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jessicasgrowincitrus

Al's Gritty Mix -- A Learning Experinece

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.)

{{gwi:9411}}

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!

{{gwi:9412}}

Bark-

{{gwi:9413}}

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-

{{gwi:9414}}

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.

{{gwi:9415}}

{{gwi:9416}}

Turface-

{{gwi:9417}}

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.

{{gwi:9418}}

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.

{{gwi:9419}}

This is my Line up:

{{gwi:9420}}

{{gwi:9421}}

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.

{{gwi:9422}}

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.

{{gwi:9423}}

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!

{{gwi:9424}}

TA DA! My assembled 1:1:1 Gritty Mix!

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{{gwi:9428}}

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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. :)

Comments (138)

  • Matt F
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I ordered two dozen large ilex from a grower up north this summer. When they arrived, they were bare root so I decided to put them in the gritty mix to see how they would do. I knew that the area I was planting them in would end up being heavily amended with compost, pine bark fines and Turface MVP. so I made up several huge batches to fill a couple dozen two & three gallon pots. I of course kept them watered regularly, but we had a very hot spell that hit us in July and they didn't like it at all. 90% of the leaves fell off due to shock but I kept tending them and kept checked the water content of the branches with a few bends to see how they would flex. They remained alive. About three weeks ago, they started pushing out new leaves and sprouting new growth from the base. I have fertilized them with some compost tea a couple times during the summer. Ill have them all out of the pots and in the ground this month.

  • Matt F
    8 years ago
    Okay, so the app sucks for long replies. Totally messed up the ending on my last post. I'll have to edit later. Anyway, I'll remove one from the pot and show you the roots. They're extremely healthy. I honestly don't think there's anything that wouldn't benefit from this mixture, regardless of volume.
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    Hi, Sounds like you're doing a good job getting your ingredients. Any way you can post a picture of what your mix looks like when it gets in? Just make sure to screen the Turface and gravel over an insect screen (I used a kitchen coulender). Only other thing to watch out for might be the small particles in your orchid bark, 1/16" might be a little too small and cause drainage issues. Sounds like your pot is most likely an appropriate size, a 3 year old tree does well in a 12"-14" container, although as Al will point out you can go larger and over pot as long as you have a good draining mix like the gritty mix. Foliage pro is the way to go, I use 1/4 teaspoon to a gallon of water along with a bottlecap full of distilled white vinegar, and I use it every watering. Other guys MUCH more experienced than myself have had success with this formula. Check out the citrus forum for more advice on your new tree! There's a wealth of information and expertise to tap into here. -Mike B
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    These are some tips for making Als gritty mix. I hope people on the forum and others who googled there way here will find it helpful. Screening  I would buy a large 18 gallon rope tub container which is only around $5-10. Then put an insect screening on top of it and use holding clips to secure the screen onto the tub. Make the screen concave down to the tub so the materials wonÂt fly out when screening. I believe all insect screening is 1/16 inch. Hardware cloth  I bought mine at Orchard hardware supply for around $2 bucks a foot. I bought 2 foot each. They fit perfectly on top of the tub with the insect screen right below it (see photo). I use 1/4 inch to screen out the pine barks. Fine bark  leave these laid outside in the sun so they will dry. Mix them around every few hours as the barks underneath will still be wet. Drying the barks will make it easier when removing the dust and powder when screening. Preparing to mix the soil - I would wash the granite really well, I can basically smell the salt coming out of it from the brand I was using (A1 granite grit #10). Mix your batch up first then wash it again really well before moving them into the pot container. Use insect screen to cover the holes inside the containers so the mix wonÂt fall out. Supplies  Use google map to find stores locally and just call the stores to find your supplies. Use "feed stores" for granite grit. (Gran-I-Grit  grower size, is the best). For turface, use this link, http://www.turface.com/distributors/state/. John Deere stores will carry Turface Allsport which is the same as MVP. "Allsport Pro" will be too fine for use in the gritty mix. Gypsum  if you plan on using a lot, just buy a 50 lb bag, I got mine for 6 dollars. Fertilizer  I am using a 9 month slow release fertilizer, brand = Dynamite. Some of these slow release fertilizer will also have the micronutrient you need so you wonÂt have to buy it separately. Remember to buy a few empty buckets to store your supplies.
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    Just a footnote ... I read that, when using pine bark in the gritty mix, the size range could be increased to 3/8"-1/8". By doing that, I increased the usable portion of a 1 1/2 cu. ft. bag from 11 quarts to 19 quarts. Not saying that will be the result with all pine bark products. Some brands will contain a higher proportion of pine bark fines; others will have a larger proportion of the small 'nuggets'; etc. It so happens that over 30% of the Jolly Gardener product I use was too large (over 1/4"). Increasing the size range to 3/8" cut that loss in half. Given the low cost of pine (compared to Reptibark) and depending on how much gritty mix you use, increasing the size range may not be worth the time and effort. Of course, I'm one of those penny pinchers, so ... : )
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  • blytheinspired
    8 years ago

    Thank you for the clear info! Saving this for spring as idk where I would have the space for all this work with snow outside & no garage :(

    Looking forward to getting my plants in this.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    8 years ago

    I'll be darned. You DO sound inspired, and like you're living up to the name you chose. Don't forget there are always lots of good folks around to help with any questions you have. I hope you use the slack time during the winter to keep learning, because it's knowledge that will move you forward fastest. Best luck, Bly.

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    8 years ago

    A blast from the past, this thread is... but I'm glad it's circulating again! Just rereading and checking out all the nifty photos has me looking forward to next spring when I will be re-potting a few bulbs and a Plumeria that requires attention.

    My thoughts on the ReptiBark have changed a bit over time... I now think that the reason I find larger bark pieces in the larger bags might be because they're intended for larger tanks holding larger reptiles, if that makes any sense. I still use the small bags, and I just sift out the larger pieces, and break them up a bit before using.

    I wish there was a way to just skip over winter... any suggestions that don't cost real money? ;-)

    This is an excellent thread for the beginner... Jess did a great job with her demo!

  • blytheinspired
    8 years ago

    Yes, not much else to do once the cold sets in but putz with indoor plants for a few months - and now read all this information in preparation for spring.

    As far as skipping over winter...the best possibility my husband & I have come up with is moving south :) ...

  • jodik_gw
    8 years ago

    Unfortunately, I don't think I could ever talk my husband into moving south; he loves winter. The man actually enjoys cold weather. There must be something wrong with him! ;-)

    On the other hand, he helps me plant the garden in spring, harvest everything later, and he does the canning and preserving... so I really can't complain too much! I get to help with prep work and do the weeding, but I don't mind.

    I've got my buckets of individual ingredients for Gritty Mix all readied and labeled, waiting for spring. I was thinking, since there's not much else to do but putter around inside with the few plants I have, I might grab another inexpensive Amaryllis bulb... just to have something to do. It would be nice to have more blooms this time of year!

    Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone! Wish hard for an early spring!

  • Jill
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hi folks,

    I live in the Woodinville area and managed to track down all the ingredients for Al's Gritty Mix. I hope this post helps other people living in the area.

    I bought the 24-quart bag of Repti Bark at the Woodinville PetSmart for $25. The 6-quart bag of Gardner & Bloome orchid seedling bark was purchased at McLendon Hardware for $4.99. The 50-lb bag of Gran-I-Grit was purchased at Keep It Simple Farm for $13.99, and the 50-lb bag of Turface MVP at Ewing Irrigation. (I don't remember the exact price of the Turface, but it was under $15.) The most difficult ingredient to find was the #2 crushed granite, because DeYoung's Farm & Garden closed down back in late 2013.

    Here's a picture of the ingredients. Note: I didn't screen anything for this image; what you see is what you get straight out of the bag.

    Top row (left to right): Gran-I-Grit, Gardner & Bloome orchid seedling bark, Repti Bark.
    Bottom: Turface MVP.

    The orchid seedling bark definitely looks closer in size to the granite and Turface than the Repti Bark.

    Here's the contact info:

    Keep It Simple Farm
    12526 Avondale Rd NE
    Redmond, WA 98052
    (425) 558-0990
    http://www.kisfarm.com/

    Ewing Irrigation
    815 8th St
    Kirkland, WA 98033
    (425) 576-9540
    https://www.ewingirrigation.com/

    McLendon Hardware
    17705 130th Ave NE
    Woodinville, WA 98072
    (425) 485-1363
    http://www.mclendons.com/woodinville

  • Yasser Zubaidi
    8 years ago

    i must try that gritty mix

  • pharaohbirdienc
    7 years ago

    Is the gritty mix good for cacti and succulents even the jungle cacti?

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    7 years ago

    Yes - very good. For the jungle cacti, you might want to add an extra half measure of screened bark. So it would be 3:2:2, pine or fir bark:Turface:grit. Some growers like the 5:1:1 mix for jungle cacti, but I'd probably reduce the peat component by half unless the bark had almost no fines.


    Al

  • pharaohbirdienc
    7 years ago

    Is this the AL? =o of al's gritty mix?..WOW what an honor thank you sir =) I read your original post about the mix and let me say you have 2 green thumbs and a toe .. I'm a novice gardener with a small collection of succulents and cacti they are my favorite so unique and unusual I'm fascinated by every new one I come upon..Plants are like an addiction once you buy your first one..its hook, line, and sinker and they open up a world of unbelievable shapes, sights, and color combinations that's beyond words @_@

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    7 years ago

    Lol - thanks for the kind words. Some of us seek scratches for our itch to nurture and end up finding relief in tending plants. For me, trying to nurture people who nurture plants seems like a natural extension of my growing experience, so I spend some time here, looking for opportunities to help others get more from growing. As you progress in knowledge and experience, you'll see that you don't remain always on the same plane. As you progress, the level at which you interact with your plants will change and offer you more opportunities for reward and satisfaction - something to look forward to.

    To my way of thinking, bonsai is the most roborant of horticultural pursuits, which is where my focus is, but any endeavor you choose offers its own set of rewards and challenges over which to prevail. Lucky are we who discover something we can embrace with enthusiasm like yours, sufficient to compel us to learn more and continually improve our skill sets, and not to discover that enthusiasm waning because we didn't make the efforts that allow us to advance. To learn is to grow, so keep after it!

    Al

  • pharaohbirdienc
    7 years ago

    I have seen some of your bonsai pictures ..BEAUTIFUL how did you get that lil bonsai in the shell to live over 2 years before the shell just disintegrated that had to be very tedious work with LOTS of patience.. I would have been a NERVOUS wreck and dared anyone to touch it..lol

  • Randall Stewart
    7 years ago

    Hey guys what's the difference between the 5 1 1 mix and the gritty mix? And why is gypsum preferred for the gritty mix?

  • harry757
    7 years ago

    Al, I too read through this whole thread last week trying to get a handle on this 511/gritty mix thing. Was a lot to take in. I think a "thread" this long and twisted should qualify as a "rope" don't you think. You should be writing a book! You know a lot of people here would want it!

    Harry

  • bragu_DSM 5
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    coupled with the volumes of info on the CONTAINER SOILS - WATER RETENTION threads, AL has penned a book. we just need a complete compendium [redundant, i know] of the information here on the golden container forum thread, which is what this whole forum is. remember copy/paste is your friend. so are bookmarks, or reading list in some browsers. thanks again AL.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    7 years ago

    Kind words indeed. Thanks very much, guys. It's always uplifting to know others find your offerings helpful; and the only way to know is via your feedback. Much appreciated.

    Al

  • Yayi (SouthFL 10b)
    7 years ago

    I feel so lucky to have found this thread as a novice gardener. And by novice I mean that I've successfully kept some petunias alive and growing and got overzealous an bought a glenn mango tree. It's been sitting on my patio for 3 days while I figure out what is the right thing to do with it. I will definitely try this gritty mix. So I guess I'm starting out on the right foot!! Thanks so much for all of the info!!

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    7 years ago

    You might find, depending on what you're growing, that the 5:1:1 mix might suit your needs more appropriately. Learn more here.


    Al

  • westes Zone 9b California SF Bay
    6 years ago

    What has more water retention: the filtered redwood bark or turface? Does anyone have specific numbers around that to quantify the water retention characteristics of the two mediums? Does turface have any value in this soil other than water retention characteristics?

    I have heard from rhododendron growers that they love to be planted in orchid bark. I am wondering about the possible value of moving that more towards a gritty mix and making the mixture maybe 50% redwood bark and 50% turface.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    On a size for size basis, Turface holds much more water than the bark.

    You can do whatever you like, but there's a good reason that the bark fraction is limited to no more than 1/3 of the o/a volume. Understanding the concept that gave rise to the recipes is much more valuable than the recipes.


    Al

  • westes Zone 9b California SF Bay
    6 years ago

    @tapla Well of course I would like to understand why bark is limited to 1/3 of the total soil volume....

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    By limiting the organic fraction to no more than 1/3 of the volume, the bark can break down entirely over time and there still won't be any significant impact on aeration or drainage. If you increase the organic fraction to 50% of the mix, you can easily undo one of the primary benefits built into the soil and invite collapse. In spite of what other growers might think about fir bark, there would be no advantage in increasing it (in the gritty mix) to more than a third of the mix.

    Al

  • westes Zone 9b California SF Bay
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    @tapla, Okay, I understand that answer and I will accept that for succulents and cactus without second thought. What about plants like rhododendrons? These plants would typically be found in soil that is made of decomposed bark and plant matter...forest soil. Said differently, if you want a real structured soil for rhododendrons, and you were planting in a container, what adjustments would you make to the gritty mix, if any? I guess where I am pausing is on the idea that a rhododendron would grow in a soil that is 1/3 granite or small rock.

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    If you are interested in some representative numbers of porosity and water holding capacity these two threads may be of interest to you:

    Gritty Mix Porosity

    Porosity, Water Holding Capacity, Cost of Common Soil Components

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    6 years ago

    I would never recommend the gritty mix for a rhododendron. They dislike when soil becomes dry so something like the 5-1-1 - which is much closer in structure/composition to what the commercial growers use - would be IMO a far better choice.

  • westes Zone 9b California SF Bay
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    @gardengal48 some of the biggest commercial rhododendron growers on the west coast are planting them in pure redwood bark. I really want to experiment with a structured soil.

    Rhododendrons like a moist soil that drains rapidly. The beauty of structured soils is that you cannot drown the roots even if you overwater the plant.

    https://www.rhododendron.org/soil.htm

    "Rhododendrons and azaleas have shallow fine hair-like roots. These roots do not tolerate water-saturated soil conditions but do require moist soils. Poor drainage and wet soils are problems often associated with heavy clay and compacted soil."

    So rhododendrons want a lot of air and a lot of moisture. The moisture I can change on my irrigation schedule and automate. The air I can only provide by structuring the soil correctly before I plant.

    5-1-1 would certainly be more structured and better than planting them in my hard compacted clay soil. But I suspect they will do extremely well in a more structured soil, more along the lines of gritty mix. Obviously I would need to provide the fertilizer separately with a highly structured soil.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    Rhododendron/azaleas don't like to dry out, but at the same time are susceptible to root rot when using soils made with large fractions of OM, especially large fractions of peat. Large fractions of peat can also make it particularly difficult to rewet a too dry soil. A good measure of Turface, calcined DE. or pumice makes rewetting dried out soils easy. All the bonsai growers I know use something well-structured - something very similar to the gritty mix for their azaleas.

    Al

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I am extremely familiar with commercial rhododendron growers - I pretty much live in the rhododendron growing capital of the universe!! I also was a long time tree and shrub buyer for several large local retail nurseries, so I know my wholesalers :-))

    "Poor drainage and wet soils are problems often associated with heavy clay and compacted soil."

    But they are not associated with the pure bark or a 5-1-1 soil mix either. I grow almost exclusively in containers and generally very long term. I still would not favor the gritty mix over the 5-1-1 simply because of the far greater watering demand (weight is a minor factor as well). And I don't live in a very hot summer climate either. The only plants I use a gritty mix for are cacti and succulent. All others - trees, shrubs, dwarf conifers, rhododendrons and hydrangeas, all edibles and various mixed containers - are grown in the 5-1-1 or a slightly modified version thereof. I really don't understand the need for any more structure than that.

    ETA: LOL!! Al, I was writing as you were posting :-) I am not a bonsai person and that might make a big difference. Since I tend to use large containers and allow plants to grow pretty much to full size, the 5-1-1 works well for me. May have to repot a bit more often as it is less durable than the gritty but I have yet to lose a plant to any root rot. Lack of water, yes (sadly) - too much water, not yet (even with this years's record rainfall)

  • TheStar
    6 years ago

    Can someone please help me figure out how much lime I need for an 8 cubic foot container with a 5-1-1 mix? Its going to be for vegetables (tomoatoes, cucumbers, peppers, watermelon.) Is it 1 cup per cubic foot? It just seems like so much lime to me so I don't want to over do it. Also, this needs to be done a week or two before planting?

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    4 cups

    It's better if you can moisten the soil and allow 2 weeks for the lime to go through its reaction phase before planting, but more often than not I make it the day or day before I need it and use it right away. W/o the reaction time, you might notice some BER on first fruits of tomatoes, peppers, or other crops susceptible to that physiological issue.

    Al

  • TheStar
    6 years ago
    Al...thanks for the reply...is it 1 cup per cubic foot?
  • TheStar
    6 years ago
    Al..thanks again...I missed where you said four cups...
  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    1/2 cup/cu ft

  • al3tte (PA/NJ 5b)
    6 years ago

    Can I just add bark fines to my potting mix to increase the drainage or do I have to make this gritty mix exact? I have two bay leaf trees that came in much more bark-like soil than I have them in and I'm afraid they won't drain well enough in the soil mix alone which is 1-3 organic potting mix/cactus mix

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago

    To SOME degree you can reduce the volume of water your soil holds by adding particles larger than than the mean size of particles in the mix. Where you really start to see an advantage is when the particles over 1/8" become by far the largest fraction of the medium, such that there are then not enough small particles to fill the spaces between the larger particles.

    The gritty mix should be screened for best results. If you don't screen it, there is little sense in going to the extra expense and effort to make it - might as well use the 5:1:1 mix or a near equal.

    If you have pine bark milled to an appropriate size, you can simply make the 5:1:1 mix by mixing 5 parts of bark with 1 part each of your potting soil and perlite, plus an appropriate amount of dolomitic (garden) lime.

    Al

  • Kathy Maxwell (Z 5a)
    6 years ago

    When discussing Pine Bark Fines, I did a search on Google and found it - at Bonsai Jack's. It's very expensive but very good. Great customer service, too. So I ordered a small amount to see what it was like. I liked what I received and ordered what I needed to make enough 5-1-1 medium to repot four 1 gal Japanese Maples to 2 gal. My question now - do I need to use the expensive bonsai Pine Bark Fines or can I use well-shredded pine bark mulch and an 1/8 in sieve to get fine bark particles? Am I overdoing and overthinking this? I plan to overwinter the plants in my greenhouse at 40 degrees and plant them out in the Spring.

  • mblan13
    6 years ago

    You don't NEED to use the expensive bonsai PBF, but its easier because it should already be sifted to size.

    If there are any AGWAY garden centers near you, they sell a pine bark mulch (in the blue bag...not the nuggets) that is excellent and has very little waste.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    6 years ago


    Compare American Bonsai's prices.

    Keep your eyes open for your own source. You'll find it (PB) as soil conditioner, clay soil conditioner, pine bark mulch, landscape mulch, premium landscape mulch, or other names.

    The bark products at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock are all from different suppliers, and all are about ideal as is for use in the 5:1:1, or for the gritty mix after screening. Your end product, after adding the perlite and peat, should look like what you see in the center of the image. The bark product at the top is prescreened fir bark that I had been purchasing for use in the gritty mix, but my supplier went out of business, and other sources have proven to be more than 3x what I was paying, and I won't pay it. I'll screen pine bark first.

    Al

  • Kathy Maxwell (Z 5a)
    6 years ago

    Thanks all for your guidance. After reading all I could about Al's 1-1-1- and 5-1-1, I thought I could have purchased some sort of pine bark mulch, soil conditioner, etc., do a little work myself (screening), and saved a good deal of money. I'm new to this but very happy to have had so much knowledge offered on this site.

    Thanks,

    Kathy

  • westes Zone 9b California SF Bay
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    With reference to filtering Turface, here has been my experience.

    First, I am now buying a Turface product named Turface MLB, which is the "major league baseball" version that uses larger particles. I was losing too much material with Turface MVP, even screening at 1/12th of an inch. Turface MLB I can actually use straight out of the bag as long as I can tolerate <5% particles that would pass through a 1/12th-inch screen. That saves me a lot of time because I no longer need to screen the MLB version at all. I allow that 5% contamination.

    Assuming you want to screen the cheaper Turface MVP product, my result with different sized screens was:

    1/20: too small

    1/12: just right, but I still lose about 40% of the bag

    3/32: too large, lots of material wasted

    1/8: too large, lots of material wasted

    The result of the above is that I do have maybe 40% of the Turface under 1/8th of an inch and greater than 1/12th of an inch. The specification for gritty mix calls for Turface at 1/8th inch or over.

    I am also not clear if the Turface MLB product has identical water retention characteristics to the Turface MVP. I am starting to suspect that MLB may be slightly different, but I do not have proof.

    What am I giving up by allowing some of this smaller Turface fraction in the gritty mix?

  • Khiem Tran
    4 years ago

    I haven't seen this question asked.


    Why do we use granite or chicken grit instead of larger sand particles or lava rock?


    Thanks for sharing this mix formula.

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    4 years ago

    Khlem, for a few reasons.

    The granite or non-porous grit provides a filler that is not moisture-retentive, has good particle size to hold the mix open, has sharp edges for root abrasion, and also has good weight to hold the plant and the mix in position.


    Josh

  • Khiem Tran
    4 years ago

    Hi, thanks Josh for the reply. It sounds like lava rock might be an alternative for chicken grit. Am I missing something?


    Kolor Scape 0.5-cu ft Red Lava Rock


    This red lava rock just needs to be crushed up a little more or whatever.


    Thanks.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    4 years ago

    To add to what Josh shared: Varying the ratio of internally porous Turface to grit allows you to vary the amount of water retention the medium holds w/o having to sacrifice aeration. It's not unusual for someone to say they added peat or other fine particles because they wanted more water retention; but, fine material added to the gritty mix eliminates the reason you would go through the exercise of making it in the first place. It is designed so it holds no (or very little) perched water.

    Normally, the gritty mix starting point is equal measures (by volume) of screened Turface, screened crushed granite, and screened pine or fir bark. If you want more water retention:

    4 parts screened Turface

    2 parts screened crushed granite or cherrystone

    3 parts screened bark

    For less water retention, increase the volume of granite and reduce the volume of Turface. Try to keep the organic fraction (bark) at no more than 1/3 of the mix.

    Al

  • Rovash
    3 years ago

    can you upload your pictures again please, I can't see them anymore... tx!

  • learningasigrow
    3 years ago

    Al, I know that its been awhile since this forum has been used, but I‘ve been reading all your threads about Trees in Pots and I still feel a little unsure. I am using a 27 cubic foot bottomless cedar box that I’ve lined sides and bottom with landscaping fabric to plant a Chinese Wisteria in my backyard in zone 6 (central Ohio). I am hoping to keep it there forever (idealistic I know) with little water maintenance during the non-growing seasons. Should I be using a 5-1-1 or a 1-1-1 and will either of these retain enough moisture that I can forgo watering during dormancy? I would be so grateful to any insight you can provide; you’ve already helped so much. Thanks in advance!

  • stillinwisconsin
    3 years ago

    I recently bought a rubber tree plant. It looks very healthy but the soil it’s in is very rich and very hard. I had to take a chop stick to break it up since I couldn’t put my finger in the soil to test the moisture level. So I decided to change out the soil.


    My first mistake:


    I went and bought miracle grow potting soil and then watered after I transplanted and even though it has drainage holes not a drop of water came out the bottom. It retained ALL the moisture in the top 1/3 of the pot and I know my plant will die of root rot If I don’t do something soon.


    My second mistake:


    Next, I tried a mix of equal parts coarse sand, mini pine bark and peat humus. Again, I watered after planting and it was like soup. Nothing draining out of the pot.


    I used Al‘s mix years ago for my outside container plants and it was wonderful. We’ve moved since then and I don’t know where my grani-grit or Turface went. I don’t remember where I got these from in WI but I will have to search again.


    succulents are my newest obsession and I bought bonsai jacks gritty mix but my indoor succulents are not happy. There are zero nutrients in this mix And that makes me uneasy.


    My question to you is this:


    What mix do I use for my indoor succulents? (Mainly Echeverias, some Haworthia and some sedum and pachyveria).


    What mix do I use for my rubber tree plant?


    What mix do I use for my sanseveria snake plant?


    Im thinking gritty mix for snake plant and succulents?


    Please help. Thank you!


  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    3 years ago

    bonsai-jacks gritty mix is very close to Al's gritty mix as far as I can tell and both are nutrient less (and so is 511). You will have to supply the nutrients either through water soluble fertilizer when watering and/or add CRF into the soil mix that will provide the nutrients. I add half the recommended amount of CRF in the mix and then also supply nutrients when watering. Not every time but may be every other watering since I already have CRF in the mix. The CRF only lasts for 3-9 months depending on the type and manufacturer.

    Succulents will do well in the gritty mix. Sans should do better in that mix too. For rubber plant you can use either. 511 is much lighter and so if you intend to have a large rubber plant then I would suggest using the 511 mix.