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RE: [Al / Tapla's Gritty 1:1:1 mix] Pictures (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: gar_newbie on 05.29.2011 at 07:15 pm in Container Gardening Forum

The particles are on one-dollar bill with a dime on top of it for reference.

Gritty mix 1:1:1
Gran-I-Grit 0 to 1/16 inch
Gran-I-Grit 1/16 to 1/8 inch
Gran-I-Grit 1/8 to 1/4 inch
Floor-Dry 0 to 1/16 inch
Floor-Dry 1/16 to 1/8 inch
Floor-Dry 1/8 to 1/4 inch
Turface 0 to 1/16 inch
Turface 1/16 to 1/8 inch
Turface 1/8 to 1/4 inch
Fir Bark 0 to 1/16 inch
Fir Bark 1/16 to 1/8 inch
Fir Bark 1/8 to 1/4 inch
Fir Bark 1/4 to 3/8 inch
Fir Bark 3/8 inch and above
Pine Bark 0 to 1/16 inch
Pine Bark 1/16 to 1/8 inch
Pine Bark 1/8 to 1/4 inch
Pine Bark 1/4 to 3/8 inch
Pine Bark 3/8 inch and above



clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 07:50 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 07:50 pm

A Soil Discussion

posted by: tapla on 11.06.2007 at 12:18 am in House Plants Forum

A Soil Discussion

Ive been thinking about what I want to say about soils here, and how I should open. Im going to talk a little about soils primarily from the perspective of what is best for the plant - not the planter. ;o) More often than not, the two ideas are mutually exclusive, and the plant suffers loss of vitality for grower convenience. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Probably none of us can afford the time it would take to give our plants the best care possible, and we need to decide on an individual basis, how much attention we can pay our plants. Ill explain later.

Let me start by saying that whenever I say plants I mean a very high % of house plants and freely allow that there are exceptions to every rule; but, we need to learn the rules before we can recognize the exception. Im going to offer a few (of what I think are) rules I believe are difficult to challenge, and that Ive adopted in my growing practices after a fair amount of study and consideration. Im going to leave light levels out of this conversation after acknowledging that they are probably just as important as soil to a planting, the difference being, we can recognize and change poor light levels easily if we choose, but poor soils are not so easily remedied.

Rule: Plants need air in the root zone as much as they need light and water. The soils we usually buy in a bag either do not supply enough aeration from the outset, or they do not supply it for a long enough period. Most, or at least many readers are expecting their plants to live in the same soil for several years, when the fact is that most peat based soils substantially collapse within a single growth cycle. That is to say that the peat particles break down into continually smaller pieces. This reduces the number of macropores (large air pockets), causes compaction, and increases the amount of water the soil holds in root zone and increases the length of time it remains there.

What does this mean to our plants? Well, there is the specter of root rot, but even if we set that aside, there is something more subtle occurring. Whenever roots are deprived of oxygen (O2) they soon begin to die - incrementally. First, and after only a few hours in saturated conditions, the finest roots that absorb water and nutrients begin to die. Already, the plant is operating under stress. Gradually, thicker roots die unless the plant uses the water in the root zone or it evaporates and O2 is allowed back into the soil. When adequate aeration is restored, the plant is disadvantaged, because fine rootage has died. The plant begins to regenerate the lost roots, but guess what? It has to call on energy reserves it has stored because the roots cannot efficiently take up water and the building blocks from which it makes food (nutrients/fertilizer). This stored photosynthate that goes to root regeneration would have been used to increase biomass - flowers, fruit, foliage, stem thickness. See how subtly aeration affects growth?

Rule: Our number one priority when establishing a planting should be to choose a soil that guarantees adequate aeration for the expected life of that planting. We can easily change every other cultural influence if we choose. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture levels .. all can be changed, but we cannot change aeration, so we really need to consider that as a priority.

It is here where we need to bring attention to the fact that, as alluded to above, convenience has costs. Im not saying that in chiding fashion. I simply want to make the point that when youre able to go several days to a week without watering, in a high % of cases, the cyclic death and regeneration of roots is taking place. The plant is growing under stress and is weakened to varying degrees, depending on the severity of O2 deprivation in the root zone.

Rule: A fast soil that drains freely will be far superior from a plant vitality perspective than a more convenient soil that stays wet. The cost: Youll need to decide if youre willing to water and fertilize more frequently to secure the added vitality.

I could go on for days about soil, but Im hoping that Ill be able to discuss HOW we can get to a better place with regard to our soils through answering any questions that might come up, and exploring options. Before I close, I would like to talk for a minute about another bane of poor soils.

Many of us recognize what we consider the main danger of overwatering - root rot, and do our best to prevent it. Most often, its by watering sparingly so the soil is never saturated, but let me explain what happens when we do this.

Plants best take up water and the ions dissolved in it when the ion level is very low. This ion level is measured by either electrical conductivity (EC) or the total amount of dissolved solids (TDS). Problems arise when the TDS/EC level is low, when the plant can take up water easily. It remains hydrated, but starves because there is not a high enough concentration of ions in the soil water. If the level of TDS/EC is too high, the process of osmosis is affected, and the plant cannot efficiently take up either water OR nutrients, and the plant can starve or die of thirst in a sea of plenty. Its up to us to supply the right mix of all the nutrients in a favorable range of TDS/EC.

Im sorry to be a little technical, but Im getting to a point. When using soils that are not fast enough to allow us to water copiously and continually flush the salts that accumulate from fertilizer and irrigation water something unwanted occurs. If we do not flush the soil, these salts accumulate. This pushes up the level of TDS/EC and makes it increasingly difficult for the plant to take up water and nutrients.

Imagine: A soil that is killing our most efficient roots, which stresses the plant and makes it more difficult to take up water due to the lack of those roots, while it insures that the level of TDS/EC will rise, making it difficult or impossible on yet another front for the plant to take up water and nutrients. Is it any wonder that our plants start to struggle so mightily toward winters end? Are we really seeing the effects of low humidity or do you think it might be drought stress brought on by either an inappropriate soil or less than favorable watering practices? Probably a little or a lot of both.

Rule: Whenever you consider a plant in trouble, you must consider not only the plant, but the rest of the planting as well - including the soil. The insect infestations, diseases, and stress/strain we so often need help with here, can almost always be traced back to weakening of the organism due to an inappropriate soil (or, as noted, inadequate light - though in an extremely high % of cases, it is indeed the soil).

This only touches on the cause/effect relationship of the soil to the planting. If there are questions, Ill try to answer them. If there is disagreement on a point or points, Ill offer the science behind my thinking and you can decide individually if the things I set down make sense.

I would strongly urge anyone who wasnt long ago bored to tears to follow this link to another thread I offered on the container gardening forum. If you want to get into the science and physics of what happens to Water in Container Soils, this will help explain it. You'll also come away with the knowledge of what makes a good soil.

I hope this starts a lively discussion and provokes lots of questions, but more importantly, I hope it eventually, and as the thread progresses, helps put a few more pieces of the puzzle together for at least a few forum participants. ;o)

Please forgive grammer/spelling errors. It's late here & I'm weary. ;o)



clipped on: 03.16.2012 at 12:19 pm    last updated on: 03.16.2012 at 12:19 pm

RE: A1 Grit in the CA (LA) area (Follow-Up #91)

posted by: cebury on 09.28.2010 at 02:35 pm in Container Gardening Forum

In California Areas (esp. Central and Southern):

I'm glad folks are connecting with the A1 Grit products since they are located in LA area (Irwindale + another location). Roofers and Poultry are main clients in CA, but also Pet Shops can get it. Keep in mind there are many different A1 Grit products and sizes, not all grit is the same. If you do find a roofing company that stocks it, ask specifically for A1 Granite #10 Grit
. This is from their website, the "Crushed Granite Line"

A1 Grit also provides a "Poultry Grit Line" (, which may or may not be labeled as such. You can often find the true A1 labeling on the package, even though a different label is applied in larger writing. Many times the sizing is stamped on the bottom (if the bag is standing upright). Here is what my bag looked like:
Photobucket It is a 7/8 cubic foot, 75 pound bag, double layered paper over sealed plastic interior.

The #16 Chicken Grit from their Poultry product line is too small. And I'm not sure why the #10 Pigeon Grit is red colored, so I can't recommend that without at least some reservation until I talk with them.

There are two reasons I included the Poultry link, even though the Crushed Granite line is preferred. First, I am finding that almost all Pet Shop stores in my city can special order it. If you are in Central CA or LA area and have a pet shop close by, they might easily get it for you -- I pay $9-$11 per #75lb bag, this includes their retail markup. Some people still tell me it's a #50lb bag when it is very clearly labeled and weighs at 75 lbs, so just FYI.

The second reason I'm including the Poultry line is the Pet Shops unknowingly provided me with either #10 and #12 Grit. I have a feeling what they called #10 Poultry Grit was really the Crushed Granite Grit #10, it looked exactly like the picture I posted above and was not the red colored one in their Poultry line page. Notice the shapes of the rock: they are are odd shaped, angular, which is generally preferred for the standard gritty mix.

For Folks Creating Gritty Mix in Hot Arid Areas
The #12 Poultry grit is not even included on their website as a valid product line. Yet that is what I received. The particles looked identical to the #16 Chicken Grit, but were larger. Though the biggest difference is size (of course), but the shape is spherical (not ideal, but it still works) like is shown in their #16 picture.

The #12 size is also acceptable for the gritty mix, but it WILL hold more water. Per Al, it perfectly walks the border of being small but not small enough to create a perched water table. If you only have #12 grit available or are in a desert area and want to create a mix that holds a bit more water, this is one way to accomplish that and still maintain at 1:1:1 ratio.

The Turface component is required to be near the same size as your grit component. Otherwise the grit tends to fall through the pores and after long-term watering will be distributed unevenly with more on the bottom of the mix. Keep this in mind when sifting -- if using #12 you'll need some smaller Turface particles in your mix (NOT dust, just more numerous smaller ones). Instead of using aluminum insect screen to sift (which has mostly square holes), I used fiberglass screen to sift (smaller rectangular holes, half size of the squares) which still eliminates all the dust but does retain smaller Turface particles that are large enough to avoid a PWT and be friendly with the #12 grit.


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 06:48 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 06:48 pm

First time using Al's Gritty Mix... in an emergency

posted by: Ohiofem on 02.20.2011 at 05:14 pm in Container Gardening Forum

As a newby who just recently joined Garden Web, I would like to share my experience using what I have learned from Al's Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention threads to address an "emergency." I have a beautiful 8-year-old Clivia miniata "Victorian Peach" that has bloomed three times. Here is a photo of it in the summer of 2008.

When it began to flower last summer during hot and humid days, the scape never elongated and the bloom got "stuck" in the base of the plant. A few days ago, I noticed that there was crown rot developing at the site of the aborted bloom between the leaves at the base of the plant. I carefully cut off the leaves and the top part of the crown to remove all rot. I treated the cut surface of the crown with a fungicide. The plant has produced five offsets, one of which is three years old and ready to produce blooms of its own. I had promised a friend that when the time was right this spring, I would divide the plant and send him the mature offset. When I realized that the plant was in danger, I decided that I needed to move fast if I was going to be able to save it. Here's a photo of the plant after I cleaned out all the rot.

Here's a photo of the roots once I removed it from its pot. Note that clivia roots are similar to orchid roots, but very susceptible to rot

Yesterday I went shopping for the ingredients for Al's gritty mix. From left to right, I purchased 24 quarts of Repti-bark fir bark for $18.99; 24 quarts of NAPA Floor Dry #8822 for $7.99; and 50 pounds of Gran-i-grit grower grit for $7.99. (The bag of grit looks about the same size as the other two bags, so I am guessing it's about 24 quarts.) I also purchased 2.5 pounds of gypsum for $8.95.

Here are the ingredients before mixing (granite at 6 o'clock):

I had to use a kitchen colander to screen the Floor Dry. I just rinsed the granite. The fir bark seems a little large, with no fines, so I just used it out of the bag. Here is the final mix:

I divided the plant with a sharp, sterilized knife to remove the mature offset to send to my friend and removed as much old soil as I could. I also remived any dead roots, but there were only a few. I repotted the crown with its four offsets into a one gallon pot of damp gritty mix. I allowed the roots to rise above the mix a little so I could keep an eye on their health. If any problems develop, I should be able to tell because the roots will start to show rot. This is an idea I got from my clivia "mentor" and it has worked for me in the past. It may not be necessary with gritty mix. Here's how the plant looks now:

I now have about 17 gallons (2+ cubic feet) of gritty mix left over for my next project, plus two pounds of gypsum. The total cost for this project was about $37, or just over $2 per gallon. It would be much cheaper to use pine bark fines, but none of the garden centers are selling it during winter.


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 03:13 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 03:13 pm

RE: Help! Al's Gritty Mix: crushed granite alternative? (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: greenman28 on 10.21.2011 at 02:55 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi, Ruby!

Just thought I'd jump in here since I have a few minutes before lunch....

The Gritty Mix is easier to get into the roots...than it is to get the Miracle Grow out of the roots ;-)
Just add a little mix at a time, poke around with a chopstick, add a bit more mix, and so forth.

Yes, Bare-root any plant going from non-Gritty to Gritty Mix.

If using Foliage Pro with the Gritty Mix, you can skip the gypsum and epsom salts.

With the 5-1-1 mix, you will still add the Dolomitic Lime.



clipped on: 03.16.2012 at 11:32 am    last updated on: 03.16.2012 at 11:32 am

How do you care for perennials so they come back strong?

posted by: railparail on 09.07.2011 at 01:49 pm in California Gardening Forum


I found this great forum and I'm thrilled to be the part of the community. I am in SS Zone 16/17, in SF Bay Area, on the peninsula.

I've been growing some hardy annuals in containers at my garden for the past couple of years. Some of these are borderline but some others are survivors over the coldest winters. Some that I've tried are Freesias, Tuberous Begonias (that need storage in winter and are true perennials), and some are verbanas, fuschias and evergreen begonia (forgot the variety) and Million Bells etc., which are apparently almost evergreens in my climate.

So my question is about the latter, that survive through the winter.

Trouble I've had is that they hold up but the following Spring, they take REALLY long time and effort to come back. I've seen that they never really revive even in Spring.

What am I doing wrong? My last year's survivors took the entire season to barely *begin* growing by which time it's fall already! I watered regularly, and provided them with partial sun+shade. Do they need a feeding schedule or do they need soil change or what else? What is your experience?

I would love to be able to see full containers the next year! I am not expecting them to keep growing through winters but I was really thinking that once weather gets better, they will continue the growth from where they stopped. Does not seem to happen....

Thanks in advance for the advice!!


clipped on: 03.14.2012 at 07:59 pm    last updated on: 03.14.2012 at 08:02 pm

RE: Is this nitrogen deficiency? (Follow-Up #16)

posted by: tapla on 10.15.2010 at 07:50 pm in Citrus Forum

For small amounts of Micromax, you can contact Julian @:

Earth Juice MicroBlast is a liquid micronutrient supplement widely available on the net.

STEM is a soluble preparation. If, after your researching is completed, you decide you want to use STEM, contact me off forum and I'll help.



clipped on: 03.17.2012 at 11:08 am    last updated on: 03.17.2012 at 11:08 am

More Soil Substrate Comparisons

posted by: penfold2 on 09.20.2011 at 02:03 am in Cacti & Succulents Forum

Inspired by xerophyte_nyc's previous experiment on soil substrates, I decided to carry out my own. I focused on drainage components since that is my biggest concern, and is always an issue for succulent growers. The materials I used are lava rock, pumice, granite grit, and perlite.

Soil Substrates

While the original sizes of the materials prevented me from using perfectly identical particle sizes, I did sift them to obtain very similar sizes. This should provide a meaningful comparison, but one should keep in mind that particle size has a very strong influence on these numbers, so they should be looked at primarily in relative terms. Also, mixing different particle sizes tends to yield results similar to those of the smallest particle size. So, for example, adding perlite to peat will not increase porosity until the mix is mostly perlite. This is why I try to use equal particle sizes in my mixes.

After sifting, I filled each cup with substrate, then measured the amount of water required to fill the cup and substrate, then measured the amount of water that drained from the cup when the drainage hole was uncovered. From these two numbers I determined the values below.

Porosity (% air space) Water Capacity % Saturation (water/porosity)
Perlite 61 22 36
Pumice 53 17 32
Lava 61 18 30
Granite 44 8 18

There are a couple interesting things to note here. Perlite, pumice and lava rock appear to have very similar characteristics, with perlite holding just a bit more water than the others. From the looks of things, I'd say they could be used nearly interchangeable. And although I didn't expect granite to hold much water, I also didn't expect it to be so far behind the other materials, especially since it appeared to have a slightly smaller particle size than the rest. Yet it held only 8% water. Obviously it has no internal porosity, but its smooth surface may also help it to shed water when compared to the irregular surfaces of the other materials.


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 03:12 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 03:13 pm

RE: newbie overwhelmed by gritty mix info (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: jodik on 12.28.2010 at 11:03 am in Container Gardening Forum

Hello, idabean. The gritty mixes are nothing to be intimidated by... once you have a basic understanding of HOW and WHY they work so well, and you have gone over the basic information a few times to familiarize yourself with it, it's all relatively easy.

The tough part sometimes, is locating the ingredients we'd prefer to use... although, there are some substitutions that can be used. This is one of the reasons it helps to know the HOW and WHY of it all... so you'll know which items can work in place of others.

The first thing to remember is that container gardening is completely different than gardening in the ground. Mother Nature has her own little army of microscopic creatures that work diligently at breaking down matter into usable food for plants, keeping the ground aerated, and keeping a balance of PH, and good and bad bacterias, fungi, and other elements, etc...

This same army of constantly working creatures is not present within the confines of a container, so the soils tend to compact, the balance of good and bad cannot be maintained well... in a word, organic growing doesn't work very well in confined spaces.

Moving on... I, myself, had a very difficult time locating the ingredients I needed. I didn't need much, though, and I'm only using the gritty mix at present for my indoor plants, so I settled on 3 basic ingredients that were rather easy to locate.

At PetsMart, I bought the larger bag of Repti-Bark fir bark bedding for reptiles. It's 100% fir bark, clean and ready to use right out of the bag.

At Rural King, which is a farm oriented store, I bought small bags of Manna Pro Poultry Grit, which is 100% granite chips. It does need to be rinsed and screened to remove dust and tiny particles.

And I get bags of perlite from anywhere... Lowe's or Meijer's, Home Depot... almost any store that has a plant/garden section carries perlite.

Turface is an excellent ingredient, but I haven't been able to get any in quantities I need yet. I know there's a thread in this forum dedicated mostly to ingredient location, and I'm sure people here would be most happy to help you locate what you need.

The link below is the starting point. I read it over several times, digesting the information very well before I struck out on a quest for the ingredients I needed. My suggestion is that you do the same. Learn how and why a grittier, more fast draining, well aerated medium is conducive to healthier roots.

Take it all slowly... there's no reason to rush, or to be intimidated. There are plenty of wonderful, helpful, very knowledgeable gardeners here who are more than happy to help you, every step of the way. :-)

Happy Gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention 12


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 12:42 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 12:43 pm

RE: Re-pot or pot up meyer lemon? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: calistoga on 08.30.2010 at 09:56 am in Container Gardening Forum

Your roots are to the stage that potting up to a larger pot would be appropriate. The roots are not pot bound yet but I would cut through them vertically from top to bottom in several places about 2 inches deep when potting up. I would not consider bare rooting them. Orchid mixes are usually mostly fir bark and come in large size pieces or small. The smaller size I think would be OK for your tree. Most houses in the winter with the heat on become very dry and tend to draw the moisture out of the foliage. Do what you can to keep a reasonable humidity and rotate the containers to equalize the light. You will need to water about once a week with enough water that about 20% drains freely from the container. If your trees show signs of wilting between watering, shorten up the watering frequency slightly. If available locally look for citrus labeled fertilizer that lists the minors on the label. Watch for aphids or scale and if found take the containers outside, and spray thoroughly with Neem or horticultural oil. Al


clipped on: 03.17.2012 at 10:57 am    last updated on: 03.17.2012 at 10:57 am

RE: Substitutes for ingredients in Al's gritty mix (Follow-Up #32)

posted by: tapla on 04.16.2010 at 04:30 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi, Diane - I use gypsum as a Ca source in the gritty mix. When a lower soil pH is desired, or when making the gritty mix, there is benefit in using gypsum as a Ca source in lieu of dolomite (garden lime) because the gypsum doesn't raise pH. Whenever you do chose to use gypsum instead of dolomite as your Ca source, you need a Mg source. For that, Epsom salts fills the bill very nicely.

As a general rule, I use lime in the 5:1:1 mix to raise pH and supply Ca/Mg. In the gritty mix, I use gypsum because it DOESN'T raise pH and to supply Ca (and S). Because Ca and Mg need to be present in soils in a favorable ratio, and you DO need a Mg source, when using gypsum I also use Epsom salts. Clear? .... or still fuzzy? ;o)

4 kinds of mint in the gritty mix, all pinched nice & tight:


Chocolate, pineapple, spearmint, and I forget mint. They'll grow equally well in the 5:1:1 mix, too.



clipped on: 03.17.2012 at 11:50 am    last updated on: 03.17.2012 at 11:50 am

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.



clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 07:49 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 07:50 pm

RE: Supplies by State/Region: Al's Gritty Mix (Follow-Up #71)

posted by: scubastan on 04.11.2010 at 11:24 pm in Container Gardening Forum


*** TURFACE MVP - 50# 12.50 bag
Tomark Sports
1180-A California Avenue
Corona, CA 92881

Try looking up Sporting good stores, or ask local highschools, colleges where they get their infield supplies.

*** Crushed Granite
Look up roofing companies. Alot of the ones near me carry grit.

A-1 Grit manufactures the grit, and sells it to a number of companies through out the west coast. Call them and see if they supply anyone near you. 1-800-266-GRIT If you get A-1 Grit you want Size #5.

Allco Roofing Materials 80# bag $5.75
8650 Garvey Avenue
Rosemead, CA 91770-3269
(626) 288-2922

*** Fir Bark
This was the hardest thing for me to find.
Al really likes "Shasta Forest Products" and I called the company to ask for stores that carry their product.

Kellogg Garden Products
8605 Schaefer Avenue
Ontario, California
Phone: 909-673-8065

I decided to use OF Wolfinbarger. It was more affordable. Its not Shasta brand. But it is Fir Bark.
OF Wolfinbarger 2cu ft $4.50 bag. 1/2cu Yard $26.50
5675 Francis Ave;
Chino, CA 91710
-They also have BARK FINES for anyone making 5:1:1 mix.


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 06:42 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 06:42 pm

RE: Supplies by State/Region: Al's Gritty Mix (Follow-Up #93)

posted by: tapla on 10.03.2010 at 10:46 am in Container Gardening Forum

To get the most out of your soil, grit sizes that range from #10 (a little under 1/10") - #5 (just under 3/16") are best. Ideally, you would use a product that is #7 mesh, so 6-8 mesh is excellent.



clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 06:56 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 06:56 pm

RE: Supplies by State/Region: Al's Gritty Mix (Follow-Up #128)

posted by: rysmithjr on 04.11.2011 at 08:26 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Checking quantities here. I have 4x 30 gallon Smart pots and 4x 20 gallon Smart Pots with fruit trees in commercial potting soil currently. If I were to switch everything to Al's Gritty Mix, I believe I will need 4.3 cu ft for each 30 gal and 2.6 cu ft for each 20 gal, for a total of 27 cu ft or so.

Does it look like Should I buy:
7x 50# turface
10x 80# crushed granite
5x 2 cu ft bags bark fines

How much wastage should I expect? Should I buy 30-40% more Turface and 15-20% more bark fines?

In Los Angeles, I have found these nearby sources:

Turface MVP at Ewing Irrigation in Glendale, $12 / 50# bag. ~1.4 cu ft (says

A1 #5 Crushed Granite at Burbank Roofing in Burbank, $5 / 80# bag. ~1 cu ft (standard granite weight estimate)

Fir Bark Fines at OF Wolfinbarger in Chino, $4.50/2 cu ft bag. Going to try to find some at a local landscaper or HD/Lowes to save me the drive, or else find a nursery out that way when I go!


clipped on: 03.15.2012 at 05:01 pm    last updated on: 03.15.2012 at 05:01 pm

RE: Trees in Containers (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: tapla on 04.12.2008 at 11:42 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi, N. Nice to see you, as always. ;o)

Previously, I made the case for why it is important to do a full repot (not to be confused with potting-up) and prune the roots of your containerized trees - 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. The following is written primarily to offer some direction in the root-pruning of a high % of deciduous material, but with some very minor adaptations, it can be applied to conifers and evergreens.

Root pruning can 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 that 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. Most deciduous trees are 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 deciduous 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 roots and those roots growing directly under the trunk. Stop your pruning cuts just beyond where a smaller root branches toward the outside, off the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-roots, encircling roots, or others with abnormal growth.

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.

The first time you root-prune a tree will be the most difficult & will likely take up to 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.

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

When root-pruning a quiescent plant, you needn't worry much about "balancing" top growth with rootage removed. The plant will tend to 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. Though I have many growing in bonsai pots, 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 nurturing trees in containers could look forward to results they can be very pleased with. This is the repotting technique described 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, and have only been potted-up, are likely to be in severe decline or compost well before they're old enough to vote. ;o)

I hope you're bold enough to make it a part of your containerized tree maintenance, and I hope what I've written makes sense - it's well past a prudent bedtime for me.



clipped on: 03.17.2012 at 11:00 am    last updated on: 03.17.2012 at 11:00 am