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RE: Planted my Spider Babies (stupid cat!) (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: tapla on 12.10.2011 at 12:45 pm in House Plants Forum

Bottled drinking water isn't the same as distilled water, but it can be close if the filtration system is reverse osmosis (RO). Distilling deionizes water, the important aspect of which is it leaves all dissolved solids behind when water changes phase to a gaseous form, so it is free of any solutes when it recondenses. RO water is very close to distilled. The activated charcoal filters (especially like those sold to treat tap water .... Brita, etc.) do not remove negatively charged ions (most of the chemicals dissolved in your tapwater). Negatively charged ions do not react with charcoal or the ion exchange resins in the filters, so they won't help.

FWIW - I don't think we can say, if you allow your water to rest for a day it won't cause any browning of foliage. In fact, I think a good argument can be mounted for the opposite effect to be true.

Spider plants react adversely to a high level of solutes in the soil solution, so distilled water (no solutes) would be helpful (snowmelt or water from dehumidifiers would be, too). Allowing your irrigation water to rest in a container for a day, or two or 10, won't help guard against spoiled foliage. Technically, it INCREASES the potential for water to cause burned leaf tips/margins.

Only in water purification systems that are throwbacks to the 50s & 60s will you find a volatile form or chlorination. This is because of it's short half life. Newer forms of chlorination use chloramine, which doesn't gas off like the previously used compounds of chlorine. Fluoridation of drinking water has always used a compound that is nonvolatile, so it too, remains in any water left out to rest for any length of time.

As mentioned, and since some evaporation will occur while water is resting (especially if it is in a container that has a lot of air exposure at its opening, as with a pan or bucket) The level of chlorine, fluorine, and other solutes becomes more concentrated as water rests and a fraction of its volume evaporates.

We just recently rescued a kitten from a litter a crippled feral cat had. It's at my feet now - inside a large, stiff plastic bag (no suffocation risk) - playing saber tooth cave kitten. Toss a bottle cap into the bag & he's good for at least 10 minutes - a remarkable attention span accomplishment - at least for this cat.



..... couldn't resist adding this one:

Some info on spider plants from one of my posts on another thread:

"While necrotic leaf tips or margins can occur in this plant from over/under-watering, in fact, it's much more common for the actual cause to be a high level of soluble salts in soils. It's also commonly reported that this plant is particularly intolerant or fluoride, but it's still more common for the cause of leaf burn to be a high level of solubles, to which fluoride can be a contributor, than it is to be fluoride itself. WHEN there is a high level of salts in the soil, low humidity can be a contributor, but low humidity alone rarely presents an issue, it must be in combination with a high level of soluble salts in the soil and either over/under-watering.

Of course, you cannot correct the already burned tips (they won't 'heal'), but you can take steps to keep it from happening:

A) Most important is to use a soil that drains very freely. This allows you to water copiously, flushing the accumulating salts from the soil each time you water.

B) Fertilize frequently when the plant is growing well, but at low doses - perhaps 1/4 the recommended strength. This, in combination with the favorable watering habit described above, will keep soluble salts levels low, and keep levels from rising due to the accumulative effect we always see when we are forced to water in sips when plants are in water-retentive soils.

C) When watering, using rainwater, snow melt, water from your dehumidifiers, or distilled water also eliminates the soluble salts in your tap water and will go a long way toward eliminating or minimizing leaf burn.

D) If you make your own soils and use perlite, be sure the perlite is rinsed thoroughly, which removes most of the fluorides associated with it's use.

E) Allowing water to rest overnight doesn't/won't do anything in the way of helping reduce the amount of fluoride (the compounds are not volatile), and it only helps with chlorine in a very few cases, depending on what method of chlorination was used to treat your tap water; but nearly all municipalities are currently using chlorination compounds that are entirely nonvolatile, which means they won't dissipate into the air."



clipped on: 12.16.2011 at 05:24 pm    last updated on: 12.16.2011 at 05:24 pm

Thai Hybrid overwintering (pics)

posted by: greenman28 on 12.02.2009 at 12:20 pm in Hot Pepper Forum

Hey, folks!
I've finally gotten the wintering pics uploaded for this year's peppers. As you might recall, I focused my efforts on one Hungarian wax pepper (lower right side of picture) and two Thai peppers (center and left), seen below. The large tomato cage and the stakes were used to support a tarp for overnight cold protection.

The overwintering process for the Hungarian can be viewed here - Hungarian hot wax - second wintering (pics)

Anyhow, of the two Thai peppers, one plant was clearly a hybrid. The hybrid was an interesting, tall plant, with medium-sized, bluish-green leaves, and pubescent stems. It produced 140 pods that were slender and seedy and very hot - but they lacked some of the black-pepper flavor that I noticed in the more typical Thai pods on the plant growing beside it. This is what they looked like :
Thai hybrid

I liked the plant enough to try to keep it alive, so here is the process in pictures. Typically, I prune the entire plant a week or two before I dig it up. However, this pepper was a late-bloomer due to deer-damage in early July. So I waited until the very last minute to prune it and harvest the peppers.

I started by pruning the pepper down to about eight inches. Here are the initial trimmings:

Then I cleared the area for the dig:

Then I dug:

Then I lifted:

Admiring the nice rootball and a fat worm:

Shook the garden soil off the roots:

Trimmed the roots to fit in the container (sorry, no pic of the pepper in the container):
root trim

A few days later, like clockwork, new growth appeared at all the nodes:
new growth

And, as of yesterday, the pepper is fully re-leafing. You can see that I pruned a few more stems to keep the growth as compact and close to the trunk as possible:

So there you go! I hope the images were helpful...or at least enjoyable!
Stay tuned for the final pics of the other Thai pepper.



clipped on: 12.12.2011 at 12:03 pm    last updated on: 12.12.2011 at 12:04 pm

RE: A Soil Discussion (Follow-Up #144)

posted by: tapla on 08.24.2008 at 09:42 pm in House Plants Forum

Again, I don't know what to say, Jodi. My face got all red (yeah, I blushed) and I was really touched by your comments. I'm just really glad you're getting more out of your growing experience. THAT really rocks me. ;o)

From Arjadiejai:

Have you tried rooting cuttings in this mix?

If I have a cutting that is important to me, or hard to root, I always stick it in a sterile medium like perlite or Turface. Strangely, I get the VERY best results from rooting in chopped sphagnum moss (not peat - the whole pieces of moss that were harvested live). The moss makes sense if you consider it's the medium most used in air layering. A mix of any combination of the three ingredients also works very well.

If I'm starting cuttings and I really don't care about the strike rate, I use a soil made of screened Turface, fir bark, and crushed granite - the same soil as above. I screen it so particles are all larger than 1/16 inch so there is almost NO perched water to rot cuttings. By doing it that way, I can start the cuttings in larger containers and not have to worry either about a setback from potting up soon after the cuttings strike, or about overpotting and the accompanying saturated soil. In short, cuttings root fast and you can save a step because of a larger soil volume, but again - if the cuttings are important, use a sterile medium - it's the bark that could harbor rot organisms.

About the cacti and succulents, if you water your typical tropical houseplants every day or every other day, how often would you water the cacs & sucs in comparison?

It varies. I have caudex forming succulents that get water once/week in winter (they're under lights in winter), and every other day in summer (outdoors/full sun/clay pots). The plants in plastic pots get watered less & the ones in clay pots get it more - you know how that goes ..... I/you just develop a feel for what is needed & when after a while I guess. I kind of have a calculator in my mind that factors in how hot it's been, how windy, how much sun, how big the plant is in relation to the pot size and soil volume ..... and I decide based on that. With succulents & cacti, if I'm in doubt, I usually wait.

To answer your question directly: It varies, but the interval between waterings is about twice as long - all things being equal.

Also, have you ever ventured into terrariums? Would you use a mix of this sort in there?

I haven't done terrariums, but I worked with a guy to develop a soil and fertilizer program for his. I think he was doing them to sell, and I might even have sent him some soil to try, I don't remember - I talk to a lot of people off forum about plant stuff. I didn't save his e-mail addy, but I talked quite a bit with him on a thread over on the Container Forum. I might go over there & see if I can look him up & find how he fared, but only if you're interested. ;o)



clipped on: 12.07.2011 at 08:19 pm    last updated on: 12.07.2011 at 08:19 pm

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIII

posted by: tapla on 03.17.2011 at 04:06 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I first posted this thread back in March of '05. Twelve times it has reached the maximum number of posts GW allows to a single thread, which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it, in no small part because it has been great fun, and a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. The forum and email exchanges that stem so often from the subject are, in themselves, enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest, and the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread another time comes from the reinforcement of hundreds of participants over the years that the idea some of the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange has made a significant difference in the quality of their growing experience.

I'll provide links to some of the more recent of the previous dozen threads and nearly 1,800 posts at the end of what I have written - just in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to examine this topic - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long; my hope is that you find it worth the read.

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention

A Discussion About Soils

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to ensure 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. Soils are the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the very 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/compost/coir. Durability and stability of soil components so they contribute to the retention of soil structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely, but I'll talk more about various components later.

What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials in attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization. A wick can be employed to remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom, but a drainage layer is not effective. A wick can be made to work 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 basic mix recipes later, in case any would like to try the soil. It will follow the Water Movement information.

Consider this if you will:

Container soils are all about structure, and particle size plays the primary role in determining whether a soil is suited or unsuited to the application. Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - a place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - it must retain a nutrient supply in available form sufficient to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - it must be amply porous to allow air to move through the root system and gasses that are the by-product of decomposition to escape. Water - it must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Air - it must contain a volume of air sufficient to ensure that root function/metabolism/growth is not impaired. This is extremely important and the primary reason that heavy, water-retentive soils are so limiting in their affect. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement and retention of water in container 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; in other words, water's bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; cohesion is what makes water form drops. 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, and 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 .100 (just under 1/8) inch. Perched water is water that occupies a layer of soil at the bottom of containers or above coarse drainage layers that tends to remain 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 said to be 'perched'. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. Perched water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils where it perches (think of a bird on a perch) just above the container bottom where it will not drain; or, it can perch in a layer of heavy soil on top of a coarse drainage layer, where it will not drain.

Imagine that we have five cylinders of varying heights, shapes, and diameters, each with drain holes. If we fill them all with the same soil mix, then saturate the soil, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the container is where roots initially seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration and the production of noxious gasses. 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 dependent on soil particle size and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: If using a soil that supports perched water, 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. From this, we could make a good case that taller containers are easier to grow in.

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 simply drain better and hold more air. 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. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?

I already stated I hold as true that the grower's soil choice when establishing a planting for the long term is the most important decision he/she will make. There is no question that the roots are the heart of the plant, and plant vitality is inextricably linked in a hard lock-up with root vitality. In order to get the best from your plants, you absolutely must have happy roots.

If you start with a water-retentive medium, you cannot improve it's aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates. Sand, perlite, Turface, calcined DE ...... none of them will work. To visualize why sand and perlite can't change drainage/aeration, think of how well a pot full of BBs would drain (perlite), then think of how poorly a pot full of pudding would drain (bagged soil). Even mixing the pudding and perlite/BBs together 1:1 in a third pot yields a mix that retains the drainage characteristics and PWT height of the pudding. It's only after the perlite become the largest fraction of the mix (60-75%) that drainage & PWT height begins to improve. At that point, you're growing in perlite amended with a little potting soil.

You cannot add coarse material to fine material and improve drainage or the ht of the PWT. Use the same example as above & replace the pudding with play sand or peat moss or a peat-based potting soil - same results. The benefit in adding perlite to heavy soils doesn't come from the fact that they drain better. The fine peat or pudding particles simply 'fill in' around the perlite, so drainage & the ht of the PWT remains the same. All perlite does in heavy soils is occupy space that would otherwise be full of water. Perlite simply reduces the amount of water a soil is capable of holding because it is not internally porous. IOW - all it does is take up space. That can be a considerable benefit, but it makes more sense to approach the problem from an angle that also allows us to increase the aeration AND durability of the soil. That is where Pine bark comes in, and I will get to that soon.

If you want to profit from a soil that offers superior drainage and aeration, you need to start with an ingredient as the basis for your soils that already HAVE those properties, by ensuring that the soil is primarily comprised of particles much larger than those in peat/compost/coir.sand/topsoil, which is why the recipes I suggest as starting points all direct readers to START with the foremost fraction of the soil being large particles, to ensure excellent aeration. From there, if you choose, you can add an appropriate volume of finer particles to increase water retention. You do not have that option with a soil that is already extremely water-retentive right out of the bag.

I fully understand that many are happy with the results they get when using commercially prepared soils, and I'm not trying to get anyone to change anything. My intent is to make sure that those who are having trouble with issues related to soil, understand why the issues occur, that there are options, and what they are.

We have seen that adding a coarse drainage layer at the container bottom does not improve drainage. It does though, reduce the volume of soil required to fill a container, making the container lighter. When we employ a drainage layer 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 using the same soil with added 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 on soil particles 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 employ 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 in the container to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where the earth acts as a giant wick and will absorb all or most of the perched water in the container, in most cases. Eliminating the PWT has much the same effect as providing your plants much more soil to grow in, as well as allowing more, much needed air in the root zone.

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 suffer/die because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal root function, so water/nutrient uptake and root metabolism become seriously impaired.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and how effective a wick is at removing 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 and allow the water to drain. When drainage has stopped, 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. The water that drains is water that occupied the PWT. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick or toothpick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper than it is, 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 in the thread.

I always remain cognizant of these physical principles whenever I build a soil. I have not used a commercially prepared soil in many years, preferring to build a soil or amend one of my 2 basic mixes to suit individual plantings. I keep many ingredients at the ready for building soils, but the basic building process usually starts with conifer bark and perlite. Sphagnum peat plays a secondary role in my container soils because it breaks down too quickly to suit me, and when it does, it impedes drainage and reduces aeration. Size matters. Partially composted conifer bark fines (pine is easiest to find and least expensive) works best in the following recipes, followed by uncomposted bark in the <3/8" range.

Bark fines of pine, fir or hemlock, 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, more scarce as a presence in sapwood products and hardwood bark, dramatically slows the decomposition of conifer bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains - it retains its structure.

Note that there is no sand or compost in the soils I use. Sand, as most of you think of it, can improve drainage in some cases, but it reduces aeration by filling valuable macro-pores in soils. Unless sand particle size is fairly uniform and/or larger than about BB size, I leave it out of soils. Compost is too fine and unstable for me to consider using in soils in any significant volume as well. The small amount of micro-nutrients it supplies can easily be delivered by one or more of a number of chemical or organic sources that do not detract from drainage/aeration.

My Basic Soils ....

5 parts pine bark fines (partially composted fines are best)
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

Big batch:
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all container soils 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) should be repotted more frequently to insure they can grow at as close to their genetic potential within the limits of other cultural factors as possible. 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, fine stone, VERY coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface, calcined DE, and others.

For long term (especially woody) plantings and houseplants, I use a superb soil that is extremely durable and structurally sound. The basic mix is equal parts of pine bark, Turface, and crushed granite.

1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
1 part screened Turface
1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil
CRF (if desired)

I use 1/8 -1/4 tsp Epsom salts (MgSO4) per gallon of fertilizer solution when I fertilize if the fertilizer does not contain Mg (check your fertilizer - if it is soluble, it is probable it does not contain Ca or Mg. If I am using my currently favored fertilizer (I use it on everything), Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro in the 9-3-6 formulation, and I don't use gypsum or Epsom salts in the fertilizer solution.

If there is interest, you'll find some of the more recent continuations of the thread at the links below:

Post XII
Post XI
Post X
Post IX
Post VII

If you feel you were benefited by having read this offering, you might also find this thread about Fertilizing Containerized Plants helpful, as well.

If you do find yourself using soils you feel are too water-retentive, You'll find some Help Dealing with Water-retentive Soils by following this embedded link.

If you happen to be at all curious about How Plant Gowth is Limited, just click the embedded link.

As always - best luck. Good growing!! Let me know if you think there is anything I might be able to help you with.



clipped on: 12.06.2011 at 07:25 pm    last updated on: 12.06.2011 at 07:26 pm

RE: Sansevieria growing VERY slowly. (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: tapla on 12.05.2011 at 11:14 am in House Plants Forum

I think there's a natural tendency for growers to draw the conclusion that because their plant didn't die when they repotted it in winter, that it must follow that the plant really doesn't care WHEN it's repotted. First though, let's draw some delineation between repotting and potting up. If you're potting up, it doesn't matter when you repot, as long as you watch the watering, but potting up in winter can present difficulties because the plant isn't going to quickly colonize the new soil with roots, so it will remain wet for extended periods if using a heavy, water-retentive soil ...... and it's less likely you'll be able to water properly w/o risking root rot.

However, during winter and spring is when most houseplants plants are weakest and at the point in the growth cycle where recovery from a repot, which includes bare-rooting and a change of soil, will be slowest. Repotting between Father's Day and July 4th ensures the plant has had time to recover from the winter's energy depletion and rebuild reserves. The longest days of the year occur in the weeks immediately before and after Jun 21 - which is why Father's Day provides a good point of reference.

It's not that most plants won't TOLERATE winter/early spring repots, most will if they are growing well & have some energy reserves. What we're talking about are comparative degrees - not so good, good, better, best. For houseplants other than winter growers, the farther you get outside of the ideal period mentioned, the more difficult and extended the recovery will be, and the greater the chance of problems related to a weakened plant will be - insects/disease/shedding parts .....

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..."

Miss M - Plants often 'hit the wall' as a result of extreme root congestion or impaired root root function that keeps them from taking up sufficient water and nutrients. The best fix for this common issue re Sans is to divide or do a full repot. I would wait to do that until summer, but there are some things you can do now. First though, can you tell us how much soil there is in the pot that hasn't been colonized by roots, if any? BTW - if your planting has some soil that hasn't been colonized by roots, or if that soil falls away from the root mass when you check it, it's not enough to eliminate root congestion as a candidate for probable cause. Once plants become severely root bound, the effect on growth and vitality is an ongoing issue - no matter how large the container they're potted up to.

I'll wait to hear what you have to offer. ;-)



clipped on: 12.06.2011 at 07:01 pm    last updated on: 12.06.2011 at 07:02 pm

RE: Al's Gritty Mix -- A Learning Experinece (Follow-Up #31)

posted by: greenman28 on 12.06.2011 at 06:19 pm in Container Gardening Forum


I don't think that *any* plants do well in generic bagged soil from home and garden stores ;-)
The plants may survive, and often even please the owner....but with a better soil, those same plants
could be doing so much more (growing closer to their genetic potential, as Al says).

Al's mix, with minimal modification, will work wonderfully for most plants.
Right off the bat, Al will tell you that Scilla (Squills) do better in the 5-1-1 mix.
Also, blueberries would be better candidates for the 5-1-1, unlimed, due to the lower pH.
Ferns, too, do exceptionally well in the 5-1-1 mix in my climate. I grow Holiday Cacti
in a bark-based mix (closer to the 5-1-1 than the Gritty Mix), although I have no doubt
that they would grow well in the Gritty Mix. Vegetable crops are also grown in the 5-1-1 for convenience,
economy, and moisture retention - however, I start seeds (from peppers to citrus) in the Gritty Mix.

Some succulents with very fine root-systems might require a finer, modified Gritty Mix,
but most other succulents will immediately respond to re-potting in the Gritty Mix.

Let's discuss the Fig. If the Fig is young and growing rapidly, the 5-1-1 will zoom it along
and allow for easy re-potting each season. Once the Fig gains some size, and when you've put it into
an appropriately large container, then you would re-pot to the Gritty Mix and go a year or two
before re-potting again (unless, of course, the Fig becomes pot-bound and shows stress).

So...there is some consideration to be made when choosing the Gritty Mix,
but it mostly has to do with the vigor of the material (plants) one is working with
and the amount of time that the plants will spend in the pot. With peppers, I start seeds
in small containers of Gritty Mix, then I move them to progressively larger containers of 5-1-1 mix -
during the Summer, I use large volumes of soil so I need something inexpensive, and I need that extra moisture
retention on hot days. When Winter comes around, I bare-root my favorite pepper plants, and re-pot them in Gritty Mix
until the following Spring when they go back outside (or into larger containers for the season).



clipped on: 12.06.2011 at 06:55 pm    last updated on: 12.06.2011 at 07:01 pm