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Final Kitchen Reveal - Thank you GW!(lots of pictures!)

posted by: a2gemini on 12.09.2012 at 02:27 pm in Kitchens Forum

Final Kitchen Reveal

I can't believe it is almost a year since we signed the contract with the KD and GC. I only wish I had found GardenWeb before I signed the dotted line as I might have done a few things differently.
I hoped to create a web page or a story but decided just to do it in GW. I hope to have a finished kitchen link downstream. Sorry for so many pictures but I did trim it down!

The GardenWeb community was wonderful and so helpful in my decisions (outside of the design as this was done already). Gardenwebbers helped me with my backsplash, deciding on the pull out pantry, decorative lights and so much more. I know many of you have seen the kitchen on various posts but hoping this pulls it together.
I know I have a much better kitchen due to the GW. Thank you!

The original kitchen had contractor Merillat cabinets, Formica countertops, soffits, range with OTR Microwave and Adobe colored light fixtures. The sunroom had some old This End Up furniture.

The workflow was terrible - to empty the dishwasher, I had to go to 3 locations and I didn't really have any zones although technically, there was a triangle. I wanted more creativity in the design, but ended up staying relatively linear as I looked at adding a peninsula but didn't like how it closed in the room.

Our goals for our kitchen were basic - we were not planning on tearing down any walls, so we had the same basic footprint with modifications to enhance workflow. We wanted a warm and welcoming kitchen with quality full height cabinets, lower drawers, an induction cooktop, downdraft exhaust*, wall oven, quartz countertop, under cabinet lighting, and LED lights on dimmers where possible. We were also planning to re-use the hardwood floor. *Decided against this option and went with a hood). I also wanted to avoid box stores as much as possible, so most items were sourced from small businesses or small chains. The

The major changes were: removed soffits, switched range to cooktop and moved to opposite end of kitchen, removed desk and added wall and speed ovens, added a pocket door to the original pantry, and created a functional and fun sun room.

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Cabinets: Brookhaven Autumn Cherry with a black glaze
Pulls: Baldwin Brass 5 and 8 inch arch pulls in antique brass
Countertop: Cambria Buckingham
Sink: Blanco Silgranit Cascade Divide Cafe Brown
Backsplash: Grazia Rixi Crema, Beach mosaic, and 2x2 accent pieces
Paint - BM Coastal Path and trim is Mascarpone
Faucet: Waterstone PLP 5400 Antique Brass
Soap Dispenser: Waterstone Antique Brass
Cooktop: Wolf Induction 36 inch
Hood: Broan Evolution 3
Oven: Wolf E series
Speed Oven: GE Advantium (Monogram)
Refrigerator: Re-use Electrolux
Dishwasher: Re-use Miele
Disposer: 1 HP Insinkerator Evolution
Can Lights: Cooper RL07 3000K LED dimmable
Under Counter lights: GM Lighting LARC bars 3000K dimmable
Cabinet lighting: Kimberly triple bright dimmable tape lighting
Decorative lights: Hubbardton Forge
Rev-A-Shelf cutlery tray
Wusthoff double knife block
Lee Valley spring dividers(but ended up not using most of them)
Garden Window -put in about a year before the project but wish I had waited and put in a flush mount - I still might check to see if I can put in a Cambria seat.
Plug Mold: This was basic plug mold and the GC built an angle trim to mount.
GM LARC bars and Plug Mold - we did need to move the LED bars back as initially we had shadows
Now you can see the lights and plugmold - note the conduit to hide the wires..
Now you don't
What do I love about my new kitchen? Just about everything! I love the drawers, the full height cabinets, the UC lighting, the glass cabinet, my Waterstone faucet and most of all - the workflow!
I can now open the dishwasher and empty everything in the same area. From there, everything is close to the dining room for serving. I can organize and serve without feeling fragmented. I love my small bake zone and having a wall oven that I don't have to lean way down to get items out of it!

I also like my Spice Stack - it takes up so little room and I can use regular bottles

I love just sitting in the sun room and reading my "Nook" in my nook. My DH loves his new cave and the add on pull out pantry next to the refrigerator and the pocket door.


I am also having fun with my label maker - it almost makes me look organized!

What would I do differently? I think I would have looked into custom cabinets with plywood construction (still working on the broken drawer issue). In the bake area - I would have put deeper base and upper cabinets and throughout the kitchen might have gone with deeper uppers. An air switch for the disposer and one less outlet(If I used the air switch, I didn't need the switch and would have deleted the switch outlet to the left of the sink). I would have used 6 inch cans - at the time, I was going to use LED bulbs which fit better in 5 inch cans but the integrated LED cans are harder to find in 5 inch versions. I had to ditch my pegboard drawer insert due to the weight factor. I would not have ordered the Brookhaven knife insert - it was a total waste but maybe I can use it for a cutting board if I flip it over.
Lastly, I wouldn't try to do this again while changing jobs after 32 years, dealing with DM health issues from long distance, and trying to train for a marathon. (The marathon was nixed)

Ktichen Cabinets: Chelsea Lumber Company, Chelsea, Michigan
Faucet and Hardware: The Compleaat Baldwin Brass Center, West Reading PA
Field and Mosaic tile: in Califorinia (not in Michigan - they are unrelated!
Accent Tiles: Malsnee Tile in Reading PA
New Appliances: Heydlauff Appliance, Chelsea MI
Decorative Lights - Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
General Contractor: Bill Brushaber, Manchester, MI
Counter Installer: Blasius, Inc Vassar MI

Here are some drawer pictures
Under cooktop - would have used a false top drawer connected to this one to allow taller pots and fry pans - but love the sideways storage - and I can move the dividers or remove some

Knife drawer with Wustoff knife block
Silverware drawer with Rev-a-shelf insert - how long will the silverware stay this organized!

China drawer - turned out too much weight for the cabinet constructions - so will be modifying this a bit - and won't be using the pegboard..

Gadget drawer - I have made some modifications since the picture was taken but you get the idea - this was compliments of Grumpy Dave and his MadeSmart bins

The towels even have a home- still need to identify a towel rack for drying - I tend to use the towels and then into the wash.
Here is what is hidden in the angle cabinet - I moved the vinegars up to the first shelf - so my DH has to share the space...
This is my skinny cabinet - I was going to switch out to 2 drawers but it works great as is - OK, I was previously busted for having too many cutting boards -but it keeps them all in place perfectly!

Most GW don't like blind corners - but it was already a done deal when I found you - so I made the best of it for now - there is a post where someone built their own turntables - I might do that downstream - but the upper 2 cabinets have turntables to improve access.

I do have a SuperSusan in the corner - keep my most used items on the left and then I only open the first door and snag them - If I need to rotate - then I open it completely.
And I can hide a few items in the corners..

Here are a few pictures of the sunroom - I refer to the cabinets on the ends as the his and her "caves" -Now DH has a place for his toys - the cabinet has power in it to charge electronics and note there are also plugs under the bench for power. The back of the bench back has a piano hinge so we can fold down the back if we want more air flow. The table rises up and moves closer to the bench seat for a cozy breakfast or dinner.

Table up!

The one drawer on each cave is a work space - it is just a big cutting board - but a nice feature.
View from my nook - I wish I had snagged a picture with all of the red leaves - but next year, I will be ready!

What is left - just a few odds and ends - I need to have the hanging light adjusted for proper height, a few light switches to swap. I am also thinking of a Boos kitchen cart - I found one on that looks like it might just work.

Thank you again for helping me along the process. I met so many new friends and hope to meet some of you in person downstream.



clipped on: 12.19.2014 at 03:35 pm    last updated on: 12.19.2014 at 03:36 pm

scrappy25 renovation Part 4, final reveal, white inset/soapstone

posted by: scrappy25 on 12.12.2014 at 09:23 pm in Kitchens Forum

Finally got some "completed" pictures, please ignore the small green notes to the contractor for the very small punch list yet to be done.

It has been quite a journey! I have included many details in previous posts so won't go into them again. This is truly a gardenweb kitchen, a collective effort. THANK YOU!

Location: North Baltimore, Maryland
Contractor: R Solomon (coordinated demo, subfloor, electrical/plumbing, floor installation. drywall, hood/appliance installation, painting.
Flooring; Marrazzi Gunstock Oak porcelain tile, Home Depot
Cabinetry and installation- Inset style with Shaker door, White Dove color, Dutchwood Custom Cabinetry, Myerstown, Pa.
Backsplash: Saltillo Sunflower Ming Green, small size. Bright white grout. Special thanks to mpagmom and justmakeit for their inspiration and esp. to mpagmom for answering all my questions.
Pulls: Belwith Studio Pulls from Amerock. On the drawers I have the P3012-SN (satin nickel, 6 inches long).
Paint: Walls: Wickham Grey, Benjamin Moore. Trim: White Dove, Benjamin Moore.
Countertops: Julia Soapstone, Stonemasters, Kennett Square, PA. Roundover edge profile.
Stainless countertop in toaster nook provided by Dutchwood with the cabinets.
Sink: Kohler Stages 45, Home Depot (tipout tray hinges installed but tray is still not installed).
Faucets: Hansgrohe 06128000 Swing C (bought from ebay to match my existing faucet since it is discontinued).
Under cabinet LED lights:, Premium Modular lights with diffusers and transformer, soft white.
Can lights: CREE soft white LED inserts from Home Depot.

Appliances (all craigslist or ebay display or new units unless otherwise stated. Most of them were purchased as part of an aborted kitchen expansion during the recession and have been in storage for 5 years. I am relieved that they all work well. Amazingly the Subzero/Wolf warranties start on installation and I was even able to get an extra year by using their "official" installers.
Subzero 642 large fridge (panelled), still needs panelled toekick
Subzero 700BR undercounter refrigerator drawers (panelled)
Wolf L Series SO30 Convection oven (panelled)
Gaggenau induction cooktop, C491-610
Bosch 800 dishwasher (gently used), still needs panelled toekick
Miele DG4080 steam oven (gently used)
Thermador PHH36DS Hood
Panasonic Inverter microwave (existing)

For more information, please also see my other posts
Part 1: Layout evolution and cabinet installation
Part 2: Julia soapstone installed
Part 3: The kitchen cockpit (Kohler Stages 45 sink)
I have linked to Part 1 below which will have links to the other posts.

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Before and after
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Layout of new kitchen
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Storage pictures
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Some additional details:

My "Trader Joes" loading shelf (for loading lunches into bags or unloading groceries)
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Baking and flat pan storage using Ikea variera pot lid organizer.
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Pullout shelf which has been useful for refrigerator/microwave/toaster loading and unloading.
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Cuisinart pullout shelf- the cuisinart is plugged in and I use it right on the pullout shelf. Accessories are stored behind it on the same shelf.
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Handy magnetic hidden knife storage for my most used knives (there are more but they were used today, the other less used ones are in a drawer). In this picture you can also see the USB ports on the charging outlet above the shelf. You also get a look at the undercounter LED lights from The lights are a perfect soft white and dim beautifully, I just wish they had white wires instead of black.
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And lastly, replaced the kitchen window because it was such a bear to open. This ones ends lower, close to the counter, and I had my contractor extend the windowsill to 5 inches depth for my overwintering herbs. They are not so pretty but I am happy to have a friendly place for them.
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Here is a link that might be useful: scrappy25 renovation Part 1: layout evolution and cabinet installation

This post was edited by scrappy25 on Fri, Dec 12, 14 at 22:17


clipped on: 12.19.2014 at 03:27 pm    last updated on: 12.19.2014 at 03:27 pm

Finished Traditional Kitchen (lots of pics)

posted by: jm_seattle on 03.05.2011 at 01:54 pm in Kitchens Forum

THANK YOU GARDENWEB! We got so many great ideas from this forum, and everybody was so incredibly helpful and generous.

Here are some pics and a few details:
Kitchen corner
Refrigerator and pantry:
Message center:
Message center with built-in chalkboard
Breakfast nook:
Breakfast nook
Our KD wanted an extremely large window area to bring in light, but made it fit into the old house by breaking it up and using leaded glass:
new leaded glass windows
Sink w/glass filler, runnels, & built-in compost bin:
Sink w/Runnels & built-in compost bin
Built-in compost bin close-up:
Built-in compost bin
Mug shelf:
Mug Shelf
Charging drawer. This entire cabinet is deeper than it appears because it is built into the interior wall behind it, gaining an extra 4" or so of storage space without creeping into the walkway in front of it:
Charging station built into drawer
Island cabinets:
Island cabinets wtih cutting board
Miele ovens installed as flush inset (I searched and never did find pictures of this, so hopefully these will help somebody else):
Miele appliances mounted flush inset
Cleaning closet in "invented space" from interior wall:
Cleaning closet
Extra depth for the vacuum was made by reducing the depth of the drawers under the pantry:
Cleaning closet
The placement of the outlet underneath the music player shelf allows the nasty cordness to be hidden from eye-level:
Music Shelf
Toe-kick heater vent. The toe-kick face under the message center & island is covered with stained oak flooring. From eye-level, the toe-kick absorbs the correct amount of light and gives the appearance of freestanding cabinets.
Under island heater vent
The freestanding appearance is clearer here:
Cabinet built-into wall
Drawers under nook seating area:
Under-seat drawers in nook
There is a powder room off the kitchen. This wasn't our first choice, but ended up being our only choice in this old house, and has been okay, especially considering its placement is directly next to the hallway and away from the primary cooking area:
Bathroom off of kitchen
Adjacent mudroom, which became part of the kitchen remodel. The door is to a laundry chute which we use mostly for kitchen towels & napkins.

Here is a link that might be useful: More pictures


clipped on: 12.03.2014 at 08:41 am    last updated on: 12.03.2014 at 08:41 am

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XVIII

posted by: tapla on 01.23.2014 at 04:16 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XVIII
I first posted this thread back in March of '05. So far, it has reached the maximum number of posts GW allows to a single thread seventeen times, which is much more attention than I ever imagined it would garner. I have reposted it in no small part because it has been great fun, and a wonderful catalyst in the forging of new friendships and in increasing my list of acquaintances with similar growing interests. The forum and email exchanges that stem so often from the subject are in themselves enough to make me hope the subject continues to pique interest, and the exchanges provide helpful information. Most of the motivation for posting this thread another time comes from the reinforcement of hundreds of participants over the years that strongly suggests the information provided in good-spirited collective exchange has made a significant difference in the quality of their growing experience. I'll provide links to some of the more recent of the previous dozen threads and nearly 2,500 posts at the end of what I have written - just in case you have interest in reviewing them. Thank you for taking the time to examine this topic - I hope that any/all who read it take at least something interesting and helpful from it. I know it's long. My hope is that you find it worth the read, and the time you invest results in a significantly improved growing experience.

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 information.

Before we get started, I'd like to mention that I wrote a reply and posted it to a thread recently, and I think it is well worth considering. It not only sets a minimum standard for what constitutes a 'GOOD' soil, but also points to the fact that not all growers look at container soils from the same perspective, which is why growers so often disagree on what makes a 'good' soil. I hope you find it thought provoking:

Is Soil X a 'Good' Soil?

I think any discussion on this topic must largely center around the word "GOOD", and we can broaden the term 'good' so it also includes 'quality' or 'suitable', as in "Is soil X a quality or suitable soil?"

How do we determine if soil A or soil B is a good soil? and before we do that, we'd better decide if we are going to look at it from the plant's perspective or from the grower's perspective, because often there is a considerable amount of conflict to be found in the overlap - so much so that one can often be mutually exclusive of the other.

We can imagine that grower A might not be happy or satisfied unless knows he is squeezing every bit of potential from his plants, and grower Z might not be happy or content unless he can water his plants before leaving on a 2-week jaunt, and still have a weeks worth of not having to water when he returns. Everyone else is somewhere between A and Z; with B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, and Y either unaware of how much difference soil choice can make, or they understand but don't care.

I said all that to illustrate the large measure of futility in trying to establish any sort of standard as to what makes a good soil from the individual grower's perspective; but let's change our focus from the pointless to the possible.

We're only interested in the comparative degrees of 'good' and 'better' here. It would be presumptive to label any soil "best". 'Best I've found' or 'best I've used' CAN sometimes be useful for comparative purposes, but that's a very subjective judgment. Let's tackle 'good', then move on to 'better', and finally see what we can do about qualifying these descriptors so they can apply to all growers.

I would like to think that everyone would prefer to use a soil that can be described as 'good' from the plant's perspective. How do we determine what a plant wants? Surprisingly, we can use %s established by truly scientific studies that are widely accepted in the greenhouse and nursery trades to determine if a soil is good or not good - from the plant's perspective, that is. Rather than use confusing numbers that mean nothing to the hobby grower, I can suggest that our standard for a good soil should be, at a minimum, that you can water that soil properly. That means, that at any time during the growth cycle, you can water your plantings to beyond the point of saturation (so excess water is draining from the pot) without the fear of root rot or compromised root function or metabolism due to (take your pick) too much water or too little air in the root zone.

I think it's very reasonable to withhold the comparative basic descriptor, 'GOOD', from soils that can't be watered properly without compromising root function, or worse, suffering one of the fungaluglies that cause root rot. I also think anyone wishing to make the case from the plant's perspective that a soil that can't be watered to beyond saturation w/o compromising root health can be called 'good', is fighting on the UP side logic hill.

So I contend that 'good' soils are soils we can water correctly; that is, we can flush the soil when we water without concern for compromising root health/function/metabolism. If you ask yourself, "Can I water correctly if I use this soil?" and the answer is 'NO' ... it's not a good soil ... for the reasons stated above.

Can you water correctly using most of the bagged soils readily available? 'NO', I don't think I need to point to a conclusion.

What about 'BETTER'? Can we determine what might make a better soil? Yes, we can. If we start with a soil that meets the minimum standard of 'good', and improve either the physical and/or chemical properties of that soil, or make it last longer, then we have 'better'. Even if we cannot agree on how low we wish to set the bar for what constitutes 'good', we should be able to agree that any soil that reduces excess water retention, increases aeration, ensures increased potential for optimal root health, and lasts longer than soils that only meet some one's individual and arbitrary standard of 'good', is a 'better' soil.

All the plants we grow, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens. It's easy to say, and easy to see the absolute truth in the idea that if you give a plant everything it wants it will flourish and grow; after all, plants are programmed to grow just that way. Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. But we all know it's not that easy. Lifetimes are spent in careful study, trying to determine just exactly what it is that plants want and need to make them grow best.

Since this is a soil discussion, let's see what the plant wants from its soil. The plant wants a soil in which we have endeavored to provide in available form, all the essential nutrients, in the ratio in at which the plant uses them, and at a concentration high enough to prevent deficiencies yet low enough to make it easy to take up water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). First and foremost, though, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, never wet or soggy. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half saturated for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.

We become better growers by improving our ability to reduce the effects of limiting factors, or by eliminating those limiting factors entirely; in other words, by clearing out those influences that stand in the way of the plant reaching its genetic potential. Even if we are able to make every other factor that influences plant growth/vitality absolutely perfect, it could not make up for a substandard soil. For a plant to grow to its genetic potential, every factor has to be perfect, including the soil. Of course, we'll never manage to get to that point, but the good news is that as we get closer and closer, our plants get better and better; and hopefully, we'll get more from our growing experience.

In my travels, I've discovered it almost always ends up being that one little factor that we willingly or unwittingly overlooked that limits us in our abilities, and our plants in their potential.

Food for thought:
A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention

As container gardeners, our first priority should be to ensure the soils we use are adequately aerated for the life of the planting, or in the case of perennial material (trees, shrubs, garden perennials), from repot to repot. Soil aeration/drainage is the most important consideration in any container planting. Soils are the foundation that all container plantings are built on, and aeration is the very cornerstone of that foundation. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find and use soils or primary components with particles larger than peat/compost/coir. Durability and stability of soil components so they contribute to the retention of soil structure for extended periods is also extremely important. Pine and some other types of conifer bark fit the bill nicely, but I'll talk more about various components later.

What I will write also hits pretty hard against the futility in using a drainage layer of coarse materials in attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the total volume of soil available for root colonization. A wick can be employed to remove water from the saturated layer of soil at the container bottom, but a drainage layer is not effective. A wick can be made to work in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now.

Consider this if you will:

Container soils are all about structure, and particle size plays the primary role in determining whether a soil is suited or unsuited to the application. Soil fills only a few needs in container culture. Among them are: Anchorage - a place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Retention - it must retain a nutrient supply in available form sufficient to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - it must be amply porous to allow air to move through the root system and gasses that are the by-product of decomposition to escape. Water - it must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Air - it must contain a volume of air sufficient to ensure that root function/metabolism/growth is not impaired. This is extremely important and the primary reason that heavy, water-retentive soils are so limiting in their affect. Most plants can be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement and retention of water in container soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water to move through soil - one is gravity, the other capillary action. Gravity needs little explanation, but for this writing I would like to note: Gravitational flow potential (GFP) is greater for water at the top of the container than it is for water at the bottom. I'll return to that later.

Capillarity is a function of the natural forces of adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is water's tendency to stick to solid objects like soil particles and the sides of the pot. Cohesion is the tendency for water to stick to itself. Cohesion is why we often find water in droplet form - because cohesion is at times stronger than adhesion; in other words, water's bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; cohesion is what makes water form drops. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source, and it will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There will be a naturally occurring "perched water table" (PWT) in containers when soil particulate size is under about .100 (just under 1/8) inch. Perched water is water that occupies a layer of soil at the bottom of containers or above coarse drainage layers that tends to remain saturated & will not drain from the portion of the pot it occupies. It can evaporate or be used by the plant, but physical forces will not allow it to drain. It is there because the capillary pull of the soil at some point will surpass the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is said to be 'perched'. The smaller the size of the particles in a soil, the greater the height of the PWT. Perched water can be tightly held in heavy (comprised of small particles) soils where it perches (think of a bird on a perch) just above the container bottom where it will not drain; or, it can perch in a layer of heavy soil on top of a coarse drainage layer, where it will not drain.

Imagine that we have five cylinders of varying heights, shapes, and diameters, each with drain holes. If we fill them all with the same soil mix, then saturate the soil, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This saturated area of the container is where roots initially seldom penetrate & where root problems frequently begin due to a lack of aeration and the production of noxious gasses. Water and nutrient uptake are also compromised by lack of air in the root zone. Keeping in mind the fact that the PWT height is dependent on soil particle size and has nothing to do with height or shape of the container, we can draw the conclusion that: If using a soil that supports perched water, tall growing containers will always have a higher percentage of unsaturated soil than squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. From this, we could make a good case that taller containers are easier to grow in.

A given volume of large soil particles has less overall surface area when compared to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They simply drain better and hold more air. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the height of the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Mixing large particles with small is often very ineffective because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. An illustrative question: How much perlite do we need to add to pudding to make it drain well?

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

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

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

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

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

We have seen that adding a coarse drainage layer at the container bottom does not improve drainage. It does though, reduce the volume of soil required to fill a container, making the container lighter. When we employ a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This simply reduces the volume of soil available for roots to colonize. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better and more uniform drainage and have a lower PWT than containers using the same soil with added drainage layers.

The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area on soil particles for water to be attracted to in the soil above the drainage layer than there is in the drainage layer, so the water perches. I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen employ the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, you can simply insert an absorbent wick into a drainage hole & allow it to extend from the saturated soil in the container to a few inches below the bottom of the pot, or allow it to contact soil below the container where the earth acts as a giant wick and will absorb all or most of the perched water in the container, in most cases. Eliminating the PWT has much the same effect as providing your plants much more soil to grow in, as well as allowing more, much needed air in the root zone.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they suffer/die because there is insufficient air at the root zone to insure normal root function, so water/nutrient uptake and root metabolism become seriously impaired.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and how effective a wick is at removing it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup and allow the water to drain. When drainage has stopped, insert a wick into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. Even touching the soil with a toothpick through the drain hole will cause substantial additional water to drain. The water that drains is water that occupied the PWT. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick or toothpick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper than it is, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the water in the PWT along with it. If there is interest, there are other simple and interesting experiments you can perform to confirm the existence of a PWT in container soils. I can expand later in the thread.

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

Bark fines of pine, fir or hemlock, are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that too quickly break down to a soup-like consistency. Conifer bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as nature's preservative. Suberin, more scarce as a presence in sapwood products and hardwood bark, dramatically slows the decomposition of conifer bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains - it retains its structure.

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

The basic soils I use ....

The 5:1:1 mix:

5 parts pine bark fines, dust - 3/8 (size is important
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite (coarse, if you can get it)
garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

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

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

I have seen advice that some highly organic (practically speaking - almost all container soils are highly organic) container soils are productive for up to 5 years or more. I disagree and will explain why if there is interest. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will long outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of two to three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too) should be repotted more frequently to insure they can grow at as close to their genetic potential within the limits of other cultural factors as possible. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look more to inorganic components. Some examples are crushed granite, fine stone, VERY coarse sand (see above - usually no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock (pumice), Turface, calcined DE, and others.

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

The gritty mix:

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

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

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


Post XVI

Post XV

Post XIV


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

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

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

Finally, if you are primarily into houseplants, you can find an Overview of the Basics that should provide help in avoiding the most common pitfalls.

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



clipped on: 03.26.2014 at 08:11 pm    last updated on: 03.26.2014 at 08:11 pm

Column, soffit, headers design detail advice? (pics)

posted by: staceyneil on 03.27.2009 at 09:05 am in Kitchens Forum

I am having a hard time visualizing this all... and would welcome any input you have!!

The house is a one-story ranch that we are renovating. the general aesthetic will be slightly craftsman/cottage, since the house is low with fairly wide overhanging eaves. Will be warm grey shingled exterior, varnished fir craftsman/shaker entry door.

Inside, there are no crown moldings and the window and door casings will be very simple. oak floors (existing) with slate in the mudroom. Simple natural cherry shaker kitchen.

Due to structural and budget constraints, we have some (not ideal) columns and headers we have to deal with. I am trying to decide how to detail the stuff between the kitchen and DR/LR on the plan below, as well as the structural column that needs to come down next to the island with a header that extends over to the fridge wall.

The working plan is to just drywall the header and first (middle/left) column between the kitchen and LR, and then trim out the next (middle/right) column like a real column, framing in a faux column to the right to flank the step down. but they won't have especially pleasing proportions, probably about 13" x 10" (13" is non-negotiable).

Then how to detail the support by the island? I think it would cost a lot more to bury that header (shown with dotted line) in the ceiling, and we'd still have to detail the column somehow. ?????

This is a photo of a smilingjudy's kitchen.. I hope it is OK to repost it here??? I really like what she did with the columns flanking her nature room entrance. My thought is to do the same, where the soffit and first column (by the DW) are just drywalled and painted like "wall" and then the next column, and a faux one we add, are trimmed like columns flanking the step down. Our home is simpler, no crown molding, but I think just trimming the columns a little simpler could work....????

if we do that for those two columns, how do I deal with the necessary header and column next to the island? I could add a faux header/soffit at 90 degrees back to the pantry/desk area, but will it break up the space too much? (low 7'8" celings!). Or leave it as drawn, header and square post, just drywalled but not detailed like a column? it's right next to the opening to the mudroom which I'd planned to trim with door casing....

Sigh- i can't figure it out!


clipped on: 03.08.2014 at 08:54 am    last updated on: 03.08.2014 at 08:54 am