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Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 2, 11 at 10:42

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?

Al


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, you are a very knowlegable person, and an asset to this forum. Thank you for taking time to help us become better gardeners. Barbra


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Please keep the interesting knowledge coming. I am working on my PHD in plant nutrition. HE HE. Clara


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 2, 11 at 16:01

Ohh - thank you both for the kindness. I appreciate it.

Here is a picture of the soil I grow all my woody material in, as well as my houseplants:
Photobucket
Growers on the forums have hung 'the gritty mix' on it as their chosen descriptive name.

Size of the particles in container media, as well as their stability (ability to resist the microbes that want to break down soil particles and make sure you're growing in soup) is what determines their structure for the immediate and the long term. Keep that word in mind (structure). It's a key word when it comes to making a determination about how readily a soil will support good growth and vitality.

Here you see pine and fir bark that is excellent as the primary fraction of 1 type of soil that growers on the forums have tagged with the label 'the 5:1:1 mix'. The dry 5:1:1 mix is in the middle.
Photobucket

If anyone is interested, and hasn't read it, there is a thread about container media that describes how water behaves in container soils. I hope you'll take the time to read it, not because I wrote it, but because I think an understanding of the information in it probably represents the largest forward step a container grower can make in the short time it takes to assimilate what is in it. Plus you have the opportunity to ask questions if you aren't quite getting something.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Click me and I'll take you to MUCH more about container soils!


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

I will say that it took me several times reading and rereading some of your post AL!!

Thank you for offering your advice on nutrition and soil advice over here on the Plumeria Side.

I have studied your advice for a while now, over at the other forums. WHen i first started to try and change the way i worked with my plants, i was nervous that is true!!!

It seemed so involved and i didnt think that i could really grasp what you were trying to explain. But, thank goodness!! The light went on and it finally came together when i finally made the decision to change the way i looked at how i wanted to make my plants and trees happier.

The "gritty mix" is what i use for my DR's , C & S and on most of my new Plumeria. This season, I started with the newly rooted seedlings and the other trees that came bare rooted in the "mix" They are all doing well. Once you underatand the ratio of the mixes you can alter the makeup so that some mixes are more moisture retentive if you live in an area that has higher temps !!! My temps can get to the triple digits for a time during the summer and i was watering almost every other day. That was with regular Mix that i had made myself from Ocean Forest, fir bark, turface perlite etc. Once spring comes this year, I will repot my trees, rootprune and switch the other trees to the gritty mix in the 4-3-2 ratio. Watering will be the same for this mix versus the other mix that i was using.
I know some say on the other forums, that you have to water more with the gritty mix, but i know that the mix is staying the way it is supposed to with the way that i do water. I dont have to worry about overwatering.

Lots to read and lots to think about, But i will say that im very happy with the mix. If you could see the following that AL has on the other forums, you will know that he has a good group of loyal gardeners that have all postive things to say.

Your threads are very detailed..LOL!! WHew!! For some like me, it will take a few times to read over it again!!
(That's a good thing..LOL) because we all want to continue to understand and see the rewards in what we all love. That is what this is all about, seeing the response from the plants and trees we all love to grow!!!

There are many over at the Container forum, Houseplants and C&S..I could go on...but they all have been so helpful with us newbies trying to get the basics right, then to see the difference in the way our plants respond is so gratifying!!!

I want to thank you for taking the time to post here on this side. I know you usually stay over at the other forums..but, i am glad that you are here to help out some who are interested in the make up of the soils etc.

I remember being so frustrated when i was trying to make the mix that others could easily have access to from the west coast They have great suppliers of things that we cant get here on the east coast.

Jack Morgan from Kimmies Plumeria has a great recipe for the Plumeria, but i couldnt find the ingredients. That was when i started to search for a better mix for fast draining mixes and i came across Myer Mike and it all started there!!! Thanks Mike!!!

we all have to adapt too what is available around our area and with some help and understanding of why Jack has done so well and AL has done so well... its worth taking a look at what you have to say.

Im sure glad that i did...My trees have never been so healthy!!!

I know you are doing this because you enjoy sharing and teaching others what you have to offer. Thank you for taking the time to help others here.

Many here are my friends, as well as you!!! SO thank you for all that you do for us and what you give to others over at the other forums.

Thanks again AL!!!

Take care everyone!!!

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, your mix above looks like it would work perfectly for my houseplants, mostly African violets and orchids, but I have one question:

Would this be appropriate for me for my outdoor plants seeing as I live in an extreme climate zone? We had 90 days of triple digit temperatures this summer, almost no rain, and are expected to continue this historic drought for at least another year. Our water is highly alkaline and I don't get to water my containers more than a few times a week. We have mild winters except for the several Arctic fronts that blast through here and drop us into the 20's or teens so my plumeria go inside over winter. Can I amend your recipe for better water retention for the outdoor potted plants I have?

Thanks, and I appreciate the time you take to answer questions in a precise manner.

Jen


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 3, 11 at 14:00

First, let me thank Laura for her very kind words, and for letting you know what she thinks about some of the things I've shared on other forums. She's a great gal & a true asset to GW.

The gritty mix needs to be properly made, or there isn't much use in using it. By that, I mean, if you can't find the right ingredients, and particularly the right size ingredients, you might as well grow in a bark-based mix. Notice I didn't say in a peat-based mix, or a compost or coir based mix. I'll be very specific in suggesting you leave those heavy soils in the bag and opt for something that doesn't hold as much perched water.

At first it might seem that I selected some ingredients & threw them together and came up with a mix that just 'happened' to be so well received. That's not the case. Each of the ingredients is an important part of the whole, and the size of the ingredients is what makes the soil so productive.

Perched water kills. If roots are subjected to the airless conditions that accompany soggy soils that support significant amounts of perched water, they begin to die very quickly - within a few hours. The finest hair roots that do all the plant's work are the first to succumb, and the longer the soil remains saturated, the more and larger the roots are that die. This happens in ALL containers that support perched water, no matter whether you live in TX, CA, VA, or MN. The grower then, has a vested interest in eliminating or reducing to the greatest degree possible, the volume of perched water in containers.

The size of the particles in the gritty mix are such that it supports no, or very little perched water. The physical properties of the particles are such that even though there is little/no perched water, the soil still has good water retention. Turface is very internally porous. It holds a LOT of water. The crushed granite has no internal porosity, so it only holds water on it's surface for a short time. BTW - plants don't drink or sip water. They absorb it a molecule at a time from the microscopically thin coating of water on colloidal (soil particles) surfaces and in vapor form. The pine or fir bark is internally porous as well, and holds an amount of moisture roughly equal to about the average of the Turface & grit combined.

One of the very significant benefits of the gritty mix is that you can 'adjust' its water retention by varying the ratio of Turface to grit, while keeping the bark fraction limited to no more than 1/3 of the o/a volume, and without introducing perched water to the equation. This is to guard against any significant change in drainage/aeration as the <1/3 bark fraction becomes smaller as it breaks down. If you find that the 1:1:1 ratio of screened bark, screened Turface, and grower grit doesn't hold enough water to suit you, you can simply use more Turface and less granite:
3 parts screened bark
4 parts screened Turface MVP or Allsport
2 parts crushed granite (grower size)

The bottom line is: If your plants are going more than 3 or 4 days between waterings, you're almost certainly missing out on a considerable amount of growth potential and vitality. You pay for growing in highly aerated soils with more frequent watering and the fact that you have to find the ingredients & make the soils. In return, you get much greater assurance of the opportunity for plants to grow at or near their genetic potential, within the limits of other cultural factors, which leads full circle to the rest of the reason I started the thread - to help identify and eliminate potential limitations that are limiting your plants' potential.

What readers take from an understanding of how soils and nutrition (and other factors related to container culture)works is something that will help you not just in growing plumeria; it will help you across the board with ALL your container gardening endeavors, and in many cases much of the knowledge can be applied in your gardens.

Time to grab a raincoat & head home.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thanks again, Al. I've saved all this into my embarrassingly large plumeria document so I can refer to it easily. Appreciate it!

Jen


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, lots of interesting information. Are you growing plumeria in this mix and how are they blooming for you? Can you post pics?


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Building On Jen's comments as I'm under the same weather conditions as her. What I have read and then summized of this post is the Turface (I had to look it up) is a clay and pine bark retain water which the fiberous roots will seek out and absorb over a period of time. The water is made available to the roots in a manner which allows the maximum absorbtion without saturation. So while the media may be fast draining it retains water in a way which the roots will still be able to absorb water but does require more routine watering.

While my evidence is anecdotal I have found during root prunings the fiberous plumeria roots would engulf lava rock in the soil mix. Perhaps this is because of the water absorbtion of lava rock and the resulting lessening of moisture in the immediate vicinity of the rock. So the lava rock acted like a sponge and the fiberous roots were not damaged by over watering and then the roots were able to draw moisture from the porous lava rock.

I'm not an old dog so I can learn new tricks but I have generally understood to steer clear or lessen the organic content of growing media when it comes to plumerias. Perhaps its an errant definition of organic media on my part but I have considered bark to be part of that category.

I'm also curious to know what results have been for other plumeria growers who have changed to this type of mix or if any side by side comparisons have been done.

One thing I am going to do for overwinter is to wick every potted plumeria by pushing a small diameter nylon rope (maybe 1/4 inch max) into a drain hole and into the media a short distance with a screwdriver. The purpose is to ensure any perched water table drains out.

In the spring I may reserve two cuttings to grow side by side. One in the media described above and one a soil based media. Very interesting discussion. I look forward to reading additional posts.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

It is a great discussion and i wanted to add some information that some may find interesting.

When i was first introduced to Plumeria, I wanted to use Jack Morgans recipe for his mix.

Here is his recipe:

Kellogs Big R
Turf & Tee
Perlite # 3
Pumice

I wanted to find these ingredients, but i couldnt find them here on the east coast.

I use Fir Bark in my mix with the turface and granigrit.

My trees that i have planted in the gritty mix are all doing well, but are to young to bloom yet. We shall see, hopefully this summer. : )

Here is some other info that you might find interesting..

about Jack's recipe and his "soiless" recipe!!!

I was introduced to this from a very trusted Plumeria friend here. But again, I dont have access to this here...

So i changed to the other mix that works for me..

http://www.plumeriacareus.com/F21SoilCactusMix.htm

Take care everyone...

Ill post some pics of my trees in the mix when im home from being on the road...

Have a great day everyone!!

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 4, 11 at 18:46

Dave - My foray into plumeria growing has so far been limited to the establishment and a season's growth of two plants from cuttings that I received from Laura in VB .... in sort of a "cuttings for soil & stuff" swap. I sent her soil and probably a few other goodies, and I received plumeria & peanuts in return. I believe I got the better of the deal, and a new friend to boot. ;-)

Someone is bound to ask directly anyway, so if you have a question about whether an admittedly inexperienced plumeria grower is qualified to offer advice to those who have been growing them longer, let me answer directly by saying that I grow a very wide variety of plant material in containers, and the many hundreds of pictures I've shared here on GW illustrate I do that well. My focus is on bonsai because it's what challenges me. While I don't claim to be a seasoned plumeria grower, I am a seasoned grower who has been teaching others to grow in containers for a very long time. Just recently (Aug), I was invited to lecture a large group of specialty growers at U of M's Matthaei Botanic Gardens, and the topic du jour was soil science. One thing I've found is that you don't need to be the bus driver to understand how the wheels go round & round. Essentially, >90% of what applies to growing 1 type of plant in containers applies to growing ALL plants in containers; and if you have the ability to grow one type of plant well in a container, you probably have the ability to grow almost anything well in a container.

I grow everything containerized in either the 5:1:1 mix or the gritty mix. I have used no other soils for more than 20 years, and I have been tinkering and experimenting with soils for even longer than that benchmark. I simply haven't found or been shown anything that works better. The REASON these soils work better is very simply because they are highly aerated and structurally stable, providing the healthy root environment that is absolutely critical to the o/a health of the organism. You cannot have a healthy plant w/o healthy roots.

Any accomplished bonsai practitioner is a superlative container gardener by default. He cannot be accomplished if he doesn't understand the intricacies of container culture, or if he is unable to deal with the added difficulty added by small pots, small soil volumes, and the constant manipulation of the plant material. You might think of bonsai as container gardening taken to a different level, with a considerable difficulty factor added. Like the diver that regularly performs dives with difficulty factors of 3.5 and above, the dives with low difficulty factors are much easier by comparison.

KMS - a mix comprised of primarily organic ingredients can be very good, very bad, or anywhere in between. What determines a soils suitability for conventional container culture is its ability to anchor the plant and hold favorable volumes of air and water for the intended or reasonable interval between repots. Its nearly impossible to water properly and have the soil remain well aerated unless the soil is comprised of primarily large particulates. We can add to that 'large particulates that break down slowly', so we don't lose the favorable structure we started with. Pine/fir/redwood bark fines are excellent as the primary fractions of container media because of their stability and large particle size. While I prefer the gritty mix for all plantings that will be in the same soil for more than a single growth cycle, the bark-based 5:1:1 mix is still a very healthy soil. The bark ensures very good air porosity and breaks down at about 1/4-1/5 the rate of peat.

I guess what I'm saying is that throwing out pine/fir.redwood bark with the rest of the organic components is throwing the baby out with the bath water. ;-) While your offering might be anecdotal, other than the bark thing it squares very nicely with the way I think.

I like your thoughts about putting 'wicking', to work too. You can employ a wick that dangles below the pot bottom after watering thoroughly to help you grow more effectively in soils that would otherwise be too water-retentive to ensure best vitality/growth. While it's not a cure for a soil too heavy, it can be something good to add to your tool box.

Here is how i set up my wicks, using 100% rayon strands from mop heads:
Photobucket

The wick 'fools' excess water in the soil into 'thinking' the pot is deeper than it really is. When water moves down to the wick (driven by the sudden increase in gravitational flow potential the wick provides) 'looking' for what it 'thinks' is the bottom of the pot, it gets pushed off the bottom of the wick by water moving down behind it.

Al



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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Maybe its just me but I cannot tell the perspective of the last image showing the wick. This is a great image because you can see the mechanics of the wick. Could you post another image from further away to get a better perspective.

I have got some more discussion points on this topic but it will have to wait until my next post due to time. thanks.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 7, 11 at 15:15

Photobucket

Photobucket

Does that help?

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thank you for all your help Al. I have to say though that I've had a lot of trouble replicating this recipe due to the lack of ingredients needed to make it.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Wanted to post some of the pics that i have with some of the newer trees in the mix.

Makaha Sunn
Makaha Sunn
Lipstick
Lipstick
Wildfire
Wildfire
Left Thorton Maverick Right Cerise Center..PEPPER!!! : )
Right Cerise- Pepper Center!!
Jeannie Moragne
Jeannie Moragne
Taj Mahal with the second inflo..keeping my fingers crossed that ill see them bloom!!!
Taj Mahal with second inflo this summer
Hawaiian Flag
Hawaiian Flag

Some of the "kids" not listening to me about trying to sleep..LOL They want to stay awake... : )
Children not sleeping!!
Seed Pod on Noid while going Dormant

These will be root pruned this spring and then repotted into the mix.

Take care everyone!!

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 7, 11 at 21:08

PF - I often remind people that follow my threads that I'm pushing a concept that has proven very helpful to a rapidly increasing number of growers, and especially the newer growers, rather than soil recipes. The recipes I DO offer are simply the most effective way I've come up with to implement the concept, and provide a solid starting point that anyone should be able to work with. Also, since many of the ingredients used for the gritty mix aren't commonly used in container soils, there isn't a large supporting network to help you find the ingredients. Usually, the right size bark is one of the more difficult ingredients to find, for either soil, but if I/we knew where you live, you might find suggestions about where/how to find the ingredients, if you're inclined to put the concept to work.

Al


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RE: Container Soils/ Plant Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 7, 11 at 21:17

Oh geez! I almost forgot to thank Laura for posting pictures of her plants! They look great, Laura - as always. You do such a great job with everything you grow! You should be doing the 'happy dance'!

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi AL,

Thank you for the cute dancing flower...that is awesome!!!

That is so cute!!!

Ill do a few spins!!! LOL!!!!

Thanks AL!!!!

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

I know for a fact that Laura's plants are doing that "happy dance" I've seen they with my own eyes. Peg


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 8, 11 at 22:10

The first one was Laura - this one is her plants:

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Love it Al !!! I also love to read your very thought provoking posts. My brain thanks you as use it or loose it and I'm in the loose it stage. Makes you go Humm !!! Keep up the good work. Peg


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Al, You are to funny!!! : )

Thank you for the dancing trees!!

That made me smile..Thank you for that!!!

what a cute way to post!!! I love it!!!

Take care,

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thanks for the other images on the wicking. I thought that was the inside of the pot.

I get the concept and the science that proves/supports the concept. It certainly matches with my less than scientific observations. Here is what I'm understanding; The formula isn't set in stone but don't put too much bark. That will raise the water table. adjust the inorganic components such as reduce crushed granite and increase turface to improve water retention in hot dry climates.

The "buy in" for me is really going to be about convenience. All of us enjoy this as a hobby and perhaps some of us have found ways to earn money but most of us just spend money.

So...Can we develop a big box store formula? Off the top of my head here is what most stores would have:

1. pine bark mulch - yes but not the right size. Maybe just pick out the big stuff and pound the rest with a trusty cinder block to size.
2. lava rock (instead of pumice)- yes but too big. Can be crushed down to size with my cinder block.
3. Decomposed granite - yes but not "grower size" Is this bigger or smaller than the typical landscape crushed granite?
4. perlite - yes.
5. pumice - maybe in certain regions.
6. Turface - no but can be found in agricultural supply stores.

3 parts pounded/reduced Pine Bark, 4 parts crushed lava rock or pearlite, and 2 parts crushed/decomposed granite. Call it the Box Store Mix.

Pine bark is similar to your mix. lava rock and perlite hold water in a comparable fashion as turface. The crushed granite is similar to your mix

All Supposition and no science on my part but if the size is right there really is no difference as I understood the media is not about the content but about the structure and nutrition will come from the bark and whatever fertilizers provided.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 9, 11 at 15:18

Thanks, guys. I'd hoped a few would find the thread interesting. ;-)

Just so the wick arrangement is clear, I have it coiled around the inside of the pot, then running through a hole cut in the drain screen, and hanging below the pot. The knot is just added insurance to help keep the wick from pulling out. You can retrofit a pot with a wick by doubling the wick over the blade of a straight slot screwdriver & using it to push the wick up into the soil through a drain hole.

The formula isn't set in stone but don't put too much bark. That will raise the water table.

I keep the bark fraction of the gritty mix at no more than 1/3 of the whole to guard against any chance of collapse as the soil ages. If the organic (bark) fraction was larger and you pressed the soil into several years of use, a large bark fraction could break into pieces small enough to clog macro-pores. What increases the unwanted water retention - the water between soil particles - is smaller particle size; so, while it's true that added small bark particles can increase water retention, it's not what the particles are made of, it's their size that has greatest impact.

Turface has a tremendous amount of internal porosity, perlite has none, and lava rock is somewhere in between.


There are a lot of ways to implement the concept, and I'm not selling soil, so I don't have an interest in HOW you do it. I'm just here to help lay out the science & help any who want a better understanding to gain that understanding.

Some guidelines. As uniform particle size approaches 1/10-1/8". the PWT disappears, so keeping as much of the size gradient in that size range would be getting closer to ideal. We know that keeping the bark at 1/3 or less of the whole helps prevent any possibility of soil collapse. It's ok if the bark particles are a little larger than 1/8 or even 1/4; this, to allow for some breakdown over the life of the soil. It's better if you have two inorganic ingredients to vary, one that is water retentive (Turface or calcined DE), the other not (crushed granite, perlite - or similar), so you can vary the volumes of the ingredients to adjust water retention. Soluble synthetic fertilizers take all the guesswork out of what your plants are getting and when. I heartily recommend their use for simplification and efficiently getting nutrients to your plants when they are needed.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

ah...and I even misspelled perlite.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Hey Peg,

I forgot to thank you too! Looking at those funny dancing trees, made me forget to say thank you to you!

You are always welcome over..i enjoy sharing my trees and Plumie talk with you!!! All of the laughter too!

I think my trees are dancing right now... : )

K,

If i count how many times i misspelled things... i'd still be counting..LOL especially when im on my cell phone sending text messages!!

My friends say that im sending cryptic messages...they even like to figure out what im saying sometimes!! LOL!!!

Right Peg? Dave? LOL....

Thanks Al for the great information!!!

The wicking in the containers looks great!!! I like how it coils around and then you place the mix on top.

Great illustrations!!!

Thanks again!!

Have a great day!!!

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, thanks for clearing up the wick thing. The perspective looked like the inside of the pot on the first photo until K said that and then I was confused, too.

Laura, thanks again for the goodies! And I find your phone emails hilarious; still trying to figure out what "spread some shes on nit for her" means, LOL!

K, I've had no luck finding Turface here in town, but did find Pro-Tekt at a hydroponics place. No one has pumice or coir, either, but there's always lava rock and peat, I guess. Did find both pumice and Turface on ebay, though the shipping is the kicker.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 11, 11 at 20:54

You're welcome.

Where do you live? (city)

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, I'm in the rocky hills of Austin. Poor, thin, limey soil; extreme heat and the occasional hard freeze; deer, armadillos, whitefly, fireants; plus now an extreme drought--really it's been a tough place to garden!

However, I've found that plumerias are very adaptable here, and mine have gorgeous foliage with the compost and minerals I use, but I wanted to maximize what growth and blooms I can get with them all being in containers.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, I've tried to find all these ingredients and could not find the crush granite or turface. I travel so in the spring I will be in other states and will resume my search. My question is this...Sometimes I'm gone for 10 days. So, I generally will fill a saucer or place my plants in containers with water so they can wick up water from the pots holes allowing the plants to get enough water while I'm gone. Will this gritty mix wick up enough water during the time I'm gone to survive?

If not, I guess I could move all my plants to one area and set up a sprinkler to water them once every day. But the first option works best for me since most all my plants have saucers.

The information you are providing is fantastic. Thank you for taking the time to share all your valuable information. I really want to grow one plant in regular soil and this mix to see the difference as soon as I find the ingredients.


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Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

I forgot to ask...will chicken grit work in place of any of these ingredients? I have access to chicken grit.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 12, 11 at 13:29

Jandy - Turface should be easy to get, try Whittlesey Landscape Supply in Austin (512) 989-7625, either of the 2 Ewing Irrigation stores in Austin, or their stores in Killeen, Cedar Park, or College Station. You could also try the John Deere Landscapes dealer at 10805 Metric Blvd, Austin (512) 833-5070 or their dealer in College Station.

LL - New Ulm Mining in MN mines quartzite/cherrystone, which is what I use. It's probably widely used as chicken grit in your area, but only sold at feed stores & elevators that sell animal feeds with an eye toward farm animals & fowl. #2 cherrystone is what you want. If you let me know where you live, I'll see how close Turface is to you.

When you track it down, you're looking for Turface MVP or Allsport. ..... same product - different packaging.

In many cases, crushed granite and chicken grit are the same product, but in coastal areas, it's common to use crushed oyster shells as grit, and I would avoid that.

The gritty mix does not wick well, so it needs to be watered from the top. Soils that DO wick well are inherently too water-retentive, but growing is about compromise and what you're willing to sacrifice in the way of convenience to achieve better opportunity for growth and vitality. There's no judgment in what I said. We all have different priorities, schedules, and reasons for taking separate approaches. All I can do is help you identify, isolate, and offer suggestions to help eliminate potential problem areas. You'll have to decide how well implementing the suggestions fits with your priorities.

Do you have a trusted friend or a relative you could rely on to water for you once or twice in your absence?

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello EVeryone,

Hi Jen,

That first pic of the container with the wick is looking inside the container. The wick coils around and the tail is under the knot that he makes to prevent it from sliding down further. The other pic is what the wick looks like from outside of the container. I just want to clear up that it is the wick inside of the pot coiled around and then it continues to run through the screen. You then place the mix on top of it!!

You are funny about my messages...Guilty! Those little phones are hard to type on when your working and have little time to try and fix.. : )

My message that you cant figure out was when i was talking about my mom at the cemetary...it meant..."spread some ashes on it for her.." Now i think you know what i was saying!!! : )

Hope the rest of you day is a good one...I did have to laugh at those messages...

Thanks Al for getting that info for Jen!!! : )

Take care,

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thanks Al, I really do want to try this mix. I do know the feed stores here carry chicken grit. I will be picking some up this week.

I live in Bismarck North Dakota and would love to find turface nearby. If not, I will eventually find some in my travels.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 12, 11 at 22:40

Tessman Seed in Fargo (701) 232-7238 is the only Turface dealer listed in ND. It might be worth a call to them to ask if they know of any other dealers near you that might have it available.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, you're the best!! Thanks so much for the info! I tried our local tractor/farm supply but they were dumbfounded. Didn't even think to try the landscapers.

Laura, thank you--I think I've got the wick thing down now. I just need to get the screen bits, though with our dry summer I haven't had any problems with standing water!


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 13, 11 at 16:49

The 'screen' in my pictures is cut from 9x12 pieces of plastic canvas, used for needlepoint projects and available at hobby stores, but you can use just regular fiberglass insect screening like that in your home's windows.

If you know of anyone that builds athletic fields ...... usually they can put you onto a source for Turface. Often too, the greens keepers at golf courses will have a line on it. Municipalities that maintain ball diamonds will also have sources. Make sure you ask for Turface MVP or Allsport.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Hi AL,

Thanks for all of your help and for helping all of my friends here!!! : )

Jen,

I like the screen at the bottom of the pots even without the wick ( if you choose not to use it), it also prevents the particles from falling from the pots everytime you touch them!! I use the screen that AL talks about and i have also purchased the plastic pieces at the local craft store. The Big Box stores sells the screen in small packages too!

Oh.. I forgot to say...you are so welcome for the " goodies.." : )

Take care,

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi, girls and guys! Just popping in to say "hello"... and to ask Laura a quick question about wintering over the Plumies...

First... I'm so glad to see you here, Al! I can't thank you enough for providing me the knowledge to be a better grower, and the incentive to learn even more! :-)

Second... Laura, now that's it getting cold outside and I've brought the Plumies in, should I cut back on moisture given and kind of insist that they rest? I don't have a really bright window for them... if you need to email me, that's fine, too. I think I need a little help! Thanks in advance. :-)

And by the way... your Plumies look awesome! But then, they always do! :-)

Sorry to have gone off topic... please, continue...


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Hi Jodi!!!

Soooo nice to see you here!!!

I posted on the HP forum that it was nice to see you here again!!! I hope all is well with you and your family!!

Dont worry about going off topic...great to see you!!!

Im so happy that your PLumie is doing alright?

I would let it rest in the corner somewhere that is cool and slightly dark. In the back corner of your room will be fine. It will drop its leaves naturally or you can cut them off if you want. I had to to utilize space, so that is the pic in the thread about them not sleeping.

Definetaly reduce the water during the winter. I only give my dormant trees in a one gallon container, maybe 1/2 cup of water every three weeks or so. They are in a room that is cool and the blinds are closed. Let them dry out first before you water them when they go dormant.

Please feel free to ask if you need anything. You have my email right?

So nice to see you!!!

Take care,

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 16, 11 at 16:10

Hi, Jodi - someone asked me to comment on a thread a couple of months ago. I joined in on that thread & found a few more that I thought I could contribute to, then started this one & here I am. It seems like a great group here, so I'll hang until they get tired of me. ;-)

Great to see you, as always ..... and thanks for the kind words - Laura, too.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Well, while you're here, Al, I may as well ask: What is the difference between fir and cedar? Fir is rare as hen's teeth around here but cedar is all over the place. Stuff takes forever to break down, too. If I can find the right size shredded cedar would that work pretty well combined with the Turface and granite?

Btw, Laura and Jodi, my one plumie that went dormant already (by the end of October) is now leafing out again, just as many others are starting to shut down. These guys just go to sleep, or not, on their own schedules!


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 17, 11 at 10:17

Cedar bark has a lot more of the bio-compounds known to be allelopathic.

From another post I left a while back:

I haven't used cedar mulch/bark to grow in, so I can't comment on that practice directly. I can say though, that because the tannins, as well as terpenoid and phenolic compounds cedar is rich in are known to be allelopathic (inhibit growth) to many other plants, I have discounted the likelihood that it would be a suitable choice for me.

Some of you are removing green leaves from your plants in the fall thinking that it forces dormancy. It really doesn't; and there are two other things associated with that practice that merit some consideration.

The first is that by removing leaves that are still green, you reduce the polar flow of a growth hormone (auxin) produced in leaves and apical meristems (growing tips of branches). The reduced flow of auxin has the effect of activating dormant buds, which reduces their resistance to chill.

The second consideration is that while leaves are still green and an abscission layer unformed, the plant will absorbing mobile nutrients and other translocatable bio-compounds from those leaves and moving them to storage organs elsewhere in the plant - root and cambial tissues mainly. By snipping off the leaves prematurely, you also rob the plant of its ability to 'harvest' these already paid for elements and bio-compounds.

It's best to allow decreasing photo-period (technically, it's the increasing dark period that drives dormancy/leaf abscission) and increasing chill to be the driving force behind the dormancy mechanism.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al,

Can cocoa mulch be used for the mix? I have read that it contains theobromine which is not good for pets (I don't have any pets) but was wondering if it is OK to use for plumeria as either part of the planting mix or for a top mulch.

Thank you so much for all your expert advice!

Mae


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hello Everyone,

Thanks Al for the wonderful information and letting us know about the "haircut" that some of us perform on our trees to prepare them for the dormancy phase.

I wish that i could let mother nature take care of them naturally, but when you have more than 60 trees...I and some others have to make room to bring them in.

Some of my trees have been left as is (about 20) with the leaves as is and letting them grow under the light setup, But the other 40+ trees had to be trimmed down for space needs. While they were dropping their leaves naturally (yellowing) they were dropping their leaves at a fast rate before i had to help them along.

I thank you for explaining why we should let them go dormant on there own and i wish that i could let them all sleep when they want to...

But, If i brought in all of my trees that are in containers as they were...i think myy DH would have a cow!!! : ) The eye allergy would start and i think that it could be a big problem..LOL!!!! : )

Thanks again for explaining the reasons for letting mother nature prepare them..i wish that i could let her but sometimes we have to do things that we dont enjoy to make room for them to sleep. All of my trees have settled down that are in the back room and have adjusted. Once spring rolls around, they will be ready to start again for another wonderful season of growth and blooms!!!!

Take care,

Laura in VB


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Wow!!! I am so excited about this thread! I still have much more to read then I will be back to comment.

Al!!!!:-)))))))

Hi Laura!:-)

Mike


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thanks so much, Laura!

I grew two of the three Plumies I have out in the greenhouse this past spring and summer, and they did beautifully... they put on nice growth, but no blooms. They're still young cuttings, so I'm not worried about flowers yet. I figure they'll probably bloom next year.

As soon as I brought them inside, when we were expecting our first frost, they began to drop leaves. I knew they would, though, because they went from excellent light to dim light. I've only watered them once since I've brought them in, and they are now fairly dry again.

I'll follow your advice and stick them in a corner where it's cool and kind of dark. I'll keep them as dry as I can without allowing them to shrivel.

I did have to spray them for spider mites... I had a little issue with mites in the greenhouse earlier in the season, and I noticed some webbing on the tips of the new growth when I brought them in. Hopefully, it's under control now.

Yes, I do have your email, Laura, and if I run into any problems, I'll be sure to contact you for some help! Thanks so much! :-)

I'd like to add a footnote to Al's information about Cedar, if I may...

Cedar is sold all over the place as pet bedding, but it's one of the worst types of bedding you can possibly use, for any animal! It's toxic, and though I'm not sure of the exact chemical it contains that makes it toxic, I do know that it can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and other internal organs of animals, eventually causing their systems to shut down. When this happens, death is imminent.

So, just a warning for those who have pets... Cedar is toxic!

It's better to use Pine shavings as bedding... or my personal favorite, Aspen shavings. Aspen doesn't have the dust content that Pine tends to have, it's actually more absorbent, and if a pet happens to ingest some, it won't irritate the stomach or intestines like Pine can. Aspen may cost a little more per compressed bale or bag, but it's definitely worth it.

Al, I wrote a long post on mediums just this morning, in the Amaryllis Forum, linking to your original article on soils and water movement in the Container Gardening Forum. I bumped your thread again, too... it keeps getting lost on the second and third pages. I wish there were some way to keep it on top... it's extremely informational, and helps dispel quite a few fallacies about container growing.

No matter where you go, Al, you spread knowledge, and you leave a trail of very happy gardeners! :-)

Take care, guys and gals... going back to my normal stomping grounds...


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 17, 11 at 21:06

You guys are all da bomb! Your kind words are much appreciated. Thank you very much.

I think we need to stay focused on the durability of the ingredients we used in our soils and their ability to deliver the aeration soils need over the long term. Since cocoa mulch breaks down rather quickly, especially when compared to conifer bark (fir, pine, redwood), it's probably not the best choice as a soil component. If you DO decide to use it, I would definitely limit its use to a single season, with a full repot, which includes bare-rooting and a change of soil, being an annual spring affair. There's probably no harm in using it as a mulch.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al,

Thanks for the cocoa mulch info!

Mae


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al,

I am going to use your soil ideas, however. One major question I have. The turface. I have access easily to the automotive equivalent that sops up oil spills and what not. Would that not be a good replacement in use for this mix instead of Turface, if say, Turface cannot be found? The product is called "Floor Dry" a clay based product.

~Tina


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 29, 11 at 21:41

You can use it to replace the Turface with no problem, but it does hold more water than Turface, so you might want to use a little less floor dry and a little more granite or cherrystone than the recipe calls for.

You probably saw my recent response on the "Addicted Newbie" thread; I see you posted after I did, but I'll copy paste it here too, just FYI:

Not all calcined DE products are created equal. Some are fired at temperatures too low for them to remain stable in potting media. To test, half fill a plastic cup with the calcined DE or calcined clay product & freeze overnight. If it still maintains its structural integrity after thawing, it's fine in container media - with the additional proviso that it contains no perfumes or other phytotoxic additives.

You can skip the test if you're using NAPA part #8822 ..... it's stable.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Thank you Al!

My FIL didn't believe me when I informed him during our ill fated trip to SoCal when he and DH had to fix the wheel seal & had to purchase some floor dry. Which was from Napa. LoL It so happens that it was Part #8822! So... I will be purchasing that, as well as the granite or cherrystone and pine bark fines or fir bark fines. Depending upon which I find here. Most likely, being in the Black Hills, it will be granite that I find and I know it's going to be pine bark fines as I've already found that. =)

I truly appreciate your help and knowledge Al. It helps everyone here to know and learn from you.

~Tina


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 30, 11 at 7:26

Thank you very much for your kind words, Tina!

You'll probably be able to find #2 cherrystone there at farm stores that cater to rural populations likely to be raising their own fowl. It's mined in New Ulm, MN, and it makes sense that local feed stores would stock product that comes from more local sources - especially considering the transportation cost of granite.

Best luck - let me know if you get stuck .... ;-)

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al,

I might even be able to find the Cherrystone at a store called Runnings, here in Rapid City. Yay! It's a farmers type store, they cater to them, even sell chickens too. Heh! Sweet! I'm so happy about this, it'll make repotting all my lovelies so much easier, to buy in bulk. Heh I just have to wait till DH is deployed to do it, cuz he just don't get it! LOL

Isn't that sad? Seriously! It stinks though, that he just doesn't get it... He's not a plant person. Why'd I get stuck with a man who cannot comprehend this? LOL Now, Firearms? yes, anything that goes BOOM! Yes, he gets that. Haha!

Ah well, He deploys in May/April time frame. So, all my lovelies will be happy little clams this spring, I'll be redoing their pots then. Hoyas, my brugmansias, my plumie, a couple of aloe, a christmas cactus and a few others. LoL Um, 26 brugmansias LOL Oy do I have a job ahead of me! =)

Thank you Al, if I run into troubles, I'll come running! Hehe!

~Tina


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

This is what happens when we put our heads together. A reasonably priced potting mix which can be achieved using nationally sourced or local sourced substitutes from retailers which most of us have access.

In an informal debrief here is what I take away:
1. Wick your pots. install in new pots from the inside, retrofit current pots from the outside with a screw driver and a string and push the string into the soil from a drain hole.

2.conifer bark fines = Pine bark mulch can be used. dont use a cedar because it has a natural chemical which inhibits growth. Dont use cocoa because its too soft and will decompose quickly. Try to keep a uniform size but some variation is ok. Keep the ratio to not more than 1/3 pine bark to 2/3 inorganic ingredients.

3. Turface = Napa 8822 or other high temperature fired clay. Get it wet, freeze it and if it maintains consistency its fired at a high enough temp for use in a potting mix.

4. Crushed/decomposed granite = commonly available or could use perlite, "cherrystone" "Chicken Grit" or whatever else its called. Basically an inorganic ingredient with surface area which will help retain moisture but not absorb and a uniform size between 1/8th inch and 1/4th inch.

Precisely the exercise I hoped would be acheived by participating in this thread. Alternate ingredients which function in the same or similar capacity. I'm glad we got there.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

LoL Chicken grit? Oy! I never realized that would work too, that's probably even cheaper than perlite! Al, this thread rocks, thank you for this.

I grew up spreading "chicken grit" as a kid, we had chickens on the farm. =) Ah I am so thrilled. I know exactly the path to take for this.

Runnings for the "Chicken Grit"

Napa for the 8822 "Turface" replacement

And either Lowes or Walmart for the bark fines. I wouldn't use Cedar for planting in pots but either pine or fir. preferably pine as it's cheaper. =)

So, 1/3 bark fines, 1/3 of the 8822 and 1/3 of the chicken grit. So very easy! Makes mixing this seem like a cake walk, when compared to mixing the grain mix I used to mix for my thoroughbred! LoL

1 scoop corn, 2 scoops oats, then the oils at feeding time, it varied depending upon the time of year. If in the winter, 2 pumps, during summer 1 pump. Alfalfa was 2 sections in winter to 4 sections of grass, summer time was 1 sections alfalfa to 5 sections. Hay was fed twice a day, grain twice a day too. It was a fine science. If the weather was real bad, feed was upped to keep weight on the horse. LoL Thoroughbreds are notorious for losing weight in the winter time. ;) My horse was a Dressage show horse.

So, all this gardening is a new 'science' for me! I was into flowers and such, but not to this depth. Haha!

~Tina


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

This thread does rock!!! : ) SO RIGHT TINA!!!

It is wonderful to see everyone taking part in finding the right ingredients!! What a great feeling it is to finally make the mix and see the difference that it makes.

I cant wait to hear your feedback!!

K,

Sounds like you have it down my friend!! : )

Hope all is well with you!!

Thanks for your help with the greenhouse, I will get those pics to you...I have been so busy at work, and i cant get a break with the start of the new month...

Tina,

Chicken grit!! AKA Gran-i-grit!!! It is great stuff!

I use the "growers" size works great!!

You seem to have all the right stuff too! Makes me smile!!

I remember making mix like that with my friends and their horses....Brings back wonderful memories!!

Thank you Al for all of the information that you share with us all..

Truly is so much fun to see the results and feel the excitement of others when they come to see how it all comes together!!!

What a great feeling!!! : )

I hope everyone has a wonderful day!!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Tina, at least the plants are moderately less expensive than the horse! I also trained dressage on a TB at one time, though thankfully I wasn't responsible for his feed. We would get along so well if we lived near each other!

I can't believe your MIL still believes plants use up our oxygen--that is hilarious!


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Plumerias just got more manly...car parts and guns made it into this thread.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Yeah, but I'm pretty sure "dressage" negated the manly effects of those. Sorry, K.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 4, 12 at 14:02

Not long ago, on another forum, I wrote the following because someone had asked if a particular soil was a 'good' choice. Rather than simply give him a 'yes or no' answer, I decided to go into enough detail that it would allow HIM to decide, instead of me, or others. It also offers something unique in that it illustrates there are two ways to look at soil choice. It meshes very nicely with the theme of this thread, so hopefully you will find it of interest.

Is Soil X a 'Good' Soil?

I think any discussion on this topic must largely center around the word "GOOD", and we can broaden the term 'good' so it also includes 'quality' or 'suitable', as in "Is soil X a quality or suitable soil?"

How do we determine if soil A or soil B is a good soil? and before we do that, we'd better decide if we are going to look at it from the plant's perspective or from the grower's perspective, because often there is a considerable amount of conflict to be found in the overlap - so much so that one can often be mutually exclusive of the other.

We can imagine that grower A might not be happy or satisfied unless knows he is squeezing every bit of potential from his plants, and grower Z might not be happy or content unless he can water his plants before leaving on a 2-week jaunt, and still have a weeks worth of not having to water when he returns. Everyone else is somewhere between A and Z; with B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, and Y either classically ignorant (it just means they're not aware there is a difference) or they understand but don't care.

I said all that to illustrate the large measure of futility in trying to establish any sort of standard as to what makes a good soil from the individual grower's perspective; but let's change our focus from the pointless to the possible.

We're only interested in the comparative degrees of 'good' and 'better' here. It would be presumptive to label any soil "best". 'Best I've found' or 'best I've used' CAN sometimes be useful for comparative purposes, but that's a very subjective judgment. Let's tackle 'good', then move on to 'better', and finally see what we can do about qualifying these descriptors so they can apply to all growers.

I would like to think that everyone would prefer to use a soil that can be described as 'good' from the plant's perspective. How do we determine what a plant wants? Surprisingly, we can use %s established by truly scientific studies that are widely accepted in the greenhouse and nursery trades to determine if a soil is good or not good - from the plant's perspective, that is. Rather than use confusing numbers that mean nothing to the hobby grower, I can suggest that our standard for a good soil should be, at a minimum, that you can water that soil properly. That means, that at any time during the growth cycle, you can water your plantings to beyond the point of saturation (so excess water is draining from the pot) without the fear of root rot or compromised root function or metabolism due to (take your pick) too much water or too little air in the root zone.

I think it's very reasonable to withhold the comparative basic descriptor, 'GOOD', from soils that can't be watered properly without compromising root function, or worse, suffering one of the fungaluglies that cause root rot. I also think anyone wishing to make the case from the plant's perspective that a soil that can't be watered to beyond saturation w/o compromising root health can be called 'good', is fighting on the UP side logic hill.

So I contend that 'good' soils are soils we can water correctly; that is, we can flush the soil when we water without concern for compromising root health/function/metabolism. If you ask yourself, "Can I water correctly if I use this soil?" and the answer is 'NO' ... it's not a good soil ... for the reasons stated above.

Can you water correctly using most of the bagged soils readily available? 'NO', I don't think I need to point to a conclusion.

What about 'BETTER'? Can we determine what might make a better soil? Yes, we can. If we start with a soil that meets the minimum standard of 'good', and improve either the physical and/or chemical properties of that soil, or make it last longer, then we have 'better'. Even if we cannot agree on how low we wish to set the bar for what constitutes 'good', we should be able to agree that any soil that reduces excess water retention, increases aeration, ensures increased potential for optimal root health, and lasts longer than soils that only meet some one's individual and arbitrary standard of 'good', is a 'better' soil.

All the plants we grow, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens. It's easy to say, and easy to see the absolute truth in the idea that if you give a plant everything it wants it will flourish and grow; after all, plants are programmed to grow just that way. Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. But we all know it's not that easy. Lifetimes are spent in careful study, trying to determine just exactly what it is that plants want and need to make them grow best.

Since this is a soil discussion, let's see what the plant wants from its soil. The plant wants a soil in which we have endeavored to provide in available form, all the essential nutrients, in the ratio in at which the plant uses them, and at a concentration high enough to prevent deficiencies yet low enough to make it easy to take up water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). First and foremost, though, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, never wet or soggy. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half saturated for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.

We become better growers by improving our ability to reduce the effects of limiting factors, or by eliminating those limiting factors entirely; in other words, by clearing out those influences that stand in the way of the plant reaching its genetic potential. Even if we are able to make every other factor that influences plant growth/vitality absolutely perfect, it could not make up for a substandard soil. For a plant to grow to its genetic potential, every factor has to be perfect, including the soil. Of course, we'll never manage to get to that point, but the good news is that as we get closer and closer, our plants get better and better; and hopefully, we'll get more from our growing experience.

In my travels, I've discovered it almost always ends up being that one little factor that we willingly or unwittingly overlooked that limits us in our abilities, and our plants in their potential.
Food for thought:

A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi Al,
I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, Thank you. I had been trying and TRYING to grow citrus trees for years. I never had much luck until about 2 years ago, when I first learned about your gritty mix. I tried this with my 'Oro Blanco' grapefruit, and now, this tree has been growing happily ever since.

I coulsn't find the ingriedients to make your gritty mix the way you do, but instead i made my own versionb which I am sure would still be too moist. I think the only reason why I am sucessfull with it is because I grow under my HPS light over the winter, and it keeps the soil temps very warm...around 75- 80 degrees. This is what keeps my soiless mix dry enough to prevent root rot.

I came across a product from my local Auto Zone. It's made with that(and I am sorry for miss spelling this!) diomaceous earth...the stuff that is a fired clay product? Anyhow, tomorrow, I am heading to Erie, PA and I am going to find your list of ingriedents for the gritty mix to see if I can find the exact products I need to make the real gritty mix.

Al, thanks again for taking the time too share your wonderfull knowledge in soils! Without your knowledge, I would still be struggling to grow citrus! I also have found this mix to be great for my jades, and also my tropical fruit trees!

Take care and thanks again!

Andrew


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 4, 12 at 21:44

You're so very welcome, Andrew.

Often, the floor dry/oil dry products are made of calcined DE (diatomaceous earth), as opposed to calcined clay (like Turface), but if the size is right and they are stable (freeze in a plastic cup overnight - if they are still stable after thawing, they're ok to use), there is no reason not to use them.

I have all my houseplants and the woody material I'm growing on for bonsai in the gritty mix. It's soo easy on the grower, and the plants really take to it extremely well. Admittedly, it can sometimes be something of a pain to gather the ingredients, but once you see how easy it is to bring along happy plants, it makes the effort worthwhile.

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi AL,

Great post!!!

Just wanted to say that it is very easy to take care of the plants and trees in the Gritty Mix.

When you mentioned that "it was soo easy on the grower" i had to reply and tell you that i just came down from upstairs from watering my trees and other plants growing in the Gritty Mix. It is very easy and i had to tell you and others that it i dont ever worry about over watering them and i know they love being in this mix. I even think that i have relaxed even more now that they are in this mix knowing that they wont have any issues. They have the best areation that the roots could possibly have.

" A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al "

So true...

My $10 dollar plants growing in a $10 dollar mix...

means that they will have the best opportunity to grow to there genitic potential... To me that is "Priceless"

Since i was up sulking over the loss of the Patroits... knowing that i will have to deal with this...

I wanted to let you know that i am so happy with the way my trees have handled the winter in this mix and i know they will just love being in the mix again this summer. I just cant wait to repot some of my larger trees. they really need to be root pruned and repotted up in the Gritty Mix.

So thank you for this wonderful post and for all of the information that you so generously share here on the Plumeria Forum. I/We certainly appreciate the time that you spend here with us!!!

Thank you!!!

Here is a Bloom for you and others to enjoy!!
This is my J-105 from this summer.
Photobucket


Take care,
Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi Al,
I am going to try really hard to find the turface locally. I will have to see what happens when I freeze my turface subsitute.

Do you know any chain stores that carry the turface? Thanks to Laura, I can go to Petco for the firbark. Then it's just finding the grani grit.

I really need to get this stuff next week or come up with a mix that will work almost as well(as I know that there is a good reason why you need these specific ingriedients so the mix works the way its supposed to.

I worry about the mix my 2 new citrus are in. One is a Dwarf Improved Meyer and the other is some sort of hybrid navel. The soil seems to dry fast but not fast enough and with citrus, the roots rot extremely fast. At least that has been my experience.

Thanks again Al.

Nice seeing you Laura.!!


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 7, 12 at 15:08

Thanks soo much, Laura .... and thanks for the inspirational picture!

Where do you live, Andrew?

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Tapla,
I am curious to know your opinion on the impact on the perched water table by plunging well perforated containers into the ground. My initial thoughts range from little to some. I base this on the expectation the weeps on the bottom/lower sides of the pot provide a level of contact with the ground which would reduce the capillary action pull upwards and permit the gravitational pull downward and perhaps(at least here in Texas) the additional down/outward pull of low ground moisture levels.

I guess the premise is based on the assumption the flaw which causes the perched water table is the soil AND container when combined and not just the soil.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 8, 12 at 16:48

Nurserymen often employ what they refer to as the pot-in-pot or pot-in-trench technique to eliminate the effects of heavy, water-retentive soils in containers. Slip-potting/pot-in-pot, utilizes one pot inside of a larger pot, with the smaller pot resting on top of several inches of soil and having that soil surrounding the side walls. What happens is, the perched water moves downward from the inner pot into the soil in the larger, outer pot - the soil in the larger pot acting as a wick. Since PWTs are are always the same height with a given soil, the soil in the larger pot only needs to be as deep as the PWT to remove all perched water from the smaller/inner pot, leaving the entire soil mass in the smaller pot free of perched water.

The pot-in-trench technique is as simple as partially burying your pots. This keeps soils cooler, but the most important advantage is that it employs the earth as a giant wick, removing all perched water from the soil in the containers, unless the container soil is EXCEPTIONALLY heavy and water-retentive. These techniques allow you to effectivelyuse soils heavier (more water-retentive) than you normally could and expect good results in a conventional set-up.

While this solves the perched water issue inherent in soils made of fine particles nicely, it still doesn't offer the added benefit of the exceptional aeration that soils BASED on larger particles do. Additionally, if you have large drain holes in your containers, roots will run into the ground or into the added soil mass of the second container, which can be a significant plus when it comes to growth and vitality. In fall, you can simply sever the roots that have run into the soil or other pot, and set the plant aside to wait until spring to repot and root prune. This CAN add an extra year to the interval between repots if you'd like to take advantage of it, but bear in mind that the roots in the pot will thicken quickly when their extensions are allowed to run into the ground, so you should try to plan on repotting and root pruning in the following spring if you employ these techniques (for best growth and vitality in the subsequent growth cycle.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi Al,
i live in Western NY. I have been actively trying to find the Gran-i-grit for some time now(OVER A YEAR, EASILY!). I have found other forms of chicken grit but not the actual Gran-i-grit.

I also wanted to tell you that I have seen exactly what you are talking about in terms of garden centers/greenhouses you 2 pots. Good info Al, I really appreciate it!

I am really concerned as to what I am going to do if I cannot find this Gran-i-grit. I noticed yesterday that my soil in the pot with the Navel orange is still moist!! Not good! I bought these on Sunday! Those roots are going to start rotting soon:(

I am wondering if maybe there are other forms of chicken grit that may work like the Gran-igrit? Al, what can I do to subsitute the Gran-i-grit? I did email a woman that lives about 30 from me. She has found the gran-i-grit locally, but I just hope she gets back in touch with my ASAP!

From my observations with growing citrus, it seems that the sweet forms of citrus, orange, tangerine, etc..they seem to be less tolerant to wet soils. Lemons, limes, and grapefruits seem to handle it a little better.

Andrew


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 9, 12 at 14:09

I was going to try to help you with where to get the Turface (specifically), but 'Western NY' covers too much ground. Many use Manna Pro poultry grit or #2 cherrrystone as excellent substitutes for granite ..... and you CAN use screened coarse perlite if you need to. I would start calling rural feed stores that cater to those who raise farm animals & fowl.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Ok..lets narrow this done. I live in Fredonia NY which is Northern Chautaqua county...I bought chicken grit yesterday, the active ingriedient said'...grit..LOL! What is the GRan-I-Grit made of?

Thanks,
Andrew


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Gran I Grit is made by Manna Pro and comes in 5#,25# and 50# bags. I have been chasing it down here in Fl for a while and finally found it at a Tractor Supply Co in Deland. I tried to get my farm supply store to get it for me but their supplier doesn't carry it in anything but 5#. Pretty pricey. Now if I could just find the pine bark fines here, I have one line out but I have to check back in March. Keep on looking. Clara


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by irun5k St. Pete, FL (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 11, 12 at 20:56

Clara, where are you at in Florida?

Andrew, some of the "grit' products contain additives so I'd just make sure yours is pure granite. I bought a product earlier this year that had a bunch of other stuff in it and smelled like licorice. So, the additives might be visible to your eyes or nose.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 11, 12 at 22:20

Gran-I-Grit is mined, processed, and packaged by North Carolina Granite Corporation. Cherrystone comes from New Ulm Quartzite Quarries, Inc., and Manna Pro is similar to both. When you buy grit, make sure you're not buying crushed shellfish or limestone.

For Turface MVP or Allsport try the John Deere Landscapes dealers:

ORCHARD PARK NY (BUFFALO) #582

4140 S Taylor Rd

Orchard Park, NY 14127-2246

(Distance: 38.1 miles)


ERIE PA #616

2094 W 16th St

Erie, PA 16505-4845

(Distance: 48.1 miles)

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi Al, I appreciate you taking the time to help me. I am planning on heading back to Erie to buy a 5ft tall Star Ruby grapefruit so I will have to check this out beforeI go. I hope that they carry it. I think we have a John Deer dealer locally...not sure if it is a landscape dealer though.

I will keep you posted.

Andrew


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 13, 12 at 14:18

Sok - I keep hoping my input will help you guys enough so eventually you can all get together and do the happy dance.

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

ok. I posted problem and pic for 17 gal potted grapefruit tree last fall. Al said one of my options was to wait til this spring. So here we are!

I am ready to root prune grapefruit tree. (Cut 1/2 or root ball off and cut out 3 wedges of the remaining roots.)

Al or anyone who is citrus experienced have suggestions as to EXACTLY HOW I should make up the new soil for the same size container? I googled TURFACE for Baltimore MD and got nothing. I am ready to do this now considering the warm March we have had. Not sure pinebark fines are available. I have places like Lowes and Home Depot available.

Thanx ahead for any help or suggestions.

John


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, my plants have become my second, and third, and fourth, and so on children. Not a one of them is planted in the 'gritty mix' but I'd like them all to be. Further, the so cal plumeria cutting sale is next weekend and I intend to bring home cuttings, plus I have two rooted cutting on the way from BBB, seeds sprouting... I need to procure the mix. I live in San Marcos CA,92078, can you tell me where to go for these ingredients?

Also, my adults are doing well, inflos, sizeable leaves; if I replant them right now I imagine that will jeopardize growth this season. Would you suggest waiting until the season ends?

Thank you,
Wendy


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Bare root in gritty mix?

Sorry, I also wonder whether I can plant a bare root tree in the gritty mix without damaging the root system?


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 1, 12 at 11:50

John - Try Maryland Chemical Co for Turface MVP or Allsport (410) 752-1800.

Copy/paste this page to your browser for more suggestions if that doesn't pan out. http://www.turface.com/distributors/state/

I can't help with the grit or the bark. I know Laura lives not too far from you - she'll be sure to see this ..... hopefully she'll be able to offer more direction insofar as where you can find bark/grit.

Here is a progression of a root pruning exercise I just did a week or so ago:
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Instead of bare-rooting the entire root mass, you'll be cutting out 3 wedges = to half the roots that remain after cutting off the bottom half of the roots. Be SURE to keep the roots wet while you're working on them - the fine roots die quickly if they dry out.

Here's a boxwood I'm bringing along (future bonsai) that went from this
Photobucket
Photobucket

to this
Photobucket

You don't need to be as aggressive as I am, but you get the idea that trees tolerate a pretty fair amount of root removal with little in the way of protest.

***************************************************

Hi, Wendy - I know what you mean about children. I often use that analogy when someone asks to buy one of my bonsai. "That would be like selling one of my kids", is usually my reply. ;-)

I wouldn't repot unless the leaves are off, but you can remove the plants from the pot and score the root mass deeply (vertical cuts) with a utility knife before potting up. I'd also cut off the bottom few inches of the root mass if the root mass is large enough to tolerate that amount - up to 20% off the bottom.

Get Turface MVP at Horizon in Escondido (760) 432-6845, or any Ewing Irrigation locations near you. Check rural farm feed stores for the grit. You MIGHT find Manna Pro grit at a big box store. I can't help with the bark. I'd try orchid growers, asking for fine fir bark screened to 1/8-1/4". I know Shasta Forest Products from NoCal packages it, so that or similar might be available near you.

Planting in the gritty mix won't damage roots. Just be sure that your roots are moist during the entire time you're working on them. I sometimes use a spritzer or hose with a fine Dramm Foggit nozzle, but more often I just work in the shade over a tub of water, dipping the plant regularly to keep it wet while I work.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al, you are prompt! Thank you- I shall now begin the hunt.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hey AL!!

Great pictures of the trees that you are root pruning..

I have seen these pictures on the other forum and i am just amazed at how much you go in and take so much from the root mass. Hopefully i will have some of your courage when i repot my trees. LOL.. I will take off alot of the roots , but i probably will always be worried to take them down like you!

Pretty Work!!

Love those Bonsai trees!!!

Hi Wendy!!!

When i first started using the Gritty Mix i was worried too! Please dont be nervous about placing your bare rooted trees into the mix. Just be careful as you would be when barerooting your Plumeria into any mix. Those fine roots are so fragile, but if you repot just like normal and carefully fill the roots and surrounding area with the mix when filling the pot you will be just fine.

Learning these things from other forums as well as using tools like "The Wooden Skewer" was one of Al's ideas for checking the moisture in the pots. (I'd like to take credit..LOL..but, it's just things that i have learned from all of the great information here from the GW) Others also use this tool (Wooden skewer) to help push the Gritty Mix into the roots when repotting. I like to use my hands, but if you need to move the mix in and around a little more than it can be helpful.

Once you do your first tree, the next time will be even easier.. I promise!!! : )

Thank you for the nice comment that you left for me. I am a happy gal.. It does have alot to do with my love for Plumeria (addiction really!! : ) Also for all of the wonderful people who share the same excitement for our plants and trees. It is soo much fun to share with others when we enjoy the same things...

Please let us know how the repotting/potting up goes!!!

I have lots of "kids" too! LOL...

John,

Here is some info that may help...

AL gave you a good lead on the Turface and finding the Pine Fines can be a challenge.. I use the FirBark from Zoo Med found in the Reptile section at Petsmart. I wait until it goes on sale and buy the large bags. It just is easier to find..I also have a time finding what i need at a cheaper price.

Here is some info for you to check out in the search for Gran-i-grit.. Southern States has a great supply of this and they usually sell it in all three sizes. You are looking for the "Growers Size" Call them first and check and see if they have it in stock. If they are out of stock, they can usually order it in a week or so. I found that they charge 7.99 a bag and i was paying 19.99 before at a different store. ( 50 lb bag) I was really glad to find this and i will help you if you need other places to search..

Good Luck!!!

Southern Sates Store in Balitmore Maryland

Mom's Southern Soul Food � (410) 332-7343 (YES , This is the name of the store as per the link attached!! : )
2 W North Ave � Baltimore � DirectionsSouthern States Svc Store � (410) 465-0930
9064 Frederick Rd � Ellicott City � DirectionsSouthern States Bel Air Coope� � (410) 838-6330
16 N Hays St � Bel Air

http://www.bing.com/search?q=southern+states+stores+in+baltimore+maryland&form=AGWTDF&pc=MAGW&src=IE-SearchBox

Hope this helps!!!

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 2, 12 at 7:41

I KNEW she'd come through for you. Photobucket Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

You guys are really so helpful, thank you for the support and direction.

Soon I will need to remove my seedlings from the seed tray and plant them into 1 gal containers. They are sowed in cactus mix + perlite. I can't imagine changing the soil medium on young seedlings to be a smart move (am I wrong?), would it be at all beneficial to plant the existing soil into gritty mix, and then change out when the plant matures? Did I explain that properly? So taking the seedling + soil surrounding roots and plant that in gritty mix.

Laura, two bareroot trees arriving today, I'm gonna pot em up in the nitty gritty and pray for the best! Thanks for the cheerleading!

Thanks (again!),
Wendy


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi John,

I was very curious about the "Soul Food" Listing that i had to call... Not a good number... LOL..

The second number that i called... BINGO!!!
They carry the Gran-i-grit in "Growers" size and they even carry Turface. I spoke with a gentleman named John E. His store is located at Fredrick And ST John's Lane in Baltimore.

Thought i would pass that along to you!!!

Good Luck!!

Wendy,

Im sure you will do fine with your bare rooted Plumeria. Remember too moisten the roots while working with the trees and give it a good watering when you finish. I would keep it from direct light for a few weeks as well. You want to acclimate your new trees to the new surroundings. I just potted some bare rooted Plumies last week and they seem to be adjusting well. Don't forget that this is a fast draining mix so you will need to keep an eye on them drying out faster than a heavier more moisture retaining soil.

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 2, 12 at 13:29

Wendy - you can lift the plants from the seed tray, along with the little clump of soil that clings to the roots, and just plant into the gritty mix. If the gritty mix is properly made, you don't need to worry about over-potting .... you can pot your seedlings in a container as large as you prefer.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Ok friends, big day today, the So. Cal. Plumeria Society cutting sale, wahoo! Spent a lot, not feeling great about that, but very determined to root these suckers.

SO, do I root in gritty mix??????? The folks at the sale were very pro the 'bagging method' so I thought I would bounce the idea off of you. The downside of that idea is I just spent money on gritty ingredients, and they suggest coir and pumice, bother, I don't have that. What do you think?

FYI, just cause I am so excited. I got Guillot Sunset, Veracruz Rose, Penang Peach, confetti & Siam Ruby. Oh, plus a freebie, Housten White.

Anxious to get the ball rolling... plus the hubby is out of town, I gotta get this taken care of by tomorrow afternoon so he doesn't quite know the damage I did. ;o)

Wendy


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hey Wendy!!!

Sounds like you hit the jackpot at the sale today!!!

I am so happy for you to have found all of those beauties!!!

Rooting can be another area that everyone has different approaches. I have even said that i still like to root in "Gritty Mix" also... in the Half Perlite and Half Cactus mix and sometimes i would even go with what some would use..all perlite. Honestly, i just started the Hong Kongs cuttings several weeks ago into the Gritty Mix and they are doing great. I also have others that are in a 1/2 perlite and 1/2 cactus mix. Please dont worry about coir..bagging and or other methods...use what you feel comfortable using. Try the bag method...try the Gritty Mix.. then give us an update on what you like best!!!

This is fun stuff! Get those cuttings soaking for a few hours, then get them ready to pot them up for rooting.

I have some that i will pot up tomorrow. I plan to use Gritty mix and also tke some pictures of taking my bare rooted tree and placing it into Gritty mix so you all can see! I have some little cuttings that are so small that they say usually wont root.. These were casualites from a shipment that i just received.. : ) THANK YOU!!!

I will take pics of these little ones and show you how i am going to try and root these little 2 inch stems..one is four inches and another is about three inches.. I thought this could be interesting.

Get ready Wendy!!!

Have to get busy while DH is away...get them in the pots so he wont notice!!! My DH came home only to see "another" pkg here LOL... Thank goodness he is in bed so i wont have to listen to him say "Dont you have enough?"

Good Luck with what method you choose.. You cant go wrong living in San Diego with those great temps you have!!! : )

Thanks again San..!!! : )

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 8, 12 at 10:06

As a side note, I wouldn't include coir as a fraction of my rooting medium, or, as a significant fraction of a growing medium. The reasons are, coir is often high in soluble salts as a result of being processed in ocean/sea water. High salt levels make it difficult for cuttings to take up water - a significant cause of failure. Also, coir always has an extremely high K (potassium) content - high enough to compete with other ions for attachment sites and potentially make it difficult for plants to take up one or more of several other nutrients. Coir is most often used by professional growers as a way to extend peat fractions and is usually limited to less than 10% of the o/a volume of media. Coir and peat bake down at about the same rates, with peat getting the nod for being slightly better, and the water retention curve between peat & coir is almost identical, so it's difficult to make a case for the use of coir over peat in container media, unless it's based on the nonrenewable argument, which doesn't hold up well under scrutiny when you run the numbers.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

You guys are just great, thank you. Not only are the plumie's a treat, but I love being part of this forum!

Laura, so I was hasty and bagged two last night, I couldn't resist. I have the others soaking right now, the little man is asleep so I am going to start potting, bagging, etc. While at a nursery a few days ago I saw a large plumie branch that was broken and laying on the ground, they gave it to me for free and it is currently in gritty mix. I chickened out with the bare root trees, they were potted in cactus/perlite. I'd never planted anything with bare roots, I was in a little over my head.

SO excited to see what you put together, what a tremendous resource that will be for all of us addicts!!! I think I will bag root a few more, then maybe another in cactus/perlite and perhaps one final in the gritty mix. It will be a fun experiment, and hopefully I will have good success.

Al, while at the show yesterday a very nice man suggested I dump the FP come June and switch to something with a 0 N level. He said come June you aren't looking to grow the trees, but to bloom them. Your logic/science cannot be argued with on the plants getting basic nutrition from FP, but I am curious about his suggestion and the merit of it. As you pointed out earlier, when all plants needs are met, photosynthesis takes place and the plant produces, I simply don't know enough about NPK to know why eliminating N would boost blooms.

Yikes, I gotta get to potting! (plus I should probably polish the floors and furniture so my DH doesn't get grumpy with all the time I spend on my trees.)

So much to do, so little time.

Happy Easter!
Wendy


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 9, 12 at 18:17

I can see what his reasoning is, even if I don't agree with it. I'll explain. First, your plant needs nitrogen (N) to bloom, and since N is mobile in plant tissues, if there isn't a current supply of N entering the plant through the root pathway, the plant will borrow it from other tissues and then likely shed the parts. Most commonly you would see a N deficiency evidenced in the chlorosis and eventual shedding of older leaves as the plant robs them of N to support new foliage, roots, and blooms.

N is an essential element in all living systems, and is needed by all cells. It occurs in the living substance
(protoplasm) of all cells, and is a major component of
protein. It is also a major component of chlorophyll which converts sunlight into plant energy. Since container media, with their low bulk density, aren't very effective at holding on to nutrients, a constant supply of N is more a requirement than a luxury that you can simply deprive the plant of w/o consequence.

Onset of the bloom period occurs as a result of changes in specific wavelengths, intensity, and duration of light. A pigment called phytochrome is the light receptor responsible for helping the tree determine when to bloom. Phytochrome exists in two forms, depending on the wavelength of light absorbed. The change in the ratio of these two forms of phytochrome occurs and can be measured on a daily basis (you can look up photomorphogenesis for a better understanding) and will cause the tree to enter the bloom phase.

Your tree will also make another automatic transition that hinges on the length of the dark period. Around Father's Day (summer solstice), the dark period begins to increase in length. This is a powerful signal, and causes physiological changes in the plant that causes the plant to begin a change from spending it's energy on branch extension and leaf growth to energy storage. Instead of growing branches & leaves, the plant will automatically begin to produce layers of carbohydrate rich cells in roots and cambial tissues. These reserves will be what the tree uses to keep its systems orderly over the winter and to provide the energy for the spring flush. Nitrogen is a very important part of that process as well.

Some of us know that intelligently managing N supplies CAN be an effective tool for increasing the number of blooms & fruit if used correctly. Usually, it entails a reduction in the NPK ratio to 2:1:2, and a grower knowledgeable enough to be able to tell when there is an intentionally induced mild N deficiency. The mechanism by which this works: After the photosynthesizing machinery is in place, a slight reduction in the N supply curtails vegetative growth; but since the photosynthesizing machinery is already in place, energy creation (food making) isn't much affected. Since the plant can't channel the energy into producing vegetative growth, it channels it toward reproduction - blooms & fruit. This isn't something the casual grower can easily manipulate, and withholding N by fertilizing with 0-10-10 is probably going to result in shed foliage and a decrease in energy stored that will impact the tree and blooms in the subsequent growth cycle.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Tapla,
I have some questions which still don't make sense to me. Thanks in advance for the discussion.

Why is an industry, generally speaking, providing a product which is per your argument scientifically proven to be inferior? In other words there has to be a reason or an argument more than just tradition or customer demand in favor of the high P approach. Otherwise results would speak for themselves and every brand of fertilizer would be a 3-1-2 ratio and high P formulas would be going the same way as the newspaper industry.

Maybe P is cheaper than N or K to produce...business is business.

This question may seem dumb...but if gritty mix is so good for plants why would it not work for plants in the ground? I would assume that plants function in the same way if they are in the ground or in a container just like a previous post said a plant in MI functions the same way as one in TX (functions, yes. Conditions the plant is exposed to is totally different and how that impacts this discussion is beyond my scope). So applying that over an in ground plant and a container plant need the same type of water delivery, nutrition delivery and air to the roots.

Something tells me I am still missing a piece of the science behind it. Thanks for your help.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 10, 12 at 17:18

There is a named logical fallacy called 'appeal to common practice' - X is a common practice, therefore X is correct, best, justified ..... etc. Examples of the false reasoning might take a number of forms. I think the fact that there are so many alcohol, tobacco, fast/processed food products ..... available as poor choices, seriously calls into question the supposition or even the hint that because high-P fertilizers are available, that they must necessarily be considered prudent choices. Our moms armed us against this type of reasoning by asking if Suzy or Tommy jumped off a bridge, would you do it too. Sometimes we even use this reasoning fallacy to justify something we know to be wrong - "Yeah, I know some people say that cheating on our taxes is wrong. But we all know that everyone does it, so it's okay."

The reason for the existence of high-P fertilizers probably lies in the fact that most hobby growers lack the knowledge required to make an informed decision about what fertilizer is most appropriate, or they fall prey to either advertising hype or anecdotal evidence offered by others who have. I think that if we accept the fact that plants use much more N than P, the burden of proof falls on the shoulders of proponents of fertilizers that in some cases provide as much as 5X more P than N. The cycle is self-perpetuating. Fertilizer company A grabs a market share with a high-P fertilizer. Not to be outdone by A, company B follows suit, with each making increasingly promising claims that science doesn't support. Obviously, I'd be happy to discuss the use of high-P fertilizers for container culture with anyone who wants to make other than an anecdotal case.

FWIW - I had a conversation not long ago with Dave Neal, the CEO of Dyna-Gro Nutrition Solutions, and he is in complete agreement with the high-P overview. His take is that almost all container growers would be better served using 9-3-6 [or other 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers] for containerized plants.

You can find more complete information on strategies for fertilizing containerized plants by following the embedded link. I also posted a thread called "How Much P is Enough?" a few years ago, but I can't find it via the site search function & it's in a file that's temporarily unavailable. In it, I address the origins of the need for high-P fertilizers - when bedding plants were started in cold soil (inhibits P uptake) in cold frames. I'll try to remember to work on making that available, but only if you're interested.

"..... if gritty mix is so good for plants why would it not work for plants in the ground?" Growing in containers and growing in the ground are two distinctly different types of cultures and require equally different approaches if we aspire to something greater than mediocrity. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being growing in the garden/earth and 10 being full hydroponics, container culture is about a 7 or 8. MUCH of what works well in the garden should be abandoned there in favor of methods better suited to container culture.

The gritty mix won't work well in the ground (unless you fertigate very often) because the earth works as a giant wick and 'pulls' moisture from the soil. Using garden soil/topsoil in containers finds you dealing with the opposite problem - excessive water retention that literally suffocates roots, and at a minimum, impairs their function. The IDEAL container soil is one that holds ample volumes of water without that saturated layer of soil at the bottom of the pot that is inherent in all soils comprised of fine particles. There is no avoiding the relationship between the ht of the perched water table and particle size. Perched water kills roots, and the finer the particles comprising a soil, the greater the ht of the perched water table. The gritty mix is specifically designed to be adjustable for water retention by varying the ratio of ingredients, and to eliminate any significant volume of perched water. This provides a root-friendly environment from to top of the container to the bottom, even immediately after the soil has been completely saturated - something unattainable with soils based on peat/compost/coir or any combination of small particles - all based on science and not wishful thinking.

"Growing I would assume that plants function in the same way if they are in the ground or in a container just like a previous post said a plant in MI functions the same way as one in TX (functions, yes. Conditions the plant is exposed to is totally different and how that impacts this discussion is beyond my scope). So applying that over an in ground plant and a container plant need the same type of water delivery, nutrition delivery and air to the roots." I'm not sure what you're asking or implying. A Plumeria functions the same way in MI as CA or TX, and it prefers the same conditions, no matter its local. It is the grower that needs to be adaptive or more attentive in situations where the plants water needs are greater. The more perched water a soil holds, and the longer it retains it, the greater the negative impact on the plant. While it may not be practical for most of us to water a plant twice per day to stave off drought stress, the fact is that it's healthier to use a soil that requires the more frequent watering than it is to use a soil that offers the convenience of greater water retention at the expense of root health. If such wasn't the case, we could all pot our plants in pudding and water every 2-3 weeks.

There is no judgment made when someone says I can only find the time to water every 4-6 days, so I MUST use something water retentive like Miracle-Gro; but the fact remains that the price of that convenience is suppressed root function the plant must deal with until the water in the saturated fraction of the water is used by the plant or evaporates.

There is no getting around the fact that the health of the organism is dependant on root health, and w/o a healthy root environment, plants' potential will always be limited. The soil is the foundation of every conventional container planting. You can choose a foundation fraught with inherent problems and fight against it for the life of the planting, or you can chose a solid foundation that works for you and allows you to build strong plantings in it. Other than the fact that I generally really like plant people and enjoy seeing them successful, it doesn't matter to me what anyone chooses.

I enjoy supplying the information people need to make informed choices, and I always feel gratified when I see people using that info and making choices that will improve their effort:reward quotient. If you use the site-wide search function and enter the words Al question, you'll find about 6,750 hits, most of which are people starting threads specifically to ask me questions. I think that level of credibility comes from being very sure about what I DO share, and very judicious about what I don't share. IOW, if there is any doubt in my mind that I'm not on solid ground and certain my offering can be backed with sound science, I just don't say anything. I'm not bashful about presenting facts as facts, and I'll always let you know if something is an educated guess or conjecture instead of risking credibility by presenting it as fact.

Good luck & good growing!

Al



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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Tapla,
No implications here. My questions were for learning purposes. That's great there are that many posts about it. Tone doesn't convey well in text. Sorry if this was perceived as some sort of challenge. I just wanted to learn.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 10, 12 at 21:12

.... and in the same vein, I wasn't inferring that if there was an implication that it was anything other than straight forward, so all's well. Challenges are good, too. If people disagree on points of fact, there is much to be learned from any ensuing discussion as they support their positions.

Hopefully, what I offered provided additional clarity.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

From what I've understood so far your grity mix is 5 parts fir bark, 1 part Truface, and 1 part crushed granite. Is this correct and is this the correct ratio for plumeria? I'm located in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688. Where would I be able to find all the ingredients?

~Jen


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 11, 12 at 7:48

Gritty mix =

1 part screened Turface MVP or Allsport
1 part Gran-I-Grit in grower size, #2 cherrystone, or equal
1 part pine or fir bark screened to 1/8-1/4"

The Turface should be easy in SoCal (try any Ewing Irrigation outlet). The grit and bark may take some sleuthing on your part, unless someone comes up with some advice. There are whole threads over on the container gardening forum dedicated to finding & helping others find ingredients, so you might also check there. LOTs of Ca growers use it, so I know they're getting the materials somewhere.

The 5:1:1 mix is also a free-draining, well aerated soil. Use:

5 parts pine bark of appropriate size
1 part perlite
1 part peat (sphagnum peat moss)
1 tbsp dolomitic (garden) lime /gallon of mix

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Jen, the turface is easy, just as Al said, Ewing irrigation sells a 50lb bag for $12.60. I found Orchid Bark easily enough at Green Thumb Nursery, just be sure to get the 'Fine' size.

Grit was another story all together. What finally did the trick was googling 'chicken feed store' and I finally found Manna Pro Chicken Grit. If you are like me, I had absolutely no idea what grit was. So I was calling feed stores and being told sure they had grit, what kind did I need. When I wasn't totally sure they were usually not nice. Ask for a non-soluable grit, 100% granite. Manna pro lists on its website where they distribute, but call ahead as the list is not at all accurate. It isn't cheap, btw, and be advised a 5lb bag is small! Splurge and get the big bag, or you'll end up like me with a giant back of turface, giant bag of Fir Fines and a tiny little bag o' grit.

Lol, never thought this girl would own grit, heehe.

Now a Q for my grit users: This is a dumb q, but when you are screening the fir and turface, do you want what is screened out, ie the small stuff? From Al's post a few up, I am guessing you toss the small parts that are screened out...right? Remind me the size of the screen, still need to get that. I have one cutting planted in the mix without screening. Doh! :o/ I get a little hasty, not gonna lie.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 11, 12 at 15:25

Usually, you can make the gritty mix using only one screen, IF you can find the appropriate size bark. What I use for bark is prescreened fir bark in 1/8-1/4". The grit (I use #2 cherrystone) is also prescreened, but I screen it over insect screen to eliminate the dist. I do the same thing with the bark. The Turface MVP NEEDS to be screened over insect screen if you want the best results. The fact that the gritty mix is so well aerated and holds virtually no perched water when made correctly are 2 of its most significant attributes, along with its durability/longevity. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to go through the effort to make it if you're going to leave the fines in it, because they decrease aeration and support perched water, voiding 2 of the 3 most significant advantages.

What I screen with:
Photobucket
Photobucket

If you can't find prescreened bark, you should probably plan on screening pine or fir bark, using what does pass a 3/8 or 1/2 screen & isn't retained above a 1/8" screen.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi Jen & Wendy,

I use a kitchen strainer to screen the fines from my Turface and Granite. If you want a pic, i placed one on the thread that i posted on cuttings...look at the containers ready to pot in Gritty Mix annd you will see the strainer. If you would like other pics of my strainers i have different ones. let me know..!!!

Take care,

Laura

Here is a link that might be useful: Taking A Bare Rooted Tree and Potting Into The Gritty Mix


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Well went out at lunch today to find the ingredients. Found the pine bark pretty easily but it's not all uniform size so I'll have to screen it.

The crushed granite wasn't too hard to find when you look for it as chicken grit. Called a couple of places that had only oyster grit. Found one that had granite but it was not cheap. I paid $10 per 5 pound bag. I would say it's about a half gallon size per 5 pound bag.

The Turface wasn't quite as easy. I went to John Deere and they didn't have any in stock. There was a store about an hour away that has some in stock but it was $22.50 per 50 pound bag. I went down the street to Napa auto parts and they had the Oil Absorbent part number 8822 for $7.99 for a 24 quart bag. I grabbed a bag of that so hopefully it works just as well as the Turface.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Just to follow up I wasn't terribly happy with paying $10 per 5 pound bag of chicken grit so I did some more searching. I found the Tractor Supply Company that's about 20 minutes from my house sells a 25 pound back of the exact same chicken grit (Manna Pro) for $10. So same price and 5x the amount of material. I feel much better now.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 20, 12 at 18:22

I just bought 700 lbs of #2 cherrystone in 50 lb bags for $74.20. THEN, I discovered I still had 6 - 50 lb bags I didn't know I had, hiding behind a stack of fir bark. Sigh!

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Jimithing, good work! I'll have to give that route a go.

Al....... OUCH. At any rate, look at it as an investment for the future, lol.

Wendy


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hey Jimithing,

I also found that the price varies from store to store.. I was paying $20 for a 50lb bag of Gran-i-girt and then found it at another Southern Staes store in the next city. They wanted $7.99 for a 50lb bag. I still pay $20 for the Turface, but i am keeping my eye out for another source..

Sounds like you have all of your ingredients together!!

AL,

Sounds like you have been busy with all of that Cherrystone. Ouch is right about lifting all of that weight!!! Be careful with that back!! : ) i know mine hurts even when i lift a few 50 lb bags.. Couldn't imagine lifting 700 lbs.. Ohhhh MYY!!!

So that will last you one season?

Hope all is well up north!!! : )

Take care,

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Bump : )

This is for the nice lady that emailed me yesterday... the information for the Gritty mix its located close to the end of this thread.. Thought you would enjoy reading it..

I don't live in CA... I live in Virginia Beach..others have found these products in Florida. I will help you if you need it.

Ill be in touch!!! : )

Thank you!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

I've printed all this out to study and hopefully graduate to the gritty mix one day :) But I DID already get some Foliage Pro, so that's a start! Thanks so much for taking the time to post all of this amazing info.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Finally got my screens made on Monday and made some gritty mix. Overall I think it turned out rather well. I put two new rooted plumeria cuttings I got into it. I also put a Meyer lemon tree I had just purchased into it. Hopefully it'll do well. I staked all of them because the mix doesn't pack in around the roots. I know that's the whole purpose of it but the plants didn't feel secure by themselves. I'm sure once their roots establish a little they'll feel more secure.

Another question for Al or other knowledgeable container growers - is there any danger in planting into a pot that's much too large for your plant? I planted the Meyer lemon into a pot that is definitely too big for it's current size. In all honestly I'm trying to avoid having to re-pot it next year. The pot I put it in is as large as I ever want to put it in and I'll prune it to keep it under control. Just wondering if you can ever have too much too soon. TIA.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 27, 12 at 11:15

There is a sliding scale that measures the danger associated with over-potting. The more perched water your soil holds, the greater the odds that your plants health (vitality) and growth will be affected. You might not realize it, but container shape also has a lot to do with determining whether or not a plant will suffer the effects of being over-potted.

If you're using a gritty mix that was properly screened, the danger of over-potting is virtually nonexistent. You can plant very small cuttings in huge volumes of soil, if you wish, with no ill consequences because the gritty mix just doesn't remain saturated. The soil organisms that cause root rot thrive in the airless, saturated conditions inherent in soils based on fine particulates (peat, compost, coir, topsoil .......). The gritty mix remains well-oxygenated at all times, and provides relief from the harmful gases (sulfurous compounds, methane, CO2) that build up and remain trapped in heavier soils.

In a nutshell - you don't have to worry much about over-potting in the gritty mix, very little concern with the 5:1:1 mix, but the danger increases in direct proportion to the reduction in particle size and accompanying increase in water retention.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Bump!! : )

I have had others asking..so here it is!!!

Hope this helps!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

BUMP


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Bump....this is for everyone who has emailed me about the Gritty Mix... Hope this helps...

I will say that AL has been so gracious with helping everyone here on the Plumeria forum. He has so many other forums that want his full attention.. i am pleased that he takes his time to help out whenever someone has a question... Thank you AL for helping out all of my friends that are interested in your methods. You are awesome!! : )

I have learned so much from you and i can only hope that i can help pass on some of the knowledge that you have taught to me as well as others here. So a big Thank YOU!!! : )

I am truly greatful to call you friend...

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 6, 12 at 17:37

Words so kind I'm not sure what to say, other than thank you very much. I'm touched, Laura. You're no stranger to being helpful, generous, and to going out of your way to help others, either. From my reading and seeing your interaction with the group here, I can see why you're so highly thought of.

Thanks again. You made my day. ;-)

YPA


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi, Al,

Thank you for all the great info on the 5:1:1 and gritty mix and fertilizer and PWT. Sooo useful.

I have managed to find Floor Dry, chicken grit and fir bark which thanks to my old Cuisinart food processor (It was cheaper to buy a new one on special than pay shipping on a new lid!) I have chopped up bark rubbed through a 3/8 screen. I batched up 5 part bark, 1 part FloorDry, 1part perlite and 5 Tbsp of prilled lime (1T/gal of bark) and am waiting the two weeks for the lime to react before planting my potted Japanese maples in the pots. I also incorporated about 5 T of Gaia 4-4-4 organic fert (bone meal, blood meal, alfalfa meal, humane, rock phosphate, greensand, sulphate of potash, kelp meal and gypsum).

After reading more in the various threads I left the Gaia out of my next batch.

Questions:

Why do you add the lime to the 5:1:1 and not the 1:1:1 gritty mix? Will it hurt the gritty mix? I have added it to the screened (1/8" and 3/8")bark that I am assembling for a future gritty mix.

Do you have an environmental indicator to let you know when it is too late in the spring to bare root pot into the gritty mix? Snow crocuses blooming, silver maples blooming? I live in the mountains in the interior of BC, lots of snow cover but relatively mild for Canada (-29C (-20--10F). Reliable hot (85F) dry (some rain) summers.

Do you leave some of your potted trees outside in winter in central Michigan? With or without protection? I have three nice shallow (6" x 21" x 14') mica/polyethylene/graphite pots that provide some insulation from heat and cold temps. The tricky part is this time of year with big swings in temps, can be quite hot one day and snowing the next.

Do you know how long the Foliage Pro is viable for once opened? Six months? A year? More?

What do you do with the fines form the sifted FloorDry? I have a gallon of it and I have only made three batches. I also have a couple of gallons of really fine bark (like peat) as a result of the food processor thing. I was thinking of mixing that with perlite or grit a a seed starting medium.

Would you fertilize the 5:1:1 mix weekly weakly (1/4 tsp/gal water) with Foliage Pro? I plan to use the wooden skewer to monitor moisture.

Thank you for all your help and your threads.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 19:17

Why do you add the lime to the 5:1:1 and not the 1:1:1 gritty mix? Will it hurt the gritty mix? The 5:1:1 mix has a lower starting pH and more organic material to buffer change in pH. Adding lime to the gritty mix (or to soils with significant fractions of coir or CHCs) would raise the pH to unfavorable levels. Because of this, it's better to use gypsum (CaSO4) as a Ca source and Epsom salts (MgSO4) as a source of Mg because they have no significant effect on pH. These supplements aren't necessary if you use a fertilizer that contains Ca & Mg, which is one of the main reasons I switched to Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It has both in soluble form and in a favorable ratio to each other, so using it saves a couple of extra steps.

Do you have an environmental indicator to let you know when it is too late in the spring to bare root pot into the gritty mix? Most temperate perennial material is best repotted just before bud movement in spring (pot up any time). Your maples are best repotted at the onset of budswell and maybe just a little beyond - up to the point where some leaves are just beginning to emerge.

Do you leave some of your potted trees outside in winter in central Michigan? With or without protection? I have three nice shallow (6" x 21" x 14') mica/polyethylene/graphite pots that provide some insulation from heat and cold temps. I leave a few trees outside - some larch, pine, juniper, amur maple ..... stuff hardy to zone 4, for my area (6a). 'Protection' needs some clarification. I keep them protected from sun and harsh winds. They rest on a growing bench against the north side of my garage. The polyethylene planks I use have holes in them, so geothermal heat rises and keeps the pots about as warm as if they were setting on the ground. This makes a significant difference in buffering actual lows when it comes to the temperature of the root/soil mass. An insulated pot does nothing to protect from actual low root temperatures. They just increase the time it takes for the soil to change temperature, not how low the temperature gets, which is the critical factor. If you put a Dixie cup of waster in a chest freezer, it might freeze solid in an hour. If you put it inside of a well-insulated cooler, it might not freeze until the next day, but eventually the measure of the actual lows the frozen water gets to will be the same. For an insulated container to work, heat from an extraneous source (the floor, a wall) must be able to act on the soil/root mass, and the insulation needs to trap the heat. If you were trap[ping heat from a garage floor, you would want the sides to be insulated, but not the bottom of the container. A cardboard box overturned and covering a plant so the bottom is open will allow you to keep plants hardy only to several zones warmer than you on your garage floor for the whole winter.

Once my trees start to put on their spring flush, they go on nursery wagons. They are moved in and out every day as temps allow. More on that if you want to talk about it, but it's an issue critical to the trees future appearance, unless you act to rectify internode length issues through judicial pruning.

Do you know how long the Foliage Pro is viable for once opened? Six months? A year? More? It can't spoil, so it should be usable indefinitely.

What do you do with the fines form the sifted FloorDry? Fines either get added to raised beds or are used in hypertufa projects in place of sand. It works great - makes the projects stronger, lighter, and more gas permeable.

Would you fertilize the 5:1:1 mix weekly weakly (1/4 tsp/gal water) with Foliage Pro? Because 3/4 of my plants are dormant all winter, I can afford the time to fertilize every time I water. This is extremely effective if your soil choice and watering habits allow it. In summer, I have to make the watering rounds of more than 300 plantings daily, so fertilizing every time I water isn't feasible, so I try to do it every weekend if temperatures indicate that is appropriate. I generally withhold fertilizers when temps are below 55* or above the low 80s.

Take care .... and thanks for the kind words!

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

I must read the whole post again...

Great information.. For everyone!! We all learn from these old post and they help others who have never seen them and have some of the same question...

If you haven't read this whole post, I would advise that you do!

Makes sense to me and I always find something that I have missed along the way. ;-)

Thanks again Al!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi, Al,

Thank you so much for answering my questions so promptly and thoroughly.

Should I rinse the lime out of the screened bark I am assembling for the gritty mix? So far I have only about 4 gallons.

I have been digging some fir bark into my garden beds over the past few years to provide some organic matter and aeration. This before I came upon your excellent and informative threads. I didn't know about adding lime to bark beforehand. Am I in deep trouble in the beds? Can I do anything to ameliorate the situation?

I usually keep my potted trees and hydrangeas over the winter in my unheated garage along with my potted tulips and lilies (thwarting the squirrels/mice/critters). One half of the garage (my potting shed) is separated by a wall and has its own door so temps don't fluctuate when garage door opened. I make sure the pots are well watered before I put them in the shed in October and check on them in March/April. The temperature inside can go down to -16C but gradually and warms up slowly in the spring. I can avoid the big swings in spring temps. I usually bring out the maples when I see the in ground ones starting to show signs of bud break.

My problem is room. I have a dark enclosed storage space under the front porch that would accommodate a 4 foot high pot & tree combo. The floor is concrete and if I put the pots against the house wall and covered the exposed sides with bags of leaves or sawdust what do you think? I think it would be colder than the potting shed but it would be out of the wind and sun.

I had assumed (wrongly?) that the perlite/granite and the Turface/FloorDry were inert and the lime was reacting only with the bark.

In the 5:1:1 mix can I skip the sphagnum moss and add the finely ground bark instead? Or just leave the moss out and rely on the fines from the 3/8" screened bark?

I'm on the hunt for coarse perlite. The stuff available is very fine with a lot of dust. It is lighter than the granite which makes a big container very heavy. Does the angular surface area of the granite provide more surface area than the rounder Perlite?

A hundred thank yous for figuring out the optimum fertilizer numbers for us.

Barb


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 24, 13 at 18:14

Should I rinse the lime out of the screened bark I am assembling for the gritty mix? So far I have only about 4 gallons. First, thanks for the kind comments. If it's not a hardship, I'd use the bark you already limed as an addition to the 5:1:1 mix or somewhere else. If that's a problem, rinsing it thoroughly will help, but since dolomite is only very slightly soluble, there will be a residual fraction, though I doubt it will present a problem if you at least try to flush it out. If you notice any chlorosis as a result of a pH that might be a little north of Ideal, you can just add a little white vinegar to your irrigation water for those plants in the limed bark ..... but as noted, I wouldn't anticipate a problem.

I have been digging some fir bark into my garden beds over the past few years to provide some organic matter and aeration. This before I came upon your excellent and informative threads. I didn't know about adding lime to bark beforehand. Am I in deep trouble in the beds? Can I do anything to ameliorate the situation? I don't think any action is necessary. The buffering capacity of the soil is very significantly greater than the bark and small amount of lime you're adding, so unless your soil (in the beds) is already very basic, there shouldn't be any problem.

I usually keep my potted trees and hydrangeas over the winter in my unheated garage along with my potted tulips and lilies (thwarting the squirrels/mice/critters). One half of the garage (my potting shed) is separated by a wall and has its own door so temps don't fluctuate when garage door opened. I make sure the pots are well watered before I put them in the shed in October and check on them in March/April. The temperature inside can go down to -16C but gradually and warms up slowly in the spring. I can avoid the big swings in spring temps. I usually bring out the maples when I see the in ground ones starting to show signs of bud break. That's a great strategy. I bemoan the warm temps in my garage where my stuff over-winters, every year. I wish I had a large pit, like many of my bonsai friends, where I could keep things quiescent longer - so I don't have to move the early risers in and out of the garage as temps allow - after they put on their spring flush.

My problem is room. I have a dark enclosed storage space under the front porch that would accommodate a 4 foot high pot & tree combo. The floor is concrete and if I put the pots against the house wall and covered the exposed sides with bags of leaves or sawdust what do you think? I think it would be colder than the potting shed but it would be out of the wind and sun. Sounds good. The only concerns are root temps that react killing lows and dessication (soil/roots). You might find that any elaborate insulating efforts are unnecessary - depending on where you live & the plant material.

I had assumed (wrongly?) that the perlite/granite and the Turface/FloorDry were inert and the lime was reacting only with the bark. Technically that's correct, but the dolomite is a source of Ca/Mg, as well as being a pH adjuster, so it's a part of the chemical composition of the soil as a whole.

In the 5:1:1 mix can I skip the sphagnum moss and add the finely ground bark instead? Or just leave the moss out and rely on the fines from the 3/8" screened bark? I look as soils as a compromise. In general, the more often you have to water, the greater the potential for healthy roots - as long as you're willing to keep up with the watering. You could grow perfectly healthy plants in a bucket of broken glass, if you wanted to water 5 times each day. Some growers are simply not willing to admit that the fact they can't or won't water more frequently has an impact on their plants' potential. We admit that not eating right or exercising has an impact on our potential, but somehow it's difficult to admit that plantings that go a week between waterings with no trouble are limiting our plants. They do - period. There is no way you can partially inhibit oxygen to a large fraction of the root mass and not affect growth and vitality. What the grower needs to find is the right balance between how often they are willing to water, and how much potential they are willing to give up. Personally, I look at the size of the plant and repot it into a pot that I will need to water daily or every other day when the planting is mature. You'll learn how much peat you do or don't have to add based on a visual assessment and by feeling the texture of the soil after the first year. After that, you'll be able to make soil like your grandmother baked bread - by feel and based on your experience. When you start with a large fraction of chunky material, it's a lot more difficult to go wrong. Conversely, when you start with a large fraction of fine material as the base of your soil, it's going to have water retention issues. Even though there are ways to ameliorate those issues using tricks like wicks & tilting the containers, they don't change the reduced aeration inherent in soils based on fine particulates.

I'm on the hunt for coarse perlite. Try a hydroponics store or greenhouse operations that make their own soils - but ask early because they might need to order it for you. The stuff available is very fine with a lot of dust. It is lighter than the granite which makes a big container very heavy. Does the angular surface area of the granite provide more surface area than the rounder Perlite? No - the perlite has more surface area on a size for size basis, and holds a considerably more water (on its surface). If you use the perlite as a substitute for granite, you need to use more perlite ands less Turface to get the same amount of water retention. Something like 4 Perlite, 3 bark, and 2 Turface, would be about right.

A hundred thank yous for figuring out the optimum fertilizer numbers for us. You're welcome. This is a chart of the
average usage of each element plants take from the soil.

I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
Mo(lybdenum) 0.003

To read it, look at P. The chart tells you that plants use 16-19 parts of P for every 100 parts of N, for an average of 16 parts, which is 1/6 the amount of N the plant will use.

Professionals base their supplementation program on these numbers, but tailored to a specific plant. However, the variance in usage from plant to plant varies little, as you can see from the chart, so thinking plant A or plant B somehow uses nutrients in a ratio that varies widely from other plants is well wide of the mark. If growers wish to increase the number of blooms a plant will produce, they usually reduce the amount of N, which curtails vegetative growth and forces the plant to put more energy into reproductive growth - flowers & fruit. They don't start providing massive amounts of P, because they know what problems are associated with that approach.

Plants are very remarkably alike in how they wish to be treated, and the sweet spot isn't hard to find. Snapdragons, sequoias, and sedum, can thrive equally well with exactly the same treatment. Most of the trouble and limitations surface when we're thinking what we're doing is a good idea, when actually we're asking our plants to thrive while providing cultural conditions that put them at the limits of what they are programmed to tolerate. Plants should thrive because of what we do for them, not survive in spite of what we do to them. ;-)

Al

This post was edited by tapla on Tue, Mar 26, 13 at 14:58


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Hi, Al,

Thanks for the tip about coarse perlite. I have been crouched over a trug screening bark for the past week. I may never walk upright again but will be ready in two weeks to swing into potting action.

I am interested in learning more about how the shape of the container affects the root development. I have all sorts of shapes and sizes. Love the names - cilindro bordato, vasum, etc. And then there are the Chinese ones...

I know I am not the type to happily water every day so I will be looking to find the happy medium for me and the plants. I have only ever fertilized by containers with controlled release 10.10.10 which, come to think of it, is temperature sensitive. Foliage Pro will be a new thing for me. Never considered that you should not fertilize at temps over 80-85. During the summer, we get 85-95 temps but dropping to 50 at night. Would the FP work when the temps drop in the evening? Or is it best to skip the FP during the hot spells (July and August) and rely on CRF's? Always questions.

I'd also like to learn more about overwintering strategies for potted trees. I will experiment with the tulips under the front porch and keep the trees (more valuable to me) in the shed.

Lovely healthy plumerias, Laura. Such pretty flowers. I've never seen one in person.

Thank you again,

Great forum, and great information.

Barb


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 6, 13 at 14:50

Would the FP work when the temps drop in the evening? Or is it best to skip the FP during the hot spells (July and August) and rely on CRF's?

What you want to avoid is furnishing ammoniacal forms of N (including urea) when the average soil temperature is below 60*. When plants take up N, they often absorb more than they need to support current growth. The extra nitrogen is stored as a guard against potential N inadequacies later. N in the form of Nitrate can be safely stored by the plant, but when plants take up and store too much ammonium, it can cause damage to cells.

Ammonium toxicity occurs when ammonium has built up to excessive levels in the soil and plants absorb too much of it. Under normal growing conditions of warm temperatures and a well-aerated soil, forms of ammoniacal nitrogen are converted to nitrate by nitrifiers (a variety of naturally occurring bacteria). In this case there is little worry about excess ammonium building up in the substrate unless the grower supplies very excessive amounts of a high ammoniacal fertilizer.

Certain growing conditions, however, such as low temperatures (less than 60* average daily temperature), soggy or compacted (low oxygen) soils, and low media pH will suppress the function of nitrifying bacteria and cause ammonium to build up to toxic levels in the soil. That is to say, under cool, wet conditions ammonium toxicity has the highest likelihood of occurring.

Over-wintering trees safely sort of depends on where you live. Are you talking specifically about plumeria or a variety of woody material?

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Al? I started a posting regarding the use of fertilizers with a 10-52-10 and you completed your full dissertation on the use and type of fertilizer that should be used. I would guess that the majority of plumeria enthusiasts on here would like just a lamens explanation to our questions as I would guess. I will always use my self applied theory of (KISS) which I guess we really all use anyway right. By the way KISS (keep it simple stupid) no disrespect to all of us (plumeria addicts) right.


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 22:06

No disrespect to anyone. I'm not trying to change your mind - just give others the information they need to make their own informed decisions. The hype and often misrepresentations on every box/bottle/jug of fertilizer can't all be right, because they all make outlandish and conflicting claims in their effort to make our $ their $. There is truth in science, and that's where I go for my answers. I always hope that others will follow that path if I lay out reasoning sound enough; that, because I truly wish to see other growers get as much from the growing experience as they can - but if they chose to follow another path, that's fine, too.

Using a fertilizer that supplies nutrients in a ratio that closely approximates the ratio at which the plant actually USES the nutrients is certainly no more complicated than using a fertilizer with a ratio that's badly skewed, so the former easily passes the KISS test. Keeping it simple doesn't have to mean that we blindly select a fertilizer based on anecdote or the hype provided by the fertilizer's manufacturer, and then promote or justify our choice because we feel it works well enough to suit ourselves.

As growers, our proficiency is defined by how effectively we are able to isolate and eliminate those factors that have the capacity to limit our plants' ability to grow to their full genetic potential. Only for those who care, I explained in detail and made my case for why high-P fertilizers are unnecessary for containerized plants, and how/why they have the potential to limit plants. I can only hope growers think my response is well-reasoned and scientifically sound because I work hard toward that end.

Take care - good growing.

Al


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Bump! Also: tomark.com is how I found a local supplier of Turface MVP.
It's time this thread be seen by us newbs. =)


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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition

Great thread. I like it too!

Thanks Al. You do a great job even when others are somewhat overwhelmed. It is what you want to take from this and if you don't want to apply. Then continue with what you like. That is simple!!! ;-)

I have learned so much form you and I can't thank you enough.

Glad to call you a good friend !!! Thank you!!

Laura


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RE: Container Soils. And more

Great thread. I like it too!

Thanks Al. You do a great job even when others are somewhat overwhelmed. It is what you want to take from this and if you don't want to apply. Then continue with what you like. That is simple!!! ;-)

I have learned so much form you and I can't thank you enough.

Glad to call you a good friend !!! Thank you!!

Laura


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