Advice on potting mix, please?

goldfishcactusJune 6, 2012

Hi, I'm new to the forums, and like many new members, I'm here to ask for your help. (Read on for a lot of rambling, and questions regarding the ingredients in "Al's gritty mix.")

Several years ago, I owned some cacti. They all died because I didn't know how to take care of them. :( But a few weeks ago, for some reason I decided to get one or two and try again, and after some e-bay browsing, somehow ended up with thirteen plants, a grow light, some books, and a bag of "cactus soil." I also found this forum and began reading as much as I could.

I've pretty much realized that the "cactus soil" isn't really suited to cacti and succulents. It has some mulch bits, and a little perlite, to which I added a lot more perlite, but for the most part it seems like ordinary potting soil. Also, I put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pots because that was how I had always been taught to pot things. So they need repotting badly, before they suffer too many ill effects. A couple of them are definitely not happy at the moment.

Anyway, I'd like to try making the gritty mix, but I'm still unsure as to whether I've understood all the new information correctly, and I keep waffling back and forth, unable to make any decisions, so I'd really appreciate any advice or feedback. (Also I'm kind of running out of available funds for this project, but at the same time, I don't want all my new plants to die because I wouldn't cough up for decent potting mix.)

I checked out the turface website, and there don't seem to be any retailers near me, but I could order some from repotme.com if I can't find anything else locally. If I can't find any bark either, I could order some from there as well. Is their small Orchiata bark a good choice? (All of their products are rather expensive though.)

http://repotme.com/orchid-potting-media/Monterey-Pine-Bark-Small.html

Other threads have suggested:

--"Floor Dry 8822" from Napa Auto Parts as a substitute for turface. There is a Napa Auto Parts nearby, so I can check and see if they stock it. By the way, is this really a good substitute?

--Aquarium gravel and terrarium bark. I can go to Petsmart and see if they have any suitable bark. I know they will have gravel, but it will probably be more expensive than finding it somewhere else.

--Chicken grit as a substitute for the gravel. Maybe the gardening center or Home Depot might sell this, and they also might possibly carry bark. I also need to get screening in 1/8" and 3/8" from Home Depot, to screen whatever materials I can come up with.

I also still have most of a 2 gallon bag of perlite. Would this be an acceptable substitute for turface? Does the ratio to bark and gravel need to be adjusted if I use it?

I have some more questions about re-potting and watering, but I thought I'd just start with this. Thanks for listening to my long-winded first post. The plants thank you too. :)

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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Chicken granite (Chick grit) comes in two sizes: fine for baby chickens and a larger size for adult birds. The smaller size is available at any pet store and is sold in a 2# box for parrots. I purchased the larger size at a local feed and grain store. The Big Box stores don't carry it. Robert's Flower Supply (http://www.orchidmix.com/) sells Turface as well as other growing medium products. Some people like to use cocoanut coir with Turface or Diatomite or granite grit and some perlite. The coir has a longer "pot" life over peat moss. What you use for a "mix" will depend on the plant. Some cactus, as I have learned by my mistakes, require a more gritty mix because of their large tap root while other plants, like Euphorbia leuconeura can handle more organic material. Just my two cents worth

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:57AM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

Perlite can't be substituted for Turface. Turface absorbs water and perlite doesn't, making perlite more like the gravel part of the mix. You can still use it, just not as a Turface substitute.

By the way, gravel layers are no good unless they're roughly the same size as the particles in the mix filling most of the pot. All they do is raise the bottom of the pot, which might be desirable in some cases* but is better achieved by using something that isn't so heavy.

*Usually this happens when I have more pot space than mix to fill it and don't really need the pot to drain all the way to the bottom. But even then I prefer to use perlite fines, because I have lots of the stuff and it's lighter than gravel.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 5:38PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

If you can find it, get the large perlite. Often perlite is too fine.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 7:37PM
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goldfishcactus

Thanks for all your answers so far. :)

Bikerdoc, I will look for the parrot grit at Petsmart, it looks like it would be just the right size. From researching, it looks like all of the plants I have would be happy in a gritty soil.

Sutremaine, thanks for letting me know about the perlite. I guess I assumed that since it was so lightweight, it must be porous. I'll use it as part of the small gravel fraction if I use it at all. (And yeah, I found that out about the bottom gravel layer three days after I potted everything. I was smacking my forehead, lol.)

Wantonamara, most of the perlite is a pretty good size, I think, but there are some tiny pieces too, so I should probably sift it if I end up using it.

I found another place to order turface from, and should get it by Monday, and I'm going out today to get the rest of the supplies. When I do repot everything, should I rinse the old soil off the roots and let them dry out for a day before potting, or would that put too much stress on the plants? Maybe just brushing them off and repotting immediately would be better?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 9:38AM
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