Author Topic: Potting Mix Question  (Read 12679 times)

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Potting Mix Question
« on: June 06, 2017, 08:26:55 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, Marcia. This user is located in Zone 9, Northern CA. This was originally posted on April 29, 2008.

The whole "mix vs. soil" question is very confusing even after reading most of the posts on the forum regarding this question.  I just bought and filled 3 EBs with "Natural Organic Gardner and Bloome Planting Mix."   Underneath that it says "Premium Garden Soil. Ideal for general soil amending. Raised Bed Planting.  Bare Root Planting.  Large Outdoor Container Planting."  The ingredients are: forest humus, peat moss, rice hulls, chicken manure, worm castings, bat guano, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, oyster shell and dolomite limes"    It didn't have any rocks or sand in it, or any perlite or vermiculite. It didn't seem as "fluffy" or "spongy" as the Earth Box potting mix I used previously which had a lot of perlite in it.  So is this going to be okay?  When I bought it I thought that "Planting Mix" was synonymous with "Potting Mix."  Is perlite or vermiculite an essential ingredient or will I be okay without it.  Any answers out there?

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2017, 08:29:58 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Donald1800. This user is located in Fontana, CA Zone 8. This was originally posted on April 29, 2008.

The primary secret of the EBs success is the wicking of water from the bottom to the top, as opposed to the typical garden method of watering from the top to the bottom.  As such, the primary functional criteria and requirement of the potting mix is the wicking capability.  Therefore, the two main ingredients on the contents list should list as the first Sphagnum Peat and/or Coir - usually 70-80%, with the balance some combination of Vermiculite, Perlite and even Carbon (with the emphasis on the Vermiculite).  Mix components which do not contribute to this wicking action are anything Partially Composted..., Forest Biproducts, Sawdust, Bark, Screened Topsoil, etc.  Currently most Soils and Mixes available today have listed these very ingredients as the first few, which in my opinion are not suitable for THIS application.

Note: The first ingredient your mix lists is " Forest Humus", which I have serious doubt is an accurate description.  Forests typically do NOT have Humus in sufficient quantity to harvest as a main ingredient in a commercial mix.  It is usually listed more accurately as Partially Composted Forest Biproducts which, besides NOT acting as a wick, is actually a nitrogen thief in its attempt to finish its composting.

That is why I have taken the unusual step, in both time and effort, to make my own mix for my 34+ boxes.  I just could not get what is needed within a reasonable shipping distance, and the EB mix cost with shipping is unrealistic.

I hope this helps clarify what was missed in all of the other Mix vs. Soil posts.

Donald1800

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2017, 08:32:57 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Guest, new2ebs. This was originally posted on April 29, 2008.

I too was confused by the potting mix vs. soil question, and had to replace all of my potting soil in all 6 boxes I had just planted.  The main thing that I came to realize was that you need to find a soilless potting mix and there is a big difference once you have used both (the water used to run out brown and now it is clear)  Now that I have changed out all the soil to mix everything is growing and looks very good - it was definitely worth the effort to get it right.
I used the potting soil around some spots in the yard to put some of my extra plants that couldn't fit in my boxes.  Well see how they do.

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2017, 08:34:35 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, JD. This user is located in Zone 8B: TLH, FL. This was originally posted on April 29, 2008.

I am preparing a variation of Donald1800s Potting Mix using the following (all from a local nursery):

Black Gold CocoBlend (2 cu ft) contains Sphagnum, Coir, and Earthworm casings (http://www.blackgold.bz/organic.html#WaterholdCocoblend)
Horticultural Vermiculite (8 qt bag)
Perlite (8 qt bag)

Will check the PH via a soil test kit once the EBs are delivered.

Concerning the soil amendments: I ordered Granular Azomite (www.thenaturalabode.com) and Gardens A Plenty organic fertilizer (www.gardensalive.com) to partner with worm casings and agricultural limestone already on hand. I play with the amounts using Donald1800s map as a guide

FYI. I am waiting on 5 EBs. The plan is 2 tomato, 1 lettuce, 1 spinach, and 1 corn/bean.

JD

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2017, 08:36:07 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, MacJim. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.

I have been having a problem finding an Organic Potting mix and plan to mix my own using this formula 60% peat, 30% vermiculite, and 10% perlite.
My question is do you measure this by volume or weight? I am assuming you mix by volume, because, for example vermiculite, for its volume, is very light compared to peat. Is my thinking correct?  Thanks Jim

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2017, 08:39:58 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Deb. This user is located in
The Pacific NorthWET - Sunset - W. Climate Zone 6. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.


My guess is by volume, but I agree it gets confusing looking at different size packages and the way they are labeled.  I thought I had it all figured out and then ran across some stuff that was measured and compressed so 3.5 cubic ft of mux will fill 3.5 EBs.  ...sigh...

When I emptied my old boxes of the potting soil (that didnt grow very well last year) I had 2 full five gallon buckets out of each EB.

I've seen both 2 cu ft and 2.5 cu ft as the amount needed to fill the EB and have figured the .5 cu ft is in the top dome.  Mix up 2.5 buckets full and you should be ok.

Deb

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2017, 08:41:06 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Donald1800. This user is located in Fontana, CA Zone 8. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.

All ingredients are measured by volume - peat and coir are measured AFTER moist and fluffed.

Donald1800

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2017, 08:43:22 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Newbie, MacJim. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.

Thanks all for the reply's..

Donald1800 question for you.  I know you said that you order from Peaceful Valley some items.  For a person who wants to just buy a mix, have you ever seen their "Pro-Mix" Item # PSO240  Here are the ingredients, per their website.

? Canadium Sphagnum Peat Moss (75-85% by volume)
? Perlite - Horticultural Grade
? Mycorise? Pro - endomycorrhizal inoculum (Glomus intraradices)
? Vermiculite - Horticultural Grade
? Dolomitic and Calcitic Limestone (pH adjuster)
? Wetting Agent

If this is not suitable, do you know of any other prepackaged product they carry that might be suitable mix to use in EBs. I do see that they carry all of the ingredients to make your own mix, but for someone who doesn't want to do that, its difficult to find an alternative.

By-the-way shipping is not an issue for me I live right in the same town and I can go right to their store and pick up. They are a very nice group of people there.
Also I looked on their site for the coco-peat in the large bag you mentioned in another post, but could find only a small bag. Would you happen to have a part number.

All of your help is very much appreciated....You are a wealth of knowledge.... Thanks Jim

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2017, 08:45:06 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Donald1800. This user is located in Fontana, CA Zone 8. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.

Yes, it should work fine.  The "wetting agent" listed will NOT have a negative effect.

Donald1800

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2017, 08:46:54 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Deb. This user is located in
The Pacific NorthWET - Sunset - W. Climate Zone 6. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.


The Pro-Mix is what Kathy said that EB company is using.  Several other regular posters are also using it.

You're lucky to live so close to a distributor.  They are few and far between.  I'm also lucky as the only Oregon distributor is about 5 miles from my Dads place, and 3 bales will fill my 10 EBs and left enough room in my stationwagon for my big dog.  ;>

I'm experimenting a little with it because I had started to gather ingredients to mix my own when I found the Pro-Mix.  I put straight Pro-Mix in the wicking corners and about 1-2" deep on top of the screens.  Then I mixed 1 5gal bucket each of coir and vermiculite into about 10 gallons of the mix.  I'm going to add this (fill to the top of the box) and mix in the dolomite and earthworm castings then pat it down.  Then use the same mixture without dolomite and castings, to fill the box and make the dome.

Donald- do you see any problem with that?  It is exceptionally fluffy mixed like that.

By doing it this way Ill have enough mix to fill a few other containers I have and not waste or store the things I had already bought.

Deb

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2017, 08:49:21 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Donald1800. This user is located in Fontana, CA Zone 8. This was originally posted on May 11, 2008.

Just make sure that the Peat and Coir are well moistened - wet but when squeezed hard will not drip liquid.  THEN measure.

In general, I have Dolomite mixed throughout the mix - top and bottom.  EB uses only the top 3", and you propose to use the bottom 3".  I wouldn't limit the plants access to either the Ph adjustment OR calcium/magnesium.

Donald1800

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2017, 08:50:46 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Deb. This user is located in
The Pacific NorthWET - Sunset - W. Climate Zone 6. This was originally posted on May 12, 2008.


Thanks Donald-

Since I went to a family picnic today instead of filling my boxes I knew Id have to rewater the mix.  It rained last night but not very much.  ;>

So I've got the bottom layer (the corners and 1-2" covering the screen) in all the boxes and after rewetting, Ill fill the boxes with the mix.

I figured if I filled the boxes to the top with mix I would be able to stir in the dolomite and castings and make sure each box had the right amount and that it would be at root level.  If I put it in, pat it down and build the mound and pat it down, how do I mix anything in clear to the bottom layer?  If I put the dolomite and castings in the mix before filling the boxes how can I be sure each box is getting the right amount?

Am I making this too hard?

I'm not really a newbie, but this is the first year I'm doing it right - or trying to at least.  ;>

I sure notice a lot of differences between the new and old boxes.  The old ones have holes on each end of the screen so I could stick a pole (much like the Ultomato pole) clear to the bottom of the box.  There are holes at the top of the box I stuck a zip strip through and fastened the pole to the box.  The zip strip holes are on the long sides too, but the screen isn't cut out.  The new screen is much sturdier.  The old boxes bow out a bit after several years of use and the mix fell through to the reservoir along the sides and through the post holes then clogged the overflow hole.  I like the looks of the new overflow, but it isn't as easy to see when the reservoir is almost full.  That wont matter at all when I get the AWS hooked up, but the old ones are easier to stick a stick in to see if the reservoir is clogged.

Deb

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2017, 08:51:39 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Donald1800. This user is located in Fontana, CA Zone 8. This was originally posted on May 12, 2008.

Deb:
I usually premeasure 2 1/2 - 3 cu. ft. of moist fluffed mix into a larger plastic tub and add the dolomite, mixing by hand down to the bottom.  Then I add the mix to the EB probing with my fingers and wetting as I go.

I know that this is more work than what EB states in their instructions and videos, but I feel better knowing that the needed nutrients are fairly evenly distributed.  Just a personal preference.

Donald1800

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2017, 08:56:59 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Hero Member, Deb. This user is located in
The Pacific NorthWET - Sunset - W. Climate Zone 6. This was originally posted on May 13, 2008.


Thanks Donald-
I do have a big empty tub that I can use.  I'm not sure it really will be too much more work because this tub is smaller than the one the mix is presently in.  Remember I've mixed 2 cu ft of Pro Mix with 1 cu ft each of vermiculite and coir and water and have enough room to stir and fluff.  (Sounds almost like doing laundry)  ;>

So, I've got straight Pro Mix in the corners and covering the screen.   I can put a bit more than 2 5gal buckets in my smaller tub, mix in the dolomite and worm cast, stir well, and just fill one EB at a time.  Actually this should be easier than the layers I was thinking of doing - I can pick up and pour the smaller tub.  And it will give me more chance to play in the dirt.  ;>

Am I remembering right that it is 1 cup dolomite for everything except tomatoes which will get 2 cups?  EB directions are different, but they weren't written for using extra coir.  My Master Gardener sis thinks that is too much dolomite, but its because of the acid level of the coir and peat, right?  I would be so pleased to show her just what an EB can do, especially after watching her weed the onions the other day. 

Deb

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Re: Potting Mix Question
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2017, 08:58:36 am »
Disclaimer: This post was originally posted by Horticulturalist, over 45 years in the business. The EarthBox Hero Member, kathy. This user is located in the mountains of PA Zone 5, almost 4. This was originally posted on May 13, 2008.

Just what to clarify the Pro mix statement, I personally use Pro-Mix, we at EarthBox do not use or sell pro-mix. Our mix comes from Canada and is a high peat based mix.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 09:15:28 am by EarthBoxDD »