Al's Gritty Mix questions...

No-Clue(So Cal Zone 9)July 18, 2012

For those using Al's Gritty Mix 1:1:1 how often are you watering?? I still can't figure out when to water all my plumerias. The moisture meter I used kept saying dry even though I just watered the Gritty Mix. So clearly that's not reliable method. So right now I'm only watering 1-2 a week which I'm wondering if it's not enough? Can you possibly over water the Gritty Mix??

Then the clear bottle that you all are using to root your cuttings, do you cut holes at the bottom or no??

I'm still undecided if I want to root Moonie's mystery cutting in Bill's soil or Al's Gritty Mix. Maybe I should try both when I get more cuttings and see which will work for me? Thank you!!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The gritty mix is so well aerated and water runs through it so quickly you might think the water doesn't pause to hang around, but it does. The Turface soaks up water very quickly, then water diffuses from the Turface into the bark, so you're left with a damp medium instead of a soggy one. Plants and cuttings don't drink water in gulps or drops, they absorb it a molecule at a time from the thin film left on colloidal surfaces and from vapor in the spaces between particles in the soil - so damp is much preferred to wet by plants. Also, because the very top of the soil dries fairly quickly, you can't help but wonder if the rest of the soil mass is the same .... until you get used to it. It just takes a little practice. Did you try using a sharpened wood dowel/chopstick/skewer to check for soil moisture? Stick it in the soil; if it comes out wet or cool on the inside of your wrist, you probably don't need to water.

It's difficult to over-water the gritty mix, but it can be done - especially if you didn't screen something or you thought that adding some peat or other fine ingredient for 'extra water retention' was a good idea. Part of the beauty of the gritty mix is how the Turface soaks up water and allows it to diffuse into the bark. This helps to prevent saturation. If you water too often, the bark too will be saturated and you'll have more than the ideal amount of water retention. Take heart though, over-watering the gritty mix is no where near as damaging as over-watering mixes made with finer particles, like peat/coir/compost/topsoil/sand ..... Still, it pays to allow the plant to get as dry as possible w/o inducing drought stress between waterings.

You should always have holes in the container at the lowest point(s) water can collect. Clear bottles need extra care because soil temperatures can skyrocket in clear containers exposed to sun. Temps 40-50* hotter are possible in clear vs opaque containers, so keep that in mind. It can kill quickly and you may not even know what happened - even during cool or overcast weather.

I'm unfamiliar with Bill's soil, but any soil you use should be very well aerated and drain freely. If the soil supports a PWT, using a wick is a good idea as it will help reduce the ht of the PWT. Your container should be deep enough that the maximum ht of the PWT is always below the proximal (root) end of the cutting. Putting that another way - the bottom of the cutting should never be immersed in water occupying that soggy layer of soil that so often occurs at the bottom of the container. Cuttings need lots of gas exchange in the root zone, and a cutting end coated with a film of water is highly undesirable, no matter what type of cutting you're rooting in a solid medium. I prefer a rooting medium that is as free as possible of the fungal spores that cause damping off. For that reason, I try to stay clear of rooting media that contains potting soil, compost, or any fraction of topsoil. Rooting cuttings is a race to see if you can encourage a vascular connection between roots and shoots before the fungaluglies rot the plumbing. I root almost all my cuttings in the gritty mix, but if I had a cutting I prized, I'd probably use a sterile (sterile by virtue of the fact there is no organic component) 50/50 mix of rinsed coarse perlite and screened rinsed Turface. Rinsing the perlite largely eliminates any potential difficulties associated with perlite's fluoride content; rinsing the Turface eliminates residual dust.

I hope that helps.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 1:56PM
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NC - Only recently did I start using Al's gritty mix, the 5:1:1 and a 4:3:2 but I do have to confess that I am terrified of all of it! LOL

In time, maybe those mediums will make me happy but right now I fear the unrelenting heat using a mix I'm not familiar with.

You'll just have to decide for yourself. :)

BTW, I never water without using my handy, dandy split-down-the-middle popsicle stick. I'm never left wondering about watering.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 7:21PM
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I recently repotted 3 houseplants in gritty mix. The last time I watered was Sunday, and today (Wednesday) they are still damp. I highly recommend using the chopstick test to take the uncertainty out.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 7:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I forgot to mention that "moisture meters" don't really measure moisture - they measure the electrical conductivity of the soil solution, so in that, they are actually better suited as a gauge of fertility or the concentration of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil and are very unreliable at determining moisture levels. To illustrate, if you stick the probe in a cup of distilled water, it will read "DRY". Add a little table salt or soluble fertilizer and it will immediately read "WET".


    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 8:23PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi NC, Mona,

Don't be afraid to water when your trees are in the Gritty Mix. I especially don't worry about overwatering them especially in the heat we are having here on the East Coast. I usually water every three days and sometimes, depending on the tree/plant every two days. You can't really put a time on how ofter to water because each plant/tree has its own watering needs.

You all can relax and water in the mix. dont use a saucer at the bottom of the container. This will only stop up the water in the container and cause the PWT to rise, causing root rot.

Once you become famikiar with your trees and know what they need, you will ajust to the watering system. I agree with AL about using the wooden skewer system. You can buy these bamboos skewers at any grocery store and check for moisture levels.

I really dont use the skewers, but i would advise if you are still nervouse about watering, then use them. I can just raise the pot and feel the weight and know if it needs water. I honestly dont woory anymore about overwatering in this mix. When i water, i even water the DR's too at the same time.

Bill uses a good mix too! He has always had great success in growing as we all know. He has taught me/us many things and i would love to have access to Jack's recipe. But, i couldnt. We don't have access to those materials here on the East Coast. Al and his mix are the best for me and my trees. They love this mix and i can't say enough about how well it all works. The roots just love all of the aeration it provides and the trees just thrive . I also water my trees just a little before i fertilize . Just my way of knowing that the fertilizer isnt wasting away when draining to fast. ask about what mix to use on your cuttings.. That is a question that you have to answer. If you feel more confident in a reg mix, then i would say to go that route.. if you feel like the gritty mix will be good for you.. well you know how i feel about rooting in the gritty mix. I have posted pics of two different cuttings from the same tree.

Good luck to you both and i hope that i have helped just a little.

Please relax when growing these trees... it is really easy once you understand.. I promise you will feel better about watering.

I felt the same way when i started using this mix. I just doubted myself until i could see that i wasnt causing any harm by watering in this fast draining mix... if anything, you have to water just a little more than the norm.. it is what you want to give to your trees. Do you want the best? Then go ahead and give them the best... they will reward you with healthy growth and roots.

I Hope i helped...

Thank you AL! You always help out and i/we truly appreciate your itme.

Take care,


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 1:31AM
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No-Clue(So Cal Zone 9)

Thank you Al for your expertise! I am trying to learn as much as I can so I don't kill any more cuttings.

Thank Laura for your suggestions, support and reassurance. I can't wait to give it another try soon.

One more question.... If I use the clear juice bottle do I need to make holes on the bottom?

Thank you,

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Yes you do need holes in the bottom of your plastic bottle. I use a dremel tool to make my holes and I've read where some use a wood burning tool to melt the plastic and make holes.

Hopefully more will chime in on how they make the holes in their plastic containers.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:19PM
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I use a soldering iron to melt holes in the bottom of bottles. Make sure you work in a well ventilated area. Harbor Freight put them on sale real cheap. I also melt a hole at the top where I'm cutting it off. That way I have a hole to stick a scissor in to start my cut. Peg

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 12:44AM
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