Can I re-use the 5-1-1 mix from last year?

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Can I re-use the 5-1-1 container mix that I used last year in this year's pots?
If not, why not?

Tapla? Anyone? If someone has tried it before, were there problems?


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I don't, but you can if you wish. Add additional pine bark & perlite only - no peat - add a little dolomitic (garden) lime, too. How much lime depends on how much fresh bark you add. I can help if you give me an idea of how much new bark you'll add to the old - if you decide to go that way.

Pine bark breaks down on a particle for particle size basis at about 1/5-1/4 the rate of peat. Add in the larger particle size and accompanying decreased surface area of the larger bark in relation to fine peat, and the stability of bark over peat increases exponentially. Still though, it does break down over time.

I try to limit its use to 2 years in the same container, but you can extend that by adding more bark & perlite, as I mentioned.

Once you've used it (5:1:1), you understand that the value in it is directly related to it's ability to maintain good aeration for significant lengths of time. If you keep long-term aeration as your focus as you proceed, you'll be fine.


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Tapla. I don't know how much new bark to add. I could guess at removing one-fifth of the old and adding a new fifth (with some perlite & lime). I could do two-fifths if you think that would be better.

What about the tiny rootlets that are inevitably left behind from the previous plant? I am trying to remove as many as possible, but I will never get them all.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

It kind of depends on how important the financial consideration is. I would add 3 parts of bark fines and 1/2 to 1 part of perlite to 1 part of old soil if that doesn't put too much pressure on the pocket book. ;o)

Having used the 5:1:1 mix and understanding the importance of aeration is going to give you a big advantage. You understand how to water effectively, and you know you need to make sure that you minimize the amount of water in that saturated soil at the bottom of the container.

It;s a good idea to remove as much of the old rootage as you reasonably can. It will break down quickly, so you'll see some initial N immobilization (tie-up) from it, and it will add to potential sludginess.

I tried an experiment last year. I grew 2 plants of 2 types of tomatoes (4 plants) in the 5:1:1 mix. Two of the plants went in old mix, used 1 year, with just enough bark added to compensate for the shrinkage. The other two plants went into fresh bark. The ones in fresh bark did better in terms of the health of the foliage and size of the fruit, though I can't say I saw much difference in the number of fruit. The plants in the fresh bark also seemed a little heavier/bulkier - had a little more mass. Now, I'm sure that had I included more than just enough bark to make up for shrinkage, the plants in the old mix would have done a little better. I'm just guessing that most people would either have said "Hey - these (the ones in the old soil) look fine to me - especially if I can save the $7-10 worth of soil it took for the 36 gallons of soil.

If you want my opinion - add the 3 parts of bark to 1 part old soil, + the perlite, & toss any leftover soil on the compost pile or use it as mulch. If $s are a major consideration, add a little bark and call it good - then you can be the judge. ;o)

As long as you understand what's in the sticky at the top of this forum, you're going to be ok, even if your soil challenges you a little - you'll know what to do; and, if you have trouble, you can always come here for help. There's a thread I wrote that's aimed at dealing with water-retentive soils. You can look it over if you get too concerned, but I don't think you will. ;o)

I still like your forum name! ;o)


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks again, Al. I'll add at least half new. I'm trying to spend less than the $1000 I spent last year during my first-time start-up. (ouch.)

I'm going to buy a 1/2 cu. yd. (or more) batch of fines from the place in Houston that you found for GymGirl. We're planning on going together to transport it all.

I went by the place, and their "fines" have some larger pieces in it, so I'll be screening it down into 1/4" pieces. It should be an interesting task. :-)

"Gil" means "star" in Tolkien's elvish, and I always loved the "ae" spelling. It's exotic-looking without being unpronounceable. It was Aragorn's mother's name. I guess I'm just an aging geek-ette.


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

You know, Al, you ought to write a book.

And on the first few pages would be all the warm words from the legions of people on Dave's Garden whom you have helped along the way.


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Oh my - where to start. First, you might ot need to screen it - it sorta depends on how the variance in particle size is proportioned. Lets look at a picture of it before you go to all that extra trouble. If you're using it in the gritty mix though, it is necessary to screen it, if you want to get the most out of the (gritty mix) soil.

It's so cool that you and GG are friends! What a small world! I wish I had more dedicated gardeners like you guys for friends. I have about 6 local friends that are actually dedicated gardeners, and the rest are sorta 'eh' about it. I will be giving a talk on Wed night to the Saginaw (MI) County Master Gardeners club. The talk's about bonsai, but before I'm done, I want to see if I can get them excited enough about soils to do a workshop on a spring weekend where they/we bring all the materials & use a portable cement mixer to make all the potting soil they need for their spring container plantings. It would be lotsa fun AND less expensive (for them) than buying bagged soils ...... and they would be getting a much better product.

I have always enjoyed Tolkien's works. Actually, I loved them! The name sounded so familiar, and I paused to admire it every time I came across it, so I wonder if that's why? I should have googled it & then I'd have known right away!. Changing gears - have you ever read "The Little Prince" by Antoine de St. Exupery? What a wonderful little book that is. At first, it seems trite, but it has soo many lessons about life and love in it, and it presents such a fresh way of looking at ourselves ....... plus, for me, it has a deep personal meaning, but that's a story for another time, or off forum, and there's a very special plant I have associated with the story. I bet you're curious now. Lol

Finally ..... I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone offers words as kind as yours, Gilraen. I don't know if she is the original recording artist, but Barbara Streisand recorded a song called "Love Comes From the Most Unexpected Places". Often, when an unexpected kindness comes my way, I'm reminded of that song; because compliments and people making the effort to be kind to others also often come unexpectedly, and the fact that they ARE unexpected, makes them seem all the more special. For the longest time, I avoided acknowledging kindnesses like yours because I thought by not acknowledging them it made me appear unconceited. I was wrong to think that way. All that matters is that for whatever reason, you felt compelled to, in so many words, say thank you. For that and the compliment, you deserve to know your expression is deeply appreciated. Thank you very much.

Say hey to GG, too, please. She's been AWOL too long!

What am I?


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Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I'm glad you've become able to accept a well-meant compliment, Al. It's a social grace that takes time to learn. A lot of us are raised to downplay our own accomplishments ---- way past what is reasonable.

Don't underestimate the amount of help you've giving to us, here. I've seen it, just in the year I've been here, and what I read from past posts. Your knowledge and advice are invaluable.

I went from killing every single plant I ever tried to grow, to having a lovely vegetable and plant garden my very first year -- all because you take the time to learn and then to *teach*, patiently and thoroughly. You have allowed me to accomplish and enjoy something I have wanted to do for decades, and could not. That's a great gift.

I fell in love with Tolkien in High School - 3 decades ago. My how time flies. I memorized the elvish script, could quote more parts of it than I want to admit, and re-drew his maps of Middle-Earth. It was definitely an obsession for a while. It's good to see another LOTR fan here.

I haven't read The Little Prince. Since you suggest it, I should look it up. Unfortunately, my reading to-do pile is so high it would kill me if it toppled. lol.

I will say Hi to GymGirl for you. I just met her this last weekend, but we had a blast. She and my best friend (who doesn't read DG) are the only two gardening friends I have, except my boss is sort of in there somewhere.

Mixing soil in a cement mixer? That sounds like a lot of fun. It takes creativity to be a good gardener, as well as patience. Obviously, you have both.

Take care. (And start on that book!)

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

So does anyone know what the picture is? (The one in my post above - not this one) If you'd read "The Little Prince" you'd know in an instant.


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Oklahoma City, OK

Is that the Boa with the elephant in its stomach?


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Mmhmm - The boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant. ;o)

I read that book at least once each year (you can easily read it in 1-2 sittings), and get something new from it every time I read it. It's my all-time favorite.


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Read, "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein...

Is there a marked difference between pelleted dolomitic lime and the powdered dolomitic stuff? I need to go pick some up from Southwest Fertilizer on lunch today.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I was given "The Giving Tree" by a dear friend after I shared "The Little Prince" with her. I really enjoyed that book, too. I think I'll read it again tonight - it's been a while.

The two lime products are the same, Linda - except one is 'prilled'. The powdered lime is mixed with a binder and shot from prilling towers in little droplets. The drops form little spheres and harden as they fall. The only purpose for prilling, is so there is less dust and so the lime broadcasts easier (as in a broadcast type spreader). Once the binder dissolves, there is no difference between the two products, so you can use either, though I think you probably get a more even distribution with the prilled lime.

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