Size of the particles is very important. The crushed granite I use is chicken grit, packaged under the trade name 'Gran-I-Grit' (grower size) or #2 cherrystone packaged by New Ulm Quarries. Both are between 1/8-3/16" in size. I use fir bark by Shasta Forest Products. It comes in 3 cu ft bags and is pre-screened to 1/8-1/4". It costs about $17 per bag. You might find a similar product or pine bark you can screen to an appropriate size.
It's initially sometimes difficult to locate what you need to make the soil, but once you've located the ingredients and see how well it works, I'm pretty sure you'll be ok with the extra effort. ;o)
Thank you! I have two gardening friends (one experienced, one a newbie like me) that I think I've talked into trying it.
Can I walk into a local crushed rock company and use it if they have it? Assuming they don't lie and sell me something different, crushed granite (of the proper sized particles) should be crushed granite, right? Or is there something in the packages you buy that makes it different?
Do you mail- (or internet-) order the granite and the fir bark? Shipping should be horrendous!
Edit - The bark you use from Shasta -- is it the "Mini (pea pebbles)", sized 1/8 - 1/4? There is another one sized "0 - 1/8" that they call "Fines" so I'm a bit confused. The Mini pieces look too big; the Fines is the one that looks right.
I assume that I would add lime if the plants need it, and occasional 3:1:2 fertilizer, like in the container mix...
The soil looks like what you see below. The bark pieces are about 1/4", while the grit and Turface are smaller, around 3/32-3/16". See above for more info on the granite, but I buy mine from feed stores, too. It comes pre-screened, but I still screen the dust out of it. I pay about what Celene pays - a little less because I usually buy 10 or 12 bags at a time for my own use, but sometimes get a pallet (40 bags) to split with our bonsai club members.
I was shocked when I looked at the pictures, and a little skeptical when I saw it in person. It's working well, though--esp. with the potted perennials and trees. Plumeria and hibiscus never looked better.
I first started growing in highly aerated soils about 20 years ago. I wanted to share with others how easy it made growing ... I mean "a monkey could do it" easy. I first joined Garden Web and, on the Container Gardening Forum, started talking about what everyone now calls the 5:1:1 mix now. I was met with unbelievable skepticism. There were at least a dozen entrenched container gardeners that were growing in soils having the primary component as peat or compost. I was actually/literally afraid of the firestorm I would have run into if I'd dared to suggest that you could grow perfectly healthy plants in something as weird looking to the common grower as the gritty mix. Gradually, I won over a few people to the 5:1:1 mix, but it wasn't until a couple of years later. after the 5:1:1 mix had gained such wide support that I could even START to suggest the gritty mix. Now, there are probably thousands of people using the 5:1:1 mix, and the use of the gritty mix is growing so rapidly I can hardly keep up with my email.
No, I don't sell anything, and I'm not speaking in a boastful way. It took a long time before I could simply say these soils work great and stand head & shoulders above almost ALL the prepared soils you buy in a bag or bale, because I was worried that it might be taken as prideful, but it's not that way at all. It was only after so many others started sharing their results and offering tremendous positive feedback that I felt I had permission to speak in a matter of fact way in superlative terms.
I have no stake in what anyone but my closer associates grow in, but I can offer information that will improve the success of a fair fraction of houseplant growers, which is what I've been doing for quite a long while now. ;o) Whether (the collective) 'you' use or ignore the information doesn't matter much I guess, but I always hope that you will find something useful in it so I can take my own satisfaction from the thought that my efforts have been of value to another.
I hope I didn't stray too far off topic in my musings, Gilraen. If so - I beg a pardon.
I don't think you strayed, but it isn't my thread. And who could think that the immense amount of knowledge and time that it took to learn all of this and explain it was prideful? I'm really grateful, and a better container gardener for knowing it. I am rarely sentimental (I know it's not girly) but the things I learned from you make my plants happier, and that makes ME happier. I spent the last five years cooking and cleaning for my mother, and now that she's gone I have more spare time to garden, so being better at gardening means a lot.
Feed stores carry the chicken grit, and I got the pine bark fines from a nursery in Granville, I know the owner. I'd try Oakland Park, Straders, or Baker's Acres for the pine bark fines if I didn't get it from Granville.
Tapla, thanks's for the info. i believe this is the second time you have given me this info. You are so understanding &
willing to help with anything to get the DG'S on the right path
concerning fertlizer & soil movement.
Celene, thanks' to you would love to have coffee, perhaps later this week. Will D-Mail you with the date.
Al is the maestro! Al, could you tell me what the begonia on the left side in the third picture is?
Is this stuff what you guys are talking about? They sell it at the coop as 'oyster shell'. I've been using it for some succulents and calcium loving plants.
The begonia is 'Fireflush' - look also for 'Curly Fireflush'. It's gorgeous, paired with a trailing Coleus and a peach Impatiens and an Asparagus plumosa. I wish I had a better picture of an older planting. The one below was just planted when I took the pic.
We're talking about Turface, which is a baked clay granule - almost ceramic-like. You can buy it at The John Deere Landscapes dealer on Franklin Road in Murfreesboro. Call ahead and ask if they have in stock or will order Allsport (Turface) 615-907-5700. I would skip the oyster shell in my plants.
"1 part screened pine or fir bark
1 part screened Turface or NAPA floor-dry
1 part crushed granite (grower size grit) or #2 cherrystone
The latter is what I grow all my trees & long term plantings (like houseplants) in."
"Size of the particles is very important. The crushed granite I use is chicken grit, packaged under the trade name 'Gran-I-Grit' (grower size)"
Al, I am already checking into the turface. I emailed them earlier this morning. I was asking about using the oyster shell in place of granite/ chicken grit. They call oyster shell ' turkey grit'. A no-no?
I wouldn't use it - your call, though. The CaCO3 in the shell is largely insoluble, but there will still be excess Ca in the soil solution if you use crushed shell as a primary fraction (1/3) of the soil. Additionally, crushed oyster shells are usually very high in soluble salt. With a little searching, you should be able to find Gran-I-Grit or an equal.
Are the NAPPA floor dry and the Turface the same material, just packaged under a different name, or is there actually a difference in composition that should make us prefer the Turface if it is possible to get it? Thanks
No - the floor-dry is calcined diatomaceous earth and Turface is calcined Montmorillonite clay. The floor dry holds a little more water (on a size for size basis) and has a slightly better CEC, but it's high in pH, @ 7.0 as compared to Turface @ 6.2. I prefer the Turface because of the pH, but either product will work well. If you use the floor-dry, you might wish to add extra granite - depending on where you live and what your water retention requirements are.
Al, I finally got what I think is the correct grit. 'Insoluble Crushed Granite' as you can see in the pic. Is this correct?
The floor-dry I went ahead and got though not sure it's even close to Turface or Napa. I can tell you it says on the back of the bag: 'contains naturally occurring crystalline silica as quartz." That's the only content listed.
Wrong stuff? If so, it's OK. I can look some more. Didn't have a lot of time today.
I know this will make things sound over-complicated, but the size of the particles + the material they are made of determines suitability. The granite sounds right, but I can't see the size of the particlers. Same with the oil-dry. It dsays 'coarse', and that's good. You want almost all of the particles to be from just under 1/8" to just over 1/8". Test the clay product by freezing overnight. If it's stable and the right size, it will work great.
I forgot what you said about screening the pine bark fines. I tried sifting through the 1/2 inch and then through the 1/4 inch and came up with this on top of the 1/4inch.(pic below)
Aren't those too big?
I have more than 250 plants in the gritty mix & most get repotted every other year - some every year, and I don't reuse the soil. Plus, I usually get my arm twisted and have to share with friends, so I allow for that, too. You know how that goes. ;o) I used to buy Turface by the pallet (40 bags), too. Fortunately, I now have a local wholesale source so I can buy in more reasonable quantities.
Oh yes - I use the 5:1:1 mix for everything short term. ... use it for veggies & all the display containers for the gardens. I only use the gritty mix for anything that might be in the same soil for more than 1 growth cycle (year).
I'm not Al, I'm just not that cool, but I dump my used soil on top of the leaves that I compost in my vegetable bed every year. If I have extra, I use it over the mulch on perennials where I'm pushing zone hardiness.
I have clay soil, so this mix should improve it. Til Al converted me, I used Promix and it never caused any problems, aside from a few volunteer flowers in the veggie garden.
I have question(s) regarding the soil pH of both the 5-1-1 (without lime at this point) and gritty (with gypsum) mixes. I scooped up some of each into pots, watered them and used my combo water/light/pH meter to check them. Both of them are very high pH. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions? The water in my area is "hard" but for watering container plants, I "age" my tap water for at least 24 hours (not sure what effect this has but have always done it). Anyway, my chemically-challenged mind needs some help.
The prelimed pH of the 5:1:1 mix will be somewhere between 4.0 - 4.5. The pH of the gritty mix w/o lime will be about a point higher.
You are reading the pH of your water, primarily. To get media pH:
* Soak soil in containers to container capacity with distilled water.
* Wait 30 minutes to 2 hours for equilibration of nutrients in container solution.
* Place containers to be tested in a shallow saucer to collect leachate.
* Pour 1/2 cup of distilled water over the surface of a 1 gallon container.
* Make sure your equipment is properly calibrated (had to add that).
* Test pH of leachate
Aging your tapwater probably has no effect on anything. Fluoride is not volatile, nor are the newer compounds of chlorine used for chlorination. So as water evaporates during the aging period, it actually concentrates the dissolved solids.
Al, thanks for the info. My testing efforts were with a multi-use meter (light, moisture, pH), just a probe. Anyway, I did the leachate test with the probe and the results were highly alkaline. Thinking the probe at fault, I went in search of another means of testing and found only a small kit of test tubes and powder capsules (wasted money, I think). I tried both the water and soil in separate tube tests and got basically nothing. Problem: me, equipment, soil, other -- what? If all else fails, guess I'll try to county extension service. Mary
Mary - my considered advice is just forget about the pH of your media. It's really not that important. The pH of the soil solution in container culture is much more important than media pH, and there is really nothing a hobby grower without access to a variety of fertilizer chemicals and sophisticated testing and mixing equipment can do to maintain pH. A number of factors affect pH in container media - the components of the soil, fertility levels, moisture content, temperature, plant material, more ... even time of day has an affect on the pH of container soil (solution).
If you tell me why you're concerned about pH, and what you're trying to accomplish, maybe I can help you with suggestions that will allow you to skirt the need to monitor pH. You'll drive yourself crazzzy trying. ;o)
"The pH of the soil solution in container culture is much more important than media pH" -- I don't unnerstand this statement... Anyway, I'd just like to know I'm potting plants in a soil they'll benefit from. I know you've said it's possible to grow plants in marbles, etc., but in doing that would there be the question of whether the growing "soil" was acidic or alkaline? I intend to plant herbs, veggies, etc. in the 5-1-1 and mainly cacti/succulents in the gritty mix. :) mg
First, to ease your mind, there are thousands of people using both the gritty mix and the 5:1:1 mix and reporting great results. I've been using the soils and studying the related sciences for a long time, and I honestly have never seen better mediums for containerized plants. You can read bias into that if you wish, but I'm pretty honest and objective, so if I knew of a better soil, I'd not only be telling you about it ... I'd be using it, too. I was at GW for several years before I joined here, so those folks have a head start. ;o)
To explain the statement: in short, container media have a higher CEC than mineral soils on a bulk density to bulk density (weight to weight) ratio, but because the bulk density of container media is usually only a fraction of that of mineral soils, the CEC and buffering capacity ends up being much lower on a per volume basis. Since the buffering capacity of container media is so low, container media pH has much less affect on the pH of the soil solution and nutrient availability than does mineral soil pH. Zzzzzzzz?. ;o)
You've seen pictures of some of the plants/plantings I grow? I NEVER worry about media pH beyond using some common sense in whether I choose dolomitic lime (raises pH) or gypsum (doesn't raise or lower pH) as a Ca source. If I see an indication that the pH is getting too high, I simply acidify my irrigation water with vinegar or citric acid.
It's normally not the pH of your medium that causes issues, it's the pH and alkalinity of your irrigation water you need to be most concerned about.