i fell down rabbit hole with this hobby in early may, and i'd like to share what i've done so far (especially my mistakes) and ask some questions.
it started with some seedlings and a few mature reaper (?) plants from a nursery, and now i've got some very small seedlings of my own going.
my grow log:
5 gallon bucket sub-irrigated planters (SIPs):
i'd like some kind of raised bed setup eventually, but i'm starting with containers.
i made some bucket SIPs as shown here:
it's hard for me to properly critique the concept, but for now, i will assume it is not a bad way to go.
however, i made some mistakes.
let me illustrate:
these were large nursery seedlings purchased at the same time and replanted at the same time.
the one on the left was potted in miracle grow potting mix, and the one in the SIP is in my mix.
despite having less soil volume, the one on the left has at least double the plant mass.
first of all, i didn't pack the net pot ('wick') very tightly with media, and weeks later, a lot of what was in the cup has eroded away into the reservoir. this probably adversely affects wicking.
second, i suspect my media is not so great.
i based it on this mix:
2 parts vermiculite
2 parts perlite
3 parts topsoil
3 parts peat
2 parts cow manure
1/2 part bonemeal
but i didn't have verm, so i think my mix was something like this:
3 parts perlite
3 parts topsoil
4 parts peat
2 parts cow manure
1/2 part bonemeal
1/4 part worm castings
and a little dolomitic lime
poking my finger in, it feels more compacted than miracle grow potting mix. too dense i think.
and let me tell you, the reservoir fluid became incredibly foul. like sewer. i'm thinking the manure had something to do with it.
at some point, i changed it out for fresh water and also ran a bunch of water through the media to try to flush it out a little.
later, i also changed out the water a second time (without flushing). the reservoirs were foul but not as bad as the first time.
unpot them, isolate the rootballs, and repot in new media. and more of it. i'll fill them nearly to the top this time. it's inexpensive media anyway.
Just a note on that... when you fill your containers, you want to actually fill them. Reason being, peat compacts when it gets wet, and as it gets degraded by microbial activity. (as you have probably noticed) Every container has a saturation zone, and the less media in the container, the higher this zone reaches. That's important, because your plant isn't going to love to grow into that saturated zone. When you get really skilled at growing, you'll know how to deal with it better. But until you are aware of the problems it causes, it won't really be intuitive.
It can exacerbate problems with things like overwatering, as it will have a higher % of saturation, and will also take longer to evaporate. So you may be watering when the media appears dry, but it could be very wet underneath.
That could potentially be problematic for feeding (excessive nutrient retention) as well.
could this advice potentially change for a SIP though? i guess i need to figure out how far up the bucket it effectively wicks with the new media.
but if i were upgrading a smaller plant (like how mine were a month ago -- coming from something like a 1 pint (500mL) pot), isn't it possible that the roots wouldn't get moisture if i filled it all the way up?
new media formula:
If you want cheap, it's really hard to beat rolling your own. Simple recipe that works incredibly well:
5% good quality compost
Buy a cheap organic fertilizer like Job's or Espoma - either of those has just about everything that you need to get started. Mix a couple of cups per every 5 gallons, and done. Keep it simple.
Overwhelming vote of confidence for Alaska fish. I wouldn't worry too much about the Nitrogen. Nitrogen is the most mobile of all the elements that you will give your plants. It's always going to be one of the most likely to need replenishing, and the least likely to remain in the concentration that you apply it. And the fish juice is about more than just Nitrogen. So use it with confidence.
The only thing I might do differently for a SIP, is to cut the final mixture with some pine bark fines. That mix that I referenced, but add THAT mix to the pine bark fines, at a ratio of about 1:2 (pine bark to THAT mix) to start off with. The fine pine bark doesn't take away any of the mix's properties, but it DOES help greatly to retain structure of the mix. And, it's a very cheap filler.
cutting this with pine bark fines 1:2 fines:mix as suggested, that would give:
14 parts (47%) peat
10 parts (33%) pine bark fines
5 parts (17%) perlite
1 part (3%) compost
does that seem a little low in perlite?
a media i had in mind was peatlite with a perlite content of ~50%
i just found perlite at a fair price. turns out there's a manufacturer 30min away (silbrico / hometown perlite, for anyone looking for it in chicagoland), and i picked up a 4 ft^3 bag for $16...
so i have a lot of it now and wouldn't be opposed to using it up.
i don't know what kind of compost i'll be able to find, but i'm swearing off anything manure-based.
is mushroom compost from home depot going to cut it?
also, where do i get pine bark fines? home depot? is there any particular 'grade' to look for?
edit: after reading, it looks like bark fines are hard to find in some areas. i guess i'll see what's around here.
should i mulch the SIPs after repotting? probably, right?
i got my old pH meter back up and running. amazingly, it's been stored dry and neglected for years, but i soaked it in conc. KCl for like a week and then tried calibrating it, and it's working great.
it's probably a good idea to check the new media's pH and adjust with dolomitic lime, right?
after reading the peat-lite thread i linked to above, i do see the appeal of using a wetting agent.
however, i couldn't find one that had the right mix of perceived safety and availability.
i was a little bit sketched out by alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE).
alcohol exthoxysulfates (AES) could be safer, but i couldn't find where to buy it.
see also http://thehotpepper....r-potting-soil/
i guess i'll just not bother with it.
i haven't used additional ferts yet, but i did water them (infrequently) because i wasn't confident that the SIPs were wicking correctly.
it's been 1-1.5 months since potting them, so they're probably due for some kind of nutrients.
i bought some dyna-grow foliage-pro, and i think i'll stick with it for a bit.
it's cheap as hell and easy to work with (concentrated).
Maintenance: Mix ¼ – ½ tsp. per gallon of water with every watering.
Production: Mix 1 tsp. per gallon of water, once a week.
Monthly Feeding: Use 2 – 3 tsp. per gallon of water.
Siphon Mixer: (1:15 ratio) Mix 2 – 4 fl. oz. per gallon of water for a concentrate feed solution.
Foliar Application: Mix ¼ – ½ tsp. per gallon of water and spray directly of leaves.
after repotting, should i start using it right away?
1/4 tsp per gallon of water (1:3000)?
for my SIPs, should i initially douse the media with 1:3000 and then fill the reservoir with it too?
i've got some seedlings in rapid-rooter plugs. when should i give them dyna-grow? when they have their 2nd set of true leaves?
and should i give it every watering (1:3000)?
foliar spray, delivery agents:
is it just a troll? could i do it from time to time?
it sounds cool, but it might not even be worth doing if you're not using a delivery agent (and optionally a surfactant). i was having trouble finding such a product.
pretty nice PDF if you haven't seen it
ok, that was a long one.
Edited by sinensis, 30 June 2018 - 11:06 AM.