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Discuss water requirements, "soil" (growing media) and suitable planting containers

Moderator: Matt


I purchased Lakeland 100% Canadian organic peat moss from Home Depot and Premier silica #20 Orange County plant from Lowes. I have made a lot of soil and had it in four pots. My trouble is that every time I would repot a new one they would slowly decline. Thought I could have been overwatering but they are very deep pots and I was bottom watering. So yesterday when a leaf died in only two-three days from green to yellow to black. So I got to thinking well I better check the TDS of drain water after top watering. So I checked, got actually 1000 ppm on one thing of run off and about 500+ on the others. So I immediately uprooted and lets them soak in pure water for a while as I rinse all of my soil with gallons of pure water. Got it definitely at or below 40 ppm and repotted them. My concern is this silica sand is breaking down, or maybe the peat moss was just that bad and needed to be rinsed (I never had rinsed it, didn't realize I needed to) What are your thoughts? Just curious what I should do. I certainly don't want to kill my 6 plants.

Thanks everyone
Just a few thoughts:

I'm not familiar with either of those brands (haven't used them with any plant I have), but they're not enriched with anything are they? The silica shouldn't be dissolving so soon, but there could be other things in the soil. If your watering with pure distilled water then that shouldn't be any source. Is the soil getting good drainage? Even with bottom watering any plant, if the water sits too long it can cause root rot. The rhizomes looked healthy when you re-potted them I assume. Maybe try top watering to make sure the water is getting to the plant? I'd say now that you've washed everything and removed most of the impurities they should pick back up if they are receiving good lighting.

I hope they pick back up soon!
It doesn't say whether it's enriched or not, but I was assuming if it was enriched they would say it is (selling point for most applications) and I don't think it would be 100% organic but I may be wrong. It took a lot of water to clean up all the soil and sand, and I will continue to check the drain water to make sure it's eradicated. I also have a cup of sand soaking in water to see if it's breaking down or not and an email out to the company for silica content. Yeah I used distilled/rain/ro mix. Usually about 20ppm or less. I will stop the bottom watering though since that could have been adding to the issue. Thanks for the response! I do hope they all come back.
You're very welcome bro!

I'd say it probably isn't enriched if it doesn't say that it is, I could be wrong though. And see what kind of results you get with the top watering, just be careful not to over water. Nothing wrong with bottom water but it doesn't hurt to experiment with watering techniques. The silica sand shouldn't be dissolving just by sitting in water also, especially if its not warm water (since true quartz doesn't erode very easily). However, it would be easy for there to be other content in the silica that's dissolving.

Good luck with your plants, and I hope you get some useful information from the sellers!
Wow, 1000 ppm TDS?! That's five times higher than my tap water! I'm surprised they didn't all totally die immediately. I've never heard of those brands either, but it's always a good idea to soak a sample of anything in distilled water for a day or two and check the TDS before you plant anything in it. Hope your plants will be able to recover.
Yes even my tap water is 300ppm. I couldn't believe it when the meter said 109 x10. That was the only reason I was concerned my sand has other minerals in it because that count is so high. But also residual build up from bottom watering with 25ppm is a possibility. I will wait for my response on the sand information.. And continue top watering and dispose of the drain water and test it every so often. I read how to transplant so many times and never saw that you needed to rinse or soak the peat. Hopefully they'll recover soon though

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I think I have mostly figured it out. I was using my RO water (without testing first) assuming it was okay, but it was not, I am hovering right around 50ppm (due for filters) and with bottom watering through the hot summer I would imagine the minerals were just building and building since it dried out daily. Lucky for me my pots are tall or I probably wouldn't have any plants right now. I have decided to switch to distilled water only (I would alternate to limit the cost) then nothing can build up if nothing is going in.

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I used to buy distilled water when I only had a few plants, but then after my collection grew a lot this year, I started collecting rainwater instead. It's a little more work than lugging heavy jugs of water home from the store, but it's always between 0-5 ppm, and it doesn't cost a penny! I have several large flat pans (plastic totes that are normally used for storing clothes under beds) that I put out on my deck whenever they're calling for heavy rain. Even when we only get about one inch of rainfall, I can collect about 8-10 gallons!

I pour it through a funnel and a fine-mesh nylon filter from an old coffee maker into old plastic gallon jugs that water and milk came in, then store them, one on each step of my stairway where there are no windows to encourage algae growth. I also have a deeper tote with a lid down in the basement that I use as a sort of reservoir tank to hold several gallons of extra water when all of my jugs are filled. We've been having non-stop rain for the past week or so and I'm totally filled up now, so I hope I'll have enough to last all winter so I won't have to melt any snow!
I did that as well, I used a tarp and made it all drain into a bucket. I got around 10ppm doing that, certainly better than my RO. The only thing is I live in Southern California so rain is small and rare haha to say the least. We do get a few good dumps though so I could probably capture several gallons each time and use distilled in between. I only have 6 plants so distilled is still reasonable right now.

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Yep, sounds like all those minerals mixed in with the sand sure wasn't helping any. Are there any pool supply shops near you? That's where I get my silica sand. I soaked some in a small jar of distilled water before using it and it only went up to about 15 ppm, so I knew it would be safe. I dump it into a five-gallon bucket and then pour some rainwater over it because I've heard it's not good to breathe the dust from it.
I'm not sure if I have any decent around I will look into that. They will probably all be closed I was thinking a trip to Home Depot and get premier peat moss and therm-o-rock perlite may be better. Any reason for preference of silica sand over perlite? I know Matt used to use therm-o-rock brand so it will be okay.

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Some pool supply shops do close up over the winter, but others stay open year round because they also carry stuff for hot tubs or skiing as well.

I actually use all three ingredients in my soil mix: 5 parts peat moss, 3 parts silica sand, and 2 parts organic perlite. I buy the big bales of Premier brand peat moss from either Lowe's or Home Depot. The sand I use is discussed on my very first thread here ever:


(BTW, looks like I was mistaken on the TDS reading on that sand. I wrote on that thread that it only went up to 6 ppm, so it must've been something else I was remembering that went to 15. The water standing in my trays after a heavy rain usually averages anywhere from 5 to 30 ppm.)

And the perlite I use is this brand: ... dition=new

I originally found that at a small locally owned nursery for almost half that price, but when I went back to get some more the next year, they had to special order it because they weren't going to be carrying it again that year. Might be worth calling around to some local plant nurseries (if they're still open this time of year) to see if you can find any without fertilizer added to it. (Gosh darn you, Miracle Gro company!) I'm not familiar with the therm-o-rock brand, but if Matt recommends it, I'm sure it's safe. It's always cheaper if you can find the ingredients locally since you don't have to pay for shipping that way.

I'm thinking now though that I might omit the perlite the next time I need to repot anything and just go with 50/50 peat and sand because I've been reading Peter D'Amato's book "The Savage Garden" lately and he said this about perlite:

"Commercial nurseries generally prefer to aerate the soil in potted plants with perlite rather than sand, because sand is very heavy and leads to high shipping costs. However, most perlite is also slightly alkaline (pH around 8), so never use more than 20 percent in the soil mix for acid-loving CPs."

Yikes! I have a Sarr that's been in 50/50 peat and perlite for over a year now that barely grew any at all this summer. I guess I'm going to have to go buy another meter now, to test for pH!

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