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  commercial mixes- get real, learn how to grow!
From: "Derek Burch" derek at horticulturist.com> on 2005.12.17 at 17:55:44(13609)
With all due respect to the companies and
researchers who have done such valuable work, all that matters is that you
learn how to water. If you get that wrong, you can blame the mixes, blame the weather,
blame the size pot, but it is you who are to blame if things go wrong. A good
commercial grower knows that it is his/her most experienced person who should
be holding the hose.

That said, the value of the research work
has been in developing mixes that allow us to slack off in our observation of
what is going on with the plants, and give us a little slack.

Read your plants, learn how to water and
if you only have time to grow six plants properly, don’t try to outdo
your neighbour by growing two hundred.

I know, I killed off a bunch of my beloved
gingers after switching to a coir-based mix, and not realising what a bear it
was to water properly.


From: Ken Mosher ken at spatulacity.com> on 2005.12.17 at 21:52:27(13611)
Hi Derek,

What I think I hear you saying is that the soil mix is irrelevant if
only the grower will learn what the hell he or she is doing? That seems
like a curious comment, and a wrong one. Are you honestly telling me
that you can grow Astrophytum asterias in pure peat moss? Well, maybe
you could if you wanted to spend an inordinate amount of time
"observing" that one plant.

We have been blessed with 1000 different mixes to choose from for a
reason. Maybe we could happily get by on 10 rather than 1000, but
different plants like different conditions and there's no reason to try
to shoehorn the same conditions into every mix.

If I have a nursery pot that's 7" high and the bottom 5" are wet and the
top 2" are bone dry, that is bad. If I have tubers planted in it that
have not broken the soil yet, how can I observe my plants? And if they
are in active growth, shall I wait for them to wilt to water again? I
don't think that's a good way to grow a healthy plant. It may survive
but I want them to thrive. And how many signals do plants give? Not too
many, depends on the plant. The above mentioned Astro. asterias usually
gives two signals: I am alive; I am dead. If you manage to catch a
condition between the two you can be fairly sure that state 2 is not far
off for it will not easily re-attain health.

Or maybe what I was saying in my original post was that the mix I was
using gives me NO slack and I want to find one that does. Lots, if
possible. I'm a one-guy operation and for better or worse *I* run the
hose. I want to become a good commercial grower and in that quest I seek
good tools to help.

Lucky for us there are a bunch of people on aroid-l that will give of
their expertise.

From: "Derek Burch" derek at horticulturist.com> on 2005.12.18 at 10:12:07(13614)

Yes to all your points. I love the amount of slack that many of new mixes
give, and, of course, realize that there are times when you cannot observe
plant growth closely enough. But I don't think that 1000 choices are a
blessing, and that even ten for any one group of plants (i.e. ten for cactus
and succulents or ten for aroids) can cause confusion in the grower's mind.
I shoehorn all my terrestrial aroids and gingers into one mix, and do the
"detail" in the watering. Not with complete success - and I don't do
anything very rare or difficult. Remind me again, if I ever ask about
Astrophytum, that I should definitely stay away from the whole group.

On your specifics, though - I might ask what you are doing giving repeated
waterings to a corm that has not broken dormancy or pushed above the
surface? But let that snide comment go, I don't want to be get into a
slanging match with another grower.

One thing that did influence my thinking on this: many years ago when I
worked at Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the gardeners delighted in
growing cactus in bowls with no drainage, and in pure sphagnum moss.

So, on with the sharing - yes, it is a great group at aroid-l with only a
few snots like me to through a little grit into the bearings.


From: "araceae at earthlink.net" araceae at pop.earthlink.net> on 2005.12.18 at 12:15:46(13617)
Title: Re: [Aroid-l] commercial mixes- get real, learn how

I usually do not put my two cents worth in on this list...
This time I will make an exception.

In Florida (the only place that I am qualified to make a
judgement) you can obtain a job in a nursery and have a profession as
a "Grower" if you know what you are doing. You can't
get a job or a profession if you are a person who "Puts Plants in
Pots". If you are a Grower, you can grow plants in thin
air... (Hydroponics) or you can grow them in something that
might resemble a poor quality of concrete. The difference is
that you have studied your product, gained a lot of experience and
tried different things. One can learn a lot from talking with
others but the bottom line is where someone else might have success
will be your dismal failure.

So, Yes, Mix is irrelevant to knowledge that you have gained by
trial and error. It is also my experience that over the years
DOCTOR BURCH has probably forgotten more that 99% of the people on
this list will ever learn.... including me, and I am placing
myself at the top of the 99% list.

From: Ken Mosher ken at spatulacity.com> on 2005.12.18 at 20:08:30(13623)

I thought maybe you were just in a bad mood! That happens to me all the
time. I agree that too many choices in soil may be a bad thing if it
leads to too much confusion. Not to besmirch the advice of anyone who's
answered, because many of the answers have been as informational as I'd
hoped, but I'm leaning toward one of the bark-based mixes. There is
evidence from other northern growers that it doesn't cause the problems
here that it apparently does in the south.

As for your friend who grew cacti in peat with no drainage - I don't
doubt it. I've (mistakenly) grown cacti in all sorts of inappropriate
soils and had them live for a long time. One guy on another list grew
some cacti hydroponically just to prove a point! Like most genera, some
Astrophytums are easy and some are hard. I've killed multiple asterias
and capricorne. I don't know if I'll ever try them again, but I probably
will just because I persist in believing I'm smarter than they are.

Why do I give repeated waterings to a dormant tuber? The answer to that
question is too embarrassing for me to admit. All the gentle readers of
this list are voicing their own version of the same thought...

These last couple of days of discussion have reminded me of a
mini-lecture I gave last year about cactus soil during our club's annual
sale. There were some novices sitting there with great hope in their
eyes that I would import priceless wisdom unto them. There were also a
couple of much more experienced growers from my club in attendance (for
the chance to heckle me). I started the talk by saying that the longer I
grew cacti the less I knew on the subject. I admitted that I couldn't
possibly count the number of plants that I'd killed. Then I told them
there was no answer to the question "what kind of soil should I use."
Then I told them all about how their choice of mix depended on watering,
pot size & shape, plastic vs clay, weather, growing on windowsill vs
greenhouse, and of course the requirements of the species they were
trying to grow, etc.

The great thing is that when I take all the excellent answers that have
been posted in reply to my query and apply them to my conditions I think
I have a good idea which direction I'm going to go. I hope there were
some others who needed those answers, too, and benefitted as much as I did.


From: "Mike Bordelon" Bordelon.Mike at NMNH.SI.EDU> on 2005.12.19 at 07:28:21(13628)
Hi everybody,

I agree with Derek about watering and also agree with the other comments
about drainage, soil composition, pot size, shape, and where you are
growing.....Experience is important and is something we all will get sooner
or later as long as we keep trying. When I started growing over 30 years
ago, the first thing my boss at the large wholesale-retail nursery, Leo
Bicknese told me was " The most important person in the operation is the
person with the hose". Words of wisdom from a very good grower.

Mike Bordelon

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