Let the shunning begin : (

cynjranaJune 15, 2014

SO I tried to add to my previous post, and it wouldn't post so I started a new one.

I wrote a post about how Im getting a new citrus key lime plant, and its my first baby. Many of you gave me some great tips and help. I went today to 8 home depots within a 15 mile radius to get my 5-1-1 mix and couldn't find perlite and bark anywhere! How is it possible that 8 home depots are all out of perlite and bark?!

I caved and bought the MG cactus/citrus mix (here comes the shunning). I didn't know what to do! I figured I will plant it in this and couple months from now I can replant it with the 5-1-1 mix, when I have all the ingredients.

I was so pissed, I was all ready with my list and can't find those two items anywhere.

Should I add anything extra to the cactus/citrus mix. My key lime tree is 10 inches tall and today I just saw a yellow spot on one of the leaves.

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livreosa(6b / Sunset Zone 35)

I was going to post this in your other thread, but deleted it because it wasn't relevant to your situation at the time.

My Meyer lemon is actually not planted in 5-1-1 mix, either. At the time, I hadn't heard of it, so I did what I could with the knowledge I had, which was to plant it in a mix of peat moss and perlite-- which is, essentially, normal potting mix. :p

I have been and will need to keep a close eye on it and make sure not to keep it constantly wet (to avoid root rot), but so far that's no problem (I check all the plants I love every day, right now). I would probably not let it dry out so much in between waterings if I had it in 5-1-1, but it's really doing just fine in this stuff, even if it's not the best mix possible. I believe that 5-1-1 will be better for it, but it's growing and happy, and one of the main lessons I've learned from this forum is that if your citrus tree is healthy and growing, DON'T mess with it. :) Change things when it is no longer doing well. I'll probably re-pot next spring, into 5-1-1, unless it looks starts looking bad or I notice compaction of the peat moss sooner.

I was looking for other plants, so I ended up visiting a few local shops in addition to the big box shop (my home depot sells pine "bark" mulch but it's huge sharp chunks and splinters, and mostly heartwood, not good for 5-1-1). I couldn't find pine fines anywhere (it turns out you should check out pet shops-- it's more expensive than the big bag of mulch, but the right size and pre-screened, to get reptibark). I included a link for the product I've seen recommended, below.

I ended up finding some pine bark mulch at a local shop that was actually bark, and had been sitting out in the sun for a while, and was partially composted as a result (unfortunately the bag was so degraded from UV it ripped in my car, but so it is). I still have to sift out the bigger pieces (I used a plastic quart container that held a decorative grass plant and had a large number of 1/2" holes in the bottom) to make it into potting mix, but it's enough to last for a while. I already planted some blueberries in it, and they are doing great. It's a pain in the butt to sift the big pieces out of my mulch, so next time I'll just pay a higher up front cost to get reptile bark or orchid bark that is less labor intensive. :)

I got perlite at the same (local) place, they had a giant bag for a reasonable price. Peat moss you can get pretty much anywhere.

A quick google search for "garden shop [your city, state]" will probably give you some alternative venues to buy stuff, and generally the prices are not much higher than a big box store-- I think it's $4 for pine bark mulch at Home Depot here (and it was terrible quality, like I mentioned), and it was $5 at the local shop. Perlite was cheaper since I could get the huge bag, as compared to a 4 quart bag of "Miracle-Gro" perlite that was the only kind at my Home Depot (which I've also used, and it has not killed my plants). A quick phone call makes it easy to find out if they have what you need.

So, bottom line, you can probably find supplies, but not where you expect, and it might take some looking in new-to-you shops. That said, your plant won't keel over and die if you dare touch its sacred roots with a miracle-gro product, even if it's not the absolute best thing for the plant, and I'm pretty sure that Miracle-Gro cactus mix is more ideal than my current mix, FWIW.

You are already making an effort, and you know not to chuck it straight into direct sun or drown the roots. Best practice is not the only acceptable way to get things done, and it's overwhelming and stressful to try and go from knowing virtually nothing, to doing absolute best practice (which is a matter of opinion at this point), right away. :D

Alternative bark products that don't require sifting:
Reptile bark from a pet store (hot link below)



It's gonna be okay. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Repti bark at petsmart or petco.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 11:33PM
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Thanks for making me feel better!!!! I guess everyone in my neighborhood and 15 miles of me is using the 5-1-1 mix... Lol. I will just go ahead and plant it in the mg cacti/ citrus mix. I think that mix already had perlite but I will check. If not I think I may just go get a bag of mg perlite to add to it.

I swear I feel like I'm jumping into an ocean and I don't know how to swim. What did my new obsession get me into?! Lol.

Wish me luck! It's getting planted tomorrow.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 12:27AM
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I would recommend putting a wick through the drain hole in the pot to help eliminate the perched water. Early spring might be the best time to get the bark.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 1:13AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I'm able to find perlite at both Home Depot as well as Lowe's - ask them to point it out to you. And, I use a reptile bark product from PetsMart which is very clean and small. Works very well. I would not recommend using straight cactus mix as the particles are just so very small that you can have issues with the mix collapsing quickly. Another option is trying to find one of the great Farfard professional bagged mixes, which many list members have used with great success. Just search this forum for "Farfard professional", and you'll see the two recommendations. And, no one would shun you, that's silly.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:41AM
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So far no shunning!
I think it is most important to understand why all the home mixes do well or are better for citrus in pots. There are plenty of plants that love to get watered every day but hate hate hate to sit in wet soil. This can be hard to achieve under normal conditions. In my experience, the big problem is that citrus trees eat up the soil faster and more completely than other trees (tomato family plants are even worse!) and that bark based media breaks down in like 18 months. Great if you are trying to get rich compost made from broken down pine bark but more work if you are trying to avoid re-potting your citrus every year and a half. Gravel based or slow-rotting bark chip based potting media gives you all the air your plants want and holds enough water so your trees can drink without drowning. You do have to water more - it all depends on the humidity at your location.

So the lesson is that some plants need more air than others and that bark based potting soil breaks down over time and has to be replaced.

Check out the bagged "Soil Conditioners" at your big box stores, around here it is pine bark fines.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 1:13PM
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Wel Cynthia..Looks like you got some of the best advice I'v seen on any forum..

Some explained why you use loose mixes while others suggested mixes that would be very comprable..I also love the Fafard Mix..

Don't fret.. You trees will do fine..It is imporatnt to catch any issues before they happen since it can be very difficult to deal with dead roots and usually the damge does not show up until it's too late..That is why many explained what happesn when using the soil you are using.

Perlite should be available at any Lowes or Home Depot..Ask them to order some if they could if not..

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 1:52PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

If you have 8 Home Depots within 15 miles, don't you have a real nursery? It could be far worse - be glad you aren't trying to build something out of the garbage they call lumber. Home Depot and their direct competitors seem to be continuing down the path of having items that look like, or pretend to be, something real.

I'm finding the easiest source around here for bark about the right size is labeled Orchid Seedling Bark. Reptile bark has less fines but is 5x the price. If you NEED the fines gone, a screening with window screen should be fairly easy. It works well for me as-is.

Wicks seem to go a long way of helping the drainage for me. The fine bark with the fines that I get will only perch about 1/2" of water and a wick will deal with much more than that. I would imagine that wicks would even make the MG drain for one season.

My recollection of the MG Citrus/Cactus mix is that is seems to have the right ingredients but they are all very fine. The key to fast draining is minimal fine particles. Particle size should be almost all larger than 1/10", about BB size. Sand does not drain, gravel does.

This post was edited by GregBradley on Mon, Jun 16, 14 at 18:28

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 6:08PM
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Greg..Excellent points....Well said)


    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 7:14PM
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Thank You everyone for all your great advice! I truly appreciate it. So much information, soaking it in like a sponge.

I live in Queens, NY and its ridiculous here. When I went there and was explaining why I needed this stuff, their answer to me is "they're just plants, its not rocket science". I found MG perlite at home depot but didn't want to use it since I already am thinking of repotting my plant in september as soon as I can get my hands on all the stuff.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 9:10PM
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Look up Fafard dot com online.
Look at their potting mix, and then look at the ingredients that the people on the forum are talking about.
Same recipe.
You don't have to make it.
They have a zip code finder, so you can see who sells it in your area.
Look under cactus mix, Fafard.
That should be fine for you, I swear by those mixes, and the nursery by me, they sell only Fafard, no other brands.
Good Luck.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:27PM
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