Super Quick Draining Soil Mix

bronxfigsNovember 16, 2011

I've read, and read until my head is swimming with too much information!

What's the easiest way to make a quick-draining soil mix? Will this formula work well?

1 part grit ..... Aquarium grit?

1 part Turface MVP

1 part Repti-Bark


some powdered gypsum to mix, and some Epsom Salts to dilute fertilizer solution when watering.

I think I screwed-up big time by using some, not a lot, of composted top soil in my mix, and no grit, with the Turface,and Bark. This mix may be retaining too much water, and/or not drying out quickly enough to support good root growth. I just potted up some bare-root Cliva plants and a Hipp. bulb in this mix. It supports Fungus Gnats just fine. The plants have been in this mix for about three weeks.

Should I just repot the Clivia and bulb into new, correctly formulated mix? I'm beginning to regret using top soil and no grit.

The huge bulb is planted in a very large, 5 gallon it will be years before it will need repotting. Clivias are in 3 gallon pots. Maybe I should just repot all the plants. What would you do?

I need to act now, so plants will not be set-back, or worse, get root-rot.



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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Jodi posted a huge message years ago about the importance of media? Jodi can you find and repost or bump? That way it would all be in one place.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:04AM
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Just adding a few other thoughts to the first posting.

Has anyone used, as a substitution for grit, the following:

crushed walnut, pecan, coconut shells, and various other hard shells...pistachio.

Coco bean hulls.

fired ceramic chips, pea-size "pebbles" etc. These items are usually found in supply catalogs for Marijuana growers

I'd be interested if any of these items would be good to use in the gritty mixes that are recommended for bulb growing.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:05AM
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Have you heard of the kew mix from Veronica m. Read?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 11:27AM
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I use pidgeon grit..extra perlite..pine bark mini nuggets.. all liberally added to regular bedding for me..just one opinion out of dozens...


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Absolutely, Kristi! Thrilled to share my source on the basics of container mediums and water retention!

Frank, if you could only read one thing about soils, the information at the link below is IT!

This is THE most important piece of information I've ever come across regarding container soils and the "how" and "why" of it all! The author, whom I know rather well, is not selling a product... he's sharing a concept! A concept based entirely on vetted scientific information and experience.

If you have questions or don't understand something he's written, I urge you to email him directly or ask questions within the Container Growing Forum. Al, or "tapla", his member name, is one of the nicest, most generous, helpful people I've ever run into... and he is more than happy to offer advice and help anyone who needs it. He's a master at bonsai, speaks publicly at large functions about growing and soils, and is all about sharing information and helping others get the most out of their growing experiences! And I'd never toot his horn if I didn't absolutely trust and believe that everything he offers is the truth... tried and true. He even helps people locate medium ingredients in their vicinity!

The article explains, in easy to understand terms, the purpose of soils, what actually happens under the surface of soil in a pot, gives basic recipes for suggested mediums, and is generally the best factual, condensed article I've ever read concerning containerized growing! It changed my entire perspective on container gardening, and helped me immensely! I hope it helps you, too!

Let me preface your reading of the article by saying that the commonly circulated information on potted growing contains a lot in the way of old wives' tales, fallacy, and quite a bit of misinformation. The gardening and plant industry, as we know, thrives on profit. Therefore, what they generally offer us are supplies that will keep us coming back to spend more money, thereby increasing profit.

We, as gardeners, don't generally think about the scientific aspects of growing... we just buy what the industry offers and pot up our plants, not really thinking too much about what happens under the soil surface of a potted plant, at the root zone... and we don't generally think about the physics of water movement through soils, or the huge differences between growing in pots and growing in the ground. We tend to take the generally accepted growing advice that circulates at face value, and we don't give it another thought.

As an example, how many of us have heard that placing a layer of gravel in the bottom of a pot helps drainage? Probably a lot of us... I, myself, used to do this... but the truth is, because of the physical way water reacts to different particle sizes, placing that gravel layer in the pot is actually detrimental, and causes a perched water table within the pot! It's a hindrance, not a help! Who knew?!

If, after reading the article, you should want to ask me some questions, please feel free. I tend to deviate from the actual medium recipes offered to compensate for my own environment, what plant type I'm potting, and other variables. It's the basic concept that's important, Frank... it's understanding why this type of medium works, how it works, and knowing what really happens under the surface of a soil in a given container planting. It's also knowing proper watering technique, and how to feed.

It's not complicated... it shouldn't be... growing potted plants should be enjoyable and rewarding, not a chore! And as long as you know a few basics, you're thumb will be green as green can be! ;-)

Without further adieu, I give you the article in question... happy reading!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 1:56PM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

And here's another great discussion, led by Jodi!

Here is a link that might be useful: The naked truth about soils

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Thanks everybody for all the suggestions.

I am very familiar with tapla's writings from his postings found within the FIG FORUM. I've also read all the other information cited in the replies. I just can't read anymore. My 62 year old brain has short circuited!

If I use the mix ingredients that I quoted, will this formula work well? (Measurements are by volume).

Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Thank you, Kristi, so very much... for pulling up an older discussion that I'd completely forgotten about! I'm grateful for your efforts!

Reading the entire thread again reinforces what I've learned, what I continue to learn... and for those reading it for the first time, it puts everything into a very clear, concise explanation of why I grow the way I do, and why I recommend that learning a few basics is the only way to get that green thumb! Knowledge is the key to success!

While the soil we choose to grow in is the foundation, the very base, for every plant grown in a container, I also want to mention the importance of light, a good regimen of nutrition, and proper watering technique.

Leibig's Law should be mentioned here, and very simply put, it's the Law of the Minimum. It states that growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource (the most limiting factor).

So, while I tend to preach about mediums most often... mainly because of the poor offerings of the retail market... there are other factors equally as important. We want to remember that even if we're using the very best in mediums, we still need to provide all of the other factors that make growing a plant to its genetic potential possible.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 3:07PM
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Forgive me, Frank... one of the aftereffects of the accident I was in is memory loss. My short term memory is shot to hell. I could tell you something one minute, and forget I ever told you within the next five minutes! I frequently read something posted, and then answer off on a tangent only I can understand! So sorry... let me try again...

Al's original recipe for Gritty Mix is...

1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
1 part screened Turface
1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil
CRF (if desired)

My own advice would be to leave out any organic compost or manure type of item. I think this is exactly what has the fungus gnats in a tizzy... you've provided them a lovely buffet, and a place to reproduce... naturally, they're happy as little clams! However, your plants are not.

If you do use an aquarium grit, make sure it's a plain, unadulterated rock item... and not some dyed or painted thing with chemicals added. I don't know much about aquariums and fish, so I don't know what kind of gravel is available. I use a product called MannaPro Poultry Grit... it's 100% crushed granite chips. I have to rinse the dust and screen for fine particles.

The important thing is to keep all of the ingredients at a comparable size... or as close to it as you can. It's not a big deal if size isn't exact, but really close is close enough.

Turface has decent moisture holding capacity, so you shouldn't need any organic compost or manure item.

It is important, though, to pre-wet the medium before using it, otherwise it might not moisten evenly when you are watering.

If you like, you can pop over to the Container Growing Forum and copy and paste your questions there, just to ensure you have the right answers. Somebody with better math skills and more experience might be the ticket to give you the correct answers. Al or Josh, aka greenman28, are the experts at this sort of stuff. They'll know for certain if a substitute is worthy or not.

Now... I tend to cheat a little... only because I have an overly dry environment, and I sometimes don't have turface available to use. I add a handful or two of a high quality bagged potting soil to some of my medium mixes. It depends on the individual plant and where it will be placed. If I use turface, I don't add the potting soil. Sometimes, I just need a little more moisture retention than the Gritty Mix offers.

And finally... yes, you can use Hydroton, Aliflor, Prime Agra, or whatever other brand name the fired clay balls are known by as a medium ingredient, depending on the size. Such products are usually available through hydroponic supply stores.

Marijuana growers... you're funny, Frank! Hydroponics... it's used by people who grow hydroponically or semi-hydroponically! :-)

Speaking of... Google "semi-hydroponics", and check out some of the websites. There's a great one with information on growing orchids and other plants semi-hydroponically! It's the first or second search result to come up. I tried to link it, but apparently they've been busted spamming at GW, so it won't let me provide the link. It's easy to find, though. I've wanted to try a bulb or an orchid this way for a long time, now... but I haven't gotten around to doing it. I actually know a guy who grows his Hippeastrums this way... quite successfully, I might add!

But I don't want to confuse you further, Frank... if I were you, I'd re-pot using the original Gritty Mix recipe, or as close to it as you can get. Leave out the organic/compost stuff, and you should be fine.

As a side note... I'm really glad you're familiar with Al's work... his writings are so informative and useful!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Thank-you, thank-you, for the "Reader's Digest" version of the gritty-soil-mix formula.

As I suspected, I screwed up a perfectly usable mix by adding the composted topsoil. This weekend, I will unpot/depot/repot all the Clivias and my one Hipp. bulb into the mix that you suggest. I need to do this repotting now because I used oversized pots for all my plants, so I don't want the roots growing in an overly wet mix. My plan was to let the plants grow into the pots over the next few years. The Clivias are already near blooming-size plants, and the Hipp. bulb is at least 6" in diameter, so I needed the extra soil volume. I will save, and re-cycle this too moisture retentive soil, and use it when I repot my containerized Fig trees this coming Spring. I grow the trees in 25 gallon containers, and they are just about ready for Winter storage in my unheated garden shed/hellhole. Jeez!,...I gotta start throwing things out!

Please do not concern yourself with covering every little detail in my rambling posts. We all have our limitations, and we must adapt our lives accordingly.

jodi, and others, ....

Thanks for making references to the alternative ingredients that I listed as possible substitutes in making the Gritty-Mix. Yes, I will again check out the "HYDROPONIC (wink, wink) SUPPLY" shops in NYC for ceramic pellets, tonics, fertilizers, etc. Funny, the "Hydroponics" store where I shop is run by some guy that looked like a geriatric Hippy from the '60s! know, a inter-generic hybrid version of Keith Richards crossed with Ozzie Ozbourne pollen. But seriously folks, I will check out the Hydroponic sites for orchid growing information.

I am very familiar with Al's postings, mainly from reading his masterful tutorials within the Fig Forum. I wish that this incredibly talented teacher would compile his experiences and knowledge into a guidebook, and have it published. The garden world needs this kind of honest approach to plant growing, and with the science to back up his suggestions.

It's late, I'm tired. Lots of Gritty-Mix to make tomorrow.

Good-night, all.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 1:38AM
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Just so we're clear, Frank... pine/fir bark is the one organic item you'll be using, so it will eventually decompose. It will take quite a while... but typically, as Al states, you will want to re-pot into fresh Gritty Mix after two years, or three at the maximum.

What you'll want to do... after two or three years... is to un-pot your plants in the Gritty Mix and check the bark ingredient. Most growers who use the Gritty Mix will run the used medium through a screen to sift out the bark particles that have decomposed, and then add some fresh fir bark to what's left, freshening it up.

The granite and turface portions of the mix won't decompose... but the bark eventually will. And if you allow it to go too long without re-potting and freshening the mix, you will run the risk of having the rotting bark bits begin to cause issues with the plant roots, mainly toward the center of the planting, deep in the root zone.

So, plan your plantings with the idea in mind that two or three years down the road, you will need to re-pot.

With mediums like the Gritty Mix, it is possible to use larger containers than you normally would, though, because you have little to no perched water sitting around. The medium will dry out in a timely manner as it should, and the roots will remain healthy. You couldn't do this with a peat based, bagged soil. Over-potting in that would lead to certain problems! The soil would stay too wet, and the roots would literally drown and die. This is why you always hear the recommendation of only potting up one pot size, or using a pot that is just a tad larger than the root system of the plant you're potting. But with a sharper draining, more inorganic medium such as we're using, you can go with a larger pot.

Frank, I keep telling Al that he should write a book... it would sell millions of copies! Every gardening book I have says basically the same thing... and they're all just repeating the same old commonly held, industry misinformation with very little scientific or physical evidence to prove validity. It appears as though they pander to the growing industry.

Your hydroponic store anecdote brings to mind a visual of Tommy Chong, or the guys from Ben & Jerry's ice cream! LOL! Don't knock it, though, because these are the guys who aren't afraid to think outside of the gardening industry box to try new growing methods! Plus... and this is just my opinion... I can't figure out why alcohol products are legal, but marijuana is such a taboo issue. Honestly, which item has the worst statistics for health issues and death? Alcohol, by a long shot!

Reefer Madness was not a documentary... it was a piece of government sanctioned propaganda to support the forestry/paper industry... and it's still lobbied against by the alcohol industry and others that stand to lose profit should marijuana ever be legalized. I'm for decriminalization... I don't think it's any worse than alcohol, which is legal. If marijuana were legal, it could be regulated exactly like alcohol, it could be a huge source of tax revenue, and open a whole new industry creating jobs, needed income, and everything.

It is not the "gateway" it's purported to be... the real gateway items, if you want to perpetuate such a thing, are alcohol and tobacco. Decriminalize, and the prison system suddenly becomes not quite so overcrowded. The court system, too. Except... that would take away profit from the privatized prisons, another political mess. And I'm not even a user of the substance, but I see potential where others cave to propaganda and misinformation! Hemp is one of the strongest materials, and has thousands of good uses.

By the way... how's that "war on drugs" going? Are we winning yet? (I say with much sarcasm!) Ok... off my soap box. ;-)

Hydroponics is a bit different than what I'm talking about... when you look into it, Google "Semi-Hydroponics". There are a few very interesting sites with information and photos of some extraordinary orchids and other plants growing in the expanded fired clay products... there are several brand names and types... PrimeAgra and Hygrostone are the two recommended products for such growing because of their properties and how they react physically with water.

Getting back to the Gritty Mix... it's no problem whatsoever to cover any detail you want or need! Like anything else, when making such a change there is a slight learning curve and adjustment involved. So many people who try it for the first time end up coming back to ask Al questions, or to find out what they're doing wrong... it takes a bit of adjustment... in watering habits, in a nutrition regimen, and we must remember that the plants, themselves, need to adjust. After re-potting, it's wise to keep your plants out of direct sunlight or wind for a short time, until they recover from the stress of a re-pot into the new medium. Those wooden skewers will come in very handy for gauging when to water!

As far as fertilizer goes, Foliage Pro is what Al recommends. It contains a good balance of what plants need, and it has all the micro-nutrients already included, unlike most other products on the market.

Al recommends feeding on a constant basis with a weakened solution of fertilizer water. I use mine mixed at a 1/4 strength every time I water. It's like offering a buffet, so there's always a small amount of food available. Every once in a while, I flush with clear water... although, this really isn't that necessary due to how the Gritty Mix is watered... which is thoroughly, when needed. Just the action of how we water the Gritty Mix flushes any salts out, so there's little to no accumulation.

Ok... that should about cover everything, I think... if you have any other questions, please feel free. I've got a kennel to clean and feed... yippee... I live to scoop poop! But seriously, it's not so bad, and I do love the dogs. :-) So... have a lovely day! :-)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 9:26AM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Here's a good illustration about why good porous soil is so important:

This came up a couple of years ago, when a grower in FL had posted 1-yr old bulbs that were barely the size of a pea! This is a 1-yr old bulb at my house...started under lights and grown for a season outdoors. I use roughly 10 parts potting mix, 10 parts sand, 3 parts perlite, 3 parts crushed granite, and 1-2 parts charcoal. Nice and porous! allows for maximum root development and fat and happy baby bulbs!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 12:39PM
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Thanks for expanding on some very important and essential points regarding the ingredients that make up this Gritty-Mix. Why, I don't know, but it never occurred to me to sift out the decomposed bark particles and refresh the gritty portion with a new charge of fresh bark. Great tip.

Al does need to put all his knowledge into book form. I'm sure TIMBER PRESS would retail it. You are right....there is no need to buy any "new" gardening books because they really all are just a regurgitation of what's been written about for corrections, no innovations, just the same old stuff in a slick wrapper. If truth be told, I've learned more on the Garden Web forums than I've learned from reading books...and the information comes from practical application and direct observation, rather than some unproven platitudes.

Tomorrow, I repot plants into the Gritty-Mix. It has to be done for the sake of the plants and for my peace-of-mind. I doubt the bulb will be shocked, but the Clivia....? I think the plants will do fine.

Thanks again, one and all, for a very interesting discussion concerning one of the most important fundamentals in all of the plant growing mediums for good root growth.

Everyone, have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe, be well. Get stuffed!

Best botanical regards, Frank

PS....JODI, JODI, JODI......I just ordered some Orchids, again,... after a 20 year hiatus! I ordered a cross of Laelia 'Goldstar' X Laelia 'Tangerine'. I hope I can keep the plant alive until Spring-'12 I'll let you know if they croak.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 7:27PM
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I'd like to copy and paste a few portions of the basic article explaining mediums and particle size, just to show why certain amending techniques are really rather ineffective...

"The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?"

"If you start with a water-retentive medium, you cannot improve it's aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates. Sand, perlite, Turface, calcined DE ...... none of them will work. To visualize why sand and perlite can't change drainage/aeration, think of how well a pot full of BBs would drain (perlite), then think of how poorly a pot full of pudding would drain (bagged soil). Even mixing the pudding and perlite/BBs together 1:1 in a third pot yields a mix that retains the drainage characteristics and PWT height of the pudding. It's only after the perlite become the largest fraction of the mix (60-75%) that drainage & PWT height begins to improve. At that point, you're growing in perlite amended with a little potting soil.

You cannot add coarse material to fine material and improve drainage or the ht of the PWT. Use the same example as above & replace the pudding with play sand or peat moss or a peat-based potting soil - same results. The benefit in adding perlite to heavy soils doesn't come from the fact that they drain better. The fine peat or pudding particles simply 'fill in' around the perlite, so drainage & the ht of the PWT remains the same. All perlite does in heavy soils is occupy space that would otherwise be full of water. Perlite simply reduces the amount of water a soil is capable of holding because it is not internally porous. IOW - all it does is take up space. That can be a considerable benefit, but it makes more sense to approach the problem from an angle that also allows us to increase the aeration AND durability of the soil."

"If you want to profit from a soil that offers superior drainage and aeration, you need to start with an ingredient as the basis for your soils that already HAVE those properties, by ensuring that the soil is primarily comprised of particles much larger than those in peat/compost/coir.sand/topsoil, which is why the recipes I suggest as starting points all direct readers to START with the foremost fraction of the soil being large particles, to ensure excellent aeration. From there, if you choose, you can add an appropriate volume of finer particles to increase water retention. You do not have that option with a soil that is already extremely water-retentive right out of the bag."

In short, it makes more sense to begin with a majority of larger particulate, and if more moisture retention is required, add a small amount of a finer ingredient to help with that purpose, such as a few handfuls of a high quality potting soil or other material of smaller size known for its moisture holding capabilities.

Frank, Frank, Frank... I'm so glad to hear you've got a nice orchid coming to help you enjoy winter a little more, and so you can experiment! :-) I look forward to hearing how it goes! Now I have to look up that variety to see what its cultural preferences are! I'm beginning to think you're a bad influence, enabling my orchid addiction! ;-)

By the way, your Clivia should do just fine with a re-pot into the Gritty Mix... in fact, both of mine are happy in a mix of just the fir bark, granite chips, and coarse perlite... they seem to like it a little more free draining than even my bulbs do.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Frank... and to everyone! We all have a lot to be thankful for...

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 4:51AM
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Just read your last posting, and I can't overemphasize just how important it truly is, for ALL plant growers, that they MUST use a properly formulated, quick-draining, gritty-mix for their growing medium... especially for indoor plants.

I think that your BBs vs. pudding analogy was perfect! I myself, failed to grasp the fact that my mix ratios were modified to work for my Fig trees, planted outside, in full-blazing, all day sun. I needed some water retention under these conditions, but what works outside, doesn't necessarily work for a houseplant. I should've known better.

Like I mentioned in previous postings, my plants will be, by the end of this day, growing in the Gritty-Mix without the dose of added Composted Topsoil. Thanks again Jodi, and all the other generous contributors, for helping me finally understand just what a good HOUSEPLANT/CONTAINER mix is.

Yes, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Where did this year go to! My new Orchids are due to arrive by Wednesday, ... and like a child, I can't wait to see the plants. I think I have a few screws loose! How can a grown man get this excited over some new plants? Only other plant lovers can answer this question.

Jodi, Jodi, Jodi......Just call me your "Eddie Haskell"...

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 8:40AM
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In all honesty, I cannot take credit for the wonderful examples and analogies quoted above... they belong to Al. They are important, interconnecting parts of the entire article on container soils and water retention he offers, but they serve to get the point across in a way we can all visualize, which sometimes works better.

I recently mentioned in another forum... it might even have been this one... that the gardening industry as a whole exists for one purpose, and one purpose only... that being profit. They found a niche to fill, one where consumers are less likely to take the time and expend the effort to learn the basic science of plant culture and the physics of how water reacts in soils, or mediums... not to mention proper watering technique and nutrition regimens, and other variables that allow us to grow our plants to their genetic optimum.

The general public has been sold the same methods and supplies for so long that the whole thing has become rather... stagnant, I guess would be the word I'm looking for... but our automatic reaction is to trust that the industry is offering us what we need, what works.

It might work for us, the consumers... but we're not the ones planted in such mediums... our plants are! It also might work from the viewpoint of convenience, because we only have to water or feed so often with the heavier, peat based soils... but that doesn't mean our plants are happy or healthy residing in such soils, and more often than not, we are not getting them to grow anywhere near their genetic potential.

An expert, or someone with an understanding of such heavy mediums, who has the experience and know how to properly water and feed to the best advantage they offer might have a fair level of success... but most of us are just average, everyday, weekend gardeners who don't really know what is happening under the surface of our soils.

A lot of growers throw out the axiom "it works for me"... and it very well may... but no one else has their exact environment, climate, level of experience and knowledge, plant material, schedule of care, or other variables that could make a small or large difference. It's also kind of a sentence or argument ender for some. They may not want to explore the depths of container growing as thoroughly as someone else, and may feel that the convenience is ok for them. Not everyone is so devoted to growing well.

Under the surface of that heavy soil, however, where there is a perched water table, and moisture is held for long periods of time before drying out... roots literally drown due to lack of oxygen, and they die. As the soil dries out, new live roots are then able to re-colonize those areas... and then we come along and water again... and the cycle replays. As this cycle continues to replay, decaying root matter accumulates, causing toxic gasses to form... and the plant is weakened by this continual cycle of death and regeneration, and an inadequate exchange of fresh oxygen and gasses at the root zone. All this prevents our plants from growing as they should... as they could. If we didn't re-pot on a very regular basis, those plants would surely meet their demise.

I'd also like to touch briefly on something else we don't talk about nearly enough... the vast differences between growing in the confined space of containers... and growing in the ground.

Once you understand the science of growing plants in pots, you understand why a more inorganic approach works best... one where we are in control of the moisture, nutrition, PH, and we're using a medium that holds its structure well, etc.

We wouldn't really want to use organic methods with pots because the two environments, that within a pot and that in the ground, are so uniquely different.

In the ground, Mother Nature has an entire army of tiny insects, worms, microscopic creatures, fungi and bacterias that all work in unison, decomposing organic matter into usable nutrition, and maintaining and balancing the environment, keeping it aerated, nutrition rich, and drained well.

We don't have that same natural army within our containers doing all that work, actually maintaining the environment and keeping it all in perfect balance, and trying to duplicate Mother Nature within our pots would be next to impossible! Therefore, it makes sense to reserve organic gardening methods for the garden outside, and stick with a more inorganic approach for our containerized growing.

Outdoors, in my vegetable garden and perennial beds, I use mostly organic methods. I fertilize using composted goat and horse manure, and the used pool water from a group of Muscovy Ducks. For pest control, I try to stick with natural predators and encourage beneficial insects to stick around, like praying mantises, spiders, toads, snakes, and other critters that eat the bad bugs. I use aged natural wood mulch to help protect roots from our frigid winters, and I generally try not to use chemicals or anything unnatural.

With my containerized plants, whether I grow them indoors or outdoors, I realize that they depend on me to ensure proper moisture levels, aeration, drainage, protection from damaging insects, the proper amount of light, humidity and temperature... and they need a nutrition regimen in which the food is in a form that is immediately usable for uptake by the roots, and doesn't require anything to break it down further into usable form. Often, fertilizers like fish emulsion and other natural items aren't really broken down enough for immediate uptake, so it pays to check into that when shopping for a container plant food.

The garden has a pretty steady food supply going on, so I try to maintain that type of buffet for my potted plants, by offering them a weakened solution of liquid fertilizer that's ready to be up-taken by the roots, and complete with the micro-nutrients needed. I offer it every time watering is necessary.

There was more I wanted to mention, but I can't remember what it was, now... oh, well... it'll come to me later.

Frank, there's nothing wrong with a grown man, or woman for that matter, getting excited over the pending arrival of new plants! I'd call it enthusiasm for something you enjoy greatly... and part of life is about attaining that state of happiness! I'm happy for you! :-) And I can't wait until next spring, when I'll be in the very same euphoric state, awaiting the arrival of whatever I decide to order!

And don't worry so much about getting everything exactly perfect with the Gritty Mix... once you really grasp the concepts entailed, when you reach that epiphany moment, when the light bulb goes on and you think, "aha!"... you'll find that you will begin slightly adjusting the various ingredient ratios you use in a batch of mix to suit different plants, pots, and situations. And I think you've reached that point.

Instead of using a topsoil or a manure compost as your "extra moisture retention ingredient", though, I would get a bag of high grade potting soil that doesn't have anything added, like those nasty moisture crystals, or extra feed. Miracle Gro potting soil has really tanked in quality over the past few years, so I pass on that. We use a different brand, though I can't recall the name at the moment. Sunshine is a good brand, too. You want something fairly even and nice in quality.

And remember... turface holds a decent amount of moisture, so take care when adding anything else.

Eddie Haskell?! No, no, no... you're much too intelligent and funny to play a secondary sidekick role like that! ;-)

Thanksgiving... I know... time flies faster the older we get. Remember when you couldn't wait to be old enough to ride a two wheeled bike? And you couldn't wait to go from grade school to middle or high school... to be able to earn your own money... to get your driver's license... to be approved to drink alcohol... so many milestones. Every time I turn around, another decade is gone. I'm only 50, but I feel ancient sometimes.

In fact, this has tired me... I'm thinking a nap sounds good. ;-) Have a nice day!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 4:51PM
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Thanks once again for explaining and giving such important information about correct mediums for container gardening. My Clivias, and Hipp. bulb are now resting their roots in a comfy bed of reformulated gritty-mixture.

Yes, "The Holidays" are here again, but for me they are vastly different than they were when I was a child, a child who thought all good things would never change... However, things could always be worse, and I will join in with the spirit of the season and celebrate my good fortune and blessings.

Enjoy the holidays!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 7:57PM
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It's always my pleasure... what's gardening for if not to share? :-)

I know how you feel, I think... and know what you mean, Frank... oh, to be young and innocent, oblivious to the ugly layers of life's reality hidden beneath that thick, shiny veneer of childhood wonder and delight. As we age, those layers slowly peel away and thin, become transparent, and we're left wondering about so much, feeling deceived... still, we have much to be thankful for.

I've come to detest the commercialism of the season very much, and if it weren't for the grandchildren, we wouldn't even celebrate. Such things are for children, and observing that wide-eyed wonder and joy on their faces is what makes it all worth the effort!

All the best of the pending Holiday Season to you and yours, Frank... and to everyone! :-)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 6:56AM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Bump up

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:49AM
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