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Al's Gritty Mix -- A Learning Experinece

posted by: Jessicasgrowincitrus on 03.10.2011 at 10:28 am in Container Gardening Forum

I came to this forum a few weeks ago in an attempt to find out why my less than a year-old Meyer Lemon was dropping some of its leaves. The older leaves were turning yellow and falling off. Having never owned any plant other than the house plants you can get at Fred Meyer that dangle down (I am not even sure what they are called!! But I always seemed to have had success with them.) I was very concerned.

Buying a citrus I knew would be a jump for me and I was ready to take on the responsibility of doing it right, but I needed some help figuring out what was wrong. When I bought my tree I researched lighting, watering, fertilizer, temperature and its soil needs but it was still failing. Devastated I was going to loose my tree I turned to this forum.

After reading several forums I was still a bit confused. I was not confident that I had discovered the exact root of my problem, and was not sure how to ask the proper questions on the forums to get this figured out. So I reached out to Meyer Mike for some guidance and possible mentoring me on Meyer Lemon and my new found citrus obsession. He has been such a HUGE help!


After tweaking my lighting situation and evaluating the history of problems I have had with my tree (I won't go into detail about my Gnats, or Spider Mite experiences, but lets just say the next time those things come around -- I will be ready for them!) we discovered my error: I made the biggest rookie move possible. I planted my tree in plain ol' Miracle Grow Potting Soil..... :( Hey-- I get some credit, I did add a ton of Perolite to it. I thought that would be enough to make it "well draining soil".
So the hunt for the proper soil components began. I live in the Washington State and I noticed that most of the people participating on this forum are from the East coast, so I was having a very hard time finding the ingredients needed for Al's 1:1:1 Gritty Mix.

I have decided that seeing how I was so lucky to have so many people generously jump in to assist me and answer my questions (even going as far as personally answering my tons of emails, texts and phone calls on the side!!!!) It is time I pay it forward and put all I have learned into one post for people in Washington State/ the greater Pacific Northwest area to see where they can get the ingredients required for the 1:1:1 Gritty mix and how to put it all together.

Hopefully someday, someone will come along and find all they need right here. :)

Thanks all for helping to ensure I have many more years of successfully citrus growing ahead of me! I am very grateful.

~Jessica's Growin' Citrus

The three components needed for Al's Gritty mix are a 1:1:1 ratio of:
1 part Bark Fines
1 part Turface
1 part Granite

You may also need a bag of "Gypsum - Calcium Sulfate" IF you are NOT using Foliage Pro 9:3:6. If you have chosen to use Foliage Pro as your fertilizer you will not need the calcium. (The Foliage Pro is HIGHLY recommended by several experienced growers on these forums! I had to buy mine on line, it is not available in stores in my area.)
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Now before I go any further I must put out my **disclaimer**: This is the process I went through to create my gritty mix. I am going to list all the alternative ingredients that I came across and where I found the ingredients I decided on. I know others may have additional opinions or suggestions on what worked for them, and I welcome them to voice their opinions here as well so that we all might learn together. Hopefully this mix will work for you too.

This is just my two cents.

Put on your working boots and get to it!
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Bark-
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The bark fines need to be un-composted and between 1/8"-1/4" in size. (1/8-1/4 if using Fir bark & 1/8-3/8 if using Pine bark.)

The goal of this soil is to have a 1:1:1 ratio of partials, with each partial being just about the same size. (The bark is going to be averaging about the same size as your biggest piece of granite and Turface.)
I went with the suggestion to use Repti Bark. It is an un-composted pine bark that is used in reptile tanks. You can buy Repti Bark at Petco or Pets Mart. It comes in two size bags ranging from $8.99ish to $16.99ish here in the Pacific Northwest.

The bark is almost perfect right out of the bag, but some of the partials are a little too big, I would suggest putting the bark in between two sheets, or in a sturdy garbage bag spread about 1 layer thick and pound the larger pieces until they meet the 1/8-1/4 size requirement. I know people have used it as-is right out of the bag, but it was suggested to me that I make the pieces just a little smaller to ensure that they will go in-between all the roots. If you do not, then you run the risk of air pockets in your root ball.

You will then want to sift your bark to get out the very finest partials and dust. I used my Bonsai sieve with the 1/8" screen and insect screen on top of that to filter my pine bark.

You should have very little bark fine waste.

**Be sure to soak your bark for at least an hour before use in your pots! Otherwise you may find you are having to water your newly transplanted plants allot initially.

Granite-
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Granite was harder to find in my area than the bark. Really hard actually.

What you are looking for is "Chicken Grit" (not "Chick" grit that is too small) it is commonly referred to as size #2 or "Growers Size" Grit. The Chicken grit should average 1/8"- 1/4" in size.

I found several feed stores in my area that had Chicken Grit with calcium added and Chicken Grit made out of other types of rock but the grit with calcium was going to throw off the Ph in my soil, and honestly I did not want to play mad scientist all the time trying to get the Ph, just right, so I decided to wait until I found the correct grit. Just straight-crushed granite.

Some people have used other types of grit with success as well. Cherrystone Grit is common too. I am sure that would work just as well if you can not find pure granite grit. I went with pure granite grit.

Sift your granite to remove the smallest partials and dust. You should also rinse your granite to remove even more dust partials.

I ended up finding my granite by happy accident at De Young's Farm and Garden in Woodinville. (They are right next door to Molbaks off NE175th St) Their phone number is: (425) 483-9600. I was going to Molbaks one morning to buy my Mason bees and their reader board read that the chicks were in. Well, chicks need Chicken Grit! So I stopped in and sure enough -- BINGO!-- They had just what I needed!!! They do not have a web site, so I had no idea they were even there! SCORE!

They also carry Turface from time to time. Unfortunately they will not have it this season because they were stuck with a lot of it after last season and are not sure there is enough demand to keep it in stock.... But is worth asking if they happen to have any in stock if you are going all the way up there to get your granite!

On the right is the sifted Granite Grit, on the left are the smaller partials that will not be used.
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Turface-
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Also VERY hard to find. :( I am not sure if it is because of the time of year that I am looking for it or not (late winter/early spring) but I came very close to ordering it on line and having it mailed to me!

Luckily Josh jumped in on the forum and told me that I can get it through Ewing Irrigation here in Washington (Oregon too?)! They have several locations to choose from and carry Turface year round! YAY! Their web site is:
http://www.ewing1.com/index.htm (Roughly $15.00 per bag)
**If you can not find Turface near you a possible alternative is Napa Floor Dry #8822 from Napa Auto Parts. ($8.99 or so) Be sure to wear a long sleeves and a mask when sifting floor dry. There will be a lot of partials in the air.
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You will need to screen your Turface as well. I used my 1/8 screen. Unfortunately you will have a lot of waste with the Turface. About half the bag ended up in my yard. :( It may be worth it to pick up two bags while you are there) I panicked and called Mike to verify that I should be sifting out that much!

On the left is the sifted Turface, on the right are the smaller partials that will not be used.
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This is my Line up:
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This is my Bonsai Sieve. You can find these at Bonsai supply stores and on line. There is only one Bonsai store I could find and it is in Tukwila, but I was impatient and ordered mine on EBay. (The sieve cost roughly $30.00! - But it is the perfect tool for the job!) You could also make your own sieve or use different size strainers from the grocery store.
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I would also recommend picking up some Drywall Tape (or something) to cover the holes in the bottom of your pot so your soil does not slip out the bottom. Drywall tape is the perfect solution.
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My workspace. See all the Turface and granite lost to the yard? Be prepared. I should have put down a tarp to capture it�. And yes, I was working late into the night to get this finished!
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TA DA! My assembled 1:1:1 Gritty Mix!
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I mixed up a bunch of extra and stored it in a bin in my garage in anticipation of getting more citrus in the next few months. :)

NOTES:

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clipped on: 07.29.2012 at 07:38 am    last updated on: 07.29.2012 at 07:38 am