Tangelo yellow/curled in Al's Gritty Mix :-(

Matthew GraysonJune 7, 2013

I repotted my Minneola Tangelo in Al's Mix on April 27. You can see the photos at time of repotting and some current ones. It had a few slightly yellow leaves in April. The problem has gotten way worse since.

I'm hoping a kind soul can lend some helpful advice.

Is my bark too big? I used Orchid Bark Fine from Armstrong.

I used Turface MVP and the proper granite size (can't recall the brand now) and mixed in E.B. Stone gypsum.

April 27. Repotted and hopeful!

June 7. Slowly been yellowing over the past 5 weeks. There are small fruits though their future looks uncertain.

Thank you in advance!

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too much gypsum???
no fertilizer??
i hope somebody will help out. looks painful.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 3:36PM
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funny, you didn't mention fertilizer. I don't think the mix you are using has any food at all; so you have to add it like every week. The tree just looks like it is starving; and when that occurs in citrus they start to suck back the life out of the older leaves to use the nutrients for new leaves and/or fruits.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 4:03PM
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Matthew Grayson

Oh, I forgot to mention I applied Foliage Pro (1 gallon diluted) on May 24. I was worried about over fertilizing/burning, since the leaves were yellowing, so I was hesitant to reapply.
Should I be applying weekly and how much?
For no specific reason, I did NOT add epsom salt to the fertilizer last time. I will this time.

Thank you

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Matthew Grayson


I'm sorry you clearly said WEEKLY.
Should I do 1 gallon diluted each week then?


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:16PM
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i think if that would be my tree, i would get it out of the pot and look at the roots. although in the gritty mix, you still can have it too wet if the water can not come out of the bottom and in one picture it looks very wet.
if the roots are damaged, they can not get the nutrition and then the leaves will get yellow.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 5:57PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a


You only wait 2 weeks after re-potting before resuming fertilization.

Foliage Pro is applied 1 Teaspoon per gallon of water - once a week. When you mix your fertigating solution, add 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon Epsom Salt - Every time you fertilize.

Since you mentioned bark size, I'll ask....did you screen your bark 1/8 to 1/4 inch? If the bark is significantly larger than the other ingredients, no doubt the mix will hold excess moisture.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 6:33PM
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Matthew Grayson


I will do just that when I water today/tomorrow. Have to decide if I should do this at 6pm when I get home or if it's better to do it in the morning. Obviously prefer to water in the morning, but I'm wondering if sooner is better.

I did not screen my bark. I started to, using 1/4" hardware cloth, and so much was getting caught that I would have had almost nothing to use. I was in a position where I could not spend any more time sourcing ingredients and had to just do this thing (having a 7 month old seems to have this effect on my projects).

I thought settling was the main issue if particles are of disparate sizes. Is that wrong? If it doesn't drain as well, that is probably fine since I am in LA where temperatures routinely reside in the uppers 80s/90s for months and we'll get a couple weeks of 105+ each year.

Should I expect the yellow leaves to recover after a fertilization? How long after? I'm wondering how long I should wait before I pull it up and take a look at the roots.

Than you all,

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:34PM
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The yellow leaves will not "recover"; but the new growth that replaces them should be of good color and health.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Matthew Grayson

Should I pinch them off then or are they still serving a purpose?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 8:10PM
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Leave them until they fall, or until the leaf stem is completely yellow, then you can cut them off.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 9:38PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

First thing we need to note, then, is that this is *not* Gritty Mix. Particle size is a key concept of this mix, and without that control, your results will vary widely. The main issue with disparate particle size is that the small particles lodge betwixt the larger particles, and the entire mix then takes on the drainage characteristics of the smallest particles.

It's honestly too hot to fertilize (we hit 105F today). In the cool of early morning would be best....although when the temps go too high, the plant will basically shut down.

Response time will also vary....but you should see some greening or new growth in 1 - 2 weeks as a general guideline.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:00PM
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Matthew Grayson

UPDATE. 9/25/13

Thank you all for your comments.

I have been watering every other day and feeding once a week with FP and epsom.

The tree has stabilized, leaves have mostly uncurled and I have some new growth! See the green vertical branch in the center. Very happy now.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 12:21PM
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I tjink the new growth is coming from
below the graft line .It does not look like
tangelo leafs!!.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 1:15PM
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Matthew Grayson

You know, I thought the leaves looked odd and had that same thought myself. I will have to look more closely tonight. I was running off to work this morning...

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 1:38PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

The tall one in the back is definitely rootstock - cut it off and look for any others below the graft line.

I would agree that based upon your info, you are not using gritty mix. That may actually be a good thing depending on where you are. I've found true gritty mix to be a bit too fast draining in my hot climate. Adding black pots in the hot sun and gritty would require watering more than once a day in my climate during much of the summer. Black pots were causing problems unless protected from direct sun.

If you are using the Orchid mix Fine, it would need to be screened to be an actual component for true gritty mix. The bark is mostly a bit large but there is a bunch of fine components.

I started using a soil for citrus about 30 years ago that was very much like gritty mix. It worked great for me when I lived on an island in the harbor in SoCal. The heat and dryness in the inland valley is requiring very different potting mix. New #5 citrus in 14" terracotta pots with true gritty were drying out too much even when watered morning and night.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 1:40PM
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Matthew Grayson


What are you using now that you're so far inland?

I'm in NELA, between Eagle Rock and Glendale. It can get pretty hot and dry in the summer, but we get a reliable marine layer, so there are often foggy mornings which leave dew everywhere.

I have found this mix to be a bit dry. I actually am now planning to put this in the ground on the east side of my house along with a meyer lemon and some other yet-to-be-purchased citrus.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 1:52PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)


I assume Upland is a bit warmer and drier than Glendale. I would guess that sun overheats black nursery pots the same. I have potted a bunch of Citrus. About half of them will stay in pots and the rest will be added to the old orange grove behind my house. Several have gone to friends. I currently have 46 citrus in pots. I'm mostly learning from things that did not work out well. It's too early to tell what works well over many years in this climate.

For the dry inland areas of SoCal I would just use Armstrong Cactus & Citrus mix IF that citrus will be repotted in a couple years or will go in the ground,. I would use some of Al's wicks, particularly if the pot isn't terracotta.

The actual "Al's Gritty Mix" worked better in the extended rain that happens occaisionally in SoCal. Typical SoCal "winter", we might have rain for 3 days straight and then a week later it is 80 degrees and dry. The problems happened when the days got long, with temps near 100 and dry. The needed LOTS of watering on hot days. On the few sizzling days that were dry, I came home mid day and watered those in addition to every morning and every evening.

I started collecting citrus two years ago potting some permanently and some to plant after the grove is ready for them. I read lots of info on water flow in containers, most of it from Al and his patient answering of questions. The guy is a genius and a saint. I tracked down Laguna Hills Nursery that had helped me so much 30 years ago. His soils are 1:1 Pumice & Peat and 6:3:1 Pumice, Peat, Sand. What he calls sand is coarser than the sand you find at the local BORG.

I ended up doing an entire range of potting techniques, and documented each in order to see how they worked.

For citrus going into pots that will stay in pots semi-permanently, I have settled on a mix. I probably won't know how well it works until it has gone a few more years. I'm using a mix of 2:1:1 of Turface, Armstrong Fine Orchid Bark, and a third component. The third component is fine gravel at the bottom of the pot but is gradually replaced by pumice at the top for more water retention at the top. In the big pots I'm doing I am blending components 4-7 times for one container so the change is very gradual. Pay attention to Al's advice on not trying to use all gravel at the bottom followed by a potting mix above. I remove the loose nursery organic mix and loosen the roots but I don't bare root it as I was having too much shock, at least in hot weather. I'm gradually adding mix and using the hose with a water breaker on it to loosen the roots and blur the nursery mix into the semi-gritty planting mix.

I ended up getting tired of screening Turface AVP. I did some testing on Turface Pro League and found the particle size is slightly smaller than Al suggests. It has no fines that fall through insect screen. I did testing to see if it had any perched water table as Al warned against. The particle size, which seems to mostly be from 1/12" to 1/8", will perch less than 1/4" of water. That becomes zero in Terracotta but plastic and sealed concrete get Al's wicks to remove that. I would have had to screen one ton of Turface AVP to get the 1000 pounds of Turface that I'm using. After testing AVP and Pro League, I bought a pallet of Pro League.

This is clearly not Al's Gritty Mix but it is gritty-ish. There is way too little fines to plug up the gaps in the large particles and the very small perched water table is dealt with. I have no doubt Al's Gritty is a better choice in most of the country.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 10:32PM
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Matthew Grayson


Thank you for this info. I apologize for not responding sooner.

It's always a challenge to adapt techniques from other regions to our climate, so this is immensely helpful.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 6:22PM
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Greg..You certainly have the concepts down of using good porous mixes although you are not using the exact mixes Al taught us to use...

Thanks for the info and help..I play around with my mixes too to get the desired affect while at the same time doing what is best for my trees..Bravo.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 12:35PM
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