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RE: Questions re soil mix for Figs and Blueberries, Bay and peach (Follow-Up #44)

posted by: DWD2 on 01.30.2013 at 02:13 am in Container Gardening Forum

Ohiofem, I am truly sorry if you feel I was attacking you. That was not my intention. I do disagree with some of the things said and I have tried to say why and offer what I believe are authoritative sources of information that support what I say. That gives people the power to check your thinking and point out any weaknesses in your point of view. I am a scientist by training and that is how we do things in science. What I am also trying to do, apparently somewhat ineffectively, is provide people with resources I have discovered outside this forum by real horticultural experts that can help you understand the underlying principles of how to make and monitor growing media for plants. I recognize that a lot of people want a recipe for their growing. There are trade offs which, I believe, means there is no perfect media. There are a wide array of choices, each with its own pluses and minuses. Based on my research, I chose to avoid the gritty mix. I tried the 5-1-1 mix for a couple of years along with a couple of other pine bark based media. For my trees, I did not like them compared to some other media I tried. Since you ask, most of my trees are in a mix of 3 parts coconut husks, 1 part coconut coir, 1 part Sunland organic potting soil and 0.5 parts worm castings along with an appropriate amount of Sustane time release fertilizer and variable amounts of feather & blood meal and upon occasion other organic amendments as needed. I am very happy with my results. Others seem happy with the Gritty and/or 5-1-1 with Foliage Pro which is terrific.

Nate, that is a well said post. I agree exactly with your comment about growing big tomatoes. Lots of ways to do it. We seem to be in agreement that you can achieve those results organically as well as other methods.

nil13, I would be very interested to be pointed to a scientific publication demonstrating that a broad array of plants acquire nutrition in a 3-1-2 NPK ratio. I have a couple of hundred papers on various aspects of plant nutrition. I have not seen any scientific publication in the plant sciences supportive of 3-1-2 NPK ratio for nutrition being the reality across a broad array of plants. As I said above, that does not mean a 3-1-2 fertilizer will not work. I am sure you can get it to work well. But you can get a 10-10-10 to work well too. The management of the two is just different. However, if you have something demonstrating the 3-1-2 broadly, I always love to learn something I have missed.

Relative to citrus nutrition you might want to look at this reference:
http://www.actahort.org/books/843/843_33.htm
They measure the N, P, and K along with Ca, Mg and S in young citrus cultivars growing in pots at the transplanting & grafting stages. Table 2 shows that there is variation in N, P and K expressed as mg/plant between shoots, roots and whole plants as well as between cultivars. At the transplant stage, they report that Cleopatra citrus has a 33.8-1-21.3 NPK for the shoots, 18.1-1-10.3 NPK for the roots and 27.0-1-17.3 for the entire plant. For Swingle citrus, they report a 25.6-1-18.5 NPK for the shoots, 17.1-1-14.3 NPK for the roots and 22.5-1-17.0 for the whole plant. Those ratios are very far off the 3-1-2 "universal" ratio and there is also what I view as meaningful variation between cultivars. They report similar ratios for the grafting stage and for plants post grafting. They recommend fertilizing with a 15.5-1-11.6 fertilizer. There are other publications about container grown citrus with similar results, just not as thorough as the roots are not examined.

I pay to have my container-grown citrus leaves tested each year and I am pleased with my nutritional management and my trees.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/CH/CH04600.pdf
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS53100.pdf
Once again, this is not to say one of the other mixes and conventional fertilizers will not give results that people are pleased with.

I agree with the notion that most or all of the components of the mixes we are discussing here are organic in nature. Perlite contains no carbon. So, it is not organic, but it is mined and is inert. I think it is safe to view it as an organic enough component. The real difference is nature of the nutrition supplied to the plants. Conventional growers use synthetically produced molecules that usually do not require further processing by microorganisms to a form usable by a plant. While organic growers use more complex, materials typically produced by other plants or animals that require processing by microorganisms to chemical entities usable by plants.

I think nil13's second post on Monday is really well said!!!

Ohiofem, there are a bunch of people on the Figs 4 Fun forum that grow figs in really cold environments that have practical experiences with that. I am pretty sure a number of them also check out the figs section on this forum. Where I live, we don't have freezing problems, happily. Although, it might be the case that the wetter soil actually offers more freeze protection as ice forming around roots might hold a few degrees of heat in the plant. That is what happens when they spray water on the above ground part of orchards during a freeze. But that is only a guess. I do not know for sure one way or the other.

For those looking to learn more, NC State University and University of Florida both have horticultural websites with loads of great information.

Good luck with your plants!

NOTES:

"Based on my research, I chose to avoid the gritty mix. I tried the 5-1-1 mix for a couple of years along with a couple of other pine bark based media. For my trees, I did not like them compared to some other media I tried. Since you ask, most of my trees are in a mix of 3 parts coconut husks, 1 part coconut coir, 1 part Sunland organic potting soil and 0.5 parts worm castings along with an appropriate amount of Sustane time release fertilizer and variable amounts of feather & blood meal and upon occasion other organic amendments as needed. I am very happy with my results."
clipped on: 04.14.2013 at 09:47 pm    last updated on: 04.14.2013 at 09:49 pm

RE: Pine Bark Fines and Soil ph or Acidity (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: bmoke on 07.18.2008 at 02:56 am in Fig Forum

Al (and James),

This fig raising has consumed tons of my time and enthusiasm. I used to multi-task. Now I am one dimensional. The fig dimension. Tonight I am sleepy. Except for mowing the lawn, I played with figs plant stuff all day and into the night. For the amount of satisfaction derived from working with the fig cuttings, I feel that I owe them their best opportunity to reach maturity. I ask a lot of questions, read all the archived postings and approach things from my point of view, and then see if we all meet at the same intersection. In this case, we are at the intersection, just catty-corner.

I offered this exercise up so that others could reflect on possible reasons for issues they might have. I cannot argue that my tests validate my conclusions, since I only have my intuition to fall back on and many things are contrary to what is intuitively obvious. Prior to this growing season I have had no fig cutting propagation experience. I can only state that I transferred relatively young and immature plants from a stable environment where they were progressing under an alkaline pH (~8.0) that used perlite and/or vermiculite and pond water, to an acidic pH (~5.0) with log scale differences that could vary between between 1000 and 10000 times difference in ionic activity. Yikes. Today, I spent sometime doing tests, that others might be thinking about, or not. Call me anal, my wife does.

Anyway, I did some testing this afternoon and evening and I offer it up as operating experience. I offer it up for whatever it is worth. I am engineer, not a horticulturist. Take whatever I say with a grain of salt and be skeptical. I am no expert in fig propagation. I did some simple tests, that others can dwell on, pass on, or duplicate. My findings surprised me. I am sitting here, almost laughing at myself, at 2:26 am because I want to pass on what I did today in the area of fig propagation. No more, no less. And, I mean this in the most collegial manner.
Al, all your general rules are mesmerizing. In principal I thought I had followed them and believed the results would be superior, without a doubt. Somehow, I simply missed the point or the recipe line item, for using dolomitic limestone. I missed applying one of your requirements, so I take full responsibility for failing to add at least one of the soil amendments that you identified. I do not understand why you would discount that the absence of the limestone was immaterial to the failure of my root systems. If it is not material to the recipe, then why is it in your recipe. A rhetorical question. Anyway, the argument here is convoluted. I am suggesting there might be a collateral benefit of a component in your soil recipe, a benefit that you might not have considered or measured. I measured. I shared the results. Draw your own conclusions. Dismiss the test. I found the test results interesting and cared to share them.

I would contend it (the limestone) is important and would agree with your advice to use it, although for reasons that you apparently think are irrelevant and discount. I am not a chemist, but this pH thing shocks me. I moved plants from an ecosystem thriving at one pH level and then relocated those plants to a drastically different universe. Your use and recommendation for dolomitic limestone may be right, but for the wrong reason. At this hour I am not sure what it provides.

Humor me. I am not a book man. I am an applications type of guy. I test, inspect, and act on the results. So, I removed all of about 40 young plants from their re-potted containers and examined each one. Only one showed a healthy root system, subsequent to being transplanted. They all maintained great outward appearance and vitality and growth, but that appearance belied what was happening below surface. For those that failed, their demise was sudden. I still cannot say conclusively what happened, but I am exploring what the possibilities might be. The remaining plants had anemic, declining root systems.

While you say "pine bark fines generally range from 4.7 as a low to 5.1 as a high", in my test(s) I found that my sample fell outside this general range, by a goodly margin on the logarithmic scale. I tested the samples this afternoon. I initially contested my own results. I bought new batteries for the Hanna pHep tester and made fresh standard test solutions using distilled water and buffer salts made by Micro Essential Laboratory. Two buffers were made to cross-calibrate the pH meter, one at 4.0 pH and the other at 7.0 pH. So, when I tested the pine bark fines in a container of standing water to readout at 3.55 pH it did seem, if not confounding, then oh-my-gosh too low and what did I do to my plant roots exasperating.

I just came back from out-of-doors on the back patio. It is late. The mosquitos were tough. I brewed some fresh turface, grit, and pine bark fines. Here are my test results as of 11:00 pm DST in New Jersey:

I mixed 2p water at 8.19 pH (48 ounces) 1 part dry pine bark fines (24 ounces) and stirred the soup. The pH dropped to <4.00 in 20 minutes. (24 ounces is 1 clear plastic root developing cup). I needed 2p of water to make it soupy.

I mixed 2p water at 8.19 pH and 1p turface and 1p grit and pH lowered to 7.16 pH in 10 minutes.

Then, I mixed the containers of water and solids in a bucket and retested the soup.

The net result after 5 minutes was that pH lowered to 4.98.

So, I assumed that I was transferring these young rooted cuttings from a relatively neutral water pH environment of about 8.0 pH, (giving the vermiculite and perlite medium a relatively neutral credit toward pH) to another relatively compatible, no not compatible but supportive environment, that at best case is actually acid based at 4.98 pH.

Now, fig plants might live long and prosper at 4.98, if they are hardy and once they get acclimated. But gosh, what a way to introduce them to their new home. On the logarithmic scale, moving from an 8.0 to a 5.0 pH is a factor of 1000 fold difference in ionic activity (10 raised to the power of 3). If I were to suddenly add muriatic acid or vinegar to my pond to drop ph from 8.0 to 5.0, it would kill every living fish in a heartbeat. This seems to be what I did to my plants, at best. At worst, on contact with the pine bark fines, the pine bark fines contact moisture was at 3.55 pH, if the standing water tested earlier today is recalled.

So, of course, I did just a couple more tests, here at 11:30 pm. I made, mixed, and measured the pH of three solutions, which took about 45 minutes. Then I tested the mixes. Here is what I mixed and the results. I found these surprising and interesting:

Test 1: units of measure were 1p = 8 ounces dry weight volume.

2p pond water and 1p perlite and pH goes to 7.95 ph. The perlite has a slightly acidic effect on the pond water. Container set aside.

Test 2:

2p pond water and 1p vermiculite and pH goes to 9.60 pH. Wow. Vermiculite is some kind of high pH item. Earlier, with a very very heavy dose of dolomitic limestone stirred into water I could only reach equilibrium at 8.3 pH. The vermiculite would provide better reduction in acidity than dolomitic limestone. Very surprising. Container set aside.

Test 3:

Fresh pond water at 3p pond water and 1p vermiculite and 1p perlite goes to 9.32 pH.. So, if you were plastic cup growing roots using a roughly 50/50 mix perlite and vermiculite, the moisture in that environment, would be 9.32 pH.

Using old school averaging, that might not be reasonably applicable, and a 60:40 mix ratio, the pH would be 7.95+9.60=17.5 divided by 2=8.8 pH.

Logarithmically, the differences between 4.0 pH and even 8.8 pH, let alone a 50:50 mix resulting in a 9.32 pH are huge differences, that cannot be discounted.

I offered this exercise up so that others could reflect on possible reasons for issues they might have. I cannot argue that my tests validate my conclusions, since I only have my intuition to fall back on and many things are contrary to what is intuitively obvious. Prior to this growing season I have had no cutting propagation experience. I can state that I transferred relatively young and immature plants from a stable environment where they were progressing under an alkaline pH (~8.0) that used perlite and/or vermiculite and pond water, to an acidic pH (~5.0) with log scale differences that could vary between between 1000 and 10000 times difference in ionic activity. Yikes.

I still believe your recipe will work. I believe it does work. I believe that hundreds of people are benefiting and happy with your advice. I am happy with your advice and I think I would have had a stellar outcome, if I had followed your advice, except for my error. I have my personal thoughts about how one item in your recipe might provide a benefit that is not supported as fact in the fig community.

After I de-potted and examined each and every root system of about 40 plants, I water washed and sifted out all fines (dusts you might say) smaller than a 1/4 inch mesh screen and larger than a 1/2 inch mesh screen, because it appeared that the "fines" where collecting on and smothering the roots. I repotted again, mostly using the turface, grit, pine bark approach, which I still believe is viable, although some few plants were put into Miracle Gro Potting mix, as a test. Many figs plants originally suffered leaf drop, when the roots failed. A dozen failed entirely. Some others recovered. Several never dropped their leaves, but they were still repotted, and they seem to have weathered the storm. Another handful are now sprouting new apical foliage atop 12 and 18 inch tall, but bare, stems.

Got to go to bed. Please excuse any typos. Take care.

Bill

http://mysite.verizon.net/bill.moke/.


NOTES:

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clipped on: 02.13.2013 at 06:15 pm    last updated on: 02.13.2013 at 06:15 pm

RE: Pine Bark Fines and Soil ph or Acidity (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: bmoke on 07.21.2008 at 08:06 pm in Fig Forum

keith-figs,
I mixed up two batches of your 60/40 Perlite/Sphagnum Peat Moss recipe to test for impact on the pH of water added to mix. One batch consisted of 6 parts perlite, 4 part peat moss, and two parts pond water (8.57 pH). I needed two parts pond water because the peat moss absorbed the first part of water completely. The second batch duplicated the first batch, except that cup (4 ounces) of dolomitic limestone was mixed with the water to ensure even distribution of the limestone throughout the perlite/limestone. These two batches were allowed to rest for one hour, then stirred again. The ph of the two batches was measured. Here are the results:
Perlite/Peat Moss/Water (no limestone) at 3.82 pH
Perlite/Peat Moss/Water (with limestone) at 6.14 pH
In an earlier part of this thread, I had measured the pH of the water in a perlite/vermiculite mix, similar to the one you used. A 100% vermiculite and water mix tested out at 9.6 pH. I was startled that the vermiculite could have such an alkaline impact on water and the roots in contact with that water.
So, it appears that you moved plants that were perfectly comfortable, healthy, stable in a 9.6 pH environments and then transplanted them to a mix that, using my peat moss, tests out at 3.82 pH. The difference between 9.6 and 3.83 is 5.77, in terms of the logarithmic scale. We convert this to decimal units by raising the number ten to the power 5.77. This computes to 5,888,436. Yes, 5 million and change. According to a University of Texas link http://www.utexas.edu/safety/ehs/msds/glossary/?page=p , the definition for Ph reads as follows "pH - The symbol relating the hydrogen ion (H+) concentration to that of a given standard solution. A pH of 7 is neutral. Numbers increasing from 7 to 14 indicate greater alkalinity. Numbers decreasing from 7 to 0 indicate greater acidity. In your case, that concentration changed by a factor of 10 to the power 5.77, or, 5 million and change. I want to be wrong, but regardless of other factors that might be involved, I would suggest it is not a good idea to relocate a plant from one environment to another which, for better or worse, is so different. (my humble opinion). As a separate argument, the number 3.82 pH , in and of itself seems like it would alone lead to the demise of the roots. (my humble opinion).

If a half cup (4 ounces, or .16 parts, 1.3 percent of the total test batch) of dolomite had been added to the mix, the pH would have stabilized at 6.14 ph. The difference here is 9.6 6.14 = 3.46 ph. In decimal 10, the difference in pH values is 28, 840. This is a significant difference over the batch that did not include dolomite. Practically speaking, we are moving from something slightly alkaline to something slightly acidic, still something of a shock to the plant. However, all the literature I have found to date indicates that 6.14 is within the acceptable soil pH level for figs. I have two references on my website. So, at least one should be able to rule out that the roots would be burned by a dolomite addition, where as it could be argued that the roots relocated to a pH level outside recommendations I have been able to locate. Other adverse conditions could be raised by the amount of dolomite that might be added, that are not known to me. Since I am not a horticulturist, I am not a plant pathologist, and I have no credentials in the plant world, I would not be in a position to suggest that my test mix is suitable in any way. I have not, in the field, tested this combination of soil amendments. I only offer the results of the tests, as they are, for your info and use. I would encourage others to perform the same or similar tests. If anyone has, please report your results, so we can all benefit.

Bill

http://mysite.verizon.net/bill.moke/

NOTES:

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clipped on: 02.13.2013 at 06:15 pm    last updated on: 02.13.2013 at 06:15 pm