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Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Posted by granburyflowergirl 7 (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 14, 10 at 10:23

Hi folks,
I am new to citrus in containers and I am trying to decide whether to pot my plants in the gritty mix or the 5:1:1 or ??? Please bear with me - I digest this stuff slowly!

I have access to all of the recommended ingredients for both of Al's mixes so that is not a concern. I would like to know the pros and cons of using each mix for citrus plants specifically and what adaptations you have found to be useful specific to citrus needs.

My ultimate goal is less work down the road as I have plenty of time now but I am hoping to be employed again by next year. I will have an automatic drip irrigation so watering frequency is not a concern

Can you wait longer between re-pots and root-pruning with the gritty or the 5:1:1? I have all dwarf or semi-dwarf trees and I want healthy plants and some fruit but I don't need huge super-plants as they will likely need to be moved in the winter (subject of my next post!).

Thanks for any help!

Nikki


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I personally prefer the 5:1:1 over the gritty. Here are my personal reasons why.

Gritty Mix:
Pro: It has rained almost the entire summer and I haven't had any problems with overwatering.

Pro: I've had plants in the mix since around March and I've seen absolutely no breakdown of the material. The bark and turface are holding together.

Pro: Not having to change the mix for another couple of years.

Pro: Green, healthy plants. I have an oroblanco grapefruit and a nana pomegranate left in the gritty mix and both have put out tons of new growth and flowers.

Con: Availability. Finding the ingredients can be a pain.

Con: Expensive. I payed $19.00 for the turface, $8.00 for the gran-i-grit and $6.00 - $8.00 for the bark.

Con: Waste. Most of the turface is too small to use. I got around 40% of usable turface out of a $20 bag. However, I didn't have the MVP as the only thing available was a generic brand.

Con: Weight. I have a grapefruit in a 3 gallon terracotta pot and it weighs a ton. I absolutely hated lugging it in and out of the house during the spring.

5:1:1 Mix
Pro: It has rained all summer and I've had no problems with overwatering. The roots are getting a lot of oxygen so overwatering isn't a problem. Just like in the gritty mix.

Pro: Price & Availability. If you can make the gritty mix you can make the the 5:1:1. I've filled dozens of good sized pots for under $15.

Pro: Little waste. I only have to sift the perlite and even then, very little of it too fine to be used.

Pro: Green, healthy plants. I have almost everything in the 5:1:1 mix and it's all growing wonderfully.

Con: I've noticed some break down of the peat. It tends to migrate towards the bottom of the pot and gunk together.

So for me the 5:1:1 mix has 90% of the advantages of the gritty mix along with the added benefit of it being cheaper and having less waste. The only downfall of the 5:1:1 is that it'll have to be switched out next year, but I won't mind that at all. I love digging around in my pots and seeing all the root growth!


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Not to foget the lack of salt build up if any at all form fertilizers.

Being able to fertilize at every watering without fear of over doing it.

Ph is always perfect until it starts to age, and all you have to do is use vinegar.

Love the color!

No place for Fungas Gnats, not in mine anyways.

Mix falls away from the roots during transplant time to expose beautiful healthy white ones.

Rapid growth and plants vitality are increased.

Many more Pro's..

Cons:
It is a pain in the neck to make with out strainers.
It is a pain in the neck to make when I am lazy and don't feel like mixing more.
If can take a bit of practice to make before one get's it right off the bat.
Watering can be tricky at first without wooden dowels.
Pots can be heavy in the gritty mix if large..
That is it..


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Wow, Zecosay, thanks for such a comprehensive answer, MVP Turface is only 12.00 a bag here at the irrigation store and I have a use for all of the by-products of the Gritty mix so no waste. So, according to your list my only con might be the weight...how much heavier is the gritty mix than the 5:1:1?

Mike, just to be clear, you are waxing poetic about the gritty mix over the 5:1:1 for citrus right? Does the 5:1:1 have gnats? How long between the need to re-pot with the 5:1:1 and how long with the gritty?

I think I have it down to a science now and I have all the equipment (and sometimes the patience) to produce it. I am confused about the lime vs gypsum though, so far I have always used gypsum and added epsom salts when I fertilize. Should I put lime in the gritty mix for citrus instead of gypsum?

Thanks!
Nikki


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 14, 10 at 21:59

The gritty mix weighs about 25% more than peat-based soils when both are saturated, and about 50% more when both are dry. This is because peat-based soils hold more water. It weighs about 1/3 more than the 5:1:1 soil both wet and dry because they hold close to the same amount of water.

Neither the 5:1:1 mix nor the gritty mix come with gnats. You have to attract them yourself by making a concerted effort at over-watering. So don't do that. ;o) FWIW - using organic soil amendments and fish emulsion as nutrient sources is also an efficient way to attract them.

The gritty mix has a little better aeration when properly made, so roots grow a little faster, as will the canopy, but there really isn't a significant delineation in repotting intervals, mainly because most repotting is done in the spring, and it's either time (because its a risk to wait another year) or it isn't (another years growth in the same soil is ok. The main difference is aeration is very stable with the gritty mix for a very long time if you need to press, or feel like pressing the soil into lengthy service. IOW, it won't collapse before it's long past a prudent interval between repots. When you DO repot, it is MUCH easier to remove the gritty mix from the root mass. The gritty mix also shines above other soils in shallow pots because it holds (almost) no perched water, yet is able to provide good water retention.

I don't use lime in the gritty mix because it comes in at a pH of around 6.0. Citrus in containers, like other plants, prefer a pH of about a full point lower than plants in the ground. Since we know lime will raise the pH, I always use gypsum as a Ca source and include it in the soil, then add a small amount of Epsom salts (1/8-1/4 tsp/gal) to the fertilizer solution whenever I fertilize. Neither have a significant impact on soil solution pH. Got that, Nik? ;o)

Al


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thanks Al,
I can deal with it being a 3rd heavier.
So, just do the same thing for my citrus that I have been doing all along with my Clematis etc, good! That will be easy to remember! I don't plan to neglect my plants, but it's nice to know they will be better prepared to handle it if I do ;-)

The mixes don't come with gnats...lol, I guess I could have worded that better.

So now you warn me about fish emulsion, I just bought a bottle of it yesterday!

Thanks for the help everyone...off to do some more sifting!


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thank you all for this thread. It is my question also. So, 1-1-1 gritty mix is preferred over the 5-1-1. I will need to repot my patio (dwarf) Meyer lemon after the winter fruit harvest here in Floridia.

It is now in a three gallon and will be going into a 15 gallon root pruning container. Should all the old soil be hosed off? Available ingredients for the mix are bark, DE, perlite.
I read in another thread, Al that you said it will still need root pruning eventually even in a root pruning container. Al, would you please comment generally on using root pruning containers. I have several given to me. Should I post this question in a new thread?


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Rainygarden, I am interested to know about root-pruning containers too so I don't mind if you pose the question here, but you may get more response on a separate thread and it would probably be more useful to others with questions about root-pruning containers :-)


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I agree with granburyflowergirl.. It would probably get more of a response in it's own thread. There's also the forum for containers.

JoJo


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I will post about the pots in the container forum. But I would appreciate if someone could please comment about washing off the old soil and whether bark, DE and perlite in 1-1-1 is really the best for citrus in a humid and rainy summer climate.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 15, 10 at 16:36

RG - one of the attractive features of the gritty mix is that it's adjustable. Turface holds LOTS of water; granite holds almost NO water, other than what it holds on it's surface; bark holds somewhere the same amount of water as the average between equal parts of Turface and granite. I said all that so I can tell you that you can adjust water retention so the soil is appropriate during rainy periods by increasing the granite and decreasing the Turface.

Perlite holds more water than granite, and calcined DE holds more water than Turface, so obviously Turface and granite are better choices, but if you must use the components you listed, heavy on the perlite and light (by volume) on the DE, while keeping the bark fraction at 1/3 or less should get the job done.

It's not likely you'll be able to wash the soil off. Cut 1/3 off the bottom of the root mass with a saw; then, of the remaining rootage remove 3 wedges of roots that total 1/2 of the remaining roots. Next spring, or even the spring after next, you can again remove the bottom 1/3 of the roots + the soil in the 3 wedges you didn't work on. At that point, the plant will be entirely in the gritty mix.

Use a spritzer or a hose to keep roots moist as you work on them. It's important, as fine roots can die from drying in a matter of minutes.

Al


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thank you, Al. I will keep this information for when I do my repotting. I posted my questions about the root pruning containers in the Container gardening forum.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

What's wrong with the Miracle Grow Cactus, Palm, Citrus mix?

Keep in mind I've never met a citrus that I haven't killed within a week or so. However I was in Key West last week and just had to get a Key Lime tree. I put it in the Miracle Grow mix and added some Perlite but my hopes aren't high with it just because of my Citrus history.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

The Cactus, Palm & Citrus mix seemed no different than any other miracle grow mix. I bought it last year for my calamondin. It was all peat with bits of perlite thrown in, and it'll break down within a couple of months. It worked OK in the summer. (but then again, mud will dry out fast in summer)In winter, however, it lead to a slow death for my tree.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!!! Zecowsky. WELL SAID..I haven"t heard it said better than that. I love it..Watch out the MG reps don't see you said this..lol

Mike..:-)


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Hmmm, so what do I do now? There is not a chance I'm making my own mix. I think I read that it can be potted in pure compost?


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I use real soil - none of that perlite, vermiculite, peat moss stuff. My soil is real alluvial soil washed up by the flooding local creek. It is sandy with some clay and top soil. It has enough natural composted matter and clay to hold the moisture and enough sand to drain well. Since June they require daily watering. The 95* plus temps beating down on black plastic pots dries the soil quickly. It is 9 pm right now and the outside temp is 86*. Today's high was 97* and it will get hotter as the week goes progresses. I can't skip watering a day or the leaves droop. In the winter, I don't have to water but once a week.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Then bag that stuff up and start selling it, will you! It sounds like stuff very rare and hard to find, and you are very lucky to have it..Don't be to quick to tell everyone exactly where it is, or many will be there as if they found a gold mine..

Hi tsmith, hope your well and good to see you again..:-)

Mike


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RE: 1Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Tsmith, in my excitement to see you here, I forgot to ask a couple of things..

In that type of mix, what do you exactly feed your plants and how often?

Could you please post some pictures of your trees, I would love to see how they look growing in such a porous mix...I have heard you are very good at growing citrus through the pipeline...;-)

Mike


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

What zone are you in, bgtimber75? If you live down south you can get away with a lot more. I'm in New York and could never get away with growing in soil like tsmith does. How I wish I could lol.

I wouldn't plant anything in pure compost, not in a pot. I'd leave compost for the garden.

If you were absolutely against the idea of making your own mix, you could try and find "schultz orchid mix." I found that at wal-mart 2 years ago and mixed it with some regular ol' miracle grow. It turned out alright. But I haven't seen it this year so I have no idea if they make it anymore. If you only have 1 tree this might be the way to go. If you have more than one tree it would be FAR cheaper to make your own mix.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I'm in zone 7 in Maryland.

I'll have to look for the Orchid mix, I know I had some a few years ago so I'll have to check Lowes. It's only the one tree which is why I don't really want to get into mixing my own and hunting down "ingredients"


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RE: 2Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Bgtimber,

As zecowsay has said, that mix will breakdown and compact within a short period of time. And in summer, that mix is more forgiving...

No one is saying you can not use it, but just to be aware of what that mix is capable of doing to your trees, especially in winter..If that was the only mix I could buy, or care to use, then I would either use half that and half perlite, or repot every time it starts to compact or hold moisture too long, which will probably be often..

I know you will make it work if that is your only option..:-)

Mike


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Ok, couldn't find the Schultz Orchid mix. Found "Orchid Bark" but that looked exactly like mulch.

What's the easiest, cheapest mix that I can do myself? And when I say easy it means I would need to get all of the ingredients from one garden center and not have to order anything online.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Orchid Bark (fir bark) is the product that I use for my mixes.

5 parts Orchid Bark, 1 part Perlite, and 1 part Peat Moss (or potting soil).
All should be available at a garden center.


Josh


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Bark

Currently using this:

Photobucket

In the past, I've used Micro Bark:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

That mix sounds very easy Josh. The Orchid Bark I saw today was much larger then your picture though. I'm heading to my regular garden center on Friday to see what they have.

I already have the perlite, I have the peat(the soil I just potted it in) so now I just need the bark.


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The 5-1-1

Orchid Bark will usually come in two grades - choose the "fine" or "small," if available.

Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Josh,
I thought you were not using any peat. Just bark, perlite, and pumice. I have the micro garden mulch you show a pic of. Is the orchid bark any better. Also I did not screen the micro bark. Does that make a big difference? Still no improvement in my three failing trees, although they were almost leafless. I think I need to repot my two new trees as the lime is staying a bit wet and heavy in its 5 gal cont. and the meyer that looks super healthy has a root just peaking out the bottom drain hole. What do you think I should do?
thanks,
Dave


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Hey, Dave!
you're correct. I don't use any peat in my own mixes.
The ingredients that I use, however, are a bit harder to track down.

I recommended the peat because it is readily available, and "easy" is one of Timber's conditions.
The 5-1-1 mix - bark, perlite, peat - is one of the most user-friendly mixes to make. Plus, there is
more information available on the 5-1-1, so help will be easy to find, too.

Orchid Bark versus Micro Bark:
some bags of product are better than others, but I find the two to be comparable after screening.
Both cost about $8, but the Micro Bark comes in a larger bag, so it's slightly more economic.
I screen the bark to eliminate the large pieces primarily. Because these products are not aged/composted,
you'll want to include the bark dust/fines to help clog the mix and increase moisture retention.

Screening makes a huge difference.
Particle size determines drainage characteristics. The more uniform the particles, the more
uniform your results.

Re: re-potting
If you see roots, it's past the time to re-pot!
If you feel up to the task of a summer re-potting, then I say, Go for it.

As for the lime that is staying too wet...Try inserting a wick through a drain-hole, if you haven't
already. This will at least get the excess water out while you evaluate your course of action.


Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thanks Josh,
Doesn't even feel like summer down here. Fog and cold in mornings and nights. If I decide to repot I will screen the bark. I have about a 5gallon pickle bucket left of the first mix I made for the sick trees. You think I can mix that with the screened mix? I did wash the pumice. I have to find something to use as a screen.
thanks again
Dave


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Hey, Dave, you could just screen the first mix you made.


Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I see what you mean. I need to find a screen and the perlite and pumice will fall through along with the bark I want to keep and only the large elongated bark peices left behind. What do you use for a screen? What about the repotted sick trees? I am gonna leave them for now. To undo all the potting work and do it over will frustrate me more than I am. I am gonna go pick up some fp tomorrow. I found out they make it just across the bridge from me. Sun is just coming out now here in bay area and it is 10 am. Wife and I are going up north to pick up a fig tree for our hill side. That is a whole other frustration. Talk to you soon.
Dave


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Mike, I feed whatever is handy as a general fertilizer. I like low nitrogen fertilizer. As a supplement I am fond of bone meal or super phosphate, Epsom salts and azalea fertilizer (or Miracid). Bone meal for strong stems and blooms, Epsom salts for green color and blooms and azalea fertilizer for slight acid content. - Terry


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Josh,
I have an idea. You can come down to the bay area and we can make some mix and pot some trees. What do you think? I am sure you have tons of time on your hands like most of us working stiffs. I went to a huge nursery today to get a fig tree and saw so many trees citrus and others in pots that were packed with roots. I think I will wait until next year for repotting the 2 new trees.
thanks Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Tempting...and a mere 120 miles away... ;)
I do have an ex-gf living in the Bay, now that you mention it. But what am I saying! Life is complicated enough just dealing with my plants...! Roots I can do...relationships, ha, well, maybe when I'm a bit older.

Seriously, though, if it were more convenient (and if time allowed), I'd be happy to hit the Bay for some potting. With two people, it really is much easier.


Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Big Mario, you can make a trip down to Fresno (3 hours) and bring your stuff here and I can help you out.

BTW, my moniker is C4F on the other Citrus forum I see you at.


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RE: Root Pruning

>>>> Al's Advice: It's not likely you'll be able to wash the soil off. Cut 1/3 off the bottom of the root mass with a saw; then, of the remaining rootage remove 3 wedges of roots that total 1/2 of the remaining roots. Next spring, or even the spring after next, you can again remove the bottom 1/3 of the roots + the soil in the 3 wedges you didn't work on. At that point, the plant will be entirely in the gritty mix.

I would have to disagree with Al here. Unless I'm misinterpreting the advice, I'd be very careful using this procedure for Citrus (esp. for a young dwarf Meyer lemon). The advice to remove what, 66% of existing Citrus roots in the first step? Roughly 33% from bottom cut, then 33% from the wedge cuts (half of the remaining 66% of soil). I would be willing to bet money you lose the tree soon after. How soon depends on when it's done, if pruned in winter, then when late spring/summer heat hits, if pruned in Summer, then immediately.

To make matters worse, in my experience with CA produced citrus trees (4W, Menlo, C&M, Willits, Hines, MBay, etc) the dwarf (PT hybrid) 2-3 yr old citrus trees in #5 containers have the largest set of roots in the bottom 1/3rd of the container. Even for poorly watered trees (like at big box stores) or in poorer soils, where the bottom roots are starting root rot, there exist many healthy roots just above the mushy ones.

Keep in mind I respect Al tremendously and a huge chunk of my knowledge of container care (not necessarily citrus) initially came from Al directly, or via hundreds of his replies to others. I also use the gritty mix for many of my trees and have a few in the 511 mix. Using his advice, I've bare-rooted many of my 50+ container citrus, detangling and spreading the roots out as well as pruning.

I continue to test several different container soils. Yet only now, I have chances to root prune as a maintenance-only step (i.e. not while bare rooting or in conjunction with other stressful actions). Without going into too much detail of each scenario, let's just say that even the most mild pruning (snipping back those very long roots), done as the only action to a healthy tree, will slightly stress the tree. Removing more than 40% of healthy roots at once, whether from wedges or off the bottom, from a dwarf citrus will certainly over-stress it, if not outright kill all but the healthiest of trees.

For dwarf citrus trees, there just aren't that many roots to begin with and there are few to none "small feeder roots" relative to other types of trees. Hairlike young roots are more plentiful on full vigor stock like Carrizo, but the typical dwarf on a trifoliate hybrid has very few and they size up fairly fast. For younger (<5 yrs) PT container citrus, besides the few very thick transport roots, the majority of roots are the same "general size". Newer roots are certainly smaller, but many of the white tipped fresh growth are already sized up equally with it's direct parent root.

Having seen only dwarf citrus for a long time, it was a bit strange to see other types of trees and bushes with lots of root size variation (thick, thin, and hairlike).

In one case, I lost a completely healthy tree while following the general root pruning advice from the GW Container forum. I pruned only the two largest thickest roots, cut the end off the long submerged trunk, and snipped back only the longest side roots. As it turned out, this was foolish since I unintentionally removed around 40% of root mass with just those few cuts. You can see pics of the process here.

On another note, I've used Al's suggested method to clean up some real ugly Blueberry roots and it worked beautifully. I'm still on step 2, having sawed off the bottom and removed 1/3 of existing soil taking out small wedges. I'm now waiting until next Spring before I start removing the 2nd 1/3 of roots to replace into a gritty "type" mix.

To sum up, I would never recommend removing more 20% of healthy citrus roots, at one time.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Hey, Cebury!

I think that method is for compacted roots and soil.
In other words, if you can't wash the soil away, then you remove it surgically.

Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thanks cebury,
I am just gonna right off the 3 trees that are sick. 1) I think I waited too long to help them. 2)By the the looks of pics, I think I used too big of a container for the meyer and oroblanco.

I am gonna chance waiting until next spring to repot the new lime and meyer that are in #5 pots from fourwinds. They don't look much bigger than your valencia was in the small green pot. When the time comes should I pot up to a #7 pot or bigger? Seems like #7 is hardly bigger. If the other sick trees dont pull through, can I use some of their mix as it would be a lot of wasted material?

I had to go to my brother's house to borrow his truck to go get my fig tree and as usual I was amazed at how almost perfect his lime, satsuma, and meyer look potted in just off the shelf Gardner and Bloome potting soil and he uses Miracle Gro shake n feed citrus fert. They have been in their terra cotta for 3-4 years.

I don't see many pics of large potted citrus on the other forum. Seems like lot of greenhouse growers with small trees.

I am off to buy some FP and see if that helps.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Thank you cebury. Your experience with these citrus trees is extremely valuable to my particular situation.

Some people can experiment to see what works if they have many trees. I do not. This tree cost $50. and was obtained from a nursery outside of town. For this reason, I want to gather as much information and ask many questions before any pruning and repotting.

I have not looked at the root ball. I don't wish to disturb it until after harvest. It is in very good health and is heavily fruited. Looking at your pictures scares me.

I am wondering why I would have to root prune it initially, if I can wash the old soil away and if it is going into a larger container and that container is a root pruning container?


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

BigMario:

I started a long post on the other forum to offer my suggestions, but then I realized it was really a "starter guide for CA purchased trees" to make thing simple for folks who reside in the Citrus belt (appropriate climate and access to quality, inexpensive trees). When I saw your posts here, I realized you were already getting deep into creating your own soil and heading away from the "easy, beginner route", so I canceled the reply on the other forum.

There are two ways to approach tackling citrus in our environment where we do not struggle with the elements (excessive rain, adequate heat, plenty of sunshine, and relatively low frost): 1) the easiest and most hands-off approach to have good trees, or the 2) best (optimal) approach which is much more complicated to start and is more difficult to succeed in your first (few) attempts. The 2nd method is usually tackled by intellectuals and/or go-getter folks (AKA ignorant and foolhardy) who are willing to invest energy in research, spend $$ gathering ingredients, and lots of time and work making a perfect soil and providing care. The 1st "easy" method is just to leave the tree as-is for the first year and use plain old potting soil and simple ferts. This is probably what your bother did. I gravitated toward (jumped right into?) the 2nd method. But seeing as I purchase so many trees I decided to give the easy method a shot for a few of them and it has worked wonderfully.

However, as many will explain here, and IME even with houseplants can confirm, the largest draw back to the "easy" method is it doesn't work for the long-term (or medium term depending on your definition). Some time, some day, the tree WILL decline as the soil compacts. Several bad things start happening from there... The education and methods used with the #2 "optimal" route is required to have long term success.

I will clarify again, the #1 easy method of just buying off-the-shelf soil can be successful in the citrus belt. This is absolutely NOT so in other parts of CA or other states. The further away from optimal growing climate, the less it works. Ask MeyerMike --- he's about as far away in the states as you can get from that climate.

Let me clean up my "guide" and I'll post it here sometime soon. My posts are ALWAYS too long and wordy (partly b/c I type 100wpm so it's little effort). When I proofread, I usually reduce the length by half.

>>> I am off to buy some FP and see if that helps.
I doubt that's gonna solve any problems, but I certainly do recommend FP as it makes many things easier. Especially in conjunction with a good controlled release, like Dynamite (either Citrus orange bottle or All-Purpose Indoor/Outdoor Green bottle) or Osmocote Plus. Both of these, including Foliage Pro, are expensive but they last a long time. Apply the CR at full strength (since citrus are heavier feeders than other trees) and supplement with FP during the growing season at labeled maintenance levels (1/4 or 1/2 tsp per gal -- depending on how often you'll use it). For an easier schedule, I supplement with 1/2 tsp per gallon twice per month during the growing season only.


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RE: RG Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

RainyGarden:

>>> I am wondering why I would have to root prune it initially, if I can wash the old soil away and if it is going into a larger container and that container is a root pruning container?

You don't and shouldn't. I think as Josh had cleared up, the suggestion from Al to root prune was if your soil was rock hard compacted and you couldn't separate it from the roots. I didn't gather it was, from the first read, but Al started that portion of the reply with "It's not likely you'll be able to wash the soil off." I have no idea what the soil is like.

Even with the clarification, I still would not remove that much soil from a tree that is still alive, even if the soil is compacted. I would suggest pruning smaller amounts at a time. Citrus in "the belt" can go through many root-foliage growth flushes in a year. In a horribly compacted case, you could tackle it twice per year, not more than 15% each time, starting with the bottom.

I wouldn't be too scared to look at the rootball, but it depends on how easy it is to remove it from the container to take a peek. This is affected by how big the foliage is, how heavy the foliage and rootball are, and how compacted the soil is. The further the above three criteria are from optimal, the odds increase something could go wrong. It is not uncommon for a heavy mix that is compacted will break off and tear away roots in large chunks. Young 2-3 yr old trees purchased from a good nursery shouldn't be much problem.

But if you're concerned, just wait it out until it's time. Enjoy the tree and the fruit, NOT disturbing roots until it's time, is always better for a healthy tree.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 25, 10 at 12:18

The limits of my citrus growing experience extend to rearing a couple of meyer lemons for a few years as potential bonsai. Later, I grew a couple of flying dragons. I gave the plants away because I didn't think the growth habit was appropriate to the quality of form I look for in my bonsai. IOW, I had concluded that the growth habits of citrus as a group make them difficult and not particularly attractive bonsai subjects, though I know there are some exceptions. Citrus growers - please don't take that as a slight. There are many 'groups' of trees that don't make good bonsai subjects, and that has nothing to do with what you folks are doing. I was just offering my 'citrus' background so you can readily see I'm not an expert on citrus.

I am, however, well versed in tending a very wide array of trees in containers. At this point in my 20+ year journey growing trees in containers, I have about 75-100 tropical trees, and somewhere around 200-225 temperate trees. By necessity, I repot more than half of my (a guess) 300 trees each year. I say by necessity, because we can tell within a couple of months when our trees need repotting. Whether we repot them at that time is a different5 issue, but at the point where the root mass has become congested to the point the tree can be lifted from the pot with the roots and soil mass intact, the tree needs repotting. This is a much more reliable indicator than any other method, and has been scientifically verified many times in tests by nurseries that have a vested interest in maximizing growth. They know that the growth rate begins to slow at that point, and that it continues to slow as congestion worsens. Not only does the potential for maximum growth within the limits of other cultural factors evaporate with root congestion, so does the possibility of peak vitality. Tight roots are a stress, and that stress affects the entire organism - even to the point of increasing the likelihood of insects infestation and disease. You CAN pot up before the tree reaches this point with no ill effects or decline in growth/vitality, but if the tree HAS reached that point, potting up will only allow a PARTIAL return in vitality and growth, and will set the tree on a gradual slope of decline.

Soil - No plant like any portion of the soil to remain saturated for more than a couple of hours. Deprived of enough O2, metabolism and root function is negatively affected and fine roots begin to die. The longer the deprivation, the larger are the roots that are killed. When O2 returns to the soil so normal root growth and metabolism/function can resume, the tree then has to go about the business of allocating either current photosynthate (food - energy) or stored energy to regenerate lost rootage. For this reason, you should always use a durable and well-aerated soil. You automatically sacrifice potential growth/vitality when you choose a water-retentive soil that supports any significant amount of perched water.

Repotting - use your own judgement, but I have repotted my own citrus by removing the bottom 1/3 of the roots and then 3 wedges equal to 50% of of the remaining roots with no problems. I also have several friends in CA and 1 in TX that uses the method religiously. Use whatever method you choose, but removing the old soil and root pruning is imperative to best growth and vitality. Once a tree has been allowed to remain in the same soil/container beyond the point where the soil/root mass can be lifted intact, growth is permanently affected until the time that the limiting factor of root congestion is eliminated. This even applies to trees that are severely root bound and are then planted out. I have worked on trees that had original soil so compacted that the soil was harder and stronger than fully lignified (woody) roots.

You guys recognize the growth spurts in your trees. Repot as a growth spurt is winding down, or early in the spring. These are the periods of most rapid root growth. Adopt your own methods if you like. I just explained the 'whys' of it and how I proceed. There's no reason it shouldn't work as well for you as it does for me, but you don't need to follow my advice or my procedures exactly.

I suppose what I want to leave you with is: Your soil IS the foundation of your planting, and can certainly determine whether you'll have an easy time of it or a difficult time. The roots are the heart of your plant. You look at and fuss over the foliage, but it's the roots that are REALLY in charge. Roots come first - before the foliage, so if you keep your roots happy, the rest of the plant will be happy.

Al


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Everything I am reading here makes sense but no one I have spoken to at nurserys or in general has heard of growing citrus in soiless mixes. Don't get me wrong I respect everyone's experience and knowledge and time spent experimenting and I am trying it out too. But one nurseryman asked me a question while I was asking him some. He asked "why do they make ready to use potting soils?" I could not answer him but did tell him about the experiences here and the photos of trees, epecially Mike's that are thriving in the stuff.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Profit.
Potting soil is cheap...
it doesn't require assembly by nursery workers.


Josh


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 25, 10 at 15:52

Josh is right. Peat-based soils are inexpensive and easy to make - peat is reliably available - and most important of all ..... most hobby growers are willing to pay for the convenience and either don't know there are much better alternatives... or don't care - so there are lots of entities willing to provide the product and profit from your need for a convenient source of container media.

FWIW - 99% of all hobby growers grow citrus in soilless mix. It's likely the commercial growers that grow containerized citrus using any significant fraction of mineral soil, do so not because of a favorable impact on growth/vitality, but because they have factored the increased cost of labor resultant of having to water the lighter soils more frequently and are driven by profit. I'm not saying that's wrong, but nurserymen really don't care what happens to the plant once it's sold. Their only goal is to get the plant to market as quickly as possible and at as large a profit as possible. Our goals are quite different - sort of like the difference between a pet rabbit and the main ingredient for hassenpfeffer.

Why does the nursery guy use a hose or overhead sprinklers to water his plants? They make watering buckets ..... Why do they make chainsaws? The father of our country was perfectly happy with a hatchet - shouldn't we be? You can buy hot salsa - but ohhh boy, there's nothing like homemade.

You could always print this out and show it to the nursery guy - or invite him here for discussion? ;o)

Al


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Other than the *quantity* to remove using the method described, I agree 100% with everything Al has said. Even though my experience is teaching me the opposite, I still yet do not know WHY it isn't working for my citrus. I am humble enough to realize I could be mistaken, but at this time it won't stop me from warning others to be very careful when doing the same.

Al has done a tremendous job and should consider himself extremely successful at educating those who will listen to the importance of roots and hence the properties of soil. I have personally thanked him many times. I should count the specific number of "quotes" I tell myself in a given day when I work on my containers. I think of Al and the example of potting soil falling away from the mix *every time* I pull a tree from a container. And about soil structure every potting soil I inspect at a nursery or in a bag -- and so many more. Every time I (over) water my gritty mix trees without harm b/c of old habits (when it gets a dry 100+ my hands want to grab a water hose and go crazy).

Al: I'd really love to email one of your friends in CA or TX who root religiously prune citrus by "removing the bottom 1/3 of the roots and then 3 wedges equal to 50% of of the remaining roots with no problems". I'm curious what kind of citrus, rootstock, and how often they do it.

BigMario: Keep in mind what I said before, there is a difference between those who are attempting "optimal" tree care for their own trees and those who sell trees for a living (fast turn-around leads to profit, even at the best intentioned nursery owners). There isn't a large market for heavy, expensive soil that will last a long time. There *is* a market for inexpensive, easy to make, lighter soil that can be "branded" and marked up, which incidentally requires replacement much sooner for optimal tree health. This thought process doesn't extend to the retail level of the market, it occurs at the highest level by the manufacturers when investing millions of dollars into a product line.

Most nursery staff also don't know talk much about root pruning -- again it's required for long term container care.

And living in our CA environment, many bagged soils work perfectly well for the short term, and to a much lesser degree the medium term. Just grabbing MG potting soil and mixing with a bag of perlite will work for you. If you take steps to protect the container soil from the heat and IF, and here's the BIG IF, you learn to water correctly. Without knowing much about your watering habits, I would bet this is the largest part of your struggle. It even continues to be mine for trees that aren't in the gritty mix.


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

Well put!

Dave, by thew way, the nursery owners here in my local will not and do not grow their own personal trees even in their own "Pro-mix". They use the same method that I have used after showing them how to make it, the gritty mix way..

I even know a nursery owner that could never keep his trees healthy and alive in his house all winter, and would have to bring his back to the nursery come the fall, that is until I helped him out..:-)

Mike


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

>> >and would have to bring his back to the nursery come the fall, that is until I helped him out..:-)

Wow Mike, I've heard you say that before but it rings louder when the nursery owner has to bring his back for refund!

Send him a professional looking invoice for $400 "Soil Specialist, Services Rendered" and see what he does!


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

lolol..Good one Cedbury...Lolol

Have a great night..I love reading your posts by the way..;-)

Mike


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I just cut the flowers off my orchids that were left to me by my grandmother. I neglect them, keep saying I will start feeding them and never do. A bunch were loaded with huge long flower spikes. I know this is not an orchid forum but they are in a mix of almost all bark. Would orchid mix work for potted citrus? My other question is next spring, as I am gonna wait on the 2 new trees, should I go from their #5 containers to a #7 as most say ( only pot up one size) or can I use a #10 pot? I got a couple #7s when at a nursery getting a fig tree but when I set the #5 in it, it hardly seems bigger. Going from #5 nursery pots to a large terra cotta pot has not worked in the past so I was going to keep potting up until I get to the clay pot size slowly. If the trees that are ill do not pull through can I reuse the 511 they are in or do I have to toss it? What can I use to screen my micro bark for my future mix?
lots of questions but hopefuly by next spring I will know what to do. In the mean time FP maintanence until then I guess.
thanks again,
Dave


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RE: Which potting mix do you prefer for Citrus and why?

I plan to do a container grow in 90% sand 10% compost with a touch of lime added. I also plan to use a homemade SWC with this soil mix. I have tried this same soil mix with SWC on a hardy kiwi and it performed wonderfully.


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