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5-1-1 for fruit trees in containers?

I have been reading some discussions about the 5-1-1 mix as being the best draining mix for container plants, but I mostly see it discussed in terms of indoor plants. I'm wondering if this would also be a good mix for citrus and pomegranates growing in pots?

or would I be better off using 50/50 citrus&palm/potting soil mix?

or something else?

also I would eventually like to make raised beds for some of these trees and move them into beds, and I'm wondering if the 5-1-1 mix would be good for raised beds as well, or what you would suggest.

I know that 100% straight citrus & palm mix might be great for all trees, given how well it drains, but filling an entire bed with that would be extremely costly! So I'd love to hear some other ideas if 5-1-1 would not work.

Comments (18)

  • poncirusguy6b452xx
    3 months ago

    My trees that I planted outside were grown in 50% topsoil from the yard and 50% compost from my compost pile. In the cold season I had to pull the extra water out and aerate the roots.

    aerating the roots and eliminating the perched water table in heavy dirt

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

    I'm wondering if this would also be a good mix for citrus and pomegranates growing in pots? It would work very well, though the gritty mix would work better.

    or would I be better off using 50/50 citrus&palm/potting soil mix?

    or something else? Probably not. What makes media like the 5:1:1 and gritty mixes so productive lies in the fact that they hold little to no perched water. Perched water is water held between soil particles which refuses to exit the pot, defying gravity and creating a layer of 100% saturated soil at the pot's bottom. Soils that hold little to no excess water in the form of a perched water table offer greater opportunity for plants to realize more of their genetic potential.

    also I would eventually like to make raised beds for some of these trees and move them into beds, and I'm wondering if the 5-1-1 mix would be good for raised beds as well, or what you would suggest. It won't work well in a raised bed for 2 main reasons. First is the fact that the earth below the bed will tend to act as a wick, pulling water from the mix, and given the high air porosity of the 5:1:1 mix, it would dry down very quickly. I would make your soil from about 70% native soil and maybe 15% each of pine bark and reed/ sedge peat, sometimes called Michigan peat.

    This is the medium in my RBs ^^^. It's about 25% topsoil + pine bark, Turface (tan particles), reed/ sedge peat. It's very productive, and fortunately, because I repot about 150 trees each year, I have lots of old soil I can spread on the beds, which makes up for the shrinkage.

    Also, during the first year or so, you'll need to be prepared to provide extra nitrogen to limit immobilization of nitrogen due to high populations of soil biota. The second reason is, you would se a considerable amount of soil shrinkage if using the 5:1:1 mix in beds. As the mix breaks down, much of the carbon will gas off as CO2

    I know that 100% straight citrus & palm mix might be great for all trees, given how well it drains, but filling an entire bed with that would be extremely costly! So I'd love to hear some other ideas if 5-1-1 would not work. The primary driver of water retention is particle size. If a medium is comprised of all fine particles, it's not going to work all that well (in containers), no matter what it says on the bag. In order to take advantage of the added potential offered by highly aerated, fast-draining media, it is essential that a VERY large fraction (>75%) of any container medium is made up of coarse particles larger than will pass 1/10" mesh. Also, trying to increase aeration by amending a large fraction of fine material with coarse material actually reduces aeration until you get to the point where there is no longer enough fine material to fill the large air spaces between the coarse material. The most difficult soil to grow in is one which consists of some coarse material with just enough fine material to fill all spaces between the large particles; yet, this is what a large number of growers habitually put into practice.

    Getting back to the RBs now, the citrus/palm mix will dry down much too quickly in RBs. You'll need a large fraction of sand or mineral soil as the base of whatever you end up using in your RBs.

    Al

    manic_gardener_socal_10a thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • Howard Martin
    3 months ago

     Even though I'm no expert this might work is  a 50/50 clay sand mix

  • manic_gardener_socal_10a
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    tapla, thanks a lot, your response was super helpful and I was able to learn a lot from all the detial you provided.


    I hadn't read about the gritty mix yet; I just discovered the 5-1-1. I think for the time being I'll probably stick with the 5-1-1 for pots, simply because the pots would be so heavy with the gritty mix I'm not sure I'd be able to move them! I already have one citrus I recently potted using EB Stone Citrus and Palm mix. Do you recommend repotting it in 5-1-1?


    Also, could I substitute coco coir for peat in the 5-1-1 recipe or is peat vastly preferable? I grow microgreens so I always have lots of coco coir on hand.


    What are your ideal proportions for the rest of the ingredients you list for your raised bed mix after the 25% topsoil? I think it would be a lot harder for me to acquire and mix the huge quantities of materials needed for filling raised beds - but who knows, maybe I will feel compelled to tackle this project






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

    I already have one citrus I recently potted using EB Stone Citrus and Palm mix. Do you recommend repotting it in 5-1-1? How about if you decide what you think works better.

    Also, could I substitute coco coir for peat in the 5-1-1 recipe or is peat vastly preferable? I grow microgreens so I always have lots of coco coir on hand. Most growers think coir and peat are simply interchangeable, but that isn't so. Something I wrote comparing coconut products (coir and CHCs) to peat and pine bark:

    Peat vs. Coir

    Sphagnum peat and coir have nearly identical water retention curves. They both retain about 90-95% of their volume in water at saturation and release it over approximately the same curve until they both lock water up so tightly it's unavailable for plant uptake at about 30-33% saturation. Coir actually has less loft than sphagnum peat, and therefore, less aeration. Because of this propensity, coir should be used in mixes at lower %s than peat. Because of the tendency to compact, in the greenhouse industry coir is primarily used in containers in sub-irrigation (bottom-watering) situations. Many sources produce coir that is high in soluble salts, so this can also be an issue.

    Using coir as the primary component of container media virtually eliminates lime or dolomitic lime as a possible Ca source because of coir's high pH (6+). Gypsum should be used as a Ca source, which eliminates coir's low S content. All coir products are very high in K, very low in Ca, and have a potentially high Mn content, which can interfere with the uptake of Fe. Several studies have also shown that the significant presence of phenolic allelochemicals in fresh coir can be very problematic for a high % of plants, causing poor growth and reduced yields.

    I haven't tested coir thoroughly, but I have done some testing of CHCs (coconut husk chips) with some loose controls in place. After very thoroughly leaching and rinsing the chips, I made a 5:1:1 soil of pine bark:peat:perlite (which I know to be very productive) and a 5:1:1 mix of CHCs:peat:perlite. I planted 6 cuttings of snapdragon and 6 cuttings of Coleus (each from the same plant to help reduce genetic influences) in containers (same size/shape) of the different soils. I added dolomitic lime to the bark soil and gypsum to the CHC soil. After the cuttings struck, I eliminated all but the three strongest in each of the 4 containers. I watered each container with a weak solution of MG 12-4-8 with STEM added at each watering, and watered on an 'as needed basis', not on a schedule. The only difference in the fertilizer regimen was the fact that I included a small amount of MgSO4 (Epsom salts) to provide MG (the dolomitic lime in the bark soil contained the MG, while the gypsum (CaSO4) in the CHC soil did not. This difference was necessary because or the high pH of CHCs and coir.) for the CHC soil.

    The results were startling. In both cases, the cuttings grown in the CHC's exhibited < 1/2 the biomass at summers end as the plants in the bark mix.

    I just find it very difficult for a solid case to be made (besides "It works for me") for the use of coir or CHC's. They're more expensive and more difficult to use effectively. The fact that some believe peat is in short supply (no where near true, btw) is easily offset by the effect of the carbon footprint of coir in its trek to the US from Sri Lanka or other exotic locales.

    That's the view from here. YMMV

    Coir Study: https://sites.google.com/site/plantandsoildigest/usu-crop-physiology-laboratory/coconut-coir-studies

    What are your ideal proportions for the rest of the ingredients you list for your raised bed mix after the 25% topsoil? I think about 70 - 80% native soil + 10-15% each of fine pine bark and reed/ sedge peat would be all the organic products you'd want.

    When I started my beds I layered cardboard right over the grass, layered the rest of the ingredients at 1 layer each (7" total), then used a spade and spade fork to mix everything. Since much of what you'll be using will be bagged, you could rent a cement mixer if you think your project is ambitious enough to warrant it.

    Al

    manic_gardener_socal_10a thanked tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    3 months ago

    " What are your ideal proportions for the rest of the ingredients you list for your raised bed mix after the 25% topsoil? "

    I was about to respond to this question as well, but Al beat me to it ! 😊

    First, let me say that there is nothing magical or mysterious about a raised bed. It is just an elevated planting area, whether for personal convenience, or to keep critters out, or to avoid tree roots. Or because the indigenous soil conditions are not suitable (heavy clay, poor drainage, pH out of whack, etc.). And they do not need to be of any formal construction - a mound or a berm also qualify as a 'raised bed'.

    Because they are just an elevated planting area in full contact with the underlying soil surface, there is no compelling need for any special soil mix. And in fact since you are essentially just growing in the ground, any decent mineral-based ground soil - eg. topsoil - should work perfectly well. Since topsoil tends to be devoid of much in the way of organic matter, adding a small percentage of the total volume will help. Many gardeners use compost, composted manures or leaf mold for this purpose. Like Al, I also recycle my used container soil into my raised beds (and elsewhere in the garden).

    Where I live, bulk soil suppliers are plentiful and bulk will always be cheaper than bagged - by a very wide margin. Look to see if any offer what is typically known as triple or 3-way mix. Or sometimes garden planting mix. This is a blended mix of primarily mineral based soil, a small percentage of organic matter and some sort of aeration material - ground wood chips, bark fines, very coarse sand or grit. This is a suitable product for pretty much any raised bed planting or other gardening soil needs.

    But not containers :-)

    manic_gardener_socal_10a thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • Ken B Zone 7
    3 months ago

    Coco coir works great in citrus souls, I use it in all of mine, CHC work excellent in place of pine bark and last longer. While salt used to be an issue with coco a decade ago, 99% of coco you buy today is thoroughly washed and salt it no longer an issue. The pH of cocoois right in line with what citrus like and I never have calcium deficiencies . I fertilize with jacks 25-5-15 which doesn't add calcium but have had no issues over the last decade and have happy trees that give me plenty of fruit.

  • Howard Martin
    3 months ago

    Clay has  some good qualities it should be considered as a base soil but  there must be something to balance the  Clay such as  adeep well   but moving the tree can have some unseen effects 


    Howard

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

    Clay's extremely small particle size is the underlying reason why clay holds too much water and too little air for use in conventional container culture.

    I don't understand what you mean when you reference clay being 'balanced' by a 'deep well'.

    Al

  • Howard Martin
    3 months ago

     Tapla(mid Michigan USDAz5bz6a) clay can handle erosion   but it needs some balance

  • Howard Martin
    3 months ago

     That is for better  drainage  after the water goes through the sand it must have some place to go

  • Lemon Lime Orange Zone 6a
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    O Citrus, citrus, wherefore art though 5-1-1?
    Deny thy cultivar and refuse thy soil
    Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my citrus
    And I’ll no longer be a bonsai.

    Everything you are looking for regarding coconut products, SoCal, Citrus, and Pomegranate can be found in these videos.

    https://youtu.be/yxmSYacK58A

    https://youtu.be/MpJu4krDzM8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-lN5wYmB0k

  • Horrifying Citrus Monster (Zone 7b, NYC)
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    What light through yonder grow lamp breaks?
    It is an LED, with spectrum as full as the sun...

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Since we've transitioned to the words of The Bard of Avon, we might consider that in Henry VI he had Gloucester observing, "Virtue is choked with [by] foul ambition." How does that apply to this thread? In a bid for notoriety or monetary gain, Tana (in her videos) has chosen to offer opinions and instruction that, w/o question, have the potential to detract from the growing experience of others. Her worst mistake was promoting amendment of a planting hole in clay soil with organic soil amendments, which ensures lateral percolation of water into the hole, which creates the bathtub effect and the tendency toward weak/ congested root systems that eventually produce encircling/ girdling roots.

    Bathtub Effect



    Another mistake was not taking the opportunity to bare-root the tree and correct root issues before planting out.

    "The destroyer of weeds, thistles and thorns is a benefactor, whether he soweth grain or not." ~ Robert Ingersoll

    Al

  • Lemon Lime Orange Zone 6a
    2 months ago

    Too late to bare root a root ball the size she planted. Nice crayons. Does santa know you are posting nonsense on the citrus forum again?

  • Silica
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Well I have to say Tana, is a good looking girl.. She can dig a hole and back fill it with anything she wants at my place.

  • Horrifying Citrus Monster (Zone 7b, NYC)
    2 months ago

    I'm pretty sure her name is "Hannah" not Tana