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Potting mix

I am looking for a good alternitive to using Perilite in my potting mix. I have nothing against perilite just looking for another natural property to use.
I was thinking that styrofoam would work but since this will end up in my garden, I don't want styrofoam there plus it's not very natural. peices of plastic was another idea (for about 1/2 second).
any other ideas would be great.
Keep in mind that I'm just experimenting and not looking for a lecture or negitive feedback.
thanks.
 
Yo Dirt,
I used to use coarse sand to make our potting soil (for soil blocks) more porous, but it also made it heavy, so I switched to perlite. Vermiculite I pass on because it gets crushed and smushy in the block-making process. Finally I switched to crushed bio-char, which I'm sure you know is real charcoal, not briquettes.

It's not a nutrient, but holds organic nutrients in the soil, and helps make it more absorptive. Wish I couldn't help more.
 
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Dirt, what I've used more for bonsai soil, but with about the same end result was called crushed granite, I did have to sift it when bought direct from a gravel-mill. The finest that will pass through a 1/16th inch screen I used as sand or traction grit (I was in New England after all) and what ever was too big to go through a 1/4 inch hardware cloth was too big and just went on the driveway.

Now your not IN new england and may not have access to mills that crush up granite rock. So, my next option is to buy a product called "Grani-Grit" which is a scratch for poultry made out of the very same stuff, just sifted for you and pricier.

I'm in Ohio now and the same product is available in 50Lb bags at the feed store.

Its downside is it is WAY heavier compared to pearlite or vermiculite.

I have bought unsifted crushed granite for as cheep as $10 a ton, Grani-Grit is like $7 a bag (50).

Hope this helps.
 
[hr]Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.
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thanks for the comments. I'm also thinking of corn cobs. because all perilite is used for in potting mixes is for drainage and bulk for air pockets, if I break-up (coursly grind) the cobs it might just work. I've been using very small peddles that I get from the sluce box because I only need afew gals. a year. was thinking of chiped up pine cones but they're probably too acidy.
gives you a few ideas of the direction I'm look in.
 
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If you have a way to grind and sift either corn cobs or pine cones, and its for annuals. Meaning its going to be in container for like 12 weeks or less, I think it could work.

Though as I sit here typing (and about half asleep) have you bought or poked around in a bag of sifted bark mulch?

Again back when I was in NH, I bought unsifted mulch by the ton, and had to sift out both too big and too small. Much as I hate to spend a buck bagged bark mulch is to a degree pre-sifted. This might do what you want and for a price more bearable. Save some sweat equity too.

Bagged bark mulch comes in a pretty chunky landscape size, and a more ground up shredded size. I'm puffing the latter.

Just take a peek and see what you think.
 
[hr]Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.
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If you go with the bark mulch, you can use a weed whacker in a 5 gal. bucket (or small garbage can) to cut it smaller if need be. A $5.00 food processor from a yard sale would be handy to grind small amounts of corncobs.
 
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Thanks again. Love all the ideas. This mix will be used to grow my tomatoes in the greenhouse and then transplant them into the garden about 6-7 weeks later. I tried the bark once and it worked but small little mushrooms poped up. As much as I like mushrooms, they jusy don't belong in my tomatoes.
I can try both the pinecones and the corn cobs. I used rock last year and it sure was heavy. Worked great and got record size plants but real heavy. Just looking to lighten things up abit.
I would really love to use luffa but just can't grow it here very well. might try it again to see.
I make about 15 gals. of mix a year so would need alittle over 5 gals.
I sifted rock through 1/4" screens and kept what wouldn't go through the 1/8" screen. This screen out that that was too big and what was too small.
 
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Dirt, all I can tell ya is mushrooms never hurt my tomatoes.

You've got a good plan to help idle winter hours with. Let us know how it comes out for you.
 
[hr]Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains.
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