511 mix with added peat moss

andetuna(8)March 6, 2011

Yikes, I think I made a big mistake today. I had been re-potting my blueberries in Al's 511 mix with 1 part peat moss added. That was OK because they are acid loving plants. But, I got carried away and re-potted my 2 citrus trees using the same mix with the peat moss.

I have a Meyer Lemon and Bearss Lime. Should I take both of the trees out of the containers tomorrow and rinse the peat out? Does anyone have a better suggestion.

Thanks for any ideas.


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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Ande.
So you made a 5-1-2, is that correct?
5 parts bark, 1 part perlite, and 2 parts peat moss?

It's going to hold more moisture, but I don't think it's a disaster.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 1:24AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Absolutely not a disaster! Folks all over the world have been growing in such a mixture for generations, with great success! Most commercial retail potting soils have peat as the primary ingredient and add anything else as an afterthought, just in case you are thinking that peat moss is not an acceptable substance. Just make sure you add your lime (as in calcium)...the commercial mixes have already done that.

The commercial medium I am now using exclusively is primarily bark and peat. It is fabulous for anything you might care to plant.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 4:37AM
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Thanks! That's good news. I put in a full days work yesterday and my back is feeling it this morning.

I made a really big batch of 5 parts fur bark, 1 part crushed granite, 1 part Turface mvp, and 1 part peat moss. I also used gypsum for my calcium. I plan on using diluted MG for fertilizer and vinegar if needed later on.

A couple of questions about re-potting. Now that the plants are in the 511 mix, should watering include the fertilizer now or wait til the plant starts growing again when things warms up a bit?

Lastly, I have more of the 511 mix left, It wouldn't hurt to re-pot my fig tree, correct? Much appreciate all those with knowledge and experience willing to share.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 11:03AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I doubt that you will need the vinegar for anything but your acid loving plants (blueberries). Gypsum does not neutralize pH as lime does. All containerized plants require fertilization and attention needs to be paid to miner elements. I'd suggest a good citrus fertilizer to replace the MG, whenever you can find a product you like.

Your blueberries can be fertilized with the citrus fertilizer, too. Just be certain that there is iron (chelated) listed in the ingredients.

The medium you've made is suitable for just about anything. I would alter it if I were planting cacti or bonsai, but that's about it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Rhizo is correct.
Gypsum doesn't change pH of the soil mix.
Also, with Gypsum as a calcium source, you'll want to add a small amount of Epsom Salts (1/4 teaspoon)
to a gallon of water when you mix your fertilizer. This is to help cover all the minor elements,
and to make sure that the calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are in the proper ratio with one another.

Lime raises pH and provides calcium without the need to use Epsom Salts when fertilizing.
For the 5-1-1, Lime is the proper choice.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 5:39PM
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>>> I made a really big batch of 5 parts fur bark, 1 part crushed granite, 1 part Turface mvp, and 1 part peat moss.

Although not a disaster, I am wondering if you've mixed up the ingredients between making the two types recommended by Al in the container forum: the "gritty mix" and the 5-1-1 mix. Gritty is 1-1-1 bark fines, granite, turface and particle size of the components in paramount (thus sifting and searching for sizes). The 511 is bark fines(partially composted), peat, perlite and as long as you use the smallest bark you can find, should be fine.

You correctly added Gypsum, avoid the lime for both the berries and citrus.

>>> Your blueberries can be fertilized with the citrus fertilizer, too.
Depending on your pH of your water, I would probably still add some Vinegar to feed the blueberries. Even with help of MG Miracid, you are fighting the constant natural pH rise every time you water with municipal water that is usually above 7.2+

Even with using bark+peat mixes with Soil Sulfur, using Miracid, and watering with heavy vinegar water about half the time, the pH started about 7.0 this Spring -- darn.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 7:24PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, Cebury! ;-)

Isn't the bark at or below 5.0 pH when first mixed?


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:09PM
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Hi all,
I was started to wonder about the pH as well. If the 511 mix that I intended to for the blueberries was good enough for the citrus, then possible this mix did not have a low enough pH for the berries?

With the gritty mix, is the pH also adjusted with each watering? I didn't use the gritty mix but was wondering now if I need to start adjusting the pH in 511 to keep the berries happy.

I searched for the pH of fir bark and think I found it was less than 5.7. Hope that's works out for the berries. Anyone sure?

Although, I had the components for the gritty mix, I choose to go with the 511 because I wouldn't be able to water everyday. I thought that by using 5 parts bark (small pathway bark) that I could extend by watering schedule and add fertilize for growth.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 1:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Ande, you don't mean "mini-nuggets", do you? That's what came to mind when you mentioned 'small pathway bark'.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:15PM
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The bark was about a quarter inch in size. Blueberries seem to be doing OK. I see some buds breaking and will keep everyone posted on their progress.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 2:28PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

If you're concerned about the pH for your blueberries, first, get yourself an inexpensive pH monitor. Blueberries like the pH to be between 4.2 to 5.2. Over 5.5 and they're going to suffer. A pH monitor can be found at any better garden center. You can mix in a couple of tablespoons of soil sulphur into your potting mix to lower the pH to start with, and then later on, top dress with Ammonium Sulphate which will give them a nitrogen boost as well as keep the pH down. If you live in an area where your water is on the alkaline side (like those of us in California), you can add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to a gallon of water, and water every now and then with this acidified water to also help keep the pH in their happy range :-) And lastly, when you fertilize, you can use any acid-loving plant fertilizer, just take care that the nitrogen source is NOT a nitrate. That will be fatal to your blueberries.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: DWN - Blueberries in Containers

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:33PM
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I bought some test strips so that I could check the pH of my water and do some test on my 511 mix. The pH of the water is about 8.0. My 511 mix turns out to be about 6.4. So, it would appear that my soil is fine for the citrus and anything else I may want to plant.

For my blueberries, I think I will just need to adjusting the pH with vinegar added regularly with my watering schedule. So, I think they will be OK until I re-pot them.

I'm using the black 5 gal plastic pots at the moment. The 511 mix is a modified using fir bark, Turface, and granite. So, the soil drains very fast. As has been stated in the forums, the pH is probably most effected by the water anyway. I will keep in mind, to also feed the micro nutrients ca and mg, as well.

Looking for the weather to heat up. Will keep testing and waiting to see how the new plants do. Thanks for all the input.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 3:51PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Perfect, Ande! I think you've got it!
Add enough vinegar to bring your water's pH down to 5.0 - 5.8 and your plants'll be happy.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 8:37PM
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Good work Ande.

Regardless of what your starting pH is with the 511 mix, watering with your muni water will shoot that pH up relatively quickly. There is quite a conversation from Al regarding soil/media pH vs. the nutrient solution ph: basically, in containers, the pH of the soil is a lot less critical than the pH of the water when you add fertilizer to it.

However, I still prefer to add some Soil Sulfur to help keep it in an acceptable range (with my cheap-o meter) so if I need to use a granular fertilizer and can water every now and again from the hose (lazy or when I'm on vaca). I believe Blueberries absorb a large part of their Nitrogen in the early growing season (Spring + start of summer) so if there is any time to ensure pH is lower, it is then.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 5:25PM
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