberries.

1 part original soil (sandy loam)
1 part earthgro potting soil
1 part perlite
1 part composted steer manure
1 part orchid mix (had an old bag laying around)
If it wasnt for the orchid mix I would have used mini pine bark nuggets.

I cant find any turfice or granite. I basically use what I have. I have many large bags of manure, earthgro potting soil, random bagged soils, big bags of pine bark nuggets for mulch, many bags of perlite (I think my grandfather bought them) and tons of good soil with alot of OM. I am still waiting for my compost to finish but I am going to use that on the garden:-)


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

There is a very good reason garden soil as well as compost (and that includes composted manures) should be avoided when concocting a potting mix. Both are too dense and/or too liable to compact, making them inappropriate to provide both the fast drainage and proper aeration container growing requires.

I would urge you to visit the Container Gardening forum to both read and absorb the advice and recipes you'll find there. Container growing is quite different from growing plants in the ground and different rules and guidelines apply.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I agree with what your saying to a certain extent. Like the good lord said, everything in moderation. Im in Zone 10 and my pots dry out quick. So a slow draining soil is not such a bad idea. Now dont get me wrong, Im not advocating using manure as a potting soil medium and Im not advocating slow draining dense potting soils. But if you can mix it right and still get good aeration along with good draining, I use manure. I have been using it for the last 6 years with no negative results. Now I dont use it exclusively by itself for potting. It never makes up more than, I would guess, %10 of my pot. Perlite and pine bark help alot. If you can find turfice and granite that would be even better.

Now that is what I use at times. Im not telling everyone else to follow my lead. I would like to use the gritty mix recipe If I could. But I read that strawberries like a sandy somewhat "thick" potting soil. I didnt say compact or non draining soil, just thick with organic matter. I also would not use compost as a potting medium. But I would use it as a small part of my potting soil mixture.

The pots I made yesterday are fluffy and airy. When watered it gets a little "dense" but not bad at all. The perlite helps ALOT. Then in a day or two its dry and aerated and fluffy again. This is the first time that I have made this particular mix though so I will keep you updated.

Oh and thanks for the link to the container gardening section. Lots of good stuff over there. Its funny how you can be on gardenweb for a while and never even realize there are other forums...lol


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I tend to reuse last year's potting soil. Especially for the bottom of big pots. I mix in 30-50% sifted compost and use it that way. I've certainly heard the compaction thing mentioned by gardengal and it's entirely possible my container stuff would do better if I followed that advice!


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I guess Im lucky or have good soil because I never have compacted pots. The soil around here is pretty good though.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

ProMix. It comes in bales like peatmoss (in fact, it is mostly peat moss), but it has a little compost, perlite, and micorrhiza in it. The trick is to re-use it. At the end of the season, dump all your pots, hanging baskets, flower boxes, etc. into the compost bin. I have a separate bin that I use just for this purpose. Add some of the usual compost ingredients (grass clippings, straw, leaves, manure, kitchen scraps, whatever) and turn it a few times in the fall and early spring. By the time you're ready to plant your pots and baskets, it's all happy happy and ready for prime time. (If you have added any big chunky stuff, it probably won't be broken down yet, so you may have to screen it. Or just avoid big chunky stuff as an ingredient).


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, May 15, 12 at 15:11

The key to a good potting soil is more about particle size than it is about what the soil is made of. Soils that remain soggy for extended periods are limiting - period. When using soils that support significant amounts of perched water, roots begin to die very quickly, beginning with the very finest roots - the ones that do all the work. The longer a portion of the soil remains soggy, the larger the roots roots are in that region of the pot that succumb to soggy conditions. Even if roots DON'T die, their function is impaired when soils are soggy. Roots need oxygen at all times to function normally. When they can't function normally, plant growth and vitality are limited.

While it may be necessary to use a very water retentive soil under certain conditions to get the grower some relief from not having to water more frequently than there is time for, it doesn't change the fact that excessively water retentive soils are limiting, or the fact the plant won't like it. Call it a necessary evil if you wish, but a lack of adequate oxygen in the root zone is a limiting factor and prohibits plants from growing to their potential.

Small particulates like fine sand, compost, peat, coir, topsoil, leave very small spaces between the soil particles that tend to remain filled with water instead of air. It's only when the plant has used most of the excess water, or it has evaporated, that the plant can grow at even close to its potential. Plants like damp, they DON'T like wet. If, when you think about container media, you ask yourself if the media is going to provide the structure needed to retain ample volumes of air for the expected life of the planting, you're on the right track.

We look at rich and black as coveted adjectives when used to describe our garden soils, but they are of absolutely no significance when it comes to container soils, which are more about structure than any other factor. The most productive and easiest container soil I've ever grown in bears no resemblance to rich or black. Witness:

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You needn't build nutrition into your container media. I can teach anyone, in 5 minutes, how to effectively provide all the nutrients essential to normal growth in a ratio almost exactly the same as the average of what plants use and at a concentration the plant will appreciate. Everyone wants to use compost in their container soils, but compost is woefully inadequate as a nutrient source, so you'll need to fertilize anyway. Essentially, you sacrifice the soils structure, imagining compost is a magical ingredient and the hoping it will provide adequate nutrition for your plants. It won't. Better, is to focus on making sure the soil holds ample volumes of air and doesn't remain soggy after you water, and take the minor burden of supplying adequate nutrition on your own shoulders and forget about relying on the soil as the nutrient source.

Container media don't need to do everything, like your garden soils do. If YOU build the structure into them, based on particle size and the durability of the particles, and YOU take responsibility for supplying the nutrition a plant needs to be healthy in a way that resembles something quantifiable instead of by guess and by gosh, it's very likely you'll find your job not only much easier, but more productive as well.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

This is probably a dumb question from a container newbie.

I don't get why, if plants don't like soil, compost or all the other stuff we garden with, to the point that you should never put them in a pot, why do plants grow in the garden at all?


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Because - and I tried to make this clear in my earlier response - growing plants in a container, or what is essentially a closed system, is vastly different from growing the same plant in the ground. In ground, there is no limit to the root expansion or that root system's ability to pull out needed nutrients or moisture. There are no impervious "sides" to the planting hole and that critical need for drainage one has with containers is greatly reduced when the entire garden is for all intents and purposes your drain hole :-) Aeration is provided via a whole plethora of soil organisms not present in container soil and other underground (i.e., 'root') activities plus when allowed to spread out unhindered by container walls, roots extend laterally, not vertically, so surface oxygen is readily available.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Very interesting post, tapla. What is that mix shown in the picture? Looks like vermiculite with small stones/large sand grains, and maybe some small bark chips? You explain how excess water can be a problem, but with such a course mix, wouldn't you have the opposite problem? How do you ensure that the containers don't dry out? Folks go to work each day, go away for the weekend, or simply forget to check for water each day. Wouldn't plants dry out and kick the bucket in such media? You mention there is no need to include nutrition in the media - I assume that means you use water soluble fertilizers? By and large my container plants grow great with recycled potting soil/compost, but I'm always open to new ideas!


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I made some also

I was a bit heavier with the bark because the bark was cheaper, but the plant is doing well. I picked any easy plant to grow Calceolaria integrifolia Golden Nugget, which I propagated. I did not screen it either. It is very wet and damp in San Francisco. Of course there is soil that came with the plants original roots. I check it everyday and if it warm, I have to water every other day, but only when it's dry. The turface keeps water in, but the gravel makes it drain out, and the bark keep it damp, so somehow all of these things make it work. The plant is super healthy. It likes this mix.

But, this was an easy plant, so now I have to try a harder one. I have had success with Calceolaria integrifolia in a pot of native soil with compost, for about six months until it went bad, and had to be transplanted into the soil.

Plant in Mix


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, May 16, 12 at 22:39

Diggity - I'm not sure how many plants I have in the gritty mix, but I know it's more than 300. It's made of equal parts of screened Turface (a baked clay granule - almost ceramic-like), crushed granite, and screened pine or fir bark. You can vary the soil's water retention by increasing the Turface, which is what holds most of the water in internal pores, and decreasing the amount of granite. In most cases, you'd need to water every 3-5 days, depending on what the plant material is, how mature the planting is, and of course, the weather.

I only use that soil for long term plantings - like houseplants, bonsai, woody material I'm growing on for bonsai. For other, shorter term plantings like the display containers scattered around the gardens & decks and veggies
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I use a mix based on a large fraction of pine bark plus a small fraction of peat or compost and perlite. I favor 5 parts of pine bark fines, one part of either peat or compost, and 1 part perlite, as seen in the middle:
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Read more if you're interested & see what others have to say by following the link below.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about media for containers if you click me!


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Thanks for the explanation gardengal.

Tapla, you have gorgeous containers. Do plants get their micronutrients from the rock chips in the mix? I can see how they can survive on soluble NPK but what about all the other minerals that are not included in soluble fertilizers? It obviously works, I'm just curious.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Can you show us some photos of the bonsai? I got some free samples of a bonsai mix when I ordered from a bonsai dealer the turface and the granite. They were great quality, but he does not have them in stock anymore. I don't grow bonsai and the samples of the mix are too small to run a test with them.
I mixed one with peat, but it was total failure. Too much peat and it would not drain out.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Very impressive results, tapla! I have not heard of Turface before - where do you buy it? When used for annual pots/hanging baskets, etc, do you re-use it year after year? Or start with fresh mix each year?


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, May 17, 12 at 17:02

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Maple - clump style
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Usually, commercially prepared soils for bonsai are poor, because the fines are not screened out. Where most growers that run into problems relater to excess water retention go wrong is they START with ingredients that are too fine to be used as the primary fraction of a container soil. Peat, compost, coir, sand, topsoil ...... all compact together tightly enough that they hold significant volumes of water between the soil particles. What holds more air - pudding or BBs? - peat/compost/coir/sand, or the bark pictured in my post above? If you start with pudding, how much perlite do you need to add to get it to drain well or to show an improvement in aeration. It's only when the soil is comprised of about 80% perlite that you start to see some aeration in the pudding. Why think that you can start with a bucket of compost & add a few handfuls of perlite and get it to drain or improve aeration? You can't. It's just like the pudding - you have to START with large particles and add enough small particles to get to the water retention level you prefer. If you use a soil with the largest fraction made up of small particulates, you'll just need to live with the limiting effects that come as a result of the soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the container.

Shallow containers are the most difficult to grow in because a higher % of the soil remains saturated after watering if you're using a water retentive soil; but even cacti & succulents can be grown in very shallow containers with an appropriate soil.
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Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Is there a good place to buy this stuff? All the places I have found is at least $20 per gallon bag. Is that expensive?

I found this website. They have a bunch of stuff but seem a bit pricey

http://www.repotme.com/orchid-potting-media/Granite-Grit.html

Here is a link that might be useful: Potting Mix


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I got my granite and turface on ebay, but you really have to shop around ebay to get a deal. I saw that orchid website, but they are selling in very small amounts. Orchids don't need much root space.

Thanks for the lovely photos. I still have bark left over so I am going to make the 5 1 1 mix next. I bought some perlite on ebay, because I wanted good quality perlite. If you buy the cheapest bag at some place like home depot all the particles are different sizes. That is bad for the drainage.
I still don't know what I am going to grow in the mix yet, but I think I should use up the bark, because I don't know how long it will keep.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, May 18, 12 at 7:15

There are lots of places in CA to get Turface & fir bark. Start with any of the Ewing Irrigation outlets for Turface MVP. Granite, you may have to look for, but it's not the recipes that are important - it's the concept. You'll be doing yourself a much greater favor by gaining an understanding of how your soil works and what you can do to get it working FOR you, instead of against you, rather than treating the soil like the latest fad that's going to transform your growing experience over night.

TC - you asked upthread if the plants get their micronutrients from the rock chips in the soil. I never depend on the soil as a source of nutrients. It supplies so little in the way of nutrition that I'm closer to realism if I consider the soil inert than I am if I try to factor it in as a nutrient source. I use a fertilizer that contains ALL nutrients essential to normal growth. It comes in an NPK ratio the same as the average NPK usage plants actually use, and includes the micronutrients, also at the ratio plants use and in the correct ratio to each other. The NPK ratio (different than %s) can make a significant difference in plant vitality - this is especially so in soils that tend to drain slowly.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Very nice pictures! You've caused me to re-think my container gardening strategy - thank you! But don't keep us in suspense... what is this fertilizer of which you speak?

(crossing fingers... I hope he doesn't say Miracle Grow, I hope he doesn't say Miracle Grow...)


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Yeah, wow, if I was going to go into this container thing in a big way, here's a guy to learn from...


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Yeah. Its like when I was growing hydroponically. Basically the net pot and rockwool cubes were the "soil" everything else was oxygen and nutrients to the roots. All that really mattered was the oxygen and nutrients. The "soil" was just there to hold the plant in place so to speak.

You can grow a plant suspended in mid air with nothing but air. You need to mist the roots with water and nutrients though.

I understand what your saying and it makes sense:-)


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

(crossing fingers... I hope he doesn't say Miracle Grow, I hope he doesn't say Miracle Grow...)

And why would you hope that? MiracleGro is a very suitable water soluble fertilizer that works very well in a container growing situation. I know many so-called organic gardeners blanche at the notion of using something like MG on their containers but for various reasons organic ferts seldom provide the range and efficiency of nutrient delivery in a container growing setting that a water soluble synthetic like MG does.

I'm pretty sure MG is not the fert Al uses - I believe he leans heavily to Dyna Gro's Foliage Pro simply because it has such a diverse range of both macro and micro nutrients and in a very appropriate concentration but that is really the only major distinction between it and something like MG.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, May 18, 12 at 17:53

For results, there's nothing wrong with MG fertilizer, if you get one of the 3:1:2 ratio formulations (24-8-16 or 12-4-8). I used to use it all the time before I switched to Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, also a 3:1:2 ratio. The factors you need to take into account is MG solubles don't contain Ca or Mg, but almost all commercially prepared potting soils are limed with dolomitic lime - your Ca/Mg source. Also, if you make your own soils that are based on bark or peat as the primary fractions, they should be limed to increase pH and provide a Ca/Mg source. The gritty mix is different and requires a different tack unless you use a fertilizer with all; the essentials, which is what makes the FP 9-3-6 so attractive; that, and it derives most of it's N from nitrate sources instead of the urea MG utilizes as its N source.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I love this thread! I going to plant everything in pots from now on!! (Besides Im running out of room in my yards)


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

One question Al. Doesn't your mix require watering your pots "daily" or they dry out


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 19, 12 at 5:11

How often you're required to water for best results depends on a combination of factors that include o/a soil volume, plant mass, plant type, maturity of the planting (how well the soil volume is colonized by roots), container (gas/water permeability) and weather conditions. I grow a lot of bonsai, so I have a large number of plants in very small soil volumes. Because of this, I've put myself in the position of having to make the watering rounds daily, but only a very small number of plants, all in very small volumes of soil, require daily watering. Most plants easily go from 3 - 5 days between drinks, some as long as 7-10 days in the case of some pines/junipers/succulents. Plus, as noted upthread, you can adjust water retention by varying the ratio of Turface:grit while still keeping the organic fraction (bark) at 1/3 (or less) of the o/a volume. For the growers that need to feel more 'organic', it's interesting to note that at a 1/3 bark fraction, the gritty mix would actually have an organic fraction up to 6X greater than even richly organic garden soils.

I've posted hundreds of pictures of perfectly healthy plants growing in either the 5:1:1 or gritty mixes. They're not healthy because of some extra skills that I might possess that others don't; rather, it's because of the soil and nutritional supplementation choices I've made and the wide margin for grower error they afford. Anyone that wants to can do it with equally favorable results. When I say that many hundreds (almost certainly thousands) of growers that have embraced the concept bear witness to what I just said (see the thread I linked to), I'm not tooting my own horn, I'm simply highlighting that as the quality of container media varies, so does the cost of using them in terms of what you're made to pay for grower error. Poor soils tend to significantly increase costs incurred resultant of a lack of judicious oversight in any of several areas, while the well-aerated, fast-draining soils increasing numbers of growers are coming to prefer and committing, to tend to offer forgiveness in place of exactitude.

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Gardening is soo much work!
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Gardening is soo much work!
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Hello, My Friend

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

On a side note, Gritty mix and the like is not some new concept. People have been growing with this type of media for many years now with good results. Its just that, for some reason, it has not become main stream. Maybe its not cost effective for the big companies to get involved? I dont know.

How much does it cost to fill a 5gal pot with gritty mix? More than a bag of MG cost for sure.

Hydro heads have been using turface, granite, gro rocks, vermiculite, perlite, rockwool, etc. for a long time now with excellent results. I cannot figure out why more casual homeowner/grower doesn't know about stuff like this?

I would think that in hot dry climates the gritty mix soils would need more water than a traditional soil mix. But if your into growing, extra watering wont be an issue (unless you dont have a reliable water source)


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something like miracle grow but not

What cute frogs. Here is the link to a plant food like miracle grow but I think is organic or all natural or something like that. I used to get it at this begonia place in santa cruz. I used it up and the place went out of business. This is better then miracle grow if one can make the effort to order it. It seems like I will never use up the miracle grow I have now. It is in a box, but I have had the same box for years, I never use it up. I will get this next time around.

Here is a link that might be useful: romeo plant food


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 19, 12 at 16:13

TT - It says 'soluble' plant food, which means it's a synthetic, like MG, and probably made from exactly the same salts MG is made of. If you're intent on using it, the only formulation I would consider using in containers is the 24-14-14, which is close to a 2:1:1 ratio. MG's 24-8-16 would be a superior choice as your go to, all purpose fertilizer because it provides nutrients in the same ratio as the average of what plants use. Better still, would be the FP 9-3-6, but what you use is up to you.

My cost for about 3.5 - 4 cu ft (25-30 gallons) of gritty mix is about $25, so it would cost about $5 to fill a 5 gallon bucket with gritty mix. I have no idea how that stacks up in a price comparison - it doesn't matter - I'd still use it ..... and it remains structurally stable for far longer than MG and similar. My cost to make the 5:1:1 mix, much closer to 'apples to apples' when you're using the cost of MG and similar soils as the base line, is about 1/2 the price of MG soils and similar.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I used Miracid just a few days ago in a watering can. I have not been able to find this plant food Romeo, I had forgotten the name, but in two days I had aphids on the camellia. I think Miracid works too fast, or I should have made it even weaker in concentration. I have one box of the refills for over five years and I never use it up. It is just too powerful and I have to make it so weak that it lasts forever and therefore is economically. I have a lifetime supply of Miracid, apparently. I may never use it all up.

But, sometimes I get a bunch of weak growth after using it instead of steady slow healthy growth. But, the ferns seemed to do well with the Miracid which is actually Miracid, since I need more acid conditions in my soil. The ferns liked it, but the Camilla (both are acid loving) did not like it. The other plants seems to show some positive improve after using it, but we had some sunny weather which could account for some positive improvement.

But, I can't remember using the red Romeo food, so I don't know how that would stack up in a side by side test. The bag got wet and the food all got wrecked so I composted it. Next time I am putting it some kind of water proof jar or plastic container.

I have to go down to Half Moon Bay buy Romeo, but Devil's Slide is such a pain and the traffic can be slow on 92. They did have it in stock. I would think the balanced one would be less shocking for the plants but I am not sure. I heard always use balanced foods.

There are salts in Miracid, but I think if you use fresh poultry manure it has a lot more (chicken or turkey). Of course you would only use that in soil.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, May 19, 12 at 20:38

You are very confused. If you allow me certain degree of leniency that I might make a point ...... If you equate the nutrients plants take from the soil to plant food, it can then be said that plants subsist on salts. All nutrients plants normally get from the soil are taken up in salt form. It doesn't matter if it came from a plastic jug or a dead fish - salts.

I don't know if you're interested or not, but you might find the link below helpful.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: More about nutrition for containers ....


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I think it is that reaction most people think of salt as bad for your health and bad for plants. Thanks for showing me otherwise.


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Oh man my head hurts...

Where are those days of old where I was happy with just filling my watering can with any old blue or green or red powder and watering away with a smile on my face? Those days are gone now. Long gone.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

AL..Sorry to go off topic but are 1:1:1 ferts that bad? Is it just the fact that plants will not use the extra amount of P and K that say a 20-20-20 supplies? The excess would just get washed out of the pot and not used correct? Or would the plant absorb too much P and K? I ask because I found (In my garage attic) about 12 POUNDS of soluble 20-20-20 with all of the micros. I want to use it because of the micros. It does do wonders on most of my plants but I understand it is not a 3:1:2 but would using it hurt or would the excess be leached out and not used by the plant? I hate to waste it you know? I read the link you provided and I think I am correct in that the plant will not use the additional P and K or will get burnt correct? So basically 10-10-10 and 20-20-20 are mostly a waste of P and K?

And why do companies still make 1:1:1 products when most of it is a waste so to speak?


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 20, 12 at 11:06

The 1:1:1 ratios aren't as problematic as some of the bloom booster fertilizers, like the common 10-52-10 (1:5:1); and your soil choice and watering habits tends to determine in large part how significant any problems that arise might be.

If a factory is building cars, it needs 4 tires, 2 headlights, and one steering wheel per vehicle. Obviously, if they buy the same number of steering wheels as tires, there will soon be a glut of steering wheels, and eventually a storage problem. 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers are more than just a waste of P & K. On average, they supply about 2.3X the P plants need (plants use about 6X as much N as P). IF you're using a soil that allows you to water copiously at every watering, you will be flushing most of the excess P from the soil. If you're using heavy soils that force you to water in sips to avoid the prolonged soggy conditions that inhibit growth/vitality and set the stage for root rot, excess P builds up in the soil. Plants do tend to take what they need and leave the rest, but that doesn't mean 'the rest' isn't limiting. Because N is the most used element taken from the soil, we fertilize as a function of N needs. Obviously, we can't supply adequate N w/o oversupplying P. The excess P unnecessarily raises the TDS/EC levels of the soil solution, thereby making it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water. In addition, excess P in the soil solution interferes particularly with the uptake of Fe, but also K, Ca, Z, & Cu. You can create or exacerbate deficiencies of other nutrients by adding excess P. In fact, this is true of nearly all the nutrients, which is one of the reasons supplying nutrients at the same ratio in which they are used is best. Greenhouse growers go to great lengths to ensure that nutrients are supplied at not only the most favorable concentration levels, but at the correct ratio as well.

One reason that companies make 1:1:1 ratio product is for use on mineral soils - gardens, beds ...... Any time you apply a fertilizer w/o a soil test, it's a crap shoot and a near certainty the practice has potential limitations built into it. Essentially, when you apply fertilizer w/o a soil test, you do so in the hope that there is 'something' in the fertilizer the plants actually NEED, and that getting that something they need relieves a limitation more significant than what you're supplying in excess (adding to the supply of nutrients already in the soil) creates. People reason in strange ways, so I'm sure that since many have no clue what their plants need, they think, "I'll play it safe and add the same amount of everything (1:1:1), all these other numbers are just too confusing, and I can't go wrong with good old 12-12-12 ...... can I? Oh well, I'll take it anyway".

The other reason so many fertilizers are available is market share. I had some questions I couldn't find answers to not long ago, so I talked to Dave Neal, CEO of Dyna-Gro Nutrition Solutions. One of the things we discussed is fertilizer ratios. He said that no one wants to give up a significant share of the market because someone else has a corner on it. Someone creates a market with their advertising, then everyone crowds the market for their share. I watch consumers in the fertilizer and pest/disease control aisles at stores all the time, and not 1 in 20 has a clue as to what they are buying, so they take the advertising hook and perpetuate the demand.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I don't know why I was told to used a balanced fertilizer. But, I have found if one number is wildly out of balance like Super phosphate one could have bad effects. I don't everything needs to be exactly in balance like always using 10 10 10. 20 20 20 should be ok if you can make it very weak in concentration. Products with nitrogen more then 10 are sometimes used to feed lawns. Lawns are unnatural and like a lot of nitrogen. The year I used bone meal the mag leaves got burned worse then ever, but that could have been coincidental. My plants don't need a lot of feeding because I use a lot of fresh compost.

It is good to add just a little bit and see what is going on in a day or two, then to put on a whole bunch and later see the effects of nitrogen burn. I don't think the extra P and K are wasted, but if they are does it matter? Maybe people want balanced products because that is what they are used to or maybe they once used something out of balanced and damaged their plants.


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on acid loving plants

Did a bit of research that a fertilizer with low P is better for acid loving as too much P increases alkalinity. So, I think the red colored romeo food whole be good for acid loving plants, not the balanced. I kind of always thought bone meal was good because it was natural and healthy. Does anyone want to buy some bone meal cheap? LOL


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, May 20, 12 at 14:43

Sigh ...... of the 3 fertilizer choices on the page, the red is the worst, green best but certainly not ideal, and the 18-18-18 is just another 1:1:1 ratio fertilizer that falls in between the high-P (red) and the green.

How high the numbers are on soluble fertilizer has nothing to do with their appropriateness. 24-8-16 and 12-4-8 are equally appropriate, one is just a more concentrated 3:1:2 ratio than the other & the manufacturer takes that into consideration by advising you to use half as much 24-8-16 as 12-4-8 to9 make a solution of the SAME concentration. If comparing 10-10-10 to 20-20-20, the recommended amount to use of the 20-20-20 will be half that of the 10-10-10.

Good luck.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Al, it was funny I posted my reply to blaze of glory around the same time you posted your post. I had not seen your post before I posted. Later I went back and saw your post and I decided to repost blaze of glory that maybe he had better not use that 20 20 20, but on the other hand he seems to really want to use it. I have been using 10 10 10 for years and it seems to not hurt anything, but it would be better not to use it. Then I noticed the red bagged one is also high in P which I am trying to avoid.

However, the red bag one is the one they use on the Begonias from Antonelli Brothers Begonia when they are getting them to bloom and make big huge displays. But, over all I can see the point. Why trade flashy flowers for over all health of the soil? All the Antonelli Brothers Begonias were in pots, but mine is in the ground.

Ideally I think I will try to get Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, this seems like the best choice for my needs. The miracid is 30-10-10. All my plants like acid products expect for the clematis. But, even the clematis likes acid types of food in my garden, since San Francisco soil and water is so super alkaline.

I looked over at my neighbors lemon tree and the leaves are just bright yellow. I want to give them advice, but I don't speak Chinese and they don't speak English. My lemon trees are green, so I am sure I am doing something right. But, no no more balanced fertilizer for me and no more bone meal and now more fertilizer with high P. I don't want to give up health for blooms.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Its a shame that my 20-20-20 has all the micro nutes needed and I have so much of it. My grandfather bought it a few years ago and then put it up in the rafters. I just found it last season so I could take it or leave it. I wonder if somehow I could get JUST the micros out of it?

I have the soluble MG in the 3:1:2 ratio so no worries. I use organic granules with bacteria to feed my fruit trees and I was HOPING to use the 20-20-20 for its MICROS but now Im re thinking this strategy. The MG would be the next best thing but it lacks some MICROS. Ill end up getting either the DYNO GRO or just some PURE MICROS.

Either way, on my potted plants (that I dont pay much attention to:-( ) that I can tell dont mind the 1:1:1, Ill continue to use the 20-20-20. But for my more serious "projects" Ill use the 3:1:2 MG to supplement.

Is there any method to use the 1:1:1(20-20-20) to just get the micros? I hate to waste such a large amount.

Im glad I now "get it"...lol


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, May 21, 12 at 7:51

Once anything soluble is added to the soil, it becomes part of the soil solution, adds to the EC/TDS, and is available for uptake. It's not that you can't use 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers on containerized plants if you wish ...... it's just that there are better choices. I'm not trying to make up your mind for you, just trying to be sure you have what you need to make an informed decision.

The Miracid 30-10-10, a 3:1:1 ratio fertilizer, is perfectly usable - almost the same as 24-8-16 except that it lacks a little K. To make it a 3:1:2 fertilizer, just add about 1/2 tsp of potash per gallon of fertilizer solution each time you fertilize and reduce the recommended solution strength very slightly.

Al


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I have had that miracid for years. I am never going to use it up in my lifetime. I am not concerned about giving it away to someone else. It was not even very expensive. There are like five bags in one box. It takes about five years to use even one bag. But, I did not use it every two weeks because I did not have containers. I only used it when I remembered to use it. Each bag is a refill for the feeder, but if I use one bag at one is a huge amount of food, an over dose. The feeder is clogged. I would some times add it another sprayer, but if I used very much that would also clog. To make it not clog you have to use a very small amount of food in a sprayer. If I use a watering can I would use less then a quarter cup, and refill the can a few times. But, my garden is small. I was able to pick up the DYNO GRO for less then 10 dollars including shipping on ebay. No having to go fight traffic.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Very interesting discussion. I had a P deficiency when I first had my soil tested 20 yrs. ago (new house). I used 12-12-12 on the lawn and garden for awhile. I'm having another test done, but I don't use the 1:1:1 stuff for general fert. anymore.

I came across a free 20 lb bag of Peters soluble 20-30-10 or some such, and who knows when I'll be able to use that up. It doesn't sound good for containers based on this thread. Maybe once in awhile won't hurt, just to use it up. I'm going to have to get some of the higher N stuff.

I'm also using lawn fert. (29-3-4) to sprinkle around the tomatoes in the garden so as not to overload P and K.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Thats a pretty good lawn fertilizer.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Very common formula around here. The lawn is a necessary evil, so I use as little as possible, and when the weeds get bad every couple of years I'm forced to put some weed n feed on it. Sparingly.


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

Sounds like my routine. Ive been putting off mowing the dam thing for a couple weeks now. Today will be the day I fire up the McLane mower and break my back mowing my huge patch of Burmuda grass! I know I know. And the mowers self drive feature is broke, needs a new chain.

Necessary evil is right! I cant wait until the day that I finally get the nerve to rip it all up and plant some California natives and gravel!! Lol


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RE: making a balanced potting soil mix

I used the dyna grow and it really made a big improvement. I a dumping both miracid and oscomcote plus. This is the link to the one I used. I got it on ebay for under 10 dollars.

Here is a link that might be useful: dyna grow


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