Clippings by NycRick

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RE: Container Soils and Your Plant's Nutrition (Follow-Up #11)

posted by: tapla on 11.04.2011 at 06:46 pm in Plumeria Forum

Dave - My foray into plumeria growing has so far been limited to the establishment and a season's growth of two plants from cuttings that I received from Laura in VB .... in sort of a "cuttings for soil & stuff" swap. I sent her soil and probably a few other goodies, and I received plumeria & peanuts in return. I believe I got the better of the deal, and a new friend to boot. ;-)

Someone is bound to ask directly anyway, so if you have a question about whether an admittedly inexperienced plumeria grower is qualified to offer advice to those who have been growing them longer, let me answer directly by saying that I grow a very wide variety of plant material in containers, and the many hundreds of pictures I've shared here on GW illustrate I do that well. My focus is on bonsai because it's what challenges me. While I don't claim to be a seasoned plumeria grower, I am a seasoned grower who has been teaching others to grow in containers for a very long time. Just recently (Aug), I was invited to lecture a large group of specialty growers at U of M's Matthaei Botanic Gardens, and the topic du jour was soil science. One thing I've found is that you don't need to be the bus driver to understand how the wheels go round & round. Essentially, >90% of what applies to growing 1 type of plant in containers applies to growing ALL plants in containers; and if you have the ability to grow one type of plant well in a container, you probably have the ability to grow almost anything well in a container.

I grow everything containerized in either the 5:1:1 mix or the gritty mix. I have used no other soils for more than 20 years, and I have been tinkering and experimenting with soils for even longer than that benchmark. I simply haven't found or been shown anything that works better. The REASON these soils work better is very simply because they are highly aerated and structurally stable, providing the healthy root environment that is absolutely critical to the o/a health of the organism. You cannot have a healthy plant w/o healthy roots.

Any accomplished bonsai practitioner is a superlative container gardener by default. He cannot be accomplished if he doesn't understand the intricacies of container culture, or if he is unable to deal with the added difficulty added by small pots, small soil volumes, and the constant manipulation of the plant material. You might think of bonsai as container gardening taken to a different level, with a considerable difficulty factor added. Like the diver that regularly performs dives with difficulty factors of 3.5 and above, the dives with low difficulty factors are much easier by comparison.

KMS - a mix comprised of primarily organic ingredients can be very good, very bad, or anywhere in between. What determines a soils suitability for conventional container culture is its ability to anchor the plant and hold favorable volumes of air and water for the intended or reasonable interval between repots. Its nearly impossible to water properly and have the soil remain well aerated unless the soil is comprised of primarily large particulates. We can add to that 'large particulates that break down slowly', so we don't lose the favorable structure we started with. Pine/fir/redwood bark fines are excellent as the primary fractions of container media because of their stability and large particle size. While I prefer the gritty mix for all plantings that will be in the same soil for more than a single growth cycle, the bark-based 5:1:1 mix is still a very healthy soil. The bark ensures very good air porosity and breaks down at about 1/4-1/5 the rate of peat.

I guess what I'm saying is that throwing out pine/fir.redwood bark with the rest of the organic components is throwing the baby out with the bath water. ;-) While your offering might be anecdotal, other than the bark thing it squares very nicely with the way I think.

I like your thoughts about putting 'wicking', to work too. You can employ a wick that dangles below the pot bottom after watering thoroughly to help you grow more effectively in soils that would otherwise be too water-retentive to ensure best vitality/growth. While it's not a cure for a soil too heavy, it can be something good to add to your tool box.

Here is how i set up my wicks, using 100% rayon strands from mop heads:
Photobucket

The wick 'fools' excess water in the soil into 'thinking' the pot is deeper than it really is. When water moves down to the wick (driven by the sudden increase in gravitational flow potential the wick provides) 'looking' for what it 'thinks' is the bottom of the pot, it gets pushed off the bottom of the wick by water moving down behind it.

Al


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clipped on: 03.13.2014 at 03:24 pm    last updated on: 03.13.2014 at 03:25 pm

Hey NYC - let's work together to make Gritty Mix

posted by: localtalent on 07.26.2011 at 05:26 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I live in Manhattan, and don't have a need (or the space) to keep giant tubs of potting mix.

Given that the ingredients are difficult to get here, I'd be open to renting/borrowing a car and splitting the ingredients for the mix if anyone's interested.

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clipped on: 03.10.2014 at 06:36 am    last updated on: 03.10.2014 at 06:36 am