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RE: I hate my irrigation system! (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: calistoga on 02.19.2008 at 10:05 am in California Gardening Forum

The minisprinklers I use are designed to work with water with a high mineral content and not plug up. I tried the ones in your reference but could not keep them open. What I use now are imported from Israel and have names such as Eindor or Eintal and I get them from www.harmonyfarm.com. Al

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clipped on: 02.22.2008 at 10:39 pm    last updated on: 02.22.2008 at 10:40 pm

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #141)

posted by: tapla on 08.10.2007 at 12:52 am in Container Gardening Forum

Yes - the lime & CRF are about right. You only need to be close on your ingredient volumes. It's not too critical.

I don't really screen peat for size. Rather, I push it through a 1/4" or 3/8" hardware cloth soil sieve to break up or "strain" the large chunks and sticks from the rest of the peat.

I have 2 sets of 5 screens that I built & use regularly. 1 set is about 24" square and 3-1/2" deep - the other is about 15" or 16" square and about 2-1/2" deep. They are hardware cloth in 1/2, 3/8, 1/4, 1/8, and insect screening. When I'm using pine bark, I only screen the bark for my soils that I use on woody plant material and that will need to last more than a single grow season. I use screened, uncomposted bark in these long term soils. I discard (in the gardens or beds) all that passes through an 1/8" screen and all that remains above a 1/2 or 3/8 screen, depending on what size plant/pot combination I'm using the soil for. I use unscreened, partially composted pine bark in all my veggie & "pretty flower" plantings or any other short term plantings.

Lately, I've been fortunate enough to be able to find 1/8 to 1/4 prescreened fir bark at $15/4 cu ft. I've been using this pretty exclusively in my long term soils with very good success and minimal effort (prescreened).

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:26 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:26 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #140)

posted by: wi-northernlight on 08.09.2007 at 11:53 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Thanks for clearing that up for me. I thought I had read something about a correction to 5:1:1 but couldn't locate the post to clarify and I've got a batch waiting for me to finish.

Is my estimating correct that with this recipe you would use about 1/2 cup CRF per cu. ft of mix and about 1/4 cup lime per cu. ft. of mix?

Also wondering about the screening aspect. I've screened my peat at 3/16" but my bark fines (Greensmix - so glad to have them) looked pretty good right out of the bag. Do you screen the peat AND the bark fines? What size screens do you recommend.

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:26 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:26 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #139)

posted by: tapla on 08.09.2007 at 10:30 pm in Container Gardening Forum

You're right, Bob. I've addressed this a few times upstream. I usually use somewhere around 5 pine bark fines, 1 peat, 1-2 perlite, plus the other ingredients, but it really wouldn't matter too much if you used the 3:1:1 ratio. It would still drain immensely better & hold much more air for longer than primarily peat soils.

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:23 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:24 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #137)

posted by: wi-northernlight on 08.09.2007 at 09:13 pm in Container Gardening Forum

CONFUSED !

It appears that Al's recipes below are not the same for both batch sizes. The generic recipe is 3:1:1. The big batch seems to come out to about 4:1:1. The small batch looks like about 6:1:1. Which is it? or doesn't it really matter? or am I totally in error?

Thanks to all,

Bob Nlight


PREVIOUS POST WITH AL'S RECIPE

My Soil

I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches.

3 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
micro-nutrient powder (substitute: small amount of good, composted manure

Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

Small batch:

3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
handful lime (careful)
1/4 cup CRF
1 tsp micro-nutrient powder or a dash of manure ;o)

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:23 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:23 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #136)

posted by: tapla on 07.25.2007 at 09:12 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Oh yes. STEM supplies primarily the minor elements in soluble form. You'll still need to supplement the macro-nutrients, (N)-Nitrogen, (P)-Phosphorous, (K)-Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium. W/o looking, I think STEM contains adequate Sulfur. In general and for a high % of plant material, I would suggest MG 24-8-16 in a soil with a high organic content and something like a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20 eg) in a soil with a high mineral content (Turface, granite, pumice, etc).

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:21 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:21 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #134)

posted by: tapla on 07.25.2007 at 09:07 am in Container Gardening Forum

;o) Thank YOU too, for the kind words, E. I'm soo happy for you! From our conversations, you know I use some soils with a very high (often 100% or near that) % of inorganic ingredients. I usually ALWAYS use an uncomposted bark in these soils (fir or pine, depending on a couple of factors) because the intent of using such a high % of inorganic materials is soil longevity and resistance to collapse over a longer expected life. The key consideration is that there is such a small % of bark in the soil that N immobilization is generally never an issue.

I prefer a composted bark product for all my short term plantings ("pretty flowers" and veggies, or stuff I'm just playing around with). The two reasons for that choice are economics and N immobilization. Less N is tied up in partially composted bark than in uncomposted, and in a soil where 3/4 or more is bark, that effect can be significant if not addressed. It's not a huge problem though (if you use an uncomposted conifer bark), as long as you're cognizant of the fact that you will be required to furnish the plant a diet higher in N to maintain best vitality.

Take care - good to hear from you.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:20 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:20 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #126)

posted by: tapla on 07.23.2007 at 10:14 am in Container Gardening Forum

I'm no cacti/succulent expert, but I have quite a few - mainly succulents. I've settled on a mix of:

6 parts screened Turface
3 parts starter grit (crushed granite)
1-2 parts uncomposted pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4" chunks)
1 part coarse silica sand
1 part vermiculite
Micromax (micronutrient source)
gypsum or egg shells

This is an easy mix for me as I usually have several cu ft of bonsai soil mixed up/on hand & I just amend it with additional Turface and granite, then add in the silica, vermiculite, and a Ca source.

Contact me off forum & I'll send you a small bag for your "evaluation". ;o) I'm pretty sure you'll really like it.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:16 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:16 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #114)

posted by: tapla on 06.29.2007 at 06:25 pm in Container Gardening Forum

1) Peat is kind of optional, but I like how it tends to help keep pH on the south side of neutral. Whether or not I would use it also depends in part on the particulate size of the other ingredients. E.g., if the bark size is larger, like mini-nuggets instead of fines that are partially composted, I'd use peat mainly for the added water retention.

If you don't use peat & are using a soil that is low in organic material, I would suggest gypsum as a Ca source unless you are growing plants that like a higher pH, so you are correct.

2) Truthfully, I would skip the worm castings in container soils. They do add a little in the way of micronutrients, but nothing you couldn't easily accomplish chemically or organically with the addition of any one of a number of fertilizers or supplements that include the minors.

I would usually not use Turface in soils that are intended for short term plantings like annual veggie crops or "pretty flowers". ;o) I Use Turface in soils for plantings I intend to be in the same soil for more than a growing season or for bonsai or plants in very shallow containers where drainage is critical. For long term plantings, I use a base soil of equal parts of uncomposted pine or fir bark, Turface, and crushed granite. I vary the amount of Turface/granite as needed to optimize the amount of water the soil holds. You may very well be able to eliminate the granite if you are in a hot or windy area. The equal parts mix is excellent for cacti, succulents, and houseplants in general. With only a couple of other amendments added, you can usually fine tune this mix to suit anything you'd like to grow. The mix you suggested is quite close to something I might use, except for the castings.

Good luck, Amanda.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 01:03 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 01:03 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #108)

posted by: tapla on 06.03.2007 at 10:25 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I suppose it depends on what kind of liming material you used & to what volume of soil you added it to, eh? ;o)

The soil mix you describe should be very near or slightly below neutral pH (7.0). The addition of dolomitic lime will probably raise pH to the plants upper preferred range (7.5) or even higher. If you have water high in carbonates, you could have some pH related nutrient deficiencies show up. If you used gypsum as a liming material, you'd probably be in better shape, but I would still use an acid-forming fertilizer in either case. Good watering habits (flush soil so about 10-15% of the total volume of water applied drains from the container bottom) will help keep carbonates from building in the soil.

Good luck.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:57 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:58 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #106)

posted by: tapla on 05.25.2007 at 11:34 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Felix - I only added fertilizer as needed the first year. In subsequent years, I've added none, I'm in my 6th or 7th year with the soil in raised beds now. Last year I planted a stray parsley plug I had left over in a raised bed. It literally amazed me with how huge it grew. It had at least 3 times the mass of plugs planted in the garden (and my garden soil is excellent, as well).

JaG, et al - I screen my peat through 1/4 inch hardware cloth to break up all the large pieces before I mix the soil (less than 5 minutes per 5 gallons). I then wet the bark down well (not soggy) before incorporating peat & perlite. Then, I mix with a spadefork in a wheelbarrow. I never have wetting problems. I mention often that the soil will need frequent watering, but I have planted several hundreds of containers (prolly several thousand over the years) & never lost a single plant to dessication. What's even a greater contrast to what you report, is that I usually remove 50% or more of the root mass of all the greenhouse material I use in containers, which should compromise their hydraulic capabilities, but I still have no problems with roots drying out as long as I water daily. Though I don't use self watering "earthbox" type containers, I do wick water a number of small containers, and these have not been problematic either.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:56 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:56 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #100)

posted by: tapla on 05.19.2007 at 09:27 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I use Turface mainly in soils for all my woody plants, bonsai, and houseplants, but I also use it in small, singular plantings. I screen it, but it's probably not necessary for most applications you'd encounter. I only use MVP and screen through aluminum insect screening, using what's left (the coarser product). The fines, I use in raised beds and in place of sand in hypertufa troughs.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:51 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:51 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #87)

posted by: tapla on 05.05.2007 at 12:16 pm in Container Gardening Forum

See crushed granite at lower right (Turface at lower left). Disregard the soil at top - it's a soilless mix from my raised beds & would hold too much water to be suitable in containers. It comes in two sizes at feed stores, starter grit (for chickens) and grower grit (for turkeys). It will say 100% granite on the bag. It is pre-screened and will contain no additives. The brand I use is "Grani-Grit".




Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:45 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:45 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #85)

posted by: jdwhitaker on 05.05.2007 at 02:08 am in Container Gardening Forum

If anyone wants to do their houseplants a favor they should definitely try the granite:turface:bark mix. The difference it made for my indoor plants was amazing.

I would also note that the faster draining mixes do require more frequent watering--but not as much as you might think. The superior root systems you get with increased aeration will help greatly with drought tolerance. I use coarse bark and very little peat in my outdoor mix, and never have problems with underwatered plants despite living in a hot & dry climate.

Jason

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:44 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:44 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #84)

posted by: tapla on 05.04.2007 at 10:50 pm in Container Gardening Forum

For short term plantings like veggies or flowery, pretty stuff for the display containers, I use some minor variation of the mix I listed above. For long term plantings - all my woody plant material that I have in bonsai pots, the stuff I'm growing on for bonsai or containerized maples, etc, succulents, and houseplants, I use a mix that is some variation of equal parts of Turface, crushed granite, and pine or fir bark (1:1:1).

I vary the components to fit the preferences of the plant material, E.g., for pines & junipers, I might choose a mix of granite: Turface: Pine bark at a mix of 2:1:1 or 2:2:1, depending on the container size/shape, vigor of plant material, etc. Some plants I grow in straight screened Turface - nothing else.

In general, if I need more water retention, I increase the Turface and reduce the granite. If I want less water retention, I increase the granite while reducing the amount of Turface. Personally, I never use more than 1/3 organic component in long term plantings. It guards against soil collapse & root rot issues. As I always mention though, the added vitality provided by a fast draining, highly aerated mix comes at the price of having to water frequently. BTW, Lava rock/pumice, haydite, Play Ball would all be variably suitable as substitutes for Turface rather than crushed granite.

The bark component of soils holds nutrients reasonably well, Turface has an excellent CEC and holds nutrients & water well. Granite is used to "tune" water retention, add volume, and insure aeration. Pumice is good, similar to Turface, but not as porous & doesn't have as good a CEC.

I list a variety of ingredients so others can adopt a similar soil if they choose w/o having to kill themselves looking for exactly what I use. I do appreciate the uniformity and weight provided by the screened Turface & granite over perlite (already mentioned the superior CEC). Uniformity in particle size also promotes good drainage & aeration.

Sometimes the differences are just not that significant, and can be accommodated by minor chances in the frequency of watering/fertilizing.

Summarizing: A good strategy would be to stick with the less expensive, primarily bark/peat/perlite mixes for the short term plantings, while opting to move toward the primarily inorganic mixes for the longer term.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:43 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:43 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #72)

posted by: tapla on 04.18.2007 at 09:51 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Sure - add mature compost to raised beds if you wish - no reason not to & it really helps in raised beds where drainage is seldom an issue. I would still use the recipe above, but include 1-2 parts compost. You could also increase the Turface & sand by a half part each.

None of this is really too critical as far as being exact in measuring out ingredients. This mix works great for me in my 5b-6a raised beds, so it should be really close to working equally well for you. You can see how rich the soil appears in the photo and you can even gauge the excellent tilth.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:33 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:33 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #70)

posted by: tapla on 04.17.2007 at 08:29 pm in Container Gardening Forum




Something close to a mix of:

5 parts pine bark
1-2 parts sphagnum peat (could use Michigan, reed or sedge peat in raised beds if you wish - prolly better)
1 part Turface (the tan stuff in the photo)
1 part sand (fine sand is as its name suggests - fine in raised beds)
dolomitic lime
CRF
should get the job done. Layer in beds & mix all well (spade fork works best).

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:32 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:32 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #69)

posted by: filix on 04.17.2007 at 06:49 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Al, you gave a recipe for a raised bed. I realy want to do just that. It was bark, turface, crushed granite, sand. Does the sand get mixed all in everything? Or put down for a first layer? My yard is about 1ft of top soil and then all sand. I was going through the archives, and found some more info on it. But still not clear. Thanks for your help. Filix.

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:32 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:32 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #68)

posted by: tapla on 04.17.2007 at 12:22 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I use Micromax for pre-planting incorporation and STEM for maintenance after the effects of the Micromax are diminished.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:31 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:31 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #66)

posted by: tapla on 04.16.2007 at 09:09 pm in Container Gardening Forum

There is no difficulty building a perfectly serviceable soil that will last indefinitely in your containers. The difficulty arises when it's revealed that attention to cultural requirements may be sub-optimal.

Here is a soil that will perform well and last for at least 3 years if you add a little coarse pine or fir bark each year (you'll want to add it anyway to compensate for soil shrinkage):

by volume
3 parts partially composted pine bark
2 parts Turface
1 part sphagnum peat
1 part perlite
gypsum
Controlled Release Fertilizer
Micro-nutrient supplement

If you decide to try this soil, and you think you need more water retention, add an extra part of Turface and/or substitute rockwool for the perlite.

There will be no need to add additional peat in subsequent years.

This soil should be in the range of 6 - 6.5 pH to begin with, which is why I suggested gypsum as a Ca source rather than dolomitic lime.

Good luck.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:29 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:29 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #37)

posted by: tapla on 03.31.2007 at 11:34 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Well, it needn't be anything too special if you intend to use it to drain the PWT, but if you intend to use it as an aid to water uptake, it should be absorbent enough to "lift" water from your reservoir to the bottom of the soil in the container.

Man made chamois of 100% rayon is excellent, but it is a natural product, derived from cellulose & will need occasional replacement.

Al

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:06 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:06 am

RE: Container soils and water in containers III (Follow-Up #36)

posted by: aclum on 03.31.2007 at 06:04 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi Al,

As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm basically doing a tabletop salad garden using a kid's wading pool. It won't have any bottom drain holes, but might have outlets along the bottom edge near the floor of the pool. The floor of the pool has sort of a depression around the perimeter and I was thinking about laying a wick in this "groove." The end of the wick would be directed away from the pool in a pipe nipple extending beyond the edge of the table and then hang down below the level of the pool floor. Depending on the situation, the wick could be used for bottom watering or draining. My question is - what sort of material would you use for a wick in this situation? I'm sort of picturing a 1/2" or so diameter cotton "rope" you might find in fabric or upholstery shops but don't know if this would be the best.

Thanks!
Anne

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clipped on: 11.21.2007 at 12:05 am    last updated on: 11.21.2007 at 12:06 am

Container soils and water in containers III

posted by: jdwhitaker on 02.24.2007 at 01:29 am in Container Gardening Forum

We've worn out two threads in less that two years since Al's original post. Let's keep the discussion going...

CONTAINER SOILS AND WATER IN CONTAINERS
Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on Sat, Mar 19, 05 at 15:57

The following is very long & will be too boring for some to wade through. Two years ago, some of my posts got people curious & they started to e-mail me about soil problems. The "Water Movement" article is an answer I gave in an e-mail. I saved it and adapted it for my bonsai club newsletter & it was subsequently picked up & used by a number of other clubs. I now give talks on container soils and the physics of water movement in containers to area clubs.
I think, as container gardeners, our first priority is to insure aeration for the life of the soil. Since aeration and drainage are inversely linked to soil particle size, it makes good sense to try to find a soil component with particles larger than peat and that will retain its structure for extended periods. Pine bark fits the bill nicely.

The following hits pretty hard against the futility of using a drainage layer in an attempt to improve drainage. It just doesn't work. All it does is reduce the soil available for root colonization. A wick will remove the saturated layer of soil. It works in reverse of the self-watering pots widely being discussed on this forum now. I have no experience with these growing containers, but understand the principle well.

There are potential problems with wick watering that can be alleviated with certain steps. Watch for yellowing leaves with these pots. If they begin to occur, you need to flush the soil well. It is the first sign of chloride damage.

One of the reasons I posted this is because of the number of soil questions I'm getting in my mail. It will be a convenient source for me to link to. I will soon be in the middle of repotting season & my time here will be reduced, unfortunately, for me. I really enjoy all the friends I've made on these forums. ;o)

Since there are many questions about soils appropriate for containers, I'll post by basic mix in case any would like to try it. It will follow the Water Movement info.

Water Movement in Soils

Consider this if you will:

Soil need fill only a few needs in plant culture. Anchorage - A place for roots to extend, securing the plant and preventing it from toppling. Nutrient Sink - It must retain sufficient nutrients to sustain plant systems. Gas Exchange - It must be sufficiently porous to allow air to the root system. And finally, Water - It must retain water enough in liquid and/or vapor form to sustain plants between waterings. Most plants could be grown without soil as long as we can provide air, nutrients, and water, (witness hydroponics). Here, I will concentrate primarily on the movement of water in soil(s).

There are two forces that cause water movement 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 pot than it is for water at the bottom of the pot. 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, water’s bond to itself can be stronger than the bond to the object it might be in contact with; in this condition it forms a drop. Capillary action is in evidence when we dip a paper towel in water. The water will soak into the towel and rise several inches above the surface of the water. It will not drain back into the source. It will stop rising when the GFP equals the capillary attraction of the fibers in the paper.

There is, in every pot, what is called a "perched water table" (PWT). This is water that occupies a layer of soil that is always saturated & will not drain at the bottom of the pot. 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 equal the GFP; therefore, the water does not drain, it is "perched". If we fill five cylinders of varying heights and diameters with the same soil mix and provide each cylinder with a drainage hole, the PWT will be exactly the same height in each container. This is the area of the pot where roots seldom penetrate & where root problems begin due to a lack of aeration. From this we can draw the conclusion that: Tall growing containers are a superior choice over squat containers when using the same soil mix. The reason: The level of the PWT will be the same in each container, with the taller container providing more usable, air holding soil above the PWT. Physiology dictates that plants must be able to take in air at the roots in order to complete transpiration and photosynthesis.

A given volume of large soil particles have less overall surface area in comparison to the same volume of small particles and therefore less overall adhesive attraction to water. So, in soils with large particles, GFP more readily overcomes capillary attraction. They drain better. We all know this, but the reason, often unclear, is that the PWT is lower in coarse soils than in fine soils. The key to good drainage is size and uniformity of soil particles. Large particles mixed with small particles will not improve drainage because the smaller particles fit between the large, increasing surface area which increases the capillary attraction and thus the water holding potential. Water and air cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Contrary to what some hold to be true, sand does not improve drainage. Pumice (aka lava rock), or one of the hi-fired clay products like Turface are good additives which help promote drainage and porosity because of their irregular shape.

Now to the main point: When we use a coarse drainage layer under our soil, it does not improve drainage. It does conserve on the volume of soil required to fill a pot and it makes the pot lighter. When we employ this exercise in an attempt to improve drainage, what we are actually doing is moving the level of the PWT higher in the pot. This reduces available soil for roots to colonize, reduces total usable pot space, and limits potential for beneficial gas exchange. Containers with uniform soil particle size from top of container to bottom will yield better drainage and have a lower PWT than containers with drainage layers. The coarser the drainage layer, the more detrimental to drainage it is because water is more (for lack of a better scientific word) reluctant to make the downward transition because the capillary pull of the soil above the drainage layer is stronger than the GFP. The reason for this is there is far more surface area in the soil for water to be attracted to than there is in the drainage layer.

I know this goes against what most have thought to be true, but the principle is scientifically sound, and experiments have shown it as so. Many nurserymen are now employing the pot-in-pot or the pot-in-trench method of growing to capitalize on the science.

If you discover you need to increase drainage, insert a wick into the pot & allow it to extend from the PWT to several inches below the bottom of the pot. This will successfully eliminate the PWT & give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more, much needed air to the roots.

Uniform size particles of fir, hemlock or pine bark are excellent as the primary component of your soils. The lignin contained in bark keeps it rigid and the rigidity provides air-holding pockets in the root zone far longer than peat or compost mixes that rapidly break down to a soup-like consistency. Bark also contains suberin, a lipid sometimes referred to as nature’s preservative. Suberin is what slows the decomposition of bark-based soils. It contains highly varied hydrocarbon chains and the microorganisms that turn peat to soup have great difficulty cleaving these chains.

In simple terms: Plants that expire because of drainage problems either die of thirst because the roots have rotted and can no longer take up water, or they starve to death because they cannot obtain sufficient air at the root zone for the respiratory or photosynthetic processes.

To confirm the existence of the PWT and the effectiveness of using a wick to remove it, try this experiment: Fill a soft drink cup nearly full of garden soil. Add enough water to fill to the top, being sure all soil is saturated. Punch a drain hole in the bottom of the cup & allow to drain. When the drainage stops, insert a wick several inches up into the drain hole . Take note of how much additional water drains. This is water that occupied the PWT before being drained by the wick. A greatly simplified explanation of what occurs is: The wick "fools" the water into thinking the pot is deeper, so water begins to move downward seeking the "new" bottom of the pot, pulling the rest of the PWT along with it.

Having applied these principles in the culture of my containerized plants, both indoors and out, for many years, the methodology I have adopted has shown to be effective and of great benefit to them. I use many amendments when building my soils, but the basic building process starts with screened bark and perlite. Peat usually plays a very minor role in my container soils because it breaks down rapidly and when it does, it impedes drainage.

My Soil

I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches.

3 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
micro-nutrient powder (substitute: small amount of good, composted manure

Big batch:

3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

Small batch:

3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
handful lime (careful)
1/4 cup CRF
1 tsp micro-nutrient powder or a dash of manure ;o)

I have seen advice that some highly organic soils are productive for up to 5 years. I disagree. Even if you were to substitute fir bark for pine bark in this recipe (and this recipe will far outlast any peat based soil) you should only expect a maximum of three years life before a repot is in order. Usually perennials, including trees (they're perennials too, you know ;o)) should be repotted more frequently to insure vigor closer to genetic potential. If a soil is desired that will retain structure for long periods, we need to look to inorganic amendments. Some examples are crushed granite, pea stone, coarse sand (no smaller than BB size in containers, please), Haydite, lava rock, Turface or Schultz soil conditioner.

I hope this starts a good exchange of ideas & opinions so we all can learn.

Al

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clipped on: 11.20.2007 at 11:37 pm    last updated on: 11.20.2007 at 11:37 pm

RE: Al's container mix!! (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: veggiedreams on 04.19.2007 at 03:45 pm in Container Gardening Forum

FYI: I just wanted to mention that there was an error in Al's original post that he corrected later in the thread. The basic ratio should be 5:1:1 (bark/peat/perlite), not 3:1:1, as stated above. (Refer to the original thread, the first of three, about 2/3 of the way down, for further clarification.)

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RE: Would a mixture of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss work?? (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: tapla on 04.26.2007 at 08:33 pm in House Plants Forum

I would still vigorously try to discourage other forum readers from attempting to grow in the media you described. Sorry, but it invites problems. Nearly all bagged soils collapse too quickly & subsequently hold too much water and too little air. If you're using a bagged soil, you should amend with materials that individually provide structural stability and promote aeration, not sand and peat. Additional peat serves no purpose in a soil already likely comprised of up to 90% peat. It will soon break down to very fine particulates. Sand, while stable in composition, destroys aeration, unless it approaches 1/2 BB size or larger.

I can agree with the idea that mixing your own media can provide a far superior soil than "from a bag" mixes, but I'm afraid my choice of ingredients varies substantially from yours for the reasons I noted above.

My considered guess is that the soil you described would be less than 50% total porosity and exhibit about 20-25% air porosity at container capacity (when the soil is saturated). This can create problems for even the most skillful waterers - guaranteed.

I have advantage over you in that I have grown in soils similar to what you describe & found them lacking. After years of studying container soil physics & chemistry, I've learned that aeration is the key ingredient in selecting or building a container soil. I've several times offered to send you a bag of soil to try, so you could see the difference as well, but you decline & continue to defend a heavy soil that is certain to compact & collapse in containers.

Of course, it doesn't matter to me what you use for soils, but I'd have a guilty conscience if I didn't point out inherent problems with the blend of ingredients you listed and that a high % of growers will encounter soil related problems with a high % of plant material - especially any who are inclined to be heavy-handed with the water.

Al

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clipped on: 11.20.2007 at 10:14 pm    last updated on: 11.20.2007 at 10:14 pm

RE: need groundcover for sunny slope, drought resistant (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: hoovb on 11.12.2007 at 10:47 pm in California Gardening Forum

Bougainvillea is nice, they give a big splash of color, but they can be a little tricky to get started--best planted in warm weather. The root systems on young plants are very delicate, while the old ones--you can't kill them.

We have bougies, Baccharis and prostrate Rosemary, Santolina, lavenders, and a variety of succulents--agave, yucca, crassula. They all do better with a little water in the summertime. One plant I like a lot on the slope in back is Myoporum 'Pacificum'. It grows with no water at all, yet has an intense, rich, green color
And it grows FAST, I planted a single 1 gallon plant, watered it exactly once, and it was 30' wide in less than a year yet without making a pest of itself. Though Simi Valley may be a bit warm for it.

One thing I speak from experience about, if you have any bermuda grass on that slope, kill it and make sure it is really all dead before you plant anything else! It can grow up through anything and you've got a mess on your hands and clearing it out on a slope is miserable.

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clipped on: 11.16.2007 at 10:17 pm    last updated on: 11.16.2007 at 10:17 pm

RE: need groundcover for sunny slope, drought resistant (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: gardenguru1950 on 11.12.2007 at 10:23 pm in California Gardening Forum

Grevillea x gaudichaudii is one of my favorite large-scale groundcovers.

If you do have a large slope and if you think it's "steep" (not easily walked on), you should plant more than just a groundcover.

Consider a mix of small trees, upright shrubs, spreading shrubs and running herbaceous material, such as:

Small trees with tenacious root systems --

Agonis flexuosa PEPPERMINT WILLOW
Callistemon citrinus LEMON BOTTLEBRUSH
Callistemon viminalis WEEPING BOTTLEBRUSH
Heteromeles arbutifolia TOYON
Leptospermum laevigatum AUSTRALIAN TEA TREE

Non-spreading shrubs with deep, bank-holding roots --

Atriplex lentiformis ‘Breweri’ BREWER’S SALTBUSH
Baccharis x ‘Centennial’ DESERT BROOM
Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’ JOYCE COULTER CEANOTHUS
Cistus ‘Santa Cruz’ SANTA CRUZ ROCKROSE
Cistus purpureus PURPLE ROCKROSE
Cistus ‘Sunset’ SUNSET ROCKROSE
Cistus x skanbergii PINK ROCKROSE
Echium candicans PRIDE-OF-MADEIRA
Grevillea (many) GREVILLEA
Melaleuca hypericifolia RED PAPERBARK
Melaleuca nesophila PINK MELALEUCA
Myrica californica PACIFIC WAX MYRTLE
Rhamnus crocea ilicifolia HOLLYLEAF REDBERRY
Rosmarinus officinalis ROSEMARY
Salvia apiana WHITE SAGE
Salvia clevelandii BLUE SAGE

Expansive, low spreading shrubbery --

Acacia redolens PROSTRATE VANILLA WATTLE
Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’ E.C. MANZANITA
Baccharis pilularis ‘Twin Peaks’ TRAILING COYOTE BRUSH
Ceanothus thyr. horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ Y.P. CEANOTHUS
Grevillea (many) GREVILLEA
Myoporum ‘Pacificum’, 'Putah Creek' PACIFICUM SANDALWOOD
Salvia leucophylla ‘Point Sal’ POINT SAL PURPLE SAGE
Salvia mellifera ‘Terra Seca’ TERRA SECA BLACK SAGE

Stem-rooting perennial groundcovers --

Drosanthemum ROSEA ICEPLANT
Gazania rigens leucolaena TRAILING GAZANIA
Lampranthus productus ICEPLANT
Lessingia filanginifolia ‘Silver Carpet’ TRAILING WOOLY ASTER
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ TRAILING ROSEMARY

Joe

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RE: How to build a mist timer. (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: John NY USDA6/7 Sunset34 (Guest) on 08.27.2001 at 09:25 am in Garden Experiments Forum


Intermittent Mist Systems

After you get your timer built, it's time to hook up your system. Start off with a 24 hour timer. This is the type that you would use to turn lights on and off, when you're not at home. They are cheap and readily available. This is set to turn the system on at daylight and off at dusk. The short interval timer, the one you built, plugs into this. Next, in line, comes a 24 volt transformer, available at plumbing or electrical supplies. This is used, because the solenoid valves are 24 volt. Hook the input side of the transformer up to your short interval timer. The output side gets hooked up to a plastic solenoid valve, the type used for underground sprinkler systems. (Shop around for this. Plastic ones are usually available at home improvement stores for $10.00 -$20.00. Metal ones can cost $80.00 or more.)
The in side of the solenoid valve gets hooked to a water supply, and the out side goes to your mister nozzles. These are plastic or metal and are available from greenhouse supply houses, relatively cheaply.
When setting up your nozzles, lay a piece of PVC pipe down the middle of your mist bed. Put the nozzles at the top of risers attached to this pipe. By doing it this way, any excess water in the pipe, when the solenoid shuts off, will run down the riser and not drip on the cuttings. If you put the nozzles in a pipe, suspended over the bed, when the solenoid shuts off, water will drip from the low point, causing rot.
After hooking everything up, plug the 24 hour timer into an outlet, open the water supply to the solenoid, and you're in business!

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clipped on: 07.06.2007 at 01:18 am    last updated on: 07.06.2007 at 01:18 am

RE: free-range chickens (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: macmex on 03.25.2007 at 07:32 am in Homesteading Forum

Well, there are different degrees of "free range." I free range our flock. But they have their own shelter which I close up securely at night. If I didn't they would suffer from predator attacks. I've heard of some who have game hens which will roost in a cedar tree at night. But my guess is that even these birds started out with a coop and still have access to man made shelter.

The answer to your second question is "yes." If they are allowed free access to your garden they will sometimes harm your plants. For instance, chickens love to scratch and take dust baths. For this purpose, there is nothing more inviting to them than freshly tilled dirt. Unfortunately, freshly tilled dirt usually has seeds or transplants in it! Chickens can be murder on tomatoes! Our main vegetable garden is far enough away from the chicken coop that they never get over there, and we have low fences around our other gardens.

The reason most free range chickens don't wander away is that most folk give them at least some feed and a nice place to sleep and lay eggs. Also, you should have in mind that not all breeds of chicken are equal when it comes to this life style. Generally you want something pretty active, alert and thrifty (easy on feed). We raise Kraienkoppes, which like the Old English Game are light bodied, very alert and good at evading day time predators, can fly, are very strong constitutionally and easily raise their own chicks. Other possible breeds to consider would be darker colored leghorns, Campines, Egyptian Fayoumis, Sumatras, Old English Game, many kinds of bantams, Cubalayas, Dominiques, Hamburgs and probably a good many I'm forgetting. Any colored hybrid like Production Reds, Comets, etc. will probably do well. Birds shouldn't be white so as to be less susceptible to predators. Some of these breeds will raise little ones. Some won't. I've seen Sumatras free range and they were awesome.

Hope this helps!

George
Tahlequah, OK

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 09:53 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 09:53 pm

RE: Beware Trudi and Her Seeds... (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: trudi_d on 06.24.2007 at 09:04 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Oh cool! Trudi's Atomic Tomatoes strike again. MWAHAHAHAHA!

I think you read about WS in The Radish. After that article appeared I was invited out to IA and was on the Quad Citites Today Show. It was fun and everyone was so nice,

I WSed Chadwick Cherry a couple of summers back, I put in three plants and well, you've got 5IVE! Do you own a machete or hedge clippers? Keep them nearby ;-)

I gotta agree with GGG, Chadwick Cherry is very, VERY tasty. Like any cherry they do make a life-time supply of fruits. These are very juicy and yum, you can saute a few dozen in olive oil with minced onions and garlic, and then add some fresh herbs anda splash of balsamic vinegar before putting them on the table with dinner. Slurp. Or you can, of course, eat them raw out in the garden. My dog Liz also loves these and would do tricks for them ;-) They're that good.

Congrats on the toms, thank you for the excellent feedback on the germination and transplant success!

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 05:57 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 05:57 pm

RE: Beware Trudi and Her Seeds... (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: girlgroupgirl on 06.24.2007 at 01:26 pm in Winter Sowing Forum

Oh, that is funny. Sweet 100's will do that too! They grow HUGE.

But you know what the best part is?
Chadwick Cherry are about the most SCRUMPTIOUS cherry tomato you can eat! Oh, my they are delish. And you will have endless amounts of them.

I'd jealous. I didn't plant any this year. I was too busy trying a whole bunch of other new tomatoes.

GGG

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 05:54 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 05:54 pm

RE: Already sneaking seeds (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: tosser on 06.29.2007 at 10:58 am in Winter Sowing Forum

I snitched borrowed some daylillies and bittersweet from a ditch last week. The corn is so high it provides perfect cover.

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 05:32 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 05:32 pm

Already sneaking seeds

posted by: msmisk on 06.28.2007 at 09:48 am in Winter Sowing Forum

I spied some Rock Rose plants out in front of HD last week and had to check them out, even though I already have one of my own. They were covered with seeds ready to drop, so I gathered dozens in my hand, and put them in the empty film canister I carry in my purse for just that purpose.
(Last time I used it was when I collected red yucca seeds in front of a Kohls store last fall) I couldn't stand to see all those great seeds fall to the cement and waste away.
Just doing my part for the gardeners - I'll have lots to share when it's seed-swapping time!

Carol

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 05:32 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 05:32 pm

RE: How are the peaches this year? (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: heathen1 on 07.05.2007 at 02:16 pm in California Gardening Forum

I am harvesting NOW with my Babcock and they're ripening FAST in the heat. I don't know how anyone harvested earlier. Mine are very sweet and large this year, but I put in a compost pile within reach of the roots. :o)

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RE: How are the peaches this year? (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: ronke on 07.05.2007 at 01:13 pm in California Gardening Forum

I'm stunned how early you guys harvested. I'm in Santa Monica and only began this week. The peaches aren't as sweet as they have been some years (not that much heat except for this past week)but still pretty flavorful. The tree is on the same daily drip as the rest of the garden (including blueberries) so I'm not about to cut it off; but this year I added foliar spraying of very dilute liquid kelp and I think it's made a difference. This is Mid-pride which I've had for almost 20 years. I know there must be better low-chills out there but it's a big tree so...

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RE: How are the peaches this year? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: la90026 on 06.26.2007 at 10:27 pm in California Gardening Forum

I had a bountiful harvest from a Mid-Pride tree. I got about a bushel and a half, and this was after thinning the fruit really aggressively when it was about almond-size. I planted this tree in Jan. 05, so this was its third season. I wouldn't let it carry any fruit last year, working on the premise that it was still too young. All of the fruit tasted really good, so I'm sold on this tree. I also had a few fruit set on a year old Eva's Pride, but I took them off in deference to the tree's youth.

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RE: How are the peaches this year? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: sanda on 06.13.2007 at 04:46 pm in California Gardening Forum

I had the best crop ever! I think they're called gold something or king something...sorry gotta check the tag. It bloomed right after the frost, finished harvesting the end of May. The branches were so full they touched the ground. the flavor outa this world!!
sanda

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RE: How are the peaches this year? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: greenwitch on 06.12.2007 at 06:51 pm in California Gardening Forum

My Arctic Star nectarines are watery and insipid. I'm still waiting for the Galaxy and Donut peaches to ripen fully and the Red Barons have a long way to go. I did find several Tropic Snow peaches hidden, this is the first year in the ground for this little tree and it already fruited. I will cut into one of the Tropic Snow peaches tomorrow. I had assumed that I had overwatered or hadn't tapered off watering soon enough.

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 01:50 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 01:50 pm

How are the peaches this year?

posted by: ella_socal on 06.12.2007 at 11:55 am in California Gardening Forum

I put in a Babcock peach tree this year. Just tried my first one, which smelled amazing, but turned out to be watery with little peach flavor. I've read that early peaches in general have been watery this year -- has anyone else found this to be the case?

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clipped on: 07.05.2007 at 01:49 pm    last updated on: 07.05.2007 at 01:49 pm