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soil mixture ratios

Posted by ecb_nuseries (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 30, 09 at 10:05

i need some sugestions on ratios on mixing, topsoil, perlite or vermiculte, sand, with organic matter such as oak leaves so overtime it turns to soil. and where can i get some perlite or vermiculte for not too much? the current mix i use is sand and peat moss and it SUCKS! it dries out way to quickly and takes too long to absorb water i have to leave my pots in standing water for about 1 1/2 hours in order to moisten it compleatly. PLZ HELP ME!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: soil mixture ratios

Are you talking about making a medium for containers or outdoor planting beds?

If for containers, I suggest that you visit the Container Forum and do a little homework in there. You'll soon find out that all but one of your ingredients perform poorly in containers. That would be the perlite.

All of those ingredients are great for outdoor beds and gardens.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

the current mix i use is sand and peat moss and it SUCKS! it dries out way to quickly and takes too long to absorb water

Peat moss turns to a plastic-like material when it dries out. You need to have some other organic material in there, like composted pine needles, shredded tree prunings, or old horse manure.

All you need to do is pile up the oak leaves (shredded if possible) and keep them moist and they will turn to compost.

Why do you think you need perlite and vermiculite?


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RE: soil mixture ratios

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 30, 09 at 14:53

I agree with Dori, if ECB is making a container medium.

Peat moss does have a place in good container media, but it's difficult to build a really good soil that has peat as the primary component. Also, you can't get lazy and allow it (peat) to dry down to under 30% moisture content because it becomes hydrophobic (water-repellent). While some are happy with the results of using compost, manure, sand, other ingredients that tend to rob the soil of its aeration as they collapse, I steer away from them, opting for mixes that are more durable and that will remain well-aerated for the intended life of the planting. I also avoid shredded tree prunings (especially those that are not composted) for multiple reasons.

Remember, ECB, building a soil that is able to go for long intervals between irrigations comes at a price. Water-retentive soils that make it easier on you (less watering) have less aeration. This impacts root health and function. Grower convenience and best vitality in your plants are often mutually exclusive. Plants in soils that require more frequent irrigation are going to exhibit greater vitality than those grown in more water-retentive soils, all other things being equal.

Al


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RE: soil mixture ratios

i wanted to see if i should be using somthing better than what I've thought i sould be using. 2gallons of peat, 1galon sand, 1 gallon perlite, 1 2/2 gallons of dark topsoil or composted manure. its for container plants. i was thinking about using vermiculite because its much cheaper. i wanted perlite or vermiculite to better the aireation of the soil.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Sep 30, 09 at 21:15

The soil recipe you just listed will compact very quickly & leave you with drainage/aeration issues. Vermiculite will collapse and compact quickly, so you should consider it's physical properties carefully before you include it in appreciable volumes in container soils. It is also a very good idea to leave most types of sand and various mineral soils (topsoil, garden soil) in the garden and out of container soils.

A soil that many at GW have used with considerable success is

5 parts pine bark fines
1 part peat
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime

This soil will remain well-aerated far longer than a peat-based soil. If you have time and interest, you may find this thread about how water behaves in container soils will be helpful in furthering your understanding of what makes good soils good and poor soils poor. You may be surprised that it depends more on the physical properties of the soils components than what the soil is actually made of, with particle size/porosity having a considerable effect on the o/a quality of the soil as a whole.

Al


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RE: soil mixture ratios

but wouldnt the pine cause the acidity to go up i know that is what the lime is for and with so much pine and so little peat wouldnt the roots not have much medium to move around in and how good would the water retention be?


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RE: soil mixture ratios

Peat moss is supposed to be acidic and is recommended to lower a soil pH for such plants as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Blueberries, so why would peat moss used as the base for a container "soil" do the same thing? Research has shown that pine needles and Oak leaves do not significanlty change a soils pH. If the "soil" mix proposed I see nothing, other than the lime, that would provide nutrients to the plants and I have used just compost as my potting soil for a number of years with very good results, drainage is good and plants grow quite happily and productive.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

i have used compost in the past but the only problem with it is i need a very large amount and it takes too long. i thought using peat would make a fluffier soil. i know if there are solid masses in the soil such as leaves the root will curve around it. I didnt know that using peat was worse then pine needles! but does it matter what type of pine needles? if pine needles dont raise the acidity then why cant worms have them in the worm bin? i have even read that you cant even use pine wood for making a raised bed because it does somthing to the soil.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 1, 09 at 12:54

"Research has shown that pine needles and Oak leaves do not significantly change a soils pH."

We're talking about CONTAINER soils, so I'm not sure why we would be including pine needles and oak leaves, but ..... whatever.

The reason that 'research' has shown that these materials don't change the pH of MINERAL soils much is because of the high bulk density and buffering capacity of mineral soils. Since they (organic components of container media) ARE the soil, or at least a considerable part of the soil when used in container media, and the rest of the medium will be low bulk density and and have little buffering capacity when compared to mineral soils. IOW - you cannot bring the garden to container culture and expect all things to be equal.

Mixes of peat and pine bark usually come in at a pre-limed pH somewhere <5.0. When we lime them, there is a reactive fraction of the lime that brings pH up to something above 6.0. At that point there is a residual fraction of the lime that is more readily available for uptake.

Finished compost isn't a good choice as a primary media component because it does NOT drain well. It compacts easily and holds too much water. If it is larger particles to promote drainage and aeration, it is not 'finished', and N immobilization is assured. Finished compost also provides very little nutrition. In addition, you cannot depend on the media components to provide nutrition to the plant and expect to have plants grow at near their genetic potential. Container culture is much closer to hydroponics than it is to growing in the garden, and the grower must take responsibility for ensuring their plants receive adequate nutrition or be satisfied with plants that are guaranteed to grow with reduced vitality.

Because a few people somehow think that compost is 'more organic' than pine bark or peat and are satisfied with the level of results they're able to squeeze from their soils is no indication that following the same path is wise or reasonable for those who are results oriented. Jack, not having experienced growing in anything better, may be happy with the results of whatever he might be growing in, while Jill may have left the same soil behind years ago in favor of one she knows to be much more productive, and perhaps more importantly, easier to grow in and less fraught with problems.

Al


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ECB - i have even read that you cant even use pine wood for making a raised bed because it does something to the soil

Don't believe everything you read. Someone probably took a very well-done bit of research and by the time that "wisdom" had passed from gardening site to email and back to more gardening sites it morphed into something else.

Worms don't have strong enough mouths to chew on pine needles. That's why they aren't recommended in worm bins.


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ahhhhhh i see! wow screw books im just going to start using this site as my number one resorce! you say u use pine bark as a large part of your soil. i dont know where to get that... the only reason i use peat is because i found ALOT for cheap.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 2, 09 at 10:41

Never discount the knowledge you'll find in books. When you lay a foundation of knowledge through your studies, practical experience validates what you've learned and helps the pieces fit together at a rate that leaves those with only practical experience standing in your slipstream.

Learning about plants/gardening/soils is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. For a while, you struggle, sort of like trying to start in the middle and assemble the puzzle from the inside outward, before you have the border assembled. What you learn by studying could be likened to assembling the border first. Once you have those pieces in place so you can rely on them, the rest of the pieces can be put together much more rapidly and efficiently.

The link I left in one of my replies above can help you understand container media, if you'll take the time to read it; and the medium is the very foundation of every conventional container planting. Since you can't expect to build anything substantial on a weak foundation, your choice of soil(s) will probably be your most important decision(s) on your way to becoming a proficient container gardener who is well-satisfied rather than frustrated with the fruits of his/her efforts.

Al


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RE: soil mixture ratios

Al, I know it's been asked, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it mentioned before, but these bark fines - any idea what name they're sold under at OSH or Home Depot? I don't have a Lowe's nearby, so that's out. Most of the stuff I seem to find around here is redwood, which apparently, is not ok for a planting medium? (Not sure - I've gotten some mixed reviews on it.) The local landscape supply co. has stuff labeled as redwood fines, but they look like "gorilla hair", not at all like chunks of bark. Then they have bark mulch, which is uniform pieces of bark that are around the length of the diameter of a dime, and very tanbark-looking. Then we have redwood compost, and that basically looks like powdered redwood bark.

I've poured over all of your soil posts, looked at pictures and such for the gritty mix, for your bark fines/peat/floor dry/sand/lime mix, and I'm just left totally confused (my fault-not yours). I'm trying to build a soil for raised beds, and I just can't seem to hit upon the right combination of things or the right places/names of the ingredients to go into the mix. I don't want to buy what *I* think are partially compost bark fines only to discover that they're totally the wrong kind of wood or something, and ruin my chances of having a good fall garden. I also don't want the expense of screwing it up the first time and having to replace everything.

Any help you can provide would be so appreciated.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 2, 09 at 20:39

I'd be happy to help, but how about starting a new thread or contacting me off forum so we don't hijack ECB's thread? ;o)

Al


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RE: soil mixture ratios

Lol, will do. Sorry, ECB!


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RE: soil mixture ratios

I'm not sure I'm at the right place for my question... I have a soil that is very heavy in clay. It is very difficult to grown anything. I'd like to change it to put enough so that I could plant perennials and annuals and not have them die. My question is how deep would I have to dig so that I could discard that earth (it is far too dense to mix with healthy earth) and with what should I replace it with?


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RE: soil mixture ratios

ECB: Keep in mind that when selecting the components for a container mixture, the container size proportions should be considered as well as what is being planted in them.

If you have plants that like "wet feet",a container that is broad and shallow vs one that is tall and narrow will be better as it will retain water more readily. To understand this, take a sponge and wet it thoroughly then hold it horizontally and see how rapidly water escapes from it. Then, hold the sponge vertically and notice how much water comes out. Your containers will respond in the same manner especially with lighter mixes.

Did you ever wonder why there were so many different pot shapes in the greenhouse industry? Now you know part of the reason.

Michael


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RE: soil mixture ratios

"I'm not sure I'm at the right place for my question... I have a soil that is very heavy in clay. It is very difficult to grown anything. I'd like to change it to put enough so that I could plant perennials and annuals and not have them die. My question is how deep would I have to dig so that I could discard that earth (it is far too dense to mix with healthy earth) and with what should I replace it with?"

You'll get better results if you start a new topic with a subject that briefly describes what you want to know.


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RE: soil mixture ratios

what about adding osmocoat slow release into the soil? will that work? ive seen fertilizer in potting soil so i should be able to replicate it right?


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