Yes, I do compost. Everything. However, there was a sale on MGGS and I bought several bags, thinking I'd mix it with my yard soil (as recommended) to fill containers. I did and I planted veggies and flowers. So far, petunias, marigolds and lobelia have died. Beans, tomatoes and a huge datura all have leaves with white spots all over that eventually (and not long) just thin out and wither into crispy brown dead leaves. I remember reading about infected bagged compost last year - or the year before, maybe? Now I'm wondering if this might be the problem here.
Have any of you used this soil? Have you had any experience like this with any bagged soil?
I still have 3 big bags of this stuff and I'm afraid to use it. I'm going today to buy compost at a farm to add to mine.
"... thinking I'd mix it with my yard soil (as recommended) to fill containers".
That you used it inappropriately to fill containers was simply an error in judgment on your part, and says nothing about the value of the product for its intended use. Expect similar results with compost unless you are using something coarse (pine bark?) as the primary fraction of the medium.
Well, you do have a point there, but dirt has to come from somewhere to fill containers. And I did add pine bark once I had mixed the MG with my own compost. I may have made an "error in judgment" but that still doesn't explain why the leaves have spots and are crisping up and dying.
Forgot to add that I've been reading your tutorials. Very interesting and I'm learning.
So you don't suspect any pathogens in the MG soil? I ask because that happened a year or so ago and affected commercial as well as backyard gardeners. I haven't fertilized and we're not yet (quite) to the sunburn stage here. And the spots aren't like sunburn, anyhow.
Root rot can be any one of a number of pathogens, so yes, pathogens are certainly suspect. They are present in virtually any soil, whether it is primarily a mineral soil (garden soil topsoil) or a soil comprised almost entirely of organic components. Give them the anaerobic conditions surely present in the mix you are using & they will multiply rapidly and attack the soft tissues on the lower parts of the plant first. Plants stressed by poor soils are a prime target for a number of fungaluglies and insect marauders because the plants' ability to defend itself depends on the byproducts of a strong metabolism.
Again, the pathogens are present in all soils (unless sterilized), but how you combined the ingredients in your soil is what determined whether or not they would become an issue. Plants just won't/can't do well in containers when the soil is likely to have less than 10% air porosity at container capacity - and you can't fix it with perlite.
I didn't use perlite at all; I used pine bark. You'd think there is not the same drainage with a container that there is in ground; however, soil here is pretty well compacted after 50+ years of flood irrigation. Dig a hole, fill it with water and you pretty much have a sink of dirty water for quite a while. It's one reason that I do use containers.
I only mentioned perlite in case you were to suggest that you could amend the problem soil by adding it, which won't help.
Of course you're free to do as you wish. I simply shared observations based on my own experience and what I know of science, which tell me you're facing a steep incline in an uphill battle. I just wanted you to have the information you needed to make up your own mind re. how you'd like to move forward.
I bought "MGGS" last year and was totally shocked when it turned out to be a globby, poor draining, messy goop that killed 2 very expensive plants via root rot. I knew better then to plant something in it but I blindly trusted the "brand".
I wanted to write the company and suggest that their "soil scientists" read a pamphlet named "soil 101"
tomatofreak-I sincerely agree with removing the plants and starting over.
Use Pro-Sol or Fafard if you can find them.
tomatofreak - In the past I have used MG Garden Soil for growing tomatoes in pots. However, I lightened it with perlite, and compost. I grew lots of tomatoes, but many had blossom end rot and had to be discarded. That same year, tomatoes in the ground produced tomatoes with far less BER.
I will not use it in pots again, especially as I have now discovered coconut coir.
Honeybee - Soil structure is a particularly important part of the success/failure equation. If if you were having BER issues and problems related to a particular soil that was based on peat moss, and could magically replace the peat with coir, I would expect that the transition would exacerbate the problems, not moderate or solve them.
FWIW - you cannot 'lighten' a peat-based soil with the addition of perlite, and certainly not with compost. To illustrate my point, ask yourself how much perlite you would need to add to pudding to get it to drain well?
If you have a heavy, water-retentive soil, and you add perlite to it, it doesn't change either the drainage characteristics or the ht of the perched water table. What it DOES do is take up some space that would normally be occupied by water, so the soil DOES hold less water because of the additional perlite, but to change the drainage characteristics or ht of the perched water table the soil would need to be PREDOMINANTLY perlite. Technically, once the volume of perlite sets it apart as the primary fraction of the soil, you're adding the other ingredients to PERLITE.
Tapla, I really thank you for your knowledge.. I have had no problem with MG at any time, & I have both mixed it with other soil AND used it on it's own..all successful. What I am thinking ( & please correct me if I am wrong) is that it's the PINE BARK that could be the problem... not the MG.. as I've heard things about not using bark of any kind with plants in case of diseases that may have been in the trees.
For instance.. when Hurricane Katrina hit LA all the damaged trees were shredded in hopes of selling it out of state for mulch, but it was soon discovered that the trees were infected with termites ( or something like that?) so none of it could ever be used..it was a waste of time, money & a lost venue.
If the possibility of pathogens was adequate cause for eliminating conifer bark from soils, we would have to eliminate peat and coir as well - none are sterile and all carry with them the possibility of the same diseases. The nursery and greenhouse industries are chugging happily along with most plants growing contentedly in soils with conifer bark as primary fractions, so I would have to discount the suggestion that diseases in bark-based soils are any greater consideration than in peaty soils like MG or others. In fact, it is far more likely that the fungaluglies that prosper under anaerobic conditions will join legions in peat or coir-based soils than in the better-aerated and aerobic bark-based soils.
It's probably a blessing that you haven't had water-retention issues with container media that is comprised of any mixture of MG and topsoil or garden soil. By far, the highest % of problems I find myself helping people work through stems from such soils. Either heavy peat soils like MG, or soils that contain significant fractions of compost or topsoil are simply too water retentive to offer plants the opportunity to grow at as close to their genetic potential as possible within the limitations of other cultural conditions. I wouldn't say that if I couldn't back it up, so if there is interest I'll be glad to elaborate.
Water retention is directly linked to particle size, and when you load a soil up with fine particulates like peat/coil/compost/topsoil, there is absolutely no way to avoid having to deal with the effects of excessive water retention and the effects of a considerable perched water table, two factors which are nonexistent or so insignificant as to be negligible in well-made bark-based soils. I can make a case that it's not that you haven't had problems, only that you haven't recognized them. Even if people think everything is ok, it isn't. It may be a situation where people can say "It's good enough for me", and we can all drop the discussion, but there are issues you cannot see that affect plant vitality in these heavy soils; again, I can elaborate if there is interest.
The odds overwhelmingly favor the issues TF is dealing with are being caused by the soil he is using. I've probably helped thousands of people improve their growing skills by helping them improve their soils before moving on to other less significant areas. It's very powerful testimony that virtually all those having trouble were growing in heavy soils.
I've never once suggested, "Let's take that light and airy medium and make it heavier", but I've suggested many a time that we "Turn that mudium into a productive medium". ;o)
hmm.. though some of what you said Al went right over my head :0) I think I did get the message. Very good points indeed. I will take you up on your elaboration one of these days.. because right now I don't know when I will be online again... I have a retreat to go to this weekend, for instance.
I will tell you, that I put things at the bottom of my containers such as plastic water bottles, etc to let the water run through the bottom better... then I mix soils..my availaility goes from composted material from our county extension to MG soil, since I found it to be better to work with than anything else. Not that it is the best but, like I said..what is avaliable to me.
I really appreciate your time Al..& seriously look forward to further discussions. THANK YOU.
This has been a very interesting thread. Thank you tapla and others. But, after rereading this for the third time, I don't see a recommendation of what is the best (or reasonably good) addition to soil to make it more "light".
The short of it is: For gardens, add lots of organic matter on a regular basis - finished compost is best because there is little issue associated with N immobility, as finished compost breaks down slowly.
For container media: You really can't amend a heavy soil and make it light. I'm speaking on a % of ingredients basis now. If you start with mud, you'll need to add 60-75% perlite to get it to the point where it will drain and offer the opportunity for the plant to grow at as close to its genetic potential as possible. IOW, you need to START with larger ingredients if you want a fast draining and airy soil, not add them to fine ingredients.
In the 5:1:1 mix, I start with pine bark, which is many times larger than peat or compost particles. Then, I add peat (or compost) to adjust the water retention - the more peat/compost I add, the heavier the soil becomes until at around 50% peat content the soil has taken on the drainage and aeration characteristics of peat.
The gritty mix I use for all long term plantings is superbly aerated and durable, because all the particles are around 1/8" or a little larger. This guarantees the soil holds LOTS of air, and because the soil is 2/3 mineral, it is exceptionally durable and can be counted on NOT to collapse, where peat/compost soils are water retentive out of the bag and only decline in air porosity as water retention increases.
You can't. It's compacted for a reason, and the reason is, it's made of small particles or a lot of small particles mixed with a few large particles. Container soils only compact if there is a large fraction of small particles. Even if there is a fairly significant presence of large particles (perlite in compost or peat), the small particles just surround the large particles and compact as they would if the large particles weren't there. The only way to fix that is by mixing a small amount of the small particles with a LOT of larger particles; and that should be done before the soil is planted in and has the chance to compact.
If you have a bucket of mud, it's compacted, poorly aerated, and drains poorly. Mixing in a half bucket of BBs doesn't change the aeration, drainage, or compaction. If, on the other hand, you have a bucket of BBs, it is highly aerated, drains like a champ, and will never compact. You can add about 15-25% mud to the BBs before you start to see a significant deterioration in the properties I mentioned.
OK, let me start with a new question re: MGGS. I still have 3 bags of this stuff and need to use it somehow. Since I don't have a lot of available space to garden in ground, how can I make this into a good aerated soil fit for a container? Short of adding BB's that is! Can I add bags of pine or cedar bark and, if so, in what proportions?
I believe I understand your bit about soil and plant optimization. So far, I haven't lost any more plants in the containers with MGGS, but I can easily see that they are not thriving. They should be 2 or 3 times the size they are. So let me ask this question: If you are starting from scratch to build a container soil, what would you use and in what proportions?
Regarding the 'recipes': I found this thread, http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/, but I'm not certain what you mean by these terms: "pine fines" and CRF. I'm also not familiar with Turface; what is it and would I find it in most any garden department?
tomatofreak - I assume MGGS stands for Miracle Grow Garden Soil. I think the instructions on the bag says not to use it as a potting soil. I have used it in pots in the past because my neighbor said to do so, he's a landscaper for a local church/nursery school. I did not have good results as you can read in my post above.
My suggestion is to return the three bags and exchange them for potting soil.
Hello folks! I have returned!! hahaha... all I can say is WOW!! What a weekend! I won't get into it as I may go overboard & some people may not like what I have to say! hahaha
Which is ok.. this is not the forum to do this anyway.
I was reading the threads & hope all has gone well while I was away.
PP, that reminds me of the bag of "Composted Cow Manure" I bought last year that was I swear 90% sand and sticks!! I never knew cattle ate sand and tree limbs... Of course I should have known after looking at the label. It was "produced" by a lumber company somewhere in GA.
Al, I've never seen your postings before but I am very impressed with your knowledge of soil science. Keep up the good work informing us lesser "dirt lovers".
Tapla, thanks for this education. I am learning so much. Just reread the other posts on container recipes anD ferts too. Have a question I hope isn't a repeat of something I missed.
I'll start off by saying (loosely) if it ain't broke don't fix it. As a relative newbie (since 2007) I'm about to start my 3rd crop of brassicas. I've been very successful with cabbages (especially), and broccoli and cauliflowers to a lesser degree.
To date, my planting medium in 5-gallon eBuckets has been various combinations of: MG potting MIX, Black Kow Composted manure, coco coir, homemade compost, and leaf mold. Last season, I mistakenly introduced some heavy, sandy veggie growers blend I had ordered from a commercial grower for 2 raised beds. Didn't catch the error until I had mixed 50% garden blend into most of my eBuckets.
I still pulled in a beautiful harvest of cabbages last season, but I can see the mixture is compacting, and getting tighter. I'm getting ready for a new plantout of seedlings starting September 1.
Al, I don't have a lot of money to spend right now, and I'd like your assessment of the least expensive route I can take to begin repurposing my medium to the loose, highly? Organic blend it was. Or, as close as we can on a tight budget. I have lots of leaf mold and homemade compost available (and, yeah, I think I remember you stating the compost contributes to the compaction without an abundance of larger particulate, like the pine bark fines, right?)
So, what can I mix with what I have that's a large enough particulate? Is there a modification of your 5-1-1 recipe that could incorporate my present ingredients?
Don't think we're drifting as original post regarded MG and container gardening.
EBuckets = 5-gallon buckets with an overturned plastic colander that creates a reservoir underneath. The mix packed around it creates a wick for the self-watering feature, like an Earthbox. Plants draw water up as they need to. There's a fill tube that goes through the soilbed and colander and rests on the bottom of the bucket.
I'm familiar with SWCs & how they work. I'm actually doing some testing of a design for a company I'm pretty sure you've heard of right now.
You can use a somewhat heavier soil in SWCs than in conventional containers and still get away with it. The reason is that watering from above tends to compact peaty soils and flood all the soil pores with water, even the larger pores. Once the pores are flooded, they're 'reluctant' to give up water. In SWCs, water is pulled upward by capillarity. It tends to move along the route of the highest capillarity, i.e., from particle to particle, so more of the soil pores remain open.
In your case, to keep expenses down, you might want to consider mixing your old soil with at least an equal part of pine bark fines and a small fraction of perlite - both are inexpensive. I pay 10.99 for 4 cu ft of perlite wholesale, so about twice that is a more realistic expectation @ retail, but that's pretty inexpensive, considering the volume. I pay about $5 for 2 cu ft of pine bark., so for less than $6, you can make 4-5 cu ft (just under 40 gallons) of freshened soil. Something like
4-8 parts pine bark fines
4 parts used soil
1-2 parts perlite
lime @ 2 tsp per gallon or 5 tbsp per cu ft
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^^_^^^^_^^ (Me and Al doing the "Save-My-Soil" (SOS) dance!!!)
Math is still challenging for me. I need a little more help on the ratios. I'm dealing with a 5-gallon bucket which I treat as one square foot of potting medium. Let's say I'll be using 20 buckets September 1st. That's 20 sq. ft. of existing potting medium. I'll need to cut in 20 sq. ft. of pine bark mulch/fines, and maybe 10 sq. ft. of perlite?
How does that translate to cubic feet?
My local supplier has a 3 cu. ft. bag of pine bark mulch for $3.99. They also carry pine bark nuggets, which are larger. Shoud I go with the smaller mulch, or keep looking for pine bark "fines?" They never heard of it...
You want pine bark about the size of the material in the picture. It would be better if you would add more bark than old soil, if it doesn't stretch the budget too far ... and it's going to be easier to mix if you mix by parts. I usually toss 2 cu ft of bark on a big tarp, then 4 gallons each of peat then perlite, then anything else I'm adding. I mix it on the tarp with the back (not the tines) of a garden rake, being careful not to tear up the tarp. I moisten then, and pull the corners of the tarp alternately to fully mix the soil. It helps if you have 2 people, but I always do it by myself. Use whatever size measuring container you're comfortable with, but you'll need to at least be able to guess about the volume so you know how much lime to add.
7-1/2 gallons = 1 cubic feet means to use 7 and 1/2 gallon buckets of old soil per 1 cubic feet of pine fines, yes?
So, for a 2 cubic ft. bag of soil conditioner/pine bark fines, I'll use 15 buckets of old soil, yes?
Or, since you said to use more bark, how about I use the 2 cubic ft bag of pine bark, and maybe 12 buckets of old soil. And then add 4 buckets of perlite. How's that recipe sound. Uh, we did not discuss peat. Don't confuse me...
Talk to me in bucket language, Al. I love to talk dirt!
If you use 7-1/2 gallons of old and 1 cu ft of bark, you're using the same amount of both. Why don't you do this:
Use 1 - 2 cu ft bag of bark + 10 gallons of old soil, and 3 gallons of perlite + 1-1/4 cups of lime?
I'm not sure how large your buckets are, but if you're using old soil and bark at 1:1, for 2 cu ft of bark, you would use 15 GALLONS of old soil. That would be 15 buckets, only if you're bucket holds 1 gallon. ;o)
The eBuckets will be inactive until September. Is it ok to just empty the reservoirs and let the medium dry out before I do the remIx with the pine bark?
I don't have anywhere to store the potting mix other than in the buckets. Should I leave the lids on or uncover them? The Lids have a 3” hole in the center. They probably need some air so they don't go all funky, huh?
It's prolly easier to do the remixing if the soil is dry, and being dry stops the breakdown of soil particles, too - so shoot for 'dry'. I imagine you'll want to pull out the big clumps of roots as well.
Tapla and others,
I am enjoying all this education but I seem to be missing how the plants are getting proper nutrients. This last year I have potted up 8 or so rooted figs (several var.) and sometimes I have used yard topsoil - sandy acid stuff - to mix with leftover potting soil (pots of last year's annuals). Sometimes I have used pure compost from my redworms pile made mostly from kitchen veggies. The pure compost drains beautifully and rooted fig trees grow beautifully. The fig trees in slap-dab mixings have various vigor but a little Ozmacote (sp?) seems to help. A couple do drain poorly but it's so hot and dry there's no problem this Summer. I don't generate enough worm based compost for all my needs. Photo is of last year's potting in pure worm compost (big pot) and others in random soil mix - note leaf color and growth..
If I were to use pine finings, peat, perlite, I assume I would have to add some kind of chemical fertilizer. It this correct? You seemed to be pretty negative on Perlite, then added it to the mix in later postings. Perhaps you were just stressing the Perlite won't make good drainage? If so (and my past experience does confirm this) why use Perlite at all?
Maybe I should just wait til the ticks go away in the Fall and scrape up some woodsy top soil for next year's endeavors. It's about 4" deep before I hit the sandy-rocky stuff.
I am not sure if my ramblings made sense or not- I hope so.
Hi, Paul. I use a couple of different basic soils. One is made with equal parts of Turface, crushed granite, and screened pine or fir bark. The other is made with 5 parts of pine bark and 1 part each of peat and perlite.
I don't use anything in my soils that destroys porosity (large fractions peat, coir, compost ... I don't use vermipost, castings, topsoil or sand, unless the sand is at least 1/2 BB-size) which is why there is such a small peat fraction in the 5:1:1 mix and none in the other (gritty) mix. My philosophy is that when you make a container soil, the factor most important to plant vitality is the ability of the soil to retain favorably provide aeration and drainage for the intended life of the planting. Hundreds of people have also come to the same conclusion after reading some of my reasoning and trying the soils for themselves. (I can link you to threads if you're interested.) I'm not promoting "my" soils, only the idea that aeration and drainage are extremely important to plant health, though I do suggest various recipes as good starting points.
I have also found that soluble fertilizers like Miracle-Gro (24-8-16, 12-4-8)and other brands, particularly Dyna-Gro 9-3-6 are the best way to supply nutrients to containerized plants, as long as a personal ideology doesn't limit your options. They deliver nutrients immediately, in the proper/favorable ratios, and you know exactly what your plants are getting and when.
The problem with "pure compost" or pure anything comprised of fine particulates, is that it quickly compacts, holds too much water and too little air. If you water properly, the soil stays soggy for too long, causing the cyclic death & regeneration of of fine roots. That is very costly to the plant, and something you can't see unless you compare what you're growing in now to plants grown in a well-aerated and durable soil.
Ficus carica (your figs) are genetically extremely vigorous and will tolerate mediums and cultural conditions that less vigorous plants won't, so I don't doubt that you're having satisfactory results growing them. I grow at least 10 species of Ficus, including carica. All are grown in the soil you see below, the only organic component of which is 1/3 uncomposted fir bark. I have hundreds of plants in this mix by choice because it works exceptionally well. If compost or other commercially prepared peat-based soils worked as well or better, you can rest assured that I would be growing in those soils because they are less expensive and I don't have to make them, but they don't.
Turface and calcined DE (available as floor-dry or oil-dry, but make sure you'
re getting an appropriate particle size) are two ingredients that serve the same purpose but will up the soils ability to hold water considerably. Haydite and pumice in appropriate sizes are also suitable substitutes that don't add as much to the water retention as the Turface and/or calcined DE.
FWIW - whether or not the extra water retention would be considered good or bad depends on whether or not the rest of the soil components, when mixed together, support much of a perched water table. Generally, the 5:1:1 mix holds very little perched water and can afford the extra water retention, but soils based on peat/compost/coir are already very water-retentive, so I would try to avoid using anything that adds to the water retention when using any of those components as the primary fraction of a soil. Crushed granite or cherrystone would work well for those applications.
I've done a 360, and am considering taking the two raised beds (filled with never used veggie garden blend) with me. Can I add all the contents of the existing eBuckets to the two beds of garden blend once they're in place, or should I totally discard the contents? Remember, they're filled with 50% of the garden blend (which is part of the container compaction problem) and the other 50% is made up of homemade compost, leaf decomp, and MG potting mix.
LMK soonest, cause I've got to use the buckets to dig up the existing beds. I need to know what to do with the stuff in the buckets..
If you're thinking of using old soil that had collapsed & was compacted in raised beds? - go ahead. The earth acts like a giant wick and will 'pull' the excess water out of the soil if it's in a raised bed. I think I understood you correctly? You'll want a significant mineral fraction in raised bed soils (RBS) though, like maybe 50%+, to help guard against the RBS becoming too fine as it breaks down and to help reduce shrinkage, which will be considerable if your RBS is almost all organic.
You understand exactly right! And, what you're holding in your hand looks exactly like what I'm dealing with now! I have 2 yards of the garden blend which was real heavy and lots of sand. But, there's an good amount of various size particulate in there to balance out, I think. Any, it looks like your stuff!
On more question. How should I incorporate these two mediums? I was thinking of actually using all the surplus stuff I have in stock that would've been for a lasagna type garden on the bottom, just like a lasagna, and then putting the garden blend mix from the two existing beds on top. The veggie roots would grow through the veggie blend and into an organic, lasagna layer. My layers would be made like this:
Cover the existing grassy sites with layers of newspaper and moisten thoroughly. Then. layering shredder paper, coffee grinds, dried leaves, my homemade compost, the veggie peel slush, then some of what's in the buckets. Then start layers again until I run out of all that stuff, then fill in the very top layer with the veggie garden blend. Or should I mix it all together a different way?
Just happy to know it can all go in together...
P.S. I know there's organics mixed in already cause some eBuckets were teeming with earthworms, and some eBuckets had none or very few...
I would simply layer the newspaper or cardboard & then put the rest of the well-mixed material on top of it & be done with it. There's no benefit in going to the trouble of layering it, though you can if it's easier. I'd still mix it all up with a spade fork after it was layered.
Al, I didn't see the screen dimension for screening pine bark to the size finings in your 3-6-9 photo above. I already buy (a few) bags of the pine bark mulch which is stacked right beside the bags of larger pine bark chunks at Lowes Builder Supply. HD probably also sells it. I use it mostly for blueberries planted in my already very acid soil so I can conveniently screen it for finings and then use the larger stuff for the blueberries.
I have never heard of Turface, can you suggest where it might be purchased in a bag light enough to carry (say 40 lbs)? If it's an aggregate for concrete, I can look there today at Lowes when I go this afternoon.
Thank so much; I am a retired engineer and certainly enjoy learning why I have problems AND how to fix them.
I will use my new found knowledge to re-pot my 4 yr old LSU Purple fig that is certainly rootbound after two years in its big pot. I will have to wait until I eat all the figs though. Perhaps I can limp along by giving it a small shot of Dyna-Gro 9-3-6 (if I can locate it).
I'm trying to figure out what the 3-6-9 photo might be, Paul. Maybe I'm missing something obvious. The closest I can come is 9-3-6 fertilizer, but that doesn't seem right ... I don't screen the bark for the 5:1:1 mix, but I have several suppliers that provide it with particles 3/8 & under, which is perfect. For the gritty mix, I buy pre-screened fir bark from an orchid supply house in CHI. It comes in 1/8-1/4, which I consider to be about as good as it gets for that soil.
For Turface MVP (aka 'Allsport' - you won't find it at any big box stores or masonry supply stores), try any of these 3 John Deere Landscapes dealers in Raleigh:
2205-101 Westinghouse Blvd, 919-875-8533
8925 Midway West Rd, 919-420-0145
8850 Westgate Park Drive, 919-881-2041
E&S Soil & Peat in Rocky Mount, 252-443-5016
I can't tell you where to buy Gran-I-Grit in your area, but it's mined in your back yard (Mt Airy, so it shouldn't be TOO hard to find. ;o) Try rural feed stores or farm supply stores/elevators that cater to retail.
Repot your fig in the spring after bare-rooting and root pruning.
Gymgirl - the mineral fraction of your soil could be native topsoil, sand, Turface, calcined DE, pumice or Haydite - if you can find it about the same size as Turface ... lots of choices.
There's nothing there, but let me explain. A mineral fraction is desirable because it helps ensure drainage as the organic component of the soil breaks down into increasingly smaller particles, and it also helps ti minimize shrinkage, which can be considerable when your RB soil is primarily organic.
I did a little looking around & I think I found the website you tried to link me to. It looks like the 'sharp sand' would be closest to being the best choice. If water retention is an issue, or if you think hydrophobia (water repellency) will become an issue as your soil dries down, I would encourage you to add some Turface or calcined DE to the soil. Unlike sand, they both absorb water readily, even when completely dry, and can make a big difference in breaking the hydrophobic tendency of dry organic soils.
Lol - actually, I have an Asian friend who tells me often that I have the white man's stick, so I do screen it, but it's really not so much for size ... I push it through 1/2" screening just to make sure there are no really big chunks. It's easy for me because I'm all set up to do it (see the picture), but it's not really necessary if you sort of watch for the chunks.
If I was sifting bark for the gritty mix, I'd use the fines in the 5:1:1 mix or add them to beds/garden/compost. I use from dust to 3/8 in the 5:1:1 mix, and I've always been lucky enough (& and I've been doing it long enough that I've developed lots of sources) to find the right size bark, w/no screening required, for both soils, There's never a shortage of uses for the bark fines. Turface fines I save for hypertufa projects or add them to my raised nursery beds. It's an excellent soil amendment for that.
Thanks gymgirl, this one is for tapla!!!!!!!Have been gardening the same property for 25 years and have about 85% of the soil in the beds all potting soil from lots' of transplanting. it is the LC1 that is 80% canadian peat moss and perlite and some type of wetting agent. It drys out very quickly, what can I do to bulk up my soil? Thanks, Annette
I don't know what LC1 means, but I would add a good measure of sand and some Turface, or calcined DE (ask) to help with water retention. I'd mix in some pine bark each year as well. The end result in a year or two would be a soil that looks just like the picture upthread. My RBs are extremely productive & full of all sorts of soil life. You can actually see the excellent tilth and friability of the soil in my hand.
LC1 is made by
Sunshine it's a professional growers mix that I use in my plant business to pot up perennial seedlings that I sell. I always plant out new things in certain beds and tha is why they are so full of that soil. Any suggestions on how to break up large pieces of pine bark like 2X3 foot pieces, have 6 50' pine stumps in my backyard that have been dead for 10 years that the bark is falling off from. Had a wicked storm that took the tops off, they werre 80' trees, anyway I tried to run over the pieces with my car can break them into 3" by maybe 6-8" pieces but that's it.I'll gooogle the turface and see where I can get it. Would playbox sand work? Thanks Annette
Describing tilth is a way of assessing, often by feel and by eye, the general physical characteristics that make a soil fit or not so fit for growing, though 'tilth' can take into account the chemical/nutritional characteristics as well.
Friability gauges the soils ability to maintain aggregate particles and how readily those aggregates break into smaller pieces - especially after the soil has been subjected to wet/dry cycles and or compression/compaction.
Kobwebz - sorry I missed your post earlier. I just wanted to be sure everyone knows we're talking about raised bed soils when I say that sandbox sand is ok for raised beds, but probably not a good idea for container soils unless it's a small fraction & the volume of large particulates in the rest of the soil is large enough that the sand won't have a significant negative impact on aeration.
As far as I can tell, the John Deere Landscapes dealers in Peekskill (914-736-9056) and Mahwah, NJ (201-529-5250) are the closest to you. Ask for 'Allsport'.
I can't help you with the bark. You're apt to find it at large nursery ops & sometimes at big box stores packaged under names like Pine Bark Mulch or Pine Bark Soil Conditioner. You could run yours through a chipper until the size is right (see pic above).
Pine bark for the gritty mix --- 1/8 - 1/4" uncomposted is ideal.
Pine bark for the 5:1:1 mix --- dust to 3/8" partially composted is ideal. No problem if it's uncomposted, but watch a little closer for signs of N immobilization (deficiencies) & fertilize accordingly.
Thank you so much for all the valuable and interesting info! I will pick up some quarter inch mesh hardware wire and make myself a pine bark "sifter". I too was impressed by your excellent shop practices in your screens. I will attempt to make mine (nearly) as nice as yours.
What I meant about the 3-6-9 was "The picture below shows what the pine bark should look like, at 3, 6, and 9, and what the soil looks like when finished and dry." I don't need to know now as I was just trying to get the screen mesh size to buy.
Have you ever seen this product as calcined DE? I've been reading up, and seems like it's 100% calcined DE, and can be purchased at NAPA auto stores.
One writer noted that the product was rinsed first because the resultant "murky" water contained mechanical pesticide which was then sprayed on trees containing aphids. The aphids were dead the next day...Do you rinse your shop absorbent first to rinse off any pesticides?
I'm able to get the bark products as they are shown and can use them w/o screening. Those at 3-6-9 work in the 5:1:1, and fir bark @ 12 o'clock for the gritty mix, but it looks like my subsequent post covered that - serendipity ... and I'm sure a 'retired engineer' will come up with screens nicer than those I slapped together from 1x4s. ;o)
Yes - I talk about the NAPA calcined DE all the time. It holds a little more water than Turface on a size for size basis, and it has a little better CEC (holds nutrients a little better - which isn't a particularly big plus in container culture. It also comes in with a pH of around 7.0, which is higher than you would prefer for containers, but it still works very well. The pH of Turface is around 6.0 - 6.2, with the ideal pH for container media being somewhere between 5.0-6.2, about a full point lower than ideal for garden/mineral soils.
There's a difference between a mechanical pesticide and a chemical pesticide. A hammer is a mechanical pesticide. ;o) The tiny particles in the dust of DE are as sharp as tiny slivers of glass (they almost ARE glass, being mostly silica) and cut into the exoskeleton of insects that contact the dry powder. The insects then dehydrate. Though you should wear a mask when you work with it, you needn't worry too much. Food grade DE is commonly mixed with stored food stuffs, particularly grains, so you're ingesting it on a regular basis.
Remember, I'm dumping everything into the RBs at my new location. Depending on how much depth I actually get from the two beds of veggie garden blend + the eBucket dump + the NAPA calcined DE, I may have some excess of the container mix left in the eBuckets. Since I'm most comfortable growing in those buckets anyway, that's not a problem for me!
So, from what I've read so far, I probably should start with the 10 GALLONS of old soil (veggie garden blend) + a 1-2 cu ft bag of bark/soil conditioner + 3 GALLONS of Perlite + 1-1/4 cups of lime + Calcined DE (how much?)?
I'll add the eBucket mixes only if I need additional soil in the beds.
There's a blip on the radar. ;o) I'm so used to talking about container gardening that I forgot you were talking about raised beds. While the calcined DE isn't nearly as bad as DE intended for use as a mechanical insecticide, and its effectiveness is considerably reduced under moist conditions, I think I'd forgo it's use in raised beds and go with a calcined clay product like Turface, or just stick with sand, or very fine lava or Haydite (dust to 1/8"). Sorry about the correction, but soil fauna is a considerable benefit in raised beds, so lets not do anything to prevent it from helping us. In containers, it wouldn't matter.
Ok, let's start over, Al.
I'm moving two existing raised beds. One is 4 x 8' and one is 4 x 10' (72 sq. ft). They've been filled with a commercial veggie garden blend since last September, and they've never been planted in where they are now. I don't even know how the current garden blend works, so this will be an experiment in progress.
We were mixing apples and oranges because my original question regarded how to address the compaction of my eBucket mix comprised of 50% of the same veggie garden blend (an accident!), and 50% homemade compost, Black Kow composted manure, coco coir, and leaf mold. And then I switched gears...
Now my question regards mixing the veggie blend and the eBucket mix together in the RBs, and creating a good soil structure with excellent oxygenation and drainage properties (am I speaking your language, yet?).
Quoting:If you're thinking of using old soil that had collapsed & was compacted in raised beds? - go ahead. The earth acts like a giant wick and will 'pull' the excess water out of the soil if it's in a raised bed. I think I understood you correctly? You'll want a significant mineral fraction [the sharp sand] in raised bed soils (RBS) though, like maybe 50%+, to help guard against the RBS becoming too fine as it breaks down and to help reduce shrinkage, which will be considerable if your RBS is almost all organic.
So, for 72 sq. ft. of veggie blend, plus ten to fifteen 5-gallon buckets of the compacting container mix, how much sharp sand should I be mixing in? And should I be mixing anything else in? If so, what, and how much?
I need to know how deep the 72 sq ft beds were, or the volume of soil that was in them, but basically, I would be sure there is at least a 50% fraction of mineral components in the RB soil. It would be great if you could locate the Turface & it's not too expensive. If the Black Kow was anything like most of the other "composted" manures I've seen, it was prolly at least 85% black sand anyway.
I'm not being a S/A when I say it's not rocket science. All you need to do is get reasonably close to a 50% mineral fraction, and it would be better if you could use something that holds water and improves aeration/drainage. Highly porous material fits that bill pretty well, which is why Turface looks pretty attractive.
Ahhh - another facet. ;o) If it's not going to be your bed for long, I'd wonder about putting much $/effort into it to make it all it can be. You're going to end up needing around 60-70 cu ft of soil en total. There's prolly a little over 1 cu ft of material in a bag of Turface (I have the actual volume in my notes @ home, but can't access from wk). You're going to have to decide to what $/effort you want to go, but ideally you'd want a total of 30-40 cu ft of a mineral component in your RB soil.
Thought you'd like a progress report. Over a long 4-day weekend, I dug up and moved 1.5 cu. yards of the veggie blend from one property to another. I used my 5-gallon buckets for the transport. I believe the new single bed measures 4'-17 or 18' and is approximately 11" deep.
The veggie blend was very dry and sandy. I reviewed this thread and looked at the pic of your raised bed soil vs. mine. Are the little tan "pebbles" the Turface? If so, you do have much more than I have. Depending on $$ at SW Fertilizer, I might just purchase some to mix into the veggie blend. If it is too $$, can I substitute instead with the less expensive? Mechanic Shop Absorbent we were discussing?
The pic shows the second load of veggie blend soil being uploaded for movement to the new location. I drove the truck, and manage to put only minimal damage on the trailer (I still can't back it up...) ^^_^^
Bless your heart! ;o) You're not afraid of work - are you!? An admireable quality.
"Can I substitute instead with the less expensive Mechanic Shop Absorbent we were discussing?"
It might even be a better choice, Linda. It holds more water & has a little better CEC. I know the NAPA DE (part #8822) is stable. Check other calcined DEs or calcined clays by freezing overnight & thawing. If it's not mush, you're good to go. Some are using a CarQuest product in container soils (lots of good info here: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg062030238912.html ). Since you're looking for more water retention in a raised bed though, the finer NAPA product would prolly suit you better.
I'm smiling about the trailer thing, but it's not a snicker or laughing AT you because you can't back up a trailer (yet). It's more like the smile I might get when I see someone not afraid to involve themselves in a project, even if they have to learn as they go, fueled mainly by enthusiasm. So picture a really little smile on a guy who's nodding his head in approval while thinking "You go girl!"
Ok, Ya'll. I'll be over this weekend prepping that bed for seedlings, and I'll be sure to take pics.
I've been reading up on your suggestion of using the shop absorbent. Have you sampled or done research on the "Oil Dri" absorbent from Sam's Club? It's only $4.62 for a 50 lb. bag. If I get a chance, I may run over at lunch to see what the content is, and I'll snap a pic of the ingredients to let you review it.
If it's not something you'd use, I'll go with the Napa DE recommendation, and scout around for the best price.
How much DE will I need to add a 3" depth to the 4'x18' RB? In this case, how many 25 or 50 lb bags?
If it's calcined DE and stable, it should work fine, but there's a hitch I forgot to mention. In containers, it's not important if the DE dust kills small soil life, but you might wish to reconsider using it in beds because of that. DE is like tiny glass crystals that cuts through insect skin, leaving them to dehydrate. I honestly can't say that I'm sure of what effect it has on soil life - partly because moisture diminishes it's effectiveness. Your call.
50 lbs of calcined DE is about 2 cu ft. 50 lbs of Turface is 1.4 cu ft. You'd need 18 cu ft to fill a 4'x18' area to a 3" depth. ;o)
So, DE in my RB might harm my earthworms, and the microorganisms that eat the decomp from the homemade compost? The microorganisms that the earthworms eat could be harmed? I LOVE MY EARTHWORMS. I HAVE HUGE WORMS...
Quoting:The sort of it is: For gardens, add lots of organic matter on a regular basis - finished compost is best because there is little issue associated with N immobility as finished compost breaks down slowly.
So, I should dig up my homemade compost pile full of decomping leaves, veggie peel slush, coffee grinds, and shredder paper, and transporting it to mix in with the garden blend? LMK.
You want your raised bed soils to be at least 50% mineral - otherwise you'll be seeing lots of shrinkage. I wouldn't add too much unfinished compost to the raised beds, because then you'll REALLY see a lot of shrinkage AND N immobilization.
I just read through all this in one sitting...c/p'ing the most important info from Al...
Quite educational--even if i do not know what all the abbreviations mean...might be a good idea to at leas identify them once??
I will be starting a BIG (4'x24') raised bed this fall. here's my plan...
Cutting down a stand of old evergreens to the very lowest point possible. Then--putting down a dbl. layer of commercial weed bloc...Then--Putting down a 2"-3" layer of some kind of rock (need advice what kind of rock would be best, please)--then filling the 24" high RB with a load of good topsoil, whatever compost I have from my composter--about 2 lg. storage totes full--and about 8 bags od semi-composted, leaves from last fall.
My goal is to make this a veggie bed...I have NO idea where I can purchase some of the things Tapla mentioned above. I am also NOT going to all this work myself...too old! My 2 back-yard neighbors will be doing the hauling...
I know tomatoes love calcium..Would ground up egg shells fill the bill? Would they be acceptable as the mineral component? Wish I knew where I could grind up Oyster shells! That would be great!
In a very gentle way (I'm saying) you're misinterpreting some things & probably don't have the whole picture. You can save yourself effort & expense by skipping the landscape fabric and stone. Just lay down several layers of newspaper & then start with the soil. Tomatoes don't love Ca any more than other plants do - it's just that we see evidence of Ca(lcium) deficiencies that is most often out own doing, in BER (blossom end rot). Egg shells are CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) which is very insoluble over the short term, so they don't help in containers and only marginally in mineral soils. They need to be ground extremely fine in order to be of value. By a mineral component, I meant the soil should have the largest fraction materials like topsoil, coarse sand, Turface ... something that doesn't break down, like the organic fraction will.
MGGS - Miracle Grow Garden Soil
FWIW - for what it's worth
TTYL - talk to you later
BER - Blossom End Rot
IOW - in other words
LOL - laughing out loud
SWC - self watering Container
RBs - Raised Beds
DE - Diatomateous Earth
S/A - Smart A##
CEC- I don't know this one..
BYE - bye...
The reason I was thinking of laying down the commercial weed blosck and the stones is that it will not be possible to dig up the roots of the old Evergreens...And--mostly b/c tey are, forever, entangled with the roots of the 2 Maples...
I KNOW that Maple roots will send up roots through anything...in ONE season--the soil will be filled with them.
That is why I want to lay down the Weed Block...
This bed will be anywhere from 15'-20' from the 2 trees. The canopy of the trees will extend over the bed...
I am aware that heavy layers of Newspapers will be just as good as weed block in BEDS----BUT--this bed will be too large and too deep for me to change what I have put down at the base. So--I have to do somethinfg more "permanent"...I also mis-spelled the depth of the bed. IO plant o have it about 14" deep...NOT 24"...Sorry.
Have you ever heard of the product called "Chesapeake Blue"????
It was the most advertised product here to eliminate Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes...
What is/was it? it was the end product of composting all the Crab shells (we consume here by the millions) and was touted to be the best thing ever for tomatoes...In my thinking--shells=Calcium...
Unfortunately--the people in the area where this recycling plant was, were complained enough about the odor that they closed down the production of Ch. Blue. A HUGE loss to us gardeners!
This was a local product and you may not have heard of it...
I will keep an eye on this Post to see what else i can learn...
Bed time for me now! Up at 4AM tomorrow to go to work.
Gita - Lots of things are touted as the best ever for ...
I'm going to add a qualifier as I say this: we know that a deficiency of Ca while fruits are forming causes BER. Normally this is not due to an actual shortage of Ca in the soil (solution); rather, it is due to early season rampant growth, where the growth rate outstrips the plants ability to supply Ca fast enough. This accelerated growth period can be further stimulated by excessively supplying N - over-fertilizing, or an erratic water supply. There is actually very little you can do about it, other than making sure your plants DO have a Ca supply and that you don't over-fertilize or water erratically. As growth slows and Ca uptake catches up to demand, the problem usually goes away on its own. While there are a number of other issues usually listed as causal of BER, they are probably best considered as minor contributors.
If you're using a commercially prepared soil, almost undoubtedly it's been pH adjusted with dolomitic lime, which should supply a season-long supply of Ca/Mg. If you're making your own soils, it's a good idea to include either lime or gypsum as a Ca source, depending on which is more appropriate (based on the pH of the soil ingredients). Most soluble fertilizers (like MG, Peter's, Schultz, others ...) don't contain Ca or Mg, making it extra important that we take steps to ensure availability of those elements via other sources, which would be lime (supplies both) or gypsum (CaSO4) + Epsom salts (MgSO4).
I will only ask this once I promise, butr you can all just accept that I am sitting in the back of the class for a good reason. I planted 9 roses, two trees, one lilac, and a peach tree in containers. I mixed mgps with cannadian peat moss 50/50 and some soil conditioner that looks like little bits of coal. Now I realise that I have completely messed up the dirt in those pots. If I take it out of the pot and repot with what I have mixed with fine pine bark and some turface will the plants actually live? (will I actually live after all that work!) I used pots because I cannot dig in my dirt, it is too hard for me to do. Please tell me that they aren't all going to die ?
All very good information...I will lock it in my brain--somewhere...
I do not really fertilize my Tomato plants at all--I know is is not good for them. NO MG--NO Shultz--NO Peters--or such. NO MG soils...Just good old garden soil...
I try to amend my soil with Humus and manure (the one in bags at HD), but this year--I actually emptied my composter and had good, home-made compost to dig in.
I do not eat a lot of eggs (just me around here...), but I do save all the egg shells I have. When I have a lot--I blend them into a coarse mix and dig some in for my Tomatoes for the CA.
This Summer has been hard on tomatoes everywhere...I hear about it in so many Posts...
The endless, close to a 100 degree heat for close to 2 months now--and lack of regular rain...it has been horrible.
I water my beds almost every day. So, they are never totally parched.
The only thing that might be in the negative area is that I have used this small bed (5 tomatoes, max) now for about 4-5 years. I just do not have anywhere else to plant them. Actually--I cannot say that i really know WHY I plant them at all????? When the harvest comes--I haul the extras off to work and give them away.
I live alone--am a senior--many years over--so I just cannot eat all that much of anything...
IF this heat ever breaks--maybe i can urge my "helpers" to get busy on this future bed...
Ok. I'm just about ready to make
Something happen here. The soil was bone dry this morning, so I leveled and watered for 15 minutes.
Tapla, much later today (8 hours) I dug a hole to bury some scraps and the soil had dried out again. What do I need to add? The shop absorbent w/o DE so I don't hurt any worms? There are no worms in the bed so far.
I mixed up EVERYTHING I ever grew anything in! Which includes the following:
Miracle Grow Potting Mix
Black Kow Composted Manure
Bocabob's Coco Coir
A commercially purchased Rose garden blend
My homemade compost
(comprised of layered shredder paper, coffee grinds, veggie peels,
Some leaf mold
Uh, now that I review the list, it does look rather "organic," huh?
So, even though a shovelful seems to be pretty "sandy," there's not enough "umph" to hold the water? Please send recommendation.
I would add some fine Turface (finer than Turface MVP) and/or some fine play sand, making sure the sand wasn't salty. Native topsoil, if it's not too coarse, would also work well. Original recommendation was at least 50% mineral fraction. ;o)
Carminator1 seems to have the exact opposite problem as I have with her growing medium. She's got mineral fraction, but wants to add unfinished compost. I told her to read this discussion, paying attention to "shrinkage" due to unfinished compost breaking down...
Looks like I'm going to be back to strictly CONTAINER gardening after all, this season, since my transitional move has transitioned once again. I won't be planting in that big raised bed after all.
Here's my NEW question regarding container soils. I've usually grown my brassicas in my homemade eBuckets, and my collards and mustard greens in my patented Earthboxes (like the SWCs). The base medium has always been MG potting MIX (no soil in containers -- got it!). At first, I started off with 100% MG potting mix. Then, when I learned brassicas love organic mediums, I started mixing in 50% MG Potting mix, 25% homemade compost, 25% Black Kow composted manure. I got great results until I inadvertently introduced that garden blend SOIL into the "mix" and it started compacting hard as cement. I'll be starting over COMPLETELY, since everything's been dumped into that one raised bed.
How would you proceed for building a planting medium for organic loving brassicas growing in 5-gallon self watering eBuckets?
Also, I might as well just direct sow (DS) my brassica seeds into my eBuckets right off the bat. But, I've always used commercial seedlings and have never DSed anything before.
Will the planting medium you recommend in question #1 accommodate direct sowing the seeds in that medium?
1) You don't get as much compaction in SWCs when you use peat-based soils as you do in conventional containers watered from the top. The key to best success is having a soil that wicks adequately w/o getting too soggy. Since you asked me how I would proceed, I can tell you that I would probably start with a mix of 5 parts partially composted pine bark fines, and add 3-4 parts of peat, and 1 part of perlite, along with 1/2 cup of dolomitic lime/cu ft of soil. How much peat I added in relation to the bark fraction would depend on how fine the bark is, and how many fines it contains. The first couple of times you made the soil, it would be largely trial & error - adding a little more peat to the mix until you think the wicking is right. Subsequent batches would be more by 'feel' - like my mom made bread - no recipe - all 'feel'.
Alternately, you could just use your potting soil as the peat fraction & reduce the lime by half.
If you get the wicking right, it's likely all you might need to do is mist the top of the damp soil until the seeds germinate.
What I meant was you could use the 5 parts of bark along with 3-4 parts of potting soil and a little perlite & lime, but do whatever you're comfortable with. I think the more highly aerated soil would yield better results, but it depends on what kind of effort you're willing to put into it. Lol - though that's kind of a silly statement - based on the enthusiasm & ambition you've already demonstrated. ;o)
When I mentioned "your potting soil", I was referring to the MG potting mix you had referred to:
5 parts of partially composted pine bark (or bark that is uncomposted, but in small pieces - like in the picture below
3-4 parts of peat or the MG potting soil
1 part perlite
1/4 cup dolomitic lime/cu ft of soil if you use the MG - 1/2 cup/ cu ft if you use peat
The bark at 3, 6, and 9 are ok, but a little finer would be better for SWCs.
I just want to say that I have never gotten so confused as I have reading Gymgirl and Tapla. It seems they are tracking each other ok but I just can't remember what was said ten posts above the one I happen to be reading at the time. It is just my brain doesn't work like that - I am a very serial person (engineer) and Gymgirl seems to be the epitome of the multiprocessor type. Despite all that, I have to say that this has been a real HOOT and I have thoroughly enjoyed it!
I think I am just going to grow my fig trees in a mix of fine wood, worm pile castings and sandy soil. As Tapla said long ago and far away (above) figs are genetically very tolerant.
Ah yes - Figs ARE genetically very vigorous, but Liebig's Law still applies. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air, water, light, temperature, soil/media, and nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing the most deficient factor will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination of the factors and increasing them, individually or in various combinations, can lead to toxicity for the plant.
Because figs are vigorous, they will tolerate growing conditions (to a degree) that other plants might be unable to tolerate ... but that doesn't mean that less than ideal conditions will see them growing to their potential, or humming along at the level of vitality they are capable of.
It is actually a plant’s vitality that we can hold sway over, not its vigor. ’Vigor’ is constant. Mother Nature provides every plant its own, predetermined level of vigor by building it into the individual plant. Vigor is the genetic potential every plant is encoded with, and its measure is the plant's ability to resist stress and strain. Vitality, in contrast, is variable - a dynamic condition that is the measure of a plant's ability to cope with the hand it's dealt, culturally speaking. A good way to look at the difference between vigor and vitality is to look to genetics for the level of vigor and to things cultural for the plant’s vitality. It's up to us to provide the cultural conditions that will ensure our plants' vitality. Vigor and vitality are distinctly different, and a good case could be made that they are unrelated, but there is no need to delve deeper into that point. A plant can be very vigorous and still be dying because of poor vitality. Far more often than not the term 'vigor' or 'vigorous' is misapplied, where in their stead the terms 'vital' or 'vitality' would have been more appropriate. Poor vitality is what we witness when our plants are growing under stress or strain and in decline.
Please take my offering more as from the pedant than the preacher. ;o)
tapla wrote:When I mentioned "your potting soil", I was referring to the MG potting mix you had referred to:
5 parts of partially composted pine bark (or bark that is uncomposted, but in small pieces - like in the picture below
3-4 parts of peat or the MG potting soil
1 part perlite
1/4 cup dolomitic lime/cu ft of soil if you use the MG - 1/2 cup/ cu ft if you use peat
The bark at 3, 6, and 9 are ok, but a little finer would be better for SWCs.
This thread is a little aged but hopefully someone might respond (ideally Tapla or Gymgirl). I have been reading some of the many, many threads about soil in containers and have learned A LOT!! I completely see the reason for a gritty mix and will be searching for some pine bark here pretty soon for a potted hydrangea. (Sidenote: I know it's a gamble to have a hydrangea in a pot, but it is a large pot, and I'm willing to try)
My question/concern is that in the Dallas Metroplex we get similar heat that Gymgirl gets in Houston, just much much drier. It is no surprise not to get rain for a month or so during the summer. So with this super efficient, fast draining soil...wouldn't it dry out much faster? Unfortunately, I can't tend to my plant all day because nobody pays me for that, so what kind of watering schedule are we looking at for 95-105 degree weather?
HC, thanks for revitalizing this thread. I am not sure what your question is here but your post made me think of something new about using wood chips. I had planned to line the bottoms of my raised beds with cardboard, then several or six inches of wood chips (Western Red Cedar) this year based on some information I have been reading about here. I have an electric McCollock grinder which could be used to pulverize these same wood chips to be used in container mixes as well in my outdoor manure vermicompost bins. After toying with this idea of pulverizing these wood chips I have come back to this forum to come up with some ideas on percentage mixtures for various potting mixes. Hopefully your reposting here HC will stimulate some more information in this fascinating posting.
FMS - ultimately you have control over the water retention in your soil if you make your own. By choosing finer bark or increasing the peat, you can gain a LOT of additional water retention, but what weighs in the balance is plant growth/vitality. Your plants will undoubtedly have a much better opportunity to grow to their potential in a soil that requires watering daily, but not everyone is willing to be inconvenienced, so many are willing to trade a little potential for the convenience of watering every 2-3 days instead of every day. Personally, I have to make the watering circuit daily anyway, so it matters little if I have to water 200 or 300 containers - 20 minutes. I'm all about working toward maximizing vitality - the rest just seems to fall into place when I remain focused on the plant's health. Everyone is different, with a different set of priorities, so EMMV.
MR - I'd like to try to answer your question(s), but I'm unsure what you're asking?
I am enjoying working with your 5:1:1 (in my case, 3:1:1) container mix as much as Bocabob's coir! It is sooooo clean on the hands!
And, I am totally stoked over how much the MG potting mix is stretching! To date, I've potted up five 5-gallon eBuckets, two 6-gallon containers, and Five 10-gallon containers, and I still have 1/4 of a 2.65 cu ft bag of MG potting mix left. Have used less than 1/2 bag of perlite, too.
QUESTION: How often should I fertIlize with the water soluble MG 24-8-16?
I've tried to read this thread as it pertains to raised beds, though I'm not sure I understood it all.
I have a question for Tapla or anyone else with advice:
I'm building three raised beds this spring, for the purpose of growing vegetables and herbs.
Today, I visited a local nursery to get some pricing on soils. They do sell a mixture of top soil, compost and bark. But they seemed to think that mixture was only for use in beds for flowering plants and bushes.
And that for a veggie raised bed, I would just want the top soil and compost.
I can't think of a reason you can't use the same soil for flowerbeds as you use for veg garden, unless they are thinking it's too coarse for good planting from seed --- vegetable gardening might be thought of as more 'seeding' and flower bed as 'planting from potted plants'
When I build my raised beds for the fall, I'll be using Tapla's rationale of a mixture containing topsoil & pine bark, and maybe some sand.
I've learned from him that a well-aerated, well-draining planting medium must contain a non-organic component to it that will not break down or collapse/compress. That's basically what the inorganics in his recipe does -- provides "structure" to the medium. The "chunky" stuff creates air pockets.
Then, he adds all the organic amendments the law allows, for factors like nutrients and a playground for the good soil life, and earthworms, etc.
Finally, he fertilizes on a very regular basis.
It a minute or so, he'll come along and either confirm or correct what I've tried to convey above...
I've actually read this thread through again for approximately the third time. :-) It's all starting to sink in and I just can't thank everyone enough, and especially Al, for taking this kind of time to share knowledge.
I am definitely going to be ordering the three part mix (topsoil, compost and pine bark) from the nursery for at least part of the mixture.
I am planning one or two no-dig beds that are four feet across, perhaps 8 feet long and will be 20 inches deep. I'm laying cardboard and wet newspapers at the bottom, then some chicken wire to keep the voles out.
My remaining questions are this:
1. I think I am understanding that sand and Turface (and topsoil) serve the same purpose, which is as a mineral component to prevent breakdown into too fine of pieces. And that I want the mineral component to be 50%. Is that accurate?
If so, I already have some sand, there is 1/3 topsoil in the 3-part mix I am going to order from the nursery and I will get the remainder (to reach a fraction of 50% mineral component) from some Turface.
2. Should I add some lime to the mix?
3. Because my beds are 20 inches deep, this is all going to get somewhat expensive. Are there any downsides to layering some browns (straw or dried leaves) and greens (fresh grass, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps) at the bottom of the bed so I don't have to put so much soil in?
If I do this, I will mix in sand/turface in those layers to maintain the mineral component??
If this is okay, do you have any advice on how many inches of that I can do before I need to start my official soil mixture (the three part bark/topsoil/compost mix from the nursery plus sand/turface to reach a mineral component of 50%).
Water behaves differently in the ground than it does in containers, and for all intents and purposes it behaves pretty much the same way in a raised bed as it does in a garden, the only significant difference being that in a raised bed the water pushing down from the top can cause excess water to easily move laterally across the surface of the soil the bed is built ON - especially if the reason for the raised bed was a hard clay soil.
You can grow in raised beds with soils like Miracle-Gro and similar ... if you WANT to, but since the earth acts like a giant wick and literally sucks the moisture from them, you will usually have trouble keeping peaty soils hydrated. In the same vein, soils that are predominantly organic components (compost, pine bark, peat, etc) pretty much behave in the same way - hard to keep hydrated.
You can see the soil I have in my raised beds below. It's a wonderfully healthy soil made mostly of Pine bark fines that have composted in place, + some reed/sedge peat + some sand and some Turface. You could toss in a little composted manure too, if you can find a decent product.
Critiquing my own soil, even though stuff grows like crazzy in it and it's full of the denizens that always inhabit healthy soils, and I can plunge my hand into it around 10" easily, it shrinks too quickly and I need to water too often. I should have bulked up on a larger mineral fraction instead of it being mostly organic. More sand, topsoil, Turface fines ... all would have offered the same excellent growth. I've been fixing that as I go by adding the old soil from my gritty mix repots, which has a lot of Turface and crushed granite in it - permanent structure in these ingredients.
So - I would suggest a raised bed soil would be about 70-80% mineral components as the structural base - topsoil, sand, fine Turface ... and 20-30% other organic ingredients to make up the rest. It won't matter much what the organic ingredients ARE, because at that low % they won't affect the structure much as it relates to drainage. I think that finished compost or pine bark fines are an excellent addition because neither will significantly immobilize nitrogen (even if it does, that's fixable). Reed/sedge peat is another good choice.
We were typing at the same time - but you're better on the keyboard so pulled ahead. ;o)
1) Yes - you understand that part. Just remember that the larger the organic fraction, the more and faster the shrinkage of the volume of soil in the beds. 50% mineral should probably be considered the upper limit - unless you are planting only annual plantings and are ok with lots of shrinkage - then you can use a higher % of OM..
2) If you're buying premixed soil, ask if it's limed or if it needs it. Hopefully, the soil maker will have some sort of idea about the Ca content of the mineral fraction he used. If he doesn't, lightly lime with dolomite - maybe 3 lbs/yd.
3) The only downside to adding ingredients that will break down quickly is the N immobilization (ties up nitrogen) and shrinkage will be increased as it gasses out. I probably would mix the same soil you'll use on top of it into the OM. It will all disappear within a year or two anyway, and whatever soil was above it will move down to occupy its spacial position. Plus, soil inhabitants will do the incorporation of most of it anyway. You can sort of add as much OM at the bottom as you want, but you don't want to add so much it putrefies into a slimy mess that blocks drainage & starts to ferment, producing abundant methane, sulfurous gasses, and lots of CO2.
Keep in mind that the more OM you start with in your soil, the more you'll need to add on a yearly basis to maintain the volume. And if you start with an all mineral soil and start adding OM, say 10% at a time, the graft of the quality of the soil will rise sharply to about 20-25%, then sort of flat-line. IOW, you're not going to get much bang for your buck by adding much more than 25% OM to your mineral fraction.
I'm only growing veggies in my raised beds. At some point, I'd like to introduce some flowers into my veggie beds, but for now, it's all veggies in the raised beds I will be constructing for the fall (this discussion is invaluable to me, since I'm starting from scratch.)
I know the organics in the soil attract "the denizens that always inhabit healthy soils". So, ideally, how much organic component should be added to "refresh" the raised beds every season? And, If the structure is stable, wouldn't just fertilizing the raised beds with the 3-1-2 be enough for the veggies?
You would add whatever the shrinkage was. If the soil was 8" deep and it shrunk 3" in a year's time, you would add 3" of compost or bark to make up for what's lost. You can see that, unless you're clearing the plant material out of the beds each year, incorporating that much OM might be difficult. I notice it so much because my raised beds are primarily nursery beds where I'm growing on woody material for bonsai. The roots stay in the same place & the soil shrinks - leaving roots exposed. This is no problem for the plant physiologically, but it does slow me down in transitioning the plants from the ground to pots. That's why I mentioned a lot of OM is fine if you're all about annuals & 1-year veggies, but you get lots of shrinkage with the high OM soils when you're growing perennials that you may not like.
You could play with these fractions a little if you wanted to, but I think most people would do back flips (unless they have a bad back - eh?) over a mix close to
4 parts good topsoil or builders sand
1 part pine bark fines
1 part finished compost or reed/sedge peat
You could toss in a part of vermiculite for water retention, and if you don't mind spending the bucks, a part or two of one of the fine Turface products (not the powdered clay, but a granular product finer than MVP or Allsport. Reduce the topsoil/sand component) would really kick it up a notch. ;o)
I should've said raised beds "that I WILL BE constructing for my fall veggie garden." They don't exist yet!
As with my eBuckets, I will be building my raised bed garden completely from scratch. So, whatever recipe you give me, I'll be shooting to fill the beds with. To date, I've filled my eBuckets and containers with your 3:1:1 container mix for my tomatoes, Bell Peppers, okra, and eggplants.
Come September, I'll use those same eBuckets to grow my cabbages, broccoli, & cauliflowers in. I want to use raised beds to grow the root crops of turnips, beets, & carrots, as well as spinach & lettuce. I'll grow mustard and Collard greens in patented Earthboxes, most likely filling them with the same 3:1:1 mix.
If you could give me a raised bed mix I can plunge my hands down 10" into, those root crops (especially the carrots) will be exceedingly happy.
Only three questions:
1. Do I still need to sift the PBFs that go in the RBs? I'm sifting through 1/2" screen for the 3:1:1 container mix. Out of the 22 buckets of PBF I started with, looks like ~6 bucket's worth isn't making it through the 1/2" screen...
2. Can I use Black Kow Composted Manure?
3. What's Reed/Sedge peat?
Here's a pic of the screened out PBFs below, to give you an idea of the leftover size.
Take a close look at the manure and make sure it isn't primarily black sand. I bought some "manure" a few years ago and that's pretty much all it was. Had NPK %s listed as .05-.05-.05.
Reed/sedge peat is lake shore muck, raked from the edges of ponds & shallow lakes. It is basically the decomposing reeds/sedges/cattails ... that that grow there. I like it better than sphagnum peat for amending soils. Compost works as well.
The Turface/builders sand/vermiculite serves as the mineral fraction, taking the place of the topsoil. You could use screened topsoil in place of the builders sand if you want, but none of the stuff I've seen in bags has been very good, in my experience. You'll only need to replenish the OM yearly or every 2 years with enough PBFs to bring the volume back to what it was previously.
Today, at work, I had a call from a woman who wanted to know where she could get
"Rock Dust"---aka "Galcial Gravel"---aka "Basalt"...I am the phone operator at the HD I work in.
In my mind--I was like--AHA! That is what YOU are talking about!!!!
Trying to be helpful-we chatted a while till I could understand what she was looking for.
We do not carry it...She was expecting HD to be able to just "get it in" because she wanted it.
I told her it was not likely...She seemed to be quite well informed...
A man from Garden had come in and he--hearing out conversation--started to google
"Rock Dust" on the other computer.
Well! Up came Darius d 'Ryies article from April of 2008 on "Rock Dust"...
It is very informative. I printed it out--and also e-mailed it to the woman who had just called.
I promised her I would seek info. on DG where that could be ordered from--or gotten.
She lives in the same area as I do--Baltimore. Now I owe it to her to seek some more information
on this. I need help!
WHERE would one get "Rock Dust"--or "Galcial Gravel"????? In our area.
Hi, Gita - the material I was talking about (Turface Pro League) is comprised of baked clay granules, fired to such high temps the clay granules become extremely porous and fuse together - different than rock dust, which is simply finely pulverized rock powder, which is said to remineralize the soil w/o the need for fertilizer (other than N) because in its very fine size it is broken down into elemental forms by bacteria and fungi faster than the larger mineral particles in the soil.
I don't even know where to get "Turface"...What kind of a place carries that?
How about the Rock Dust--or the Glacier Gravel? I am trying to help this customer out.
Turning to the AMAZING DG that knows everything...and I will be a "hero" if I can tell her...
She was an, almost, 80 year old lady. How can I not help her???
Would Contractor's Sand work OK? We have that at HD...
Not sure of it's source, though...Really rough, small gravels sand---Sometimes used as a
base for laying pavers--or, maybe mixing into concrete...
We have Rock Quaries around here...also some concrete recycling places...they make "stuff" out
of builder's scrap...Probably too Lime'ey...I think many of ir is used in roadway construction...
Gita - they're just different products with some similarities in appearance - like sugar & salt, so it's difficult to compare them to each other. Turface is added as a structural element & is inert. Rock dust is purported to add elemental nutrients to the soil as it mineralizes, though it does have a minor impact on soil structure.
To be honest, if I was concerned about the health of my raised bed soil and wanted to ensure an adequate supply of all the essential elements plants need for normal growth, I would probably use a micro-nutrient preparation like Micromax or Microblast.
Mary - the quick-dry should work fine. You want it to be coarse enough that it doesn't clog soil pores but still fine enough that water won't run right through. The Turface MVP fines I add to my beds is about the same texture as builder's sand - maybe a little larger. It's a rather small fraction of the soil, and it's in a raised bed, so particle size isn't as critical as it would be for a container soil. Where you gain a benefit from these materials is from their internal porosity. They soak up and hold water in internal pores, yet still allow good drainage.
Gitagal wrote:A man from Garden had come in and he--hearing out conversation--started to google
"Rock Dust" on the other computer.
Well! Up came Darius d 'Ryies article from April of 2008 on "Rock Dust"...
It is very informative. I printed it out--and also e-mailed it to the woman who had just called.
I promised her I would seek info. on DG where that could be ordered from--or gotten.
She lives in the same area as I do--Baltimore. Now I owe it to her to seek some more information
on this. I need help!
WHERE would one get "Rock Dust"--or "Galcial Gravel"????? In our area.
I suppose it depends on how it got broken down & dry. If it dried out in the open and had some rain on it to leach the salts, you can probably just incorporate it or use it to top/side-dress. If it smells like ammonia when it is wet. I would reconsider incorporating & either allow it to compost further before incorporating or use it as a top-dressing/mulch.
I am in the process of digging down four of my 4' x 8' raised beds. The material which I am removing is a combination of rock and 'rock dust' as I call it. I have been screening out the rock and saving this sandy appearing material which I have been using to raise the walk ways round the raised beds. Once this rock dust is rained upon it hardens into brick when dried. I saved the top soil mix used previously in these beds and was surprised to see a two inch layer on top of the cardboard placed in the bottom of these raised bed before adding the previous soil/composed manure growing media mix. Chipping through this two inch layer was worse than chipping through the rock and rock sand. I still have some of this rock dust or clay as you will in the removed rock and rock dust, and I was considering grating this material with other components mentioned here to produce the next generation of growing media. I am guessing here, but if this sand like material that sets up like clay should be micro-nutrient rich, and with proper mixing a portion of this material could or should be added back into the growing media mix. I have a good supply of vermicomposted cow/hay material and access to free wood chaps which I can double grind as well. Ground alfalfa hay or grass is another option for this mix. Builder’s sand should be available at the local sand and gravel. We mine a good deal of the vermiculite marketed here in Montana so that is readily available as well. With all that in mind I should be able to come up with a formula which can provide me with approximately 128 cubic feet of material I will need to refill these beds once the digging down process is completed.
I am also considering an initial layer of cardboard, several inches of wood chip with a soaker hose inserted in this layer. And thirdly a several inch layer of fresh horse manure with grated alfalfa hay mixed in. The final layer of the growing media should run about a foot deep, more or less.
mraider3, WOW, your long informative post was interesting to me. Your idea of burying a soaker hose was great - I never had though of that to keep the compost moist. (they call that functional fixation I think)
I had always wondered how vermiculite was made - I remember (I think) it being called "puffed mica" as in Quaker Puff wheat sparkies, I guess. I think that implied heating slabs of mica in a low pressure chamber. We have lots of mica throughout the SE; I even pass a road called Mica Mine Rd on the way home (but have never gone down it as it is residential now.) I have used vermiculite since about 1953 to root plants in and still use it.
This is still work in progress Paul. The growing mix is still in doubt as to a formula. I have posted again on this subject in the intensive gardening in raised beds. I am leaning more to available materials without purchasing any additives. I do have a fair supply of vermiculite which I had considered using in the mix but had not made that call as yet. The builder’s sand is also in question, especially if I use any of the sifted clay material from digging down in the raised beds, or recycled material from last season’s raised beds. Although this clay material looks a lot like sand, last season it drifted down in the beds forming a hard clay layer on the bottom of the beds.
I have watched with interest the growing media mixes which have been posted in the latest postings on intensive gardening but they all seem to be mostly inorganic and around twenty percent compost material. My practice in the past has been to go much higher on the organics based on my soils experience in the garden. I may be wrong here in my conclusion but I will definitely go with the twice ground wood chips and alfalfa hay or grass as an additive, and use at least fifty percent well aged cow manure with some straw mixed in. I think there is sufficient inorganic material already in the garden soil or recycled bed mix from last season so I doubt that builder’s sand or vermiculite would improve the situation. The grated material coming from digging down the raised beds works nicely on the walk ways around the beds, however this rock dust, so to speak, probably contains large amounts of micro nutrients, so some may be added to the mix as well. I rely on texture as a guide to mixing these components rather than a formula which is probably sheer guess work on my part but it will have to do for now.
Gymgirl, I thought I answered that question in another posting, but it’s approximately fifty percent. With the changes I am making this season I don't really know what to expect. I am curious as to what your thoughts are concerning shrinkage Linda. Since you asked the question I have been trying to decide how much of the various medias to add to each two foot deep bed. Although I plan to use both bottom and surface watering in these beds I would like to fill the beds to within several inches of the tops which will be covered with old window panes at least at night for a month or so. I expect shrinkage will occur more quickly at the beginning of the process but here again I can't be entirely sure of that.
I asked about shrinkage based on Al's discussion of building a soil foundation out of a higher percentage of mineral content from the beginning. This non-organic mineral content would provide a basic structure to the soil and should not collapse/compress as fast as a structure built predominately of a higher organic content that is in a constant state of breakdown. Per Al (and I hope I get this right!) the higher mineral content won't break down as fast - generally a 2 year span before having to add anything major to build it back up. And, you would still add the organic components (your compost, alfalfa hay?, etc.), just as a lower fraction of the total.
Al put together the recipe below for me. It starts with at least 5 parts of the double grind pine bark fines as the basic structure. I'll still add the other parts for drainage and moisture retention, and I'll definitely add some organic components. But, the chunky pine bark fines will comprise the basic building block and the larger portion of the soil makeup.
Quoting:RAISED BED SOIL RECIPE
5 parts pine bark fines
2 parts builders sand
1-2 parts Turface Pro League (or save the fines screened from MVP if you use the gritty mix)
1-2 parts vermiculite
1 part compost or reed/sedge peat
I notice you found a source for the DGPBFs (double grind pine bark fines) in your area. That's MORE than half the battle!!! It took me almost 4 months to locate an acceptable product here, and then, Al found it for me via the internet yellow pages. And, it's right near my home!
What I am liking most is that the PBFs is extremely cost effective (for me), especially when I'll need 1.73 yards to fill my new raised 4' x 10' bed. One yard costs $30. That means I'll not spend a fortune on large bags of MG potting mix ($12.50/per)! And builder's sand is cheap, too! So, all in all, even if this is an experiment, it's certainly a cost effective one for me! ^^_^^
Thank you for posting the above. I will print it out for whenever I get someone to build my bed...
What is MVP?
Your picture above---Is that what you call PineBark fines? Looks more like coarse
Pine Bark Mulch. Yes? No?
I was under the impression that "fines" are the really small bits (fine?) of ground pine bark bits.
I have seen it in some garden centers...sold in bags, like regular mulch. The bits are, maybe,
12" big--overall...A nice potting mix additive...
Builders sand is sold at the HD . In bags...Not sure what it is made from--someone in
garden said it is ground up Granite...I am sure there is a lot of waste when making
Granite Counter tops...maybe that is where it comes from?
Would Granite provide all the micro nutrients Al wrote about?
Thanks--Sorry I am so "dense"...maybe my brain is 2 parts builders sand...teee...heee...
Right now, I am sifting my double grind pine bark fines through 1/2" hardware cloth. I am using from dust size to no more than nickel size bark to mix Al's 5:1:1 container mix for my eBuckets and self-watering containers with built-in reservoirs.
What I posted is the larger pine bark pieces that I have sifted out. I posted that picture to show Mraider3 that these larger pieces can either be reground (so I can resift and use the sizes I need for my container mix) or thrown into the raised bed as a structural base for Al's raised bed mix recipe!
Here's the pine bark fines I keep for my container mix after sifting. That's a dime and a nickel. The fines go from dust to right at or just barely above that nickel size. It reminds you of the MG potting mix, only without the spongy-"ness". I love working with it because it is almost as clean as Bocabob's coir!
Thanks, Linda--It does clarify it a bit...
Still seems a lot more work than I am willing to do. For one--I do not have a sifting
mechanism of any kind,,,Nor a grinder-----
I am afraid, IF i go this route--I will have to pay dearly for the finished product in some way.
Good to have the information, of course...
Not even there yet! My future raised bed sits bare--still...
One thing I have a lot of is composted, shredded leaves in black, plastic trash bags...
Maybe 10-12 of them. Two year-old bags--it is already awesome humus...
One year-old ones--half way there...still good organic material.
Compression and drainage seem to be the operative words here as I read your recipe. I have sufficient fines now to work into the mix so hopefully the compression will not affect drainage or plant root production which I believe were my problems in the past with the amount of clay in the soil. I refilled half of the horse manure compost bin the other day with about 20 to 25 percent wood chip fines and the texture looked really good. This looks like it will work for the recycled soil which I am working back into the beds as well. Great Idea!
MR - unless the wood chips are WELL-composted, you should expect a considerable amount of N immobilization, from the wood chips alone, not to mention other organic components, which you're going to have to make up for by using high-N fertilizers. I just see problems on the horizon with the mix of woodchips/hay/grass as such a significant fraction of the soil.
I'm listening Al. I haven't made any soil mixes as yet so there's time to make adjustments. I do not clearly understand the nitrogen mobilization process you are referring to here Al. Could you be more specific or give me some references I can review on this subject.
I am not concerned about composting with these wood chips as you suggest since this seems to be a fairly common practice among composters, however I do not typically use fertilizers and would prefer not to.
VORTREKER, great chart, will add that to my composting file. Where I am having my problems is with the soil mixing for the raised beds. I wasn't aware of adding wood chip fines would deplete the nitrogen available to the plants. I am still working on getting my head around this problem. I know many of the organic gardeners seem to shun the idea of using commercial fertilizers in their gardens and to some extent I would agree with this philosophy. I have used MG for jump starting some crops due to the shortness of our growing season here but did not plan on a steady diet of fertilizer additions to the raise beds, if any at all. The goal was simply to build the growing media out of what is readily available. Adding builder’s sand from a nearby sand and gravel is a relatively inexpensive way to increase the inorganic ratio, but for some reason this just didn't seem right to me. I need to work on that one.
mr--I must not understand what your asking.
The C:N ratio is one of your most important considerations whether the soil is in the ground or in a raised bed. Uncomposted "wood chip fines" or sawdust, or any wood, will "steal" nitrogen from the soil until it's 250-500 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen ratio comes closer to 10:1 during that time it will be robbing the plants in the soil of nitrogen.
Re-read Tapla's post
Bottom line is fresh wood in the ground, in a compost pile or in a raised bed will compost. (Rot)
Another night owl heard from. I'm not sure I understand what the difference is between bark and wood chip fines when it comes to nitrogen up take and I'm not necessarily agreeing with the principles here as they apply to what I am attempting to do. The comments here all make sense to me, however I am even more convinced to go ahead and try my experiment using a high volume of organics in my growing media including the wood chip fines. I don't base my decision on anything scientific or anything I have read it is simply my way of looking at things.
I could probably explain myself in terms of the Native American's: I see myself as the miniscule catfish which swims upstream in a warm current. I fairly often go against the flow in my terms of thinking and what I am considering probably makes no sense to anyone here, but I see the aged manure in terms of various forms of nitrogen which includes some ammonia and a greater amount of organic nitrogen. The addition of wood chip fines consuming nitrogen I agree with, but wouldn't these fine be more likely to consume the more readily available ammonia nitrogen which is probably in excess of what the plants would require anyway. And if the plants were not consuming sufficient nitrogen from the organic fraction of the manure wouldn't they show signs of nitrogen deficiently? In which case, the addition of a nitrogen fertilizer could be applied. I'm pretty sure I am going against the flow here but I want to give this a try.
A neighbor had a tree removed and the people told her that the sawdust would be good for her landscape. She knows I garden so asked me if I would like some sawdust too. I told her the sawdust would be good to use in two to three years once it had broken down, but in the meantime I had nowhere to store it.
I think it is best to avoid fresh sawdust unless you are prepared to wait for it to "age".
I bet I know the answer to my own question. I bet that bark breaks down so slowly that it's effect on the N is negligible. If you think about it, bark is sort of a more "stable" or stagnant wood whereas sawdust comes from live growing wood. I bet their decomp chemistry is way different.Does anyone on here know? Tapla, where are you?
The decomp would depend on the material itself and on the size. You know how smaller stuff breaks down faster in compost than larger pieces. Sawdust is many very small bits of wood. Bark is 'wood' that was grown to be more resistant to moisture and damage than the inner wood.
MR3 - Conifer bark is very rich in a lipid called suberin, which acts as a waterproofing for plants and makes it VERY difficult for soil micro-organisms to cleave the hydrocarbon chains that make up the bark. Because the bark breaks down so slowly, it doesn't cause the temporary N immobilization that many other amendments do (grass; straw; sawdust; wood chips containing sapwood, heartwood, hardwood bark; other ingredients that break down quickly. Your plants also may not appreciate the extra heat the ingredients you plan on using are sure to generate ... but I'm not trying to change your mind. Your call - just sort of responding to Steadycam's hail and affirming his/her? thinking.
Vortekker, I believe anything composting will temporarily tie up the N. That's why instructions always say, " well-rotted manure" or "completed compost" That would mean the process is close to finished and no longer needing to use the N so it would not be stolen from your plantings.
Im not an expert. I just happen to be a night owl. My understanding of composting is that the microbes that do the work of composting need carbon (brown things), Nitrogen, (green things) and Oxygen, (turning the pile to aerate) to live, just like we do. Alot of the brown things will eventually be broken down (metabolized) by the microbes, giving off CO2. That means some of the brownies go up into the atmosphere, just like when we breathe. The Nitrogen will remain about the same in the pile as the microbes die leaving their N for the next generation of microbes to use. We start out with about 30 to 1 ratio of brown to green and end up with about 10 to 1 ratio of browns to greens, or carbon to nitrogen. Since the micro-organisms need these things to live, if we dont have all the ingredients needed for them to live, the composting doesn't do much.
As you can see the N is "tied up" temporarily inside the microbes but when nutrient supplies are used up, the microbes die, giving the N back to the soil. If you put uncomposted material on your garden, for a while it will add no N to the soil because the microbes dont release it until they die. If a material is composting, it means the microbes are comsuming Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen from the materials. If the N is being used to compost, it is not available for your plants to use until the composting is finished. The microbes also generate heat energy as a waste product of their consumption of materials, just like we do and all animals do.
Well Al I'm slowly coming around on this thinking about the saw dust. The fines don't seem to have any bark residuals and there are some small chunks of wood in the mix. When I added this to the fresh horse manure I placed in one of my compost bins it seemed like a good mix. I plan to turn this material today and see if it is ready to start my first raised bed. Usually it take months to break down the horse manure in this bin without any other additions other than a bucket of red wigglers and it never seems to get very hot. What I intend to do in the first raised bed is lay down a layer of wood chips and place this horse manure/wood chip fine mix on top of that. Then I will add the final layer of growing mix. The growing mix will consist of recycled. Grated soil from the raised bed and some well aged cow manure/straw mixed in. I have located a source of fine washed sand which I am considering adding as well. The wood chip fines...well I don't know. I would appreciate any and all input on this idea as well as a suggested formula for these three or four ingredients in the growing media.
Vortrekker, I think the point is that you cant feed plants and compost at the same time with the same material, unless the material is composting very slowly like a bark mulch that gradually composts around your shrubs over a long period of time. The plants and the microbes would be competing for the same nitrogen. If you put grass clippings on your garden, it WILL compost, no way to stop it except to sterilize the soil which you would not want to do if you are going to grow in it.
I've seen the term "Nitrogen is 'tied up'" scores of times around the garden, but this is the first explanation of what it means, and how it works, that I've ever seen OR understood! Great job, and thanks a bunch!
Linda, who now understands why the compost pile is heating up in the first place (all those little microorganisms throwing off all that energy munching on the good stuff), why the plants have to wait until the microorganisms die to benefit from the good stuff the microorganisms leave behind (cause the nitrogen is finally released into the compost), and why I shouldn't be setting up the competition in my garden in the first place! (because the microorganisms will win temporarily, until they die, and my garden will suffer while waiting for some nutrients!)
Oh, Tapla ... need to build new screens and improve the way I attach the hardware cloth to the frames. Looked at your pics on post 7981475 from July 2010 but can't see that detail. How do you attach the hardware cloth? I've used large staples from a heavy duty staple gun and it works ok but wonder if there's a better method? Thanks,
Mary - for the insect screen, I use plenty of 5/16" staples from an Ace brand staple gun, then tap them home with a hammer. I use furniture (upholstery) staples for the hardware cloth. I took pictures showing how I half-lapped the lumber and attached the screening, but I'll be darned if I can find them. Nasty weather here, I'll take some pics when it breaks.
tapla, I have spent several days review past comments in this thread and the other related thread on intensive gardening in raised beds. What you are saying makes good sense to me and as stated in the other thread I have come up with a different approach to the mixes to be used in the composition and layering in the raised beds. The heat factor of the lower level of decomposing organics was purposeful in the sense that I am attempting to garden out of season so to speak. The covered raised beds are simply an attempt to garden eight months out of the year instead of four. The crops chosen are typical cool weather crops such as lettuce, spinach and cole crops. An early spring and late fall crop of each of these types of crops is all that I intend to do this season. If all goes well I may get aggressive and do something more exciting next spring.
I found some industrial steel shelving that was being thrown away.
I just drop my screens on top of that, so the (relatively fragile) scrrens don't droop or tear.
Sometimes I tie them down. A careful mechaic might use wire to tie them down permanentlyy.
I keep seeing the word "manure" in your plans. My theory is that enough manure (15:1 C:N) will overcome any temporary nitrogen deficit from the raw sawdust and wood chips.
And if not, a sprinkling of high-N fertilizer should overcome it.
And it's self-correcting after a season or two, especially if you add fertilize4r or compost each year.
The rock dust - clay - grated soil (if it is like the clay I'm used to) will be greatly softened by all the organic material. Your sand, sawdust, topsoil and wood chips ought to keep it from re-compacting. And diluting it so much with non-clay will help greatlky.
I like the idea of calling clay "rock dust". You could even say "colloidal rock dust". However, i think that most kinds of clay, if true "clay", do not some much PROVIDE mineral nutrients by slowly breaking down, as they provide a chemical BUFFERING, by adsorbing and slowly releasing any ions that float by them. Instead of washing right out of sand or spongy organics, ions from fertilizer or decomposing manure will cling to clay particles until the water around them becomes diluted, then the clay releases them to the water.
Like a bank account that soaks up money when you have excess, and then trickles it out as needed.
I think of "rock dust" as very finely crushed rock or powdered rock, in such fine particles that it is mostly surface area. It weathers faster that way, and acid rain or "humic acids" or earthworm intestinal juices or lichens or endomycorhizia have a maximum opportunity to strip nutrients off the surface of tiny rock grains.
I like the term "rock flour". As if one were making rock gravy or rock biscuits to feed to the soil.
I certainly appreciate all of your help in this matter. All your postings in the container gardening and intensive raised bed gardening have provided a wealth of information which I am still digesting. I consider myself fortunate to have a number of the components necessary to make up the components which go into making the growing media for these raised beds available for the taking. If the initial plan works I should be able to sustain these beds for a number of years with a lot less effort based on what I have read. So let’s just hope I get it right the first time. TYVM