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Self-contained Box Gardens: Coco Coir Search..., 1 by Gymgirl

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Gymgirl wrote:
I'm gardening almost exclusively in eBuckets, and have been for the last 3 years (working on getting my first raised bed, and converting to in-ground and only some eBuckets in the future...). I will be doing probably my LAST exclusive eBucket garden this season -- 40-50 eBuckets. With that said, I do NOT recommend filling an eBucket entirely with 100% coco coir, or 100% peat moss (MG potting mix). Here's what I do recommend. It's a container soil formula that's been circulating on the Soils and Composting thread for a few years now, and more and more container gardeners are trying it out, and converting their systems. The same discussion has been on the Gardenweb website, and has reached its maximum viewership of 13,000 posts??? THREE times!

This formula is by Al Fassezke, better known as "Tapla" here on Dave's. He's a soil guru, and spent many, many, many hours (and months) helping me locate the Pine Bark Fines (PBFs) that are the backbone of his soil and container recipes.

I originally used the coco coir and MG potting mix (50-50) when it was introduced here, and swore by it -- until my mix started getting so tight, and my plants started failing. Tapla explained (over on his thread), about how a proper soil should be a balance of material that is water retentive without being "boggy wet," and allows for air pockets so the plants can receive oxygen through the soil. This takes a medium made up of particles that are of differing not uniform sizes. Once I understood the principle (and it took AWHILE), I determined to put it to the test. I was moving at the time, breaking down all my eBuckets, and starting from scratch. I decided that I would rebuild the eBucket garden using Tapla's 5:1:1 container mix. On his recommendation, I actually used a 3:1:1 mix of double grind pine bark fines, peat (MG potting mix served as my peat component), and perlite (to create the air spaces in the mix).

The formula works. And, it works well.

So. My recommendation is that you locate some double grind pine bark, and a couple bags of Miracle Grow (MG) potting mix, and a bag of coarse perlite, and mix up your eBucket mix. Oh, and I didn't even mention how much $$$$ I saved filling up all those eBuckets with inexpensive pine bark fines!!!!

Here's the Container Formula

5 parts Pine Bark Fines
(I had to sift what I bought. You want a product that has particles that range in size from dust to no bigger than nickel size slivers of the actual bark of the tree. The slivers should be thin enough to snap easily. There should not be an abundance of long stringy pieces, or wet, thick, chunky pieces of bark. You do NOT want nuggets, or mulch. I'll post a picture of what the RIGHT stuff looks like after I sifted it. I'll also post a picture of some of the WRONG stuff, so you'll have an idea of what you're looking for.

1 part Peat
I used MG potting mix as my peat component. The peat serves as the "wicking" component in your eBucket, and is what draws the water up from the reservoir.

1 part Coarse Perlite
Again, the Perlite creates little air pockets through which water and air can flow through the mix.

Determine what you will use as one "part," and go from there. I used a huge tub, and dumped it all into a 30-gallon rubbermaid tub to mix. Careful on the Perlite -- the dust will make you choke. Wear a mask, and mist it with a hose as you go, to keep down the dust!

Once your mix is all done, you can then divvy it out into your eBuckets. I started off with one-half yard of the PBFs for $18. After I sifted all the PBFs to get the dust to nickle-size material, I added about two LARGE bags (2.65 cu. ft.) of MG Potting Mix, and 1-1/2 large bags (40 cu. ft) of Coarse Perlite to my customized ratio of 3:1:1.

The mix is FAST-draining, and it holds oxygen. My tomatoes grew very fast in the mix, and were not sitting in soggy soil. After my season was over, and I broke down a couple of my eBuckets, I did noticed the mix toward the very bottom of the bucket was more moist than I thought it should be, so this season, I'm considering making an adjustment on the mix, and adding more of the PBFs and a little less peat, for a ratio of 4:1:1. I'll compare to last season. Although, since I'll be growing those water-hogging cole crop plants this fall/winter (cabbages, cauliflowers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, mustard and collard greens), I might just leave the formula as is, cause they'll take up all the excess moisture they want to anyway!

But, that's my recommendation to you. LMK if you need any clarification. Might be easier to talk offline if you want/need to. I don't mind at all! Send me a dmail and I'll send you my phone number.


This message was edited Sep 21, 2011 2:02 PM

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