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  Let's talk commercial mixes, eh?
From: Ken Mosher ken at spatulacity.com> on 2005.12.15 at 10:07:44(13603)
Dear aroiders,

We've heard from time to time what soil mixes different people use for
their Amorph collections. Most of the experienced growers create a
custom mix. I've spoken with several people: Dan Devor mixes by hand,
Dewey Fisk mixes up a pile with a shovel. But Dan is mixing mostly for
his personal collection, even though it's large and Dewey does this
full-time. Ron McHatton modifies Fafard's #3B with extra perlite.

The mix I have been using just isn't working. One year it worked great -
must have been a fluke of the weather that let me get away with it. I've
determined that even when the top 2" are dry the lower part is actually
wet - the perfect recipe for rot, especially when I wander by and add
more water because they look and feel dry.

I have a problem that I imagine is like what is experienced by larger
growers who are under staffed. I work full time (present unemployment
excepted) and I just can't afford the time required to create my own
potting mix. Nor do I have the stamina to mix up 5+ cubic yards of it
all at once in the spring! (I used over 5 yds3 in 2005.) And I've no
place to store that much for any length of time so I can't mix it up now
for springtime use. Maybe Tony Avent has some advice for me.

I turned to the Milikowski catalog for a commercial potting mix
solution. The reason I'm referring to their catalog is convenience - a
new one came in the mail while the subject was on my mind.

I've put a 10-page PDF on my server that includes the commercial mix
section of their catalog. When referring to page numbers I'll use 1 -
10, not 64-73 (the page numbers in the catalog).
http://dragocactoid.com/CommercialGrowingMediums.pdf is 1.6MB.

If people are interested, and will indulge me, I'll go through some
commercially available mixes that seemed promising. Some of them are
available in bulk, meaning very large bags (60 cubic feet). I circled
the ones I'll ask your opinions about.

It would help if I told you where I'm growing; in New England, USA,
specifically Andover, Connecticut. USDA Zone 5a. Mostly inside a 52 x 22
foot greenhouse but also outdoors for large specimens and overflow.
Growing only during spring, summer, fall. I grow offsets and small
tubers in 1/2 gal square nursery pots, larger tubers in 1 to 3 gal pots,
really big tubers in 20 gal tubs.

#1 - on the first page is Sungro's Sunshine 910. Sungrow took over
Scott's Coir-based line of mixes. I think #910 might not be a great choice.

#2, #3 - page 2, Sunshine bark-based mixes (hi Dan!). I point
specifically to Sunshine 500 series and Sunshine PX3. (A brief note on
peanut hulls; I've never seen one breakdown, they seem to last a long
time in my own experience.)

#4 - page 4, Metro-Mix 380 Coir. Catalog recommends for bedding plants
in mid to large size containers. Any good for my 1/2 gal pots?

#5, #6, #7 - page 6, Fafard Mix #3B, Mix #50 and Mix #52. Page 8 gives
further descriptions of the mixes; I circled #3B and #52 - both of which
are readily available in 60 ft3 bags.

I didn't single out anything on pages 9, 10, but I included them so
people could see the entire commercial mix section of the catalog. I've
dealt both with Milikowski and Griffin's Greenhouse Supply. They both
have warehouses in Connecticut that I've been to.

If I can make a decision well before spring then I can find the least
expensive way to get it here, such as maybe piggybacking my order with
one of my neighboring nurseries.

Thank you for your indulgence!

-Ken Mosher

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From: hermine hermine at endangeredspecies.com> on 2005.12.17 at 10:29:15(13606)
Thank you for your indulgence!
-Ken Mosher
(deep curtsey)
Ok Ken, it is I who thank you and ask in advance for permission to
post your findings here and there on various lists where folks kvetch
about their soil mixes, as an ongoing issue!
We also wonder if we need to crank up the concrete mixer to make soils. i
believe that all the locally available soil mixes are some form of
pulverized garbage, TV sets, dead lumber and detritus, and dyed different
colours to indicate what "natural" substances they might
contain, based on my requirements. (ie, dark brown dye for leafmold, and
so forth).
hermine

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From: Scott Hyndman hyndman at aroid.org> on 2005.12.17 at 10:58:26(13607)
Ken,

Good topic and I am sure there will be as many ideas and preferences
as to the best growing mix as there are aroid growers. There was
research done at the Mid Florida Research and Education Center
decades ago on the best potting soil mixes for various foliage
plants, many of which are aroids, and as I recall they statistically
found that they could grow plants equally well in all of the
commercially available mixes at the time and with just straight
Canadian peat moss, with the pH amended of course. Some of that
research is available at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/Foliage/Resrpts/
mrec_resrpt_ndx.htm

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From: Tony Avent tony at plantdelights.com> on 2005.12.17 at 13:39:27(13608)
Ken:

We use a pine bark/peanut hull based mix called Biocomp #5. This is
the same mix that we use for everything in our nursery and we are
extremely satisfied. I'm not an advocate of adding ammendments to
commercial mixes since the good companies have already spent millions of
dollars of research to reach the right water and air holding capacity.
I hope this helps.

Tony Avent

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From: Susan B honeybunny442 at yahoo.com> on 2005.12.20 at 13:55:44(13636)
Scott mentioned verminiculte holding water but perlite does too. Years ago I had a small plastic bin of perlite, about 9x12 inches (sorry Wilbert) and about 4 inches deep. In a fit of absentmindedness I poured some water into it instead of a potted plant. As an experiment, I dumped out as much water as I could and then left it in the summer sun, figuring it would dry since the perlite is so porous. Well all those little pores held water and that perlite never did dry, it did develop a nice green mold which grew nicely until I threw the entire mess away. Ever since then I've been leery of mix recipes that call for a lot of perlite to keep the mixture from becoming too moist.__________________________________________________Do You Yahoo!?Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around http://mail.yahoo.com _______________________________________________
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From: Kyle Baker kylefletcherbaker at yahoo.com> on 2005.12.22 at 18:07:01(13641)
Susan B wrote: Scott mentioned verminiculte holding water but perlite does too. Years ago I had a small plastic bin of perlite, about 9x12 inches (sorry Wilbert) and about 4 inches deep. In a fit of absentmindedness I poured some water into it instead of a potted plant. As an experiment, I dumped out as much water as I could and then left it in the summer sun, figuring it would dry since the perlite is so porous. Well all those little pores held water and that perlite never did dry, it did develop a nice green mold which grew nicely until I threw the entire mess away. Ever since then I've been leery of mix recipes that call for a lot of perlite to keep the mixture from becoming too moist. Hey Susan..  
;Yeppers
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From: Brian Williams pugturd at alltel.net> on 2005.12.24 at 09:27:38(13644)
Joe Wright of Florida wrote a article years ago on soil retaining water.
He had a formula that showed the amount of water any soil could hold in
different conditions. It maybe in a old newsletter or aroideana. I have
a copy somewere on my computer. I will look and see if I can find it.
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From: plantguy at zoominternet.net> on 2005.12.24 at 09:42:06(13645)
Well, I'm not an expert by any means, but I think
that you want the perlite to hold the water, much like you want rockwool or
expanded clay (both routinely used for hydroponics) to hold water. By
keeping the water in the porous interior and then releasing the water as the
surrounding areas dries you keep the roots evenly moist but never wet because
the water is not in contact with the roots. Putting some mix in a pot
without a plant is not a good way to test your mix since you have removed
the largest instrument of water removal (transpiration). Also, if you did
not have holes in the pot to allow gravity to remove water then you can
expect the water to stick around for a much longer period of time. People
have been using expanded clay for bonsai for hundreds of years (likely well
before the first Amorph was described) where drainage and the perfect balance of
water holding capacity is a must for your 1,000 year old Juniperus. Having
said that I think I change mine a bit every year to see if I can
improve what I am doing!! This past summer was a farce because
I had 50+ Amorphs decide to break dormancy in late August despite us
having record heat and humidity this past summer......I did my best to get
rid of most of these since anyone that is going to behave that way is not a
friend of mine!! I must say that for all the posts on this thread
there have only been a couple of posts actually detailing what they use. I
personally would love to hear what everyone else uses in their mix just because
it adds info to the "literature" so to speak. There is no such thing as
too much info so please lets here from the rest of the major growers out there
and of course indicate whether you are using a greenhouse and your climate zone
and city (west coast zone 6 is not a comparison at all to my zone 6 of
course).

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From: "Russ" chammer at cfl.rr.com> on 2005.12.24 at 11:03:15(13647)
Susan, there's actually not much that
absorbs water less than perlite, and you should not be afraid to use it.
Perlite does not absorb water, but it does hold it in irregularities of the
outer surface. Vermiculite
holds water in the
multi-layered body of the granule, MUCH more than perlite. I suspect
that you might not have drained as much water out of that tub as you thought,
and the water in the bottom kept wicking slowly
to the top, keeping it damp enough
to grow that algae.
Only thing I can think of better than
perlite to open a mix up is pumice, which is only available in quantity on the
far west coast. Smooth round styrofoam beads, like I see in some
commercial mixes, might be better than perlite if one could find it,
but I've never seen it.

Russ

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From: "michael mahan" agavestar at covad.net> on 2005.12.24 at 22:05:58(13650)
Ya’ll are forgetting about capillary
action perlite 100% has no transfer mechanizing capability add just 5% coir to
the mix & that pot will dry quite fast ,even faster with more
drain holes like the pots used by nurseries that use pure coir/perlite
mixes, even faster than that when used in a CLAY pot (advantage to this
mix for a nursery,no added bacterial action to sour the mix ,slow break down
,able to control ,ph,fertilizer) & fast growup ,then a sale & out da
door . pure hard rock gravel will hold water if the sizes of pieces are
such that no capillary action takes place Mike

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From: hermine hermine at endangeredspecies.com> on 2005.12.25 at 09:27:55(13654)
Only thing I can think of better than perlite to open a mix up is pumice,
which is only available in quantity on the far west coast. Smooth
round styrofoam beads, like I see in some commercial mixes, might be
better than perlite if one could find it, but I've never seen it.

Russ
I HATE THOSE STYROFOAM BEADS. hate, hate hate. they eventually float to
the top of the pot and also a dog tears open the bag and the wind blows
them all over town and they never go away. i am still working on soil
mixes, sort of, and believe at least a third of natural brown stuff,
which is stuff found on the ground, which is naturally brown, whatever,
mixed with irregular chunky small stuff, like pumice or calcined clay or
bird gravel, and some small wood chips and a hand full of sand is a good
mix for practically anything. If I could afford it I would be using oak
leaf mold, but that is pricey on the west coast, as punishment for how
cheap is pumice.
things I hate:
Stuff which eventually floats to the surface.
fake composted commercial stuff which smells like THE DUMP and is made of
pulverized lumber dyed to look like earth
Large vermiculite pieces
Unwettable stuff. there is a kind of baled peat which if it dries out you
have to beat the water back into it with a hammer.
hermine

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From: "Russ" chammer at cfl.rr.com> on 2005.12.25 at 23:30:04(13656)
I also dislike both styrofoam and
perlite, Hermine. But choices are so limited. Can't use anything
from the ground here in Fla or any
southern tier state because of massively damaging root knot nematodes, altho
they might be in vastly reduced numbers in the rotted oak leaves under my trees. I think they prefer
sandy soils to those with lots of organic matter. I guess I
should experiment with the brown gold on one of my more common
Philos.

Russ

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From: Wrig14 at aol.com on 2005.12.26 at 13:26:34(13658)
Well here's Joe. It has been said that for every grower there is a mix.

The formula Brian spoke of is this.

Chose a favorite potting mix

Select a pot- (4") cover the drain holes with tape and pour water in to the soil line. Invert pot pouring the liquid into a measured container noting the volume.

Fill the pot with your standart mix and drainage then slowly pour the water over the potting mix until all is used. Allow time for full absorbtion

Remove the tape frrom the pot and allow the pot to drain into the measured container. The remainder determines the soils absorbtion rate

NOW, with this choice info you can adjust the mix to suit the perceived requirements of various species.

An earlier writer correctly noted the nemise of all mixes is water.

This topic has been addressed numerous times noting that materials advocated by some are rejected resoundly by others. Good growing and Happy New year to all.

Joe

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