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RE: plants continue to die (Follow-Up #17)

posted by: Joe1980 on 07.26.2014 at 04:33 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

If you search the forum for "gritty mix" you'll find it. Many use a variation of the famous "Al's a Gritty Mix", such as myself. The important thing is the particle size. For succulents, I use 1 part Turface, 1 part lava pebbles, and 2 parts chicken grit. They are all screened on the low end through 1/16" insect screen. The lava rock I screen through 1/4" mesh on the high end, and the Turface and grit don't need screening for large particles. That's my variation of gritty mix. The original recipe is equal parts of Turface, grit, and pine bark fines, all sifted at 1/16" on the low end. The bark I think is sifted at 3/8" on the high end, but don't quote me on that, because it don't use the bark due to lack of a supplier, and a lack of need in my opinion.

Remember though that fertilizer is important also. You need one that provides all of the needed nutrients, including Ca and Mg. Dynagrow Foliage Pro 9-3-6 fits the bill, and is what I use.

Joe

NOTES:

gritty mix and dyna-grow fert
clipped on: 09.05.2014 at 05:14 pm    last updated on: 09.05.2014 at 05:14 pm

RE: Crazy seedling and some pics from this season (Follow-Up #21)

posted by: teyo on 11.09.2013 at 12:12 pm in Adenium Forum

Otis - yeah it's not greedy to want both caudex and flowers :D luckily there are specief of adenium that will provide both. I think of adeniums as plants that wear their caudex permanently and their flowers like dresses picked on the whim of the grower :) you can always graft and re-graft a plant with a good caudex, giving it a different attire :)
tomorrow i'm going to pull out my biggest arabicum and photograph it for you, it is dormant now but looks at it's best without leaves in my opinion :)

rcharles, i wouldn't have minded sending out cuttings of the purple one, had i known anyone would want it :) (maybe next year?) i thought with all the fascinating new hybrids appearing daily no one would be interested in my plant. note though, the camera really brings out the color more intensely than it is in real life, though whether the plant is in full sun or not affects it greatly, like all purples.

Lena, thank you for the kind words again, i am trying to post pictures that give more than oooh's and aaaaah's, something to learn from and discuss(my mistakes haha). i don't have that much experience but i try to learn at the fastest pace possible (i'm a biologist by trade so that comes naturally).
I bought dutch grown plants to use as experimental specimens, firstly to practice grafting (which actually didn't turn out well, i think they're not suited for rootstock as a cultivar), and then to test all my crazy ideas about nutrient balance, substrate type, pruning, pollination, wiring etc. and at the time i found the little buggers on the discount isle i didn't have any decent plants to practice on, i still had that beginners attachment to seedlings you develop when you have few plants :) so butchering these was easier on the mind and it allowed me to observe how adult plants reacted to my ideas. i learned very early on seedlings and adult plants had totally different requirements. But as for your question on overpotting, i especially like to overpot young plants (you may not see it in recent pictures, i literally ran out of bigger pots, next year i will have to buy or make a ton of those). having unrestricted space for root growth creates a more streamlined rate of growth, although that may conflict with desires to raise the plants pretty early, which also has it's uses. but overall, some of my biggest plants developed in ordinary narrow but deep windowsill boxes in which you would usually plant geraniums and petunias. which is against traditional adenium lore of using wide shallow pots. surely a big factor was that such seedlings in window boxes didn't need to be repotted very often, and thus were unobstructed in their growth cycles.

i keep my plants inside the house, i have a couple of spare rooms, but still my windows now look horrific, all crammed up with plants on shelves :) and it's not only adeniums i grow, i'm overwintering a bunch of superhot peppers, some ornamentals, some passifloras which are getting huge, a few hibiscus, and i still have about 30 gigantic brugmansias outside which i have to cut down and prepare for winter. ugh, talk about hoarding. however, adeniums get window space, the rest isn't that needy and can be managed. This year is the first i've put some adeniums into hybernation intentionally, and to my great joy arabicums seem to have taken the hint and went to sleep mostly on their own. so i can just hide them somewhere and leave them be until spring. it gets easier when they're bigger, much much easier. the little ones that require constant care are the worst.

ladylotus, thank you, i am constantly learning and experimenting though, one can never know enough :D
my bark is closer to 1 inch mostly, my clay is around 1/4, and perlite i used before but stopped, it's irritating when pulled out of the bag and full of dust, plus perlite tends to float when watering and i don't like that, that creates separation in the media. also, perlite doesn't absorb water internally, but keeps it bound on the surface of the granules, but that is a big no no in my opinion. we have here clay granules which are not crushed, and are from 1-3 mm size. i tried using those and it was horrible, i realized later they kept a lot of water bound to the outside of the granule, which when the medium settles creates an anaerobic enviroment, perfect for anaerobic microorganisms which cause rot. Zeolite absorbs water interally, like your turface, and then releases it gradually. pumice and ground brick (tenisite) does similar. Granite i've had trouble finding in the right size, i will however try quartzite next year, it's mostly the same chemically, i need something to weigh the pots down, that's the only reason i'd consider it. Since zeolite and pumice are hard to find here, i've often just made the medium with bark and clay, and had no problems with it. whatever works and is available at the moment i need it.

here's how my media looks without zeolite

about watering, in my experience, you can water it as much as you want, i've had more trouble watering often enough and found it almost impossible to overwater. if you're concerned, stick a piece of rope through one of the holes on the bottom of the pot and push it into the media, it will make sure all excess water gets out. as for testing for moisture, people use wooden sticks to gauge moisture, i did too, but found it mostly unnecessary, but hey, if it helps absolutely use it.

somalense are cute as hell, they grow fast, they bloom also at about 6 months of age, only problem is they are more sensitive to cold than obesums. i bought seeds from a really nice guy at afroplants.free.fr, he had somalense and true socotranums at normal prices. he's a botanist so i had trust, and every single one of the seed germinated.

the picture of purple buds is from the summer, that was the bud cluster i talked about before, why i didn't cut it up. then it turned out purple and i was amazed lol

the cutting does develop a bunch of buds from the woody stem, but that's the only cultivar i've seen that does that. it's really really floriferous, i understand why the dutch picked it out to grow. shame they shape them so ugly, all cut up and shaped without knowledge of adenium standard. ah well, they're sold for the flowers not the caudex, though contrary to another ingrained "wisdom" these plants WILL develop a caudex even from a cutting, and pretty fast too. you just have to give them good conditions to do so.
here's one of the ugly cuttings at repotting, only a few months after i bought it at the store.

about wisdom, please keep in mind i've been growing these plants for a mere... about 2.5 or 3 years or so. so yeah, not that much wisdom, more observation and experimentation :) and your climate really does sound like mine, we can move to the tropics together and grow adeniums all year long :D i am so jelaous when i see pics of adeniums from SE asia now on facebook, theirs are just going into the fall cycle of blooming, mine are either squishing against the window trying to break out or sleeping. not fair.

on an ending note to this really to long post (feel free to stop me anytime guys, i really should work on a blog and post all of this there to be nicely presented), i would like to share with you something that made me infinitely happy today. it's not an adenium, but a hibiscus seedling, my first ever hibiscus seedling to flower :) it's from some ordinary seed because i couldn't afford the insanely pricey exotic crosses but it 'll do. funny, i have a few more seedlings, and this one is the smallest, but the first to flower.

NOTES:

adeniums and growing media
clipped on: 09.01.2014 at 04:18 am    last updated on: 09.01.2014 at 04:19 am

RE: does any kind of gravel work (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: amanzed on 06.26.2011 at 08:30 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

I'm guessing this kind of topic has come up a lot... you might consider using the search bar to find previous discussions of this topic.

I would not use coarse gravel (like they use for road beds). This is okay for top dressing ground plantings or laying an underlayer in ground plantings for drainage. I would also not use pea gravel, either. Too large and round. I do like it for top dressing.

Getting back to potting medium... some people don't even like aggregate (the generic name for sand and gravel) as a container medium component because of its weight and lack of porosity.

I do use it. My favorite is called crushed rock or crushed granite or "grit". I buy an A-1 Grit #10 grit. They have different size grades. It's not that convenient to find... you can look for chicken or poultry grit at feed stores. The cheapest is probably from roofing companies or roofing supply stores. It's not typically available at big box retailers. You might also want to look for "Sand and Gravel" vendors in your area: example in L.A. / Riverside area is Sunburst Decorative Rock.

More popular as a general-purpose aggregate and primary potting medium component is pumice (less popular but still often used is heat-treated volcanic rock called perlite). Look for recent posts on these products. In some areas, you can buy pumice at OSH or other garden stores. Unfortunately, you can't in my area of Los Angeles.

Pumice is also available at feed stores as "Dry Stall" for horse stalls.

Similar to pumice but retaining more water are calcined earth products such as garage-floor cleanup products (Napa 8822 of much recent discussion) and Turface (some people love it, others think it stunts cactus and succulents).

The very best source of information is club members in your area. They will have some idea of what is available in your area and works in your climate. Clubs are local affiliates of Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA) which you can find on the website, Cactus and Succulent Plant Mall or on the CSSA website.

I guess we should make an FAQ or something, this question seems to come up every week or two.

NOTES:

crushed rock or crushed granite or "grit". buy an A-1 Grit #10 grit.
clipped on: 08.31.2014 at 08:44 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2014 at 08:45 pm

RE: does any kind of gravel work (cont.) (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: amanzed on 06.26.2011 at 09:25 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

If you can't find grit (screened, crushed granite), birdseye gravel is better than pea gravel. The size range 1/16 - 1/8 inch was my favorite before I found grit of different size grades. But again, birdseye gravel in my experience is rounded, and rounded aggregate is thought to allow less air and drainage to the root area than sharp aggregate. For this reason, sharp sand (people use it for rooting hardwood cuttings or germinating seeds) and sharp crushed granite are almost always to be preferred as growing medium components than rounded gravel or round sand.

Again... that's me... I like grit. A lot of people use rock products only as top dressing, and use pumice or the other similar products as the primary aggregate component of the container medium.

I've written it before, but a lot of growers here get great results with simple, 100% pumice for almost everything they grow. In fact, I have heard many growers at my (excellent) San Gabriel Valley Cactus and Succulent Society who used to use other things and recently switched to 100% pumice and never looked back. You have to fertilize a bit more, since you're practically growing them in a light, pseudo-hydro medium; but it gives you the kind of control which is very handy for sensitive, rare euphorbias, haworthia, Madagascan plants... it's quite flexible.

As recently discussed on another thread, it may not be ideal for small mesembs or other dwarf plants adapted to habitats with heavy mineral or clay soils. But otherwise -- in my California climate (greenhouse or open air) -- pumice is terrifically flexible and popular with some of the great master growers.

And as Norma wrote, soil mixes are like turkey recipes: everyone thinks theirs is the best. But if you hang around people who get great results, listen and learn, you'll pick up a lot of helpful techniques. Adopt the ones which work for you.

NOTES:

birds eye gravel
grow cactus in 100% pumice
clipped on: 08.31.2014 at 08:43 pm    last updated on: 08.31.2014 at 08:44 pm

RE: Supplies by State/Region: Al's Gritty Mix (Follow-Up #25)

posted by: tapla on 04.22.2009 at 09:00 am in Container Gardening Forum

I don't want to get too far off topic here cuz it's not my thread.

You would use lime anytime you build a soil from generally acidic ingredients like pine bark and peat. Other soils, made from ingredients with a relatively higher pH would use gypsum as a Ca source.

S is insoluble and takes a LONG time to work in soils. It's only marginally helpful in containers. You're better served using an acidifying fertilizer like MG 30-10-10 in containers and mixing in a little potash when you make the soil or using a soluble K supplement when you fertilize.

... not my thread, so send me an e-mail (so I have your addy) and I'll sort out some pics of shade containers to mail to you.

Al

NOTES:

pine bark acidic, gypsum cal to counter
clipped on: 08.21.2014 at 07:45 pm    last updated on: 08.21.2014 at 07:45 pm

RE: Anti-fungal nutrients for roses (Follow-Up #83)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 07.12.2014 at 08:06 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

I love Jim's Zinnias, so cheerful. I like Sharon's Caramel Fairytale Kordes Rose ... that's the best pic. ever, the color glows! Thank you.

The 24-hrs rain finally stopped, zero sun today. I inspected my roses: Barcelona (Francis Dubreuil) mildews in the pot (has MG-moisture control potting soil with neutral pH). HMF states that Barcelona is prone to mildew ... HMF also states that Dr. Huey is prone to mildew.

Gruss an Teplitz, the parent of Dr. Huey, mildewed in the pot. Also mildewed in my alkaline clay ... last year I dug it up, and put 2 cups of cracked corn in the planting hole .... no more mildew, even in this wet & rainy month.

I called my feed store, the guy recommends alfalfa meal to make tea for roses OVER afalfa-pellets. He explained that alfalfa meal breaks down faster for tea, but alfafa-pellets is easier to spread on lawn. He sells 50 lbs. of alfalfa meal for $17. That's cheaper than Dr. Earth at $13 for only 3 lbs.

In my experiments with wimpy roses, like 3" tall bands with no leaves (freebies from Burlington). I tested alfalfa-tea to make it grow, no luck. I tested chemical nitrogen, no luck. I tested blood-meal, it worked immediately ... blood meal has iron. Without iron, plants are less efficient in using nitrogen.

I'm leaning toward blood meal, since it's easy to scatter a few tablespoons, and water it in, with nitrogen mobility a 10. Making alfalfa-tea at NPK 2-1-2 is a nuisance, it's MORE stinky than Pennington Alaska pellets, NPK 4-6-6, which also has alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, kelp meal, and sulfate of potash.

Blood meal worked well like alfalfa meal, but cheaper at $5 per bag at local store. Amazing how proper nutrients can turn a wimpy band into vigorous & healthy! I got 5 bands this year from Burlington, and Duchess de Rohan was pathetic: zero leaves, only 3" stick. Blood meal gave it the first few leaves.

I was impatient and broke the rule of NO-SOLID fertilizer on bands: I put 1 Tablespoon of chicken manure on top, then watered it. It immediately greened up, thanks to chicken manure's 9% calcium, plus high in boron, zinc, and copper. In this 1 month of rainy weather & 70% humidity, Duchess of Rohan band is 100% clean, thanks to the anti-fungal agents of zinc and copper in chicken manure. I put gritty lime on top DUE TO OUR RAIN ... otherwise I would had put gypsum in the pot for best root growth.

Chicken manure is alkaline, versus alfalfa meal is acidic at pH 5.7 to 6. Will test the pH of the compost and blood meal I bought with red-cabbage juice.

In the past years I bought 3 bags of alfalfa meal, at $15 per 50 lbs. Was it worth it? Not really, I prefer less leaves & more fruits & flowers result of chicken manure, along with sulfate of potash. Blood meal is equally potent to promote fast growth and plenty of leaves ... I once gave 1/2 cup of blood meal to each marigold to deter rabbits from my rose garden, and marigolds shot up to 3 feet tall, really dark-green leaves (from the iron), but zero flowers for the year.

NOTES:

chicken manure is alkaline
clipped on: 07.23.2014 at 06:50 am    last updated on: 07.23.2014 at 06:51 am

RE: Anti-fungal nutrients for roses (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 06.29.2014 at 12:48 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Hi Jim: there's the "myth" of new strain. Blackspots will develop ANYWHERE if the conditions are right: I induced plenty of gross black spots by dumping rotten tomato on Firefighter rose. Or mulching with acidic & wet cocoa mulch at pH 5.4.

I also induced black spots on Comte de Chambord by topping with alfalfa meal (pH 5.8). Fungi thrives in wet & neutral to slightly acidic environment. Red lava rock, sold for $3 per big bag is widely available, plus decent in copper & zinc (2 most potent anti-fungal nutrients).

I'm pleased with the result from all night rain, and our past 2-weeks of humid & rainy weather. I mulched some roses with red lava rocks, ZERO BLACKSPOTS on them, plus breaking out in buds & new growth from the rocks' high potassium, high iron, plus anti-fungal nutrients of copper & zinc, plus boron (vital nutrient for plant's health).
Will post pics. later.

My neighbor set the standards for tons-of-blooms & zero diseases ... she mulched her 50+ roses with lava rocks for the past 14 years. I touched them in super-hot-sun, not bad, about the same temp. as my alkaline clay, and MUCH LESS hot than white lime stones.

NOTES:

lava rocks for black spot
clipped on: 07.06.2014 at 02:49 pm    last updated on: 07.06.2014 at 02:49 pm

RE: Anti-fungal nutrients for roses (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 06.28.2014 at 08:55 am in Organic Rose Growing Forum

I summarize the tips given by the YouTube above:

For every 2 months, he gives 1 cup per rose of his special blend: equal amounts of chicken manure, fish meal, cottonseed meal, kelp meal, and bone meal.

In the YouTube, he stated 1 part for everything, but 2 parts for bone meal. I disagreed, already BURNT plenty of plants with my experiments with bone meal: burnt a dozen geraniums by putting bone meal on top, burnt a Gallica rose, burnt a tomato plant.

Cottonseed meal is acidic, so that balances out the alkalinity of bone meal. He also mentioned how kelp meal would strengthen plants' tissue against aphids invasion. True, Kelp meal is high in potassium and trace elements to strengthen plant's cell membrane, so insects can't gain access. In contrast, fertilizer high in nitrogen promotes soft and fast growth, which insects can feast on.

Mid-season, he gave roses a boost by mixing 2 Tablespoon of Brewer's yeast with 1 gallon of water. Brewer's yeast is high in potassium, high in copper (a fungicide), and decent in zinc (strongest fungicide), plus B-complex vitamins for plant vigor.

He stated that banana peels around roses keep aphids away. True, there were only 2 roses that got aphids in my garden: Christopher Marlowe and Gruss an Teplitz. Those 2 never get banana peels. Banana peels are VERY HIGH in potassium, NPK of 0-3-42, that's almost as high as sulfate of potash, NPK of 0-0-50. Bonus: banana peels don't have the salt nor the acidity like sulfate of potash. Potassium strengthen the cell membranes of plants, so insects can't gain entry.

To spray against rust and mildew, he used: 1/2 gallon water, 1 Tbs. baking soda, 3 Tbs. horticulture oil, 1 Tbs. kelp extract. Mix that in a spray bottle and spray leaves (both above and under).

"Nutrients provided by kelp are micronutrients -- iron, copper, zinc, boron and manganese -- and negligible macronutrients -- nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous." See link: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/seaweed-fertilizer-orchids-30814.html

Here is a link that might be useful: YouTube: Secrets of growing healthy roses

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Sat, Jun 28, 14 at 9:04

NOTES:

banana peels for potassium to keep aphids and other sap sucking pests away...

brewers yeast for nutrient boost

and MORE.....

clipped on: 07.05.2014 at 06:02 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2014 at 06:08 pm

RE: Bouquets of no-spray roses (Follow-Up #60)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 06.08.2014 at 12:35 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Hi aztcqn: I'm glad to hear that your rust is gone. Rust happened to my Sonia Rykiel rose when it was in a pot ... I forgot to water it, plus the weather was dry. With my experiment of inducing rust by dumping gypsum (calcium sulfate) on Evelyn, I'm convinced that University of Nebraska is right about low potassium inducing rust.

There's an inverse relationship between calcium (in gypsum) and potassium. As the calcium level rises, less potassium available, and vice-versa. Pat Austin is known as weak-neck. She's droopy for 3 years, until this past fall I gave her gypsum and sulfate of potash .. now her canes got bigger & sturdier, and no more droopy necks. Pat never has rust, regardless of the weather. Here in Chicagoland I get 4 seasons: wet & humid, also dry & hot.

I love Fragrant Cloud's color, but can't grow it due to my cold zone 5a. We have grasshopper in early fall (when it's dry), I sneaked behind them and cut them into half with my scissor, it worked wonder. Before I tried unsuccessfully to smash them ... and they jumped fast.

Seaweed sent me this bouquet of her Fragrant Cloud rose .. she said it smelled wonderful:

NOTES:

fixing droopy necks on roses
clipped on: 07.05.2014 at 05:58 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2014 at 05:58 pm

RE: Mistakes and surprises in your garden? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 10.04.2013 at 09:39 am in Organic Rose Growing Forum

I checked on black spots. The baking soda doesn't seem to be effective, like Ingrid reported. Folks report better luck with Neem oil (also insecticides), and commercial Bordeaux mixture (hydrated lime and copper sulfate).

The Nebraska study of higher potassium in leaves being less susceptible to rust: That makes me wonder if copper content of leaves could be a factor for BS-prevention, considering copper sulfate and lime are in Bordeaux fungicide?

The cheapest foods highest in copper are: sunflower seeds and basil. My next experiment would be to fertilize roses with ground-up raw sunflower seed NPK 2.25, 1.25, 0.79 .... or chopped up Basil, which are plentiful in summer. Chicken manure is also high in copper, zinc, and boron.

There's the #1 potting soil, Professional Ball, with 45% Composted pine fines, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, lime, and gypsum. As the organics break down, they supply humic acid and nutrients. The tannin in decomposed pine bark, and the lime also serve as fungicide. My Paul Neyron rose was very healthy in that medium.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lime sprays for disease control

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 11:20

NOTES:

Professional Ball, with 45% Composted pine fines
clipped on: 06.08.2014 at 06:39 am    last updated on: 06.08.2014 at 06:39 am

RE: Fragrant, no spray & disease resistant roses (Follow-Up #60)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 06.06.2014 at 12:35 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Hi Mas: I like your Madame Wagram tea rose and your Clemantis bush? ... I admire your winterizing roses in pots. Do you have a big garage? Mine is 2 1/2, I wish I had bought the house with 3 car-garage, but that backed up to a noisy highway. In recent years I don't keep pots in the garage, since I'm too lazy with watering in the winter.

This past winter was brutal for everyone, a friend in Texas lost some roses to the winter. Versigny rose would had survived, if not for my putting it right next to the gutter-down-spout. It's always wet, thus can't develop deep root. Same with Marie Daly (pink), right below a gutter-down-pour. W.S. 2000 survived because I moved it a week before Thanksgiving, and planted very deep next to a gutter down-spout.

If you are into awesome scents & spectacular blooms, Gruss an Coberg and Eugene de Beauharnais are sold at Burlington Roses. They are on the hot-list, and was sold out when I wanted them.

I already installed 3 rain-barrels for the back, still have 3 more gutters-spout in front .. hopefully I can talk hubby into putting some pretty rain barrels for the 3 front gutters.

Below is a picture of Old Port bloom, I counted 11 blooms/buds for a 1.5 x 1' small plant. That's almost as good as Comte de Chambord 1' x 1' and 8 blooms. The secret? I learned from Prickles (Bailey) when he put salmon scraps & shrimp shells into Young Lycidas rose in a pot, and got 100+ blooms. Since I don't have fresh seafood bits, I soaked 3/4 cups of Alaska fish fertilizer pellets NPK 4-6-6 for tomato in 5 gallon bucket, let it soak for a few days.

Surprisingly, the odor was quite low, much less than Chickity-doo-doo. Alaska fish fertilizer pellets has alfalfa meal, blood meal, fish bone meal, and sulfate of potash (potassium sulfate). The liquid made my wimpy bands in pots from 3" tall, no leaves early May, into full of buds now. The solids I threw on Comte de Chambord, and it exploded in buds.

My Duchess de Rohan band grew leaves, but still yellowish. I grew another Duchess de Rohan last year into a huge bush since I put gypsum & sulfate of potash in her pot. So I made a batch of Alaska pellets, plus gypsum in a 5-gallon bucket, just for Duchess de Rohan and my tomato plants. Those guys have higher needs for calcium.

Seaweed in CA does the same: she soaked chicken-manure in a bucket with water, let it soak for a few days, and water her roses. That way it's less hot & less salty for plants, plus phosphorus & potassium are more mobile as soluble, rather than solids in her dry climate.

That reminds me to order some soluble gypsum from Kelp4less, $10 for 5 lbs., free shipping. But their website isn't working right, it sent me an error message, when my order went through. So I tried again 2 more times, and ended up with 3 repeated same orders ... they phoned me and cleared things up.

Below is a bloom of Old Port, taken this morning. Below link from Kelp4Less lists the benefits of gypsum for plants:

Here is a link that might be useful: Benefits of gypsum, listed by Kelp4Less

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Fri, Jun 6, 14 at 13:03

NOTES:

fish fert or chicken poo soak in water for bloom burst!!!
clipped on: 06.08.2014 at 05:28 am    last updated on: 06.08.2014 at 05:29 am

Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD) (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: paracelsus on 01.26.2010 at 01:19 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

I remember discussing this some years back on this forum. The problem is called Irritant Contact Dematitis (ICD). Plants can cause skin irritation in two ways: mechanical (MICD), and chemical (CICD). MICD is cause by sharp edged leaves and thorns, and CICD by chemicals in the sap or skin of a plant. Agaves haves both kinds of defenses! The most important irritant is called calcium oxalate, and is found in many different kinds of plants.

I can't hot link the article, but if you google "Irritant Contact Dermatitis from Plants" and click on 'show more results Medscape', you can see links to each individual page of this informative article:

Irritant Contact Dermatitis from Plants
Gunjan M. Modi; Christy B. Doherty; Rajani Katta; Ida F. Orengo
Posted: 08/17/2009; Dermatitis. 2009;20(2):63-78.

I copied some of the relevant information here:

Calcium Oxalate

Found in many genera of plants, calcium oxalate is a water-insoluble salt that forms bundles of needlelike crystals called raphides. Contact with moisture causes plant cells to eject the raphides, which can then come into contact with skin or mucosal surfaces. Irritancy is mechanical in part and due to the anatomically sharp structure of the crystals themselves. The crystals are believed to be more irritant when longer than 180 �m.[21] The raphides of calcium oxalate have been classified historically as a chemical irritant mainly because they allow the penetration of other plant chemical toxins (includin (including proteases, saponins, and other chemicals) that may not normally breach the skin on contact. They also enhance the penetration of known skin irritants, including many alkaloids from daffodil bulbs, bromelain in pineapples, and saponins in Dieffenbachia. The most frequently cited example of calcium oxalate-induced CICD is that of Dieffenbachia spp, commonly used as decorative plants.[1,2,9]...

Agave:
Agave spp are laden with calcium oxalate raphides and saponins. A single droplet (0.03 mL) of juice extracted from the leaves of the agave plant is reported to contain hundreds of calcium oxalate raphides, each as long as 500 �m.[24] These crystals and saponins are the presumptive source of the marked pruritus and stinging associated with exposure to the agave plant.[3]...On agave plantations and in tequila distilleries, CICD related to agave is more routinely seen.

This was shocking:

Other Plants: Raphides are present in various amounts in other genera of plants. Some cacti, such as Cephalocereus senilis, contain up to 85% calcium oxalate by dry weight.[2]

The section of Mechanical ICD deals mostly with the main defense of Opuntia cacti: glochids. It is well worth reading.

I hope that helps clear things up! ;)

Brad

NOTES:

Agave is not a nice plant. Skin irritants not to be taken lightly.
clipped on: 06.04.2014 at 04:55 pm    last updated on: 06.04.2014 at 04:56 pm

RE: Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XIX (Follow-Up #24)

posted by: tapla on 05.18.2014 at 04:13 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Sorry guys - I've been really, REALLY busy with work and trying to get bonsai repots behind me.

PSG - 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers can be used if you wish, but we know that plants don't use nutrients in a 1:1:1 ratio. NPK usage in plants averages out to be about 10 (N):1.5 (P):6 or 7 (K). After the calculating is done for how P and K are reported on fertilizer labels, 3:1:2 fertilizers come closest to providing nutrients in the same ratio as that at which they are used.

Fortunately, since you're using a soil you can flush at will, the fertilizer ratio in the soil won't quickly become skewed. For example, if your squirrel eats 3 kernels of corn, one walnut, and 2 acorns per day, and you buy a mix of equal parts of each, in order to feed him 3 kernels of corn, you'll be supplying him 3 walnuts and 6 acorns. At that rate, it won't take long for his cage to fill up with acorns and walnuts ..... unless you empty it regularly. Nutrients in soil are the same. Unless you flush accumulating nutrients out of the soil, sort of like hitting the fertilizer concentration reset button, you'll soon be dealing with the effects of the accumulating salts and the trappings of antagonistic deficiencies (an excess of 1 nutrients affecting the uptake of others).

If you understand the original post above, you'll know that particle size is a consideration, as is the stability of the particles. If your calcined DE/clay screens out ok, and the product is stable, it's fine to use.

Seysonn - Particle size has a significant impact on the ht of the PWT, so it's difficult to say how high the PWT might be in your soil. The way I make mine, the PWT is very low - less than 1". I can tell by looking at the bark how much peat I can add and still keep the PWT that low - one of the plusses derived from working with the same ingredients (other than a size variation) year after year.

Natasha - no need to alter the 5:1:1 or gritty mix for houseplants. They both guarantee superiority in the areas of drainage and aeration when compared to soils based on fine particulates. Because I have the choice, all my houseplants are in the gritty mix.

Couldn't get the pot link to work - sorry.

Woodland - glad you're having fun. It's always my hope that the info in these threads helps others get more from the gardening experience. Obviously, we love success stories! ;-)

Some begonias:

 photo begonia002_zpsa6dbfec2.jpg
 photo workbench062.jpg
 photo workbench058.jpg

Al

NOTES:

Al Tapla
and beautifully growing begonias
clipped on: 05.30.2014 at 03:00 am    last updated on: 05.30.2014 at 03:00 am

RE: Mulch & powdery mildew (Follow-Up #15)

posted by: nickl on 08.28.2013 at 10:59 am in Roses Forum

At the risk of repeating myself, I must a-say that "spores in the mulch" are not a significant factor for PM.

Yes, in cold climates "spores" may overwinter on the surface of the mulch. But various kinds of 'resting' forms may also overwinter on many other surfaces in the garden, including the rose plants themselves, other plant surfaces, debris such as twigs, leaves and stems, etc., etc. The dormant forms are just resting and waiting.

Although the "spores" can and do spread by hitchhiking on the surface of water droplets, they are more often wind borne (or, at least, airborne).

Most PM infections typically appear "top down" on a plant. PM can spread from an adjacent plant if conditions are very conducive, and in those cases the infection starts on the side close to the infected plant. Both indicative of airborne infection. It rarely appears "bottom up" directly from the soil surface or mulch as other fungal infections commonly do.

This post was edited by nickl on Wed, Aug 28, 13 at 12:38

NOTES:

powdery mildew not mulch affected
clipped on: 05.25.2014 at 05:47 pm    last updated on: 05.25.2014 at 05:48 pm

RE: Update on using cornmeal to prevent blackspot (Follow-Up #60)

posted by: EarthAngel on 12.14.2002 at 08:58 am in Garden Experiments Forum

Pepperjack: Try instant (must be instant) grits or dry molassis on ants. It really works.

On the cornmeal question, I've been mixing dry cornmeal, kelp, molassis and alfalfa togeher for years and using it on everything and I have had incredible results! In the fall, I dump some on the veggie and berry garden, flowers, whatever, and then dump some compost on top and let it sit until time to plant the spring garden. I'm telling you, it's the best kept secret in gardening. I think of it like giving the plants a B-12 shot each season, and healthy plants better resist disease and pests. Try it this season on a small section of the garden for an experiment. All of this stuff can be bought very cheaply at feed stores. The kelp is a bit pricy, but everything else is dirt cheap. I just love hearing about everyone's experiments!

NOTES:

molasses cormeal mix for roses
clipped on: 05.08.2014 at 12:23 am    last updated on: 05.08.2014 at 12:23 am

RE: Update on using cornmeal to prevent blackspot (Follow-Up #20)

posted by: Dchall_San_Antonio on 06.10.2002 at 12:22 pm in Garden Experiments Forum

This is what Texas A&M University says about corn meal...

Biological Control of Soilborne Fungi
It is known that certain fungal species in the genus Trichoderma feed on mycelium and sclerotia of Sclerotinia minor. Sclerotium rolfsii and Rhizoctonia sp. All peanut fields in Texas tested to date have a natural population of Trichoderma. For several years, tests have been conducted in Texas using corn meal to stimulate Trichoderma development as a way to control the major soilborne disease fungi. When yellow corn meal is applied to fields in the presence of moist surface soil, Trichoderma builds up very rapidly over a 5 to 10 day period. The resulting high Trichoderma population can destroy vast amounts of Sclerotinia, Sclerotium and Rhizoctonia. This enhanced, natural biological control process is almost identical to the processes that occur when crop rotation is practiced. The level of control with corn meal is influenced by: 1) organic matter source 2) soil moisture, 3) temperature, and 4) pesticides used. Seasonal applications of certain fungicides may inhibit Trichoderma. Testing will continue to determine the rates and application methods that will give consistent, economical control.

Here's the link to the whole article...

2002 Peanut Disease and Nematode Control Recommendations

Our local (San Antonio) organic gardeners are reporting that corn meal is working for many more fungi (including toenail fungus). A few (very few) ranchers and vets are reporting on the use of corn meal spilled into horse and cattle bedding to reduce the time leg wounds take to heal.

Regarding the nitrogen content of grains: I'll have to bookmark it and save it next time I see it. I've found websites that report that stuff for oats, alfalfa, wheat, corn, soy, sorghum, rice, etc. and, as I recall, all of them were in the area of 10% protein. I don't know how protein converts to nitrogen. Corn gluten meal was also listed and was in the 10% range. Corn is the product that seems to be the most highly processed. Not all processed corn products have all that nitrogen, but most that retain the corn kernal in some ground or cracked form retain the N. Certainly corn cobs don't.

I think the point about the nitrogen is really off the theme of this thread. Any ground grain can be used as a fertilizer applied at a rate of about 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Twice as much won't hurt anything (maybe your wallet). Less will give you less results.

NOTES:

trichoderma action
clipped on: 05.08.2014 at 12:20 am    last updated on: 05.08.2014 at 12:21 am

RE: Update #2 - Re: Using cornmeal as a plant fungicide (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: nandina on 09.24.2013 at 10:06 am in Garden Experiments Forum

To wild acres: First, it has been interesting to review the sudden reappearance of the discussions re using 'cornmeal as a plant fungicide'. Thanks for your Liriope report and your desire "to really know how this (cornmeal) works"? To answer this question is to refer back to the original university studies with peanuts for a possible answer. They reported that cornmeal encourages the growth of Trichoderma fungus which feed on mycelium and sclerotia of Sclerotina minor, Sclerotina rolfsii and all Rhizactina species. Since that report we have received enough information to add Pyricularia grisea (gray leaf spot) to the list and now, thanks to your report, possibly Phytophthora palmivora (Liriope crown rot) to be trialed and tested.

The bottom line to all this is:
If cornmeal does control this or that fungus, we have to test for and identify the responding fungus using scientific methods. To date academia is sputtering around this subject mostly in a negative manner. Those of us who have been testing know that cornmeal does control certain types of fungus. This would be an interesting and badly needed doctoral project.

My final thoughts...Got a plant fungus? Try tossing some cornmeal on and around the problem, misting it lightly with water. It may control the fungus, repeated monthly, or it may not. If it does try to figure out the name of the controlled fungus and if it fits into any of the varieties listed above.

It is always interesting to read the comments of others on this subject as they use the 'trial method' experimenting in their own backyards.

NOTES:

trichoderma
clipped on: 05.08.2014 at 12:18 am    last updated on: 05.08.2014 at 12:18 am

RE: how to repot / which to combine? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: denise on 10.03.2013 at 11:36 am in Cacti & Succulents Forum

I don't do a lot of group plantings simply because it's hard to match care preferences and dormancy timing, but I'm going to interject here what I do like to do...

I grow a butt-load of Haworthias, and if you grow a lot of Haworthias, you know how inclined they are to lose their roots, especially in winter. I have learned that if you plant Haworthias in the base of another large plant, they absolutely thrive. And they never lose their roots! A lot of Haworthias naturally grow in the shade of other plants, so the shade from the plant is ok. And I think what happens is the large plant pulls the water away from the Haworthia roots, which keeps them from staying too wet and rotting. I have Haworthias growing in with Jades, large Aloes, Devil's Backbone (whose botanical name escapes me right now...), Sanseverias... If it's a big succulent and I have a troublesome Haworthia, I'll try it. And they spread and make a beautiful groundcover.

Denise in Omaha

NOTES:

Haworthias in the base of another large plant
clipped on: 05.04.2014 at 07:00 am    last updated on: 05.04.2014 at 07:00 am

RE: Haworthia dormancy? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: xerophyte_nyc on 04.23.2014 at 08:02 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

Haworthia will go to sleep if it is too hot (at night) or too cold (during the day). The calendar month doesn't matter. On a windowsill indoors they can grow all year if given enough good light.

Since winter light is usually poor, it is best to keep watering low and try to keep the plant from "wanting" to grow. In the summer if the nights are warm (no air-conditioning) the plant will go into a semi-dormant period as well where watering should be reduced.

The best thing to do is observe your plants and take their cues. An actively growing Haworthia will have bright new leaves at the center of the rosette, and will respond to more watering at this time.

NOTES:

Haworthia growth/ dormancy cues
clipped on: 05.04.2014 at 04:36 am    last updated on: 05.04.2014 at 04:37 am

Root Pruning/ Repotting

posted by: tapla on 12.14.2005 at 11:09 pm in Maples Forum

In other threads, I have made my best case for why it is important to prune roots and do a full repot (not to be confused with potting-up) on your containerized Acers - regularly. Root-pruning is the systematic removal of the largest roots in the container with emphasis on removal of rootage growing directly under the trunk and at the perimeter of the root mass.

Root pruning should start immediately with year-old seedlings by removing the taproot just below the basal flare of dormant material, repotting, and treating the plant as a cutting. This will produce a plant with flat rootage that radiates outward from the base and will be easy to care for in the future.

Young trees (under 10 yrs old) are nearly all dynamic mass and will tolerate root-pruning well. The entire genus of Acer is extremely tolerant of root work. Acer buergerianum (trident maple) is routinely reduced to a main trunk with roots pruned all the way back to the basal flare and responds to the treatment with a fresh growth of fine, fibrous roots and a fresh flush of foliage each spring. The point here is, you don't need to be concerned about the pruning if you follow a few simple guidelines.

First, undertake the root-pruning and repot while the plant is quiescent (this is the period after the tree has met its chill requirement and has been released from dormancy, but has not begun to grow yet because of low soil temps). The ideal time is immediately before buds move (swell) in spring. Next best time is at the onset of budswell. Next best time is anytime late in the quiescent period.

For plants that have not been root-pruned before: With a pruning saw, saw off the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the root ball. With a hand-rake (like you use for scratching in the garden soil) or a wooden chopstick, remove all the loose soil. Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. This should be done out of sun and wind to prevent the fine roots from drying. 5 minutes in the sun or wind can kill fine roots & set the tree back a week or more, so keep roots moist as you work. After the soil is removed, remove about 1/2 of the remaining mass of roots with a sharp pruning tool, taking the largest and those growing under the trunk. Stop your pruning cuts just beyond where a smaller root branches off the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-roots, encircling roots, or others with abnormal growth.

The first time you root-prune a tree will be the most difficult & will likely take an hour from start to finish, unless the tree is in larger than a 5 gallon container. When you're satisfied with the work, repot into a soil that you are certain will retain its structure until the next root-pruning/repot. Tree (genetic) vigor will dictate the length of time between repots. The slow growing, less vigorous species will likely go 5 years between repots. For these slow growing trees, it is extremely important that soils retain aeration. For these trees, a soil of 2/3 inorganic parts and 1/3 organic (I prefer pine or fir bark) is a good choice. The more vigorous plants that will only go 2 years between repots can be planted in a soil with a higher organic component if you wish, but would still benefit from the 2/3 inorganic mix.

Before you begin the pruning operation, be sure you have the soil & new container ready to go (drain screens in place, etc). The tree should fit loosely inside the walls of the container. Fill the container with soil to the desired ht, mounded in the center, & place tree on the mound. Add soil to cover roots & with the chopstick, work soil into all voids in the roots, eliminating the air pockets and adding soil to the bottom of the basal root-flare. Temporarily securing the tree to the container with twine or small rope, even staking, against movement from wind or being jostled will speed recovery time by preventing breakage of newly forming fine rootage. Place the tree in shade & out of wind until it leafs out and re-establishes in the container.

Most trees treated this way will fully recover within about 4 weeks. By the end of 8 weeks, they will have caught & passed a similar plant, that was allowed to remain in its container, in both development and in vitality.

When root-pruning a dormant plant, you needn't worry about "balancing" top growth with rootage removed. The plant will only "activate" the buds it can supply with water. It is, however, the optimum time to undertake any pruning you may wish to attend to.

This is how I treat all my deciduous material. Yes, I have quite a few growing in bonsai pots, but more of my plants are in nursery containers or terra-cotta and look very much like your trees as they await the beginning of training. With a little effort at developing a soil from what's available to you and some knowledge and application of root-pruning and repotting techniques, I'm absolutely sure that a good % of those growing trees in containers could look forward to results they can be pleased with. This is the repotting technique that allows bonsai trees to live for hundreds of years & be passed from generation to generation while other containerized trees that have not had their roots tended to, only potted-up, are likely to be in severe decline or compost before they're old enough to vote.

I hope you're bold enough to give it a chance and I hope what I've written makes sense - it's way past my bedtime.

Al

NOTES:

repotting bonsai tips for other types?
clipped on: 05.03.2014 at 06:19 pm    last updated on: 05.03.2014 at 06:20 pm

RE: Revenge Of The Mealies (Follow-Up #32)

posted by: lucielove on 08.04.2011 at 11:17 am in Hoya Forum

Denise,
I purchased a huge bottle from this website.

Anybody willing to give up their BATS and switch to Permethrin...contact me and I'll send you a small 4oz. bottle for s/h costs. I use about 1/8t/gallon of water so this should last at least one season. I saw immediate results regarding mealies.
I hope this does not get me into trouble...I am NOT selling this product just offering a 'swap' to save the pollinators! :0)

Joni

Here is a link that might be useful: Do It Yourself Pest Control

NOTES:

permethrin kills mealies
clipped on: 05.03.2014 at 04:09 am    last updated on: 05.03.2014 at 04:09 am

RE: Mealy Bug help! Experts need not read. (Follow-Up #13)

posted by: norma_2006 on 11.24.2009 at 10:23 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

Jo Jo this is a reply to your question, I have been ridiculed by people here so must be careful what I say. Jojo you may email me privately.
I am going to say it again, and stick my chin out.
I have used diatomaceous earth about 1/2 tsp per small 4" square pot, dont sprinkle on top, the mealies arn't there. I just mix it into a batch of soil, and mix it well. If you water regularly you won't get mealies. They like dried up roots, they do not like moisture.
D. earth cuts them, and they will not X it. Now all of you who are laughing, don't come to me when you geting mealies in your pots. You can't find this in feed stores, it is a horticultural product. I think most nurseries will have it even in the eastern states. soapy water is a fix for the leaves, or an alcohol spray 50 -50 don't use so much that it will burn the plants and wait five minutes, then water off, so spray before you plan to water. I have used 409 in my Hoya House, it stopped them cold ants have never returned there. I have used left over Vodka diluted of course. I have used Windex it works, diluted. Soap and Water with a little oil is the safest, 'Safer's Soap' for the top of succulents and on ants, but not on cactus. Neem oil, for white fly, top and bottom of every leaf, they never returned for the past 8 years. That was my job at the Huntington one week. Some one had to do it. I just wonder how many more house hold products the rest of you can come up with? I'm not going to proof this and you can laugh all you want. Sorry, Jo Jo this is for you. I have a stymetic that can be used as well, but I don't like to do it. It goes in through our water system straight into the ocean. It kills all the fish that used to be in the Los Angeles River on the way down to the sea. Norma

NOTES:

diatomaceous earth and root mealies

from Norma 2006 -the Huntington Lady.

clipped on: 04.30.2014 at 09:00 pm    last updated on: 04.30.2014 at 09:01 pm

Keep surface dry & alkaline for fungal prevention

posted by: Strawberryhill on 05.27.2013 at 02:03 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Here's a description on how black spot spores are transmitted: "The fungi that cause black spots overwinter on infected leaves that fall to the ground. The following spring, just as new leaves are unfolding, the fungal tissue in the leaves on the ground ripens. The surfaces of the spots split and minute, needlelike spores escape. The spores are carried about by wind and if they land on new leaves of a susceptible host they may germinate, penetrate the leaf tissue, and start a new disease cycle."

I can't find the optimal pH for black spots on roses, or diplocarpo rosae, but I found the optimal pH for its relative, diplocarpo mespili, or black spots on fruit trees' leaves.
Optimal pH for diplocarpo mespili is pH 4 to 7. The optimal temp. is 71 degrees to 78. Here's info. about black spots on roses from University of Maine:

"As is true with most fungi, this fungus requires free water for infection to occur. The spores must be wet for at least 7 hours before they can germinate. A temperature of 65°F is best for spore germination and the disease develops most rapidly at about 75°F. Temperatures of 85°F and above inhibit the spread of the disease."

One safe way is to dust the GROUND with whole-grain corn meal, pH of 8, that would inhibit the spores. Corn meal has zero salt, so it's better for the roots than milk or baking soda - both have salt.

Corn meal also supplies nitrogen to the soil, and it hosts Trichoderma fungi, the beneficial fungi that inhibits the pathogenic black spot species. Whole grain corn meal works best, the refined corn meal doesn't work.

It's also useless to dust the leaves, if the ground has acidic bark that foster fungal spores, which prefer acidic and moist medium like tree bark.

Below is a picture Eglantyne, most prone to blackspot, dusted with WHOLE GRAIN corn meal before a rain. It's 100% clean the first year. The second year, I didn't dust with corn meal, and it got black spots in late fall, despite my alkaline soil, pH 7.7.

Also it helps to grow own-root roses, rather than grafted on Dr. Huey. Dr. Huey rootstock prefers it dry and alkaline, and GRAFTED roses broke out in BS in my last house of wet acidic clay, mulched with acidic pine bark (pH 4.5).

Eglantyne - no BS photo Eglantyne.jpg

Below is a link of the most tough, disease-resistant roses to grow. I have one hybrid tea grafted on Dr. Huey was in a bed topped with acidic wet leaves, and that broke out in BS. However, the roses in a bed mulched with horse manure on DRY sawdust bedding, they stay clean in late fall, see below picture:

Here is a link that might be useful: Your most healthy and no-spray roses?

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, May 27, 13 at 21:33

NOTES:

on preventing black spot and rust
clipped on: 04.02.2014 at 05:21 am    last updated on: 04.30.2014 at 12:53 am

RE: Why dusting with alkaline corn meal works? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 06.10.2013 at 05:22 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

There are other factors besides corn meal (keep the surface of leaves dry and alkaline) ... such as how much potassium the root can pick up to fight diseases. Without potassium, plants have weak stems and thin leaves, more susceptible to fungal invasion.

Are your roses grafted on Dr. Huey? Grafted roses have problems picking up water and nutrients, since it has to pass UP a restricted bud union. That bud union could be damaged by dryness in stores, winter, or acidity in soil.

I bought Gruss an Teplitz, the parent of Dr. Huey, just to do experiments. Gruss an Teplitz is famous for black spots and mildew. Gruss is the ONLY ROSE in my pot ghetto of 16 roses, that come down with severe aphids infestation. Gruss has skinny tender stems, symptoms of potassium deficiency. I gave Gruss Sulfate of Potash, NPK 0-0-50, and it didn't help, still weak stem.

Dr. Huey, as the offspring of Gruss, doesn't pick up potassium well either. Potassium is needed to fight diseases. That's why GRAFTED-ROSES on Dr. Huey is more susceptible to diseases.

All my 52+ roses are own-root, last year I didn't bother to dust them with corn meal, just a touch of black spots on Eglantyne. This summer I gave Eglantyne potassium via Sulfate of Potash, when the buds are tiny.... it's 100% clean in this month's rainy weather.

Below is hybrid tea Sweet Promise, own-root, taken next to hybrid tea, Firefighter, also own-root ... both are clean, zero diseases. Picture taken end of May:

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Jun 10, 13 at 17:35

NOTES:

corn meal, no blckspot on roses.
sulfate of potash for stronger stems!
clipped on: 04.30.2014 at 12:49 am    last updated on: 04.30.2014 at 12:50 am

RE: My recipe for mealy bugs and spider mites (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: Dchall_San_Antonio on 01.03.2006 at 09:05 pm in Organic Gardening Forum

Ladyblues, we have a problem. This is an organic forum where we discuss organic solutions to growing and protecting plants. Your solution, while it may have worked for you, is not an organic solution to those pests. Here's the gist of the problem(s):

I didnt want to use any poisons

All you used were poisons. Of course everything is poisonous if you use enough of it right? Well nicotine in the amount you used might not present an immediate problem but the fact that nicotine in any amount is disapproved for use in an organic program is a problem for this list. Rubbing alcohol is a poison in almost any amount and it is disapproved in an organic program except to sterilize equipment. The organic problem with any alcohol in organics is that alcohol kills the beneficial microbes living in the soil AND ON THE SURFACE OF THE PLANT. Organic gardening is ALL about promoting and feeding these beneficial microbes. Mouthwash, being 25% alcohol, is just as bad a pure alcohol.

Here are two affordable organic solutions to your specific insect pest problems. You can spray with diluted liquid seaweed. Hmmm, this is not really an affordable solution. Here's a much more affordable solution. Dilute milk at a rate of 3 ounces per gallon and spray that on your plants every 2 weeks. I dilute it even more. What I do is when I finish a container of milk, or when my girls finish their cereal in the morning, I rinse the container or bowl with water and pour it into a spray bottle. This is essentially free organic "insecticide."

The way these materials work is that they promote and feed the beneficial microbes living outside the plant on the leaf and stem surfaces. Research has shown that there are between 10 and 20 layers of microbes living there - right in the full sun! When these microbes are well fed with protein and carbohydrates (not to mention minerals and vitamins), they will help the plant to protect itself. In essence, the sucking insects seem to avoid these healthier plants. If you use the same materials or others such as ordinary corn meal, flour, soy bean meal, used coffee grounds (another free source), or other ground up nuts, beans, and seeds, on the surface of the soil at a rate of one heaping handful scattered under each plant every month, then your plants will be on their way to resisting all of the normal pests we have. Scatter these materials well so you don't get piles of the stuff. If you get piles they will stink when wet. Good organic materials and practices are not stinky - and they don't have to be expensive or a hassle to use.

NOTES:

mealy and pest repulse using milk
clipped on: 04.28.2014 at 11:22 pm    last updated on: 04.28.2014 at 11:23 pm

RE: Let's see some California garden pics! (Follow-Up #43)

posted by: hoovb on 07.22.2009 at 01:25 am in California Gardening Forum

Wow! So many beautiful gardens out there. Thank you for sharing them all. Here's a couple of my favorite spots in the garden. Obviously I like roses rather a lot, but eventually I suppose the garden will be mostly Aloes and Agaves. Just not right now.

Acer palmatum 'Oshio Bene'
Sombreuil
LIttle tower
front yard

NOTES:

garden design
clipped on: 04.22.2014 at 03:14 am    last updated on: 04.22.2014 at 03:15 am

RE: Calcium for rust-prevention in roses (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 10.31.2013 at 11:15 am in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Hi Bluegirl: You are right about "the professor told us that iron oxide is unavailable to cows." I already tested iron sulfate on my rhododendrons ... didn't green up, but leaves turned brown, and the plants died.

Iron sulfate burns root fast, it's very acidic, but plants can't use that. Chelated iron is in a form that plants can use. That's why I use Wholesome Organics molasses with 20% chelated iron, 20% potassium, and 17% calcium ... that greened up Excellenz von Schubert rose immediately. That rose is known for chlorosis and prefers acidic soil.

People make the wrong assumption that lime added to tap water provides calcium to plants. They don't realize that form of lime, calcium oxide, is unstable, and binds with iron, phosphorus, and potassium ... making plants yellowish. See below from Wikipedia:

"Calcium oxide is made by the thermal decomposition of materials such as limestone. This is accomplished by heating the material to above 825 °C (1,517 °F),[5] a process called calcination or lime-burning, to liberate a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2); leaving quicklime. The quicklime is not stable and, when cooled ... after enough time, it will be completely converted back to calcium carbonate .... Calcium oxide is a key ingredient for the process of making cement."

Calcium hydroxide is calcium oxide mixed with water. It's used in fresh water treatment for raising the pH of the water so pipes won't corrode. My tap water in my last house was neutral ... roses bloomed OK when watered with tap. But my tap water in my current house, alkaline soil, is hard-well water, pH 8. The soil where I watered with tap turned concrete, compare to the soil where it's just rain water. The practice of adding calcium hydroxide to water to prevent pipes from being rusty, is what glue up clay soil further, and raise the pH.

Thus I get less flowering when watered with my tap (pH 8), versus rain water (pH 5.6). I put rock-hard limestone clay under drain-spout where rain water pours ... they become fluffy fine particles. Rain water (pH 5.6) through time can convert limestone into gypsum ... I already double- checked with the chemist in the Soil Forum. Gypsum occurs naturally and also is made by reacting sulfuric acid with calcium carbonate.

Too much gypsum can hurt. Here's an excerpt from link below: "From intensive field observations of gypsiferous soils in Iraq, Smith and Robertson (1962) found that root growth was inhibited where the gypsum content of soil was over 10 percent."

"Van Alphen and de los Rios Romero (1971) conclude that up to 2 percent gypsum in the soil favours plant growth, between 2 and 25 percent has little or no adverse effect if in powdery form, but more than 25 percent can cause substantial reduction in yields. They suggest that reductions are due in part to imbalanced ion ratios, particularly K:Ca and Mg:Ca ratios" K stand for potassium, Ca stand for calcium, and Mg stand for magnesium.

That's why I use gypsum (17% sulfur and 22% calcium) to break up hard clay at the bottom of the planting hole .... and use sulfate of potash (23% sulfur and 20% potassium) to neutralize my pH 8 tap water. My pH 7.7 clay soil is tested exceedingly high in magnesium, Mg is what makes clay sticky.

Calcium and potassium together help with best bloom formation. Below is a bouquet of roses: Radio Times (pink), Crown Princess Magareta (orange), and Paul Neyron (dark pink). They are fertilized with gypsum and sulfate of potash.

Here is a link that might be useful: Effects of gypsum and calcium carbonate on plants

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Oct 31, 13 at 11:55

NOTES:

calcium, gypsum info
clipped on: 04.20.2014 at 04:21 am    last updated on: 04.20.2014 at 04:21 am

RE: How to get rid of rust? (Follow-Up #13)

posted by: elks on 10.27.2009 at 07:53 pm in Roses Forum

Since I live in a much colder, wetter zone, it is with great trepidation that I offer a suggestion that has worked for me. I prune the afflicted rose to the ground (winter often does that for me) and let it regenerate with completley new canes. This has worked on 3 different roses: Liebeszauber, Zephirine Drouhin, and Mister Lincoln.
Steve.

NOTES:

rust control by pruning to ground
clipped on: 04.12.2014 at 03:27 pm    last updated on: 04.12.2014 at 03:28 pm

RE: Organic ways to control mildew, blackspots, and rust (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 09.24.2013 at 05:31 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Thank you, Seaweed, for the lovely pic. of Pearl Essence ... very nice color.

I found this excerpt from WSU Extension: "If you have too much bedding in your pile and want to help speed up the composting process, adding materials high in nitrogen like grass clippings, chicken manure, and blood meal can help."

•Posted by gardengal48 PNW zone 8 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 9:56

Yes, you can use too much, or too much in the wrong place :-) Alfalfa decomposes very rapidly (often recommended to kick-start cold compost piles) and that decompostion generates heat. Avoid applying raw alfalfa (meal or pellets) to the root zone as it can burn roots. Don't add alfalfa to planting holes - keep it as a surface application. "

Here is a link that might be useful: WSU Extension on composting horse manure

NOTES:

Alfalfa can burn - how to apply
clipped on: 04.12.2014 at 03:15 pm    last updated on: 04.12.2014 at 03:15 pm

RE: StrawberryHill (Theresa) (Follow-Up #32)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 08.14.2013 at 05:01 pm in Antique Roses Forum

Thank you, Christopher for those great shot of your Jude the Obscure. I also use Jobes Organic food mixed with potting soil ... ran out, which reminds me to get more.

Christopher, I'm very impressed with your Jude on fish/seaweed emulsion ... I see amazing results on the Neptune fish emulsion website, like giant pumpkins! It's a bit pricey for me to use on all my 50+ roses, but I'll get it just to baby my Jude band.

The below Hisbiscus site explains color changes in flowers well: Hot weather increase carotenoids (yellow, orange). See below on color changes in Hibiscus blooms:

"Carotenoids increase production in response to heat and lots of sun. The hotter and sunnier the weather gets, the more carotenoids a plant produces, the brighter the oranges and reds will get. When weather cools off, carotenoid production decreases, and colors become softer oranges and yellows. "

The Anthocyanins pigment (red, purple, blue) are best in cold weather, and lessen in heat. It's also subjected to carbohydrate (sugar) content and lowering pH. See excerpt:

"Anthocyanins are produced in sap by a reaction between sugar, or brix, and protein. Higher sugar or brix content in the sap and an ability to produce proteins plentifully are both requirements for a plant to produce maximum levels of anthocyanins."

Here's the link "How flowers get their color" and below excerpt: http://www.proflowers.com/guide/how-flowers-get-their-color

"Another way to change the color of a flower petal on a much smaller scale is to change the PH level of the anthocyanins An easy experiment you can conduct yourself is to crush a red rose petal on a white plate with the back of a spoon or spatula and add either vinegar or baking soda and note the color change."

Schultz Organic fertilizer 3-1-5 is molasses, low-salt, and safe. There's 10 mg of sodium per tablespoon of Plantation Molasses, and 15 mg of sodium per tablespoon of Tree of Life molasses. That's much less salt than the salt index of chemical fertilizer:

Urea at 74.4% salt, ammonium sulfate at 88.3% salt, and ammonium nitrate at 34% salt. Muriate of Potash (potassium chloride) at 116.2% salt.

Exceptions: superphosphate is low at 7.8% salt, monopotassium phosphate low at 8.4% salt, and Gypsum (calcium sulfate) also low at 8% salt. I have heavy clay that retains salt well, so organics is best in my garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of hisbiscus flower colors' changes

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 17:09

NOTES:

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clipped on: 04.12.2014 at 02:32 pm    last updated on: 04.12.2014 at 02:32 pm

RE: Garden tips, garden diary, and challenges? (Follow-Up #18)

posted by: Strawberryhill on 11.25.2013 at 01:52 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

From the link http://www.naturesfootprint.com/pumice:

◾Holds moisture in the soil, reducing watering requirements by as much as 35%.
◾Pumice is inorganic, so it will not decompose or compact over time, meaning it functions continuously and can be recycled and reused.
◾Does not attract or host fungi, nematodes, or insects.
◾Pumice rock is pH neutral.

I research further on pumice, and find that particle-size determines its use: smaller-particle pumice is best for water-retention, and larger particle pumice is best for root-aeration.

Thus for my heavy clay with fine-particles like mud, I will opt for red-lava-rocks, which was a big-success in my garden. For potting soil, I will use Dry Stall (pumice or crushed grayish lava) ... which are smaller particles thus hold water better.

Below is an Horticulture Abstract as to the effect of particle-size of pumice in growing cucumber, roses, and lettuce:

"In contrast, lettuce, and to a greater degree roses, exhibited a weaker response to the different pumice grades and growing systems. The two finer pumice grades were characterized by relatively low air-filled porosity, which presumably restricted plant growth and yield as a result of poor root aeration. The coarsest pumice grades were characterized by a steep drop in the water content."

Here is a link that might be useful: Particle size of Pumice and green house growth

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 13:56

NOTES:

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clipped on: 04.12.2014 at 01:43 pm    last updated on: 04.12.2014 at 01:44 pm

RE: Worm castings - miracle cure for diseases and pests? (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: WifeofBath on 06.10.2003 at 11:51 pm in Organic Rose Growing Forum

Worm castings are great for the soil and for preventing white fly infestations. There is some substance in the castings that is taken up by the plant and when the buggers bite into the leaves to start nesting, it proves very distasteful to them and they go elsewhere. I've used it on my white fly-prone plants (morning glory, brugmansia, datura, and of course, hibiscus) with great success. Works much better than spraying soap or oil after the fact. PLUS, it's a super fertilizer.

I've used the Worm Gold brand, at $15.00 for 20 pounds. I only use about a cup per 4 feet of plant and that seems perfect, at least in my climate. And man, do we get white flies!

Good luck and happy casting. :)

NOTES:

worm castings for whitefly
clipped on: 04.02.2014 at 04:40 am    last updated on: 04.02.2014 at 04:41 am

RE: Anything to know about growing echinopsis? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: norma_2006 on 02.06.2010 at 03:24 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

I have grown that species since l994, I don't know if that counts for enough experience. I have been trained to raise them. If you are experienced there is no need to read any further. You already know everything.
Water in the summer April 1-Oct1 regularally once a week, and fertilize with Liquid Nox fertilizer right after, the reason we water on a regular schedule, because we don't want the roots to die out from lack of water. We don't want to provide root mealies with food. (dried out roots we want the plants to grow a proper formation with no growth rings. We fertilize weekly because we want flowrs monthly and big ones. Our mix is gritty 60% pumice 30% coarse washed construction sand, + 10% organic matter ( wood bark, or oak leaves) I feed my plants a tables spoon of osmocote each month. These plants flower at the end of each month. for 6-8 mo of the year depending on where you live. The dead flowers must be cut off after each flowring close to the side of the plant allowing no seeds to form, this helps the production of new flowers. They flower freely in sm. 4" pots once they nearly reach the size of the pot. They are not shy to flower. If they aren't named by Bob Schick or John Trager, they are not Schick hybrids, They should have documention as to parents. They have been carefully bred by Bob Schick, which has documention going back for 50 years or more as to the parents and heritage. Names included

NOTES:

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clipped on: 07.03.2013 at 01:47 am    last updated on: 07.03.2013 at 01:58 am

RE: Anything to know about growing echinopsis? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: norma_2006 on 02.07.2010 at 09:10 pm in Cacti & Succulents Forum

You hit it right on the nose, stating what is the mix 'Lobivia, and Rebutia are part of their heritage. Bob can just tell who they are by reading the spines. I meant to say above, the normal non-Schick Echevierias open at 7:00 at night and close the next morning by 10:00 in the morning that flower will not open again. Bob Schick's opens 7:00 at night and may open the next day and perhaps three more days if kept cool and in part shade, the
flower when dead should be cut off all the way back to the body of the plant. This will help for more flowering. It will continue to produce flowers
each month up to Dec. 7 was the latest we have recorded.
We use a ratio of 1.5 tbs - 2tbs per gal. of water. if using the Liquid Nox. John uses a cython that mixes the proper ratio for us. We start out with 1.5 cupes per 5 gal of water and then use the cyphenex to further mix it. the second month
going to to 2 cups. That was what we were doing when I was his helper, it may have changed.

NOTES:

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clipped on: 07.03.2013 at 01:57 am    last updated on: 07.03.2013 at 01:57 am

Why root-prune when you repot?

posted by: tapla on 12.13.2005 at 09:03 pm in Maples Forum

I have spent literally hundreds of hours digging around in root-balls of temperate deciduous trees collected from the wild, nursery stock bonsai candidates, and trees that have already had some root work in preparation for bonsai training. The collected trees are a challenge, usually for their lack of roots, and have stories of their own. The nursery stock is probably the closest examples to what most of your trees are like below the soil line, so I'll offer my thoughts for you to consider or discard as you find fitting.

I've purchased many trees from nurseries that have been containerized for long periods. Our bonsai club, just this summer, invited a visiting artist to conduct a workshop on Mugo pines. The nursery (a huge operation) where we have our meetings happened to have purchased several thousand of the Mugos somewhere around 10 - 12 years ago and had been potted-up into continually larger containers since. Why relate these uninteresting snippets? In the cases of material that has been progressively potted-up, large perennial roots occupied nearly the entire volume of the container, plant vitality was in decline, and soil in the original root-ball had become so hard that in some cases a chisel was required to remove it.

In plants that are potted-up, rootage becomes entangled. As root diameters increase, portions of roots constrict flow of water and nutrients through other roots, much the same as in the case of girdling or encircling roots on trees grown in-ground. The ratio of fine, feeder roots to more lignified and perennial roots becomes skewed to favor the larger, and practically speaking, useless roots. Initial symptoms of poor root conditions are progressive diminishing of branch extension and lessened vitality. As rootage becomes continually compressed and restricted, branch extension stops and individual branches die as water/nutrient translocation is further compromised. Foliage quality may not indicate the tree is struggling until the condition is severe, but if you observe your trees carefully, you will find them increasingly unable to cope with stressful conditions - too much/little water, heat, sun, etc. Trees that are operating under conditions of stress that has progressed to strain, will usually be diagnosed in the end as suffering from attack by insects or other bio-agents while the underlying cause goes unnoticed.

Potting-up temporarily offers room for fine rootage to do the necessary work of water/nutrient uptake, but these roots also soon lignify while rootage in the old root mass continues to grow and become increasingly restricted. The larger and larger containers required for potting-up & the difficulty in handling them also makes us increasingly reluctant to undertake even potting-up.

I haven't yet mentioned that the dissimilar characteristics of the old soil as compared to the new soil when potting-up are also a recipe for trouble. With a compacted soil in the old roots and a fresh batch of soil surrounding the roots of a freshly potted-up tree, it's impossible to establish a watering regimen that doesn't keep the differing soils either too wet or too dry, both conditions occurring concurrently being the rule rather than the exception.

Most who read this would have great difficulty showing me a containerized tree that's more than 10 years old and vigorous, that hasn't been root-pruned at repotting time (Trees in extremely large containers excepted. Growing in very large containers is similar to growing in situ). I can show you hundreds of trees 20 years to 200 years old and older that are in perfect health. All have been root-pruned and given a fresh footing in in new soil at regular and frequent intervals.

Acers are one of the most forgiving of trees when it comes to root pruning. The process is quite simple and the long term benefits include best opportunities for plants to grow at or near their potential genetic vigor, and stronger plants that are able to resist the day to day perils that bring down weaker plants. Root-pruning is a procedure that might be considered borrowed from bonsai culture, but bonsai culture is nothing more than refined container culture and to restrict the practice of root-pruning to bonsai only, is an injustice to those of us who simply enjoy growing trees in containers.

I didn't mean for this to be so long. I haven't even touched on the methodology of the process yet. If I've presented my case adequately and there is interest, I'll follow with the short version of how to root-prune & repot. If not - I had a good time writing this anyway. It gets really boring around most of the forums at this time of year. ;o)

Al

NOTES:

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clipped on: 04.16.2010 at 05:11 am    last updated on: 04.16.2010 at 05:11 am

Fertilizer Program for Containerized Plants II

posted by: tapla on 03.11.2009 at 11:13 pm in Container Gardening Forum

This subject has been discussed frequently, but usually in piecemeal fashion on the Container Gardening forum and other forums related. Prompted originally by a question about fertilizers in another's post, I decided to collect a few thoughts & present a personal overview.

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants II

Let me begin with a brief and hopefully not too technical explanation of how plants absorb water from the soil and how they obtain the nutrients/solutes that are dissolved in that water. Most of us remember from our biology classes that cells have membranes that are semi-permeable. That is, they allow some things to pass through the walls, like water and select elements in ionic form dissolved in the water, while excluding other materials like large organic molecules. Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that is natures attempt at creating a balance (isotonicity) in the concentration of solutes in water inside and outside of cells. Water and ionic solutes will pass in and out of cell walls until an equilibrium is reached and the level of solutes in the water surrounding the cell is the same as the level of solutes in the cell.

This process begins when the finest roots absorb water molecule by molecule at the cellular level from the surface of soil particles and transport it, along with its nutrient load, throughout the plant. I want to keep this simple, so Ill just say that the best water absorption occurs when the level of solutes in soil water is lowest, and in the presence of good amounts of oxygen (this is where I get to plug a well-aerated and free-draining soil), ;o). Deionized (distilled) water contains no solutes, and is easiest for plants to absorb. Of course, since distilled water contains no nutrients, using it alone practically guarantees deficiencies of multiple nutrients as the plant is shorted the building materials (nutrients) it needs to manufacture food, keep its systems orderly, and keep its metabolism running smoothly.

We already learned that if the dissolved solutes in soil water are low, the plant may be well-hydrated, but starving; however, if they are too high, the plant may have a large store of nutrients in the soil, but because of osmotic pressure, the plant may be unable to absorb the water and could die of thirst in a sea of plenty. When this condition occurs, and is severe enough (high concentrations of solutes in soil water), it causes fertilizer burn (plasmolysis), a condition seen when plasma is torn from cell walls as the water inside the cell exits to maintain solute equilibrium with the water surrounding the cell.

Our job, because you cannot depend on an adequate supply of nutrients from the organic component of a container soil, is to provide a solution of dissolved nutrients in a concentration high enough to supply nutrients in the adequate to luxury range, yet still low enough that it remains easy for the plant to take up enough water to be well-hydrated and free of drought stress. Electrical conductivity (EC) of, and the level of TDS (total dissolved solids) in the soil solution is a reliable way to judge the adequacy of solutes and the plants ability to take up water. There are meters that measure these concentrations, and for most plants the ideal range of conductivity is from 1.5 - 3.5 mS, with some, like tomatoes, being as high as 4.5 mS. This is more technical than I wanted to be, but I added it in case someone wanted to search "mS" or "EC". Most of us, including me, will have to be satisfied with simply guessing at concentrations, but understanding how plants take up water and fertilizer, as well as the effects of solute concentrations in soil water is an important piece of the fertilizing puzzle.

Now, some disconcerting news - you have listened to all this talk about nutrient concentrations, but what do we supply, when, and how do we supply them? We have to decide what nutrients are appropriate to add to our supplementation program, but how? Most of us are just hobby growers and cannot do tissue analysis to determine what is lacking. We can be observant and learn the symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies though - and we CAN make some surprising generalizations.

What if I said that the nutritional needs of all plants is basically the same and that one fertilizer could suit almost all the plants we grow in containers - that by increasing/decreasing the dosage as we water, we could even manipulate plants to bloom and fruit more abundantly? Its really quite logical, so please let me explain.

Tissue analysis of plants will nearly always show NPK to be in the ratio of approximately 10:1.5:7. If we assign N the constant of 100, P and K will range from 13-19 and 45-70 respectively. (Ill try to remember to make a chart showing the relative ratios of all the other 13 essential nutrients that dont come from the air at the end of what I write.) All we need to do is supply nutrients in approximately the same ratio as plants use them, and in adequate amounts to keep them in the adequate to luxury range at all times.

Remember that we can maximize water uptake by keeping the concentrations of solutes low, so a continual supply of a weak solution is best. Nutrients dont often just suddenly appear in large quantities in nature, so the low and continual dose method most closely mimics the nutritional supply Mother Nature offers. If you decide to adopt a "fertilize every time you water" approach, most liquid fertilizers can be applied at to 1 tsp per gallon for best results. If you decide thats too much work, try halving the dose recommended & cutting the interval in half. You can work out the math for granular soluble fertilizers and apply at a similar rate.

The system is rather self regulating if fertilizer is applied in low concentrations each time you water, even with houseplants in winter. As the plants growth slows, so does its need for both water and nutrients. Larger plants and plants that are growing robustly will need more water and nutrients, so linking nutrient supply to the water supply is a win/win situation all around.

Another advantage to supplying a continual low concentration of fertilizer is it eliminates the tendency of plants to show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies after they have received high doses of fertilizer and then been allowed to return to a more favorable level of soil solute concentrations. Even at perfectly acceptable concentrations of nutrients in the soil, plants previously exposed to high concentrations of fertilizer readily display these symptoms.

You will still need to guard against watering in sips, and that habits accompanying tendency to allow solute (salt) accumulation in soils. Remember that as salts accumulate, both water and nutrient uptake is made more difficult and finally impaired or made impossible in severe cases. Your soils should always allow you to water so that at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied passes through the soil and out the drain hole to be discarded. This flushes the soil and carries accumulating solutes out the drain hole.

I have recently switched to a liquid fertilizer with micronutrients in a 12:4:8 NPK ratio. Note how closely this fits the average ratio of NPK content in plant tissues, noted above (10:1.5:7). If the P looks a little high at 4, consider that in container soils, P begins to be more tightly held as pH goes from 6.5 to below 6.0, which is on the high side of most container soils pH, so the manufacturer probably gave this some careful consideration. Also, P and K percentages shown on fertilizer packages are not the actual amount of P or K in the blend. The percentage of P on the package is the percentage of P2O5 (phosphorous pentoxide) and you need to multiply the percentage shown by .43 to get the actual amount of P in the fertilizer. Similarly, the K level percentage shown is actually the level of K2O ( potassium oxide) and must be multiplied by .83 to arrive at the actual amount of K supplied.

To answer the inevitable questions about specialty fertilizers and "special" plant nutritional requirements, let me repeat that plants need nutrients in roughly the same ratio. Ratio is an entirely a separate consideration from dosage. Youll need to adjust the dosage to fit the plant and perhaps strike a happy medium in containers that have a diversity of material.

If nutrient availability is unbalanced - if plants are getting more than they need of certain nutrients, but less than they need of others, the nutrient they need the most will be the one that limits growth. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air water light temperature soil or media nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing most deficient nutrient will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination?ratio of the nutrients and increasing them, individually or in various combinations, can lead to toxicities.

When individual nutrients are available in excess, it not only unnecessarily contributes to the total volume of solutes in the soil solution, which makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients, it also often creates an antagonistic deficiency of other nutrients as toxicity levels block a plant's ability to take up other nutrients. E.g., too much Fe (iron) can cause a Mn (manganese) deficiency, with the converse also true, Too much Ca (calcium) can cause a Mg (magnesium) deficiency. Too much P (phosphorous) can cause an insoluble precipitate with Fe and make Fe unavailable. It also interferes with the uptake of several other micro-nutrients. You can see why its advantageous to supply nutrients in as close to the same ratio in which plants use them and at levels not so high that they interfere with water uptake. I know Im repeating myself here, but this is an important point.

What about the high-P "Bloom Booster" fertilizers you might ask? To induce more prolific flowering, a reduced N supply will have more and better effect than the high P bloom formulas. When N is reduced, it slows vegetative growth without reducing photosynthesis. Since vegetative growth is limited by a lack of N, and the photosynthetic machinery continues to turn out food, it leaves an expendable surplus for the plant to spend on flowers and fruit. Plants use about 6 times more N than P, so fertilizers that supply more P than N are wasteful and more likely to inhibit blooms (remember that too much P inhibits uptake of Fe and many micro-nutrients - it raises pH unnecessarily as well, which could also be problematic). Popular "bloom-booster" fertilizers like 10-52-10 actually supply about 32x more P than your plant could ever use (in relationship to how much N it uses) and has the potential to wreak all kinds of havoc with your plants.

The fact that different species of plants grow in different types of soil where they are naturally found, does not mean that one needs more of a certain nutrient than the other. It just means that the plants have developed strategies to adapt to certain conditions, like excesses and deficiencies of particular nutrients.

Plants that "love" acid soils, e.g., have simply developed strategies to cope with those soils. Their calcium needs are still the same as any other plant and no different from the nutrient requirements of plants that thrive in alkaline soils. The problem for acid-loving plants is that they are unable to adequately limit their calcium uptake, and will absorb too much of it when available, resulting in cellular pH-values that are too high. Some acid-loving plants also have difficulties absorbing Fe, Mn, Cu, or Zn, which is more tightly held in alkaline soils, another reason why they thrive in low pH (acid) soils.

So, If you select a fertilizer that is close in ratio to the concentration of major elements in plant tissues, youre going to be in good shape. Whether the fertilizer is furnished in chemical or organic form matters not a whit to the plant. Ions are ions, but there is one major consideration. Chemical fertilizers are available for immediate uptake while organic fertilizers must be acted on by passing through the gut of micro-organisms to break them down into usable elemental form. Since microorganism populations are affected by cultural conditions like moisture/air levels in the soil, soil pH, fertility levels, temperature, etc., they tend to follow a boom/bust cycle in container culture, which has an impact on the reliability and timing of delivery of nutrients supplied in organic form. Nutrients locked in hydrocarbon chains cannot be relied upon to be available when the plant needs them. This is particularly an issue with the immobile nutrients that must be present in the nutrient stream at all times for the plant to grow normally.

What is my approach? I have been very happy with Miracle-Gro 12-4-8 all purpose liquid fertilizer, or 24-8-16 Miracle-Gro granular all-purpose fertilizer - both are completely soluble. I incorporate a granular micro-nutrient supplement in my soils when I make them (Micromax) or use a soluble micro-nutrient blend (STEM). I would encourage you to make sure your plants are getting all the micro-nutrients. More readily available than the supplements I use is Earth Juices Microblast. Last year, I discovered a fertilizer by Dyna-Gro called Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It is a 3:1:2 ratio like I like and has ALL the primary macro-nutrients, secondary macro-nutrients (Ca, Mg, S) and all the micro-nutrients. It performed very well for me.

When plants are growing robustly, I try to fertilize my plants weakly (pun intended) with a half recommended dose of the concentrate at half the suggested intervals. When plants are growing slowly, I fertilize more often with very weak doses. Its important to realize your soil must drain freely and you must water so a fair amount of water drains from your container each time you water to fertilize this way. This year my display containers performed better than they ever have in years past & they were still all looking amazingly attractive at the beginning of Oct when I finally decided to dismantle them because of imminent cold weather. I attribute results primarily to a good soil and a healthy nutrient supplementation program.

What would I recommend to someone who asked what to use as an all-purpose fertilizer for nearly all their container plantings? If you can find it, a 3:1:2 ratio soluble liquid fertilizer (24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers) that contains all the minor elements would great.

How plants use nutrients - the chart I promised:

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
To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on.

If you're still awake - thanks for reading. It makes me feel like the effort was worth it. ;o) Let me know what you think - please.
Al

Here is a link to the first posting of A Fertilizer Program for Containers

Another link to information about Container Soils- Water Movement and Retention

NOTES:

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clipped on: 04.16.2010 at 04:06 am    last updated on: 04.16.2010 at 04:13 am

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants (Long Post)

posted by: tapla on 10.23.2007 at 08:21 pm in Container Gardening Forum

This subject has been discussed frequently, but in piecemeal fashion on the Container Gardening and other forums related. Prompted by a question about fertilizers in another's post, I decided to collect a few thoughts & present my personal overview.

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants

Let me begin with a brief and hopefully not too technical explanation of how plants absorb water from the soil and the nutrients/solutes that are dissolved in that water. Most of us remember from our biology classes that cells have membranes that are semi-permeable. That is, they allow some things to pass through the walls, like water and whatever is dissolved in it, while excluding other materials. Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that creates a balance (isotonicity) in pressure between liquids and solutes inside and outside the cell. Water and ionic solutes will pass in and out of cell walls until an equilibrium is reached and the level of solutes in the water surrounding the cell is the same as the level of solutes in the cell.

This process begins when the finest roots absorb water molecule by molecule at the cellular level from the surface of soil particles and transport it, along with its nutrient load, throughout the plant. I want to keep this simple, so Ill just say that the best water absorption occurs when the level of solutes in soil water is lowest, and in the presence of good amounts of oxygen (this is where I get to plug a well-aerated and free-draining soil), ;o) but of course, when the level of solutes is very low, the plant is shorted the building materials (nutrients) it needs to manufacture food and keep its metabolism running smoothly, so it begins to exhibit deficiency symptoms.

We already learned that if the dissolved solutes in soil water are low, the plant may be well hydrated, but starving; however, if they are too high, the plant may have a large store of nutrients in the soil, but because of osmotic pressure, the plant may be unable to absorb the water and could die of thirst in a sea of plenty. When this condition occurs, and is severe enough (high concentrations of solutes in soil water), it causes fertilizer burn (plasmolysis), where plasma is torn from cell walls as the water inside the cell exits to maintain solute equilibrium with the water surrounding the cell.

Our job, because you will not find a sufficient supply of nutrients in a container soil, is to provide a solution of dissolved nutrients that affords the plant a supply in the adequate to luxury range, yet still makes it easy for the plant to take up enough water to be well-hydrated and free of drought stress. Electrical conductivity (EC) of the water in the soil is a reliable way to judge the level of solutes and the plants ability to take up water. There are meters that measure this conductivity, and for most plants the ideal range of conductivity is from 1.5 - 3.5 mS, with some, like tomatoes, being as high as 4.5 mS. This is more technical than I wanted to be, but I added it in case someone wanted to search "mS" or "EC". Most of us, including me, will have to be satisfied with simply guessing, but understanding how plants take up water and fertilizer and the effect of solute concentrations in soil water is an important piece of the fertilizing puzzle.

Now, some disconcerting news - you have listened to all this talk about nutrient concentrations, but what do we supply, when, and how do we supply them? We have to decide what nutrients are appropriate to add to our supplementation program, but how? Most of us are just hobby growers and cannot do tissue analysis to determine what is lacking. We can be observant and learn the symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies though - and we CAN make some surprising generalizations.

What if I said that the nutritional needs of all plants is basically the same and that one fertilizer could suit almost all the plants we grow in containers - that by increasing/decreasing the dosage as we water, we could even manipulate plants to bloom and fruit more abundantly? Its really quite logical, so please let me explain.

Tissue analysis of plants will nearly always show NPK to be in the ratio of approximately 10:1.5:7. If we assign N the constant of 100, P and K will range from 13-19 and 45-70 respectively. Ill try to remember to make a chart showing the relative ratios of all the other 13 essential nutrients that dont come from the air at the end of what I write.

All we need to do is supply nutrients in approximately the same ratio as plants use them, and in adequate amounts to keep them in the adequate to luxury range at all times. Remember that we can maximize water uptake by keeping the concentrations of solutes low, so a continual supply of a weak solution is best. Nutrients dont just suddenly appear in large quantities in nature, so the low and continual dose method most closely mimics the nutritional supply Mother Nature offers. If you decide to adopt a "fertilize every time you water" approach, most liquid fertilizers can be applied at to 1 tsp per gallon for best results. If you decide thats too much work, try halving the dose recommended & cutting the interval in half. You can work out the math for granular soluble fertilizers and apply at a similar rate.

The system is rather self regulating if fertilizer is applied in low concentrations each time you water, even with houseplants in winter. As the plants growth slows, so does its need for both water and nutrients. Larger plants and plants that are growing robustly will need more water and nutrients, so linking nutrient supply to the water supply is a win/win situation all around.

Another advantage to supplying a continual low concentration of fertilizer is it eliminates the tendency of plants to show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies after they have received high doses of fertilizer and then been allowed to return to a more favorable level of soil solute concentrations. Even at perfectly acceptable concentrations of nutrients in the soil, plants previously exposed to high concentrations of fertilizer readily display these symptoms.

You will still need to guard against watering in sips and that habits accompanying tendency to allow solute (salt) accumulation in soils. Remember that as salts accumulate, both water and nutrient uptake is made more difficult and finally impaired or made impossible in severe cases. Your soils should always allow you to water so that at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied passes through the soil and out the drain hole to be discarded. This flushes the soil and carries accumulating solutes out the drain hole.

I have recently switched to a liquid fertilizer with micronutrients in a 12:4:8 NPK ratio. Note how close this fits the average ratio of NPK content in plant tissues, noted above (10:1.5:7). If the P looks a little high at 4, consider that in container soils, P begins to be more tightly held as pH goes from 6.5 to below 6.0, which is on the high side of most container soils pH, so the manufacturer probably gave this some careful consideration.

To answer the inevitable questions about specialty fertilizers and "special" plant nutritional requirements, let me repeat that plants need nutrients in roughly the same ratio. Ratio is an entirely a separate consideration from dosage. Youll need to adjust the dosage to fit the plant and perhaps strike a happy medium in containers that have a diversity of material.

If nutrient availability is unbalanced, if plants are getting more than they need of certain nutrients, but less than they need of others, the nutrient they need the most will be the one that limits growth. Whatever nutrients are available in excess, will be absorbed by the plant to a certain degree, and in some cases, this may lead to toxicity or even symptoms of shortages of other nutrients as toxicity levels block a plant's ability to take up other nutrients. Too much nitrogen will lead to excessive foliage production and less flowering. Too much potassium or phosphorus will not lead to ill effect, but will show up as a deficiency of other nutrients as it blocks uptake.

What about the "Bloom Booster" fertilizers you might ask? To induce more prolific flowering, a reduced N supply will have more and better effect than the high P bloom formulas. When N is reduced, it slows vegetative growth without reducing photosynthesis. Since vegetative growth is limited by a lack of N, and the photosynthetic machinery continues to turn out food, it leaves an expendable surplus for the plant to spend on flowers and fruit.

The fact that different species of plants grow in different types of soil where they are naturally found, does not mean that one needs more of a certain nutrient than the other. It just means that the plants have developed strategies to adapt to certain conditions, like excesses and deficiencies of particular nutrients..

Plants that "love" acid soils, e.g., have simply developed strategies to cope with those soils. Their calcium needs are still the same as any other plant and no different from the nutrient requirements of plants that thrive in alkaline soils. The problem for acid-loving plants is that they are unable to adequately limit their calcium uptake, and will absorb too much of it when available, resulting in cellular pH-values that are too high. Some acid-loving plants also have difficulties absorbing Fe, Mn, Cu, or Zn, which is more tightly held in alkaline soils, another reason why they thrive in low pH (acid) soils.

The point Im trying to make in the last three or four paragraphs is simply that nearly all the variables in a fertilizer regimen pertain to the plants ability to handle nutrients, not to the actual nutrient needs of the plant.

So, If you select a fertilizer that is close in ratio to the concentration of major elements in plant tissues, youre going to be in pretty good shape. Whether the fertilizer is furnished in chemical or organic form matters not a whit to the plant. Ions are ions, but there is one consideration. Chemical fertilizers are available for immediate uptake while organic fertilizers must be acted on by passing through the gut of micro-organisms to break them down into usable elemental form. Since microorganism populations are affected by cultural conditions like moisture/air levels in the soil, soil pH, fertility levels, temperature, etc., they tend to follow a boom/bust cycle in container culture, which has an impact on the reliability and timing of delivery of nutrients supplied in organic form.

What am I using? I start with a quart of 12-4-8 liquid Miracle-Gro all purpose plant food. To that, I add 3 Tbsp. of Epsom salts, 2 Tbsp. STEM (Soluble Trace Element Mix), and 1 Tbsp Sprint 138 Fe chelate and agitate until the concentrate is dissolved. I then try to fertilize my plants weakly (pun intended) with a half recommended dose of the concentrate and a little added 5-1-1 fish emulsion. The fish emulsion is for no particular reason except that I have lots of it on hand. This year my display containers performed better than they ever have in years past & they were still all looking amazingly attractive this third week of Oct when I finally decided to dismantle them because of imminent cold weather. I attribute results primarily to a good soil and a healthy nutrient supplementation program.

What would I recommend to someone who asked, for nearly all container plantings? If you can find it, a 12-4-8 liquid blend that contains all the minor elements would a great find and easy to use, but I dont think its available. What Im using does not have all the minors but I supply them with the STEM. Youll likely find a 24-8-16 product readily available in granular, soluble form with all the minors, which is the same ratio as 12-4-8, so if I had to pick one fertilizer for use on all my plants, it would be that.

The chart I promised:

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
K 45-80
S 6-9
Mg 5-15
Ca 5-15
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
M(olybden) 0.003

If you're still awake - thanks for reading. It makes me feel like the effort was worth it. ;o) Let me know what you think - please.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Water Movement and Retention in Container Soils

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clipped on: 04.16.2010 at 04:12 am    last updated on: 04.16.2010 at 04:12 am

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention V

posted by: tapla on 04.09.2008 at 08:08 pm in Container Gardening Forum

A thread similar to this has been posted four other times. Each of the other postings have reached the maximum allowable - 150 replies. I would like to preface this post by saying that over the last few years, the thread & subject has garnered a fair amount of attention, evidenced by the many, many e-mails I find in my in-box, and has been a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. I welcome these individual exchanges, which alone are enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest and curiosity. Not an afterthought - I should add that there is equal satisfaction in the knowledge that some of the information provided in good-spirited exchange might be making a significant difference in some growers' success or satisfaction.
I'll provide links to the previous three threads at the end of what I have written. Thank you for looking into this subject - I hope that any/all who read it take something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long, but I hope you find it worth the read.

Al

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention

A Discussion About Soils

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 Ill 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 basic mix recipes later, in case any would like to try the soil. It will follow the Water Movement info.

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, 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 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 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/"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 havent 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 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 in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)
micronutrient powder, other continued source of micronutrients, or fertilizer with all minors

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)
1/2 cup micronutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

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
micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors)

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 - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface or Schultz soil conditioner, and others.

Thank you for your interest.

Al Fassezke

If there is interest, please find the previous postings here:

Posting I

Posting II

Posting III

Posting IV



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clipped on: 04.16.2010 at 04:07 am    last updated on: 04.16.2010 at 04:08 am