After growing maples for the past 7 years, many of them in containers, I have been looking for methods that will improve the health and vigor of my plants. I lose a few maples every year, and some of my trees seem stunted, putting on very little growth, or suffering more dieback than seasonal growth. I am sure that there are several improvements I could make to my care regimen, including more routine watering. In a yard with sunny areas, part shade, and dense shade, I find that my plants dry out at radically different rates, and so I either have to check each of my 175+ pots daily, or water everything every 2-3 days and hope that I dont drown any of them (this is the method I chose.) If we get a hot spell, even 2-3 days can be too long for some of my plants; I had a few lose all their leaves after I went camping in August for the weekend. I have been reading alot, trying to learn what the ideal soil would be for containerized maples. There isn't much info out there. Most people either use regular potting soil from the hardware store, or they make a peat based mix adding random items to help improve drainage. I have also seen some nurseries grow in a bark-perlite mix. I found there weeew hundreds of threads on the gardenweb forum discussing "Al's Gritty mix" which is described below. It seems that the gardenweb Container Gardening forum is the only place where this issue is being discussed. I am surprised that with all the experienced nurseryfolk and maple enthusiasts here in the UBC forum, this topic has not been thoroughly discussed. I hope that this thread will help expand our understanding of the needs of Japanese maples and what soil may best provide the ideal condtions to satisfy the plant and the grower. I am about to try out this "gritty mix" for 15-20 of my maples. It consists of equal parts of pine bark, gravel/chicken grit, and turface (expanded clay) that have been screened to remove fines and particles over 3/8" This mix is supposed to have excellent drainage while holding a good amount of usable water for the plant. One of the benefits of his mix is that only the pine bark (1/3 of the total soil volume) will ever break down, and this will take several years before there is any loss of fine pore spaces. Most soil mixes with peat, compost, and other organic materials will break down within a single growing season, reducing drainage and increasing the likelihood of saturated soils. The turface holds alot of water, releasing it slowly, and the gravel helps ensure that there are plenty of large pore spaces that will hold oxygen. Because this mix lacks any substantial amount of nutrients, I'll be using a water soluble fertilizer every 3-4 waterings. The materials pose a challenge for many people to find, but things were fairly easy for me. I sourced pre-screened fir bark that is used for Orchid soil from a local company for $50 a yard. The gravel is available prescreened to remove fines and chunks over 1/2" from the landscape supply yard for $15 a yard, and turface (thich can be the hardest component to find)is sold locally by John Deere landscape supply. Turface is commonly used on baseball fields to prevent mud in the infield, and is available in 50lb bags for $8-10. Diatomaceous earth is a good substitute if Turface can't be found. Here is a link to a very, very long thread discussing soils and water movement http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0622171013552.html Here is a link to many links discussing the gritty mix http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&...&q=+site:forums2.gardenweb.com+als+gritty+mix Is anyone else growing in a "non-conventional" growing medium? Does anyone find that the standard "potting soil" mixes sold in garden centers and in landscape supply centers to be inadequate for the needs of their maples? It seems like the gritty mix may be a solution to a problem that few people complain about. Are we ignoring the reality which may be that our maples are suffering in silence, and not living up to their potential? Or is this just the new fad ? Does anyone use water soluble fertilizers regularly on their maples? Which brand do you use?