Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition
A short while ago I was asked by a friend to comment on thread. I followed it for a while & found a few other threads on the forum that I thought afforded an opportunity for me to be helpful. Rather than spend time debating the merits of certain practices on other threads, I thought I would start a thread where anyone with an open mind can come to discuss all aspects of container culture, but particularly growing media and nutrition.
While some aspects of the plant sciences are open to interpretation and 'individual creativity', a considerable amount can be nailed down solidly. I often run into the phrase, "It works for me", used as though it is a debate ender, but how well something works is extremely subjective. For example, if someone is practicing methods that are quite limiting, then suddenly changes practices to something less limiting, the perception is all is well or, "This works great", never allowing that the new or even the preferred practice is still limiting and can be improved upon with a little better understanding of what's at work.
I've never read this approach to growing anywhere, so you may find my perspective unique: All plants are already pre programmed (genetically) to grow well and look beautiful. The only thing that keeps them from growing well is our inability to provide them with the cultural conditions needed to do so. In most cases, our habits are the factors most limiting to growth and vitality. This is particularly true in the areas of soil choice - nutritional supplementation - light. Light is pretty much a settled issue, but soils and nutrition are very confusing for many. You become a better grower by eliminating or reducing to the greatest degree possible, the limitations under which your plants are growing.
Good growing, like most things done well, does take a little knowledge and effort. If you're happy with the way things are going - there is no need to make the extra effort to read further in order that you might review another perspective; but if you're questioning whether or not there is something that might be done differently to help your plants grow better, this thread will, provide a place to come for suggestions for growing practices rooted in science instead of anecdote.
I understand that statement seems very bold, but all I would ask is that you reserve judgement until you've had the opportunity to hear a little of what I have to say. Having studied soil science, nutrition, and most of the intricacies associated with container culture for more than 20 years, and the (literally) thousands of positive responses I've garnered here at GW alone, has left me pretty confident that anyone wishing to sharpen their growing skills will be able to take at least some things from this thread. If not, there's little lost, it can just be ignored.
OK - that was the lead in. I'll start by saying that you can probably squeeze the most vitality and best growth from your plants if you first concentrate on getting the soil right. Your soil choice is where about 9/10 of your limits arise. You must be able to keep the roots happy if you have any hope of keeping the rest of the plant happy. To do that, focus on the soil's structure, not its ability to deliver nutrients. Nutrition is very simple, most people make it hard on themselves by trying to incorporate too much anecdotal misinformation, shooting themselves in the foot in the process.
Hopefully, this is all I need to do to pique the curiosity of enough readers to get the ball rolling. If not, I can say I tried. ;-) If you knew me, you'd know I'm not doing this for glory or acclaim, I'm doing it very simply because I love to help others. I've maintained a significant presence in the GW community and in my own community for more many years. I lecture widely on the suggested topic(s) I introduced, and look at helping people as a natural extension of my affinity for nurturing plants - sort of nurturing the people who nurture plants.
Thank you for your kind consideration. .... questions/comments?