Go on shoot me I'm Asking About Soil

JGW3(7)May 13, 2013


So I tried a plan B version of gritty mix. Turface was/is hard to come by around here. So I tried to replace it with the Napa oil dry. Seemed OK at first but fast forward a month... let's just say I have one heavy bag of trash to take out. So what's a good alternaive? For now I cut MG Cacti with pine bark fines and perlite (thirds). Seems OK but I have feeling I'm in for an education of sorts. Also, even though perlite is airy doesn't it also hold a lot of moisture? Is that OK because it's course? Should I cut in some of the Chicken Grit/granite?

I promise I read a lot of Al's work on here and read a lot of posts too.

Part that is really making me mad is my plant's I could really care less about are thriving still in store bought or original soil. See I did nothing with them, but ones like my Crassula Tricolor seem weak and spongy to the touch. When I really got to looking the dang thing was holding water toward the bottom of the pot like crazy. Promise I am not a serial waterer. Plant's indoors and get water every 7 to 10 days. It's not getting too much light and the plain Jane Jade sitting right next to in it's original soil is doing great!

OK here goes, I can take it!


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Dry stall: found at farm feed and supply stores
Sifted course sand: A low % useable after sifting found at lowes or HD near play ground sand labeled as all purpose construction//builders sand
Pumice stone: maybe as difficult to find as turface for you I find usually at a bonsai shop
For grits like chicken grit : Yes you could

Perlite info: Face mask on and rinse the dust then sift it when it's still damp. It does retain moisture to it's highest saturation point is soft enough to expand to the point of saturation but at this point the water will also flow. Is also micro porous allowing its retained moisture to move more freely until completely dry..

Just for an example to briefly describe
It took me 3 gallons of H2O used over one week to rehydrate a 3 inch potted 4 inch high jade type plant that wasn't tri colored at same time remaining out side transitioning was also completed.
Put your hands on the bottom of the pot and hold it for a while you can get a "feel" for when
If assistance is needed still Pic for the tri colored ?

IMO my Tri colored jade(s) tend to have a lower watering volume requirement and less time in brighter/direct or cooler sun in a sense

This post was edited by mrlike2u on Mon, May 13, 13 at 2:16

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 1:52AM
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Your plants are indoors you say? Maybe other things are to blame, not the substrate. Poor light, poor ventilation, too warm at night...

Also, you say some plants are "thriving". How do you define thriving vs. surviving? Big difference, not always easy to tell though.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 8:00AM
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Hi...I have tried this mix and the plant that I put it in die,
it seem to me that the mix suck all the moisture out of the plant...it was a jade about 2 inches round.....
I guess I don't understand the mix or how to use it.....
good luck with it....linda

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 9:16AM
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paul_(z5 MI)


    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Al's Gritty Mix is an excellent base to start with, or one of 1800 known (and there are more being discovered even as we speak about this) soil mixs. So many things can play a part in this, so many ways to achieve growing satisfaction, so there's no one right way, but plenty of wrong ones.

I'll write more when I have the chance today, but there are a lot of directions to go.

JTLYK, AGM for me makes the plants too thirsty in too short a time, but it is a way to achieve the desired porosity factor. There are others.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 9:50AM
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You make a great point, environment isn't ideal. All the same top of the pot was bone dry (almost duty) and bottom held a lot of water. Thriving I guess is relative so I'd just say in comparison to similar plants in exactly the same environment.

Looking forward to hearing more.

What is dry stall? Another absorbant?

I'm learning guys I appreciate the info!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 5:05PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, John, if the top is bone dry and the bottom still wet, then clearly there was something off with the particle size or the distribution of those particles throughout the container. When I first started making these mixes, I didn't realize how important the screening of the ingredients is. Screening and rinsing Perlite, Turface, Pumice, Scoria, et cetera, has had a marked difference in the way my mixes behave.

Any chance you could post a pic of the mix in question, along with a coin or something for scale? I'm most curious about the bark and the difference in size between the ingredients.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 7:02PM
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OK so here is the mix. This soil actually had 2 small Kalanchoes in it. These were left overs from a plant that I potted into a nicer pot. I had 2 stems/plants left over so I stuck them in some of my left over mix and put them back in the little 3" plastic pot. After about a week they fell over. Like I said they were left overs so I really didn't care. Eventually (about 3 weeks) they bent back upwards, had lots of new growth up top. Where they had laid down against the ground they put out roots. BUT the roots it already had that I put in the soil did not grow a lick. Also no new roots showing at all from under ground level. I will post a picture of them so you can see what I am talking about.

FYI - I know the mix looks off color but I promise you I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed the oil dry and the other components as well.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 12:04AM
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OK here is the plant that came out of the soil above. You can see how it laid down soon after potting then popped back up, put on a little growth every where but the roots. Sad plant I know!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 12:28AM
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The cuttings you show above that you put into your mix are normal, in my opinion. The roots you had previously are too mangled and stuck together to do much more growing in gritty mix, in my opinion. I've had some like this coming out of peat mix soils and for those, whereas others, I was able to cleanly pull apart, prune and plant as is. For yours, I'd have snipped off the roots, pulled off the leaves below the new roots and stood them in gritty mix. As you can see, forming roots in GM is not an issue, as shown by the new roots you have. A month or two like this and you have a fully established cutting.

I have not used anything but Turface with GM since reading Al's posts, but it seems a lot of people claim the Napa product works just as well. Screening Turface, in my opinion, is THE most important step as those small bits can really make for a mess. The gritty mix will hold water, and despite how gritty it is, you still need to control watering. I don't think I can overwater to the point of drowning a plant to death like I could in regular potting mixes but I am certain I could overwater some succulents still, to the point of them not being at their best.

Case in point: these were from two different small pots I bought where these particular cuttings were really hopeless as far as roots go. Just one small blob that I couldn't separate, so I chopped them off and put them into gritty mix with a couple other cuttings I took.

I must water these once a week indoors or so and they look happy, as happy as plants can look anyway. Lol.

FWIW, the mix is fir bark, screened Turface and small pebbles as I could not find chicken grit to save my life. Apparently, raising chicken is not popular in SF, haha. :-) I did find crushed granite but it was way too much dust for my liking.

Good luck and I wouldn't toss the Napa stuff just yet! :-)


    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 6:33PM
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They look very nice in my view Grace.

What is dry stall : in comparison to NAPA dry it's a ticker more stable absorbent that's also micro porous. It's visually chunky and square as well in size but not dust free. I'm still side by side testing stage for Turface VS Dry stall breaking down completely non conclusive IMO but Turface seems to hold and remain longer or Size VS. size turface would be better by size

Something is/ was clogging drainage in the older potting mix. Sift and rinse, rinse and sift. As Josh suggested is also urged sometimes this step cant be expressed enough.

At end of re hydrating the one I spoke of watering would follow a more formal schedule.

Wants you to believe I was testing it for it's drought tolerant abilities ( which it is very drought tolerant) but often one does get busy,watering can also be forgotten.

This post was edited by mrlike2u on Tue, May 14, 13 at 21:55

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 9:37PM
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So what are you guys using to sift the turface, oil dry or dry stall? I'm thinking some old window screen material maybe or do I need something more coarse? I used a kitchen colander to rinse everything last time.

Now another question. The Crassula Tricolor in question was really root bound in a 2" square plastic pot. The plant is very full and probably 10" tall. Wouldn't stand up in the pot on its own. I had to lean it up against something. How much of that root ball should be kept? I am thinking that maybe getting rid of some of that is my answer so that I can promote root growth... Oh right you all need a picture right? But it's totally clear in my mind! LOL!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:00PM
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OK and this is the plant today. It's looking a good bit better since the other day when I took it out of my poor attempt at gritty mix. You can see how it still kind of looks a bit on the wilted side. I would say it's 50% less wilted today than when I originally posted, should of snapped a picture for the folks in know then. Sorry.

I almost forgot. Thanks everyone for such great advice. Having this forum makes this hobby a little more fun!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:08PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

It looks fantastic!
You are correct about the window screen...aluminum window screen is what I use to sift Turface.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Thanks Josh! Also thanks to everyone else for the great tips advice and sharing with me. So I guess in the end my mix wasn't all that bad. The missing link seems to be my error of not sifting the oil dry enough. I'm pretty sure it doesn't take much to wash the fine stuff down to the bottom where they start to clog everything up.

Back to the drawing board for John.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:43AM
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Attached is what I use. I just happened to have it out right now because I wanted to put one succulent I have in all Turface. :-)

The screen was something I bought on Amazon under "bonsai sieve" that I feel works perfectly. I had this one mini window screen I was attempting to use but (1) this particular screen was too fine and would have gotten less than half of what got screened out here; and (2) other people on this forum have some really nifty screening concoctions they made (or had husbands make, haha) that stretched screening over a nice wooden structure to make sifting easy. This bonsai sieve came with four panels that can be interchanged into this round metal holder; shown is the smallest one it offered.

Hope that helps, if you should try again. :-)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:04PM
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I have seen those. As a matter of fact Brussels Bonsai is about a half hour from here and I saw it there. Id have to say that's about the simplest and most effective way I can think of. But, being I'm a guy, I'm stubborn, and I think I'm Bob Stinkin Villa I will probably make my own before I break down and buy one in the end! LOL! FYI anyone making a trip to Memphis area should go check out Brussles its awesome. They have some really big money tree's in the green house.

Thanks for the advice,

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:37PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi John!

My DH made some screens to use when I make my Gritty Mix and the 5-1-1. They work really well for the large particles, but for the fines from the Turface I use a simple strainer ( kitchen department ) purchased from Target. Thought this pic might help...

Good luck!


    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:12PM
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