I was setting up some buckets for tomatoes using a lot of small bark nuggets and some bark fines to assure fast drainage and aeration. I plan to use drip emitters and mainly fertilize with soluble Miracle-Gro, but probably mix some granular fertilizer in with the bark.
I'm new to tomotoes in buckets, but I tend to overwater things in containers. Hence the bark nuggets. I'm using some chunks that pass through 1/4" screen, and all pass through 1/2" screen. I'll try to remove the remaining bark dust, but then I need to add something fine for wicking and some water retention.
Can I add my own compost so my soiless mix isn't "soulless" ? What would be the limiting factors on adding compost to a bucket. I'm thinking of the very finished, fine black stuff that filters out the bottom of the pile.
I figure the livng populations added might be welcomed by the roots. I realized that the mix I had planned would have been pure hydroponics, and I don't necessarily want to avoid soil ... but neither do I want my buckets to turn into mud pudding..
(I planned to water once per day with drippers and a timer, but could water twice per day as easily).
Or, I have plenty of bark and coir fines and had planned to add a little of them for wicking. Maybe skip the compopst and stay with a 100% soiless mix?
Is there any big advantage to buying a bag of peat-based potting mix, instead of using bark fines? I assume any commercial mix will hold more water than bark fines would.
In the past, for starting seeds, powdery peat mixes have killed me with my tendency to over water: they suck up and hold all the water in sight, become totally sodden, never drain through, and drown the roots. But I plan for the fines + compost + peat mix to total no more than 10-15% of my mix, so that should not happen.
1. Is it a mistake to try to mix a little granular fertilizer in with the soiless mix? Generic lawn or garden fertilzer, like 16-16-16.
2. I thought I was buying a bag of crushed GRANITE grit (#2 chicken grit), but they gave me the Calcium Carbonate kind. Crushed oyster shells? Two Master Gardeners told me that "Calcium CAUSES BER". OK, searching here, I see it neither causes it nor cures it, BER is probably poor distribution of Ca++ inside the plant. So they were NOT 'Mater Gardeners.
However, since I have it, and it is coarse, is mixing 5-10% crushed oyster shell into the mix too much calcium for tomatoes? I figure that chemical fertilization is likely to increase acidity over time, and why not limit that increase? I don't know what pH oyster shells tend to buffer towards - might it be too basic for tomatoes? I read they like to stay below 7. Should I go very light on that kind of grit, or just not use it for tomnatoes at all? I can always spread it on raised flower beds. And I have saved some crushed stone that has been sitting outside for over a year, I could use that.
I know it is late in the season in most regions for getting plants into the ground (or bigger buckets), but nights were below 50 until fairly recently. These have been in one gallon buckets on my deck for several weeks.