Soil and Compost forum: Alpine plant compost

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Jimbow
Jul 16, 2013 5:33 AM CST
Could you please advise me on the best mixture of compost for my containers
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jul 16, 2013 6:47 AM CST
Welcome! Jimbow. I am sure someone with knowledge in this field will step in soon to answer your question.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jul 16, 2013 7:18 AM CST
Hi Jimbow, and a big Welcome! to All Things Plants.

What type of alpine plants are you growing? And what are your growing conditions/weather/soil like?
There are many alpine type plants that will do well in normal garden soil that is amended with forest type compost and gravel (small pea gravel/chicken grit).
I have raised beds filled with forest compost, sand and pea gravel. I also have some beds filled with sandy loam compost. Most plants are top dressed with a nice layer of chicken grit or pea gravel after planting. If you are using raised beds it will provide you with better drainage and it is easy to provide pockets of special growing conditions for individual plants with specific needs.
Thumb of 2013-07-16/valleylynn/3db286

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 16, 2013 1:26 PM CST
Twice when I tried to buy 50 pounds of granite chicken grit, the warehouse guys gave me oyster shell grit.

Or some other kind of shellfish grit.

Maybe double-screened crushed stone would work as well (dust and sand removed), if you can't find chicken grit.

Since I started screening my own pine bark shreds and nuggets, I haven't bought much grit. But I don't grow alpine plants.

P.S. Have you seen this vendor of Western US wildflower seeds? Huge variety of plants I never heard of before.

http://www.alplains.com/
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jul 16, 2013 10:18 PM CST
Oh Rick, that is a most amazing site. Thank you so much for posting it. Hurray!
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 17, 2013 10:33 AM CST
As Lynn says, there are a lot of easy alpine plants, and also difficult ones. If you live in the mountains, they are easier to grow, in general, than at lower elevations. Alpine plants naturally grow in mineral soils with very little nutrition. The main thing is fast drainage. In containers, I use a mix that is approximately three-quarters mineral, one-quarter compost(or regular houseplant potting mix). The mineral component can include sand, pea gravel, grits of all types, pumice, limestone, perlite, etc. --- all different aggregate sizes. Try not to use all sand (or all small particle size), and never use the fine particled sand like what is used for cigarette depositories. Small particles hold much more water and have fewer air spaces. Varying particle sizes is best. For the compost component, larger particles are better, as they continue to decompose anyway.

An alpine container mix and my favorite compost material-Fafard 52 mix.

Thumb of 2013-07-17/Leftwood/3243fa Thumb of 2013-07-17/Leftwood/11f008

Granite grit is what is available for me, and sometimes it comes with an excessive amount of fine particles and rock dust. I use a regular window screen to sift the fine stuff out. In the mix above is sizes #2 and #4. As mentioned before, there are a lot of alpines that tolerate less than ideal soils, so you will find that this mix may not be needed for every alpine plant species.

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Alplains is a well known and respected seed source among alpine and rock gardeners.
[Last edited by Leftwood - Jul 17, 2013 7:13 PM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jul 17, 2013 11:51 AM CST
I agree Great explanation Rick.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 17, 2013 12:50 PM CST
Thanks, Lynn. I was awestruck by how much variety Alan has. The ordering process isn't glitzy or "modern", but he sent exactly what I asked for and pretty fast, too. If I recall, the per-packet price was very reasonable.

He even had detailed instructions for germination, including types and timing off startification.

I wish I could give him acorns! I did give him a good review here. It couldn't hurt if other people who think he's good add their comments to our Vendor Recommendations.

http://garden.org/reviews/view/158/Alplains/217/

Thanks for the information, Rick R!

>> a mix that is approximately three-quarters mineral
>> all different aggregate sizes. ... Varying particle sizes is best.

Good to know!

>> Granite grit ... sometimes it comes with an excessive amount of fine particles and rock dust. I use a regular window screen to sift the fine stuff out.

When I got the #2 GRANITE chicken grit, it was immaculately free of dust, sharp and irregular. Perfect. But I agree that you have to remove the dusty fines and fine sand or wind up with no air in the soggy mix.

I wish I had something coarser than window screening (24 mesh?) I want it for for de-dusting bark fines.

Hardware cloth 1/8" mesh is too big - I want to retain 0.1" grains and fibers, in fact fibers as thin as 1 mm would be good for me, especially if they are longer than 3-4 mm. Say, do you ever worry about plant roots finding the endo-mycorrhiza they need, when we start them in mixes without much or any real soil? I keep looking at bottles or packets of mycorrhiza but they are expensive and don't stay fresh long.

Looking Fafard 52 up, I don't see that it has mycorrhiza added.

Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 17, 2013 7:26 PM CST
A thought:
What size mesh is the stuff crafters use to make rugs?

The subject of mycorrhizae is straying way of the topic here. If you would like to know what I think about it, you can treemail me or start a topic elsewhere and send me a link to participate. Or maybe there is already an appropriate topic somewhere here on ATP.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 18, 2013 10:04 AM CST
>> What size mesh is the stuff crafters use to make rugs?

I don't know, but at least it would be available in wide widths.

I have gotten some 1/8" black nylon mesh fabric, but it;s holes are larger than 1/8" hardware cloth. Next time I'm in a fabric store I'll look for a finer mesh. I can always use 1/4" hardware cloth to support the flimsy fabric.

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