Gritty mix and fertilizer questions

Flucky07March 19, 2011

I just made a batch of gritty mix using repti bark, granigrit, and floor dry number 8822. The mixing went okay and did my best to sift out the small particles but didnt have any screen. I repotted from regular soil to the gritty mix, a meyer lemon, ruby grapefruit, and clementine. They have so many flowers on its rediculous (haha).

1. Do you guys suggest removing the flowers and small fruit?

2. I want to do the foliage pro fertilizer but dont have any yet, local nursery didnt have it. Are my plants okay in the new gritty mix for a couple days or should I not fertilize for a couple weeks, or fertilize right away?

3. The plants seem a little wilted but to be expected. I did my best to loosen up the roots and remove the dirt from them. Is it essential to get all the dirt off of the roots?

4. I have blueberry bushes in pots as well as a dwarf peach tree, and 2 dwarf macintosh apple trees, would it be a good idea to use the gritty mix for these as well or leave them be? Right now the blueberries are in a pure pine bark and the others are in regular soil. They are all about 2.5 years old.

I much appreciate your answers and any comments to help me out. I have one more citrus plant to repot a ponderosa lemon but I want to make sure everything i am doing is okay before doing any other plants?

Thanks and I love this forum and Al's advise is great!

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1. >>> Do you guys suggest removing the flowers and small fruit?
I do, but it will certainly drop the fruit when it can't handle it. I'm willing to spend the extra time to pull off any fruitlets that formed, even just to save a small bit of energy. But sacrificing the smell of the flowers...well that's your call.

2. >>> Are my plants okay in the new gritty mix for a couple days
You're fine either now or until your mail order arrives. If you have any other fertilizer it'll probably be fine to use until you get FP. Just post what you got if you're unsure.

3. >>> Is it essential to get all the dirt off of the roots?
In the 5-1-1 mix it is not *as* essential to remove all the soil. But you are using the gritty mix, where it is even more important to remove it all. It depends on what you mean by "all" ;-) No, removing every last bit of dirt isn't required. But if there was still a rootball with roots inside it, even though it's small, that is still too much dirt to remain as you have two distinct soils now. Basically if you can see every root, you're fine even if roots still have dirt on them. But it you soaked it in a bucket, it should have all come off.. why didn't it?

>>> The plants seem a little wilted but to be expected
Just watch it... too much wilting or for too long and you need to post pics ASAP to get some advice.

4. >>> would it be a good idea to use the gritty mix for these as well
Blueberries: Don't use the gritty mix for BB's. I'm doing it as a test case in several different soils, but it's a 50/50 mix of bark fines/Napa and a 75/25 mix. I'm surprised you didn't use at least some peat in your mix, like maybe 25% or 33%.

Dwarf Peach: I have 5 genetic dwarf peach/nectarine trees in the gritty mix and it works great, but it's not required.

Dwarf Apples: Ditto as the peach. I only have two apples in the mix.

>>> or should I leave them be?
There are many reasons to use gritty for container trees, but most fruit trees can survive just fine in much heavier soils, where citrus is more sensitive. So the benefits are still great but not as numerous, but the costs are still the same ($$, extra work, additional watering, more frequent fertilization, etc). So it's up to you.

However, I would not disturb the apple nor the peaches unless they were completely dormant. In my area it's too late this year to move them over. I've done a bare-root once on a full leaf cherry in August (big no-no) and I almost lost the tree but it fought back the next year and is healthy again.

MY BIG CONCERN: You cannot create a proper gritty mix without sifting. You need at least two screens to do it correctly. So I would qualify all my above comments stating they apply to proper gritty mix.

Besides the Type of ingredient (bark, grit, turface) the SIZE of the particles in the mix is absolutely paramount. You probably have too many smaller pieces of FloorDry and might have too many larger pieces of bark. I don't know about how much "waste" there is in Gran-i-grit to state if that's a problem. You haven't "killed your plants" or anything that horrid, but you might have eliminated a good deal of the aeration benefits.

I would certainly take several pics and post them so we can take a look.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:46AM
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What Cedbury said.

Hi Chris. Hope you are doing well.

Flucky: Are you going to be getting FP for sure?

Also, please make sure to keep your plantings out of full sun and watch that the mix does NOT dry out to much in the root zone until your trees perk up and beyond. You want even moisture through out and do not let your citrus go to the point of wilt ever. If you loose your leaves do not panic, since this is common for stressed citrus. As long as your branches stay viable, it should put out new leaves if you monitor it careful and follow good protocol.

Also, I would use a wooden dowel to measure your moisture pushed right into the root zone.

Good luck


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 10:38AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yep, Cebury nailed it! Take all his tips and write them down! ;-)

Ditto on the wooden skewers to assess moisture deeper in the container.

Hey, Mike and Chris!


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 2:49PM
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Sweet you guys ROCK. Thank you all so much. So do you suggest repotting or letting them go for the time being. I had them transplanted now twice and im sure they are not that happy so if it not going to really hurt them to much im just going to leave it be, and note it for later. Yes I am going to get FP for sure, is that okay? I really love my trees and they are my kids and i want them to be the best they can be. I will post a pic later of the mix and how it looks in the pot. To me it looks great...functionality Im not sure? haha...

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 5:57PM
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Here are the pictures Comments welcome. Tell me if my trees will be okay!

Here is a link that might be useful: Trees

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Hi Elizabeth.

I had to post them here so I could look closely at them tomorrow from work:-) Beautiful trees by the way:-)

Did you make sure you filled the mix in around all the roots? That is great if you did.

I must say right away though that you need to get your wooden skewers or wooden dowels ASAP, so you can make sure the root zone does not dry out too rapidly while their roots try and begin to fill the mix. If you let that mix, which by the way looks great, fantastic, dry out at the root zone, which can be right near the surface and just beyond, you will loose those trees to under watering.

If you are going to be using FP, then there is no need to add gypsum.

Also, how much mix can you remove from away at the trunk in order for you to epose the top roots? I would do so, just at where the roots start to show. It will protect the trunk from rot, and build character on your trees, and allow encourage the roots to grow down into the pot and not stay near the surface.:-) Like so:

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:59PM
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Great tips and prolly 1/4 of an inch to expose the roots...thats safe?? I will get the dowell tomorrow. Any specific diameter? And how do i install it? Right through the roots?
Sorry i feel like a second grader :(, and the pics are under my brothers photobucket account his daughters name is elizabeth ;)


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 10:24PM
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Hey Mike & Josh. I'm doing OK -- had a couple of really bad days (make that weeks) recently. So as usual, I drop off the face of the earth for a while.

Eric: Now that I realize the tree will be indoors a lot, I'm even more concerned about the lack of sifting. But if I were in your shoes, I'd probably just stick it out to see what happens. Although it's not ideal, it shouldn't be any worse than the peat based (bagged) mixes as far as root zone aeration and additional water retention (my two concerns).

But I've never grown a citrus tree indoors, heck I have had problems keeping houseplants alive. So you'll have to seek advice from others...

Mike is hinting at a real problem with beginners bare-rooting in the mix: you really need to spend a bit of time making sure the mix gets into all the spaces in the roots. One way to help, now that it's all done, is to use the skewer/dowel to gently push down into the roots and if the mix starts to sink there, you know there was a gap. So continue in that spot until it stops sinking.

After I do that, I would take a large buck and soak the tree in the bucket for a few minutes or longer. You'll probably need help lifting it out. It's only required to do this once to help the mix sink in a bit and also ensure the entire root area starts out moist.

What size dowel? Somewhere between the thinnest BBQ skewer and regular chopstick. The thin skewers can work to help push the mix in the spaces, but can be too thin for checking water.

I'll let Mike explain the water check process using the dowel. He is famous at FourWinds, look at this quote from their website:

An alternative method recently shared by a New England citrus enthusiast simply employs a plain wooden dowel about the diameter of a pencil. Sharpen it with a whittling method (sharp knife) or pencil sharpener. Then insert this into the pot at varying depths, shallow to deeper, determining moisture using your direct senses (feel, smell, etc.).

I wonder what New England citrus enthusiast they are referring to?

Here is a link that might be useful: FourWinds Growing Citrus in Containers

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 1:04AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

That's awesome! What New England grower indeed?! ;-)


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 2:08AM
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No it will be inside when its too cold outside otherwise it will be outside in 7+ hrs of sunlight per day.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 6:32AM
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I had to order the FP should be here in a couple days. I have osmocote should i use that until i get the FP?


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 11:51AM
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Slow release osmocote (Pellets)? They won't feed it by then. Either way, waiting several days to feed is just fine until the FP arrives. It's probably best anyway to give the tree that time before apply fert.

If it were me, I would certainly put the Osmocote slow release pellets in there. They are a great addition to using FP. But again, I use them b/c in my area the citrus are very heavy feeders as they are outside year-round and we have tons of sunlight for so much of the year. I only had to protect them from cold for two nights this last winter.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 1:15PM
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Great, just follow the instructions on the back of the Osmocote? Or should i use a certain ratio? Also one more there an easy solution to get rid of spider mites? i heard a couple drops of antibacterial soap and water is that right?


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Lol..How did you guys know? I have to say that I have made from nice friends at that place!

Good job Cedbury and it's great to see you back!

Josh, lol. Wait until you see the new plant I am getting from them!

Eric: Follow instruction on the bottle always. The plants in pots that have no slow release are just as vibrant as those that have it.

As for the mites: I would use a good hortcultural spray or Kneem oil and follow up with it. Do not use pesticides not designated for indoor use. I would NOT use any harsh soaps on my plants either.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 3:58PM
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UPDATE- My grapefruit tree is starting to lose its leaves, Im not freaking out yet but im concerned. Also If anyone has any idea how to properly use the wood dowell please let me know.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 5:35PM
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What is happening with your trees? Hope they are doing well..

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 6:56PM
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Eric: Oh before I forget, as of now I'm hesitant to recommend the 1-1-1 gritty mix for the dwarf nectarine (or any peach/nectarine). I'm having a problem already this year and it reminded me that I had the same problem last year.

Peaches and nectarines differ significantly than other fruit -- especially citrus. I cannot blame the mix yet, but it seems the likely culprit. Once they get fruit, the leaves wilt tremendously and just can't/won't take up enough water. I also fight with Nitrogen deficiencies. When moved into the shade, they survived (and so did the fruit) but the wilting was horrid during the day. Soaking them a couple times a day was the only thing that helped, as I experimented with several methods to help. Adding more Turface to the mix didn't seem to help.

I'll explain more later once I figure this out. Just in case it affects your intentions for a repot next year.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 7:27PM
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