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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Soils, Soil Mixes, and Drainage Issuesby Tapla (Al).

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Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 22, 2013
12:24 PM

Post #9393803

By my invitation--Tapla (Al) has semi-agreed to join us on the MAF and help out with any information
anyone would like on soils, drainage issues and mixing your own.

We have been chatting a bit on the Beginner Houseplants Forum as someone had a dying plant
and it was deemed to be a soil issue and lack of drainage.

Al is SOOOO knowlegeable on all this! Many of you already are familiar with his name.
We will be privileged to have him on here to tutor us a bit.

Please ask away when he pops in. Gita

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 22, 2013
1:16 PM

Post #9393866

Awfully nice of tapla to offer. I have studied his lengthy posts/ threads several times over and am a 'true believer."!!
I would recommend anyone to look those up and read before we make Al repeat himself ad infinitum. I think they are in Indoor Plants forum.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 22, 2013
1:37 PM

Post #9393890

Here is Al's simple explanation of why Pro Mix (which I suggested to the Beginning Houseplant person)
Is not all that great.
I c/p 'ed his reply here.
*************************************
When you try to amend a soil, like MG or Promix, it doesn't work. To see why, you need to envision the large particles of bark or perlite in the soil before the small particles of peat or compost are added. Let's say there are 25% large particles. When you add in the 75% peat or composted forest products (small particles) that make up the rest of the soil, you can see in the mind's eye that the larger particles are floating in a sea of fine particles. Nothing is accomplished - the flow-through rate, and most importantly, the height of the perched water table remain unaffected.

Now, in the mind's eye, start to remove some of the small particles. Eventually, you'll come to a condition where all the large particles are touching each other. This is the threshold proportion - the point where drainage and aeration DO become affected by the preponderance of large particles as you continue to remove the fine particles. You'll find that this occurs somewhere between 65-80% larger particles in most soil applications.

I understand that every ingredient suggested for soils isn't always available to everyone, and not everyone will be motivated enough to search them out, but that doesn't change the science behind why soils with predominantly fine ingredients cannot offer the potential offered by soils with better aeration and less water retention - particularly water retained as perched water.

I also understand that presently, few gardeners mix their own soils, but I see that changing quickly as the word spreads through the gardening community. Once growers understand how much difference it makes when you make the effort to grow in soils you don't have to fight, a fair % of them are more than willing to expend the extra effort it takes to provide their plants with greater opportunity to reach their potential, and save some $ along the way. I've yet to have anyone that has tried soils that have far superior drainage and aeration to most bagged mixes based on peat and composted materials, say they prefer the more water-retentive soils and return to them. What I'm used to seeing is growers so excited over their new found success they can't wait to share it with others.

Take good care.

Al

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 22, 2013
1:45 PM

Post #9393896

Here is Al questioning the type of pot her dying Burros Tail (Donkey Tail) was planted in.
This was before the above Post I c/p'ed. Doing it backwards here...:o(
You can go to the Beginner Houseplants Forum and read the whole thing. "Help with my Donkey Tail"
****************************************************
I asked what the pot was made of because it looks like it's hypertufa, and hypertufa needs to cure in the weather or by filling it with or soaking it in a mildly acidic solution before you plant in it - to prevent the pot from affecting the pH of the soil solution. Your plant has the look of one growing in a soil with a high level of dissolved solids or a very high pH - but it might be tat you're keeping the soil too wet. Rotted roots cause drought stress, as does a high level of soluble salts in the soil, even if the soil is appropriately moist.

Clay or hypertufa pots are good choices because they are gas permeable, which means they allow water vapor to pass through pot walls. The benefit therein comes from the fact that if you're using a soil that holds too much water, the excess water disappears faster, due to the permeable walls, so the plant is affected by the excess water in the soil for a shorter time.

So far, my advice has generally paralleled Gitagal's, but I'm going to take a different approach where soils are concerned. I think Promix, and other soils whose primary fractions are peat moss or composted forest products, hold too much water - if your goal is maximizing your plant's potential, and that is even more true when you're discussing plants that are known to not tolerate wet feet well. Instead, it would be much better, sand less expensive to make your own soils from ingredients that are chunkier than peat/compost, etc. Basing your soils on larger particles, like pine bark, grit, screened Turface, perlite ... offers a much better opportunity for your plants, and a much greater margin for grower error.

If you don't wish to make your own soils, you might be able to get a local greenhouse or nursery op to order one of the heavyweight Fafard mixes for you. Pine bark is well represented in these mixes, and they support much less perched (excess) water than soils based on fine particles.

The first picture is what I grow all my houseplants in. The second picture is the soil I use for all my mixed garden display plantings. Either are very structurally stable and hold little or no excess water. They are extremely easy to grow in too, btw.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla Thumbnail by tapla
Click an image for an enlarged view.
***********************************************

Thumbnails do not copy/paste...sorry! Gita

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2013
6:34 PM

Post #9394180

Thanks, guys! I'll have a look around the forum.

The missing pictures:

Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla         
Click an image for an enlarged view.

ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 22, 2013
8:14 PM

Post #9394269

Hey Al! Your gritty mix recipe is fantastic for citrus, by the way. I have a young Meyer lemon tree that's perfuming the whole house with its blooms and has its first fruit. :)

My biggest issue with the gritty mix is that it's so heavy. I need to move the lemon tree several time in the spring/fall to gradually acclimate it to full sun conditions outdoors, but I can't move it on my own, and DH is really rough when handling the pots. He's already broken two of my pots.

I have a ponytail palm which loves the gritty mix as well, but It never made it outside last summer. I just couldn't lift it!

I want to leave the ponytail palm in the gritty, since it's so well draining, but I'm thinking about switching over to the 5:1:1 for the lemon when it's ready to be repotted, which probably won't be for a couple of years. What do you do when you want to reduce the weight of the gritty mix?

Also, what is your potting mix recipe for starting seeds indoors under lights?

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 22, 2013
8:22 PM

Post #9394283

SS--

I put my heavier, big plants on a wheeled dolly--and others, inside, on a Lazy Susan.
Makes it easier to move them around. Inside--it is easier to rotate them around for even light exposure.

Your amazing DH could build you some big ones...Yes?
G.
HollyAnnS
Dover, PA
(Zone 6b)

January 22, 2013
9:26 PM

Post #9394344

Welcome Al, most of our potting soil is Promix BX, but we also use a good bit of garden soil that we have amended with compost. I generally use about a 4" pot of lime per bushel of compost when amending our red clay. It usually test out as pretty balanced. Our clay was so bad before we started, it would take a 5 gal. leaky bucket to dig a hole. LOL We've been amending our little plot for 30 years. Having up to 5 ponies and horses for years gave a a good amount of material to work with. Bec-No-Va teases me, telling my compost is as big as her backyard, but we like it just fine. If we need a yard for a new project we just go get it. Again welcome! I hope you enjoy this group as well. Since your new to us I'll sign as Ric, Hollys'guy, we both use this post.

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 23, 2013
2:33 AM

Post #9394399

Hey Al, great to see you over here!... when you get here. ;) I have LOVED reading your explanations on soils and I will look forward to reading more.

Getting ready to start school... (tomorrow!), Learning How To Play In The Dirt Professionally, and I'm sure at some point I'll be picking your brain a bit as well.

Pull up a muffin and a cup of coffee, we've made it all comfy here for you! =)
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 23, 2013
10:37 AM

Post #9394852

Hi Al! I'm your biggest fan! I love your soil mixes -- it was a huge eye-opening moment for me to learn why regular potting soil mixes don't work well in containers.

Here is the first of Tapla's 3 loooong threads in the container gardening forum. Incredibly useful. http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/527353/

For anyone who needs it, I have a handy source of Turface near my house, very reasonably priced.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 23, 2013
2:05 PM

Post #9395076

Hi, everyone. I enjoy talking about soils because I think understanding how to make them work for us is the most common and most significant obstacle to overcome on our way toward maximizing our proficiency as container gardeners. I'm ardent about nurturing plants, and I think that affection naturally extends to helping others with the same enthusiasm whenever I can; so it shouldn't be a surprise that I spend more time on the topic of soils than any other.

If we do end up having a conversation, I think it would be helpful to remember that I tend to put what's best for the plant - what gives the plant the best opportunity to achieve the potential with which it was genetically endowed - foremost, and grower convenience second. That doesn't mean that I don't recognize the importance of grower convenience in making decisions about soils, or that I some how think less of a decision to put convenience at the forefront. We all order our priorities differently, and I would never suggest what is right for someone else. That said, I have a pretty good idea what's not so good, what's good, and what's better for plants, so try to limit my discussions to that perspective.

We all want to feel like we've made the best choice when it comes to our soils, even though in many other aspects of our lives we're perfectly willing to recognize that we compromised. We don't own the biggest or best of everything, we may not have gone to the best schools, and we don't all prepare a gourmet meal for our families each night. We may not have the time to spend on lavish meals because we have other priorities (like a job) we consider more important, so we compromise and prepare something fast, nutritious, and within our budget. The point is, soils are different and they can't all be best, or even good, in many cases.

There are a few factors that allow us to make certain observations about our soils, but chief among them are the size of the particles/pieces/chunks that make up the soil, and how the particles are dispersed (ratio of small:medium:larger particles). When it comes to container soils, their structure and durability are key factors. How dark and rich they look aren't very meaningful. Many factors we would look at as attributes in a garden soil are meaningless or even detrimental when it comes to container culture. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being growing in the garden or beds and 10 being growing hydroponically, container culture is probably a 7 or 8 - much closer to hydroponics than growing in the earth. As such, container culture requires some considerable deviation from the 'gardening in the earth' practices many of us are more familiar with.

Questions/comments?

Al

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 23, 2013
2:56 PM

Post #9395138

I have a question!! ***raises her hand obediently***

Would you mind coming to school with me please? =) heeheeheee

OK, really, a real question: When it comes to feeding our container plants, if we should go the route of non-organic feedings, what about the salts? (as many chemical plant "foods" contain salt(s)). Or, is that a non-issue with the improved drainage?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 23, 2013
7:47 PM

Post #9395502

If you equate nutrients with plant food (plants make their own food [sugar] during photosynthesis), salts are what a plant 'eats'. It's safe to say the mineral nutrients we supply in organic or inorganic form are taken up as salts. The only difference is, the hydrocarbon chains in the organic nutrients must be broken down into elemental form before they can be utilized by plants. In the end, the nutrients are exactly the same when assimilated by the plant, and the plant doesn't care where they came from. The grower might, but the plant does not.

Having salts in the soil solution is not an issue unless there is an excessively high concentration. Since osmosis (water movement through permeable cell membranes) is driven by the level of solutes in the solution and the solution always moves from the lower concentration to the higher concentration, if the level of the total of all solubles in the soil solution is too concentrated, it makes water movement into the cell more difficult. If the level of solutes in the soil solution is higher than the level of solutes in cells, it can actually pull water from cells, collapsing cell walls and pulling plasma from the walls as the cell collapses. The scientific term for this 'reverse osmosis' is plasmolysis, but we commonly call it 'fertilizer burn'. It can occur, btw, when using either organic or synthetic forms of fertilizers.

Generally speaking, unless you make a serious miscalculation or use bad judgment, a high level of salts is uncommon when using highly aerated soils; this, because you're flushing the soil regularly as you water. It's much more common in soils that require you to water in sips to avoid the soil remaining soggy so long it impairs root health/function. Watering in sips leaves all the salts from both fertilizers and tap water to accumulate in soils. Not only does this raise the level of solubles in the soil, it badly skews the ratio of nutrients to each other. The ratio of nutrients in the soil solution is important because an excess of one nutrient can make another unavailable (antagonistic deficiency), even if that nutrient is actually present in a normally sufficient amount. For instance, using bloom-booster fertilizers can quickly add so much P to the soil solution that deficiencies of iron, potassium, zinc, calcium, copper, or manganese are virtually assured. Think long before you use a fertilizer with a higher middle number than the first number - more (P)hosphorous than (N)itrogen. They won't/can't do what they promise. On average, plants use 6X more N than P, and there is not a lot of variation in that from plant to plant, so it's very difficult to justify using a fertilizer that supplies more P than N.

Al

This message was edited Jan 24, 2013 8:46 AM

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 24, 2013
2:16 AM

Post #9395616

OK, that makes PERFECT sense to me, thank you sooooooooo much!!! I've been thinking and thinking on this subject since I started working at the nursery .. what, 4-5 years ago; I'd had one of the landscapers tell me about organics vs chemicals in container plants, and about the salts etc... I guess he didn't have a good or full understanding of the container's soil content and properties.

Excellent explanation, thank you Al!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 24, 2013
6:20 AM

Post #9395741

Great information, Al!

hey Suze, if you kept up with that, you're in fine shape for your new classes!

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 24, 2013
1:46 PM

Post #9396338

Yes Ma'am, that's the whole idea, stick as close to Al's posts as I can, maybe some of those smarts will sink in eventually. ;) I seriously think, once the 'real' classes start, I will print out many of his posts and keep them handy at all times.. and maybe share them with classmates as well. =) (if they're nice to me! HA!!)

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 24, 2013
2:27 PM

Post #9396383

I am thinking I will do the same--even if i have to go back and find the "Beginnings" of it all.
I already have so many things bookmarked--it is not funny.

Hmmmmm...how could I c/p loads of information so that--if I ever want to send it to someone
all I have to send is a link--like we do on DG????
Could I just open my bookmarked article(s) and copy the URL and send that?
Can, say, links from something on DG also be passed on as links that will open on, say. an e-mail?

Or--would that be restricted if the one receiving my link is not a DG subscriber?

Gita

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 25, 2013
2:34 AM

Post #9396889

This might be a bit labour-intensive the first go-around, (but just the one time), BUT, may I suggest:

Copy/paste all the articles that you want to reference, and save them in a document (WORD, or Notepad, whatever program you like). That way all you'd have to do is reference your saved document(s).

ALSO, send yourself an email with all the links to the preferred articles (or ALL of the articles). SAVE that email!! Then, any time you want to refer a DG friend to a certain link, you have the whole list of them in one place. You could even "forward" that email to friends, if you like. While you're at it, you could print out that email with all the links; that way, should you ever have computer troubles, you'd at least have a hard-copy of the links to refer to.

Like I said, yes it would take time and some work to do it, but you would only have to do it ONCE. Putting in the time and effort ONCE usually turns out to be worth it in the long run. =)

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 25, 2013
5:05 AM

Post #9396932

That's alll very good advice speedy.

Non DG people might not be able to open links to subscriber-only threads.

I save brie things , like Al's Neem Spray recipe, in my DG blog/ diary/ the thing where you save notes, not the Journal with all your plants.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2013
5:08 AM

Post #9396933

Speedie (Suz?) - I do that. I have 1 document with links to posts I've made that I often search to copy all or parts of the text, and I save copies of things I've written that come up frequently on the forums. It's really convenient and saves a lot of searching. Hmmmm - if you're interested, I could explore posting the whole list of url addys to my threads that I use all the time. The only problem is, most of them are on the GW site.

Al

This message was edited Jan 25, 2013 9:09 AM

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 25, 2013
7:47 AM

Post #9397120

Sally--

Unfortunately--I do not have a Blog--nor a Diary --nor do I keep a Journal of any sort on DG. Just my Trade List.

i DO keep everything worth saving in Bookmarks-by categories--You should see all the saved stuff under the
"Gardening" category!!!!) in My Documents (in separate folders),
eg. My recipes--My Pictures--> subclass--Garden Pictures by dates-->month and year--easier to find--say, a Daffodil.
I also have "Downloads"--where things get saved from asst. sources--like pictures I like or need of a certain plant,
old pictures of my younger days--scanned from a photo and saved there, etc...

speedie--I need to re-read all you suggested. My old brain does not comprehend things too technical.
For that matter--I probably do not use 80% of all things computer has available. Very simple track:
DG---E-mails--Google etc...

Right now--the thing I can imagine doing is just c/p-ing all the relevant texts and putting them in a folder
named "Tapla's advice on soils" in my Documents. Since this is Microsoft Word-based--I can always add things to
a particular folder.
Now--if I want to send some part of it to someone--I would have to c/p it out and the attach it in its full length.

Tapla---I also started out on GW--about 12 years ago. I think I was on there for about 2 years--
ALL my early fascination with Brugmansias and learning all about them started on GW.
There was a member called TNGreenthumb--if I remember correctly. He was especially helpful.
From what I have read--"Spike" pretty much caused many people to leave GW due to his
terrible personality. Who took over after HE left????

Then someone, from somewhere suggested I try out DG. The rest is...history!
I should check GW out again--if my old password still works...Gita

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 26, 2013
5:39 AM

Post #9397934

[quote="Gitagal"]

speedie--I need to re-read all you suggested. My old brain does not comprehend things too technical.
For that matter--I probably do not use 80% of all things computer has available. Very simple track:
DG---E-mails--Google etc...

Right now--the thing I can imagine doing is just c/p-ing all the relevant texts and putting them in a folder
named "Tapla's advice on soils" in my Documents. Since this is Microsoft Word-based--I can always add things to
a particular folder.

[/quote]

That is EXACTLY what I was suggesting. Well, ONE of the things. ;)

The other thing I had suggested is this:
1: Go to one of Al's posts.
2: Copy the URL (in the address bar at the top of the page.. example: the URL for the page we're on right now looks like this: davesgarden.com/community/forums/fr.php?pid=9397120 )
3: Paste that URL onto a new page in your Microsoft Word.
4: Go to the next of Al's posts that you want.
5: Copy that URL
6: Paste it beneath the one you just pasted.
7: Repeat
8: Repeat until you have all the URL's you want saved on ONE Microsoft Word document.
9: Save the document. (title it whatever you want: The Great Magical Al) =)

You may wonder "how do I copy the URL?". Simple. First, locate it. Next, left-click on a blank spot in that bar ONE TIME. You will see the text 'highlight' blue. Next, RIGHT click it (anywhere in the bar) and choose "Copy". That's it! =)

D-mail me if you have any questions about it, I'll be very happy to help!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2013
8:54 AM

Post #9398083

Here are some of the threads I most commonly link people to:

Container Soils XV
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg1221344425812.html?15

Fertilizing Containerized Plants
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0416300720216.html

Trees in Containers
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0417334631829.html

Ficus Trees in Containers
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg0605413419276.html

How much P is enough?
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg042303237749.html

China Doll Reduction:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg0419422025802.html

VF-11
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg0416280524942.html

Rootbound Myth
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg101158189184.html

How Plant Growth is Limited
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0921071615772.html

Dealing with Water-retentive Soils
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0914024623640.html?37

Synthetic vs. Organic
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg111632373684.html?13

What Better Way to Say “HI”
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0716251211309.html?150

Be a Plant P.I.
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg1215043526101.html?10

Annual/Perennial
http://theseedsite.co.uk/perennialannuals.html

BER in Tomatoes
http://www.vintageveggies.com/information/carolyn_ber.html

Schefflera pruning
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg0320455819774.html

Turface vs. calcined DE
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg062030238912.html
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0615095523869.html?1

Good Growing Practices - An Overview
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg101400289284.html

Oedema
http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h113oedema.html

Keep them looking good (pruning)
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/houseplt/msg1121320026752.html?36

Al

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 26, 2013
10:15 AM

Post #9398155

Absolutely priceless Al, thank you ever so much! OK, see y'all in about a month, I've got some really meaty reading to do! < =D YUMMMMM!!!!!!!!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 26, 2013
10:24 AM

Post #9398165

Shcefflera pruning is a good one Well I bet they're all good. But I remember seeing that picture of "10 yr old Schefflera at office" and it is such a beautiful plant.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2013
10:39 AM

Post #9398180

These must be what you're talking about:


Al

Here's the thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/843962/

Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla         
Click an image for an enlarged view.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 26, 2013
1:21 PM

Post #9398323

Yes!!! Is that not just so lush and beautiful? The pics of the root surgery are amazing.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 26, 2013
2:05 PM

Post #9398368

I have had my green Sheff. for about 22 years.
It started out as a small 5" plant at the wholesale growers i worked at in 1991.
It was all smushed against the GH plastic. Not salable at all. The poor thing!
So--I asked if i could have it--and my boss said "yes"...Over time--it got potted up and potted up.

It has now resided in a 14" plastic pot for a long time. I take it outside for the summer
and stick it somewhere where it will fit. Seldom pay any attention to it. Water it when i water my garden.
About every 2 or 3 years--It has grown too big in the house-- and I chop it down as far as i can.
It always re-grows while outside in a nice, full plant.

Right now--it is sitting in the corner of my LR near a window. All crowded between the sofa,a tall Snake Plant
and a huge Aloe.
I seldom water it in the winter---just now and then. It is doing quite well--as usual.
I don't remember the last time I potted it up...

Wonder what it would do if I sawed the root ball in half????? Then again--why should I?
Don't fix what ain't broke! It IS a bit dusty! I moved the Aloe so you could see it.
Just took this pic.

Thumbnail by Gitagal
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2013
3:56 PM

Post #9398467

I regularly saw up to the bottom 3/4 of the rootballs off my potted trees. The sequence below culminated in the tree being sent to NY of Boston (I forget which) to bail out a guy who killed his fiance's tree while she was away on vacation or something. He got involved in a thread and was so desperate I offered to send him the tree. I did, and eventually she learned the story & sent me the picture of the tree in it's new home. Originally, I'd received the tree from one of the members of the congregation at church because it was too unruly, so my intent was to rehab it and give it to someone anyway. ;-)

Al

Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla   Thumbnail by tapla
Click an image for an enlarged view.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 26, 2013
5:18 PM

Post #9398531

speedie---You are too funny!!!!

Of course I know how to copy/paste a URL and put it somewhere!
How do you think I post all the links on the Threads to something i want people to see?
Or--post a recipe of mine that is in my Documents?
Or--when I start Part #2 of a Thread--I know how to link the two..."we came from here"...

I think copy/pasting is one of the most useful things on the computer. Same for cut and paste.

There ARE a lot of things I do not know--and i am not ashamed to ask for help.

You ARE forgiven!...:o) Gita

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 26, 2013
6:51 PM

Post #9398622

haha Al, that sure was one unruly Schefflera! And sweet to be part of their little crisis/ resolution.

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 27, 2013
4:35 AM

Post #9398821

Not something I could say just anywhere but, my goodness, what a lovely rootball! =)

Gita, Haahahahaahaahaaa!!! Well, I certainly stuck both of my feet in it, eh? My apologies Dear Lady. Let's look on the bright side, maybe someone else will come along whom it may help. =) Now, I think I will go shuffle off to the corner and blush for a while. ;)
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 29, 2013
6:35 PM

Post #9401976

Oh speedie, your instructions were just the right thing to post. I thought that was what Gita was asking for as well. We all have things we know, and things we don't. For example, I can take apart and put together computers pretty readily, and I love math -- but I can't for the life of me insert a quote in a DG post with a nice box around it the way you do.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 29, 2013
6:39 PM

Post #9401983

[quote="happy_macomb"]Oh speedie, your instructions were just the right thing to post. I thought that was what Gita was asking for as well. We all have things we know, and things we don't. For example, I can take apart and put together computers pretty readily, and I love math -- but I can't for the life of me insert a quote in a DG post with a nice box around it the way you do.[/quote]

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 29, 2013
6:42 PM

Post #9401988

I just learned too---

See the small "quote" word at he bottom where your name is?
Click on that--and...and...your last post just jumped into the box...

How you edit just what line you want there---and which one not--I haven't tried yet.
Somewhere there are directions to all these tricks...
Gita
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 29, 2013
7:04 PM

Post #9402019

[quote="Gitagal"]I just learned too---

See the small "quote" word at he bottom where your name is?
Click on that--and...and...your last post just jumped into the box...

How you edit just what line you want there---and which one not--I haven't tried yet.
Somewhere there are directions to all these tricks...
Gita[/quote]

Well look at that -- it worked! Thank you, Gita!

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
2:38 AM

Post #9402208

[quote="Gitagal"]

How you edit just what line you want there---and which one not--I haven't tried yet.
Somewhere there are directions to all these tricks...
Gita[/quote]

How to edit the quote: First you have to understand what makes a quote. To "open" a quote, you type [ quote = "name" ], all run together with no spaces. To "close" it you type [ / quote ], all run together with no spaces. Anything typed in between there will be found inside the quote box, so, all you have to do is delete the text that you don't want.

Example: Gita's entire post above was a bit longer than what I quoted here, but I didn't want to quote the whole post, just a bit of it. I used the "quote" link talked about earlier, which made the ENTIRE quote show up in my little text box here (where I type stuff), then I just deleted a little bit of it from between the opening brackets and closing brackets.

If you just want to do a generic quote, then you type [ quote ] (all together, no spaces), type out your text, then close it with [ / quote ] (all together, no spaces). That way it looks like this:
[quote] how are you? [/quote]

If you want to see what it looks like when someone does it, just click on the post # of that specific post... for example, on the left side of THIS post, you'll see my name, zone, area I'm from, then a blue clickable link which is the post number of this post, then beneath that is the "quote" link. You won't be able to edit others' posts that way, but you will be able to see how they typed out something. (that's how I learned how to italicize .) =)

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
4:17 AM

Post #9402243

speedie---

I know that you know what to do--but your explanation sounds confusing...
Maybe I am just not awake yet...have to take my car in and sit there an hour and wait
to see what's wrong. My "check engine" light has been on for 2 days now...
Luckily--my garage is only a mile and a quarter from home.

I used to just walk home--but no more...hips bugging me AHHH! Old age!!!
G.

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
4:22 AM

Post #9402247

I think maybe I wasn't awake enough before I posted that, need more coffeeeeee.

BIG HUGS to your hips! =( (sounds like a funny visual). < =D
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
7:21 AM

Post #9402399

Speedie -- makes perfect sense to me -- so it is just like doing italics or bold face -- you don't have to click the "quote" on the left side of the screen if you remember the trick to use [/ quote] (with no brackets or space).

This message was edited Jan 30, 2013 10:24 AM
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
7:23 AM

Post #9402404

You wrote: [quote="speediebean"] If you want to see what it looks like when someone does it, just click on the post # of that specific post... for example, on the left side of THIS post, you'll see my name, zone, area I'm from, then a blue clickable link which is the post number of this post, then beneath that is the "quote" link. You won't be able to edit others' posts that way, but you will be able to see how they typed out something. (that's how I learned how to italicize .) =)
[/quote]

At first I thought you meant to click on the word "Post" to the left of the message -- it appears in blue, in small print, followed by the post number. That didn't work that way for me -- I still saw the post already formatted.

But I see what you mean -- if you instead click on the word "quote" to the left of someone else's post (it also appears in small print, in blue), you can see the formatting. I never realized that -- very helpful. Thank you so much!

I am clearly stalling -- got to get back to my day job!

This message was edited Jan 30, 2013 10:29 AM

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
7:40 AM

Post #9402420

Ahem-----

Anyone want to continue talking to Tapla about soils? Drainage? Composts?

Lets pick his brain while he is with us on this Thread...Thanks all. Gita
coleup
annapolis, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
9:09 AM

Post #9402501

Dear tapla, I was wondering about your current thinking on the use of "water crystals" in soils for annual or perennial containers?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Judy

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
9:54 AM

Post #9402537

Good question, Judy!

I've been thinking about this as well. I don't use them as much as some people do--
but I have some--and there they sit.
I know one thing---you cannot mix them in the soil when they are dry--or they will wick every drop of
moisture out of the soil.
You are supposed to soak them first--let them expand--and THEN mix them in the soil.
Gita

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
12:58 PM

Post #9402746

You are? (supposed to soak them first then mix them). I thought you mix first, then water WELL. Hmmmm. Are we thinking of the same stuff, those gel crystal things that come in a jar?
I think there are some bagged soils that have these 'crystals' mixed in with them already... I wonder about all this stuff. (maybe that's what Judy was talking about?)
HollyAnnS
Dover, PA
(Zone 6b)

January 30, 2013
1:25 PM

Post #9402784

Holly and I have been using the crystals for years in mixes for our baskets and containers. I do mixes in a large cart (about 20-25 gallons) and add the crystals dry, but I also sprinkle the mix as I turn it. I may use 4 gallons of water with half strength Peters at this point. I usually cover and let it set a hour or more before using it, then it may still want more water depending on the contents. We usually use this mix for 2 seasons as the crystals breakdown, reusing the mix in beds or compost. Ric

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
1:47 PM

Post #9402815

I found an interesting-looking product while perusing the web on this subject. In the write-up on the product, it suggests that it "Supplies a constant supply of water to your pants - " I wonder if anyone is aware of this helpful addition?






HollyAnnS
Dover, PA
(Zone 6b)

January 30, 2013
2:04 PM

Post #9402840

I think someone in MA forum used to do a co-op with this, if I'm not mistaken. I know it can be a little pricey. Ric

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
2:36 PM

Post #9402876

Well--Jill is taking orders for the crystals. She uses them a lot. She's talking of a 50lb bag!

Holly/Ric--what you are doing is, in essence, the same thing. Letting them absorb the water first before you plant.

I was talking more as in this scenario:
You mix the dry crystals in your potting mix and then plant the plant--and water it in.
Put your plant on a shelf and forget about it. Guess where all the water will be going?

This may result in a dry plant--but you will think it is OK--since you just watered it .

Soaking them first would alleviate this problem. G.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 30, 2013
3:02 PM

Post #9402914

I don't use them for 3 reasons. The first is, I generally want to reduce water retention in my soils so I need to water more often. Many growers are already using soils that support too much water retention to ensure plants have at least the opportunity to grow to their genetic potential within the limiting effects of other factors. Essentially that means if everything else was perfect, excessive water retention would be a significant limiting factor. Perched water, that is the soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the pot, limits root function and affects root health, so soils that minimize or eliminate perched water, or other grower practices that help to reduce the volume of perched water in soils, offer greater opportunity for plants to grow closer to their potential.

Second, the PAC gels commonly used can hold water very tightly, which means that though they absorb lots of water when available, they also tightly hold onto water at the opposite end of the cycle that would normally be available to plants.

Third, hydrogels as polymers are environmentally friendly, but depolymerization occurs very quickly. Nutrient salts (fertilizers)increase the rate of degradation, and it doesn't matter if the salts are derived from synthetic or organic sources. All nutrients plants normally take up through the roots are taken up as salts whether from organic or synthetic sources. When the acrylamide units break down, potassium acrylate and acrylamide are two by-products. Acrylamide is known to be a lethal neurotoxin and a carcinogen that is easily inhaled or absorbed through skin, and eventually the compound makes its way into the water supply. I think the risk is greater at repotting time than at potting time, so at a minimum you should wear rubber gloves and a mask when repotting plants in soils that contain PAC hydrogels.

Al

This message was edited Jan 30, 2013 7:05 PM
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
3:05 PM

Post #9402918

Thanks Al. Based on your advice I've steered clear of them in recent years -- I really appreciate your sensitivity to environmental concerns.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 30, 2013
3:19 PM

Post #9402938

Lol - I'm also sensitive to protecting my own butt. ;-) ... and the way I approach growing in containers leaves little room for them to be useful to me. I have a jar that someone sent me years ago, but I don't think I've ever even used it.

Al

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
3:37 PM

Post #9402966

Thank you Al, that answers that for me: When I see them at work, do I want to buy them? NO.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
3:59 PM

Post #9402993

Al--reading your comments above--a question went through my mind.

I work at a Home Depot--almost 15 years now. Started out in garden (5 years) but due to
both knees being replaced, and then going part time, I have been a Phone Operator now for about 9 years.
Still, during the growing season--Mid. April-end of June-- I am in garden on weekends. I hold clinics
and try to promote good habits and using the right things in their gardening.
I sort of am--the "resident gardening expert" in my store.

Many people ask me this and that--but seems a lot of them have this idea that putting rocks in the bottom
of a pot (that has no drain hole) ensures that all will be well. NOT!
I always tell them that--water can fill up the inch or so of the rocks, and then your plant will STILL be sitting in water.

This is what my question is about. You talk about parched water. What if there were enough rocks at the bottom
of a pot and the person was watering carefully, having the water always sit under the rocks , would that take care of this
parched water and the plant's roots sitting in it??? Or--would the roots seek out the water and end up rotting anyway?

Me asking this does not mean I have ever approved of doing this. But--I have to educate people WHY NOT.

Another question---
So many soils sold now "boast" about having "Moisture Control" soils. These, supposedly, have small amounts of the
water Crystals in their soils. Both MG and Scotts have it.
Soils with "moisture control" seem to be mushrooming! People just fall for everything...

I know you do not use regular soils or mixes, but the average person buys bagged soil mixes. Me too.
What are your thoughts on this trend given what you just said about this product?

Thanks, Gita

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 30, 2013
6:29 PM

Post #9403228

When I approach the question from the perspective of what is best for the plant, I can say that soils like regular Miracle-Gro, comprised of primarily small particles (peat, compost, coir, composted forest products ...), already hold too much water to be the best choice for our plants. Adding additional water retention to soils that already hold more water than desirable (for best plant performance) only amplifies the issue. Having to water more frequently is an inconvenience to the grower, but a benefaction for the plant.

Drainage layers don't work unless the size of the particles in the drainage layer are less than about 2.1X the size of the particles in the soil that sits atop the drainage layer. I'll offer some illustrations to explain. If a soil supports perched water, that is a layer of saturated soil at the bottom of the pot from which the water won't drain by the force of gravity alone, the height of the perched water table (PWT) will be the same in any pot - no matter what it's size or shape. Fresh Miracle-Gro soil usually supports from 4-6" of perched water, so let's say it supports 4" for the illustration/. In a pot that is 4" deep, after a thorough watering, the soil will be 100% saturated from bottom to top. In a 12" deep container, the PWT height will still be 4" tall, so about 67% of the soil will be free from perched water, so that set-up would be easier to grow in, though far from ideal. Now, let's imagine a 4" layer of peastone on the pots bottom as a "drainage layer". What will happen is this: There will be 4" of well-aerated peastone at the bottom of the pot, then 4" of soil that contains perched water, then 4" of soil with no perched water. Instead of the layer of soggy soil being at the bottom of the pot, the excess water "perches", just like a bird, in the soil immediately above the drainage layer, so in effect, you've simply reduced the volume of soil in the pot that provides a healthy root environment.

Best is to use a coarse mixture that supports little or no perched water and forget the drainage layer. If you think you have more water retention than you should have, use a wick or other technique that will reduce water retention immediately after watering. Even tipping the pot at a 45* angle after you water can eliminate a LOT of excess water - see the illustration below to see how pot shape impacts how much perched water a planting can hold.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 30, 2013
6:32 PM

Post #9403230

The height of the PWT in each drawing is the same, but you can easily see that the VOLUME of PW is different in each example. You can easily put these pictures to work for you with a little thought, to reduce the volume of PW you have to deal with, no matter how heavy your soils are.

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 30, 2013
7:03 PM

Post #9403251

That is such a helpful illustration -- thanks!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 30, 2013
7:14 PM

Post #9403277

My burning question- do seedlings have to start in a very fine soil, which seems from this discussion to be too retentive?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 30, 2013
7:28 PM

Post #9403301

The bane of seedlings is soggy soil. I don't start many plants from seed any more, but when I do, I use a coarse soil and cover the seeds with a layer of fine material - usually peat or fines I've screened from the Turface I use in soils. I either use a Fogg-It hose nozzle to mist with or a hand spritzer. The roots really appreciate the aeration in coarse soils. Finer soils will work fine, but you have to work toward keeping the soil damp - never wet or soggy. As far as the root requirements go, that is a key factor. Then you have temperature, light, type of light, and air movement thrown into the mix, just for fun. ;-)

Al

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 31, 2013
6:40 AM

Post #9403570

Al--

Good explanation...It is slowly "sinking in" what you are talking about.

Just for the sake of argument-----IF a plant is watered carefully, NOT soaked to the bottom,
Is it possible to avoid having this parched water area?

A knowledgeable plant person would not pour a quart of water into a 10" pot, as this would "drown"
the plant. If watering carefully, and only when needed, water should not collect in the amounts
you are talking about to create this PWL. Is this a logical expectation?

Also--if using clay pots--this (the parched water layer) should not ever happen. Right?
Gita

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 31, 2013
11:39 AM

Post #9403867

Just for the sake of argument-----IF a plant is watered carefully, NOT soaked to the bottom, is it possible to avoid having this parched perched water area? Yes, it's possible, and many people use this strategy hoping to minimize the negative effects associated with perched water columns. However, inherent in the strategy are two problems. One is that it's difficult to wet the entire soil mass w/o creating a perched water table in soils that support perched water. This often means dry spots in the soil/root mass that cause localized death of fine roots. Even if it doesn't kill the plant, regenerating new roots to replace those killed by dessication steals energy from the plant, energy that would otherwise have been devoted to new growth, more blooms, fruit ... Secondly, watering in small sips ensures that all the residual dissolved solids in your tap water and fertilizer solutions remain in the soil. This accumulation of salts makes it increasingly difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water, and is substantially to blame for those burned leaf tips and margins that tend to be most noticeable around this time of year when central heating systems are working hard and humidity levels are low. Continually watering in sips will eventually result in sickly plants and cause 'fertilizer burn' even if you never fertilized, or are using only organic sources of nutrients, so it's a practice that should be avoided.

The ideal way to water is to moisten the soil to the point where water is almost ready to exit the drain (takes an educated guess). Let the plant rest for a few minutes, then water again so 15-20% of the total volume of water applied in both waterings exits the drain hole. Your pot should always be lifted above the effluent that drains into the saucer so the salts being flushed from the soil have no way of getting back into it.

A knowledgeable plant person would not pour a quart of water into a 10" pot, as this would "drown"
the plant.
Sure they would. Why not? ;-) In the summer time, I regularly apply at least a half gallon of water to my 10" pots, and in the winter time, I'm sure it's always more than a quart. The reason is ... I can. The soils I make hold little or no perched water, so I can run a gallon of water through a 4" pot every day if I like, and no harm will come to the plant from over-watering. My succulents and cacti can stay outdoors on the growing benched in rain for a week straight w/o me being concerned for root health or root function ... because my soils are very coarse and well-aerated. If watering carefully, and only when needed, water should not collect in the amounts you are talking about to create this PWL. Is this a logical expectation? We have seen why this approach is less than ideal - perhaps the lesser of two evils, but the lesser of 2 evils is still an evil. ;-) If you gain an understanding of how to put together a soil that will work FOR you, instead of against you, you can A) avoid watering in sips and water copiously every time you water, B) stop worrying about the effects of perched water, and C) remove accumulating salts from your list of things to worry about because you'll be flushing the soil every time you water.

Also--if using clay pots--this (the parched perched water layer) should not ever happen. Right? Not so. The material a pot is made from has no bearing on how much water the soil can/will hold. Using the same soil, the PWT in a plastic pot will be as tall as the PWT in a clay pot. The PWT won't persist as long in the clay pot (vs a plastic or ceramic pot) because the pot walls are gas-permeable and will allow air through from the outside and water vapor out of the soil from the inside. That is the primary reason clay pots are healthier for plants than pots made of materials that are not gas-permeable. Air exchange in the rhizosphere (root zone) is a good thing, as it helps rid sulfurous gases, methane, and CO2 that tend to accumulate in soils - especially poorly aerated soils.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 31, 2013
2:19 PM

Post #9404005

Other than collecting rain water in rain barrels, are there any other reasonably cost-effective ways to avoid these salt deposit problems coming from our watering? (granted, the residual dissolved solids from fertilizers will still need to be flushed out, but still...)

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 31, 2013
3:39 PM

Post #9404081

Yes - the easiest way is to make a soil that allows you to flush the soil at will. I think this is the minimum standard by which a soil might be judged as appropriate or less than appropriate. If you can't water to adequately flush the soil without risking that the soil remains saturated so long you risk impaired root function or worse, root rot, it's a sure bet that you're leaving a lot of potential lying on the table and a more appropriate soil would help you regain some of that lost potential. Getting to the point where you don't need to fight your soil for every drop of vitality your plants enjoy is probably the biggest single step forward a container gardener can make at any one time. Over and over I see growers that were having lackluster or poor results who changed to a more suitable soil suddenly turn a corner when they find ways to deal with the excess water retention and byproducts of that factor which, in combination, was their primary limitation. My email is full of testimony to how valid this point actually is, and there are literally thousands of posts (especially at GW) that illustrate that what I'm putting forth is valid not only in concept, but in thousands of practical applications as well. I'll share some of my emails that have arrived in the last short while if it helps to convince. ;-)

Al

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

February 1, 2013
3:58 AM

Post #9404540

Seeing that soils are to be my main focus in school (followed very closely by agriculture), I will be THRILLED to read ANYTHING you have to say on the matter. If it's more convenient (or thread-friendly), you can D-mail me ANY time something might pop into your head that you think I may benefit from or enjoy. (yes, I think of reading like this as enjoyable and entertaining... then again, I read books like "Botanical Latin" for enjoyment as well, so go figure). ;)

What I find really fascinating is taking in what you have to say about soils in containers, and then converting it in my head to a larger 'in the ground' application. ...Or at least trying to. ;) I'm not nearly that far in school yet, but I'm really looking forward to getting there.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 1, 2013
1:59 PM

Post #9405152

Al: I am totally converted. And I have stashed big bags of pine fines, grit and Turface in my garage, and I have made the necessary soil sifters. But I've procrastinated, in part just because I'm a procrastinator, but in part because I'm really worried that although I'll have healthier plants they may soon be dead plants. I'm not good about watering frequently (that's why I shy away from house plants) and we go away every so often -- it always seems we go away in a drought. I understand plants in the "gritty mix" need to be watered very very frequently. So I think mine may die of thirst. I suppose I could rig up an irrigation system - it is on my long to-do list -- but in the meantime, fear of being a benevolent murderer is what is holding me back. (I'm a little worried about installing an irrigation system because the last time we tried that, one of the hoses split and so we watered the neighborhood for a long time, but that is another story...)

You are clearly very meticulous. Not so much me...
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 1, 2013
2:14 PM

Post #9405175

Al, all of my houseplants are now in either 5:1:1 or the gritty.

Until about 2 years ago, I had killed literally every single houseplant I had ever owned. Since switching to your recipes, I have not killed any.

Happy, I do find the gritty mix to be somewhat unforgiving when I get lazy with the watering. But like Al said, the cacti and citrus really love it, and I can even leave them outside in the pouring summer rain without worrying about them rotting.

Al, I do modify the recipes for outdoor annuals. For elephant ears, I used 2 parts leaf mold instead of the peat moss, so it was 5:2:1. This formula worked really well for the EE, which hardly needed any supplemental watering at all during our harsh summer.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 1, 2013
3:01 PM

Post #9405215

Sgardener -- do citrus plants not require a lot of water? What citrus do you grow? I like plants that don't require too much TLC... I just have a needy household -- 4 kids (mostly grown but needy), 2 dogs (needy), 1 cat (needy), husband (what can I say?) and house (OMG). And then the infernal job.
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 1, 2013
3:11 PM

Post #9405225

Happy, as I understand it, citrus roots are prone to fungal infections and root rot if there is too much perched water, and they like to dry out between waterings. They apparently do well in both 511 and gritty. I do use Foliage Pro which has all the micronutrients and minerals that citrus likes. I wanted to go organic, but I couldn't get the right balance of the minerals with organic ferts.

I only have one citrus now, a dwarf Meyers lemon, and it's setting fruit! Whee! It was terribly neglected this summer and I hardly watered or fertilized it, only letting the occasional summer storm water it. It sulked for awhile but recovered pretty easily once I started caring for it, which only involves regular watering with a weak Foliago Pro solution about every 4-5 days or so. You may need to water less if it's in the 511.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 1, 2013
3:49 PM

Post #9405269

Maybe I'll try a Meyer's. We are going back to Florida for the umpteenth time next weekend to continue clearing out my FIL's house (we fly in and out of Tampa this trip - he is (was) midway between Tampa and Orlando); maybe I could pick one up on the cheap.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 2, 2013
12:25 PM

Post #9406094

I have no stake in what other growers use as a soil, but there are some things to consider. Uptake of water and nutrients isn't a passive or energy-free process; it's energy driven and adequate aeration is a key ingredient without which the root system cannot carry on transpiration, which is the energy-driven process on which the uptake of water/nutrients depends. From this we can clearly see that it makes good sense to try to maximize water retention while minimizing the negative impact that goal almost always has on aeration. We want the best of both worlds, but some combinations of soil ingredients simply make it impossible to have both. From the plant's perspective, a perfect soil would be one made of particles large enough ensure there is no inter-particulate water (water held in between the soil particles) to inhibit root function or degrade root health - it and would hold all of it's water inside the particles that make up the soil and in the interface area where the particles contact each other. That's exactly the model the gritty mix is based on. That type of soil ensures virtually no potential to be limiting where drainage and aeration are concerned, and is the model the gritty mix is designed after.

For those concerned that the gritty mix might not have enough water retention, it's good to remember that the soil is easily adjusted to suit your wishes by simply altering the ratio of ingredients, and this can be done without having to rely on a significant increase in perched water volumes for the additional water retention. Most of my plants in small containers are watered on a 4-day rotation. I have a few (6, or so) in VERY small pots (remember I have >200 bonsai) that I water every 2 days, and I have a few succulents in larger pots that get watered every 8 days.

Yes, I water on a schedule because it's easier for me to remember who gets watered when. The reason it is so often repeated that you should 'never' water on a schedule is because of the increased likelihood of root-related issues that that occur if you water again while there is still a significant volume of perched water in the soil. That I use soils that support little or no perched water relieves me of that concern. I would have to actually work hard at over-watering to notice any ill effects arising from my zeal.

The intervals described above are normal for me using a 1:1:1 ratio (lets, call it a 3:3:3 ratio for this illustration - same thing) of screened fir bark, screened Turface MVP, and #2 cherrystone or grower grit. Since Turface holds the most water of the 3 ingredients, I can increase water retention by increasing the amount of Turface in the mix and decreasing the amount of grower grit or cherrystone, so my soil with more water retention would look like:

4 parts of screened Turface MVP
3 parts of screened pine or fir bark
2 parts of grower grit or cherrystone

There are still 9 parts of material in the soil, and the organic fraction is still 1/3 of the mix o/a, but I've increased the water retention inside Turface particles by increasing the number of particles; this, w/o having to suffer any ill effects from perched water.

For a soil so simple, there is an amazing amount of consideration that went into implementing the concept described in the OP about water movement & retention: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 2, 2013
2:12 PM

Post #9406212

Ok, I'll try that. I've got a good local source of Turface, so I'm in good shape!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

February 23, 2013
8:02 AM

Post #9428827

Using the FANTASTIC sifter that Ric made, I sifted some Kambark. A bucket of Kambark yielded 3/4 bucket of fine stuff that passed the screen, and 1/3 bucket of coarse stuff ( more air space in coarse so I can justify my proportions not adding up.
Also some portion of the screened stuff was VERY fine that Al might want us to sift out with even finer screen.

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