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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old April 9, 2007   #1
creister
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Default Using Al's soil mix

Does anybody have any experience using the "Al" potting mix in DIY earthboxes? I am talking about the one that uses pine fines, peat moss, perlite and lime? I only ask, because it seems like my tomatoes in that are in this mix in my DIY eb's, seem like they wilt every 2 or 3 days. I can spruce them back up by watering from the top. I wetted the mix before I filled the resivoir and planted. Do I need to wet from the top more? The mix seems to stay moist, and not too dry. Granted, the plants have only been in them for a week, and we have had not very good weather since last Friday. I did have to use shredded composted pine bark mulch, as no vendor in this town sells anything called fines. Most of the stuff is medium down to fine sized. This is not the nuggets, most of it is much smaller.
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Old April 9, 2007   #2
Suze
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I've not actually tried it, but here's my opinion. Al's mix might be great for containers, but I don't think it would be optimal for Earthbox growing. Because of the particle size, I doubt bark fines/nuggets would wick moisture up as effectively as a peat based mix would.

Was discussed a little in this thread:
http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...bark#post50202
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Old April 10, 2007   #3
geol
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I used it last year in 3gal. Containers (mostly cherry types), top watered by hand. My fines last year, seemed to me to be much composted, but made a very fast draining mix.

For two weeks in August, they sat on cinder blocks in a kiddie pool, with ¼” polypropylene cord wicked down into the water, while I was out of town. They seemed to do much better during the time I was gone. I will definitely devise a way to self water them from now on.

Since you say the mix seems to stay moist, I’m guessing the new transplants may just be suffering a little shock. I think I’d just continue to top water until they get better established into the new mix, and see what happens.
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Old April 10, 2007   #4
creister
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I thought about adding more peat moss, maybe even using 30 gallons peat, 5 gallons pine bark mulch, and 5 gallons perlite. What do you all think?
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Old April 11, 2007   #5
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I stuck pretty close to Als’ 3:1:1 ratio (pine, peat, and perlite). I came across the recipe in a bonsai thread, where the main concern about peat was that it breaks down too fast for permanent container plantings. Not an issue for my needs.

I’m sure the 1:6:1 ratio you’re thinking about would be fine for tomatoes, as most mixes are mostly peat it seems anyway.
Whether it wicks better may take some trial and error. You could always use a different mix for the wicking column than for your bulk media, depending on your DYI design.

I was thinking of stretching the mix the other way,(6:1:1 ?) for economy. I can buy the fines for a fraction of what the peat costs me. What I’m getting now is very composted, almost soil like.
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Old April 25, 2007   #6
creister
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Well, I guess I just had to wait, but the plants in Al's mix are really doing great. Kimberly is setting fruit, and Azchoyka is not far behind.
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Old April 26, 2007   #7
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I think the problem may have been that pine bark, like fresh peat, sometimes doesn't want to take up water. Even dark colored bark that has been aged or composted seems to do this. Once you get it to soak up moisture, it holds water quite well. Hot water and a drop or two of soap can help speed up the process.

Quote:
I was thinking of stretching the mix the other way,(6:1:1 ?) for economy. I can buy the fines for a fraction of what the peat costs me. What I’m getting now is very composted, almost soil like.
That could be fine for short term use, though I would be hesitant to cut down on the ratio of perlite. Perlite, or some other mineral component that doesn't break down, is important in maintaining the structure of the mix. Without it the mix will really collapse when the organic components begin to break down. 6:2:1 would be good, and you might consider leaving the peat out entirely.
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Old April 26, 2007   #8
feldon30
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I know it's probably redundant, but this thread could use a link to the actual Al's Soil Mix recipe.
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Old April 26, 2007   #9
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Quote:
I know it's probably redundant, but this thread could use a link to the actual Al's Soil Mix recipe.
Done:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/...112896.html?79
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Old April 26, 2007   #10
geol
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Here's a copy I pasted from a thread at G.W. as posted by Al :

My Soil
I'll give two recipes. I usually make big batches.
3 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat)
1-2 parts perlite
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
micro-nutrient powder (substitute: small amount of good, composted manure

Big batch:
3 cu ft pine bark fines (1 big bag)
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
1 cup lime (you can add more to small portion if needed)
2 cups CRF
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder or 1 gal composted manure

Small batch:
3 gallons pine bark
1/2 gallon peat
1/2 gallon perlite
handful lime (careful)
1/4 cup CRF
1 tsp micro-nutrient powder or a dash of manure ;o)
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Old April 26, 2007   #11
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Fantastic, thanks! ....
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