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Container Gardening: Tapla: Questions about your gritty mix

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gilraen
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 3, 2010
8:02 AM

Post #7759869

Tapla, can you answer two fairly easy questions, please, OR point me to a thread where they're already answered?

On your gritty mix (where I saw it mentioned, it specified "equal parts Turface, crushed granite, and pine bark"):

1) How big should the pieces of crushed granite be?
2) Same question on the pine bark -- is it supposed to be "fines" like in the container mix? Or can you use the whole bag of regular bark?

Thank you!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 3, 2010
3:13 PM

Post #7761108

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)

Al

gilraen
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 4, 2010
5:56 AM

Post #7762708

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...

This message was edited May 4, 2010 8:02 AM

This message was edited May 4, 2010 8:04 AM

Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

May 4, 2010
6:33 AM

Post #7762792

I got my chicken grit at a feed store. It was super cheap, a 50 lb. bag was $7 or $8. Hard to carry, though--I know it weighs just about 50 lbs, which isn't normally hard to lift, it's just unwieldy.
gilraen
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 4, 2010
8:13 AM

Post #7763085

Cool! Thank you, Celene.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 4, 2010
11:25 AM

Post #7763519

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.

Al

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Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 2, 2010
3:14 PM

Post #7852864

This is year one of the gritty mix. I have some fancy dwarfy evergreens growing in this, they were very meh when growing in Promix, but they really look great this year.

It's early to tell how the hanging baskets and mixed pots will do, but thus far, it looks promising!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 2, 2010
4:57 PM

Post #7853240

Soo glad your plants are doing well, Celene. ;o)

FWIW - I use the 5:1:1 mix for veggies, baskets, mixed plantings, ... the pretty stuff.

Al



This message was edited Jun 2, 2010 6:58 PM

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Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 2, 2010
5:48 PM

Post #7853416

I actually didn't believe it'd work, I am so conditioned to want something more...I don't know...potting soil-y?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 2, 2010
6:23 PM

Post #7853488

I missed something - don't understand ...?

Al

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Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 2, 2010
6:27 PM

Post #7853497

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.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 3, 2010
5:46 AM

Post #7854426

Ahhh - a skeptic turned believer then. ;o)

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.

Al

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Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 3, 2010
6:47 AM

Post #7854623

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.
gilraen
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

June 5, 2010
11:46 AM

Post #7861212

Agree with you, Celene. I've learned a lot from him, and am very grateful. I went from brown-thumbed to green-thumbed in a few short weeks, thanks to Al.
confussedlady
Columbus, OH

June 6, 2010
6:45 AM

Post #7863282

Celene, I live in the Columbus area. Where do I find suppliers for the gritty mix. Thanks' confussedlady

Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 6, 2010
7:36 AM

Post #7863399

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

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 6, 2010
10:11 AM

Post #7863848

For Turface: Century Equipment in Hilliard (800) 346-0066

or

The John Deere Landscapes dealers in Lewis Center (740) 549-2141 or Gahanna (614) 863-4013. Ask for Allsport.

Rural animal feed stores and grain elevators that sell feeds and fertilizers should have Gran-I-Grit in grower size.

Al


Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 6, 2010
3:51 PM

Post #7864714

If you go to Gahanna, DM me and we can have coffee, I work there :)
confussedlady
Columbus, OH

June 7, 2010
2:14 PM

Post #7867599

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.
confussedlady
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 10, 2010
8:29 PM

Post #7877509

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.

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 11, 2010
10:59 AM

Post #7879032

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.

Al



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killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 11, 2010
2:12 PM

Post #7879468


"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?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 11, 2010
2:51 PM

Post #7879557

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.

Al

killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 11, 2010
3:05 PM

Post #7879597

Thanks, Al. I will look for the Gran-I-Grit.
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 12, 2010
6:59 AM

Post #7881311

I've found the granite chicken grit. Local John Deere doesn't have Turface. Could you suggest the best substitute for Turface besides Napa 8822?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 12, 2010
10:46 AM

Post #7881885

You give up too easily. ;o)

Dickens Turf & Landscape Supply, Inc.
Nashville
(615) 227-1111

Ewing Irrigation
Nashville
(615) 244-8870

Al
confussedlady
Columbus, OH

June 12, 2010
7:03 PM

Post #7883165

Killthwabbitt, my local john Deer (Gahanna Oh) did not stock the turface but has ordered it.

Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

June 13, 2010
12:41 AM

Post #7883747

John Deere is where I got it as well, confussedlady. I'm sure they think I'm nuts, they just shrug their shoulders and load it in my car for me.
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 13, 2010
8:42 AM

Post #7884318

Thanks. We have a local Dickens. If they don't have it I'll get JD to order it for me. I really hate to have to drive to Nashville.
confussedlady
Columbus, OH

June 22, 2010
8:44 AM

Post #7910152

Celene you have DMail.
granitegneiss
Norridgewock, ME
(Zone 5a)

June 23, 2010
5:20 AM

Post #7912727

Al,
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

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 23, 2010
7:31 AM

Post #7913101

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
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 25, 2010
7:28 PM

Post #7920926

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.

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
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killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

June 25, 2010
9:55 PM

Post #7921243

Got to doing some more googling. Found this:

http://www.moltan.com/Products/absorbentsClay.htm

It has the exact pic of what I bought. It says "This premium montmorillonite clay absorbent is processed for maximum durability. Ideal for any spill."

Then I did a wordsearch on this thread because I thought I recognized that word, 'something-morillon-something.

"No - the floor-dry is calcined diatomaceous earth and Turface is calcined Montmorillonite clay."

BINGO?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 26, 2010
1:01 PM

Post #7922687

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.

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 2, 2010
8:47 PM

Post #7939261

Al, here is a pic of the clay absorbent after I froze it overnight. It didn't change it any that I can see. Was I supposed to wet it first?

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 3, 2010
7:53 AM

Post #7940117

Yes - put a couple of teaspoons of it, covered with water, in the freezer overnight & see if it's still stable when it thaws.

Particle size looks good.

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 4, 2010
10:25 AM

Post #7942639

OK, Al. The clay did not break apart after freezing in water. Does that mean it's OK?
Here is the pic of crushed granite/chicken grit.

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 4, 2010
11:31 AM

Post #7942828

Yes, it's stable.

The grit looks fine. If those are fine particles clinging to the large, I think I'd rinse it well in a household strainer or over insect screen to eliminate the very fine particles.

GOOD LUCK!! ;o)

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 4, 2010
2:11 PM

Post #7943040

Gotcha about the granite. Ok. Now. Here is my screen. The one on the left is 1/4 inch and the one on the right is 1/2 inch. I guess you probably knew that but just to be sure.

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
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killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 4, 2010
2:15 PM

Post #7943044

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?

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
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tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 4, 2010
2:31 PM

Post #7943080

That's pretty big, but it will work if the other two ingredients are the right size. I usually use prescreened fir bark in 1/8 - 1/4".

At the top:

Al

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killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 4, 2010
2:40 PM

Post #7943093

Al, if you think it would make a difference I am going to buy this:

http://www.hardwareandtools.com/Jackson-Wire-11061615-1-8-By-36-By-10-Redi-Roll-Hardware-Cloth-6100804.html

Btw, where do you get pre-screened pine bark fines? You've probably answered this and I've forgotten.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 4, 2010
5:15 PM

Post #7943384

You can buy 1/8" hardware cloth at almost any good hardware.

I buy a product packaged by Shasta Forest Products, Yreka CA at an orchid dealer (Oak Hill Gardens) in Dundee, NW of Chicago.

http://www.oakhillgardens.com/htm/supplies_growingmedia.htm

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 4, 2010
6:48 PM

Post #7943571

Do you buy the fine grade or which? 30.00 might not be out of the question for a 3 cu. ft. bag.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 5, 2010
6:55 AM

Post #7944320

I usually get 20 bags of the fine bark at a time & pay $15 ea. I pick it up myself whenever I'm in the CHI area.

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 5, 2010
10:22 AM

Post #7944920

Wow! You must do an awful lot of potting. I went ahead and ordered the 1/8 inch screen and will try doing it myself first.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 5, 2010
11:04 AM

Post #7945002

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.

Al
granitegneiss
Norridgewock, ME
(Zone 5a)

July 6, 2010
7:27 AM

Post #7946953

Al,
Do you use the 5:1:1 mix at all anymore, or have you switched to all gritty?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 6, 2010
11:49 AM

Post #7947573

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).


Thumbnail by tapla
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Deebie
Orangeburg, SC

July 12, 2010
12:33 PM

Post #7962987

Al, what do you do with the used soil?

Celene

Celene
Columbus, OH

July 12, 2010
1:49 PM

Post #7963153

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.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 12, 2010
5:11 PM

Post #7963581

I dump used 5:1:1 mix directly on the gardens or beds, or add it to the compost pile. Used gritty mix goes into the nursery beds where I grow material on for bonsai.

Al
killdawabbit
Christiana, TN
(Zone 6b)

July 12, 2010
7:29 PM

Post #7963926

I use my used mix on outside plants that need a little topdressing but mulching would smother them. The potting mix is easy to sprinkle on.
Deebie
Orangeburg, SC

July 13, 2010
10:53 AM

Post #7965322

Thanks.
TX_gardener
Brady, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 23, 2010
4:32 AM

Post #8056614

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.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 23, 2010
6:26 AM

Post #8056779

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
TX_gardener
Brady, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 25, 2010
5:34 AM

Post #8060886

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

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 25, 2010
6:06 AM

Post #8060934

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)

Al
TX_gardener
Brady, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 25, 2010
6:22 AM

Post #8060966

"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

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 25, 2010
11:01 AM

Post #8061460

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.

Al

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