where to find supplies for 5:1:1 and gritty mix potting mixes in Vancouver

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by Tom-Pierre Frappé-S., Jun 6, 2019.

  1. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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    Hi all,

    Does anyone have suggestions on where in the Lower Mainland one can buy the components for Al's 5:1:1 and gritty's mix?

    I am looking for...
    - Uncomposted pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
    - coarse perlite
    - Turface
    - crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or
    - #2 cherrystone


    Erka mentioned Lawnboy landscape on Cambie for the bark, but they didn't seem that pleased by the product: Lawnboy Enterprises Ltd. - Products
    British Columbia: - bark fines

    Anyone else has put together the gritty mix and knows where to source the turface, gran-I-grit and cherrystone? The latter two are used for poultry farming I believe...

    Thank you!
    Tom

    PS for those who are interested, here are the details:
    The 5:1:1 mix
    2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
    5 gallons peat
    5 gallons perlite
    2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
    2 cups CRF (if preferred)

    The gritty mix:
    1 part uncomposted screened pine or fir bark (1/8-1/4")
    1 part screened Turface
    1 part crushed Gran-I-Grit (grower size) or #2 cherrystone
    1 Tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil (eliminate if your fertilizer has Ca)

    source: Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XX
     
  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Turface was available from GrowerCentral, a wholesaler of horticultural supplies, but they were bought out by another company. Bark mini nuggets sold under the Hillview brand were available at Home Depot. The brand was subsequently acquired by Premier Tech: https://www.pthomeandgarden.com/assets/documents/Bark Mini Nuggets (4927741).pdf. I don't know where it is sold or whether it's still in production.

    Have you checked with bonsai stores for the items on your list? Years ago when Sunny Bonsai was located at Nanaimo and E. Broadway, they carried various potting materials in big bags in the store. Please report back on what do manage to find.
     
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  3. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  4. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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  5. Joan L NW

    Joan L NW Member

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    I saw perlite at Lowe's in Queensborough a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if you already found another source for it.
     
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  6. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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    Thanks Joan. Yes, it turns out medium size bags of perlite and vermiculite are at a few places, including Potter's mentioned above.

    I have most of the ingredients now except the uncomposted pine/hemlock/fir bark chips !
     
  7. Joan L NW

    Joan L NW Member

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    well, depending on how much you need, I have to cut off a branch of a 15' mugo (?) pine in my front yard which is pushing out my brick wall, if you feel like whittling. Or you could check with the city horticulture crew and ask if you can adopt a few trimmings after the next wind-storm. If you're still having difficulty by next winter, I'd suggest that you stop by a tree lot or Home Depot store and ask for some trimmings off the Christmas trees. There are always bins of trimmings sitting at the back of the store, waiting to be hauled away.
     
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  8. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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    Thanks Joan! If someone had a chipper with capacity to adjust for size I'd take you up on that offer! I do need more than a whittling's worth. I like your Xmas tree suggestion - will keep that in mind for the coming season.
     
  9. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  10. Joan L NW

    Joan L NW Member

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    I work for the City of New West, and just happen to know that we bought a new vermeer chipper last week. Our arborists do a lot of pruning every week, and I can ask if they could leave a bin of chips outside the QP greenhouse some time if you like. Only problem is that there might be cedar or a mixture of different wood in it. Let me know if you'd like me to ask.
     
  11. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Tom, one thing to consider in your search, the chipped tree branches you're talking about are very different from the bark called out in Al's recipe. I'm curious what kind of plants & conditions you are thinking of using these mixes for? I really hate to see you go to so much work to get an inferior mix with low quality ingredients like bark, wood, and turface.

    I hope you won't mind a discussion about the benefits of those ingredients! :) It's true that that your container mix needs good drainage and gas exchange at the roots, and bark helps out great with that, but uncomposted bark robs nitrogen in a soil mix, limiting your growing potential, and it's not nearly as stable over the life of the plant as other drainage materials like pumice or perlite. If you compost the bark down to fines, where its nitrogen-sucking properties are mitigated, then it has too much moisture holding power without the matching moisture transfer power that peat or coir have. Either type of mix can be tuned to be as wet or dry as you like, but peat/coir based mixes transfer the moisture so much better. This moisture transfer is what helps the top inch of soil (where you check it) to be much more similar to the bottom middle of the pot. That bottom middle is the dreaded Burmuda Triangle dead zone of plant culture. That is where so many home growers lose their plants to overwatering. If you have employees with fixed schedules and automated watering and fertilizing equipment like the big commercial growers, then this really isn't a problem and you just don't need moisture transfer in the mix as much as an imperfect home grower does. So commercial growers do just fine with bark mixes because their watering schedule can easily be perfected and they can very simply just keep adding more fertilizer. What they really need is CHEAP soil ingredients that will hold up the plant structure for a single growing season and they can treat it almost like hydroponics; supplying all nutrients thru liquid fertilizers. Bark and wood work great for that! You and I need better.

    The mix I make uses equal parts peat (long-fiber) & coir for the water retention/transfer, pumice & perlite for the drainage (perlite adds slightly more air and drying to the mix but can float to the top if not cut in half with pumice, which very-fine roots like better), and aged local compost for an organic nutrient source and additional water holding. I add small amounts of 3 kinds of lime, alfalfa meal, and kelp meal. Plants LEAP out of this mix, and it is much easier for me to tell when it needs to be watered than other mixes. It can easily be tuned with more or less drainage or organics, depending on the individual plant.

    For the Turface, check out this comparison of it to pumice.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
  12. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Are you still looking for bark nuggets? GardenWorks sells 57L bags of Small Bark Nuggets from Rocky Mountain Landscape Bark. I noticed the company also produces bark fines though I didn't see any at GardenWorks. Perhaps one of these products will suit your needs.
     
  13. GreenBisco

    GreenBisco New Member

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    Thanks, Tom.
    I’m going to try your recipe here... I usually have success with gritty mix indoors, but 511 seem to only last 1 year then plants would suffer. Still learning. Looking forward to trying it out... would it work without coir, though? I just had very bad experiences with the salts in coir

    Tom-Pierre,
    I found bags of pine bark fines and fir bark nuggets both at Aquaiums West in various bag sizes in the reptiles and amphibians supplies section. Can probably find at other local retile terrarium supplies/pet stores near you. I can’t say they’re cheap, but at least I don’t have to sift for hours. Good luck.
     
  14. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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    Thanks Tom for your thoughts and mix suggestion! Part of what seems interesting in Al's gritty mix is making sure there are no fines in the mix to avoid water lenses at bottom of pot.

    Does you peat+choir still meet that goal, you think? Or do you not see that problem as being as much of an issue as what Al thinks?...

    Where do you source your pumice from (and at what price)? It haven't seen many people say that turface is superior to pumice, just cheaper. (Though it wasn't really that cheap in the end, and BC does produce pumice, so we might have good sources for that?...)
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  15. Tom-Pierre Frappé-S.

    Tom-Pierre Frappé-S. New Member

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    ... thanks for the tip! Do you remember what the price was?
     
  16. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    You may try to call some local sawmills for getting cheap or even free bark. The bark they may offer is probably unsifted and with larger particle size than you need, but it should be relatively easy to hack the bark with a wood chipper or a chainsaw.
    Sawmills in Lower Mainland BC | YellowPages.ca™
     
  17. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I can get all the pumice I'll ever need for free whenever I go hiking in the Meager Mountain area in the upper Lillooet River valley. You can scoop up tons of the stuff from roadcuts along the gravel road. There is a pumice mine in the area, but I don't know if they have a distributor in the Lower Mainland. If you're interested, you can contact them by phone or email; here is their Website: Garibaldi Pumice Ltd. | Canadian Dacite Pumice Mine - Home .
     
  18. GreenBisco

    GreenBisco New Member

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    I got the 8 quart on 100% pine bark fines for $19. The douglas fir nuggets were a buck or two cheaper.
    The biggest bag of pine was 24qt for approximately $45. Give them a call or if you are remote and rather go through Amazon, the brand is called Exo Terra and the line I bought is Jungle Earth that has pine. The Forest Bark is the one thats fir nuggets (better for gritty mix, I find )

    Good luck
     
  19. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Products Archive - PlantBest Inc Canada sells hydroponic grade coconut coir; their MerryGro products are said to have been "thoroughly rinsed to ensure low salt levels".
     
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  20. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Maybe it is the contrartian in me that questions if or which plants require such very specific soil mixes. I understand that soil provided in containers needs to be more well drained that regular garden soil but . . . Soil in Containers Should Be a Good Mix - FineGardening

    Kudos to the many contributors to this thread who have gone to great lengths to provide sources for ingredients that Tom-Pierre is seeking but I'm surprised that no one except Tom Hulse asks 'why' or suggests alternatives.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  21. GreenBisco

    GreenBisco New Member

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    Tom-Pierre, I get a huge bag , about 17lbs, of Keefer’s Horiculture Pumice from Gardenworks Mandeville in Burnaby for $11. Sometimes the North Vancouver location has it but better to call ahead. You can search on turface.ca for 3 locations you can get turface for cheap, like $22 for a 20lbs bag last I looked. All 3 location supply to non-gardening businesses like sports fields. They only have Monday to Friday short open hours. But if you’re looking for smaller bag, I get mine from a woman on my FB messenger chat. $10 for large ziplock size bag. Shoot me a DM if you’d like her name.
    I honestly prefer pumice over turface for my space because turface stays moist longer and it’s great for tropicals but I grow drought tolerant plants mostly.

    Good luck.
     
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  22. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Tom, sorry for the slow reply! I'm not familiar with "water lenses" in soil. I know Al frequently talks about perched water at the bottom of pots, is that what you mean?

    The first problem I have with bark is it's poor ability to transfer water up and throughout the pot to even out the moisture content. Evenly distributed moisture is the real golden sword that helps you prevent overwatering. It makes the surface of the soil, where you can see and touch it, very similar in moisture content to the very bottom middle of the pot. This lets you know easily when you should water and avoids waterlogged foul stinking rotting pot bottoms that so often kill houseplants and container plants in general. So to prevent that in a bark mix, Al's mix uses a coarser overall mix than most any commercially available mix, so it's much more difficult for the mix to hold water. This works great, and so I think many people can have great success with Al's mix, but in order to do that, you have to be able to water your plants more frequently, much more frequently than all traditional mixes (that's a huge inconvenience for me and also limits the plant's potential). If you happen to find a finer, more water-holding grade of bark that lets you water like normal mixes, then you get back to the problem of that perched water at the pot bottom not ever drying enough, and it also breaks down much faster.

    Which brings me to my second problem with bark: it's instability over time. It just breaks down and changes it's moisture retention far too much for me. I've seen several experienced growers who said the 5:1:1 mix was great/fine for the first year, but were disappointed with how it changed the second season. We all see it happen when you put bark on your garden beds, it just gets eaten up quickly.

    Now that does happen also with peat, but not nearly as much. Al makes all kinds of wild claims about how peat breaks down, collapses, compacts, packs, etc., but it just doesn't, especially when mixed with other ingredients. That's why peat is the #1 potting soil ingredient in the world used by professional growers. Peat has been sitting there waterlogged in a bog for thousands of years. Most of it's composting is already done, so it lasts an amazing amount of time compared to how much water it will hold, and it's unique structure helps it hold air as well as water. That's why it is tops among the real experts worldwide.

    Peat also does definitely get perched water, you can see it after you fully water a pot, then tilt it at an angle to reduce the perched water a pot will hold. However, unlike bark, it moves this water up and throughout the pot. It will evaporate water from the surface more than twice as fast as bark mixes because that water is moving up. So no death zone in the bottom middle of the pot that stays wet even when you think the surface is fully dried out.

    If you use a mix similar to mine, please keep in mind that I commonly add more drainage material for many types of plants, like palms for instance.

    I got my last small batch of pumice from Indoor Sun Shoppe in Seattle in 1 or 2 cu. ft. bags. There's also a landscape supply place in (Puyallup?) that sells it by the truckload for bigger batches. If you need that reference I'll dig it up.
     
  23. N D

    N D New Member

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    Tom, to clarify: do you use equal parts peat, coir, pumice, and perlite? And where do you find the compost in Vancouver? Last, what kind of like?

    looking to try your mix after having some underperforming mixes the past few years.
     
  24. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi N D. Since the original post was about a different mix, I think I'll start a new post so I can give you the full details and recipe.
     
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  25. N D

    N D New Member

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    Sounds good. Frustrated by local places! Two north shore nurseries lacked any coir or pumice, and only monster quantities of DE (which would be fine, but when you’re contained gardening in a small apartment, the storage struggle is real!)
     

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