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Container Gardening: Container Soils: Water Movement and Retention II

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tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 3, 2007
11:39 PM

Post #3461131

Continued from here: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/527353/

I’m amazed at the interest this thread has garnered. Since the original posting has become unwieldy for those with dial-up connections, and I was getting some pressure to repost, (smiling at that) I took the original & tried to polish it just a little. I hope it’s not so long that it gets passed over. Hopefully, we can exchange some good ideas and remain focused on the subject of container soils. Please forgive any grammer/spelling errors. It’s late, and I’m growing weary after a full day off - a good day off, spent in the garden sunshine.

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to insure the soils we use are adequately aerated for the life of the planting, or in the case of perennial material (trees, shrubs, garden perennials), from repot to repot. Soil aeration/drainage is the most important consideration in any container planting. Soil is the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the cornerstone of that foundation. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find and use soils or primary components with particles larger than peat. That components retain their structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely and I’ll talk more about them later.

The following also hits pretty hard against the futility of using a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the amount soil available for root colonization. A wick will remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom. It works in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now.

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for use in containers, I'll post my basic mix later, in case any would like to try it. It will follow the Water Movement info.

Water Movement and Water Retention in Container Soils

Consider this if you will:

Soil need fill only a few needs in plant culture. Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Sink - It must retain sufficient nutrients in available form to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to the root system and by-product gasses to escape. And finally, Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants could be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement of water in soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water to move through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the container than it is for water at the bottom. I'll return to that later. Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion, water’s bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; in this condition it forms a drop. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source. It will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There will be a naturally occurring "perched water table" (PWT) in containers when soil particulate size is under about .125 (1/8) inch.. This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain from the portion of the pot it occupies. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will surpass the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is "perched". The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT.

If we fill five cylinders of varying heights and diameters with the same soil mix and provide each cylinder with a drainage hole, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the pot is where roots seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration. Water and nutrient uptake are also compromised by lack of air in the root zone. Keeping in mind the fact that the PWT height is soil dependent and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers will always have a higher percentage of unsaturated soil than squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. Physiology dictates that plants must have oxygen at the root zone in order to maintain normal root function.

A given volume of large soil particles has less overall surface area when compared to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They drain better. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the height of the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential.

When we add a coarse drainage layer under our soil, it does not improve drainage. It does though, conserve on the volume of soil required to fill a pot and it makes the pot lighter. When we employ this exercise in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This simply reduces the volume of soil available for roots to colonize. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better and more uniform drainage and have a lower PWT than containers with drainage layers. The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area for water to be attracted to in the soil above the drainage layer than there is in the drainage layer, so the water “perches”.

I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen are now employing the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, you can simply insert an absorbent wick into a drainage hole & allow it to extend from the saturated soil to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where it can be absorbed. This will successfully eliminate the PWT & give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more, much needed air to the roots.

Uniform size particles of fir, hemlock or pine bark are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that too quickly break down to a soup-like consistency. Conifer bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as nature’s preservative. Suberin is what slows the decomposition of bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they starve/”suffocate” because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal water/nutrient uptake and root function.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and the effectiveness of using a wick to remove it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup & allow to drain. When the drainage stops, insert a wick into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. Even touching the soil with a toothpick through the drain hole will cause substantial additional water to drain. This is water that occupied the PWT before being drained by the wick. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the water in the PWT along with it. If there is interest, there are other simple and interesting experiments you can perform to confirm the existence of a PWT in container soils. I can expand later.

I remain cognizant of these physical principles whenever I build a soil. I haven’t used a commercially prepared soil in many years, preferring to build a soil or amend one of my 2 basic mixes to suits individual plantings. I use many amendments when building my soils, but the basic building process starts with conifer bark and perlite. Sphagnum peat usually plays a minor, or at least a secondary role in my container soils because it breaks down too quickly and when it does, it impedes drainage and reduces aeration.

Note that there is no sand or compost in the soils I use. Sand, though it can improve drainage in some cases, reduces aeration by filling valuable macro-pores in soils. Unless sand particle size is fairly uniform and/or larger than about ½ BB size I leave it out of soils. Compost is too unstable for me to consider using in soils. The small amount of micronutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources.

My Basic Soil

I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches. I also frequently add agricultural sulfur to some soils for acid-lovers or to soils I use dolomitic lime in.

5 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime or gypsum
controlled release fertilizer
micronutrient powder (or other continued source of micronutrients)

Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups lime or gypsum (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micronutrient powder (or other)

Small batch:

3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
small handful lime or gypsum
1/4 cup CRF
1 tbsp micro-nutrient powder

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all are highly organic) container soils are productive for up to 5 years or more. I disagree and will explain why if there is interest. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will long outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of two to three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too, you know) ;o) should be repotted more frequently to insure vigor closer to their genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (see above - no smaller than ½ BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface or Schultz soil conditioner.

I hope this starts a good exchange of ideas & opinions so we all can learn.

Al Fassezke
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 4, 2007
1:52 AM

Post #3461337

Al, thank you so much for all of your work. It is much appreciated.

Jeanette
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 5, 2007
9:45 AM

Post #3465150

Al, yes thanks for all the above info. My main problem is procuring pine fines.None available in Tonasket, and last time i checked at Wal Mart, nothing there either.I have all/use the rest of your suggestions.

Actually I have had pretty good luck using Whitney Farms potting mix. I had been using worm castings, but can't find any within my area of 150 miles.

Donna

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 5, 2007
10:06 AM

Post #3465184

You should be able to find either fir or redwood bark where you are, Ruth. either will work. If you're happy with the results you're getting with your mix, no need to rock the boat. I don't use worm castings because they fill air pores and the micronutrients they supply can easily be provided by a number of either chemical or organic sources.

Oh - for those in the PNW, it's important that any wood products you use were not ponded in salt water. High sodium content interferes with water and nutrient uptake.

Al
speckledpig
Satsuma, AL
(Zone 8b)

May 5, 2007
10:19 AM

Post #3465214

I can say from my limited experience that the "dead" container plants which I have taken apart have had very densely packed roots with rock-hard soil. I can see the logic in the above explanation and will consider these concepts in my next container planting. My eyes have also been opened to the idea of changing out container soils more frequently.

I have a question; for large containers, how would the PWT and GFP be affected if the bottom third or so of the pot is filled with course leaves & grass clippings? Would that effectively drain the soil as recommended?

Thanks so much for the information and advice.

David

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 5, 2007
11:52 AM

Post #3465460

No! To use high % of organic material in container bottoms, especially anything that quickly decomposes, is a recipe for complications. If you want to drain your containers - use a wick, not a "drainage layer". Drainage layers save on the amount of soil you use and can make containers lighter, but they do not facilitate drainage unless the particulates in the drainage layer are no more than 2.1 times the size of particulates in the soil above.

Al
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
1:52 AM

Post #3467521

Ruth, I finally found some bark "nuggets" at one of the lumber/hardware stores here. I will look at the bag tomorrow and see what brand they are and if it says what kind of tree.

I think it sure does look like Ponderosa. I would think you have a lot of pine bark over there. But, I thought I was going to have to use the course cedar or fir bark mulch until I found this.

Will let you know tomorrow.

Al, I bought 3 planters today at a moving sale that the pots in the hangers are, believe it or not, crockpot liners!! They look real nice but, of course, no drainage holes. If I can't find any way to get holes in them what do you think about running a wick from the top down and back up again and over the lip?

Does that look funny when you imagine it?

The only think I can think of is a star bit but then would probably break them. They fit so nice and really look good. If not I will probably look real hard to find something else that fits.

Jeanette
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

May 6, 2007
8:30 AM

Post #3467850

Jnette, I think that the wick will work better if it comes out the bottom. Why not just drill holes?

http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/615157/

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 6, 2007
8:43 AM

Post #3467873

I have quite a bit of experience in drilling hard materials, with 30 yrs in the glazing contracting business (glass company). We regularly drill all sizes of holes in glass/mirrors, granite (shower door installations) and other vitrified materials (the objects people bring to us to drill holes in).

Ease of drilling varies with the hardness of the material, of course. A crock pot liner will be very hard, but I've drilled a few Corning-Ware containers & it can be done. Most containers you'll encounter can be drilled with a "spear-point" drill. I'll link you to a picture from one of our suppliers. The drill is also called a 3-point drill. Highly vitreous containers (glass, or glass-like - ceramic - clay fired at high temperatures) may even require a diamond impregnated "core drill", but it's uncommon to find containers like this.

These drills can be found at big box home improvement stores. They should be cooled with water or a 50/50 mix of water/antifreeze as you drill. An excellent strategy is to immerse the container upside down in a tub and add enough water to just cover the drilling surface as you drill. Rotating the drill clockwise at a slight angle while drilling will greatly increase efficiency & speed of cutting. Be patient & use moderate pressure - let the drill do the work. Alternately (I use this method), fill a squeeze container (contact lens solution bottle is stellar) with water & squirt it at the drill/material interface as you drill. If you can't find the drill you need, you can contact me off forum & I'll be glad to help you.

See one here:
http://www.crlaurence.com/ProductPages/8/816_10776.html?Origin=

Alternately, you could set a block in the bottom or partially fill with gravel & use as a cache pot.

Al



This message was edited May 6, 2007 8:45 AM
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

May 6, 2007
12:34 PM

Post #3468514

So glad to see this thread/topic continuing. Thanks, Al.

By the way, does someone know how to convert cubic feet to gallons? In the "big batch" recipe the peat and perlite are given in gallons, yet the pine fines in cubic feet. In other words, how many gallons equal 3 cubic feet? (I get pine fines by the trailer load, not by the bag.)

Sign me, Seriously deficient in math conversions!
Thanks!
Shoe
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

May 6, 2007
1:37 PM

Post #3468690

US gallons, dry: http://www.metric-conversions.org/volume/us-dry-gallons-to-cubic-feet.htm
Roughly 6.5 US gallons,dry, to 1 cu ft.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
2:48 PM

Post #3468957

I tried both names for it and they couldn't find one.

Those ideas sound like a good way for me to get electrocuted. LOL

Jeanette
michaelangelo
Brainerd, MN

May 6, 2007
3:23 PM

Post #3469038

Tapla
Is there a difference between pine bark and pine bark "fines"? None of the outlets seemed to have heard of PB "fines" but I did pick up and have started to use pine bark. The sizes of the pieces vary of course but they're far from "fine" -- many as large as 3" in length. I have repotted a couple of plants into a mixture of:

5 pts PB
1 pt spag peat
2 pts perlite
6-10-10 fertilizer

and after three days they seem to be doing fine. Am I on the right track? Thanks

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 6, 2007
4:54 PM

Post #3469261

Pine bark fines are small pieces of pine bark that are partially composted (see them at the top in the picture). Pine bark is uncomposted bark and comes in various sizes (see them at the left in the picture). You probably don't want to use uncomposted bark larger than what you see in the picture. It will be really difficult to keep watered. Running large particles through a chipper to reduce their size is helpful.

I think we're getting off on the wrong track here. If you cannot find the right products, you're probably better off to stick with what you know. Particle size is important for drainage, aeration, and a soil's ability to hold water. If you try using something with huge particles, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

I can tell you and show you what makes a great soil, but if you don't have appropriate ingredients, then "close" can be frustrating. I'm not trying to insinuate that anyone should use what you guys call "My Mix", or that it will somehow transform you into a fantastic grower overnight. It won't. I just know that it works extremely well & have received the same feedback from easily over 100 people I have helped - lots of evidence of that here on this and other forums. It is very forgiving because it's difficult to over-water, and the high air volume it holds promotes excellent root health, which translates to good vitality in plants growing in it.

So - if you can find the ingredients, you'll be pleased with the results; but if you can't find them, default to what you know.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

iagardenwolf
Ankeny, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
5:40 PM

Post #3469382

Is this type of soil mix also applicable to leaf veggies in containers such as lettuce and spinach?
pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY
(Zone 7a)

May 6, 2007
6:41 PM

Post #3469647

At the bottom of the bag of pine nuggets/chips I found the smaller ones and used them.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 6, 2007
7:04 PM

Post #3469728

Yes - works very well for veggies.

Al
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
7:37 PM

Post #3469833

Al, I think what I am using and what Michael is using is more like the 9 o'clock with maybe 1/4 of it larger pieces. But, I don't know why even the larger pieces wouldn't be ok. Wouldn't the manure and the peat or pro-mix which I used, work into the cracks and crevices somewhat of the larger pieces? I will keep an eye on my tree peony this summer and see if it appears it is drying out too fast.

Jeanette
michaelangelo
Brainerd, MN

May 6, 2007
7:56 PM

Post #3469868

Al
Thanks for the reply and advice about not getting too deep into information with only a little knowledge. (As my grandmother often said: "Information is knowing that the toilet is about to overflow, while knowledge in knowing what to do about it.")

the fact is That I'm only repotting a few plants to your recipe in the hope I'll learn something with the experience. But I DID remove the styro peanuts from many of my plants and planned on doing this as I pot up the other ones. PLEASE say this is the right thing to do. The media I use is either Schultz's Potting Soil Plus or my own recipe of 1 pt regular potting soil, 1 pt Perlite and 1 pt spag peat. And in some cases, for sand loving plants like Dahlia's, I've added 1 pt sand.
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

May 6, 2007
9:35 PM

Post #3470200

The peanuts/rocks/gravel for drainage myth really has a life of its own, doesn't it? I have repeatedly referenced this thread and a couple of other secondary sources in the Plumeria forum, the Greenhouse forum, and elsewhere. In one case, Al, I was asked for original data. I spent a good deal of time on the internet looking for primary data without success. Do you have any original sources to which you can refer me?

I would like to add that coconut husk chips (CHC) make a very suitable substitute for pine bark. My CHC recipe turns out to be otherwise very similar to Al's Original Recipe.
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

May 6, 2007
9:45 PM

Post #3470235

SB...thanks for the conversion info on the cubic ft to gallons. And I appreciate the link to the conversion website, too! Will be sure to save it. Much obliged.

Shoe
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 6, 2007
10:30 PM

Post #3470386

I found what I think will work in my mix for pots. It is called mulch at Wal Mart. They have three sizes of mix. I got the smallest, and of course on the bag doesn't say pine, fir, or cedar. I'm pretty sure it isn't cedar, but not sure which of the other two it is. Some is too fine so guess I will have to screen it.

Al, if you mentioned either use or not use some kind of water crystals in the mix, I missed that. Do you use any kind of water crystals. This climate is extremely dry. since the first of Feb. we received measurable rain once for about 10 minutes and i think it was last Monday it rained softly for about 4 hours. Even with using some kind of drippers in the pots and a timer it is difficult to keep the plants moist enough.

Donna
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 7, 2007
1:53 AM

Post #3470889

Donna, I will check that out at Wal Mart. You say you got the smallest? One of these days we will make the trek to Colville. LOL With the price of gas we hold our trips to a minimum as do most people now days.

Jeanette

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 7, 2007
10:39 AM

Post #3471726

R - If I said the wheels on the bus go round & round, I'm sure someone would ask for the original data. ;o) It doesn't matter to me if they believe or not. A perched water table is something that is common to the earth's geology. In fact, the idea came to me while having a discussion about the earth's water tables WITH a geologist. I won't go through the effort of convincing naysayers; instead, I'll lay the onus of disproving what I say on them. Perhaps we can learn something in their attempt. These comments are not directed toward you. I know you're convinced the concept is applicable & I respect your views & constructive offerings. Thank you. ;o)

I have pretty regular discussions with people with doctorates in soil science or related fields, and perched water tables & the saturated soil at container bottoms is frequently discussed in detail. The 2.1X gradient differentiation between particulate sizes that determines whether a drainage layer is effective or not was taken from a recent letter from a doctored correspondent and was the result of some research he'd undertaken.

Tell doubters to: Lay a saturated sponge flat on a piece of hardware cloth (1/4 inch mesh wire screen) until it stops draining. Lift the sponge until its longest edges are vertical. A considerable amount of additional water will drain. After it stops, grasp the sponge by a corner & still more water will drain because the perched water has less volume of sponge material to occupy. This easily confirms the existence of a PWT. If that's not proof enough, they can perform the experiment with a Dixie cup full of wet soil & wick.

Donna - I don't use polymer crystals because I make the watering rounds daily and there is no reason to. There are other reasons too, that are mentioned in the last 1/3 of the original post if you would like to review it.

Never mind - I knew where it was, so I retrieved it for you:

" Though it may not be as important for the plants in container culture, we as consumers might want to think about what we use in the way of water absorbing soil amendments and how we use them. They do persists in the environment & have no nutrient value to flora or fauna!

Some of the "extra-absorbent" characteristics mentioned by manufacturers of polymers are exaggerated, & as bio-degradation occurs these polymers actually reverse their effect and hold moisture so tightly it is unavailable to plants. Soils can usually be designed so forest products (bark), peat, and other organic media components that adequately hold moisture can be used with no ill effects. These products, even in containers, provide the plant(s) some nutrient value & fodder for the micro-organisms that polymers inhibit. Some degraded polymer components even have some of the same effects on mammals as female hormones, which can affect mammalian fertility and potency.

Additionally, and as you alluded to, the polyacrylamides in some garden-grade moisture holding polymers are made from (& contain) the monomer acrylamide, a known carcinogen."


Al
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 7, 2007
9:55 PM

Post #3474065

Thanks Al.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 7, 2007
10:40 PM

Post #3474262

I bought some of the polymers just to see if they have improved them.

Many years ago I tried them and my begonias did absolutely nothing. Did not grow!! When I finally took them out of the pot the roots had grown into the crystals and never left them. I am thinking it was my fault maybe I didn't water enough. Or something. I decided to try them again but am almsot afraid to. LOL

I have a lifetime supply if I never use them.

Jeanette
rjuddharrison
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 8, 2007
1:59 PM

Post #3476146

Hi Jeanette, How are ya! I've been lurking.
My brief forray into polymers was not a positive experience and will leave that science to the deserts of the world. Meanwhile, my first re-pottings using the wick and recipes of those 1.5 inch cuttings of the Hibiscus from Hawaii are growing and lilke happy wild, and is getting ready to bloom profusely. One of them is now taller than I am. All of my past potting folleys are now blatantly obvious!
Hows things? Send me an email.
rj
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 8, 2007
5:05 PM

Post #3476643

You know Randy, those emails go both ways. LOL. Will do.

Jeanette
cfarm
Discovery Bay, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 8, 2007
5:13 PM

Post #3476672

FWIW, I have a Japanese maple in a pot in the sun using the crystals. We've had a few days into the low/mid 90's already this year and so far not showing any real stress.

Not an ideal datapoint, I know. This is the first year I've done a lot of containers and first time using the polymers. Using 3 Tbsp/5 gal of potting soil and I'm hydrating the crystals before mixing them in.

It won't be long before we'll see some 100+ degree days and that will be the real test. I don't water the pot every day even with the heat we've been seeing. For underplantings I have a couple of Coleus plugs and a little Bacopa draping over the edge.

Also used them in a strawberry pot with African daisy up top and Coleus in the side holes(wizard mix). The daisies aren't exactly thriving, but the Coleus in the side holes is going gangbusters and again this gets tons of sun, with only slight dappling from a nearby Queen Palm in the middle of the day.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

May 8, 2007
5:48 PM

Post #3476773

I have had nothing but positive experience with crystals. If you want to water every day, sometimes two or even three times, don't use them. I have other things to do. Crystals and mulching really helps with pots and baskets.
iagardenwolf
Ankeny, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 16, 2007
12:08 AM

Post #3501411

What are your thoughts on cocoa hulls instead of pine bark fines? Aren't they roughly about the same size? I don't want to have to buy a bag of pine mulch if most of it is large chunks just to get small pieces. If cocoa hulls would work, I'd buy a bag and use it just for container mixes.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 16, 2007
1:23 AM

Post #3501685

Read this: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0521180225270.html?7

Strong opinion, Victor ... Personally, I use very fast soils and have nothing but positive experiences to report with them. I view frequent watering as a substantial benefit to plants, as long as you're willing and able to keep up. Try to remember that everyone reading these forums does not hold convenience as their focus. Some are willing to sacrifice some convenience for even small gains in plant vitality.

Al

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

May 16, 2007
1:31 AM

Post #3501721

Al, I'd love to have the time to do it - I just don't. With two young boys, it's impossible. When I do water, it takes at least an hour to do all my pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, etc. I could never to that every day, let alone more than once a day. In my case, it's all annuals anyway.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 16, 2007
1:45 AM

Post #3501773

Completely understand. Often soil choice is a requisite compromise. ;o)

Al
iagardenwolf
Ankeny, IA
(Zone 5a)

May 16, 2007
1:52 AM

Post #3501807

Al,

Thanks for the link. I go back and see what else I can find instead of cocoa hulls since they list names of the products they found to work.
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 16, 2007
2:51 AM

Post #3502213

I feel the bag of fine mulch that I bought at Wal Mart, is going to work out good. I think it is pine, no large pieces, all are less than 1/2 inch and most are smaller than that.

Donna
jamminspoons
Brenham, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 20, 2007
9:52 PM

Post #3517596

OK, i'm sold...will cypress mulch work? i have 2 bags left over from last year. The "fines" look like the right size.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 20, 2007
11:38 PM

Post #3517833

Donna, I bought some of the bark mulch at WalMart after reading your post. It really is small. But, interesting. The bark that I got first, think it is fir, and planted my tree peony in is a lot larger than these. BTW, my tree peony I planted about 2 weeks ago is beautiful. I think. I will try to post a picture of it. I am not great at pictures so give me a break. LOL

Jeanette

Thumbnail by Jnette
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 21, 2007
1:12 AM

Post #3518156

JS - I was on a question/answer panel for a garden group recently and one of the other panel members cited a recent university study on mulch materials. The study reveled that plants grown under cypress mulch showed less increase in biomass than those grown under any of the other mulches - including ground up tires. The conclusion was that cypress wood products are, at a minimum, mildly allelopathic. For that reason, I would stay away from them, and particularly in containers.

Al
jamminspoons
Brenham, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 21, 2007
4:58 PM

Post #3519978

Al, thank you very much for your timely response. I vaguely remember hearing something about that a while back. I'm glad I asked. Off to the store to get more "soil conditioner".
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 21, 2007
10:29 PM

Post #3520957

jeanette, Your photo is just fine, and your peony looks very happy. I bought a couple more bags of the small mulch as used the first one up, and knowing how Wal Mart doesn't reorder is things run out i elected not to take a chance on not getting it if I needed it.

Donna
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 22, 2007
5:31 AM

Post #3522525

Well, that is pretty small bark, so I think I just might mix it with the first bag I bought of the larger stuff. My daughter bought some Coir bark off of ebay and is sending me a brick of it to see what it is like. It looks like midway between my 2 bags which is what I think I would like. It definitly is more expensive than the bark mulch from WalMart. And a little more expensive than the other bark I bought.

Jeanette
jamminspoons
Brenham, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 24, 2007
2:09 AM

Post #3529247

has anyone used composted cotton burrs in their mixes?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 24, 2007
10:43 AM

Post #3530036

High in cellulose - breaks down quickly.

Al
justfurkids
Toone, TN
(Zone 7a)

May 24, 2007
8:03 PM

Post #3531793

Just saw a big stack of bagged cotton burr compost when I visited Guy Robbins' nursery in Martin TN. He is a reknowned horticulturist and ex director of the Memphis Botanic Gardens. Anyway he highly recommends it so I am keeping an eye out for some to use in my container mix and as a soil conditioner in the gardens.

carol

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 25, 2007
1:15 AM

Post #3532718

Great in the garden, high in N, breaks down too quickly for me to want to use it in containers when there are soo many other more suitable ingredients that will perform the same function. I'm sure it's fine in the short term, as in quick rotation greenhouse plant material, though. I wish you good luck in your growing endeavors - no matter what your choices.

Al
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

May 25, 2007
1:25 AM

Post #3532758

Al I came into a free windfall on some vermiculite and per-lite used in pool construction. Trouble is that it is very fine. Therefore it will hold more water. I want to use it both for raised garden and containers. Will it impede the draining of the mixtures.

This message was edited May 24, 2007 8:25 PM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 25, 2007
1:37 AM

Post #3532806

I'm not sure if all vermiculite and perlite are created equal. Years back, I bought a 4 cu ft. bag of perlite from a masonry supply house, only to learn it was treated with silicone water repellent. I was too leery of it to use, so I discarded it. I can't really answer your question, but I would experiment before jumping in with both feet. I don't think I would use the vermiculite in containers though. Like Cotton burr compost (above) it collapses quickly in containers and holds too much water when included in any quantity - except in very short-term plantings or some specialty soils.

Al
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 25, 2007
9:23 PM

Post #3535610

A lot of the seed catalogs are selling the real fine vermiculite for starting seeds to keep the plants from damping off.

Jeanette
rjuddharrison
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 25, 2007
11:55 PM

Post #3536127

Really? is vermiculite for moisture retention? I used it once, not knowing what it was in my early garden days...

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 26, 2007
12:04 AM

Post #3536171

Vermiculite is an aid to moisture retention, and provides good aeration temporarily. It does break down structurally and compact quickly though. Damping off is a fungal disease. Vermiculite is not prophylactically active in actually preventing damping off. It is effective simply because it's sterile and doesn't harbor disease spores (at least in large numbers). Perlite, or a mix of perlite and vermiculite would be my choice before using vermiculite as a stand-alone seed starter.

Al
rjuddharrison
Houston, TX
(Zone 9a)

May 26, 2007
2:16 AM

Post #3536712

Thanks,
that was pretty much my understanding.
Rj
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 26, 2007
5:53 AM

Post #3537367

No, it was not to start the seeds in. You sprinkle it on the top VERY lightly after planting the seeds in your regular starting mix to keep the moisture in but the top of the vermiculite dries out around the stems of the plants and that keeps them from damping off.

Guess you have to use your imagination guys. LOL

Jeanette
Eggs_Zachtly
Washington, MO
(Zone 5b)

June 20, 2007
11:14 PM

Post #3638805

Bumping this continuation of the "other" thread, since it's still getting all of the attention. =P
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

June 22, 2007
5:00 AM

Post #3644103

I am using coarse crushed oyster shells instead of Vermiculite. A 50# bag of the crushed shells cost about $8, whereas vermiculite is up to $10 for just a small bag. Turkey grit is also "cheep" (I am sooo funny) but it's really heavy, and for some reason, smelly when wet. I use a local farmers co-op/feed store for these.

Is this OK? My plants seem to like it.

For those of you having trouble finding pine bark fines, try a retailer that supplies landscapers- esp. the high-end ones. I found "Southland Pine Bark Mini Nuggets", which seem to fit the bill just "fine" :-). For anyone in Eastern MA or NH it's available at Corliss Bros. in Ipswich, MA. (GREAT people!)

I've also added water crystals to the mix; sometimes my days run away with me and I can't water.

I've passed the recipe along to non- DG'ers (I think they've joined up now!). One of them uses her compost tumbler for mixing big batches ot the soil! Great idea- I may go that route as well.

-Melissa
pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY
(Zone 7a)

June 22, 2007
1:41 PM

Post #3645015

Good ideas!
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 22, 2007
2:56 PM

Post #3645208

I'll throw my 2 cents worth in on polymers. They work, as long as we remember what their real function is. They are meant to hold water for the benefit of the plant, not the media. Most polymers, probably all of them, have a much higher absorbtive level than the surrounding media, and they are not prone to readily giving up their moisture to that media. Plant roots will grow to and through them, and will take up the absorbed water. However, your media must remain moist in order to remain healthy and to provide channels for root growth and air. How many times have you heard people talk about using polymers for water management only to complain later that their media has become like a rock? That's because the polymer is competing for limited water and winning. We need to make sure the media is regularly watered for its own sake. The polymer will keep the plant alive for awhile longer if water is the issue, but the plant is just at much at risk if the media isn't healthy. For that, you need a regular routine of watering.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

June 22, 2007
3:01 PM

Post #3645223

Been using polymers for years and never once had that problem. I water less frequently than I would otherwise have to, but when I do water I water the same way as I do without crystals. I make sure the entire thing is dripping. It's better to mix the crystals throughout the media. Some people just put in the 'hole' where the plant is going, along with some time release fertilizer.
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 22, 2007
3:26 PM

Post #3645305

It's probably because you're watering enough to do the trick for both the plants and the media, but are using the plants as a "barometer" of when watering is needed. If you're using a time relase fertilizer, it's a good idea to run the water through until it's running out of the bottom of the pot, in order to flush out the accumulated salts. Also, you're correct to mix the crystals throughout the media. Putting them in the hole could result in root rot from too much water in the immediate root zone. The same for time release fertilizer. Since the release rate for time release fertilizers is generally dependent upon soil temperature (generally about 70 degrees), it's important not to have the fertilizer too close to the roots. When soil temps get to over 100 degrees, which they will in most any zone on a sunny day, the release rate can become as much as 40 times faster, which could result in root burn.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

June 22, 2007
3:53 PM

Post #3645427

All good points! Been doing just that. The flushing is very important for the self-watering pots too.
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 22, 2007
4:05 PM

Post #3645474

Victor: Check your DMail
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

June 26, 2007
12:19 PM

Post #3659797

Two unrelated questions for Al or anyone:

First, I have know people who deliberately stop watering before the water drips out the bottom of the pot. The idea is that the medium gets (admittedly variably) wet, yet the perched water table doesn't accumulate every time you water. Now, assuming that periodically you flush the container to prevent salt buildup, and putting aside the difficulties in judging exactly how much water to use, is there any reason not to water in this fashion?

Second, what are the micro- and ultramicroporosity of Turface or kitty litter?

SB

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 26, 2007
8:39 PM

Post #3661743

Hello, R. This isn't anything you don't already know, but usually, anyone that waters in this manner is making an effort to stave off root rot issues in a poorly aerated soil, but I suppose this type of watering would trump copious watering if root issues appear probable. If this is the case, it begs the question of how can you then flush the soil w/o risking root issues? You also have the possibility of root death in isolated parts of the container and/or the probability that fewer nutrients would be available because the soil would not be evenly moist, even dry in some parts of the container. Last, as you mention, if the person is reluctant to flush the soil on a regular basis, carbonate and fertilizer salt build-up is inevitable.

Don't have the info on ultramicroporosity, but am wondering why you're curious? Turface has about 40-50% inter-aggregate (mostly) microporosity and an additional 30-40% intra-aggregate (mostly) macroporosity for a whopping 70-85% total porosity. There is approximately 13 acres of surface area in one pound of Turface. As long as it is fired at sufficiently high temperatures so it remains stable, kitty litter should very close in stats.

Al

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

June 26, 2007
9:04 PM

Post #3661844

In that case I'm gonna get me a pound of Turface and I'll finally have the acreage I've always longed for! Now what am I going to plant on it???
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

June 26, 2007
10:43 PM

Post #3662145

I ask the question because I understand that the ultramicropores hold water unavailable to plants. I wondered if the ultramicroporosity in Turface was higher than other media components such as bark, CHC, or perlite.

In other words, Turface holds lots of water, but does it hold water in such a way that it is readily available, or rather does some of the porosity relate to water that the plant cannot reach?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 27, 2007
1:21 AM

Post #3662789

Much lower than almost anything except sand or rockwool, which are close. Pine bark holds about 90% water by volume when fully saturated and retains 30% of its water at the point where it becomes too tightly held for plant uptake. The moisture retention curve of peat is approximately a mirror image of pine bark. Coir holds about 94% water at saturation and water becomes unavailable when there is still about 38% remaining. Perlite holds 63% water by volume and retains 24% when water is unavailable to plants. Turface MVP (from the bag) holds approximately 75% water by volume at saturation and has only about 3% remaining when water is held too tightly for plant uptake.

That what you needed? ;o)

Al
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

June 27, 2007
3:33 AM

Post #3663609

Al, any opinion on crushed oyster shells as an inexpensive additive?
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

June 27, 2007
3:39 AM

Post #3663631

Yes! That's great, Al, thank you.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 27, 2007
4:24 AM

Post #3663747

Jax4 - often it's not so much what we use in soils, but the physical characteristics of what we use that is important. In the case of oyster shell, there are both physical and chemical considerations. The volume of components is also frequently important. We can take several perfectly good soil components that can stand alone as a good choice for soils, but when we combine them, we can have a whole that is not equal to the sum of the parts in its utility.

Crushed oyster shell will slowly raise soil pH, which is of special concern if your irrigation water is high in carbonates. Another consideration is the size and uniformity of the particulates. Ca supplementation is usually needed in most container soils. In oyster shell, you'll find mainly calcium carbonate, but small quantities of calcium phosphate and magnesium carbonate are also available.

You didn't mention if you were adding small quantities as a nutrient source or using them as an actual primary structural component of the soil. I'd need to know the answer to that before I could answer your question, as well as what you're growing & some idea of how hard your water is. I'm guessing though, that you already have enough info here to sift through for your answer. Rinse thoroughly before using to leach salt from the shells if you decide to use them.

Al
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

June 28, 2007
4:09 AM

Post #3668250

OOPS on the rinsing part...

I've been adding about 1/2 part oystershells to replace the vermiculite in your recipe, due to the high $ of vermiculite. I'm including turkey grit to round out the vermiculite portion (very coarse crushed granite). In my last batch, I used a brand-name "soil conditioner". It looked suspiciously like the 10 cent per lb grit! I have been using crushed shells for ages to foil slugs, so I always have plenty on hand. I think the wild birds thank me, too.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 28, 2007
4:29 AM

Post #3668302

OOPS - there is no vermiculite in any of the mixes I use. ;o) Perlite perhaps?

Al

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 28, 2007
10:10 AM

Post #3668580

Al,

I've been following this thread with interest.

1. The most recent issue of Container Gardening (from BHG) says to invert a plastic pot, raised slightly on pot shards, inside containers to reduce the weight and expense of potting medium. Would that work? I've used sealed plastic soda bottles. As long as there is a top to bottom column of soil, wouldn't that "trick" the water into thinking evrything was AOK? Weight is a big concern for us.

2. Are we talking about media for potting annuals? So it really has to last just one season?

3. Al, can we see some pictures of your containers?

xx, Carrie
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

June 28, 2007
12:25 PM

Post #3668933

Quoting:We can take several perfectly good soil components that can stand alone as a good choice for soils, but when we combine them, we can have a whole that is not equal to the sum of the parts in its utility.


Interesting that you should mention this, Al. A few weeks back we had a discussion on the plumeria forum about the addition of pumice for "water retention." Some argued that it helped with water retention, others argued that it does not. I dug around a little bit, just for fun and among other things, I found this study: http://www.ulmer.de/Vorlagen/Webapp/Cache/CMS/gawi_2_1876.PDF I read this study as showing that by itself, pumice holds more water at low tensions than perlite or sand. Actually, by itself, pumice held more water than any other substrate tested. But combine pumice with anything else (peat, peat moss, sawdust, perlite) and the percent of micropores in the mix dropped every time.

I suppose it kind of proves your point!

SB
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

June 28, 2007
3:02 PM

Post #3669571

Al,

Thanks for all of the information on container gardening. I just purchased pine bark fines at Ken Mulch in Louisville, Ky. He said all the nurserymen use it. I am going to try and repot some of my containers this weekend. I am wondering if this will also work for hanging plants. I now use Miracle Gro Potting soil and am thinking with the pine bark fines, the containers may be too heavy for hanging.

BettyFB

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 28, 2007
4:33 PM

Post #3669899

They'll likely be lighter, Betty, but they'll likely need watering more frequently, too.

R - I also think the study tends to support or illustrate what I was saying. ... something like adding a pint of BBs and a pint of sand to a quart of marbles & still ending up with a quart of material.

Al
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

June 28, 2007
11:13 PM

Post #3671335

Al,

Thanks for the reply. I plan to take some time and read all of the information this weekend. To me it is very exciting. Watering more will not be a problem for me ,as I am the type that probably waters too much anyway.

BettyFB

Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

June 29, 2007
4:49 AM

Post #3672603

Al, my poultry grit and shells are to replace the perlite. I have a personal dislike for perlite; the white balls look distracting and unnatural, but that's me :o)

I have been experimenting with brands of pine bark fines, peat (Miracle-Gro now makes a special super peat moss that is 10x more expensive that the regular stuff, probably b/c it has "Miracle-Gro" stamped on the package.)

I have to perfect this mix for the BIG potting season- hauling in the house plants and other annuals for the winter, after a summer in the sun.

Thank you for all of your information (my plants thank you, too!). I have always wanted to grow hybrid tea roses, but deer munching and root incursion from other garden plants always ruined them. Your basic soil recipe seems perfect for large pots for rose bushes! I'm trying that next!
-Melissa
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

July 7, 2007
3:52 PM

Post #3707031

Hi Al,

Here is a picture of a container I made last week using your formula. I will keep you posted how well it does. I would like to see pictures of your plants in containers for ideas and to see how great they look!!!!

Thumbnail by BettyFB
Click the image for an enlarged view.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

July 7, 2007
3:53 PM

Post #3707033

Looks great Betty! How often do you water?
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

July 7, 2007
5:54 PM

Post #3707400

I am watering daily just like I water all the plants. I will post another picture of it in a few weeks to show how it is doing with the the pine bark fines container soil.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 7, 2007
7:54 PM

Post #3707749

Betty - Here are a few pics that I'd sent to a friend & she subsequently posted on another forum:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/gal1019161924863.html?10

Al
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

July 7, 2007
9:10 PM

Post #3708003

Thanks Al,

All of those pictures were very beautiful. I am going to look at those pictures again and again for ideas.


Betty

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2007
10:30 PM

Post #3708297

OMG, Al, I knew your containers would be "pretty" but those are downright overwhelmingly gorgeous. Thanks for posting them. Wow. I know this question has probably been asked and answered, but do you water them all by hand?

xxx, Carrie

(a new convert to Al's potting mix.)

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 7, 2007
11:41 PM

Post #3708537

I use a short waterbreak & water each container twice to be sure it's evenly moistened. I have about 200-225 containers (the bulk are bonsai) I water daily & it takes about 90 minutes.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2007
11:49 PM

Post #3708579

What do you think of irrigation systems?

x, C

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 7, 2007
11:51 PM

Post #3708585

another pic:

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 7, 2007
11:53 PM

Post #3708589

Automatic drip watering systems?

Al

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2007
11:58 PM

Post #3708610

I guess so, I don't really know what I mean yet, but watering 64 containers (not including hanging stuff, or stuff that is waiting for DH to put up a hook for it so it can hang) from a WHEELCHAIR is really hard!

x. C
Irish9b
Sun City, AZ

August 15, 2007
11:06 PM

Post #3861213

Is there a danger in using packing peanuts at the bottom of a pot?
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

August 15, 2007
11:40 PM

Post #3861317

Not unless they're biodegradable.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

August 16, 2007
12:34 AM

Post #3861502

If you read the first post in this thread, you'll see that adding anything to the bottom of a pot actually hurts rather than helps drainage and is not a good idea.
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

August 16, 2007
12:42 AM

Post #3861534

Hi all,

I used Tapla's formula for potting soil in one large container I planted in July and today it is still looking as good as the day I planted it. I am one that tends to overwater my pots and with this potting mix it works well for me and the flowers are still looking good in mid August.

Thumbnail by BettyFB
Click the image for an enlarged view.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

August 16, 2007
12:48 AM

Post #3861561

Looks great Betty. I would like to see more photos from those who used Al's formula.
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

August 16, 2007
12:56 AM

Post #3861601

victorgardener,

I second that--please post more pics .
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

August 16, 2007
5:30 AM

Post #3862592

Carrie, if you don't have too many hanging plants the pulleys from Charley's Greenhouse are really nice. Lets you bring the plants down where you can tend to them and water them. They cost around $10 each, but sure are nice.

Jeanette
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

August 16, 2007
1:56 PM

Post #3863201

Here is a photo of a few of my pots, these are on the deck. The soil mix is pretty near the same as Tapla advised. They are watered with drippers on a timer.

Donna

Thumbnail by rutholive
Click the image for an enlarged view.

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 16, 2007
7:54 PM

Post #3864527

Gorgeous - I love esp. your nasturtiums!

xx, Carrie
BettyFB
Louisville, KY
(Zone 6b)

August 16, 2007
10:34 PM

Post #3865173

Rutholive,

Very impressive!!!! Love them all.
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2007
1:26 AM

Post #3865791

Thankyou both for your kind remarks. The wind is blowing so hard now that I am afraid they won't look good in the morning.
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2007
5:32 AM

Post #3866592

Looking good Donna. What is the taller one with branches, and what do you do with it in the winter? Just curious. Do you have a greenhouse to put it in? I think I remember you saying you do don't you?

Jeanette
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

August 18, 2007
2:53 AM

Post #3869732

The taller one is a fig tree that needs to be repotted next spring. I do keep it inside in the winter but not in my small gh. I have another room on north side of garage that I call my Bonsai storage, it is inculated but only rarely heated. I keep plants and bulbs in there at temps between just above freezing and about 45 degrees.

I will try to remember to take a couple more photos tomorrow and post of more large pots.

Donna
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

August 18, 2007
12:10 PM

Post #3870431

Sorry if I offend anyone with the following...

Could we please keep this thread on topic? It is a sticky on the container forum which, along with its companion part 1, contains a great deal of useful information. I, like many I'm sure, have this thread on my watch list so that I can learn about this important topic of perched water tables and container soil structure. If the thread gets off topic, not only will it get long and slow to load for anyone with dialup, but more importantly the discussion will come to a halt because everyone will unwatch the thread.

Again, sorry if I ruffled feathers.

SB
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

January 10, 2008
1:19 AM

Post #4381802

Brilliant thread, Tapla.

I would humbly add an observation to help everyone more easily to understand and more readily (and wisely) to accept your early point, i.e., that having a wick extend beneath a pot lowers the PWT and thus increases the usable soil in a pot of any height.

GFP and capillary action are both directional forces. The direction of gravity, for all practical purposes, is always straight down. In contrast, the direction of the force of adhesion, which I consider the primary force involved in capillary action, depends on the orientation of the surfaces to which water "wants" to adhere. Therefore, in a wickless pot, the PWT will be that level within the pot, relative to the drainage hole, at which ALL the downward force gravity exerts on the water within the pot is exactly equal to, thus cancelled out by, the net upward adhesion force resulting from the contact of that water with the soil surfaces.

Accordingly, when a wick --itself made of materials with surfaces exerting/accepting adhesion force-- physically extends downward from the height of the drainage hole, the force of adhesion ADDS TO the force of gravity in the downward direction, instead of offsetting it, as it does in the pot above. All other things being equal, this will invariably lower the height of the PWT, and create significantly more usable soil for your plants, in any pot.

tapla, thanks again for your wonderful explanation.
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

January 10, 2008
1:39 AM

Post #4381894

JPlunket, I'm sure glad I used wicks in all my bulb pots in the fall. I should have much better luck, thanks to Al. I appreciate your comments that adhesion increases the gravitational force so as to free up more of the soil for use. At least that's what I think you said.
oldude
New Iberia, LA

January 22, 2008
7:29 PM

Post #4439080

Tapla
Have you considered the use of furnace fired clay pellets that are used in light weight concrete mix? I have used these in hydroponics systems with very good results. This product may be a replacement for turface or perlite. “Aerolite” is cheap at $30 per cubic yard and can be found at local concrete companies.
Oldude

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2008
9:56 PM

Post #4439629

Yes - thank you, OD. Another similar product I mention frequently is Haydite - if it's not the same product you mention under a different name. Turface & Haydite are both calcined (high-fired) clay while another product I mention, Play Ball, is fired diatomaceous earth.

Al

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 22, 2008
10:20 PM

Post #4439696

http://www.gardengatestore.com/ultragrow.html
Al - I just saw these at the Garden Gate magazine store, what do you think of them?
x, Carrie
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

January 23, 2008
2:08 AM

Post #4440789

they will make your pots lighter, by having air take up some of the space inside the pot, but they simply push up the PWT up by the same distance the insert raises the bottom of the soil, that is, the height of the drain. To get more soil in the pot that is really usable by the roots, i.e., soil NOT saturated with water held in place up to the point where gravity's downward force equals the net upward force of the capillary forces, you need to set up a capillary "avenue" that extends below the effective bottom of the pot, the drain height.

If you filled the space beneath one of these inserts with some sort of absorbent material, that would do it --but the insert itself will not.

Hope I explained that clearly...

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 23, 2008
2:23 AM

Post #4440882

Yes, you DID! Thanks. x, Carrie
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

January 23, 2008
7:32 PM

Post #4443582

OD, are you still growing hydroponics? I am just getting interested in it.

Jeanette
oldude
New Iberia, LA

January 23, 2008
8:42 PM

Post #4443837

Jeanette
Yes, there is nothing as exciting as growing it with hydroponics. I use it in the spring and fall when the temperature of the mixture can be maintained below 85 degrees. I recently got interested in the earthboxes ,but I am not sure if Tapla’s formula would work, since it is designed to drain quickly and not retain moisture. Perhaps Al will advise on this.
If you want to experiment with hydroponics you could start with a 5 gallon bucket and an aquarium air pump. This was my first experiment and I grew some of the best cucumbers ever with that simple system.
Oldude

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 23, 2008
10:12 PM

Post #4444203

Yes, the soils are suitable for wicking applications. I often leave even tall containers full of completely dry soil in a tub of water overnight & by AM the top is moist & the container ready for planting.

I don't want to hurt any feelings, and even though growing in containers is more like hydroponics than growing in the earth, I would like to try to work together and keep the focus of this thread on container soils, please?

Al
Jnette
Northeast, WA
(Zone 5a)

January 24, 2008
4:32 AM

Post #4445988

That is so funny Oldude. I had a setup in the basement for a couple of tomatoes and a cucumber but the tomatoes just can't seem to do much this time of year. So, I moved the cucumber into my kitchen. In a 3 gallon, that actually took 4 gallons, and put my cucumber in it with a short 2 tube floeurescent light on it. Will be fun. I just did that on Monday.

Sorry Al, you didn't hurt my feelings, I was just so surprised when Oldude asked about the fired clay pellets because by coincidence I had just put mine together. Enough said. LOL

Jeanette
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2008
6:14 PM

Post #4452822

Al, help!
I have had great success following your "my soil" recipe, with the addition of polymer crystals b/c I can't water everything, everyday.
The problem is, it's getting expensive, and it's hard to store the fines and peat over the winter.
I'm a huge container gardener, and I've just purchased 6 -10 gal containers and 10 5-gal. containers to grow annual cutting flowers on my deck (it's a BIG deck!).
I've been looking for inexpensive soil ingredients. I thought I had it when I discovered that coir is available in huge bales, but then I stumbled on this study:
http://www.usu.edu/cpl/PDF/CoconutCoirPaper.pdf
Any comment?
The fines and the perlite are the financial killers. I was looking for something less expensive. I guess what I'm asking is: is there a cheap and easy way to re-work your formula?
-Melissa
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 25, 2008
7:23 PM

Post #4453115

I would be really interested in the answer. I am appalled by the link you gave in your post, Jax4ever; I thought coir was supposed to be a good growing medium, but that link suggests otherwise!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2008
7:43 PM

Post #4453203

Hi, Melissa. I've had that study, and several others that show similar results, forwarded to me, and I've seen similar results from my own (admittedly) limited exposure to the use of coir. I have simply found conifer bark to be superior (and less expensive). Coir can have a salinity factor that needs to be addressed, too.

That said, I've never seen coir offered at an expense less than that of pine bark. The reason makes good sense, too. Pine bark is often a local by-product, with the shipping expense a good portion of the end cost of the product. Coir is much the same, but it's shipped much farther & is, therefore, more expensive. So I don't really think you cost assessment will hold up to closer examination. ;o)

I'm not here promoting "my soil" or a particular soil - not at all. I'm here to promote & stress the importance of aeration and structural integrity of all soils for the life of the planting. It doesn't matter how you arrive at that end, just so I leave you with the knowledge that that end is very desirable. ;o)

I pay about $3-4 for a 2 cu ft bag of bark, depending on whether I get it at a big box store (on sale) or at a nursery/greenhouse. I used to buy it by the pallet from a wholesaler, but they changed brands & I didn't like what they were selling the last two years - perhaps they will change this year. I was very pleased with a product labeled "Golden Trophy - Premium Landscape Mulch" that I found at Home Depot last season, and I have around 25 bags of that stockpiled.

I pay about $12 for a 4 cu ft bag of perlite, and almost any sizable greenhouse operation will order it for you if you inquire early.

You asked: ... is there a cheap and easy way to re-work your formula? The answer to that is: I don't think you really can get by much cheaper than some variation of the bark/peat/perlite blend. There is nothing really carved in stone, as far as a mix recipe or formula goes, but I spent a lot of time experimenting with different components & combinations of components, so what I pass on to you here, takes into account first, plant vitality, then expense. If you build your own soil from a recipe similar to the one I use, you'll probably find that in the end, it costs you less than half as much as a commercially prepared, and usually less suitable soil.

I can't help you with the storage issue. I know the ingredients can be bulky. The only way around it (the storage issue) would be to buy the ingredients in the spring, as you would have to do to eliminate a storage issue with a commercially prepared blend, or store the ingredients outdoors.

Al




This message was edited Jan 25, 2008 2:44 PM

This message was edited Jan 25, 2008 8:44 PM
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2008
9:39 PM

Post #4453609

Thanks, Al!
My biggest problem has been the pine bark fines. The only place I can find it sells it as a high-end mulch for $10+ per big bag.I will check the HD and Lowes sites for the stuff you buy. If they don't carry it here, I may be able to coax our farmers' co-op into buying some for me.
I find that the pine-bark based mix is a little awkward for houseplants in small pots! Do you use that mix for small houseplants?
I have made myself nutty running the cost of coir bales vs. the cost of other materials, and you are 100% correct. Coir is expensive; it's only plus is the ease of storage.

Yes, Happy, I was appalled, too!!! If coir were a better growing medium than the study's 50/50 perlite peat mix, I would spend a few extra $ for the coir! But, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: peat has more nutrients than coir! Coir doesn't break down like peat. I'm glad I saw that before starting my seeds (I bought a small bale of coir for that purpose). Now I know to mix some nutrients into the coir. I just discovered "Bio-Tone Starter Plus" by Epsoma. My aforementioned co-op sells in in 25-lb bags. It is like the Shultz Soil Conditioner, but it has nutrients. I haven't tried it yet, (I just bought the 4-lb bag), but I'm going to do my own experiments!!! I'm not promoting the Epsoma, but I'm excited to have found it. (Geez, I gotta get a life!!!)

Al, what do you use as a seed-starting medium?

P. S. It would be a whole lot simplier if you mixed up "your" soil and sold it on Dave's!!!!! I am promoting it to my local nurseries (where I am a very familiar face!)
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 25, 2008
10:15 PM

Post #4453778

The thing that stands out in the USU study is the high electroconductivity levels of the coir products. Since all samples were fed the same, there's obviously some characteristic of the coir that increases salt concentrations (or, conversely, something about peat that mitigates salt buildup). Is it the coir's inherent salinity, its absorptive qualities or some other factor? Rather than completely abandon the product, it may be that feeding practices need to be different for the coir media than the peat media. Without any good reasoning to back me up, I'm wondering if plants grown in coir can either be fed with a fraction of the nutrient needed when growing in peat, or if more frequent fresh water leaching will compensate for the higher salt content. To me, EC is an indicator of inefficiency in nutrient delivery as much as anything else, therefore, more efficient delivery of nutrient might compensate for the radical differences found in the EC levels.
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2008
10:19 PM

Post #4453792

illinguy, do you have a site that explains about EC in language a doofus (me) can understand?
Are you and Al professionals in the natural sciences? (I am thinking or returning to college to study geology.)
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 25, 2008
10:33 PM

Post #4453851

I'll see if I can hunt one up. Generally, EC is the measurement of the ability to conduct an electrical current through, in this case, your growing media. The higher the concentration of nutrient salts built up in the soil, the greater the amount of electricity that can be conducted, hence the higher the EC reading. If salt levels get too high, the ability of the plant to take up nutrient is inhibited.
I'm far from a professional in the natural sciences, and from what I've read, it's obvious that Al's forgotten more about soil science than I'll ever know. His explanation at the top of this thread is fascinating, and I've really never seen it explained as clearly as it was there.
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 25, 2008
11:24 PM

Post #4454031

I agree!
That's why this thread has taken on a life of it's own!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
1:08 AM

Post #4454381

I could cry - I just spent a half hour typing a reply to several of the posts & I lost the whole thing when I tried to upload it. ;o( Well - back to work ...

Al

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
1:42 AM

Post #4454516

I'll try again. ;o)

Melissa - I use either pine or fir bark in all my houseplant soils (no peat at all) so I know that it works well. If you feel the product you have is too small, keep looking for something like in the pic I'll supply at the bottom, or if you have a friend with a chipper, perhaps you could beg him/her to process it to a little finer mesh for you?

I don't often start seeds, but for the few that I do, I use Turface, straight from the bag. Since I always screen my components for bonsai soil, I always have plenty of Turface fines on hand & I cover the seeds with that. It's really hard to beat the jiffy sterile seed starting blends of peat & vermiculite though. They work well, even if they do collapse quickly.

I'll talk a little about EC (electrical conductivity) and TDS (total dissolved solids). They're a measure of what is dissolved in our soil water, so a high level of salt in coir would contribute to elevated levels. I'll explain why this is bad.

Plants take up water best when there are no ions in it - nothing dissolved - no fertilizer - just distilled water. But we cannot do that, or they will starve. We need to add nutrients. There is a fairly narrow band of TDS and EC that is ideal for plants, and it varies by light intensity, temperature, growth rate, and where the plant is in the growth cycle. On the flip side of the coin, if the level of TDS and EC is too high, the plant cannot absorb either water or nutrients, so it could starve or die of thirst in a sea of plenty.

We generally consider the TDS and EC to be an indicator of nutrient levels, but accumulating salts from fertilizers & irrigation water, play an important part, as would latent salts in a coir product (for example). If you want to fertilize at a solution strength of 1,500 ppm, and there is already 700 ppm of accumulated salts in the soil, that means you would only be able to add a solution containing 800 ppm or you would exceed your self-imposed solution strength and possibly create problems in the plants ability to absorb water & nutrients.

I'm not trying to impress you with numbers - pay no attention to them except to help you realize that there is a "ZONE" we hope we can stay in through educated guessing so our plants are at least somewhere between starved & burned up. ;o)

When TDS and EC levels get extremely high, water can be "pulled" from plant cells in exactly the same way that moisture is pulled from ham and bacon. The scientific term for this is plasmolysis, but you and I know it commonly as fertilizer burn.

Ok - now we know there is a zone. We also need to realize that it's important to maintain the right mix of elements and stay within that zone. Why is this important? Well, if you're using the popular 10-52-10 "bloom boosting" blend that's oft touted, you're prolly applying around 30 times more P than the plant can possibly use (in relation to N). You could be fertilizing at the correct zone of TDS & EC, but the extremely high levels of P would automatically guarantee a N deficiency.

I'm going to stop here so you can catch up & absorb this - it's important to understand. I'll leave a pic for Melissa see if there are any questions.

Al

This message was edited Jan 25, 2008 8:58 PM

This message was edited Jan 25, 2008 9:02 PM

Thumbnail by tapla
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victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

January 26, 2008
1:57 AM

Post #4454587

Al - in the last line of the next to last paragraph, don't you mean 'extreme high levels of P would...'?
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
5:24 AM

Post #4455429

Al, I do have a question- is Advil, asprin or Tylenol better for a headache..? ;0) Maybe I should forget the return to college thing. Belive me, all you have to do is add 2+2 to impress me w/ numbers.

One request I have is to put a coin or something in that photo for scale. I'm going to seek out your "Golden Trophy" fines- are they in that picture?

I'll have to rent my own chipper, sadly. Everyone I know thinks I'm a "plant freak"! I. e., they don't garden and can't understand how plants take over your life. Like cats.

I buy dry fertilizer by the bag in "one third" amounts: one being 10-0-0, another 0-10-0, and 0-0-10 (rounded off amounts), and adjust it depending on what I'm fertilizing- this is for my 2.5 acres of trees, grass, perennials, annuals, weeds, and more weeds. I use bags of organic greensand, dried blood, phosphate, muriate of potash, etc. Maybe this is a mistake? To be honest, I don't often fertilize my indoor plants. I don't know what to use.

I'm so confused... hey, it's Friday night/Sat. am and I'm here obsessing about my container plants for this spring, with my cat, Jax, in my lap. Things are worse than I thought!!!!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
6:05 AM

Post #4455506

First, you're almost totally responsible for supplying nutrients to your plants in container culture. Container culture is completely different from growing in the garden, and is much closer to hydroponics than garden culture. I think you'd do well to forget the granular fertilizers, except in isolated cases & only then if you're well-versed in what you're doing. I'll probably get all kinds of flack for saying this, but I'm equipped & ready to debate this point: If you're confused about fertilizers for container plantings - all you really need to know is that the closest ratio on the market to what plants ACTUALLY use is 3:1:2 - N:P:K. That isn't the % of NPK - it's the ratio. The two fertilizers you should look for are: 24-8-16 or 12-4-8. Miracle gro makes both in easy-to-use granular/soluble, or liquid, and they come with some of the micronutrients. I use them by choice on 99% of my plants & I have a broad diversity of plant material - especially in summer. If you're at all unsure of how to tweak your nutrient supplementation program, you won't go far wrong if you use this formula for everything. It's been around for years & there's a good reason that MG labels it as "All-Purpose Fertilizer".

http://www.miraclegro.com/index.cfm/event/ProductGuide.product/documentId/637153cfaa6b1ff545c0236933b0a7a4 Miracle-Gro Granular soluble 24-8-16 with micronutrients. Click on "read label" for more info

http://www.scottscanada.ca/index.cfm/event/ProductGuide.product/documentId/8AA325CB3201B064850BAC15135A32E0 Miracle-Gro liquid 12-4-8 with micronutrients. Click on read label for more info. This is what I use almost always.

Al
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
4:50 PM

Post #4456646

The term "well-versed" resonnates with me. How does one become well-versed? There is more snake oil being sold to us "serious hobby" gardeners than botox to LA housewives. Is there a good reference book?

I guess my "fertilization program" (I don't have one) works like a broken clock: It will be correct 2 times out of 12 simply by default.

I am going to read up on hydroponics. I don't know a bit about it.

I wouldn't debate you on fertilizers, BUT I would love to hear the argument! I will go so far as to ask "How can one fertilizer be all purpose?" Right now, I have 6 bougainvillea and 5 geraniums that are "overwintering" (they aren't actively growing- waiting to put them outside); A dozen or so Sansevieras (I collect them), 5 spider plants, a dozen succulents or so, and a philodendron. I haven't fertilized any of them; they are in your recipe w/ the CRF plus a micronutrient powder. I feel the recipe had enough nutrients, but should I be supplementing them? (I also have 2 Golden Dragon clivia. They are dying. I kill all clivia; I don't know how I do this!)

Al, make it easy on yourself and write a book to go along with your pre-packaged fertilizer!!! I'll buy it!!!



dottik
Oakland, OR
(Zone 8a)

January 26, 2008
8:27 PM

Post #4457485

Jax4ever, just print off this entire thread and the one that goes with it. You'll have your book. I have read and reread both threads and slowly the light is dawning. I agree, it would be nice to be able to purchase prepackaged planting mix from Al, but I don't think we are going to get off this easy. Good luck with your houseplants. Dotti

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 26, 2008
10:02 PM

Post #4457783

Melissa - First - it's pretty much a must, that you supplement a containerized planting if you expect it to grow w/o nutritional deficiencies, so the sooner you settle on some kind of a nutritional supplementation program for your houseplants & others in containers, the happier both you and your plants will be. ;o)

Second - I promise I'll do my best to never peddle "snake oil" to you. I try to make sure that everything I say here is firmly rooted in plant physiology or one of the sciences, and that I can always call on science to reinforce my observations and opinions.

I'm not sure how you'd become well-versed in the physics of container soils, I kind of did that on my own, but as far as physiology, plant husbandry, fertilization, that sort of thing, good quality text books abound & they're all filled with as much knowledge as we can possibly absorb. If you're really interested, I'll name a few, but I think they would be pretty dry & technical to suit most tastes. Let me know ...?

You said you haven't fertilized and wondered "How can one fertilizer be all purpose?"

Well, look carefully at the chart I made. It shows the range of nutrients found in the living tissues of almost all plants. I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.

N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
M(olybden) 0.003

How to interpret the chart: The first set of numbers is the range of the nutrient as it occurs in plant tissues for every 100 parts of N. So there are 13-19 parts of P, and 45-80 parts of K in plant tissues for every 100 parts of N. The second number, in parenthesis, is simply the average number for the range. Be patient - this is going somewhere. ;o) So, plants average 16 parts of P and 62 parts of K for every 100 parts of N. The last number, the fraction, represents how much of each nutrients are in living tissues when compared to N. There is approximately 1/6 the P and 3/5 the K in living plant tissues as there is N.

If we want to see how these averages compare to the 3:1:2 ratio of fertilizer I suggested above, we need to only divide the value of all the averages by 3.33. if we divide 100:16:62 by 3.33, we come up with approximately a ratio of 3:.5:2 - N:P:K that is actually IN plant tissues. This is extremely close to the 3:1:2 ratio I suggested, and even though it is still a little high in P, plants will tolerate it well, From this you can do a few calculations and see that a 20-20-20 blend supplies (on average) about 6 times more P than plants could ever use, and almost twice the K.

This chart, based on a % of N is the basis of how commercial greenhouse fertigation programs are structured. They determine how much N is needed, and all the other nutrients are added as a % of N. When commercial operations fertilize, they often use sophisticated tissue analysis to determine which of the three primary macronutrients, secondary macronutrients (magnesium, calcium, sulfur), and/or micronutrients are in tissues in excess, or are deficient. When they are deficient, they will adjust the fertigation program to raise the level of that nutrient in tissues to the proper range - the opposite for excesses. If tissue analysis shows there is no deficiency or excess, all is well (unless there is intentional manipulation of nutrients to achieve a specific end - often the rule) and the blend will be very close to the 3:1:2 blend mentioned above

Since we, as hobby growers, haven't the wherewithal to track our plant's nutritional needs so closely, we need to take an informed shotgun approach. Since plants use the major nutrients in very close to a 3:1:2 ratio of N:P:K, doesn't it make sense to supply those nutrients in as close to that exact ratio as possible? I'll be bold & answer that question for you - YES, of course it does. ;o)

Al


This message was edited Jan 26, 2008 9:32 PM
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

January 27, 2008
1:24 AM

Post #4458580

Al: Is Miracle-Gro liquid 12-4-8 with micronutrients available in the US? I'm not seeing in on their website.
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 27, 2008
7:27 PM

Post #4460991

Al: Starting with your comments: "From this you can do a few calculations and see that a 20-20-20 blend supplies (on average) about 6 times more P than plants could ever use, and almost twice the K...Since plants use the major nutrients in very close to a 3:1:2 ratio of N:P:K, doesn't it make sense to supply those nutrients in as close to that exact ratio as possible?"
Aside from the inefficiency of adding too much P and K when using an NPK ratio of 1-1-1, if your tissue analysis shows that the plants have the proper ratio of 3:1:2 when using a 1-1-1 formulation, there's no problem. Somewhere along the line, the plant's physiology will come into play, as well. It may be that a 3-1-2 NPK mix in your fertilizer is more in keeping with what you want your plant to have, but not to the point that a good general purpose nutrient, sensibly applied, wouldn't be a good choice.
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2008
7:54 PM

Post #4461124

Al, THANK YOU for the information. I would like a text book reference or 2.

I didn't mean that you would peddle snake oil! It's just that every gardening catalog that I recieve has a new and better fertilizer- bat guano, seaweed, worm castings, sewage from lake Michigan- all will make your plants bigger and better that last year's concoction. Oh, by the way, to get the most from our new fertilizer, you simply must buy the wetting agent, the innoculent, the super-duper sprayer, the bio-enzymes, the micro-nutrients or the fertilizer won't work and here's a picture of the plant grown WITH our products and one without... impress your neighbors... blah, blah, blah...

In other words, the sellers of all this stuff are preying on our ignorance about chemistry and what our soil (container or not) is currently missing. I don't understand your calculations- yet. I'm going to re-read it; you taught me about the PWT and I got THAT after a couple of read-throughs. I really appreciate you taking the time to type all of this out for us. And I'm glad there are other knowledgable people out there asking tough questions!!! It's going to save me lots of $$$ on unicorn manure or whatever else is new this year...

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2008
9:59 PM

Post #4461638

I-guy - Since (with a few exceptions like tropical hibiscus) plants use more N than any other element, fertilizer under controlled conditions is applied as a function of the amount of N used. It's indisputable that plants use approximately 6 times more N than P, and about 1.5 times more N than K. If we apply a 1:1:1 fertilizer at a rate that guarantees no N deficiency, we are automatically applying 6 times more P and 1.5 times more K than the plant will use.

I'm not saying that you can't have perfectly healthy plants by using a 1:1:1 ratio judiciously, but it does hamper your ability to apply more fertilizer when a N deficiency becomes apparent, and limits o/a flexibility. I won't say that a 1:1:1 blend cannot be a good choice, but I will say that with an extremely high % of plant material, a 3:1:2 blend is a better choice.

For example: In weekly fertilizing of geraniums, N should be applied at 480 ppm. If we want to limit our TDS level of our fertilizer water to 1,500 ppm (a very realistic goal), using a 1:1:1 blend, we have 480 ppm each of NPK or 1,440 ppm of JUST those 3 elements. If we add in 250 ppm for TDS in the water and another 250 ppm for micronutrients (both conservative), we're already well over our limit (1,940 ppm) & into the range where we may be inhibiting water & nutrient uptake because of elevated EC and TDS levels.

If we applied a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer, we supply all the N the plant needs, all the other secondary macronutrients, all the micronutrients, have allowed for water hardness, and we still come in at 1,460 ppm - room to spare if we needed to correct for a nutritional deficiency.

Our goal should be to keep all nutrient levels in soil solution somewhere between "adequate" and "luxury" levels. At the same time, we want to keep the level of TDS and EC at it's lowest while supplying those nutrients. Using a 1:1:1 ratio fertilizer like 12-12-12 or 20-20-20 inhibits our ability to maintain luxury levels AND to minimize the level of TDS and EC.

I mentioned hibiscus in my opening comment because it's one of the few plants that prefers a little more K than N in its diet. I compensate for this by adding a tbsp of potash (supplies K) per gallon of soil when I pot/repot and still use a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer.

Melissa - I knew that you didn't mean anything offensive & I was smiling as I mentioned the snake oil. I didn't take any offense. ;o)

If you want to learn about soil composition and fertilization, I'll suggest a very good and reasonably easy to understand text: Water, Media, and Nutrition for Greenhouse Crops - edited by David Reed, published by Ball Publishing ISBN 1-883052-12-2

Here is an excellent online source for info on plant physiology, listed by subject. http://4e.plantphys.net/categories.php?t=t It should keep you busy until the book comes. ;o)

Take care.

Al
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2008
10:39 PM

Post #4461791

Al, is this your hobby or profession?
I know you grow bonsai, but what else?
AND if you can figure out a way to bottle sunshine (the lack thereof being a huge problem for me), let me know. With your knowledge, I bet you can figure it out ;0) (Actually, switching every home light to flourescent has helped my plants immeasurably. They get less intense light, but I tend to keep the lights on more than 18 hrs. a day.)

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2008
11:10 PM

Post #4461894

Hi Melissa - I'll answer your questions, but then as gently as possible I'll ask everyone if we can try to stay focused on container soils & try not to get too conversational about off topic stuff? I'm only asking that so other readers don't have so much trouble loading the thread and wading through our off-topic conversations. I'd love to visit with anyone who wants to talk by D-mail or e-mail though? Please don't be offended. Even the fertilizer conversation is a little off-topic, but I think it ties into soils well enough that those coming to the thread for soil info could gain from reading through it?

This is all hobby for me. I get to talk to lots of growers & people from all over the world (this summer I helped a parks guy from Paris, France build a soil for their street tree plantings). Mostly they find me through surfing the net when something I've written on Dave's or GW comes up. Almost everything I've learned has been an outgrowth of my chase for knowledge that applies to the art of bonsai. If I have strengths, I'd probably say they are in soil science and plant physiology.I have several gardens & raised beds, around 200 woody plants in containers that are future bonsai candidates, a bunch of more unusual houseplants, and I do a ton of containers for display throughout the gardens & deck in the summer. I own a glazing contracting business (glass company) and I'm old enough to be a grandpa. ;o)

Ok - back to soil-related talk now ...

Al

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FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 27, 2008
11:40 PM

Post #4462024

Al: Attached is a tissue analysis taken from a sample of 20,000 geraniums grown several years ago using a 12-12-12 mixture of a dry granular product applied at a rate of 5 pounds per cubic yard, single application, no subsequent feeding. The analysis was taken after 4 weeks' growth from unrooted cuttings. If my math is correct, that translates into an application of N, P and K of about 272 grams throughout the growing media. By the time I visited the greenhouse in early February, the plants were shooting buds like mad. I'll not dispute any of your assertions as to the proper levels of nutrient needed for healthy plant development, because you're absolutely on the money. My point is that by delivering nutrient in the most efficient means possible, you're capable of growing an outstanding plant (in this case, geranium) with a minimum of actual nutrient being delivered. This gives the grower much wider latitude to supplement at a much lower overall rate without over-application if amendment of the feeding is needed. I have trials on tomato and petunia which offer similar findings, but I thought you 'd be interested in seeing the geranium results attached.

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FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 27, 2008
11:46 PM

Post #4462045

The last post showed the media analysis of the same trial. Here's the tissue analysis. Sorry about that.

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tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 28, 2008
1:15 AM

Post #4462405

In your estimation and after reviewing the media analysis - if you had to choose between a 3:2:1 blend and a 1:1:1 blend, which would you choose for the next supplementation?

I'm aware that most greenhouse applications normally use something closer to a 2:1:2 blend as a starter mix, and this grower is intentionally keeping N levels low to slow vegetative growth and keep the plants compact as buds form, but we're really talking about post production plants in this thread. If you wanted to bring the extremely low levels of N in the media sample up to where they should be for the plants readers are growing in containers, using a 1:1:1 blend would drive P levels through the roof, which will start interferring with both Fe and Mn uptake.

I'll leave you space for the last word & perhaps then we can get back to something everyone can participate in. ;o) I'm pretty sure that most readers are pretty disinterested in joining in our debate.

Al
TwinLakesChef
OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA
(Zone 4b)

January 28, 2008
1:37 AM

Post #4462493

So where can one buy 3:2:1 ?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 28, 2008
2:01 AM

Post #4462599

TLC (I like that) - 3:1:2 is only the ratio of the primary nutrients. Examples of the two most common fertilizers that have this ratio are Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 granular/soluble and Miracle-Gro 12-4-8, both with micronutrients.

See Post #4455506 a little way up this thread for links to the product description and a look at what the package looks like.

Al
tigerlily123
Raleigh, NC
(Zone 7b)

January 28, 2008
2:49 AM

Post #4462947

I am surprised by how low a PH that grower had his geraniums at. 5.88 is pretty low for geraniums.

Forgive me for continuing the fert discussion, but I think that this question/clarification ties in nicely with container grown plants. Did I understand you correctly when I thought that you said that you don't think that slow release fertilizers work well in containers? Just went back and reread what you said-that one would do well to forget slow release ferts except in isolated situations. Just wondering why you felt that way.
I think it would be a good time to discuss the pros and cons of slow release to soluble ferts in containers as one has to do one or the other,in most cases, in order to provide nutrition. I love using slow release in my containers, saves me a lot of time and gives me a break from foliar fertilizing which is so time consuming in comparison to watering.
This is absolutely your thread but I think it would be good to cover the different types of slow release and amts used etc.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 28, 2008
3:10 AM

Post #4463062

TL - can you give me a post# please? I'd like to read the context in which I might have said that. It could well have had something to do with timing of the application or another issue a poster might have mentioned. I think the basic recipes I posted at the top of the thread allowed for the inclusion of CRFs, but that doesn't mean they are either appropriate or inappropriate at all times. ;o)

Never mind - I found it. I said "granular" fertilizers. Are you referring to Controlled Release Fertilizers like Osmocote, or the granular fertilizers I was referring to?

Al
TwinLakesChef
OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA
(Zone 4b)

January 28, 2008
3:10 AM

Post #4463065

Well thank you for the link but when I clicked on product information it said it was 15-30-15

But I googled and found it here;

http://underbid.com/action/display/item/20640-1061876216/sku/701356.html

My fertilizing has been hit and miss; in the Spring, as soon as the snow is gone I sprinkle Osmocote all over. Then I fertilize every time I water at half strength, switching from MG, to Seaweed Extract, to Epsom Salts, to Peters 20-20-20, to Mighty Plant, to fish emulsion. On the off weeks I sprayed with Messenger.

I didn't really know what to use so I switched around. I will order this and see if using it this summer makes a difference. I was never really sure if what I was doing was helping or harming.

I appreciate the effort you have put into this post and what I have gleaned from it simply is to try 24-8-16. Now I just need to figure out what to use on my potted tropical hibiscus that I overwinter.

One last question and then I'll go away; is it true that you shouldn't fertilize your over wintered plants.

Thank you for your effort in explaining all this; it will make us better gardeners.

arlene
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

January 28, 2008
3:20 AM

Post #4463106

I'll finish off my contribution to this thread by saying I've used the same product in my geraniums at home as were used to start the plants in the trial (actually, I took some of those very plants 4 years ago), and they've been going strong, giving great blooms, ever since. I'll be looking for that CRF thread.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 28, 2008
7:42 PM

Post #4465709

TLC asks: "One last question and then I'll go away; is it true that you shouldn't fertilize your over wintered plants."

To answer the question, I would need to qualify the response. There is usually no real need to fertilize dormant deciduous plants. For conifers taking a cold quiescent (resting) break, there is some advantage in maintaining a low level of the full compliment of nutrients necessary for growth, simply because the plant is capable of some growth while over-wintering in a cold place.

Houseplants and other (usually perennial) plants that are not truly dormant (they may be resting in a cool place) go about the business of living and adjusting their metabolic needs according to certain internal rhythms (search circadian and endogenous rhythms for more info) and cultural conditions. Their internal clocks and lowered light levels are key factors in the marked slowdown most of us observe in our plants in winter; however, slowed growth cannot simply be offered up as proof of "dormancy". Just because we can't see plants growing or we think they are not growing is insufficient cause for certainty in the matter. In fact, in winter, our houseplants are carrying on photosynthesis and respiration - keeping their systems orderly, and going about their metabolic processes in a "business as usual" manner. They are just doing it at a much-reduced rate.

Why then, would we deprive plants of the building blocks they need (fertilizer) to produce the energy (make food) to carry on their metabolism? In nature, do the nutrients just disappear from soils whenever a plant's internal clock or cultural conditions cause slowed growth? Of course not - and the idea is absurd. Even if you cannot SEE plants growing, they are STILL producing and storing photosynthate to be used in a later push of (spring?) growth. Withholding fertilizer, LIMITS the plants ability to carry on this important part of its growth cycle. Plants are efficient users of nutrients, but they cannot make something from nothing.

If you were striving for ultimate growth and best vitality, it would be REQUIRED that plants should ALWAYS have a full compliment of ALL the nutrients essential for growth in a solution strong enough to supply all nutrients in the adequacy range, but not so strong that it makes it osmotically difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients. This bold part is key.

The reason it is so often parroted that we should refrain from fertilizing in winter isn't because the practice itself is bad for plants (simple science and a little knowledge of plant physiology is all that's needed to dispel that myth); it's because so many of us are growing in a soil that simply will not allow us to fertilize in a way that is best for the plants.

Remember, I'm often at odds with growers who support a practice out of convenience or a necessity based on cultural limits they have either placed on themselves or that they must work within. Soo often you'll find me saying that grower convenience and plant vitality are often at odds with each other and are often mutually exclusive.

Where am I headed? Well, if we KNOW that availability of low levels of all nutrients at all times is best, even in winter, why are we so often admonished against winter fertilizing? It's because of the soils we use. Even without the addition of fertilizer to our irrigation water, the level of salts and total dissolved solids (TDS) in our soils (for most of us) continues to accumulate over winter because of watering habits necessitated by slow soils. Some limit themselves by soil choice and then try to tell others that ARE using a soil that allows them to fertilize appropriately that they are doing something wrong. This, because the some lack adequate understanding about what is really happening with regard to plant's actual nutritional needs.

So YES, many readers are limited to being unable to fertilize adequately because of soil choice, and just because plants carry through winter w/o additional fertilizer supplements over the dark months, is not an indication of anything except that plants will usually tolerate it. Is it the end of the world if you don't fertilize in winter - or you can't? Not really, but you can see that there really is a better way than simply withholding nutrients from an already stressed plant.

Dr. Alex Shigo: " ... correct the stress, which will lead to strain, that if uncorrected will lead to the death of the organism."

As you might guess if you've followed this thread, I use fast soils that drain freely & I fertilize with my own concoction (which is basically MG 12-4-8 with micronutrients + some STEM + some Sprint 138 Fe chelate [an iron supplement for high pH water applications] + MgSO4 + vinegar) at EVERY watering, and it works extremely well for the plants I over-winter. For winter watering, when I add the TDS of my water and what I add to it, I'm applying the right mix of nutrients at every watering at a rate of less than 300 PPM of TDS which puts me on very sound horticultural ground. In summer, the same plants will be fertilized at somewhere near the rate of 1,500 - 1,800 PPM weekly - a big difference.

I'm not suggesting that you adopt a "fertilize at every watering" routine like I have, but there is no reason that you cannot fertilize regularly during the winter if you're using a well-aerated and fast draining soil. If you're using a slow, water-retentive soil that necessitates your watering in "sips" instead of watering copiously and flushing the soil at every watering, the salt build-up from irrigation water and fertilizer increases the risk factor for elevated levels of TDS and EC and eliminates your ability to make sure the right nutrients are available in the right proportions.

Tip: Often, around this time of year (Feb usually) when you think your plants are suffering because of low humidity levels in your home, what actually is happening is this: You've been watering in sips, maybe even fertilizing a few times since last Fall, so almost ALL the fertilizer salts and metal salts dissolved in your irrigation water have accumulated in the soil. If you read the post upthread that explains that high levels of salts in the soil (EC & TDS) inhibits the plants ability to absorb nutrients and water, you'll understand that though humidity is probably playing a part in the plant's suffering, it's more likely you should attribute the suffering to a poor soil and accumulating salts in that soil because you risk root rot if you flush the soil at each watering.

Take good care.

Al

oldude
New Iberia, LA

January 28, 2008
7:56 PM

Post #4465759

Tapla
What’s your opinion on rice hulls? Do you think that it could be used instead of perlite?

TwinLakesChef
OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA
(Zone 4b)

January 28, 2008
9:21 PM

Post #4466067

Thank you soooo much

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 29, 2008
12:18 AM

Post #4466642

Oldude - IMO, rice hulls should only be used in container soils destined for extremely short-term plantings & probably not in the place of perlite, rather - as a replacement for, or an addition to other organic components. Rice hulls are primarily cellulose, so you should expect two things from them - a rather rapid structural breakdown and the accompanying Nitrogen immobilization associated with the breakdown - something similar to what you would expect from coarse sapwood sawdust.

Al
throneofyord
College Station, TX
(Zone 8b)

February 20, 2008
10:19 PM

Post #4565613

Thank you Al, for all of your information and work. I do a lot of gardening in containers and you have made clear to my why some of my methods have been working better than others, and given me some good clues on improving my methods for other plants.

I usually use a 3 gallon pot, with the bottom third filled with oak leaves and decayed wood chips. The top is a mix of spent mushroom dirt peat and pearlite. If I am growing a root vegetable, I use vermiculite instead of pearlite, as I find the occasional glass powder included in my vegetables unappealing. I add crushed limestone, greensand, and the granite grains used for chickens, to maintain the nutrients that wash out easily. Every once in a while, I test my soil, and rarely find that it needs a fertilizer to maintain a good concentration of ambient nutrients. I will at times have to add some iron or more crushed limestone.

I tend to grow in two tiers. The tougher, more competitive plants I grow around the pot, and the more tender plants I grow in the pot. This way, the water I use gets used twice.

Onions, Corn, Carrots, Radishes, Lettuce, Basil, and Tomatoes seem to thrive in this environment, Squash do well but then loose vigor, Legumes never quite produce more than enough to replant, and Thyme does well for a while and then gives up.

I am going to try your potting mix, and make sure that wicking is happening.

Thanks, Al

Bob

FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

February 22, 2008
3:04 PM

Post #4572619

Al: If there's a possibility of salt buildup and the gardener doesn't wish to switch out the potting mix, wouldn't you recommend a single, sustained leaching with clear water to run the salts out of the bottom of the container, after which you resume your normal winter watering regime? I'd think you'd want to do that just prior to taking the plants outside in the Spring (at the very latest).

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 22, 2008
9:43 PM

Post #4574245

Thanks for the kind words, Bob. Good luck this year!!!

Steve - yes, absolutely. I get lots of mail this time of year from folks with plants exhibiting tip-burn and dry/necrotic leaf margins. Almost universally, they attribute the malady wholly to low humidity levels in the home, but as you note, there is more at work.

Growing in a soil that requires you to water in small 'sips' to prevent saturated soil conditions and accompanying root rot, instead of watering so that the soil is flushed at every water, promotes the accumulation of both fertilizer and irrigation water salts in the soil. There is an inverse relationship between accumulating dissolved solids (salts) in soils and the plant's ability to absorb water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). As the level of salts increases, the plants ability to take up water decreases. Plasmolysis (fertilizer burn) to varying degrees is the extreme result, and can occur even if you are not applying fertilizers.

As Steve pointed out (if you can't/don't want to grow in a fast medium that allows you to flush the soil at each watering) flushing the soil intermittently is a good remedy. I think around a month would be a reasonable interval between flushing operations and to insure minimal accumulation of salts, flushing soils regularly should continue for as long as you're forced to water in sips.

This is a very effective way to flush soils and still minimize the chance of root rot:

Completely saturate the soil and allow it to drain. In succession, and at about 15 minute intervals, pour approximately the same volume of water the plant's container would hold through the soil. Do this 3 or 4 times and it will remove a huge % of the salt accumulation. To help remove any extra water in the soil, you can unpot the plant & set it on a newspaper overnight (or as long as you feel it reasonable - o/a soil mass will determine what is prudent). The newspaper will pull water from the soil and it will evaporate. You can undertake this whole procedure in the shower & wash foliage at the same time for added benefit. If you do not wish to unpot the plant, you can push a wick through the drain hole, up into the soil & allow it to dangle below the container. This will also remove a high % of water the soil might 'try' to retain.

Thanks, Steve - and thank you again for the recent link. I enjoyed the read. ;o)

Al





This message was edited Feb 27, 2008 8:56 PM
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

February 22, 2008
10:35 PM

Post #4574450

A grower I know in Michigan who grows geraniums from unrooted cuttings told me that the plants hit a "wall" about every 30 days when they're being fed with water soluble fertilizer in the irrigation process. Leaching salts is necessary to keep the plants on track, and about once a month is a good time frame. Even growers who are very careful about the rate at which they feed eventually have to deal with salt buildup to one degree or another. Of course, one of the biggest problems greenhouse growers have is to keep the resulting leachate from entering the water table, and none of the solutions are easy or cheap.
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 16, 2008
1:13 PM

Post #4670091

Hi all:

Recently I built 3 really raised beds. Each is 8'x2'x 15" or so deep. From this thread I figured that the size of the "container" might have an effect on the makeup pf the mix.

I am planning on a veggie garden.

Al... does your formula need to be adjusted for "containers" of the size that I have????

Thanx

Laska1

This message was edited Mar 16, 2008 9:18 AM

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LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 16, 2008
1:17 PM

Post #4670104

Al,

What are "pine bark fines". Here in New York I can't find anything like this. The only products that I see here are either "pine bakk mulch" ( some of it is dyed red or black) and pine bark nuggets.

Also I have read about "cocunut husk chips" that seem to have some good qualities. Can these be substituted for "fines" and if yes any idea where they can be purchased in bulk. All I seem to be able to find are small bags aimed at orchis growers.

Please help.
Thanx

Laska1

This message was edited Mar 16, 2008 9:21 AM

This message was edited Mar 16, 2008 9:23 AM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 16, 2008
2:20 PM

Post #4670251

. . . does your formula need to be adjusted for "containers" of the size that I have?

No it doesn't, as long as the containers are elevated like yours. If those containers were on the ground, they would simply be raised beds, and because of the wicking effect of the soil below the beds, you could grow very successfully in a much finer soil.

Pine bark fines are finely processed pine bark - usually partially composted. I prefer this for my garden display containers & veggies - anything I intend to last for only a year, though it would probably be structurally fine for a second consecutive growth cycle. You can see an example of it at the top of the image I'm posting. I'll post another image of other bark just below this post. I can't figure out how to post more than one image in a post. If anyone knows how, I would appreciate a heads-up and some instruction?

Al

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tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 16, 2008
3:05 PM

Post #4670390

I have tried side by side comparisons of cuttings from the same plant - one grown in the mix I usually use, the other was the same mix, except that I substituted CHCs for the bark. I leached the CHCs very thoroughly to remove any soluble salts, and I even used gypsum instead of dolomitic lime to help keep the pH south of neutral (CHCs are pretty neutral in pH, so when you add dolomitic lime as a Ca/Mg source, it pushes the pH above 7, which starts to affect the uptake of many nutrients) and added Epsom salts to the fertilizer water to be sure they were getting Mg. I was careful to water on an 'as needed' basis, instead of a schedule. I just found that the CHC's did not allow any where near the same increase in bio-mass (growth) that the plants in the bark mix did. Others may relate entirely different experience, but having tried the comparison with multiple genera of plants, I think I'll stick with the conifer bark. There is also the expense factor, with bark being much less expensive. Those two reasons alone, clinch the decision for me.

Here is the second pic of bark products I promised. Notice that none of it is dyed? At the top, is screened fir bark I buy in 4 cu ft bags for around $20. I only use that in my bonsai or houseplant soils. The other three pics around the perimeter are all southern yellow pine bark that came from different places. One came from Meijer, one from Home Depot, the other from a nursery just down the road a mile or so from my home. Any of these barks would also work extremely well in a soil for your containers. As you can see, the product is out there, and in my opinion, it really is worth searching for. It may be bagged and called, soil conditioner, pine bark mulch, premium landscape pine bark mulch . . . or any one of a number of other names.

Good luck, Laska.

Al

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revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

March 16, 2008
8:52 PM

Post #4671442

Hi Al,

You have to put the two photos together from your photo editing software. Here's instructions for Paint Shop Pro, if you happen to have that. I'm sure all the rest of the software products have their own way of doing it. http://www.xeramtheum.com/Gourd3.htm

By the way, I wicked my potting soil as you suggested last fall, and the bulbs are coming up this spring. Of course, muscari is just a start, but I'm expecting all of them to bloom in my containers. Great advice you gave me.
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

March 16, 2008
8:56 PM

Post #4671465

I meant to post a pic, so here it is. I keep forgetting to trim off the wick at the top in one of the pots. I have two other large pots where I used Al's method of wicking.

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TwinLakesChef
OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA
(Zone 4b)

March 16, 2008
9:39 PM

Post #4671647

What did you use for wick?
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

March 16, 2008
9:47 PM

Post #4671692

Shoelaces. DH made me promise that if he needs shoelaces I have to buy them for him. (I stole his. lol)
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

March 17, 2008
1:14 AM

Post #4672536

The best wick I have found is the rope used by boat owners. It has an outside jacket and nylon filbers inside. Will not rot and does a great job.
For small pots use the mop head made from man made material. Already cut in strips for you. Both you can buy at walmart
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 17, 2008
4:59 AM

Post #4673391

I have gone bonkers with "self watering" containers this year. It's pretty funny nomenclature, since the containers don't actually march over to the spigot and turn it on; I still have to do that!!! But, I'm placing them in areas of my property that are tough to reach w/ my sprinkler system (like the deck). They utilize wicking systems.
I have purchased 7 ready-made containers. I notice that one model uses a synthetic wicking system. It is about a 1" strip of a heavy nylon mesh that's folded over into many layers and stapled. I'm wondering if the mesh nylon fabric sold in fabric stores is the same stuff??? It's with the bridal satins, and it's used for veils and trim.

BTW, I found directions a DGer posted on making your own "self watering containers"- they are meant to be like a product that rhymes w/ Mirth Fox. I have made 20 so far... 10 out of 10-gal black tote boxes, and 10 out of black pails and perennial pots. I'm planting roses, tomatoes, salad greens and cut flowers! (I saved $$$ by buying almost everything at the local dollar store!)
TwinLakesChef
OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA
(Zone 4b)

March 17, 2008
12:00 PM

Post #4673766

Thanks for the information on wicking.
oldude
New Iberia, LA

March 18, 2008
2:07 PM

Post #4678075

Al
Ok, I have all of the ingredients to make a cubic yard of the batch. My question is about the lime. Is dolomite lime the proper lime to use? I will be planting in earth boxes, mostly peppers, bell, banana, Jalapenos and eggplant so would the amount of lime be any different for these. I also have calcium nitrate available if needed.
oldude

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 18, 2008
3:04 PM

Post #4678328

Yes, dolomite/dolomitic lime is what you need & it generally comes with a ratio of about 4:1 Ca:Mg, which is considered a favorable ratio. The Ca(NO3)2 will supply N and Ca, but then you'll need to find a way to supply needed Mg (Epsom salts) in something close to a favorable ratio. I generally lime at the rate of 1/3 - 1/2 cup of dolomite per cu ft of container soil.

Al
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 19, 2008
12:28 PM

Post #4681688

Al:

In your post that started this thread you state that one can expect the mix to last 2 years but you say that ...

"If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (see above - no smaller than ½ BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface or Schultz soil conditioner"

As you may remember my "containers" are 8 foot x 2 foot by 1.5 foot and hold almost a cubic yard of potting mix. Changing every two years
is not an attracticve option for me. So... how much of these "inorganic components" (and of what size) in relation to the pine mulch fines should I add to extend.

Thanx
Laska1 - Mike


This message was edited Mar 19, 2008 2:14 PM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 19, 2008
9:27 PM

Post #4683494

If you want a soil that will see extended use (more than 2 growth cycles), and if you do not wish to worry about aeration/drainage/soil collapse, you can solve the problem by using about 2/3 inorganic components. For my long term soils, I use equal parts of pine bark fines, Turface, and crushed granite. I generally don't use these soils for more than three years in one container, but I could, and without worry about collapse, as long as I was able to turn the soil over each spring before planting and add additional pine bark as the old decomposes.

When building soils for long term applications, the three most important considerations are particle size, durability/longevity of the particles, and the water holding ability of the soil as a whole, as well as the individual particles - in that order. I try to maintain an average particle size of just under 1/8", with the range in size from about 1/16 to 3/8". The heaviest concentration pf particles would ideally be in the 1/16 - 1/8" size, with few particles being larger than 1/4 inch.

You'll notice that the Turface and granite will last indefinitely, and the pine bark will have the longest life of any of the readily available organic components that are used for soils. The bark and Turface are excellent at holding water within the particles at the same time their size and shape allows for plenty of macropores in the soil. The granite adds little in the way of water holding ability, serving primarily to promote drainage/aeration. By increasing the volume of Turface and reducing the granite, you can adjust the soil's ability to hold water, while still maintaining the 2/3 inorganic component of the soil. You can also reduce water held by increasing granite and reducing Turface.

Does that cover your questions? Feel free to keep asking until all is clear to you. ;o)

Al
throneofyord
College Station, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 20, 2008
7:18 PM

Post #4687394

I have had great luck with applying a regular top dressing to keep soil going. In nature, that is what tends to happen in healthy locations. I do find that adding crushed oyster shell, the stuff they use for chickens, helps a lot with long term plantings, as does greensand and rotted granite. Crushed dolomitic limestone is a great regular addition.

Dolomitic limestone is a must for tomatoes, crushed oyster shell is better for less demanding calcium needs and does not seem to swing PH as high.
Greensand, is (Mg,Fe)2SiO4, and supplies Magnesium and Iron in slow release. Magnesium washes out quickly in pots, so this is a great thing to add.

I do try to check ph, and will use wood shavings as a mulch to balance citrus trees in the acidic direction. Works very well for weeding citrus, other things can't take the acid levels that citrus craves.

Bob
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 20, 2008
10:26 PM

Post #4687975

AL:

So... After reading and re-reading both threads I came to the following conclusions as to how to deal with my " really raised beds(containers) "

1) Mix up your regular formula but increase the ratio of in-organics to give a longer shelf life.
2) I will water with a drip system with regular "flushes" supplementing any flushes caused by normal rainfall.
3) Feed regularly varying the fertilizer based on time of the season
4) At the end of the season I can add "amendments" to the mix in prepartion for next season.
5) At the beginning of the season I will "turn" the mix to "fluff" it up for the new season and, if necessary, add more organics to compensate for the decomp of the past season.

How am I doin' "teach" ???
Laska1 - Mike

This message was edited Mar 20, 2008 6:28 PM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 20, 2008
10:36 PM

Post #4688011

Very well. ;o) One thing I might change is: Wait to amend the soil until spring. There is no reason to allowing over-winter composting to further break down soil ingredient particles. Make sense?

Al
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 20, 2008
10:52 PM

Post #4688056

Al:

Got it.

BTW... should I add earthworms. I would think not as they would tend to break down my organics more quickly.

Laska1 - Mike

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 21, 2008
2:36 AM

Post #4689073

Nooooo! ;o) You're correct, in that they hasten soil collapse in containers and are not a good thing.

Al
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

March 21, 2008
1:44 PM

Post #4690330

Al:

THANX

Mental prep done...

AND NOW!!! ... THE ADVENTURE BEGINS!!!!!!!!! ITS GOING TO BE A GREAT SPRING IN NEW YORK.

LASKA1 - MIKE

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 21, 2008
2:01 PM

Post #4690386

Gentlemen - a small technicality - IT IS SPRING!!! Hallelujah! x, Carrie

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 23, 2008
5:19 PM

Post #4699182

Yesterday, I was doing some research, trying to help out a person who had contacted me by e-mail. As I was searching the net, I found a fertilizer that was unknown to me, but now after having discovered it, I'm very excited about it. I'm not sure how long it's been on the market, but it has a 3:1:2 ratio and a full compliment of all the minors. It also has only 1/3 of its N in ammoniacal form, so cool weather and/or periods of low microorganism activity shouldn't cause problems with (often undiagnosed) ammoniacal toxicity like the fertilizers deriving their N from urea.

I'm not going to link to it directly, but you can find out more about it by using the search words Foliage-Pro 9-3-6.

After studying the label, I can tell it's a well-thought-out fertilizer because the % of nutrients so closely matches plants' actual usage, and by the fact that all the nutrients are available in the proper ratios to prevent antagonisms (between nutrients, which can cause uptake problems). The manufacturer has even made allowances for nutrient levels normally found in container media. It should be an EXCELLENT fertilizer for a VERY high % of the plants you grow in containers!

Take care

Al

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

March 23, 2008
5:38 PM

Post #4699244

Thanks Al!
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

March 23, 2008
5:44 PM

Post #4699265

Thanks for the update, Al. This thread is so basic! It changed my life. Now I make my own potting soil in a 55 g drum.

So happy to make my own dirt!

gloria
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2008
9:51 PM

Post #4700037

That's terrific news. And so inexpensive too.
RoseyQ
Crystal Lake, IL
(Zone 5a)

March 27, 2008
7:15 PM

Post #4717851

I will be gardening from a balcony for the first time and don't want soil (or water) to drip down on my neighbor's patio below. My idea is to fill saucers with gravel and set the pots on top to allow for drainage and air circulation.

Anyone with advice on this method?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 27, 2008
11:42 PM

Post #4718742

There is nothing wrong with this thinking, as long as there is clear separation between the water in the saucer and the soil in the container (to prevent rewicking of the leachate back into the soil. No advantage is to be gained or improvement made in either "air circulation" or drainage, however, except that excess leachate will hopefully be contained in the saucer.

Al
throneofyord
College Station, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 28, 2008
12:39 AM

Post #4718972

You keep teaching me more and more Al!

It seems obvious that as the leachate evaporates it would concentrate and rewick back into the soil. I just never considered the possibility. Thanks again!

Bob
Illoquin
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

March 30, 2008
6:36 AM

Post #4729071

Al, I keep trying to follow along, but so many of the pots I have are annuals and I don't care if the soil fully drains or is perched high or low, but it occurred to me I might be able to save some money by only having to fill up 1/2 or 2/3 of the pot with fresh soil(soilless mix) every year, so now I have a renewed interest in the thread. :))

*Is* it possible to have a layer of inorganic stuff in the lower 1/2 and just refresh the upper part of the soilless mix in a large pot? In one place you sort of say you can, but in another place, you indicate the PWT would be too high.

My other question is about this passage you wrote:
"If you discover you need to increase drainage, insert a wick into the pot & allow it to extend from the PWT to several inches below the bottom of the pot. This will successfully eliminate the PWT & give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more, much needed air to the roots."

The question is, how do I get a wick to extend several inches below the pot if the pot is sitting in the ground or on a saucer or piece of slate?

I have more questions, one about the link to the Miraclegro which I cannot find. Here is the link you posted, but they don't appear to list the exact product you mention -- Miracle-Gro Granular soluble 24-8-16 with micronutrients. The liquid you linked to is a Canadian website. I am only frustrated because I cannot find it here locally.

http://www.miraclegro.com Miracle-Gro Granular soluble 24-8-16 with micronutrients. Click on "read label" for more info.

Ok, and one more question. You posted about Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. On the same webpage I found they also offer a blooms fertilizer with a totally different ratio than 3-1-2. For somebody wanting a big pot of petunias, are you sure I don't want a high middle number? I am not talking trees, shrubs, bonsai or houseplants... just petunias, geraniums and Lantana or something.

Thanks for clearing this up for me.

Suzy

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

March 30, 2008
3:31 PM

Post #4730125

I keep trying to follow along, but so many of the pots I have are annuals and I don't care if the soil fully drains or is perched high or low . . .

You really should care. The physics involved allows no differentiation between plant types. Saturated soil is as damaging to annuals as it is to perennials. Perhaps the rest of my reply will offer opportunity for better understanding.

*Is* it possible to have a layer of inorganic stuff in the lower 1/2 and just refresh the upper part of the soilless mix in a large pot? In one place you sort of say you can, but in another place, you indicate the PWT would be too high.

I think something of what I said might have been lost in your summation of what I said, so let me explain: Any soil made of small particles will support a perched water table (PWT), which is manifest in a saturated layer of soil, usually at the bottom of the pot, but which can also perch on top of material added to the pot as "an aid to drainage". This PWT will always be consistent in height, no matter the size/shape of the container the soil is in. With this knowledge, we can say that a soil that supports a 3" PWT, used in a 3" deep container will remain 100% saturated at container capacity. Container capacity is the state of the container soil after it has been fully saturated and is just at the point where drainage has stopped. So, a 6" deep container will have 50% saturation and a 12" deep container will have only 1/4 of the soil saturated at container capacity; therefore, it should be easy for us to draw the conclusion that taller containers are easier to grow in, based on soil saturation levels. "Skinny" or fat makes no difference, the PWT height using any given soil will remain consistent from one container to another.

Container shape has no effect on the height of the PWT, but it can/does have an effect on the total volume of water in the PWT. The easiest way to understand this concept is by illustration. A container that tapers toward the bottom will have less soil o/a in the bottom 3" than one with vertical sides; thus, the lesser volume of soil will hold a lesser volume of perched water. Here, we can draw the conclusion that, based on soil saturation levels, containers that taper toward the bottom will be easier to grow in.

Since the PWT height diminishes with increasing particle size, until at around a particle size of just under 1/8" the PWT disappears, there is much to be gained from using a coarse, well-aerated soil. Those that I use and suggest are designed to eliminate or nearly eliminate any perched water and associated concerns.

We know that when we use a "drainage layer" under any soil that will support a PWT, the particles in the "drainage layer" must be less than 2.1x the size of the particles in the layer above, or water will perch. Therefore, if we use the 3" water saturation level we refer to above, and if you use a coarse drainage layer below it, water dispersement will be situated like this: You will have the depth of the "drainage layer" that remains quite full of air and relatively free of water. On top of/above that, you will have 3" of saturated soil, and above the saturated soil, you will have soil with an aeration level unaffected by the perched water.

The soils I suggest using are large enough in particle size that they eliminate or nearly eliminate the perched water. This allows the entire container to be filled with soil w/o worry over perched water. If some does occur, it is so minimal that it is dispersed throughout the soil quickly (by diffusion) as the plant uses water & some evaporates. It takes 6 times longer for a 3" water table to diffuse than a 1/2" water table, and during that time, roots that are deprived of O2 are dying.

My other question is about this passage you wrote:
"If you discover you need to increase drainage, insert a wick into the pot & allow it to extend from the PWT to several inches below the bottom of the pot. This will successfully eliminate the PWT & give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more, much needed air to the roots."

The question is, how do I get a wick to extend several inches below the pot if the pot is sitting in the ground or on a saucer or piece of slate?


If you have the container resting somewhere the water can puddle around the container, the wicking ability is negated. It becomes more effective when the drained water can flow away from the container, over a hard surface like the slate or a concrete patio with a slope. Most effective is if the wick can dangle below the container or if the wick is in contact with soil below the container. When the wick contacts the soil, the earth becomes a giant extension of the wick and will absorb water saturating the wick until the physical forces working inside and outside the container are equalized.

I have more questions, one about the link to the Miraclegro which I cannot find. Here is the link you posted, but they don't appear to list the exact product you mention -- Miracle-Gro Granular soluble 24-8-16 with micronutrients. The liquid you linked to is a Canadian website. I am only frustrated because I cannot find it here locally.

Both MG 12-4-8 liquid and 24-8-16 granular soluble are extremely common. The label will say "All-Purpose Fertilizer" on it. Within the last week, I've seen it at Lowe's, Menard's, and two nurseries near me. You'll have no trouble finding it if you look at the analysis on the labels. For some reason, MG seems to HIDE the analysis - as if it's unimportant! ;o)

You posted about Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. On the same webpage I found they also offer a blooms fertilizer with a totally different ratio than 3-1-2. For somebody wanting a big pot of petunias, are you sure I don't want a high middle number?

Yes, I'm sure. Don't wild flowers bloom beautifully year after year w/o the help of someone sprinkling them with additional P? ;o) Plants can only use so much P, and we know that in natural settings or if all nutrients are provided in containers at adequate levels, that plants use about 6 times more P than N. Since a 3:1:2 ratio has only 3X the N than P, you can see that it is already a high P formula, with twice as much P as the plant needs (in relation to N).

Large greenhouse operations use a method of fertilizing that includes injecting fertilizer into the irrigation water. It's called fertigation. They do tissue analysis on the plants to find what nutrients are present at either deficient or toxic levels, and adjust what they inject to correct the deficiency of all the 13 nutrients plants don't get from air/water.

If all nutrients are available in the soil at 'adequacy' levels, the plant will use approximately 1.5 parts of P and 7 parts of K for every 10 parts of N they use. Usage of N:P:K = 10:1.5:7. I'm going to do some division and reduce this ratio to 1/3 of what it is now, for later reference. If I divide 10:1.5:7 by 3.33, it comes out to be 3:.5:2.

Greenhouse growers have learned that they can control plant growth by adjusting the amount of N available, as long as all the other nutrients are available at at least adequacy levels, and they make it their business to be sure they are. You mentioned that they started their plants on a 20-10-20 blend, which is a 2:1:2 ratio.

Lets go back to the division I did a little up the post. We see that plants want to use nutrients at the rate of 3:.5:2, but the greenhouse is fertilizing them with a low N diet, only 2/3 of the N they want, and twice the P. (2:1:2 vs 3:.5:2 yields 2/3 the N and twice the P). The reason for this is pretty simple. The reduced N slows vegetative growth substantially, but it doesn't affect photosynthesis or the amount of photosynthate produced. The plant can't grow leaves & stems, so what does it do with all the extra food it is producing? It makes flowers/fruit with it.

So here's the deal: A 1:1:1 blend like 20-20-20 or 14-14-14 supplies 6 times more P and almost twice as much K as the plant can use, so is probably not the best o/a choice for containerized plants. The surplus nutrients just unnecessarily raise the level of dissolved solids in, and the electrical conductivity of the soil, which makes it increasingly difficult for the plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in the water. A 2:1:2 ratio fertilizer like the 20-10-20 is still a high P fertilizer in relationship to the amount of N applied (greenhouse fertilizer programs usually furnish all the other nutrients as a % of N) and will keep plants compact while still allowing them to bloom well. If you want the plants to grow lusher foliage, & grow closer to their natural growth pattern, a 3:1:2 blend like MG 24-8-16 granular soluble or 12-4-8 liquid is preferred.

I would also advise you that before you attempt to manipulate growth, you'll need to be sure your plants are getting enough of the secondary macronutrients (Ca & Mg are very important - S is usually never a problem in container culture) and a full complement of the other minor elements (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, are the others to look for). For best results, you should incorporate an insoluble source of the minors like Micromax into the soil before planting, or add a soluble supplement like STEM to your irrigation water every time you fertilize.

I hope this wasn't too confusing or complicated, but it's very difficult to get the message across w/o using the numbers. I hope you take time to digest what I said, as it will give a better understanding of nutrient supplementation for container culture in general, as well as for your specific application.

Take good care.

Al










Illoquin
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

April 3, 2008
8:13 PM

Post #4752066

Oh, My gosh! I read this right after you sent it, but I had to think about some of the things you said, re read it a couple of times, before I could formulate a response, and another series of questions. LOL! Basically I lost the thread and I have looked all over for this thread in the soil and composting forum and wondered where the heck it went. Sorry for the delay and thank you for your answer.

I was able to find the Miracle Grow. I was just so sure that it was somehting special, and you were right; it was on the shelf. I had the name wrong in my head. I also got a bag of Forest Fines, but when I opened it, it didn't look at all like your photo, but later in the spring, they will have a display of little piles of the different milches and soil conditioners they carry and I can select from that. The garden centers here are barely awake.

Thanks again,
Suzy

carrielamont

carrielamont
Bedford, TX
(Zone 8a)

April 3, 2008
9:12 PM

Post #4752321

LOL Suzy "barely awake", well put. x, Carrie
whatsupdoc
Gainesville, FL

April 13, 2008
9:23 PM

Post #4803301



I have decided to try to use containers this year for some of my vegetables.I also have a few raised beds .

Planting two of each in raised beds and containers .

In wheelbarrow I mixed Gator gardening soil [which I noticed had fair amount of peat ],little extra peat , 2 gal.s sand .

6 Plants I started from seed had true leaves about 6in.s tall were placed inside in 4 in.peat pots .

After reading this thread, now I wonder if my soil is ok .

I have 6 pots of soil unused .I think I would like to redo those .What size lava rocks do I use ?

Also about the h.peroxide, we use it to brush our teeth in the 3% drug store brands,rinse it out and use baking soda .It has completely healed hubbys gums .I haven't used toothpaste in 25 years ,but used h2o2 for only 1 yr. now. I am a senior and have only had 4 cavities in past 25 years .
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

April 14, 2008
1:28 AM

Post #4804577

I don't know about the dental advice --I'll just trust you on that part.

I think the soil mix you described is likely to work OK in the short term, is you provide plants the right nutrition, but it's going to compact quickly and become undesirably dense and incapable of good oxygenation.

For the rest of your mix, I'd make it into a half and half --add to it a like amount of some combination of perlite, vermiculite, lava rock or exploded granite type stuff. All perlite would make the lightest mix. I would not go all vermiculite --at most half, with perlite or lava rock. In any case, you'll have twice the volume of mix, so maybe some left over.

Starting next year, you should rototill in the same proportion of these soil amendments into any part of the plantings you 've already done. Again, you should end of with extra mix, since you are trying to double the soil's volume.

In the meantime, make sure all your raised beds and containers drain well, and keep them watered regularly --irrigate!

I am not a fertilizer expert, so I pass on giving any advice on that.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 14, 2008
2:34 AM

Post #4804960

Hi, Whatsupdoc. I'm not sure where to start to try to help you with the soil you already mixed. Do you have pine bark available to you that looks anything like one of the examples in the picture I'll leave? The soil might be ok in raised beds, but I would have chosen reed/sedge peat for that application instead of sphagnum (Did you choose that type?), and perhaps native soil instead of sand? That's just a guess, since I have no idea what your native soil is like.

I think the soil you mixed will probably be too heavy & water retentive in containers, so we need to add something to lighten it up (add more air to the mix), and the sand could be a problem. Why don't you let me know about the pine bark & we'll go from there?

Take care.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Illoquin
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

April 14, 2008
2:42 AM

Post #4805040

Tapla,

Does it have to be pine? What happens if you use Cedar bark about that same size?
claypa
West Pottsgrove, PA
(Zone 6b)

April 14, 2008
3:02 AM

Post #4805108

I've been wondering if spruces and balsam fir are okay, too.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 14, 2008
3:12 AM

Post #4805137

"Cedar" covers a lot of territory. I can think of trees in at least 6 different genera that claim the common name "cedar"; but to be honest, I've never grown in the bark of any of them. My experience has been limited to pine (usually southern yellow pine) bark, hemlock, and fir. I know all of those to be very good.

I can't really say definitively, but the bark you would be getting would likely be that of Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar) and I read a recent report detailing that wood extracts from that tree inhibited germination and growth of lettuce seed as much as or more than Juglans nigra (black walnut - widely known as having allelopathic properties) extracts.

To boil it down - if I had a choice, I'd opt for pine bark.

Al


tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 14, 2008
3:23 AM

Post #4805189

As mentioned, Clay, I stick to pine (because it's readily available, inexpensive) & (Douglas) fir bark, & I know it to be very good. I suppose the balsam fir bark would be good if the size is appropriate, but I can't speak to the value of the spruce. My instincts tell me it would be ok, though.

Al
Illoquin
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

April 14, 2008
3:25 AM

Post #4805196

Oh, bad news on that! Cedar was all I could find of the right size, and so I bought it. I already filled 8 pots with a huge batch of potting mix I made. LOL!

I'll keep close notes on what does and does not do well, I guess. I certainly don't want to empty everything out and start over.

Suzy

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 14, 2008
3:45 AM

Post #4805302

I'm sure we're all hoping right along side you, Suzy. Good luck. ;o)

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

April 14, 2008
3:59 AM

Post #4805358

Suzy: Some days you just can't win! But I bet the cedar is fine. Devon
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

April 30, 2008
1:02 PM

Post #4886250

AL:

Hi... It finally warmed up enough here for me to get started mixing.

In the basic mix, are perlite and turface interchangeable?

Is there any benefit to 50-50 ratio of perlite & turface ( comprising 1/3 of the total).

Thanx

Mike - Laska1

This message was edited Apr 30, 2008 9:02 AM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 30, 2008
1:30 PM

Post #4886433

They are interchangeable, but Turface holds both water & nutrients better. That said, I usually limit my use of Turface to soils intended for extended use, which means they will have a lower organic component than the 5:1:1 or 2 bark:peat:perlite mix. I don't want to go to the expense of using Turface in soils I turn into the garden or compost pile after only a single growth cycle (or 2).

Al
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

April 30, 2008
10:48 PM

Post #4888888

Al:

First, to jog your memory, I re-loaded a photo of my "container". (24' x 2' x 1.5')

After reading all the posts here and on GW, I am thinking of modifying your mix a little to the following:
45- 50% pine bark mulch, 20-25 % peat, 15% perlite and 15% turface. I can cook up what I need for about $200.00 and if I can get three years out of it the cost is manageable.

What do you think????

BTW - Turface "MVP" is the same as Turface "ALL SPORT" - "ALL SPORT" is MVP that is private branded to JOHN DEERE LANDSCAPING.

Mike - Laska1

Thumbnail by LASKA1
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 30, 2008
11:31 PM

Post #4889108

It's your call, but I think I'd like to see you limit the peat component to 15% and make it up with an additional 5% each of Turface & perlite.

I knew about the AllSport - thank you for letting the rest of us know, though.

Good luck, Mike.

Al
LASKA1
Atlantic Beach, NY

May 1, 2008
12:57 AM

Post #4889454

Al:

"It's your call, but I think I'd like to see you limit the peat component to
15% and make it up with an additional 5% each of Turface & perlite"

That's no problem, your suggestion is most welcome and I will follow it.

Actually, at first, I was thinking of a 60/40 mix and changed it because I thought it would be too "airy" and I was worried about those dog days of August here. I guess I will just adjust the drip irrigation to compensate.

Thanx
Mike
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 1, 2008
4:00 PM

Post #4891985

I have never been able to find Turface sold locally on a retail basis. Where do you find it for sale?
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

May 1, 2008
4:18 PM

Post #4892047

My question as well.
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

May 1, 2008
7:53 PM

Post #4892842

I get mine from a feed store in my area. It is used for the county school ball fields to dry out the field.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 1, 2008
9:15 PM

Post #4893133

I buy from a nursery/landscaping wholesaler who delivers by the pallet, but if you go to http://www.profileproducts.com/sports_fields/index.cfm?lp=gb&bhcp=1 and click on "Where To Buy", you'll find drop-down menus for product and state. Select Turface and your state and a partial list of possibilities will appear. ;o)

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 1, 2008
9:34 PM

Post #4893198

I did that some time ago, and just got their local rep who sells to golf courses, etc.; he was not in the least bit interested in helping me.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 1, 2008
9:58 PM

Post #4893298

Newsom Seed, Inc.
Fulton
(240) 554-0359
http://www.newsomseed.com

Fisher & Son Company, Inc.
Savage
(301) 604-9852
http://www.fisherandson.com

John Deere Landscape
Serving multiple locations. Contact them for a location near you.
(800) 347-4272
http://www.johndeerelandscapes.com

Maryland Chemical Co.
Baltimore
(410) 752-1800

Pennington Seed
Laurel
(800) 732-3332

R&D Cross
Brandywine
(301) 579-2449

Al
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

May 2, 2008
5:55 AM

Post #4895169

Any help for me w/ Turface??? I'm in New England.
My source for the Espoma Soil Perfector ($$$) just dried up; they no longer carry it.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 2, 2008
11:23 AM

Post #4895488

Try http://www.johndeerelandscapes.com and use their locator to find the store nearest you - then ask the store if they have AllSport Soil Conditioner or if they will order it for you.

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 2, 2008
3:30 PM

Post #4896423

Thanks, Al. I'll call around.
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

May 2, 2008
6:39 PM

Post #4897173

One problem is that it doesn't come in small quantities. The smallest quanity is 40 lbs.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 2, 2008
7:17 PM

Post #4897286

I would be happy to buy 40 lbs, or even twice that. But I don't want to buy a ton.
Jax4ever
Boxford, MA
(Zone 6a)

May 3, 2008
8:26 PM

Post #4901957

Bad news! Espoma has discontinued its "Soil Perfector". According to an Espoma rep, the retailers "didn't know how to position it" (seems more like Espoma's problem). They filled and shipped the 2008 orders, but aren't taking any more. I bought all that I could find (2 bags), and have since used it up. Too bad! It is/was a great container amendment, and I know bonsai retailers always sold it.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

May 7, 2008
2:58 AM

Post #4917248

Al: If you already answered this, I'm sorry to be asking again.

You wrote above that you use the following formula for relatively long-term containers:

1 part Turface (I screen mine, but you'll find it unnecessary)
1 part grower grit (crushed granite sold at feed stores as turkey grit)
1 part pine bark
Garden lime or gypsum (whichever is appropriate)
CRF (leave it out for hibs)
elemental sulfur (if appropriate)
micro-nutrients

How do you decide whether to use lime or gypsum, and how much do you use?
How much CRF?
Is the sulfur needed only if an acidic soil is desired? Is elemental sulfur the same as garden sulfur?
How much micronutrients? Is manure an acceptable substitute?
revclaus
(Judith) Denver, CO
(Zone 5b)

July 13, 2008
9:34 PM

Post #5253365

Just want to report on results of wicking my bulb pots last fall. All my bulb containers produced nearly every bulb that was planted. We had a normal winter here. The container soil is very free draining. I had lots of tulips and grape hyacinths in the pots earlier.

Thumbnail by revclaus
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 13, 2008
10:24 PM

Post #5253601

I'm sorry, Happy. Somehow your post must have slipped between the cracks & I didn't see it until Revclaus posted. I wasn't ignoring you. ;o)

How do you decide whether to use lime or gypsum, and how much do you use?
How much CRF?


I use gypsum in the gritty soil because it's initial pH is somewhere around 6.0-6.5 and that's in the ideal range. If I/you add lime, it raises the pH, and generally, pH continues to rise as soils age, and that can create pH induced nutrient deficiencies. I also use gypsum in the soil for plants that have difficulty absorbing some nutrients at pHs of 6.0 - 6.5 and above. We usually refer to these plants as acid lovers. Using gypsum usually keeps the pH of the 5:1:1 mix described above under 5.0. Though the pH of the medium is less important than the pH of the nutrient solution, it helps to try to keep media pH in a range favored by the plants.

I use lime and gypsum at the same rate. 1/2 cup per cu ft or 1 tbsp per gallon of soil. By coincidence, the 'medium' application rate of most CRFs (4-5 lbs per cu yd) figures out to about 1/2 cup per cu ft or 1 tbsp per gallon, also.

Here's the deal on the elemental sulfur. If I add it to soils, I get greener plants, so I usually include a tsp per gallon in my soils. I don't often mention it because I'm not sure why it works. It's supposed to be insoluble & ineffective at lowering pH in container soils. It may just be because there is no sulfur included in most of the popular soluble fertilizers like MG. Pine bark and peat soils both are low in sulfur, so it's very possible that what I'm seeing is a deficiency correction. It could also be that it actually DOES lower soil pH and make elemental Fe, Mn, and others more available. If you're using a fertilizer that includes it, or if you are using Gypsum and Epsom salts as your Ca & Mg source, disregard it - both contain sulfur.

Is elemental sulfur the same as garden sulfur?

Garden and agricultural sulfur are the same as elemental sulfur. They are all about 90%.

How much micronutrients? Is manure an acceptable substitute?

How much micronutrient mixture depends on what you're using for fertilizer. If you are using something like the Dyna-Gro Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, it's complete and has all the nutrients. I can help you if I know what you're using or what you want to grow - or with a basic program, but I can't give you anything definitive with no info. Manure supplies 'some' nutrients, but it's high in salts and often full of seeds. It also breaks down quickly, so (imo), what little it offers in nutrient value is offset by its end detriment to soil structure.

Hi, Rev - Glad to know you found the wicking trick useful. ;o)

Al



happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 14, 2008
5:18 PM

Post #5257761

Al: As always, you are incredibly helpful. A million thanks.
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 23, 2008
3:29 PM

Post #5307192

The best price I found for the Foliage-Pro is $20.90, with $12.50 shipping, from http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/. It looks as if it goes pretty far -- 1/4 teaspoon per gallon for maintenance (every watering), or 1 teaspoon per gallon for production (one a week).
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

November 17, 2008
10:42 PM

Post #5802531

AL you said :
Although sawdust in a mix results in high aeration porosity initially, its rapid decomposition would result in a dramatic decrease with time.

Question:
Would sawdust from Ceder, Cyprus or Redwood have a rapid decomposition?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 18, 2008
1:10 AM

Post #5803131

I'm not sure of the context in which the comment was made, or if it's a direct quote. I sort of scanned the thread, but must have missed the post that had that comment in it. It's not just the rate of decomposition that makes me withhold sawdust from my soils. It's mainly the small particle size and accompanying compaction/water retention that puts me off.

Uncomposted materials with small particulates also tend to generate considerable heat as they break down, which can be a problem. Small particles also have a very high surface area:mass ratio, which makes them break down quickly, no matter what type of tree they come from, and serious N immobilization is much more likely to occur when using sawdust; but, to answer your question: Cedar, cypress, and Redwood sawdust would still break down quickly when compared to larger particles of pine or fir bark, but they do break down at a less rapid rate than sawdust from such trees as pine or hardwoods.

Al

TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

November 18, 2008
2:17 AM

Post #5803404

Reason I was asking was that pine bark around here bagged as mulch or soil amendment is too large, that I have to run it thru a shredder and screen it to get it small enough. I could of just as well run some other material thru the same process. A lot of ceder around here. Anyway thanks for your input.
throneofyord
College Station, TX
(Zone 8b)

November 18, 2008
6:53 PM

Post #5805659

Sawdust can swing the soil very acid so care is called for. Wood chips can be pretty good however, especially for adding to the mix to pot citrus in.

Cedar is used to name a very wide range of woods, hardwoods and softwoods alike. Some cedar is phytotoxic and should be mulched and rotted into soil before putting on a plant you love.

I use cedar shavings as a mulch for some plants, but I make sure I know what 'cedar' the cedar is first.

Bob

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 18, 2008
10:19 PM

Post #5806321

The average pH of various sawdusts is around 4.0, which is not much different than sphagnum peat (higher, actually), so I don't think that IF a person was to include sawdust in their container soils they would need take any more care than they would adding peat. Simply adding a liming agent would/does solve the problem nicely, just as it does for peat.

How sawdust would react in a container soil as far as pH is concerned: As the organic acids formed during sawdust decomposition break down, ammonia is released and combines with H to form ammonium and the pH rises. As the ammonium is consumed by soil biota, H ions are released and pH falls, stabilizing around 7.0. When compared to the possible harm from N immobilization and the phenol generated, not to mention the compaction/water retention issue, the pH factor is actually pretty insignificant.

I can't agree that "wood chips" are a good choice as a soil ingredient, unless they are conifer bark chips (or unless you seek out a particular species known to be slow to decompose and not prone to producing phytotoxins during decomposition, like redwood or eucalyptus). The hydrocarbon chains in sugars & proteins within cell walls of whitewood/sapwood (and hardwood bark) are very quickly broken down, leaving primarily cellulose/hemicellulose which is also quickly cleaved by microorganisms. The explosion in microorganism populations typically creates severe competition for N between the microorganisms and the plant. Since the microorganisms are more efficient at extracting N from soil solutions, N immobilization/ drawdown/ deficiency, is the result. Additionally, the high micropopulations are very efficient at quickly reducing soil particulate size, diminishing aeration and increasing water retention. The hydrocarbon chains in conifer bark are very difficult for microorganisms to cleave, supporting fewer and and a more stable population of microorganisms, which slows decomposition, reduces N drawdown, and helps to insure structural stability in container soils.

Al
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

November 19, 2008
2:37 AM

Post #5807233

What a great explanation, Al. I catch myself hanging on to every word.

So I can soak this in, "As the ammonium is consumed by soil biota, H ions are released and pH falls, stabilizing around 7.0" The stabilizing to 7.0 happens only if you add the lime (or other pH altering ingredient), right?

If so, Is this why adding lime to a soil/medium takes a while to neutralize (7.0 pH) the soil/medium, due to the fact that the H has to be released first and it takes a period of time?

Sure do love these threads you've spent so much time on, sharing with us.

Shoe
throneofyord
College Station, TX
(Zone 8b)

November 19, 2008
5:50 AM

Post #5807795

Thanks for the Info! I must confess to having dated information on wood chips. They were quite popular for citrus ages ago, now coconut husk chips seem to be the popular method. That being said, I have had citrus do quite well in wood chip rich soil. The chips I have used have been predominantly Ilex vomitoria, yaupon, just because I have to clear it out and trim it back regularly and it fits into the chipper easily.

Bob
tigerlily123
Raleigh, NC
(Zone 7b)

November 19, 2008
11:01 AM

Post #5807983

There is something missing here that definitely pertains to the discussion, esp regarding using some sort of wood chips/mulch and that is time. How long is the plant going to remain in this mixture before either being planted in the ground or having to be moved up to a larger size pot and thus a new mixture? In other words-does it really matter, in terms of wood chips/mulch breaking down/compaction (not PH) if by the time it happens, the plant is already rootbound and/or is going into a new medium?

For me, I like using some sort of hardwood mulch as one of the ingredients because I know that the plant will only be in it for a year or so before i have to move up to a larger pot. And during that yr or two-the ratio of medium to roots is switching as the roots grow and develop. Once a plant is rootbound, it doesnt matter as much, I think, what the medium is-or what has happened to it-i.e-the breaking down of the wood etc. Rootbound plants need a lot more water as there are roots are sucking up that water and there is less medium to hold the water.
I am mainly talking about palms and tropicals that I am concerned about the medium. Tropicals growing so fast that they need to be moved up rather fast and palms that also seem to need to be repotted every 2 yrs or so. Perhaps others on this thread are growing slower growing plants that stay in a pot for many years without getting rootbound?

Tapla-am I right in remembering that you grow bonsai? What about these plants, whose tops are restricted in growth? Does that also restrict the root growth in proportion to the leaf output?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 19, 2008
9:16 PM

Post #5809910

Horseshoe - For the record, I'm considering your question(s) as a continuation of the discussion about what happens to sawdust during the composting process. You ask "The stabilizing to 7.0 happens only if you add the lime (or other pH altering ingredient), right?" (

No. Actually the (dolomitic) lime serves 2 purposes. It adjusts the initially acidic pH of most peat and bark soils (as it would soils with sawdust in them too, if you were using it) and it also supplies needed Ca and Mg in a favorable ratio. It is not a required additive to stabilize pH, but it is used to bring pH into a more favorable range. Stabilization would happen (gradually/eventually) whether or not you added a liming agent. The organic acids formed as the hydrocarbon chains break down will be broken down or leached from the container. Eventually there will be nothing left of the woody material but small particles of lignin and the pH will be about 7.0.

"Is this why adding lime to a soil/medium takes a while to neutralize (7.0 pH) the soil/medium, due to the fact that the H has to be released first and it takes a period of time?"

No. Adding lime to raise soil pH is chemically complex. As hobby growers, we make our best guess & hope for the best. In applications where it is important to use liming materials to help achieve a target pH, you must take into account several things. The initial pH of the media, its buffering capacity (resistance to change), the target pH, and the effects of irrigation water. Dolomitic lime is slow to react simply because of its low solubility. BTW, the H doesn't come from the dolomitic limestone, CaMg(CO3)2, as you can see by the formula for the compound.

Tigerlily mused: "There is something missing here that definitely pertains to the discussion, esp regarding using some sort of wood chips/mulch and that is time. How long is the plant going to remain in this mixture before either being planted in the ground or having to be moved up to a larger size pot and thus a new mixture? In other words-does it really matter, in terms of wood chips/mulch breaking down/compaction (not PH) if by the time it happens, the plant is already rootbound and/or is going into a new medium?"

We generally don't care what inert soil components are made of as long as their combination as a whole holds air water (and to varying degrees - nutrients) in a favorable arrangement. You'll remember how I stress structural stability in the original post? When the organic component of a soil breaks down quickly, it supports huge populations of microorganisms that out-compete the plant for N. Adding sufficient N is a challenge because the microorganisms are better at absorbing N from the soil solution, so the N simply creates larger and larger populations of microorganisms. It's extremely difficult to the point of being almost impossible to balance N applications in soils made of whitewood chips. You either get in trouble with carryover toxicity when microorganisms die & give up their N which is then added to your recent N applications; or, if you are using the more common container fertilizers (say 20-20-20) you cannot supply enough N to satisfy the plant because the P & K levels go sky high and raise the levels of TDS (total dissolved solids) so high the plant experiences fertilizer burn (plasmolysis).

N immobilization is immediate when using whitewood chips, and lasts throughout the composting process , so the reasoning that the plant will only be in them for a year won't hold up to scrutiny. I'm certain you can do better by changing your soils to either a much higher % or inert/inorganic components or changing the organic component to some type of appropriate size conifer bark.

"Am I right in remembering that you grow bonsai? What about these plants, whose tops are restricted in growth? Does that also restrict the root growth in proportion to the leaf output?"

I am a bonsai practitioner, yes. I think we've left the subject of soils here? Reducing the green portion of plants reduces the amount of photosynthate (food) produced, which limits root growth. The plant will always try to reach a balance between the number of roots and shoots.

If you reduce the canopy only, a tree will focus primarily on replacing the lost foliage. The response varies though, according to when the reduction occurs. In many plants, if you prune in late summer, the plant is not so eager to backbud & grow new leaves as it would have been if the pruning occurred in early spring.

Tree reactions to root pruning only is highly variable by plant & season, so I'm not going to expand. The same is true of simultaneous pruning of roots & canopy - varies by plant & season; but if you have specific questions, I'll answer by D-mail or you can start a thread.

I'm glad to see there's some renewed interest in this thread, it's been pretty quiet for awhile. ;o)

Al




Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

November 19, 2008
9:31 PM

Post #5809943

I love this thread!
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 19, 2008
9:41 PM

Post #5809966

Me too. I read it over and over.

Thanks, Al. You always give something to think about.

Gloria

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 20, 2008
12:40 AM

Post #5810491

I enjoy being here & feeling like I might be helping. I look at it as an extension of my hobby of plant husbandry.

Thanks for the very kind words. ;o)

Al
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

November 20, 2008
1:41 AM

Post #5810702

Al, you're the best! Thanks for clearing up some things for me (and, most likely, others as well).

"Stabilization would happen (gradually/eventually) whether or not you added a liming agent. The organic acids formed as the hydrocarbon chains break down will be broken down or leached from the container. Eventually there will be nothing left of the woody material but small particles of lignin and the pH will be about 7.0."

So, the further broken down the medium is then the more neutral the pH would be. If so, I wondered about that quite a few times, thinking of the soil under pine trees and how it is not always acidic, as many folks seem to think, and also trying to remember the results of what I think is/was referred to as the Haughley Project (part of it referred to how plants and plant parts break down and eventually produce a neutral pH, regardless of the type of plant).

By the way, thanks to you I also just realized I've never thought of the difference between "stabilizing pH" and "changing pH" (and what goes on in the process).

Big time thanks! And I'm glad to see this thread opened again, too. Very grateful for your time and patience w/us!

Shoe
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

November 20, 2008
5:15 AM

Post #5811213

This is by far the most focused and richest concentration of truly scientifically based advice on any topic anywhere on DG --there should be an award for that.

I too have read and re-read your posts here, tapla, and belatedly express sincere gratitude to you for enriching us all.
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

November 20, 2008
5:37 PM

Post #5812606

Al, thanks for all the help/advice. I do try to follow your advice. Bark fines are very difficult to find in this area, at least for me to find. What i am using now has quite a few too large pieces that i try to pick out, but works pretty good. Thanks again.
Donna

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 22, 2008
4:54 AM

Post #5818285

I really don't take compliments very well. I get embarrassed & even have to admit I blush when I read some of the nice things you guys have said. I think part of the reason is because I don't spend time here in search of compliments, so when they come, they're always an unexpected, but pleasing surprise. ;o) I used to think that if I didn't acknowledge a compliment, that it was the equivalent of humility. As I got older and after several friends pointed it out to me, I realized that if I didn't acknowledge the compliments it was robbing the wonderful folks who took the time to offer them of the recognition and appreciation they deserve for going out of their way to offer a kindness to another.

So, thank you once again for the very nice things you've said. Your sincerity and effort is always moving. I think the best compliment of all is when someone trusts enough to actually put the advice to practical use; and my reward is when I hear that it's helped in some way - whether major or minor. That's where I get MY kicks.

Now let's get back to discussing things soil-related. ;o)

Al
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 22, 2008
1:20 PM

Post #5818754

Al, You are truly a unique resource. You started me making my own soil when I thought I would open my greenhouses. The city turned down my greenhouse license but I still have the soil! And the plants I potted up then are still going strong.

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

November 22, 2008
2:25 PM

Post #5818962

Okay, Al - to make you more comfortable I will now start insulting you!:-)
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 22, 2008
2:27 PM

Post #5818979

And Victor is an expert at it. Hey! Victor!

victorgardener

victorgardener
Lower Hudson Valley, NY
(Zone 6b)

November 22, 2008
2:39 PM

Post #5819025

Hi Gloria - how's your soil draining?! (Can't get too far off topic or Al will crack the whip!)
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 22, 2008
3:06 PM

Post #5819098

Its hard to find perlite nowadays - all of the Lowes-Home Depot in Tuscaloosa have stopped carrying it. So to make a new batch of soil Ill probably have to find it on-liine.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 22, 2008
4:54 PM

Post #5819436

Most large greenhouse or nursery operations will be glad to order it if youi can be patient enough to wait until their next order, or already have it on hand. I have 4 or 5 sources for it in 4 cu ft bags near me & I'm not close to any large metro area.

Al
tigerlily123
Raleigh, NC
(Zone 7b)

November 23, 2008
11:37 AM

Post #5821945

Just read your response to my post, Tapla ( got caught up finishng the pansy crop) and I was surprised at your answer. First off-I am talking about using only 15-20% of the total media mix in shredded hardwood (and that mainly for the longterm structural content). While it is true that decomposing hardwood does invite nitrogen tieup by the bacteria, nitrosomonas, this is easily overcome by a few steps. Growing your containers on the dry side -which should be done regardless of your media content, and by "dry side" I mean to not water unless the media is dry-and then water throughly and let dry out again, will both discourage/slow down bacterial growth and also slow down decomposition of the wood. Adding fertilizer-which again should be done regardless of the content of the media. You presented a negative "rollercoast " effect of trying to make up for the nitrogen tieup from the bacteria-ending in the plant being burned from a high TDS content from adding fertilizer. If what you said was true-all the plants that I had planted in this mix and added fertilizer to would be dead by now (or severely deficient in nitrogen)! In fact-they look great. The reason being is that plants can still get their nitrogen from both slow release and liquid (which is also absorbed thru the leaves , as well as the roots) and the TDS (total dissolved salts) is easily leached out when you water the plant well. As an aside-this is a good time to say to all-never liquid feed a very dry plant as all the soluble salts tend to concentrate in one place and it is a very real possibility of burning a plant by adding more salt. Always fert after you have watered a plant and the soil is at least moist. So, regardless of your media content, you want to watch out for TDS, and watering well will take care of that nicely. Also-all wood mulches have already decomposed to a certain degree to avoid any "heatup" in the bags that would pose a fire risk.

As well. with bacteria, there soon is a nice "ebb and flow" of bacteria both tying up nitrogen and releasing it, which evens out the nitrogen flow. Also, the bacteria release it in the nitrate form of nitrogen which is a more usable form for the plant. Another aside: with soiless mixes, you always want to find a fertilizer that has a higher content of nitrate nitrogen to the ammonical/urea nitrogen. Thus 20-20-20 is not as good as 20-10-20 ( both liquid ferts).

Landscapers have been using shredded hardwood in flower beds for years-applying it twice a year as they switch out annuals with no ill effects. The mulch that was on top and is not decomposed is worked into the soil ( and in many cases not soil -from so many years of adding the mulch) and new mulch added on top. Slow release fert is always added as well,. and the annuals don't experience any nitrogen deficiency
When I brought up the subject of bonsai plants, it wasn't to "leave the subject of soils", I had thought it at least somewhat obvious that I was trying to think of a plant that would perhaps stay in a container without needing to be moved up to a larger pot because of root growth. There aren't many plants that don't need moving up, and bonsai seemed like a real choice of one that didn't.

I write this so that anyone reading this who is already using some (again it should be no more than 15-20%) wood in their mixes not panic and think that they have to immediately repot their plants. Fertilize and water throughly once a week, and as some have said in the above posts-their plants look fine.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 23, 2008
6:09 PM

Post #5822815

"For me, I like using some sort of hardwood mulch as one of the ingredients because I know that the plant will only be in it for a year or so before i have to move up to a larger pot."

When you make this statement on a thread where we are discussing a soil that has as it's primary component pine bark - approx 75% of the total volume, it is easy for readers to believe you can substitute whitewood chips for pine bark with no problems. We know that is not true. It was only as an afterthought that you chose 15-20 as the % of the soil taken up by chips. There was no way for anyone to tell if you were using 1% or 90%, but regardless of the ratio of wood chips you use, it doesn't change the chemistry or what I said about how the chips perform/react in soils.

Why would we WANT to use any wood chips in a soil when we have a bag of pine bark at hand and it provides the same physical characteristics as the wood chips for a longer time w/o the N problems?

You mention keeping the soil on the dry side to compensate for the N tie-up, and using different fertilizers. How practical is that for most hobby growers? Most of the folks are here because watering issues have given them problems in the past. One of the primary points of this thread was to help people develop a soil that could be watered freely with little or no risk of the anaerobic conditions caused by the combination of poor soils and a heavy hand on the watering can. 'Keep it on the dry side' makes things more complicated and it's unnecessary if you use an appropriate soil. Additionally, I'm speaking primarily to hobby growers who need or want help here, not people who have the knowledge and wherewithal to make the necessary adjustments in their nutritional program to compensate for things like media induced N deficiencies. I try to make this easier, not more difficult.

Just because you can MAKE something work does not mean it's a good choice for everyone. I once grew a perfectly healthy spruce tree in a container filled with nothing but broken glass for a full year before planting out, just to prove it CAN be done, but that doesn't mean I want to adopt the practice across the board. I grant you that the including 15-20% wood chips as a soil component is likely to affect the N supply much less than 75%, but again, it doesn't change the chemistry, it's unnecessary, there's no structural advantage, and there is probably more expense involved because of the higher fertilizer rate. We also know there is more decision making & complications that accompany the practice ...

I have no problem with hardwood mulch being applied to the top of soils, but if you go to any soil/composting book/forum and check what it says about the practice - invariably they caution against the N immobilization that accompanies the practice to varying degrees - depending on the size of the material, type of material, and other cultural conditions. Incorporating it into container soils presents most of the same reactions as incorporation into garden (mineral) soils.

"When I brought up the subject of bonsai plants, it wasn't to "leave the subject of soils", I had thought it at least somewhat obvious that I was trying to think of a plant that would perhaps stay in a container without needing to be moved up to a larger pot because of root growth. There aren't many plants that don't need moving up, and bonsai seemed like a real choice of one that didn't."

I'm sorry I didn't understand the question. Bonsai is not 'A' plant. It is a way of treating plants to make them old-looking and keep them diminutive, so I couldn't have answered the question as asked anyway. A 'bonsai' could be an apple tree, pine, juniper, forsythia, ... or any one of thousands of other plants. I have pelargoniums, snapdragons, coleus, and several herbs that are extremely believable as (they very much look like) small trees mixed into the collection of trees and shrubs I've styled. All bonsai eventually need to be bumped (moved up in pot size). With careful attention to regular root pruning, the owner can greatly increase the intervals between increases in pot sizes, but the unattended or neglected tree must be moved up in pot size regularly. Root pruning slows growth and the confinement of the container produces the dwarfing effect - that being primarily comprised of shorter internodes, less branch extension, and smaller leaves. A very good understanding of soils and their composition is also CRITICAL to the health and vitality of bonsai. I hope I've now offered a better answer.

Take care.

Al

This message was edited Nov 23, 2008 1:13 PM

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rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

November 24, 2008
2:17 PM

Post #5825657

Al, I really appreciate you taking the time to explain soils and mulches, and the other concerns with growing in pots. i may not understand everything, but I try to follow your suggestions. Thnaks

Donna
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 24, 2008
5:13 PM

Post #5826307

I appreciate the fact that it works! I have killed so many plants by potting up in purchased potting mix - the roots just go away. And buying plants at the local Lowes, Walmart, and Home
Depot have the same thing. The roots are not healthy. Often they are not healthy enough to last the plant long enough to get planted in the ground.
Tapla's mix solves that problem. Healthy roots are so much better than dead plants!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 25, 2008
11:37 PM

Post #5831028

You're very welcome, Donna. ;o)

Thanks, Gloria. (o:

I'm not sure how much activity this thread might see before the holiday, so I'll grab the opportunity to wish all the people that were a part of it a day filled with the kind of blessings anyone would be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues." ~Cicero

Al
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 26, 2008
12:59 AM

Post #5831329

Thanks, Al.

As for me, Im making room in my life for two abandoned dogs. Its been 3 weeks now and there is no chance of finding a home for them. So they are stuck with me.

Please be kind to an animal friend this holiday season.

Thanks,

gloria
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

November 26, 2008
1:48 AM

Post #5831442

Back at you, Al!

Happy Thanksgiving to you, and to all others reading this!

Enjoy the day!
Shoe
pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY
(Zone 7a)

November 26, 2008
12:13 PM

Post #5832340

Al - Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for helping us help our plants to thrive.

Please give us your opinion on this post I saw on a coleus thread:

Coleus: TheRoseGirl picture (to grow good coleus)

Subject: to grow good coleus
Forum: Coleus
TheRoseGirl wrote:
If you want your coleus to grow big and tall.Then put rotten cotton from a cotton gin in your flower bed.I did that and it made them spread out.So if you know somebody at a cotton gin try to get the rotten cotton that has been there the longest.


Thanks, Al.
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 26, 2008
1:45 PM

Post #5832499

Hey, Pirl!

We have a gin here. Cotton seed meal is a regular fertilizer that farmers use on their fields and people use on their gardens.

You have to watch out, though, because people use a whole lot of poison on their cotton fields.

This message was edited Nov 26, 2008 7:46 AM
pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY
(Zone 7a)

November 26, 2008
1:49 PM

Post #5832508

I know nothing at all about it except for the fact that cotton supposedly takes everything of value from the soil. I don't even know if cotton seed meal is the same thing as "rotten cotton", as the person posting called it.
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 26, 2008
3:18 PM

Post #5832799

http://www.cottonsjourney.com/storyofcotton/page3.asp

the gin separates the cotton fibers from the burs and seeds. The burs are what making picking cotton so painful. They are sharp and can cut into the skin on your hands.

the part of the cotton boll not used could still have a lot of hairy white fibers and that's what is likely to be left laying around the gin. As I remember the seeds I got from the gin look like furry little balls maybe 1/4" in diameter.

Most commercial crops destroy soil. And that's why we are running out of crop land.
Some farmers are using no-till methods that are more conservative of soil fertility and structure.
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

November 26, 2008
4:01 PM

Post #5832937

Happy, Happy, Thanksgiving to you all

Donna
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

November 26, 2008
5:58 PM

Post #5833261

To you also Donna.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 27, 2008
12:18 AM

Post #5834244

Pirl asked for comment on a post from the Coleus Forum.

"If you want your coleus to grow big and tall.Then put rotten cotton from a cotton gin in your flower bed.I did that and it made them spread out.So if you know somebody at a cotton gin try to get the rotten cotton that has been there the longest."

I think we're straying a bit too far from the subject of the thread, but I'll include comments about container culture to help steer us back to our original topic. Since her comment is out of context, I have no idea about what she meant by the phrase "spreading out". I'll assume that because she is recommending 'rotten cotton' she feels it has been beneficial and attributes improved growth characteristics to its use.

It's possible that adding the cotton to garden soils could affect the growth rate and to some degree the growth habit, but it's very unlikely that it would have unique affect. we would need to look at the reason why it changed anything before we attribute any change(s) to a particular soil amendment. The two reasons I can think of that it might change growth rate/habit: A) Incorporating it had some effect on soil tilth or structure. - or B) There was a nutrient deficiency that the amendment wholly or partially relieved.

In neither case, can you say that 'rotten cotton' (RC) would have similar effect if you were to amend your garden with it unless the application corrected the same soil structural shortcoming or the same nutrient deficiency. Could we just as easily improve soil tilth/structure with another organic component? - Yes, we could. Could we correct the same nutrient deficiency by adding the appropriate fertilizer/micronutrient or another organic component that supplied it? Yes we could. IOW, adding RC to a good garden soil is probably not going to have any noticeable effect on your Coleus.

Getting back to container soils: You only need to ask yourself a couple of questions in order to determine if it is a good idea in your containers. A) How quickly does it break down? If it breaks down so rapidly, providing enough nutrient value in gardens that it is easily noticeable, it's likely not a good choice in containers, and the reasons why are covered over & over above. B) How small are the particles or how water retentive is it NOW, and is it likely to exacerbate any water retention issues over the intended life of the planting? B is a no-brainer - needs no elaboration. ;o)

Ok - back to container soils now ... ;o)

Al

Campfiredan
Alachua, FL
(Zone 8b)

December 31, 2008
11:30 PM

Post #5949272

Speaking of wood chips. A Virginia Tech study (patented - who knows why?) on using wood chips as a substrate to grow ornamental plants is at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7165358.html "Chipped wood as a substrate for plant growth". Apparently, up to at least 8 weeks there is little difference between pine bark and wood chips. I think the point of this study is for using the chips with plants intended to be grown quickly in the nursery and sold for immediate planting. Might be some application for a single season vegetable growing substrate. I think I'll add that to my list of experimental veggie planters. Wood chips around my neck of the wood are a lot cheaper than pine bark fines ($8 per yard vs $22 per yard - or even $0 per yard if I start with the electric utility tree trimmings). On the other hand you can use the pine bark over and over again and don't have to dump and refill the container with each crop.

I wonder if wood chips converted into charcoal would last longer. I've heard charcoal is very long lasting in soils and has a nice cation exchange capability. Pretty easy to fill a 55 gallon drum with wood chips to partially burn and turn them into mini charcoal chunks. But that reduces the chips about 50% in volume so they would actually end up costing $16 per yard. Ought to be cost effective with the free utility clearing wood chips though. 'Nother experiment maybe. Need more containers. Probably more yard too.

Dan
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

January 1, 2009
2:26 AM

Post #5950037

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/CN004
Very informative article that covers a lot of the stuff Tapla has said.
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

January 2, 2009
2:12 AM

Post #5954462

That's a very good article, but doesn't have tapla's fine, patient clarity --or personality.
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

January 2, 2009
4:15 PM

Post #5956381

Right on! Just reinforcement to show that our man knows what he is talking about.
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

January 4, 2009
1:55 PM

Post #5964259

"tapla's fine, patient clarity --or personality. "

YAY! well said. I am a fan.
Girla
Brownwood, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 27, 2009
9:57 PM

Post #6059015

Al, I am going to be mixing up your soil formula as soon as I can locate everything but I have a question. When you say "controlled release fertilizer" and later refer to MG 24-8-16 I am confused. I have used MG 24-8-16 for years but always the water soluble version, which I do mix with water first. Are you saying to mix 2 cups of this SAME granular, water soluble fertilizer & add it dry to the soil mix? I always associated CRF with something like Osmocote. Please advise...Girla in 31 degree central Texas!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2009
11:46 PM

Post #6059432

I usually include a controlled release fertilizer (like Osmocote - and different than slow release) in soil recipes simply because many hobby growers are not very good at maintaining a fertilizer regimen and the CRFs at least guarantee SOME nutrients. ;o) I leave them out of soils more often than I include them. If you're good about staying on top of supplying nutrients, then you only need to use something soluble, like the MG 24-8-16 or 12-4-8 for most plants. I really like the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 for most things because it has ALL the essential nutrients AND it supplies almost 70% of its N in nitrate form, which means I can be comfortable applying it in cool (

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 27, 2009
11:49 PM

Post #6059444

(under 55*) temperatures without much concern for the ammonium toxicity levels urea/ammonium based fertilizers can cause.

I'm not sure where the '2 cup' thing came from, but I wouldn't add soluble fertilizers like MG to a batch of soil. For most CRFs, like Osmocote, 5 lbs per cu yd of soil is a medium application rate. This calculates to about .4 oz (by weight) per gallon, so you should be fine with a level tbsp per gallon of soil. Use 1/3 cup per cu ft if you're making larger batches.

Al ... in soon to be sub-zero MI.



This message was edited Jan 27, 2009 7:49 PM

This message was edited Jan 27, 2009 7:50 PM
Girla
Brownwood, TX
(Zone 8a)

January 30, 2009
3:31 PM

Post #6070595

i have learned a little about the availability of Turface in Texas after talking to their sales rep. It is marketed under the name of All-Sport (private labelled) for John Deere Landscaping places. It used to be sold in wal-mart and other retail places under the name of Profile soil conditioner but is not packaged that way anymore. It is still available under the Turface label mostly through landscapers, golf courses, & companies that build and maintain athletic fields. So. I still dont have any but I am closing in on it. Good luck everyone! (PS, I am buying a pallet when I find it...someone around Brownwood,TX want to split it with me?)
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 2, 2009
5:39 PM

Post #6083263

Would Turface be a good thing to add to heavy clay soil in garden beds?
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

February 4, 2009
2:14 AM

Post #6090252

Turface alone is not the way to remedy heavy clay soil, IMHO, nor is it really needed in garden beds. Yes, it will improve porosity, hold nutrients available for roots, and won't break down or affect soil chemistry --but you really need the organic components and the nutrients instead of the clay.

It's not needed in garden beds, since unlike permanent potted plants you can turn the soil regularly in a garden bed.

Here in DC, I remove as much clay as I can, and just get rid of it, taking care not to leave a "clay pot" within the soil from which water can't drain well --I cut drainage paths from the deepest part of any hole in clay. Once you get the clay out, and ditch it somewhere, fill the hole with a mix such as tapla recommends and you'll do well.
jazzzy704
Fenton, MI
(Zone 5b)

February 9, 2009
6:26 AM

Post #6113575

Oh i just read both threads. I have been here for 2.5 hours!! And Al I must say you are a good bed time read!!! I loved every bit of your advice and can't wait to make the "mix".
THANK YOU SO MUCH for your calm, knowledgeable answers!
So interesting to see you are from Michigan!!
You have done all DGER'S a great service in your free flowing information!
Julie

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 9, 2009
1:56 PM

Post #6114161

Awww! Thanks, Julie. How nice of you to take time to share such kind words. If you need help making the soil or finding any hard-to-find ingredients - just let me know. I see we're almost neighbors. ;o)

Al
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

February 9, 2009
2:41 PM

Post #6114378

QUOTED: a good bed time read!!!

HMMMMM! I hadn't thought of Al that way!

I grew up near Traverse City. Does that count?
michaelangelo
Brainerd, MN

April 19, 2009
1:34 AM

Post #6430075

Al - forgive me if you have already covered this and I have overlooked it but am about to prepare your recipe (FINALLY I located pine bark FINES last Fall at an out of town garden center) but when you list CRF - what nutrient percent range do you usually use? I have 19-6-12 on hand. What do you use for the micro-nutrients? Thanks much
stressbaby
Fulton, MO

April 19, 2009
12:13 PM

Post #6431377

Mich,

I think your CRF will work fine. For minors, Al likes Micromax, and that is what I use. The only problem is that it is hard to find. It comes in something like 40# bags. It would be nice if they made a 2-3# container for us hobbyists!

SB

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 19, 2009
1:17 PM

Post #6431571

The 19-6-12 is almost exactly a 3:1:2 ratio, which is very close to the ACTUAL ratio in which plants use nutrients. It is the best choice for your 'all-purpose' fertilizer. It even says so on most packages. ;o) If you check the label, you may find that the 19-6-12 supplies only NPK, in those ratios respectively. That means you must supply the secondary macro-nutrients AND most of the micro-nutrients. In a bark/peat soil, the nutrients most likely to be deficient are calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, and zinc. The best way to supply these elements is to use a fertilizer that already has them present. Usually, you can get by with one of the MG products. Since you use lime in the soils you're making, that takes care of the Ca/Mg. MG has Fe, Mn, and Z, but that leaves S and B as a problem. The S can be supplied with a little powdered sulfur mixed in the soil, leaving only boron as a potential issue.

I've found it's just easier to incorporate Micromax when I make the soil, or if the planting is in its second or third year (the gritty soil mix), I use STEM. As Bob mentioned, these products are often difficult to find in reasonable quantities for the hobbyist, but you could use something like Earth Juice Microblast as a source of the minors.

A fertilizer I've been using extensively is Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. I recommend it highly for most applications because it contains all the essential nutrients in the proper proportions. It is about as fool-proof as it gets.

If Steve is following this thread, he might want to discuss the benefits of a product called 'FertiSorb'. I haven't yet tried it, but I trust his judgment and he says it rocks! ;o)

Al
FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

April 19, 2009
2:36 PM

Post #6431909

I've been following this thread and its predecessor even through my slow loading days of dial-up (wow, the time it took!), and am grateful for Al's willingness to impart what is an obvious deep appreciation and understanding of this topic.

My education in plant nutrition comes from sitting at the feet of the gentleman who invented the product I'm trying to sell, a microbiologist and true renaissance man who's forgotten more about fertilizer than I'll ever hope to learn. His initial aim in developing what has become FertiSorb came from his experience in seeing plants grown in soil rich in iron die of iron deficiency because of the alkaline nature of the surrounding soil, which binds iron. He taught me that micros, while being necessary on their own for plant development, also facilitate the uptake and assimilation of all the other needed elements. I had to reach WAY back to my days of high school chemistry to understand the relationship these elements have upon one another. Al's discussion of this issue over the course of this thread is remarkable in its clarity, which also shows that he paid a lot more attention in chemistry class than I ever did. ;-)

Dr. Youssef's focus for FertiSorb was to create the most efficient platform for nutrient delivery that could be found, making nutrient available in sufficient quantity for proper plant development in any type of soil or pH while minimizing the actual amount of nutrient (especially NP and K) delivered. We've accomplished that with our process of incorporating nutrient, including micros, into the structure of a water-holding polymer, and get good results over a typical growing season with up to 6 times less nitrogen than would be used if water soluble fertilizer were applied at label rates. FertiSorb also has the added effect of "buffering" pH toward neutrality.

CRF technology has improved remarkably over the past 10 years, particularly with the advent of a more permeable membrane surrounding the nutrient in each prill. However, CRF nutrient availability is still dictated to a great degree by soil temperature, which in containers is a very big issue. Our product doesn't rely on temperature, our nutrient availability is based on moisture.

I hope this post isn't perceived as self-promotion. This is a product I truly believe in; I was given an entree and I think it's appropriate to this discussion. I just also happen to manufacture and sell it. I'm also a lawyer, so make any "lawyer selling c**p" comments you wish. I'll put the best ones on my website. May Spring visit all of us very soon.


michaelangelo
Brainerd, MN

April 22, 2009
7:49 PM

Post #6448518

I am ready to put Al's recipe together but I am still unsure of what I am supposed to be using for MICRONUTRIENT POWDER. I can't find a thing at the store that is a micro powder. I realize in one of your notes Al that you said that MG (MiracleGrow?) along with the lime would provide all the micronutrients except boron but regular MG is NOT continuous release plus it has all the NKP. I don't think you are recommending using MG instead of the Expert 19-6-12 CRF I went out and bought but I am not sure how I am supposed to be using MG (or working in micronutrients) along with the 19-6-12.

Scenarios: #1 Add the 19-6-12 to the batch and feed the MG over time? But what about good old boron?

#2 Skip mixing the fertilizers to the batch altogether and add them as i am potting. This might be helpful too because I woud probably use a different Macro composition for tomatoes and peppers (the only two veggies I am growing).

I am really looking forward to using this recipe this year.

michaelangelo
Brainerd, MN

April 22, 2009
7:56 PM

Post #6448578

LOCATING PINE BARK FINES: (With Al's approval) I'm suggesting you might try contacting the company below because sometimes they will tell you who they supply in what areas of the country. I got lucky and just happened upon it last fall at a small nursery way out of town (this is after hunting high and low for it all summer). The Brand is called Top N Turf from National Bark Sales in Boise Idaho and I see they have a website with an email contact.

http://www.natbark.com/

I haven't used it yet but it is definitely processed as FINE, which was the big problem in my search for it.

Hope this helps some of you. Michaelangelo

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

April 22, 2009
8:33 PM

Post #6448747

MG + lime will supply MOST of the nutrients likely to be deficient in bark/peat based container soils except S and B.

Some CRFs have the minors, and some don't. I don't know if what you're using does or not, so you might need to ck the label. If it doesn't include them, you need a source. You can probably find Micromax in small quantities, but I haven't seen STEM offered in anything other than 40 or 50 lb bags. You could p/u some Earth Juice Microblast online or at a hydroponics store, if you have one near, and use that, too.

Al
Nick1
Plainfield, NJ
(Zone 6b)

May 7, 2009
10:05 PM

Post #6518802

Hi All,
Excellent post and replies. I've read through the replies, but forgive me if this has already been covered. I have been unable to get pine bark fines after ring several garden centers. Am I right in thinking that "soil conditioner" containing pine bark is OK. I had a look at some and i looked OK but no too fine.
Thanks,
Nick
TARogers5
Kingston, OK
(Zone 7a)

May 7, 2009
11:35 PM

Post #6519127

I am looking now also. All the garden suppliers in Dallas and Oklahoma city have taken them off the shelves. I would have to go to Georgia to get some.
Wonder what all the green houses and nurseries have gone to using.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 7, 2009
11:47 PM

Post #6519168

I don't know what to tell you guys ... I don't usually have trouble finding it. When I find something that's ideal, I stock up by buying up to a pallet of it. There are two nurseries, one within 5 minutes, the other 15 minutes away, that have (literally) tons & tons of it. I didn't even look at the big box stores this year to see if any have it because it's so readily available & I like to buy from local businesses when I can. ;o)

Nick - just read the label on the bag. If it says the material is pine bark & not 'composted forest products', you're fine.

TAR - they're still using pine bark, but some (mainly greenhouses) may buy a ready-made mix. Greenhouses don't usually keep the plant material around long enough for soil longevity to be an issue.

Al

Al
jazzzy704
Fenton, MI
(Zone 5b)

May 12, 2009
3:16 PM

Post #6538667

Tapla,
I was wondering ???
i have a source of 'micro nutrient' powder from 'Peters'
Could this be used in your mix?
i am aware that you have never even mentioned it.
I use a 1lb. tub in my compost pile every year to help in the decomposition and i know most soils already have all of the nutrients available with out needing to 'buy' them ( exception noted to a depleted soil)
But would it be helpful in any way?? And if yes in what amount to 1 cu. ft of 'Tapla Mix' as i call it??
Thank You
Julie

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 12, 2009
6:51 PM

Post #6539700

Do you have a link to it so I can see what it is?

Al
grrrlgeek
Grayslake, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 20, 2009
4:25 PM

Post #6574784

The Home Depot here has the Golden Trophy mulch for pine bark fines. They didn't have it last month, so it may be worth it to recheck some places again.
grrrlgeek
Grayslake, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 27, 2009
2:33 PM

Post #6604244

Now that I've used some of the Golden Trophy premium mulch, I can't recommend it. It's full of large chunks of pine and shreds of what looks like painted wood :~( Apparently not made the way it used to be. I really didn't want the extra work of screening stuff. Blech.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 28, 2009
1:22 AM

Post #6606976

Awwww bummer. That's a shame. I still have about 10 bags left over from a couple of years ago (bought a pallet) and it's perfect. I didn't look closely at the stuff they had this year because, at a glance, it looked only borderline usable because of its 'too large' size.

An acquaintance from another forum site though, said she bought about 20 bags from a pallet that was behind the fronted pallet, even climbing OVER the one in front to get at the 'good stuff'. I'm assuming the more grower-friendly product was last year's material.

I used Fafard's aged pine bark this year and it looks good. I did cut back on the peat and added a little more perlite so it drained like I like it though. I can already tell I'll need to water less frequently. Time will tell if I like that idea or not. ;o)

Al
Campfiredan
Alachua, FL
(Zone 8b)

June 1, 2009
5:46 PM

Post #6626957

Would Ozmocote Plus Propagation grade 12-14 month, (http://www.scottspro.com/_documents/tech_sheets/H5124OsmocotePlus.pdf) eliminate the need for a separate addition of micronutrients in your Basic Soil Mix? It is available at my local farm supply store and it seems like all it lacks is calcium (and that come from the lime so isn't needed in the controlled release). I have a bag of this from another project and, although expensive, if it would eliminate the need to find the micronutrient powder it would be more convenient for me than finding and using a special micronutrient powder.

Also, my local farm store has 50 pound bags of a non-controlled release fertilizer called Super Rainbow Plant Food 16-4-8 which seems to have most of the micronutrients - just lacking B and Cu (http://www.rainbowplantfood.com/products/grades/SuperRainSouthern.htm). I was thinking about using it as a light top dressing now and then to cut back on the more expensive Ozmocote in the mix. Although the Miracle Grow might be a better choice for that.

Thanks,
Dan

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 1, 2009
6:03 PM

Post #6627006

It would, yes. I went directly to the link before I finished reading your post & also noticed the Ca as glaringly absent, but that's no problem if you're liming - especially since the Mg content is only 1% (antagonistic deficiency extremely unlikely).

I'm assuming the 16-4-8 is a soluble chemical fertilizer and not a collection of soil amendments? If you're using the 16-4-8 intermittently at reduced application rates or as a supplement, you should be fine. It has more N than is needed in relation to both P and K, but the P:K ratio is a good one. As diligent as you seem willing to be, you could probably dispense with the CRF altogether, unless your intent is simply to use it so it doesn't go to waste. Even though I include it in the soil recipe, it's mainly insurance for those who don't/won't/can't fertilize regularly.

Al
Campfiredan
Alachua, FL
(Zone 8b)

June 1, 2009
9:29 PM

Post #6627756

Thanks Al,

I just mixed some container media according to your big batch recipe. The texture, pore space, and "mixability" is better than any by-the-book formula I've tried, including the peat lite ones. And it is a rather light-weight mix too! Thanks for the info. If there were any change I'd make it would be to try to find something to replace the peat (only because it is the most expensive ingredient in my area - pine bark here is relatively cheap). But I can't figure out anything less expensive that has near the same characteristics. Only thing I can think of locally available is very coarse cypress sawdust or possibly pine needles shredded to fiber or maybe shredding a fraction of the pine bark fines even more fine but I doubt they would really replace the peat. Spaghnum peat just seems to be magic stuff. I probably should take a nice camping vacation up to Canada and bring back a van-full of the big bales.

The 16-4-8 is a granular chemical fertilizer (soluble since it is chemical but not one of the ones meant to be diluted with water like Miracle Grow). I use it on the plants in the soil garden. The farm store recommended it for my sandy subtropical soil that holds on to absolutely nothing. It is very good for growing greens - and pretty much everything else. I also use it to hasten decomposition of wood chips to turn them into compost since it has lots of N, then I feed the super compost to the garden. That is one that I have around all the time so I thought it might be a good supplement for top dressing containers using your mix. I already use it for containers using a pine bark/compost-based mix (no CRF) and it works well but it is hard to tell how much of the micronutrients come from the compost vs. the fertilizer. Anyhow, the compost portion of the mix decomposes so fast I have to keep making new "soil" so replacing it with a more stable mix is attractive. For the containers with your recipe I probably will stick with the CRF for now since I am not always around to do a regular fertilization (and I have a *lot* of container plants). But the 16-4-8 might still make a good top dressing when the rain would do the work rinsing it in.

I'm still looking for a good long-lasting 100 % "organic" media and fertilizer mix made from local ingredients for the organic group I work with. Can't find anything that really works to my satisfaction - I don't think you can really stuff a whole year's worth of cheap, local, organic fertilizer into a gallon pot without it burning the plants at first and starving the plants later on. Organic mixes are okay for one season vegetable crops but nursery containers really don't seem to be feasible unless you top dress frequently with expensive materials like blood meal and such. No one seems to believe me on that so I keep on trying - persistence may not always lead me to success but I always learn something or other from it - and the journey is ofter fun. For my stuff at home I think I'm going to use your mix with the CRF from now on (especially if I can find a cheap peat replacement!).

Dan

PS - a picture of one of my container gardens is attached for fun.

Thumbnail by Campfiredan
Click the image for an enlarged view.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 1, 2009
9:58 PM

Post #6627886

Hey - your garden looks great!

Dan - I used Fafard's aged pine bark this year & cut back on the peat because of its fine texture. I really think I could have done w/o it, as I've done many times before. I don't think there's really anything too special about it, other than it's a very useful tool in getting the water retention just right. I have a pal on another forum that grows in a combination of just pine bark & Turface. Come to think of it, my best friend (CA) grows practically everything in a mix of composted redwood bark and Turface. It's all about the combination of texture, particle size, and the balance between air and water retention. It doesn't matter HOW you get there, just so you do. ;o) Of course, durability is a huge plus. Chopped celery has plenty of aeration at first ...

I used to think I could get good (comparative) results from going the all-organic way, but I've resigned myself to the idea that while in the garden, 'feeding the soil' is the best way to approach husbandry, in containers it's not going to be as productive, it will probably be more difficult, and when you do get stuck with a problem, it's much more difficult to extract yourself from it . I don't want to get into a big skirmish with those that adhere to 'all organic' practices in containers because there is room for both points of view, but it's just much more difficult to grow in compost/manure/topsoil and use soil amendments as nutrient sources than it is to use a well-aerated and durable soil and a soluble fertilizer regimen.

... but you're right, the journey is the reward ...

For some reason, I'm right now reminded of the words to a John Denver song that I really like

"(there's) only two things that money can't buy,
that's true love & homegrown tomaters."

Al
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

June 1, 2009
10:33 PM

Post #6627970

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDjWC5byww0

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 1, 2009
11:07 PM

Post #6628094

Lolol!!! Strong work, Gloria!

I often have that song/CD playing while I'm working in the gardens. I'll be walking around & can't help but stop & do a little stutter-step before I finish gittin' to where I was goin'. ;o)

Al
Campfiredan
Alachua, FL
(Zone 8b)

June 1, 2009
11:18 PM

Post #6628146

"Chopped celery has plenty of aeration at first ..."

Wow - I just chopped down all the celery stalks. Now I have a use for them. :-)

Great to hear that the peat is optional. I'll have to try a pine-bark-only mix and maybe up the watering frequency (most of my containers are on drip irrigation so I can change it to eight short waterings a day if I get a different timer). I might worry a bit about the CRF all sinking to the bottom of the container through the pores if the pine bark is too coarse. Might need to add a bit of fiberous stuff (like the cypress sawdust) to prevent that - or maybe not. Worth a test or two. When I add compost there is a tendency for the compost to sink to the bottom of the container and the pine bark to stay toward the top when the rains beat down but the compost particles are a lot finer than the CRF beads so that might not be an issue using just pine bark and CRF. It would sure make mixing even easier!

The local lumber mill also sells its pine bark composted with sand (they call it potting soil) at about the same price as pine bark alone. I've sort of ignored it in the past since it is a lot heavier to haul home and unload than the pure pine bark but maybe a load of that is worth experimenting with too. Some pots need a bit of weight to prevent them from blowing over.

Dan

Another type of "container"

Thumbnail by Campfiredan
Click the image for an enlarged view.

NathanR
Pleasant Prairie, WI

June 11, 2009
12:51 AM

Post #6670784

Hey Grrrlgeek and Stressbaby,
I live in Pleasant Prairie WI which is not far from Grayslake and have been having trouble finding high quality pine bark this year. I bought 3 different brands and all were duds. The Golden Trophy "Premium Landscape Pine Bark Mulch", as you noticed, looked the worst. Even though they claim on their label that the "American Mulch Council" certifies it, whoever they are, it looked like it was about 5-10% recognizable pine bark and the other 90-95% of it looked exactly like shredded, dyed, wood. It was so stringy that I couldn't even sift it through a 1/2" screen it to do an analysis of its particle size distribution. I looked closely at 2 other brands that looked like a lot of dirt and pine needles were mixed in with the pine bark. So now I'm looking for the Farfards brand pine bark. Finally, after 2 years, I found and bought Scotts Micromax on-line in 1/2 lb jars for $6.00 each from a bonsai supplier. I also found Scotts S.T.E.M repackaged and sold on-line @ $7/lb from an orchid supplier. I'm not sure how to transmit these vendors to all of you since Dave's can get all freaky and go Medieval on you if it looks like someone is getting free advertising here. I have no connection with the sellers by the way.
If anyone knows how I can send the word out on these items w/o offending the gods, let me know.
I love that "home grown tomaters" song too and my big city friends can't understand why.
Nathan
grrrlgeek
Grayslake, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 11, 2009
9:26 AM

Post #6672171

I went through Pleasant Prairie today. Stopped at Jelly Belly hungry. Oops.

Yeah, that Golden Trophy stinks. Some bags seem better than others, but no way I could screen it. What does the "American mulch council" certify it as I wonder :~P I did use a little anyway for a few things that needed potting up NOW, but still looking for stuff that needs to be in containers for any length of time.

Someone somewhere said BFG Supply has the Fafards aged pine bark (BTW, how are you supposed to pronounce Fafard anyway?). The closest location to us is Brookfield though, so I'm trying to find something closer first. I picked up a couple of bags of pine stuff at Grayslake Feed this afternoon but haven't really looked at them yet. I need mulch anyway so I have somewhere to put it if it's too big. If you do go to BFG, the people who went said they seem to charge different amounts to different people, so maybe call ahead to get a price. They charged from about 9.00 to 12.50/bag from what I heard.

Good luck, let us know if you find anything interesting,

Sandy
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

June 11, 2009
12:22 PM

Post #6672548

I think this is the only thread that has a theme song - and a dance! Al's stutter step to go with it!
NathanR
Pleasant Prairie, WI

June 11, 2009
10:50 PM

Post #6675085

Sandy, I'm very obtuse and don't even know what BFG Supply is or where it is. Can you clue me in please?

Thanks.
Nathan
grrrlgeek
Grayslake, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 12, 2009
12:08 AM

Post #6675408

Not obtuse, I never heard of them until I read a post about them. Their site is http://www.bfgsupply.com/content/ . Apparently they're mostly wholesale but do sell to the public, though they don't have prices marked on anything, so you have to be careful what they try to charge you. I think I'm going to get the Fafard stuff from them; I'll have to figure out which is closer, Brookfield or Joliet. I think it's a toss up.

The stuff I got at Grayslake Feed would need to be screened, but at least it's screenable. It would take me forever to screen all I need if I use it for all my veggie containers. It's called Robin Hood Pine Bark Mulch, made by the Hood Timber Company (I think-I'd have to look at the bag again). It was 4-something for a 3 cu ft bag.

HTH,
Sandy
NathanR
Pleasant Prairie, WI

June 13, 2009
10:45 PM

Post #6683488

Sandy,
I'm going BFG soon to get some Farfards bark. A trip to Brookfield has a lot less traffic and construction than a trip to Joliet but from Grayslake it may be a different story. Thanks for all of your help Sandy.
Nathan
grrrlgeek
Grayslake, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 13, 2009
11:41 PM

Post #6683624

LOL, I broke down and went to Joliet and got some yesterday. I had to go south of here for an appointment already, but it would probably still would've been better to go to Brookfield. Too much traffic :(

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 14, 2009
1:21 AM

Post #6683923

Hey guys. I don't want to hurt any feelings, but we're straying, & I'd appreciate it if we could try to steer the conversation back to the original topic. Thanks. ;o)

Al
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

June 15, 2009
12:32 AM

Post #6687691

Thanks, tapla --I love following good discussions here, but lots of "false alarms" lately.

Soil is key to container gardening --critical to get it right, especially as plant and pot size increases and do-overs become impossible.

Soil's "only " roles:
1. anchorage - to let plants hold themselves upright
2. aeration - to provide for most of a plant's "inhale" of oxygen and "exhale" of by-product gasses
3. water source - to hold water sufficient for the plant's needs, with required nutrients dissolved in accessible form

Sounds simple? Not so, since what improves a soil for one of the three roles, can ruin it for another. What maximizes anchor-strength could preclude aeration. The highest degree of water retention can be the worst for a plant's air supply. And perfect aeration qualities might leave a plant prone to dying of thirst. And (subject of many emotional posts here!) some materials that provide good aeration, solid anchorage and nice water retention can decay too quickly, all while producing chemicals that "lock up" the dissolved nutrients, preventing roots from uptake. Lots to think about!

Tapla's digest of advice and related discussion here is really all about how to achieve the right balance for each container garden situation.

This has become a long forum, and hard to take in, unless you've been following it, but it's more valuable than any other place in all of Dave's Garden, IMHO. If you're new here, I suggest reading --and re-reading--Tapla's initial posts and then searching for where he responds to specific questions. Much of the rest is interesting, but all is more valuable if you focus mainly on those and at least initially skip the digressions.

The info has made a world of difference in how I go about putting any plants in a new pots --ESPECIALLY large plants going "permanently" into large pots.

Thanks, tapla, for keeping the "class" on topic.

This message was edited Jun 16, 2009 9:18 PM

This message was edited Jun 16, 2009 9:20 PM
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

June 15, 2009
1:12 AM

Post #6687845

Great synopsis, JPlunket. And yep, this (or these) threads by Al are chock full of great info. They have helped quite a few folks, no doubt about it.

Thanks, Al.

Shoe
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 20, 2009
8:15 PM

Post #6842901

Thanks for all your information Tapla. I'm trying to find all the ingredients to try and there has been lots of discussion about pine bark fines but what the heck is "micronutrient powder"? The only stuff I can find is for human consumption and to help you lose weight.

Can you clarify this a little more?

Thanks so much.
Berengaria

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 20, 2009
9:29 PM

Post #6843187

Thanks for the very kind words, JP & Horseshoe - much appreciated. The best part of your comments comes from the fact that they reinforce the idea that I kight be helping. That's important to me.

B - There are a number of preparations that are designed to supply the micro-nutrients that many fertilizers leave out. I use Micromax and STEM (by Scott's) extensively, but they are hard to come by in quantities the average hobby grower would find reasonable. I don't think you want to pay around $100 for 50 lbs that will last you 100 years. ;o)

The easiest way to solve the issue is to use a fertilizer that contains all the essential nutrients in a favorable ratio to each other. Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 does this. It supplies nutrients at very close to the same ratio in which plants use them. This allows you to fertilize at much lower rates (by rates, I mean lower EC and TDS of the soil solution) while still preventing individual deficiencies. It takes much of the pressure off by eliminating most of the guesswork. I would guess that the 9-3-6 is suitable for almost everything you grow. I can use it on everything I grow with good-great results.

If you still want a micro-nutrient preparation, try Earth Juice Microblast. It should work just fine. A word of caution: There is a narrow range in the micro-nutrients between deficiency and toxicity, so more is not necessarily better. Be judicious.

Al
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 21, 2009
5:30 PM

Post #6846661

Thanks for your quick reply. I've seen your wisdom on so many sites my head is spinning.
Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 sounds like a good choice for me, with my inexperience and small collection. One more question, please. Is it applied as a liquid fertilizer to the pot or is it sprayed on?

With much gratitude for your generous and gracious sharing of your time and knowledge.

Berengaria

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 21, 2009
6:52 PM

Post #6847028

Thanks, B. You are too kind.

It's a liquid that you mix with your irrigation water & apply to an already damp plant. It would work marginally well in a very dilute solution as a foliar fertilizer because it derives most of its N from nitrate forms, and urea is the preferred source of N for foliar feeding, but foliar applications as a generalization are actually very ineffective. They don't change the fact that there is a soil deficiency, the majority of plants don't respond to foliar applications of fertilizer because of a thick/waxy cuticle (leaf skin), and since most foliar applications are targeted at relieving deficiencies of secondary macro-nutrients or micro-nutrients, most of which are not mobile in the plant, they relieve leaf symptoms only, and for a limited time. While I'm on the subject, I might mention that nutrients in organic form, as opposed to ionic form, are even less effective because there is no primary pathway for absorption of large organic molecules, and they are not broken down into ionic forms with any efficiency on leaf surfaces. Even secondary pathways for ionic forms of nutrients through stoma are ineffective pathways for organic molecules.

Applying nutrients to the soil is the best way to fertilize. Foliar sprays will not improve growth unless nutrients are inadequately supplied through the growth medium. Reserve foliar feeding for plants that are growing so rapidly they cannot assimilate enough (usually) N, Fe, or Z. IF you use a foliar spray with Fe in it on containerized plants and it causes them to green up, it's indication that media/soil solution pH is too high.

Al

This message was edited Jul 21, 2009 2:54 PM
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 21, 2009
6:57 PM

Post #6847043

Al, you are amazing.
I've seen no mention of media wetting agents. Years ago I bought some Aqua Gro, a wetting agent that helps water uptake. My well water is very hard so I use mostly rain water to which I add a small amount of Agua Gro to the full rain barrel (20 gals.?) I think it is used on golfing greens, too.

What is your experience with wetting agents and your subsequent advice?

Thanks again.

Bere

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 21, 2009
7:03 PM

Post #6847067

For foliar spray applications or to add to irrigation water to help correct hydrophobic media?

Al
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 21, 2009
7:18 PM

Post #6847125

To add to irrigation water.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 21, 2009
9:35 PM

Post #6847710

If you need it, you're probably letting your soils dry down too much. Both peat & conifer bark become hydrophobic at around 30% moisture content. Soils though, feel dry to the touch at around 40% moisture content. Plant's vary, but most flowers & crops are able to extract moisture from soils until they reach around 20% moisture, then the moisture is locked so tight they cannot utilize it. If you water soon after your soil feels dry, you shouldn't have any problem with your soils absorbing water. An exception could occur if you're using organic sources for nutritional supplementation. Organic fertilizers like the various meals tend to promote an algal crust on top of soils that can be hydrophobic even when soils are above 40% moisture content. Then, technically, it's not the soil that's hydrophobic but the crust.

Surfactants reduce surface tension and make water wetter, so it can then make its way into the tiny pores in dry soil particles that would normally remain closed to water because of that surface tension. Soil particles will eventually absorb enough water to relieve the hydrophobia though, even w/o a surfactant. Often, you can achieve the same results as if you were using a surfactant, by watering the soil & allowing it to rest for several minutes before you return to water more thoroughly a second time. While surfactants do insure a better chance at evenly wetting the soil, they're primarily used in commercial applications because they save time by eliminating the need to water twice.

Al
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 22, 2009
12:18 PM

Post #6850081

Thanks Al, I value your opinion and knowledge very highly. For 50 years I've been potting in bags of potting soil and wondering why my plants never did too well. Now I'm off to try a new experiment and search the local stores for the ingredients.
I'm also trying a new experiment with my front porch/greenhouse. I never let it get below 40 degrees in the winter but last winter was so cold for so long that I had to heat it for many weeks thus running up a big bill. I've gotten rid of all my orchids and Boganvillea and am trying out plants that for the most part are evergreen but can stand a little frost or freeze I'll only heat when it is very, very, cold outside. Crazy? Who knows. Time will tell. In the meantime, I think I better re-pot my new purchases to give them a better chance.

Thanks again for sharing.

Berengaria
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

July 26, 2009
12:39 PM

Post #6866458

Al, I have one more question. Sound familiar? I have a feeling I'll always have 'one more question' for you.

What would be the best medium for rooting cuttings of plants like Cotoneaster and Pyracanthra?

I've found all the materials, pine mulch, crushed granite and Turface and Foliage Pro 9-3-6. I'll be all ready to start repotting as soon as it all comes. At what strength do I use the Foliage Pro and how often do I apply it?

I guess that is 2 questions.

You're turning into my bible on container gardening. I'm so glad I found you.

Berengaria

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 26, 2009
3:47 PM

Post #6867086

I have rooted them in my raised beds by simply sticking dormant cuttings in the well-aerated soil as soon as the frost is out of the ground.

If you want the best results, bundle & bury 6" dormant cuttings (with their proximal [closest to the roots] ends up) for the winter. Bury them vertically so the proximal ends are about 2-3 inches deep, and the distal ends deeper. Callus will form quickly on the proximal end in the warmer surface soil, but the cooler soil below will help suppress bud movement until roots have formed. When the buds of similar plants in the landscape just start to move in spring, dig up the cuttings & plant them like you normally would - maybe with 2/3-3/4 of the cutting buried. In spring, when you right the cuttings, roots will already have emerged through the callus on the Pyracantha (or will soon), but not necessarily on the Cotoneaster - those roots will occur in various places along the cutting. Or another strategy - after digging them up you can stick them in containers in a 50:50 mix of screened Turface and milled or chopped (in a blender or food processor) sphagnum moss (not to be confused with sphagnum peat moss - they're different) before buds move in spring and after danger of temps
Berengaria
Salt Point, NY

August 2, 2009
10:34 AM

Post #6896766


Al, can crushed granite and crushed marble be used interchangeably?

Thanks in advance for sharing your expertise.

Berengaria
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

August 2, 2009
2:13 PM

Post #6897256

Dr. Tapla,

Various spots in my lawn, perhaps where trees roots are decaying (?), have sunk noticeably.

What mix of Turface and other materials would you recommend to level and reseed these spots? How deep into the now-sunken surface soil should the new material be incorporated --minimally / ideally?

I know, I know, this is not technically a container garden soil question. But a lawn seems to me an analog for other "permanent plantings", potted or not, where the decay and compression of organic material creates an issue, so I hope it's germane to this forum.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 2, 2009
2:21 PM

Post #6897286

I'm going to say no, although I'm not absolutely sure. I do know that granite is primarily made of quartz , and feldspar with a little mica and potassium thrown in, while marble is a recrystallized form of limestone that formed when the limestone softened from heat and pressure and recrystallized into marble. It mainly consists of calcium and dolomite. Marble can classified into three categories, which makes it even more difficult to give an all-encompassing reply.
1) Dolomite: If it has more than 40% magnesium carbonates.
2) Magnesium: If it has between 5% and 40% magnesium
3) Calcite: If it has less than 5% magnesium carbonate.

We want a small residual fraction of Ca in our soils, which is why we usually add dolomitic (garden) lime to the 5:1:1 mix and gypsum to the gritty mix. We purposely add the gypsum (CaSO4) to the gritty mix to help keep the pH low. Container soils should be about a full pH point lower than garden soils, which we usually consider 'ideal' at around a pH of 6.2. Even though (practically speaking) CaCO3 (marble) is considered insoluble under normal conditions, we know it's NOT, under acid conditions. I'm quite, but not absolutely sure, that using fine crushed marble as one of the mineral components in the gritty mix will lead to pH issues high enough to cause deficiencies of several micro-nutrients, and possibly some of the macros and secondary macros. Because of my reasoning, I wouldn't use it, but there's nothing to stop you from trying & (hopefully) reporting back to us.

Perhaps there's a REAL chemist in the house who could offer a definitive answer?

Al


This message was edited Aug 2, 2009 10:22 AM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 2, 2009
2:29 PM

Post #6897312

JP - It is kind of off topic, but, expense aside, I wouldn't use Turface or similar to touch-up these areas. I would use use native soil, or you'll likely see a contrast in color and growth characteristics in those areas. Turface is used extensively on golf course turfs, but they apply voluminous quantities of water on a regular basis to maintain healthy turf.

Al
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

August 3, 2009
1:08 AM

Post #6899599

OK, thx
Alritz
Lindside, WV

August 4, 2009
6:16 AM

Post #6905053

Hi Al,
Thanks so much for your patience in helping us understand how and why container soils behave the way they do - - I've been surprised at how long it's taken me to start to 'get' it.
My local masonry supplier has a nice clean crushed limestone gravel thats screened, washed and about the size of 'grower' grit. It's very inexpensive, 'bag my own', and in an effort to save money at the volumes I'm using, was wondering about the effects of limestone in a container soil mix, and if it could be used instead of the crushed granite. I'm watering with collected rainwater or relatively soft gravity fed spring water. I use Foliage Pro with both - -
I was surprised to see such a similar question from Berengaria above, and after reading your response, I see that this is probably not a good plan. Would soaking some gritty mix made with limestone, in water for a few days and then testing pH be a way to get a clearer idea, or are these types of interactions much slower paced than that? My farming friends tell me that adding crushed limestone to their fields is a slow gentle way of adjusting pH, and that hydrated lime (burnt limestone) is the quick path to higher pH - -
Ruminating a bit here, ;) I'm wondering if considering my water, a buffering element might not be so bad. Sorry if I'm asking questions outside your realm of interest or expertise - -
Thanks Again, Allen

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

August 4, 2009
6:32 PM

Post #6906596

The speed of the reaction will depend on the particle size (how much residue or dust is included in the product would have a fairly significant impact) and the starting pH of the media. Large particles like you're talking about are generally considered ineffective at raising pH because of their small surface area and thus low solubility, but I believe that is when referencing 'normal' application rates on fields. Also, when a farmer spreads limestone on his fields to sweeten the soil, he is applying an amount that would be considerably thinner than the thickness of wax on your car, when compared to the top 12" of soil - IOW, a minuscule amount. Your intent is to use it as a considerable fraction (1/3) of a soil, which is quite different by comparison. I haven't tried it as a 1/3 component of the gritty mix, but I have to say that I'm dubious about the results.

Another factor that needs to be considered: We use gypsum to guard against a too high pH in the gritty mix, but you are toying with the idea of using limestone in huge volumes. That gives me pause. What also needs to be considered is the Mg content of the limestone. We use dolomitic (garden) lime in our soils and gardens because it supplies both Ca and Mg in a favorable ratio. If that ratio becomes skewed so there is not somewhere between 2-5:1, Ca:Mg, you would definitely be looking at the likelihood of antagonistic deficiencies of Ca or Mg. If, for example, the limestone you would use is a calcite limestone (little or no Mg), you may not be able to add enough Mg to make it sufficiently available w/o raising the EC and TDS of the media sky-high and killing the plants.

I don't want to scare you off. I rather wish you would try it on a small scale & compare it to the 'original recipe' ;o) and see how you fare.

Al

Alritz
Lindside, WV

August 10, 2009
2:22 PM

Post #6929808

Thanks Al,
For another thoughtful reply - - I like the way you think about these things. I'll try the limestone mix on some encrusted saxifrages in troughs, and a few other less lime-o-philic plants to see what happens. In the meantime, back to the feed store for more Grani-Grit. Luckily we have several commercial turkey growing operations in the area and there's plenty of grit around - Allen
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

November 8, 2009
10:01 PM

Post #7253972

tapla/wise ones,

I've got my tropicals in the pool bubble greenhouse for the season.

This is an environment I'd describe as cool rainforest --100% humidity, with constant slow dripping of condensate off the bubble. The heat source is evaporation from the pool surface, maintained at about 82 degrees. Air never gets below 45 degrees even on our coldest nights (10 degrees, say), usually 50 to 55 most days. Really inefficient, I know, but that's a different story. (details in an earlier post http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/939786/ )

I keep most plants up off the floor, without wicks. Soil is moist 100% of the time, even though plants go 5 straight months without us watering them once.

All but a few plants have survived over the years --crotons die immediately, for some reason, though the worst problem for others has been fungal spots, bacterial rot, or just unenthusiastic performance-- and some just love it in there. Still, I'd like see them all thrive.

GIven the extreme situation, compounded by the fact that all the plants move outside to their irrigated locations once it warms up each year.

Is their an ideal soil mix I can migrate to as I repot cyclically?


tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 8, 2009
10:15 PM

Post #7254019

If you don't water for 5 months ... is the water source for the plants the dripping condensate? I realize there is no evaporation from the soil taking place. What is the state of the soil as far as water retention is concerned - always soggy? Do roots at the bottom of the containers perish from the anaerobic conditions? What are you using for soil now?

My first impression is that you need a soil with large particulates that guarantees at least no perched water in the container. Because you mention they're under irrigation in the summer, it shouldn't be difficult to come up with a theoretical structure for the new soil that will work winter AND summer, but whether or not you will be able to fill the short shopping list is the first and only major hurdle. ;o)

Al
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

November 8, 2009
10:33 PM

Post #7254069

Yes, dripping condensate is the only water source --from the bubble surface and I think from the plants' leaves as well.

Roots don't noticeably rot. We take all the plants right outside in the Spring and they've been fine.

"Soggy" is hard to calibrate, but soil stays very moist.

Soil in pots now varies. Some have been repotted in line with advice found here, and unless I hear otherwise, I'll continue to do that. "Legacy" soil includes: a.) whatever the plants came in and b.) what I had used over the years before getting smart here: equal parts sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.

Perhaps I should wick the legacy soil pots, to lower the PWT, then as I repot move to a better mix with higher concentration of large particulates. Should I strive to layer in a higher concentration of larger particulate toward the bottom? Maybe wicking in winter, no wick in summer would help make the same mix fine for both setups?

Marilynbeth
Hebron, KY

February 1, 2010
6:24 AM

Post #7517769

Al,

Regarding your Basic Soil recipe and your Big Batch recipe:

1) What is... "micronutrient powder (or other continued source of micronutrients)"?

2) Do you know of any organic CRF that I can use?

3) Where and how do you make/mix your two large recipes in your yard? What do you use to add all the ingred. to mix it all up?

4) Are both recipes for containers, as well as, plants in the ground?

5) Do you re-use any part of the previous season soil in container for the next season? Or, do you mix up fresh new soil for each season?

6) Is this Espoma product http://espoma.com/p_consumer/perfector_overview.html 'like' one of the items you mention in using? What about shale, as in this offered at High Country Gardens? http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/H0025/

Thanks for all your help! Sorry if you've covered it before.

Marilyn

edited to add... What are your thoughts regarding:

Espoma BioTone Starter Plus 4-3-3? http://espoma.com/p_consumer/biotone_02.html

Yum Yum Mix 2-1-1? http://www.highcountrygardens.com/catalog/product/99730/

I've used both in adding to container (and plants in the ground) mixes in previous years. Right now, I have a few/handful of bags of the BioTone Starter Plus in the garage to use.

What about using Worm Castings in container mixes?

This message was edited Feb 1, 2010 1:34 AM

This message was edited Feb 1, 2010 1:36 AM
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

February 1, 2010
3:46 PM

Post #7518492

I need much of the same info that Mary Beth mentiions above

Donna

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 1, 2010
7:54 PM

Post #7519331

1) There are many micro-nutrient preparations on the market. Two I commonly use are Micromax (insoluble) and STEM (soluble). These are primarily targeted at the commercial market, and not commonly available in packaging less than 50 lbs, unless you can find someone who will split the larger packages. More commonly available in smaller volumes is Earth Juice Microblast.

If you're diligent about fertilizing, and are using a fertilizer that is complete, in that it contains all the elements essential for growth, or you're sure you are supplying them (Ca and Mg are often/usually missing from most soluble fertilizers) you can get by with no problems just using an appropriate ratio in a soluble fertilizer. Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 does all the heavy lifting for me (It has everything, including Ca/Mg), but MG, Peters, and others also make fertilizers in in a 3:1:2 ratio - like 24-8-16 (most common) and 12-4-8.

2) CRFs are temperature controlled, while delivery of nutrients from organic sources is controlled by temperature to some degree, but in the end, organic nutrient availability is tied to micro-biota populations and activity levels. If temperature affects activity and/or any one of several other cultural conditions affect soil biota populations, nutrient delivery via organic sources is erratic and unreliable. While I adhere tightly to the 'feed the soil, not the plant' philosophy when it comes to my gardens and beds, I prefer soluble nutrient sources for container culture. There are very clear delineations between growing in containers as opposed to growing in the garden. Container culture is much closer to hydroponics than it is the garden, so what works in the garden may not work well at all in containers.

Additionally, the high populations of soil biota required to break nutrients locked in hydrocarbon chains down into the elemental forms plants can use are also going to be cleaving hydrocarbon chains of soil ingredients, accelerating soil collapse. I look at it in the light of 'why go through the effort of building a soil that is potentially very durable, well-aerated, and free-draining, only to adopt practices that ensure these properties will be short lived?'

3) I usually only make very large batches of around 4 cu ft at one time. To do this, I spread an 8x10 tarp on the driveway. I add the bark, then anything powdered, then the peat, then the perlite, then spray it with water to keep the dust down. I use the back side of a garden rake to spread everything out & rough mix it, then I pull on the edges of the tarp to roll and tumble the ingredients to mix thoroughly. For smaller batches, use a wheel barrow or a large tub.

For the gritty mix, I work in batches by adding 1-2 gallons of each screened ingredient into a tub, moistening it, then mix well. After it's mixed, I dump it into a much larger container and go on to the next batch.

4) Both recipes work very well in containers. I usually use the 5:1:1 mix for plantings that will be in the container for 1-2 growth cycles. Keep in mind that pine bark-based soils remain serviceable for up to 4-5 times longer than peat-based soils, but I just choose not to press therm into service for that long. They get chopped up and turned into the compost pile or directly into gardens/beds at repot/depot time.

As noted above, growing in the ground is different than containers, so some revision and addition of the ingredients would probably be advisable if you wanted to build a soil for raised beds or similar - you would want the soil to be heavier and more water-retentive for those applications because the soil below will act as a giant wick and in most cases relieve you of any concern about perched water.

5) You CAN use some of the old soil if you wish. If you were making something like the 5:1:1 mix, I would probably start at a 5:2:1 or even a 5:3:1 mix of (unused) pine bark fines:used soil:perlite. Essentially, you would be replacing the peat fraction of the 5:1:1 mix with old soil, but since it will be coarser than peat, you can use more of it and still maintain the aeration/drainage, which is what makes the soil attractive to begin with (plus the $ factor).

6) Epoma's Soil Perfector is Haydite. It CAN be used in soils, but it is too large to be considered a substitute for either Turface or granite in the gritty mix. It has approximately the water retention of the AVERAGE between Turface and granite, so using it as a substitute for both leaves you with no adjustability (of water retention), and if you use it in addition to Turface and granite, it becomes superfluous (why use 3 ingredients to do what 2 do better?). If it was half the size, it would be a suitable substitute for perlite in the 5:1:1 soil, but it is soo much more expensive, it wouldn't make sense to use it.

The High Country Soil Mender also appears to be Haydite - probably the same product as 'Soil Perfector' in different packaging. It's possible that it's pumice, but pumice and Haydite are virtually interchangeable insofar as their physical properties are concerned.

The Yum Yum mix - again, this is an organic soil amendment, which may serve perfectly in the garden, but it's sure to be fine in particulate size and the release of nutrients will depend on a boom/bust cycle of soil biota in containers. I wouldn't rely on it to deliver nutrients when they are needed.

I can't say much about the Bio-Tone Starter +. It's benefit would seem to lie in the claim that it serves as a source of endo & ecto mycorrhizae. I haven't used products that are said to provide these fungi. I do notice the presence of mycorrhizal fungi in my containers with no help from additives when the weather is cool (early spring and late fall), but see no evidence of any mycorrhizal activity during the hot months. YMMV

To be clear, I'm talking about these products as they relate to container culture.

I don't use worm castings because they clog the macro-pores I try so hard to build into my soils, and they don't add anything beneficial that can't be had from something soluble that won't impact drainage and aeration.

****************************************************************************************************

When it comes to container gardening, I don't limit myself by adhering to a stand for or against anything based on ideology. I decide how I want to move through my gardening experience based on results. I've tried growing in containers with an organic approach, using compost and and soil amendments like blood meal, cottonseed meal, bone meal, various mineral additives, ... and I'm a very experienced grower, but I always came back to the fact that there was more work, more frustration, and less satisfying results, when compared to the fruits of relying on highly aerated soils, often with a very small organic fraction, and soluble nutrient sources. I do understand the desire of many to maintain an all organic approach to gardening ... and I'm right there with them in the garden and beds - just not when it comes to container culture.

Al







Marilynbeth
Hebron, KY

February 1, 2010
9:46 PM

Post #7519655

Al,

Thank you so very much for your long posting and for all your wonderful information! It is very appreciated!

We have a local Worm's Way http://www.wormsway.com/default.aspx?t=home&AC=1 in Northern KY that I can get both the Earth Juice Microblast and the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. How do I use both on container plants in each growing season?

http://www.wormsway.com/detail.aspx?t=prod&sku=EJM405&AC=1

http://www.wormsway.com/results.aspx?t=prod&search=Foliage-Pro 9-3-6&cat=all&AC=1

Is the Earth Juice Microblast what is used when the container of plants is first potted and the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 what is used throughout the season?

When you spread your large tarp out onto the driveway and start adding your ingredients, what about the wind?

I know when I try to mix ingredients up for containers on the driveway, I have to deal with the wind and I've been using a cart before. I like your idea of an 8 X 10 tarp instead. In 2007 I did make my own container mix for the first time and tried to use your ingredients (couldn't find some of the ingredients). I really liked doing it. Last year I went with bagged potting mix. I'm really serious about mixing my own again this year and trying to get it right.

What do you mean about the "gritty mix"?

I've been thinking that I can't get my containers 'right' for the growing seasons with all organic, then I might have to go the route of the 'other stuff' (syn.).

Thanks so much as always!

Marilyn
JPlunket
Vieques, PR

February 2, 2010
12:20 AM

Post #7520156

Marilyn,

I think this is Al's gritty mix, in his own words:

"I grow almost everything I expect to go more than a year in the same soil, or that I intend to root-prune annually or every other year, in a coarse and spare mixture that is 2/3 inorganic and 1/3 pine bark. It retains water reasonably well, and you can adjust that by varying the ingredients. I also grow all my houseplants and succulents in some minor variation of this mix. It will certainly retain its structure for longer than an appropriate interval between repotting (different than potting-up). It consists of:

"1 part Turface (I screen mine, but you'll find it unnecessary)
1 part grower grit (crushed granite sold at feed stores as turkey grit)
1 part pine bark
Garden lime or gypsum (whichever is appropriate)
CRF (leave it out for hibs)
elemental sulfur (if appropriate)
micro-nutrients

"I didn't mention this soil because most are unwilling to look for the ingredients, but they all have multiple uses for building container soils and are wonderful amendments to have on hand, once you understand how they affect your soils."

_________

It's easy to search for the information Al has already provided, so thoughtfully and beneficially for all of us, right here in this post and its predecessor at
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/527353/

Let's not ask him to repeat himself. It's all on the record --THANKS, AL!!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 2, 2010
2:49 AM

Post #7520710

Thanks, JP.

"I can get both the Earth Juice Microblast and the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. How do I use both on container plants in each growing season?"

Just get the 9-3-6 if it's available. It has all the essential elements in a favorable ratio to each other. HOW you use it is sort of by a schedule tempered by 'feel', and largely dependant on soil characteristics and your watering habits. So THAT really told you a lot - right? ;o) Assuming you're using a fast soil that you can water to beyond saturation so you're flushing salts from the soil when you water, try this:

Fertilize at 1/2 recommended strength every 1-2 weeks. If the temperatures are between 55-80*, fertilize weekly. If above 80 or below 55, withhold fertilizer or extend the interval to 3 weeks (this is especially true if you are using a fertilizer that derives it's N from urea, like MG, Peters, Schultz ...). IOW - have a plan, but be flexible and watch your plants. If you see something fishy, ask for help. It's difficult to over-water or over-fertilize if you use a little care and are using half doses. I have a fertilizer thread around somewhere, too, but with the search engine down ... Does anyone know for sure if it's ok to link to my article at another forum site?

"When you spread your large tarp out onto the driveway and start adding your ingredients, what about the wind?"

Post a small lethargic child or large turtle at each corner if the wind is not cooperating, or wait for a calm day. ;o) No, seriously, it's not much of a problem. You can't work in a gale, but once you dump the bark on the tarp, it won't go anywhere. It does help to have an extra set of hands to help you mix when using the tarp, though.

I use the gritty mix (see JPs post above) for all my long term plantings. These include bonsai, plant's I'm growing on for bonsai, houseplants/cacti/succulents, and all other plants I expect to be in the same soil for 2 or more growth cycles. It's extremely long-lasting and because it holds good amounts of water while remaining highly aerated, very productive.

The gritty mix:





Thumbnail by tapla
Click the image for an enlarged view.

FertiSorb
Harvard, IL
(Zone 5a)

February 2, 2010
4:07 AM

Post #7520976

Al: I'm amazed at this thread's longevity. It's become the DG equivalent of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce (Dickens' Bleak House). Time to start a new thread.
Marilynbeth
Hebron, KY

February 2, 2010
5:17 AM

Post #7521241

Thanks JP for 're-posting' Al's gritty mix here.

Al,

Thanks for your information. No kids or turtles here (Grin), but I can use rocks on each corner.

I won't bother with the gritty mix (at least at this time), since I don't plant anything that won't last more than a growing season.

Could I have your thoughts regarding...

self watering containers http://www.gardeners.com/Self-Watering-Cortina-Planter/PotsPlanters_SelfWateringPlanters,38-601RS,default,cp.html

self watering conversion kits http://www.gardeners.com/Adjustable-Reservoir/PotsPlanters_SelfWateringPlanters,34-507RS,default,cp.html

self watering hanging baskets http://www.gardeners.com/Self-Watering-Hanging-Planter/PotsPlanters_HangingPlanters,34-368,default,cp.html

self watering container mix http://www.gardeners.com/Self-Watering-Container-Soil-Mix/PotsPlanters_SelfWateringPlanters,33-819,default,cp.html

all organic self watering container mix http://www.gardeners.com/Organic-Self-Watering-Mix/PotsPlanters_SelfWateringPlanters,37-798,default,cp.html

Drought-Resistant Container Mix http://www.gardeners.com/Drought-Resistant-Container-Mix/SoilMixes_Cat2,31-306,default,cp.html
And/or do you have a mix (or which one of your mixes) for those kind of plants? I often grow Agastaches in a container (for one season), as well as, in the ground.

Vermont Compost Container Booster Mix http://www.gardeners.com/Container-Soil-Booster-Mix/SoilMixes_Cat2,31-571,default,cp.html

Hanging baskets with AquaSav Liners? http://www.gardeners.com/Flower-Baskets/FlowerPlanters_Cat,38-582RS,default,cp.html#

Hydro-Mats for containers and hanging baskets http://www.gardeners.com/Hydro-Mats/PotsPlanters_HangingPlanters,11614,default,cp.html

Thanks bunches!

Marilyn

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 2, 2010
2:02 PM

Post #7521862

Thanks, Steve. My time has been limited lately, but I'll start a fresh thread later today. I posted the same thread at GW back in '05. It's still very active there and closing in on 1,500 posts. I'm surprised at the response, too.

MB - I wish I had the time to research each of the links you left me, but unfortunately, I have a plethora of other obligations, which is why I have to limit the number of topics I can discuss. If you would like to pick the most important questions that relate to soil, I'll be happy to answer them here; or, if you send me a Dmail with all the questions, I'll get to them - if you can be patient. Thanks for understanding.

Al

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 2, 2010
4:52 PM

Post #7522453

Please find the continuation of this thread here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

Thank you for your interest and participation.

Al
confussedlady
Columbus, OH

May 25, 2010
11:24 AM

Post #7826295

Tapla, Just deciding to use containers. Thank you for so much great info.

1. Having a problelm finding Turface what can I use as a substitute?

2. Shall I use grandular gypsum or pulverized.

Once i have exhausted my supply cabinet I plan to begin working with ingredients that will
give me a 4 -5 year soil life.all.
Again, thank you so much for beginning this thread. confussedlady
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

May 25, 2010
11:51 AM

Post #7826403

Turface on eBay: http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3984.m570.l1313&_nkw=turface&_sacat=See-All-Categories

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 25, 2010
1:34 PM

Post #7826736

1) You can buy Turface Here:

John Deere Landscapes

729 Carle Ave.
Lewis Center 740-549-2141

or

960 Claycraft Rd.
Gahanna 614-863-4013

Ask for Allsport - same product as Turface MVP.

2) It doesn't matter if you use granular (prilled) or pulverized gypsum. The prills are pulverized gypsum mixed with a binder and dropped from a prilling tower. They solidify into little spheres as they fall, but dissolve into much finer material when they get wet. They prill it so it works better in broadcast type spreaders.

Al

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 25, 2010
1:36 PM

Post #7826742

Please use this link to continue the discussion at the new thread:
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

Thanks,

Al
luciee
Hanceville, AL
(Zone 7a)

May 25, 2011
5:53 AM

Post #8585988

tapla, thank you for all the info. I am 65 and have had books about gardening most of my life. Some are so old they recommend using DDT. This is the best and most informative article on soils I have read in years. Thanks, Luciee {;^)

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 25, 2011
5:56 PM

Post #8587298

How kind of you to offer such a nice compliment, Luciee. My biggest hope is always that anyone reading my offerings will find some value in them, that they will contribute to your gardening success and add to the satisfaction you take from gardening.

Take care - and good growing!

AL
hrp50
Carrollton, TX
(Zone 8a)

May 25, 2011
6:13 PM

Post #8587336

tapla
I don't mean this as a criticism, in fact it is a compliment, but there is so much information on this thread that trying to absorb all of it is making my brain leak out of my ears. I must print it all out and take it to read on my vacation this summer, instead of a novel. Good stuff.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 25, 2011
6:44 PM

Post #8587404

I've been adding lots of 1/2"-screened pine bark mulch to my seed-starting cells, and have cured damping-off, despite being unable to stop over-watering.

I've improved root growth by a factor of 3-6, I think due to improved aeration, but still need to cut back on the overwatering if I want root balls in 128-cell trays to be extensive enough to hold the soil together firmly when I pot up.

I find (now that I look closely) that some bricks of coir, and some fine pine bark "mulch" bags have a lot of very fine stuff that I would call "powder". Next year I may try drying my sources of pine bark, and using the 1/4" screen to reject as much "powder" as practical.

Meanwhile, sometimes I strat with "medium" mulch instead oif "fine". I discard more coarse stuff from "medium", but what passes my 1/2" screen has less "powder".

(I don' discard anything, but the medium-large pieces get used as top-dress "real mulch". I save large pieces for later shredding.)

I found that "Home Depot junk mulch" is unusable. Maybe $2.50-$3.50 per big bag, but woody, BIG chunks, fine powder, wet and sometimes smelly. They didn't even know what kind of bark, but suspected "whatever was on hand that day".

Instead, I went to a nice nursery and bought their $7-8 per 2-cubic-foot "nice" mulch.

I thank Tapla for being able to start any seeds harder than Marigolds!

Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 25, 2011
6:51 PM

Post #8587414

It may be my imagination, but laying down some rayon batting in the 11" x 21" bottom trays and setting 128-cell prop trays or 72-cell insert trays on that makes me think that bottom-watering works better.

I'm not really sure it wicks much water away from the cells, since there is nowhere "down" for it to go after it reaches the batting. Well, maybe 1/4" or 3/8" of grooves in the bottom of the tray. And if I overwater so much that there's visible wtaer in the grooves, I tilt the tray and suck it out with a turkey baster.

I do think that adding small amounts of water to the mat "shares" the water better to all the cells.

It DOES help me psychologically to hold back water when I see that the mat is still wet, or even damp.

And I imagine that if some of the cells are dry and others still wet, that they share water at least a little.

Tapla gave me the idea for "wicking", which led me to capilary matting for watering, but the wacky way I do it is not necessarily smart or effective. I give Al credit for the valid ideas about capilarity and the risk of perched water, but the dubius application I came up with is my own fault!

I agree that it is better to have a well-draining medium and sensible watering, than to play with wicks and hope they overcome some of the bad practices. But it seems to be helping me a little (or making me feel better, anyway!)

Corey
rutholive
Tonasket, WA
(Zone 5a)

May 26, 2011
8:55 AM

Post #8588320

After recovering from recent total revision of left hip joint, I am now able to walk around my yard without use of cane or walker, where even enough. I do have a problem with trying to do anything on the bank. I have a fellow helping a little, 4 hours a day 2 days a week, but that helps.

I did have him bring into fenced part of yard, 2 apple bins, 2feet x 4 ft. They have a commercial black plastic liner each, with holes for drainage in bottom. They are filled with layer of 2 year old utility chips that were delivered to my yard about 3 years ago, and used whenever needed, about 5 or 6 " in bottom. Then layers5 or 6" each of old leaves, compost (mine) Manure Blend (pretty much useless), , repeat layers. Then topped with Whitney Farms premium planting mix, with alfalfa pellets, bone meal, bloodmeal, and a locally produced organic fertilizer, 9-3-4 all mixed int the top Whitney Farms layer.

The above is all an experiment for me. The bins hold a lot but should be good for several years with additions in the spring. Forgot to mix in the pine fines that I have on hand. Will do so next season.

I have one bin planted in square foot grids. The other is waiting for the rain to stop for me to plant.

I had a not pleasant surprise yesterday when I went out to check on the apple bin raised beds. I had planted a fairly good size tomato, 12", that I grew from seed in one of the middle squares. Something had cut it off about 2 above soil level. Nothing laying nearby in the bin planter, and other tings not hurt. If a bird cut it off why would it and why was nothing left. No tracks in the soil, Deer not in the yard.

I will try to send along a picture.

Donna
























9
Petit_bete_noir
Haslett, MI

November 27, 2011
3:57 PM

Post #8908127

This is a fantastic thread about water dynamics in soil!

Has anyone considered using felt pots like these [HYPERLINK@www.owlyn.com] that you can place inside a more attractive decorative container? Then you can easily allow some air circulation around the whole soil / rooting area. It is also easy transfer plants to different pots if you choose.
lonejack
Longview, WA
(Zone 8b)

May 14, 2012
10:55 PM

Post #9124291

I have a question for Tapla.
How high will water wick in a medium? I want to wick water 48". What kind of medium would I use?
I am looking at building some 48" tall tower gardens. I would like to be able to water these from a standing water source.
I want to thank you again for your very informative posts. Each one is an education.
We are so lucky to have you spend your time writing for our edification.
I originally posted this over on another forum. I subsequently searched and found this would be a better place to ask my question.
Paul.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

May 15, 2012
4:38 AM

Post #9124397

I don't think it's going to happen. How high a medium will wick water is related to the particle size of the ingredients. Media that wick water to extreme heights would require a particle size so small there would be insufficient air in the root zone for roots to function. The entire thread is devoted to emphasizing the importance of ample volumes of air in the root zone and how to ensure a favorable water:air ratio. Sorry. If you're looking for 'maintenance free', about the closest you'll come is some sort of drip irrigation set-up.

Al


This thread has been continued due to length and loading speeds for some Find the continuation here:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 15, 2012
7:19 PM

Post #9125381

Lonejack:

Maybe a bubbling tube to hoist wtaer to the top, then let it drain down ??

Position a big resorvoir OVER the tower instead of under it? Use a big cotton wick from the overhead rerservoir, or some dripping mechanism.
tropicalnut777
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

February 8, 2013
7:34 AM

Post #9411971

much thanks to u all here..especially tapla .. i have always done what my
mom did..put chards at bottom of big pots and just done fine..until... i potted
up a big amorphophallus corm last yr..did same.. and lost it.. not just from water
retention in soil..other reasons too..but..i started to evaluate what i was doing..
much thanks for discussion on soil mix,drainage, PWT...
in my pursuit of the best potting mix for specific plants. especially my amorph
big corms.. i am going to use a high % of bark fines from now on.. im going to use
as thanks again tapla..has brought up on other forums.. similar sized particles in
my mix.. i dont have a good source for "chunky" perlite here..so im going to use
pumice ..
much thanks to u all..hope to see many more posts on sucesses..and what we all
want to shake up..

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 8, 2013
2:40 PM

Post #9412373

Best luck!!

Al
tropicalnut777
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

February 8, 2013
5:12 PM

Post #9412500

thanks al.. theres so much to learn..i consider more than just
an amateaur..but..theres always someone that has more experience
knowledge,whatever..grateful to learn..

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 8, 2013
5:56 PM

Post #9412538

Hardly a day goes by that I don't learn something garden-related from the forums that I'm glad for knowing. We can all learn from each other. That rocks. Knowledge moves you forward faster than any other thing I can think of, even experience. The fastest way to learn is to gather as much knowledge as possible, and validate it as soon as possible (before you forget) through practical experience.



Al

Misc:

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

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

February 9, 2013
5:23 AM

Post #9412850

Al, that is the coolest looking "table" (in pic #2) that I have ever seen!! What is it, and how did you do it!?

I completely agree with you; gathering that knowledge and putting it to work ASAP has helped me truly learn stuff faster and more thoroughly than anything. (not to mention, getting my hands in the dirt is always fun!) :)
tropicalnut777
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

February 9, 2013
6:52 AM

Post #9412940

im so grateful to so many here..and other garden friends..
i find im drawn to not so usual plants..especially here in utah..
LOL my local sources of info are very limited..i think its my stuborness
that keeps me seeking out people that know and have experience in
growing the plants i love..
its good stuff for sure !!!!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 9, 2013
1:21 PM

Post #9413298

That's a Picea pungens glauca 'Globosa Nana' - a globe baby blue spruce. I limited the height by pruning with a hedge trimmer, pruned it into a circular shape - as seen from above, and used my fingers to rub or pull off all the needles and new buds on the underside. You can literally set a glass of water on it. I have one at my place of business, too.

The 'table' is just a 2'x2' patio paving stone that I set on top of a large overturned ceramic pot that I wasn't using for anything. I have another similar arrangement - I'll show a picture below. I don't mean to take the thread off track, sorry - we should prolly stay on the topic.

Here's my 'comma' juniper just after a pruning. The brown goes away as the new growth comes in.

Al

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

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

February 9, 2013
3:09 PM

Post #9413410

I'm very glad you're here as well Tropical, it's certainly a wonderfully friendly place to learn about the plants you love. (not to mention the soil that we all love as well!) :)

Speaking of which, Al, the Spruce is the "table" to which I was referring. That thing is slicker'n snot on a door knob. I see that it is not growing in a container.. so, in the ground, what do you pay attention to for something like that, soil-wise?
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 12, 2013
9:07 AM

Post #9416598

And to speedie's question - how long did it take you to grow that Picea pungens glauca 'Globosa Nana' to that shape?

(BTW, we are all ignoring the fact that this thread has been continued at http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/, which is maybe ok since we are thoroughly off-topic.)

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 12, 2013
12:14 PM

Post #9416767

It took about 3 years in the ground before the plant revealed what it wanted me to do with it. Within a couple of years after that, it was well on the way toward its table shape. It's now about 15 yrs old, I'd guess. It's a little under 4' in diameter and the foliage mass is almost a perfect circle 2-3" thick.

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 13, 2013
6:49 AM

Post #9417550

Oh Al, you are really an inspiration. That is simply stunning. If I got one, my plant would probably only reveal that it wanted to be left alone! But I'm determined to try anyway!

How frequently do you prune it?

This message was edited Feb 13, 2013 9:50 AM

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

February 13, 2013
2:02 PM

Post #9417973

I prune it yearly, right after the new buds have opened. I make sure the top is as flat as I can make it, then I use my hands & a pair of scissors to reach into the underside to make sure the foliage mass is as thin as possible. It keeps me outa the bars and off the streets. ;-)

Al
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

February 13, 2013
2:24 PM

Post #9418014

LOL, and thanks!
City_Sylvia
Dallas, TX

February 13, 2013
7:36 PM

Post #9418379

What a great thread! I am to print it all out and take it to bed to read, loads of information!

speediebean

speediebean
Somewhere in, MD
(Zone 7b)

February 14, 2013
2:34 AM

Post #9418519

And don't forget to head over to Part III for more good reading! You can find it here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/

**Hint**. ;)

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