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vines for shade

posted by: Theresa24 on 09.18.2004 at 04:04 pm in Gardening in Shade Forum

Can anyone suggest some vines that will grow in almost full shade here in the deep south. Preferably a twining vine. Thanks,


Great resource thread for balcony and privacy plants
clipped on: 12.08.2014 at 07:34 pm    last updated on: 12.08.2014 at 07:35 pm

RE: any remedies for sunburn??? (Follow-Up #9)

posted by: Traute_Biogardener on 03.28.2005 at 06:35 am in Herbalism Forum

Yes, I recommend protection over cure, but sometimes even I fail to protect myself in time to get a sunburn. Most remedies are only soothing, but I know of two which will turn a sunburn into a tan without any ill effects, provided that they are applied immediately, and one of them has already been mentioned.

  • Natural source vitamin E squeezed straight out of the capsule. That is the only form of vitamin E which is concentrated enough to do the trick. The 400 IU capsule is the most cost-effective.
  • A wet clay poultice will do the same trick. The wet clay has to be applied thinly and kept wet with a layer of plastic wrap. The clay won't work if it dries.


clipped on: 08.15.2014 at 10:16 pm    last updated on: 08.15.2014 at 10:17 pm

Mystery plant is growing in my lavender pot! Weed or flower?

posted by: Annasaurus on 07.21.2014 at 07:43 pm in Name That Plant Forum

This plant has suddenly began growing in my lavender container outside on my balcony. What is it? Should I pull and dispose of it (if a weed) or just move it to its own pot to continue to grow?
FYI: the lavender is situated in the middle 2 potted geraniums (Martha washingtons) - one on either side of it. A container-bound camellia is also on my balcony a few feet away.

Tl;dr: Can you identify the plant that arrived uninvited, and is it a weed, or is it something worth possibly saving?


This post was edited by Annasaurus on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 19:52


clipped on: 07.21.2014 at 07:53 pm    last updated on: 07.21.2014 at 07:53 pm

RE: Orchid care (Follow-Up #13)

posted by: lumpy_j on 03.29.2014 at 09:44 am in Orchids Forum

The following passage is from a book written by orchid collector Frederick Boyle in 1893. For over a 100 years we have been asking the same questions. The answers are all correct and at the same time all incorrect. What works changes plant to plant and house to house. Trial and error is the only way to know what will work for anyone.

Phaloenopsis, of course, are hot. This is one of our oldest genera which still rank in the first class. It was drawn and described so early as
1750, and a plant reached Messrs. Rollisson in 1838; they sold it to the Duke of Devonshire for a hundred guineas. Many persons regard
Phaloenopsis as the loveliest of all, and there is no question of their supreme beauty, though not everyone may rank them first. They come
mostly from the Philippines, but Java, Borneo, Cochin China, Burmah, even Assam contribute some species. Colonel Berkeley found Ph.
tetraspis, snow-white, and Ph. speciosa, purple, in the Andamans, when he was Governor of that settlement, clinging to low bushes along
the mangrove creeks. So far as I know, all the species dwell within breath of the sea, as it may be put, where the atmosphere is laden with
salt; this gives a hint to the thoughtful. Mr. Partington, of Cheshunt, who was the most renowned cultivator of the genus in his time, used to
lay down salt upon the paths and beneath the stages of his Phaloenopsis house. Lady Howard de Walden stands first, perhaps, at the present
day, and her gardener follows the same system. These plants, indeed, are affected, for good or ill, by influences too subtle for our
perception as yet. Experiment alone will decide whether a certain house, or a certain neighbourhood even, is agreeable to their taste. It is a
waste of money in general to make alterations; if they do not like the place they won't live there, and that's flat! It is probable that
Maidstone, where Lady Howard de Walden resides, may be specially suited to their needs, but her ladyship's gardener knows how to turn a
lucky chance to the best account. Some of his plants have ten leaves! "the uninitiated may think that fact grotesquely undeserving of a note
of exclamation, but to explain would be too technical. It may be observed that the famous Swan orchid, Cycnoches chlorochilon, flourishes
at Maidstone as nowhere else perhaps in England.
Phaloenopsis were first introduced by Messrs. Rollisson, of Tooting, a firm that vanished years ago, but will live in the annals of
horticulture as the earliest of the great importers. In 1836 they got home a living specimen of Ph. amabilis, which had been described, and
even figured, eighty years before. A few months later the Duke of Devonshire secured Ph. Schilleriana. The late Mr. B.S. Williams told me
a very curious incident relating to this species. It comes from the Philippines, and exacts a very hot, close atmosphere of course. Once upon
a time, however, a little piece was left in the cool house at Holloway, and remained there some months unnoticed by the authorities. When
at length the oversight was remarked, to their amaze this stranger from the tropics, abandoned in the temperate zone, proved to be thriving
more vigorously than any of his fellows who enjoyed their proper climate! "so he was left in peace and cherished as a "phenomenon."
Four seasons had passed when I beheld the marvel, and it was a picture of health and strength, flowering freely; but the reader is not
advised to introduce a few Phaloenopsis to his Odontoglossums "not by any means. Mr. Williams himself never repeated the experiment. It
was one of those delightfully perplexing vagaries which the orchid-grower notes from time to time.


Interesting passage from orchid collector Frederick Boyle (c. 1893) regarding phalaenopsis orchids.
clipped on: 04.04.2014 at 08:36 pm    last updated on: 04.04.2014 at 08:38 pm

RE: Beginner orchid light setup? (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: westoh on 03.22.2013 at 01:51 pm in Orchids Forum


I can speak to those 3 types of lights.

I used to use a 400 watt MH (more natual color) and a 250 watt HPS (very yellow color) in a spare bedroom. The MH helped the vegatative/growing state and the HPS helped with flowering. The real issue with MH and HPS for me was the heat buildup in my spare bedroom growroom. It would get to 95 during the summer and 85+ at times in the winter, great for a warm visit in the winter but it was hard on intermediate and cool growers. I now use 2-90 watt LEDs that are 7-1-1 (red-blue-orage) color rated for flowering and growing, but the pinkish light it generates 'puts me off' a bit, so I supplement with some large wattage CFls (65-85 watts) to get something that looks reasonably normal. When these LEDs need replaced, I'll go with some more natural looking colored ones that are now available. Absolutely no heat build-up with the LEDs.

Hope this helps,



The light and bulb question/answers re: orchids
clipped on: 03.01.2014 at 03:38 pm    last updated on: 03.01.2014 at 03:38 pm

RE: phal bottom leaves (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: philpet on 11.03.2013 at 09:46 am in Orchids Forum

THANKS to everyone for your help I have gotton rid of the infection on my phal. It lost the other leaf with the yellowing and I continued using the hydrogen peroxide and then the yellowing stopped I also repotted using a bark mix with about 10% spagnum moss just to retain a little moisture. I have come to realize that spagnum in my climate is a no, no. It retains way too much water. I am also thinking of repotting all my phals to a bark mix. Which will help them to dry more quickly. So can you guys tell me what mix works best for you with phals? Again thanks for all your help. VELLETA


Hydrogen peroxide usage for bacterial infection + yellowing leaves that suddenly start dropping. Physan has been suggested upthread as another possible treatment for these probs as well.

Specifically for phals.

clipped on: 02.28.2014 at 06:58 pm    last updated on: 02.28.2014 at 07:01 pm

RE: HELP! Need to kill mealybugs (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: rooftopbklyn on 12.08.2013 at 08:29 pm in Orchids Forum

Most of the "Bayer Advanced" series (trees/roses/turf/3-in-1/more?) have imidacloprid (which bayer makes/invented) + other ingredients. imidacloprid is a systemic, it gets absorbed into the plant and kills anything that feeds on the plant subsequently. The other ingredients in each of the different products are usually contact killers, that take care of pests currently on the plant. You can find out the other ingredients for all of the products on Bayer's site and then research them. Just because they label a product for Turf doesn't mean it can't be used elsewhere.

These products are usually applied as sprays, and personally I would not spray them inside, but I do spray outside and bring plants back in after an hour or so. Can be tricky in winter depending on your zone.

I have had success with Bayer Advanced 3-in-1, for both spider mites and mealybugs. Had a very persistent mealy issue, tried neem for 2 weeks, and maybe it would eventually have worked, but I couldn't wait and neither could my plants. Bayer worked for me with a single application.

Imidacloprid also has the effect of killing bees and other pollinators, so maybe read up on it and make sure you are comfortable before going this route.



clipped on: 02.28.2014 at 03:34 pm    last updated on: 02.28.2014 at 03:34 pm

RE: Mealybugs? (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: orchidnick on 02.16.2014 at 02:02 am in Orchids Forum

You guys are going overboard with your attack on mealy bugs. They are farly easy to control without repotting plants etc. Mix up 1 part alcohol (any alcohol, rubbing, vodka, scotch etc) 1 part detergent soap and 8 parts water. Spray the plant with that. If it gets into the nooks and crannies it should kill the visible mealies. They of course have laid eggs so the next generation is about to emerge.

Repeat the process every 3 to 4 days about 4 times even if you don't see any more adult insrctys. This should stop the infestation. The other things that work well are Neem oil and of course the chemicals, Malathion etc if you want to go that route. In any case no matter what you use remember that you cannot kill the eggs so simply repeat the treatment a few times to get the emerging bugs.



Phal. orchid maintenance when under attack (pref. as soon as possible!!. Also honeydew appears when growing so shouldnt always be a raise for concern.
clipped on: 02.25.2014 at 05:12 pm    last updated on: 02.25.2014 at 05:13 pm

RE: Glass detergent holder (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: knot2fast on 08.21.2013 at 03:00 pm in Laundry Room Forum

If you mean one of these:

I use one in my laundry room all the time. I can't imagine a more useful tool. They are usually called laundry measuring glasses.

I included a link to a place to purchase vintage ones below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vintage laundry measuring glasses for sale


clipped on: 02.20.2014 at 03:37 pm    last updated on: 02.20.2014 at 03:38 pm

RE: Bosch Nexxt 500 Washer Problems (Follow-Up #86)

posted by: helper_guy on 11.25.2013 at 12:21 am in Laundry Room Forum

1. Too much detergent causes 'soap lock.' The electronics will get confused when there's too many suds left after a rinse and shut the spin cycle down. That's why re-running the entire cycle without more detergent solves the problem. Use less detergent.

2. There is a way to manually get the spin cycle to run using diagnostics codes. Here's what to do:

a. Washer selection knob in OFF position.

b. Hold the 'Spin Selection' and 'Delay Start' buttons down at the same time.

c. While holding those two buttons, turn the Washing selector knob to Permanent Press-Cold.

d. Keep the buttons held down until the LCD control panel reads 'P:01'

e. Release buttons.

f. Use the 'Spin Selection' button to cycle thru the codes. Stop when it reads 'P:04' which is the spin cycle.

g. Press 'Start/Pause' button to begin the spin cycle.

h. Turn the knob to Off to stop the spin cycle.

i. Turn the washing machine back On to open door.


clipped on: 02.20.2014 at 12:25 am    last updated on: 02.20.2014 at 12:25 am

RE: Bosch Axxis not spinning and not draining water (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: jseeley on 01.18.2013 at 03:04 pm in Laundry Room Forum

As long as you know the drain hose is clear, maybe it's the bad water pump or control panel? There is a channel on Youtube called Espares. (They sell washer parts in the UK.) Their Youtube videos are quite informative with self repair and they use the compact Bosch (comparable to our Axxis) as a demonstration model. Here are two videos. (Copy and Paste)
The first one shows you how to replace the water pump and the second one shows you how to remove the front panel to get to the control module.


clipped on: 09.25.2013 at 07:46 pm    last updated on: 09.25.2013 at 07:47 pm

RE: under cabinet lighting? (Follow-Up #19)

posted by: davidtay on 05.19.2010 at 09:59 pm in Lighting Forum


The first thing to do is to measure the amount of flat space under your cabinets. Typically, people expect to have lights on the full length of the cabinets' underside. Looks nicer too. I learnt this at a local lighting store.

You'll also need to figure out the various lengths of the light bars necessary.

Assuming low voltage lighting (12V - 24V DC)
The next thing is to plan out and put in the in-wall low voltage wiring. This is probably the most important part of the system.

At this point, you'll have a good idea of how many light bars you need, length of wire and total power necessary.

Plan where you'll want the transformer(s) - it (they) typically must be in an accessible location - eg some cabinet, attic, crawl space.

The transformer(s) will need to be wired to the standard AC current + control(s). Most likely, you need to have "magnetic" dimmers.

Parts list
1. In wall wiring - Ideal brand low voltage wiring (from HD or Lowes).
2. Ideal Plug disconnects (from HD or Lowes).
3. Lights - depends on how much light you want, total length of cabinets.
4. Transformer(s) - depends on cummulative consumption + 15% margin.
5. Inter-connect wiring.

Following is the ebay link

For the transformer, I'd probably get it from

E-mail me if you have more questions.


Here is a link that might be useful: environmental lights


clipped on: 09.08.2013 at 10:30 am    last updated on: 09.08.2013 at 10:31 am

Potted Lavender Help

posted by: equinecpa on 10.30.2009 at 12:46 pm in Herbs Forum

I am having grief with lavender. I so want some but am having all sorts of woes...

First I planted some in my garden this year but it struggled -I decided it wasn't getting enough sun, moved it and it promptly died.

I bought another and put in some clay pots I have with herbs in them. Then the rains came and it got soaked and soaked...and died (evidently that potting medium wasn't appropriate and it kept the roots wet).

I bought another plant but since it has continued to rain I have kept it in an East Facing Window and have not yet planted it outside. It is still in the 1 qt pot I bought it in. I fear overwatering so water it only when it wilts.

So my question is: Can Lavender be kept inside or had I better plant it out? Is it a decent container plant for outside or am I better off planting it in a well drained garden (my natural garden soil is a sandy loam which should be good I belive)? If I keep it inside what size pot should I plant it in and how do I water? Is it OK to wait until it wilts?

Half of the bottom leaves have already I know I"m doing something wrong.

Thanks for the help



clipped on: 09.01.2013 at 08:14 pm    last updated on: 09.01.2013 at 08:14 pm

RE: lavender soil for pots and clay soil (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: daisyduckworth on 02.04.2010 at 05:07 pm in Herbs Forum

The very best way to amend soil (either sandy or clay) is to dig in plenty of organic matter - which means compost. For clay soils, toss in a few handfuls of dolomite - otherwise known as 'clay-breaker'. I could never be bothered by mixing loam and sand and other stuff in. Compost does a brilliant job.

I never worry too much about the soil for my herb-only garden. It had plenty of compost dug into it when I first moved here, and since then, I've just kept up the mulch (I use sugar-cane mulch because it's cheap around here), which rots down over time and needs topping up a couple of times a year. The soil is now beautifully friable.

Lavender prefers a well-drained soil, pH 6.5-7.5. You can improve the drainage by planting on the top of a mound (hill) made by heaping up some of the amended soil.

Lavender prefers a fairly poor soil, so go very easy on the fertiliser if it's in the garden. A potted plant will always be hungrier and thirstier than one in the garden. I find that a handful or two of compost spread as a mulch around potted plants once or twice a year is quite enough.

Why not start your plant in a pot, using any good quality potting mix, even a special 'herb mix'. Meantime, start digging your garden.


lavender potting soil!
clipped on: 09.01.2013 at 08:12 pm    last updated on: 09.01.2013 at 08:12 pm

RE: Mold test - positive - but NO MOLD! (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: karyn on 11.23.2012 at 02:19 pm in Home Disasters Forum

After some specialists came to test - 30% humidity inside - and no signs in the house anywhere - they were shocked! BUT - they might have found a source - loose HVAC parts in the crawl space under the house causing condensation and then blowing up into the house.

They will have to fix that, clean up down there and then ionize the air in the house and HEPA Vac - also possibly wipe down the flat surfaces with some kind of stuff to mitigate. Hopefully this is the cause and solution in one simple pass. Just hope it's not too expensive to treat as they say insurance probably won't touch it since it's not caused by a "sudden" event.


clipped on: 08.31.2013 at 12:53 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2013 at 12:53 pm

RE: White spots on herbs....? (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: heathen1 on 09.22.2007 at 12:52 pm in Herbs Forum

Spidermites can kill a plant faster than aphids or mealies. I make my own homemade spidermite killer, works great, but you have to repeat for a few days, then wait a couple of days and repeat to get the hatched eggs.
I use .5 gal of water
1TBSP cooking oil
1TBS dishsoap
1TBS alcohol
and maybe 1TBS hydrogen peroxide. try not to get this into the roots.


clipped on: 08.30.2013 at 11:37 am    last updated on: 08.30.2013 at 11:37 am

Lavender ("Munstead") is blooming. Now what?

posted by: Annasaurus on 07.28.2013 at 06:19 pm in Herbs Forum

Hi everyone,
So, my first successfully grown lavender is blooming! Now, what should I be doing to keep it thriving? Is it time to pluck the buds or should I wait a little while longer? Repot? Cut back? I'm a newb with growing lavender successfully so all help is appreciated immensely!
Thank you!

Images of said lavender below (sorry they/re so large):

Munstead Lavender 1 photo photo4-1.jpg

Munstead Lavender 3 photo photo2-1.jpg


Munstead Lavender blooming. Now what?
clipped on: 07.28.2013 at 06:20 pm    last updated on: 07.28.2013 at 06:20 pm

RE: Container mold -- again! (Follow-Up #11)

posted by: sf_rhino on 07.08.2013 at 08:59 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Time for a science experiment!

The vinegar is your best bet, plus any leaching into the soil will likely only help the blueberry.

Another thing that you may like to try is cinnamon. Either make a paste with the vinegar and apply to the exterior of the pot or just sprinkle some on and see what happens.

Other oil-based natural treatments may work. Hot pepper oil, rosemary, etc.

For fun's sake, why not try a little fire? Traditionally fields are cleared and blueberries bushes are "pruned" by controlled burns. Why not try a quick torching of the pot to see if that helps?



clipped on: 07.27.2013 at 12:25 am    last updated on: 07.27.2013 at 12:25 am

RE: 5-1-1 with Foliage Pro (yellow tip leaves) (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: shazaam on 07.18.2013 at 11:17 am in Container Gardening Forum

I'd be interested in seeing any research that demonstrates Osmocote's tendency to "dump all at once." The long-term study to which I've linked demonstrates just the opposite -- the researchers concluded that "Osmocote tended to have a more stable release pattern than the other fertilizer type." The study also included Nutricote, a Florikan product. If I'm not mistaken, Dynamite is Florikan fertilizer rebranded for retail sale.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nutrient Release from Controlled-release Fertilizers...

This post was edited by shazaam on Thu, Jul 18, 13 at 11:18


clipped on: 07.26.2013 at 10:01 pm    last updated on: 07.26.2013 at 10:01 pm

RE: Underused perennials (Follow-Up #29)

posted by: woodyoak on 02.07.2010 at 10:36 am in Perennials Forum

hostaholic2 - I don't grow the angelica but Veronicastrum is definitely a favorite here. DH loves to take pictures of it! Here are two of our favorite photos of it:

With Russian Sage:
veronicastrum and Russian sage

With Russian sage and hardy hibiscus:
hibiscus, Russian sage, veronicastrum

(Can you tell I'm tired of winter and wallowing in photos of previous years in the garden to compensate
?! :-)


Russian Sage - awesome perennial I want to these pix, too.
clipped on: 07.18.2013 at 02:16 pm    last updated on: 07.18.2013 at 02:17 pm

RE: Dried mint too weak for tea (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: caren-2009 on 03.18.2009 at 03:24 pm in Herbs Forum

Hey!According to all the info that I have found,the best time to pick any herbs for drying is; MID-morning;that is when the oil content is highest,before the afternoon sun has had time to dissipate the oils into the air.This to me,means between 9am and 12pm-I usually do it between 10am or 11am.
Also,the leaves have to be bone dry-no dew or raindrops.
I found out, too,that if you're harvesting for storage, the time of harvesting makes the biggest difference,which is RIGHT BEFORE FLOWERING of said herb.At that point, the plant's cells have the most oil in them for the full aromatic quality.
I did do alot of air drying(and still do think it's best) until I found out how to dry certain herbs in the microwave! That works great for mints and you would'nt believe how fabulous parsley does!(keeps colour beautiful).
I would find out more about that dehydrator you've got...I wish I had one!If I run across any info,I'll post you back.I hope I've helped you in some way..I love making my own herbal teas! Good Luck to ya!,CJC


dried mint
optimal time - mid-morning
clipped on: 07.03.2013 at 12:06 pm    last updated on: 07.03.2013 at 12:06 pm

Orchid Flowers Started to Wilt... why?

posted by: counselor4444 on 04.04.2008 at 10:19 am in Orchids Forum

So, I brought this phal orchid back from Florida to NJ two and a half weeks ago. I believe it's a Sara Gold. Its potted in bark. I'm still getting the hang of watering and caring for orchids. (this is my second phal) I water it once a week. I also mist the leaves periodically.

I admit, its kind of hard for me to tell when I should water it. I know you are not supposed to let it get bone dry.

I watered it two days ago with fertlizer (Miracle-Gro� Water Soluble Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron Plant Food which says it's made for orchids)

the next day one flower started to wilt. then yesterday I saw another one started to wilt.

Here's the plant: (seems to have healthy green leaves)

Here's a close-up of the wilting flowers:

How dry should I let it get before watering?

Is the wilting caused by the fertlizer or overwatering?



orchid blooms wilting
clipped on: 04.04.2013 at 12:15 am    last updated on: 04.04.2013 at 12:15 am

RE: Pothos help! (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: frazzledgessie on 03.06.2009 at 12:27 pm in House Plants Forum

I can't help you with growing conditions for the Jade or the Ivy since I have never grown them myself. The pothos though I have. There are a lot of reasons that that leaf has turned yellow, the soil could be too wet, not enough light, or it is just old. The curl in the leaves you are seeing is normal, that is the way that pothos leaves grow in. The white thing in the last photo could be a root forming or it could be a mealiebug. If it is fuzzy than it is a bug. The pothos should be isolated from the other plants and just use rubbing alcohol on it. A couple of my pothos in the past have gotten mealies, but they were never that hard to get rid of. Use a cottonswap dipped in alcohol and coat the little (stuff) with it. If you see a lot of them on the plant there are more time effective solutions, like using an insecticidal soap.
Good luck with your new plants. Pothos really are a dream for an easy care houseplant... oh and they are supposed to help with air quality.


clipped on: 05.19.2012 at 07:07 pm    last updated on: 05.19.2012 at 07:08 pm

RE: Creating Privacy on a Balcony...Quickly! (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: sparkyr on 05.06.2011 at 02:13 pm in Balcony Gardening Forum

BAMBOO. I had the same issue and wanted privacy quickly. There are several types of bamboo that would work depending if you want it more bushy, more decorative, how tall you want it, etc. It looks great.


clipped on: 05.19.2012 at 01:12 pm    last updated on: 05.19.2012 at 01:12 pm

Container soils and water in containers (long post)

posted by: tapla on 03.19.2005 at 03:57 pm in Container Gardening Forum

The following is very long & will be too boring for some to wade through. Two years ago, some of my posts got people curious & they started to e-mail me about soil problems. The "Water Movement" article is an answer I gave in an e-mail. I saved it and adapted it for my bonsai club newsletter & it was subsequently picked up & used by a number of other clubs. I now give talks on container soils and the physics of water movement in containers to area clubs.

I think, as container gardeners, our first priority is to insure aeration for the life of the soil. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find a soil component with particles larger than peat and that will retain its structure for extended periods. Pine bark fits the bill nicely.

The following 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 soil available for root colonization. A wick will remove the saturated layer of soil. It works in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now. I have no experience with these growing containers, but understand the principle well.

There are potential problems with wick watering that can be alleviated with certain steps. Watch for yellowing leaves with these pots. If they begin to occur, you need to flush the soil well. It is the first sign of chloride damage.

One of the reasons I posted this is because of the number of soil questions I'm getting in my mail. It will be a convenient source for me to link to. I will soon be in the middle of repotting season & my time here will be reduced, unfortunately, for me. I really enjoy all the friends I've made on these forums. ;o)

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

Water Movement in 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 to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to the root system. 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 movement 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 pot than it is for water at the bottom of the pot. 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, waters 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 is, in every pot, what is called a "perched water table" (PWT). This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain at the bottom of the pot. 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 equal the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is "perched". 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 is the area of the pot where roots seldom penetrate & where root problems begin due to a lack of aeration. From this we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers are a superior choice over 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 be able to take in air at the roots in order to complete transpiration and photosynthesis.

A given volume of large soil particles have less overall surface area in comparison 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 PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Large particles mixed with small particles will not improve drainage because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. Water and air cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Contrary to what some hold to be true, sand does not improve drainage. Pumice (aka lava rock), or one of the hi-fired clay products like Turface are good additives which help promote drainage and porosity because of their irregular shape.

Now to the main point: When we use a coarse drainage layer under our soil, it does not improve drainage. It does 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 reduces available soil for roots to colonize, reduces total usable pot space, and limits potential for beneficial gas exchange. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better 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 in the soil for water to be attracted to than there is in the drainage layer.

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, 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.

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 rapidly break down to a soup-like consistency. Bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as natures 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 to death because they cannot obtain sufficient air at the root zone for the respiratory or photosynthetic processes.

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 several inches up into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. 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 PWT along with it.

Having applied these principles in the culture of my containerized plants, both indoors and out, for many years, the methodology I have adopted has shown to be effective and of great benefit to them. I use many amendments when building my soils, but the basic building process starts with screened bark and perlite. Peat usually plays a very minor role in my container soils because it breaks down rapidly and when it does, it impedes drainage.

My Soil

I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches.

3 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
micro-nutrient powder (substitute: small amount of good, composted manure

Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

Small batch:

3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
handful lime (careful)
1/4 cup CRF
1 tsp micro-nutrient powder or a dash of manure ;o)

I have seen advice that some highly organic soils are productive for up to 5 years. I disagree. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will far outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of 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 genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look to inorganic amendments. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock, Turface or Schultz soil conditioner.

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



clipped on: 05.19.2012 at 01:08 pm    last updated on: 05.19.2012 at 01:08 pm