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RE: Sweet pepper problem (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: madroneb on 09.07.2013 at 11:43 pm in Vegetable Gardening Forum

I agree that it's probably just your choice of varieties. Some peppers are much thicker walled than others.

These Pimentos I grew from seed. They are the thickest walled peppers I know of and possibly the sweetest too. The variety is called "Pritavit".


clipped on: 09.08.2013 at 02:30 am    last updated on: 09.08.2013 at 02:30 am

New cultivars you tried - Success Stories Only

posted by: Creek-side on 08.24.2013 at 07:40 pm in Vegetable Gardening Forum

Thread to share reviews and pictures of new things you grew this year which you would recommend.

Apollo broccoli from Territorial Seed Company.

This stuff worked exactly as advertised. Each of my plants produced one smaller than normal broccoli shoot, and all have been producing "broccolini' style shoots for three weeks now, and showing no signs of stopping. This is a winner.

The picture is of one of my nine plants. Can you see the visitor?

This post was edited by Creek-side on Sat, Aug 24, 13 at 19:42


clipped on: 08.25.2013 at 02:38 am    last updated on: 08.25.2013 at 02:38 am

RE: Having trouble growing lettuce in container (Follow-Up #9)

posted by: username_5 on 07.08.2006 at 10:04 am in Container Gardening Forum

Look through the seed catalogs for heat tolerant varieties.

Mustards are heat tolerant. Mizuna is a popular one with a taste that isn't mustard like. Black Seeded Simpson is an heirloom with decent heat tolerance and Simpson Elite is an 'improved' version with more heat tolerance. Buttercrunch has some heat tolerance as does 'Green Ice'. Also look for mixes of greens labelled for summer growing. Mesclun mixes as well will offer a variety of greens and you may find some labeled as heat tolerant.

Also ignore what I said above about poor germination above 75F. I am finding that to not be true. I have a container in the shade where lettuce germinated in a couple days with a soil temp of 80F (by day). Last year I tried it in the sun and got no germination unless I brought it inside the basement for germination. I didn't measure the temp of the soil then, but since it was in direct sun and shallow I am guessing much higher than 80.


clipped on: 08.20.2013 at 08:40 pm    last updated on: 08.20.2013 at 08:40 pm

RE: Having trouble growing lettuce in container (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: donn_ on 07.08.2006 at 07:42 am in Container Gardening Forum

Pick up some 'Jericho' lettuce. It's a Romaine bred to grow in the Sinai Desert, and is probably the best warm weather Lettuce out there.


clipped on: 08.20.2013 at 08:39 pm    last updated on: 08.20.2013 at 08:39 pm

RE: nitrogen deficiency in gritty mix? (Follow-Up #21)

posted by: tapla on 08.31.2011 at 07:52 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Mikedavid - there is a difference between the preferred pH ranges of mineral (gardens/beds/....) soils vs the highly organic soils we grow in. Even the 1:1:1 gritty mix with its 33% organic fraction is considered a highly organic soil. See the chart below for preferred pH in container soils.

Josh is correct, too. The pH of the soil solution is much more important than media pH when it comes to container culture, with 'ideal' easily being a full % point lower for containers than gardens/beds/ag fields ......

You can see that the 5.0-5.5 range, or even a bit lower, is very favorable for container culture.



clipped on: 08.19.2013 at 12:00 pm    last updated on: 08.19.2013 at 12:00 pm

RE: nitrogen deficiency in gritty mix? (Follow-Up #17)

posted by: mikedavid00 on 08.31.2011 at 06:16 am in Container Gardening Forum

Ok but here's the problem.

If she is using 1/4 tsp of FP in TAP water of a 7, her PH will be about 6.5 which from what I understand.

I think it was Al that said 5-1-1 is a soil PH of 5 and that the PH of the feeding should also be between that.

But if you see the chart below, you can see if you have a soil PH of 5, just how problematic it is.

Here is a link that might be useful: Further reading


clipped on: 08.19.2013 at 11:53 am    last updated on: 08.19.2013 at 11:53 am

Anyone try Peppers and Tomatoes in Gritty Mix?

posted by: ideal2545 on 02.22.2012 at 08:40 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi Everyone,

I have a whole lot of Turface, Granite and Repti-Bark sitting in my garage right now and I was curious if I could just make up some extra gritty mix for some tomato/pepper plants, or if you guys think the 511 mix is just simply better. I plan to use Foilage Pro and then add in some Pro-Tekt later on for some blooming and whatnot.



clipped on: 08.04.2013 at 02:49 pm    last updated on: 08.04.2013 at 02:49 pm

Tomato Disease Identification Key

posted by: dickiefickle on 08.02.2013 at 07:24 pm in Growing Tomatoes Forum

Great site may be of help in identification of diseases

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Disease Identification Key


clipped on: 08.03.2013 at 02:40 am    last updated on: 08.03.2013 at 02:40 am

RE: Planting tomatoes ON TOP of the soil outdoors - yay or nay? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: tapla on 04.03.2011 at 03:57 pm in Container Gardening Forum

... you mean there will be adventitious roots that form along the stem at the bottom?


The advantage of a large container is that it doesn't inhibit growth due to root congestion as quickly. Generally, the growth of plants in containers remains unrestricted until about the point that roots and the soil mass can be lifted from the container intact. Using a larger container increases the amount of o/a growth that can occur before growth rate slows. The problem usually is that with heavy bagged soils, you can't pot in the large containers w/o risking root rot or other effects related to excess water retention and poor aeration, where you can, and with little concern for ill effects, when using a well-aerated, fast-draining soil.

You can start with a lesser volume of soil, however, if you know your roots are going to run to ground. Additionally, if your containers are ON the ground, it turns them into mini raised beds & you CAN grow in a heavier soil than you could get away with w/o problems growing conventionally.



clipped on: 07.29.2013 at 09:54 pm    last updated on: 07.29.2013 at 09:54 pm

RE: Planting tomatoes ON TOP of the soil outdoors - yay or nay? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: tapla on 04.02.2011 at 01:19 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Lots of growers turn their containers into raised beds and thus get away with growing in soils that are too water-retentive to be used in containers in the conventional way. Your idea of planting in a pot & letting roots run (into the ground) is fine & will work well if the (ground) soil, moisture levels and nutrition are favorable, and by all means - mulch as you described.

The drain you described would also be a VERY effective way to keep the soil drained. It appears you understand that you can't make clay soils drain by adding OM unless they have somewhere to drain TOO. ;o)



clipped on: 07.29.2013 at 09:50 pm    last updated on: 07.29.2013 at 09:50 pm

RE: How high up can soil suck water? (Follow-Up #9)

posted by: albert_135 on 07.27.2013 at 03:08 pm in Soil Forum

unl, Whomever that is, says The water rises highest in the clay because it has the smallest pores. The clay soil exerts the greatest capillary action on the water. but it does not say how much. I don't know if the theoretical 32 foot limit we learned in high school general science classes applies to capillary action or not. I'm guessing it does not.


clipped on: 07.27.2013 at 04:01 pm    last updated on: 07.27.2013 at 04:01 pm

RE: Lettuce in Elevated Raised Bed problems (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: woohooman on 07.23.2013 at 02:48 pm in Vegetable Gardening Forum

Celestino: I'm in Santee. Nice to see somebody from San Diego.

If you're right on the coast, then you may be able to eke out some fresh lettuce before the Santa Anas hit in Sept/Oct. I'll be starting mine indoors in about a month, but even after I transplant, I'll have to shade them a bit until it cools in Nov. If you are near the coast, you should be able to grow lettuce almost year round, except when those Santa Anas come, where shading, mulching, and watering just may be able to keep them from bolting even then.

Here's a decent planting calendar for the county.

Here is a link that might be useful: Veggy planting calendar for San Diego


clipped on: 07.23.2013 at 05:20 pm    last updated on: 07.23.2013 at 05:20 pm

RE: Screening gritty mix (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: tapla on 02.09.2011 at 09:03 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Yes - equal parts of each. Be sure to review the pictures on the thread so you have a good idea about the sizes of the particles (all around 1/8" or slightly smaller, except the bark is 1/8-1/4 if fir bark & 1/8-3/8 if pine bark. Keep us posted and DON'T be reluctant to ask questions. It's better to take your time & get it right to avoid any frustration that might arise because you were hurrying. Just trying to loom out for you. ;o)



clipped on: 07.22.2013 at 02:29 pm    last updated on: 07.22.2013 at 02:29 pm

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

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

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



clipped on: 07.22.2013 at 03:15 am    last updated on: 07.22.2013 at 03:15 am

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

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

In California Areas (esp. Central and Southern):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


clipped on: 07.22.2013 at 03:13 am    last updated on: 07.22.2013 at 03:13 am

RE: Found a source for bark fines in Orange County, CA. (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: prestons_garden on 06.16.2013 at 02:59 am in Container Gardening Forum


I use the Green All too which is larger than the seedling bark. Go to Green Thumb International in Lake Forest, it's $8.99. I would like to see OCFS carry the Green All bark as well, so I will mention it on my next visit.

If you want a cleaner more consistent size and just a little larger bark, go to OCFS and get the Rexius small fir bark. It's more expensive, around $16.00 for 2 cu-ft, but it's by far the cleanest bark I've ever used. Just be sure you wear gloves with this bark or you will have a lot of splinters.



clipped on: 07.22.2013 at 02:45 am    last updated on: 07.22.2013 at 02:45 am

Fertilizer Program for Containerized Plants II

posted by: tapla on 03.11.2009 at 11:13 pm in Container Gardening Forum

This subject has been discussed frequently, but usually in piecemeal fashion on the Container Gardening forum and other forums related. Prompted originally by a question about fertilizers in another's post, I decided to collect a few thoughts & present a personal overview.

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants II

Let me begin with a brief and hopefully not too technical explanation of how plants absorb water from the soil and how they obtain the nutrients/solutes that are dissolved in that water. Most of us remember from our biology classes that cells have membranes that are semi-permeable. That is, they allow some things to pass through the walls, like water and select elements in ionic form dissolved in the water, while excluding other materials like large organic molecules. Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that is nature�s attempt at creating a balance (isotonicity) in the concentration of solutes in water inside and outside of cells. Water and ionic solutes will pass in and out of cell walls until an equilibrium is reached and the level of solutes in the water surrounding the cell is the same as the level of solutes in the cell.

This process begins when the finest roots absorb water molecule by molecule at the cellular level from the surface of soil particles and transport it, along with its nutrient load, throughout the plant. I want to keep this simple, so I�ll just say that the best water absorption occurs when the level of solutes in soil water is lowest, and in the presence of good amounts of oxygen (this is where I get to plug a well-aerated and free-draining soil), ;o). Deionized (distilled) water contains no solutes, and is easiest for plants to absorb. Of course, since distilled water contains no nutrients, using it alone practically guarantees deficiencies of multiple nutrients as the plant is shorted the building materials (nutrients) it needs to manufacture food, keep its systems orderly, and keep its metabolism running smoothly.

We already learned that if the dissolved solutes in soil water are low, the plant may be well-hydrated, but starving; however, if they are too high, the plant may have a large store of nutrients in the soil, but because of osmotic pressure, the plant may be unable to absorb the water and could die of thirst in a sea of plenty. When this condition occurs, and is severe enough (high concentrations of solutes in soil water), it causes fertilizer burn (plasmolysis), a condition seen when plasma is torn from cell walls as the water inside the cell exits to maintain solute equilibrium with the water surrounding the cell.

Our job, because you cannot depend on an adequate supply of nutrients from the organic component of a container soil, is to provide a solution of dissolved nutrients in a concentration high enough to supply nutrients in the adequate to luxury range, yet still low enough that it remains easy for the plant to take up enough water to be well-hydrated and free of drought stress. Electrical conductivity (EC) of, and the level of TDS (total dissolved solids) in the soil solution is a reliable way to judge the adequacy of solutes and the plant�s ability to take up water. There are meters that measure these concentrations, and for most plants the ideal range of conductivity is from 1.5 - 3.5 mS, with some, like tomatoes, being as high as 4.5 mS. This is more technical than I wanted to be, but I added it in case someone wanted to search "mS" or "EC". Most of us, including me, will have to be satisfied with simply guessing at concentrations, but understanding how plants take up water and fertilizer, as well as the effects of solute concentrations in soil water is an important piece of the fertilizing puzzle.

Now, some disconcerting news - you have listened to all this talk about nutrient concentrations, but what do we supply, when, and how do we supply them? We have to decide what nutrients are appropriate to add to our supplementation program, but how? Most of us are just hobby growers and cannot do tissue analysis to determine what is lacking. We can be observant and learn the symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies though - and we CAN make some surprising generalizations.

What if I said that the nutritional needs of all plants is basically the same and that one fertilizer could suit almost all the plants we grow in containers - that by increasing/decreasing the dosage as we water, we could even manipulate plants to bloom and fruit more abundantly? It�s really quite logical, so please let me explain.

Tissue analysis of plants will nearly always show NPK to be in the ratio of approximately 10:1.5:7. If we assign N the constant of 100, P and K will range from 13-19 and 45-70 respectively. (I�ll try to remember to make a chart showing the relative ratios of all the other 13 essential nutrients that don�t come from the air at the end of what I write.) All we need to do is supply nutrients in approximately the same ratio as plants use them, and in adequate amounts to keep them in the adequate to luxury range at all times.

Remember that we can maximize water uptake by keeping the concentrations of solutes low, so a continual supply of a weak solution is best. Nutrients don�t often just suddenly appear in large quantities in nature, so the low and continual dose method most closely mimics the nutritional supply Mother Nature offers. If you decide to adopt a "fertilize every time you water" approach, most liquid fertilizers can be applied at � to 1 tsp per gallon for best results. If you decide that�s too much work, try halving the dose recommended & cutting the interval in half. You can work out the math for granular soluble fertilizers and apply at a similar rate.

The system is rather self regulating if fertilizer is applied in low concentrations each time you water, even with houseplants in winter. As the plant�s growth slows, so does its need for both water and nutrients. Larger plants and plants that are growing robustly will need more water and nutrients, so linking nutrient supply to the water supply is a win/win situation all around.

Another advantage to supplying a continual low concentration of fertilizer is it eliminates the tendency of plants to show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies after they have received high doses of fertilizer and then been allowed to return to a more favorable level of soil solute concentrations. Even at perfectly acceptable concentrations of nutrients in the soil, plants previously exposed to high concentrations of fertilizer readily display these symptoms.

You will still need to guard against watering in sips, and that habit�s accompanying tendency to allow solute (salt) accumulation in soils. Remember that as salts accumulate, both water and nutrient uptake is made more difficult and finally impaired or made impossible in severe cases. Your soils should always allow you to water so that at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied passes through the soil and out the drain hole to be discarded. This flushes the soil and carries accumulating solutes out the drain hole.

I have recently switched to a liquid fertilizer with micronutrients in a 12:4:8 NPK ratio. Note how closely this fit�s the average ratio of NPK content in plant tissues, noted above (10:1.5:7). If the P looks a little high at 4, consider that in container soils, P begins to be more tightly held as pH goes from 6.5 to below 6.0, which is on the high side of most container soil�s pH, so the manufacturer probably gave this some careful consideration. Also, P and K percentages shown on fertilizer packages are not the actual amount of P or K in the blend. The percentage of P on the package is the percentage of P2O5 (phosphorous pentoxide) and you need to multiply the percentage shown by .43 to get the actual amount of P in the fertilizer. Similarly, the K level percentage shown is actually the level of K2O ( potassium oxide) and must be multiplied by .83 to arrive at the actual amount of K supplied.

To answer the inevitable questions about specialty fertilizers and "special" plant nutritional requirements, let me repeat that plants need nutrients in roughly the same ratio. Ratio is an entirely a separate consideration from dosage. You�ll need to adjust the dosage to fit the plant and perhaps strike a happy medium in containers that have a diversity of material.

If nutrient availability is unbalanced - if plants are getting more than they need of certain nutrients, but less than they need of others, the nutrient they need the most will be the one that limits growth. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air water light temperature soil or media nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing most deficient nutrient will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination?ratio of the nutrients and increasing them, individually or in various combinations, can lead to toxicities.

When individual nutrients are available in excess, it not only unnecessarily contributes to the total volume of solutes in the soil solution, which makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients, it also often creates an antagonistic deficiency of other nutrients as toxicity levels block a plant's ability to take up other nutrients. E.g., too much Fe (iron) can cause a Mn (manganese) deficiency, with the converse also true, Too much Ca (calcium) can cause a Mg (magnesium) deficiency. Too much P (phosphorous) can cause an insoluble precipitate with Fe and make Fe unavailable. It also interferes with the uptake of several other micro-nutrients. You can see why it�s advantageous to supply nutrients in as close to the same ratio in which plants use them and at levels not so high that they interfere with water uptake. I know I�m repeating myself here, but this is an important point.

What about the high-P "Bloom Booster" fertilizers you might ask? To induce more prolific flowering, a reduced N supply will have more and better effect than the high P bloom formulas. When N is reduced, it slows vegetative growth without reducing photosynthesis. Since vegetative growth is limited by a lack of N, and the photosynthetic machinery continues to turn out food, it leaves an expendable surplus for the plant to spend on flowers and fruit. Plants use about 6 times more N than P, so fertilizers that supply more P than N are wasteful and more likely to inhibit blooms (remember that too much P inhibits uptake of Fe and many micro-nutrients - it raises pH unnecessarily as well, which could also be problematic). Popular "bloom-booster" fertilizers like 10-52-10 actually supply about 32x more P than your plant could ever use (in relationship to how much N it uses) and has the potential to wreak all kinds of havoc with your plants.

The fact that different species of plants grow in different types of soil where they are naturally found, does not mean that one needs more of a certain nutrient than the other. It just means that the plants have developed strategies to adapt to certain conditions, like excesses and deficiencies of particular nutrients.

Plants that "love" acid soils, e.g., have simply developed strategies to cope with those soils. Their calcium needs are still the same as any other plant and no different from the nutrient requirements of plants that thrive in alkaline soils. The problem for acid-loving plants is that they are unable to adequately limit their calcium uptake, and will absorb too much of it when available, resulting in cellular pH-values that are too high. Some acid-loving plants also have difficulties absorbing Fe, Mn, Cu, or Zn, which is more tightly held in alkaline soils, another reason why they thrive in low pH (acid) soils.

So, If you select a fertilizer that is close in ratio to the concentration of major elements in plant tissues, you�re going to be in good shape. Whether the fertilizer is furnished in chemical or organic form matters not a whit to the plant. Ions are ions, but there is one major consideration. Chemical fertilizers are available for immediate uptake while organic fertilizers must be acted on by passing through the gut of micro-organisms to break them down into usable elemental form. Since microorganism populations are affected by cultural conditions like moisture/air levels in the soil, soil pH, fertility levels, temperature, etc., they tend to follow a boom/bust cycle in container culture, which has an impact on the reliability and timing of delivery of nutrients supplied in organic form. Nutrients locked in hydrocarbon chains cannot be relied upon to be available when the plant needs them. This is particularly an issue with the immobile nutrients that must be present in the nutrient stream at all times for the plant to grow normally.

What is my approach? I have been very happy with Miracle-Gro 12-4-8 all purpose liquid fertilizer, or 24-8-16 Miracle-Gro granular all-purpose fertilizer - both are completely soluble. I incorporate a granular micro-nutrient supplement in my soils when I make them (Micromax) or use a soluble micro-nutrient blend (STEM). I would encourage you to make sure your plants are getting all the micro-nutrients. More readily available than the supplements I use is Earth Juice�s �Microblast�. Last year, I discovered a fertilizer by Dyna-Gro called Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It is a 3:1:2 ratio like I like and has ALL the primary macro-nutrients, secondary macro-nutrients (Ca, Mg, S) and all the micro-nutrients. It performed very well for me.

When plants are growing robustly, I try to fertilize my plants weakly (pun intended) with a half recommended dose of the concentrate at half the suggested intervals. When plants are growing slowly, I fertilize more often with very weak doses. It�s important to realize your soil must drain freely and you must water so a fair amount of water drains from your container each time you water to fertilize this way. This year my display containers performed better than they ever have in years past & they were still all looking amazingly attractive at the beginning of Oct when I finally decided to dismantle them because of imminent cold weather. I attribute results primarily to a good soil and a healthy nutrient supplementation program.

What would I recommend to someone who asked what to use as an all-purpose fertilizer for nearly all their container plantings? If you can find it, a 3:1:2 ratio soluble liquid fertilizer (24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers) that contains all the minor elements would great.

How plants use nutrients - the chart I promised:

I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
M(olybden) 0.003
To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on.

If you're still awake - thanks for reading. It makes me feel like the effort was worth it. ;o) Let me know what you think - please.

Here is a link to the first posting of A Fertilizer Program for Containers

Another link to information about Container Soils- Water Movement and Retention


clipped on: 07.20.2013 at 12:17 pm    last updated on: 07.20.2013 at 12:17 pm

Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

posted by: tapla on 06.05.2011 at 10:17 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I first posted this thread back in March of '05. Thirteen times it has reached the maximum number of posts GW allows to a single thread, 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 the idea some of 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 2,000 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.

Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention

A Discussion About Container Soils

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.

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 Water Movement information.

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 improve it's aeration or drainage characteristics by adding larger particulates. Sand, perlite, Turface, calcined DE ...... none of them will work. 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.

My Basic Soils ....

5 parts pine bark fines (partially composted fines are best)
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
1-2 parts perlite
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 pine bark, Turface, and crushed granite.

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
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 XII

Post XI

Post X

Post IX


Post VII

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

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 Gowth is Limited, just click the embedded link.

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: 07.16.2013 at 11:24 am    last updated on: 07.16.2013 at 11:25 am

RE: where to buy alfalfa meal (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: soaht on 05.29.2013 at 05:40 pm in California Gardening Forum

Have you tried taking a look at they have the alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal. Their price is very reasonable(well at least to me since i haven't bought from any locals yet , so I can't really compare prices) and plus their price includes free shipping.


clipped on: 05.30.2013 at 02:13 am    last updated on: 05.30.2013 at 02:13 am

RE: Fall/Winter Planning In SoCal (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: woohooman on 05.23.2013 at 06:59 pm in Vegetable Gardening Forum


I'm in Santee -- here's what I use as an all around guide for planting dates.

One thing that I have found to be so much easier is to start almost everything inside under shoplights. This way I can control things. So, if you go this way, you'll want to start your seeds in July for September plantings. The heat of our summer/fall just doesn't lend itself that well for direct sowing. Water isn't cheap. ;)

Funny -- just 5 mins ago I harvested some Napa cabbage seeds.


Here is a link that might be useful: vegetable planting guide San Diego

This post was edited by woohooman on Thu, May 23, 13 at 19:02


clipped on: 05.23.2013 at 10:12 pm    last updated on: 05.23.2013 at 10:13 pm

RE: Adding soil blends to improve organic matter to subsoil (New (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: TXEB on 05.13.2013 at 05:31 pm in Soil Forum

8-10" of excavation is a lot ! Sounds like a major rehab project. How big is the site?

Since I take it the soil is outta there already, the question now is what goes back in it's place, and a related issue is how do you maintain it (the soil). The answers will depend in part on what is going to be planted in that space. But first, relax about the subsoil 8-10" down - I'll comment on that a bit lower.

If what will be planted will be permanent landscape, then topsoil would be just fine, and is actually overdoing the topsoil a bit (and 8-10" of topsoil is a lot). A key to maintaining it is to then cover with a good quality mulch, preferably wood based. Keeping it in good shape means topping off with new mulch periodically - once or twice per year depending upon your climate and how fast the mulch degrades.

For annual planting areas (flowers, veg's, etc.) you can go higher on organic soil amendments, and add additional amounts of new organic material annually. The target here would be ~ 5% by weight (10% by volume) total OM in the soil.

The reasons for the difference is that the OM in the soil will basically be gone in <10 years, but in permanent landscapes it can only be added by top dressing (i.e., mulching). As it degrades and depletes the soil will settle by the volume fraction of OM that degrades, and the grade will thus change. If you had 10% organic matter in your permanent areas, then you should expect a 1" drop in soil levels for an original 10" depth.

Chose your soil to bring in based upon what will be planted, and then maintain the soil accordingly.

As for the subsoil 8-10" down from where your final grade will be, it will take care of itself if you take care of what's on top.

For reference, I suggest you visit Linda Chalker-Scott's website (aka The Informed Gardener), link below. Of particular interest to your case are two "myth buster" articles she wrote. You will find them (and others) via the "Horticultural Myths" tab at the top of the column on the left side. On the Myths page scroll down to near the bottom and find the section under Soil amendments

The first one to read is about amending clay soil - you'll find it at the bottom of the Myths page via the link Sand. While that's not your issue, she explains sensible soil amendment for horticulture.

The second one I recommend is still in the section on soil amendments under the heading "Organic matter" - it is the link 3. Nutrient overload. In that she discusses the perils of overdoing organic matter additions to soils.

You might also check out some of her Landscape Rehab Projects via the tab on the left side.

Good luck, and let us know what you end up doing. A pic or two would be nice too.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Informed Gardener

This post was edited by TXEB on Mon, May 13, 13 at 19:10


clipped on: 05.13.2013 at 10:10 pm    last updated on: 05.13.2013 at 10:10 pm

Avocado trees really thirsty?

posted by: absoluteblock on 05.11.2013 at 07:26 pm in California Gardening Forum

I'm in the process of reconfiguring our backyard planter irrigation to use drip irrigation. All of the planter areas are on a common automatic sprinkler valve. This is a problem because our Hass Avocado tree needs significantly more water.

The question is, how much water?

I found a paper written by Gary S. Bender, Ph.D. entitled "Avocado Production in Home Gardens".

At the end of the paper, he published a table showing avocado irrigation needs by month and diameter of the tree canopy for San Diego County. Those numbers are gallons of water per day! He doesn't recommend watering daily, so during the summer months this means watering 250-400 gallons once per week (or thereabouts).

We're not terribly far from San Diego -- and our climate is similar -- so I think the calculations would be similar. That said, this seems like a LOT of water for an established tree. I've always known avocado trees were thirsty, but not this thirsty.

I'm not sure if these numbers assume a specific soil type but I wonder if clay soil that doesn't drain as well reduces the watering needs?


clipped on: 05.11.2013 at 08:20 pm    last updated on: 05.11.2013 at 08:20 pm

RE: Volck VS Neem oil? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: hoosierquilt on 04.14.2013 at 10:48 am in Citrus Forum

You can treat Citrus Leafminers (CLM) with a combination of Volk oil and Spinosad, but you're going to need to spray very three weeks during your CLM season. The other option is to treat with systemic imidicloprid (Bayer Advanced Fruit and Vegetable Insect Control). Not organic, but very effective on CLM. Just need to apply 2 or 3 weeks before CLM hits in your area, to give it time to get up to the leaves. Then, a second treatment about 4 to 6 months later.

Patty S.


clipped on: 04.15.2013 at 01:18 pm    last updated on: 04.15.2013 at 01:18 pm