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"Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 9:18 pm
by dmagnan
Everyone seems to be posting guides recently, and I'm procrastinating at work, and I see the same soil questions all the time, so here goes!

*Disclaimer* If I'm wrong anywhere here, let me know and I'll change it

1. What is peat moss/Long fibered sphagnum moss?

Peat moss is partially degraded or composted Sphagnum moss. Long Fibered Sphagnum Moss is dead but undegraded moss.


2. What types of moss are ok to use for carnivorous plants?

As far as I know, ONLY sphagnum moss is ok as a growth medium for CP's. The moss can be composted (peat), "fresh" (long-fibered sphagnum), or live moss, but it has to be sphagnum. it's important to note that not all peat moss is sphagnum! Here's a quote from Steve:
Steve_D wrote:Not all peat is sphagnum peat moss, although most of the peat moss sold in the United States does happen to be sphagnum peat moss. But several plants, partially decomposed, are called "peat," including sedges (a grass-like plant that many people consider a problematic weed). So a bag labeled "100% peat" could possibly be 100% partially decomposed sedge rather than sphagnum moss. However, "peat moss" (with the word moss in the phrase) would probably (but not absolutely) be sphagnum peat moss.

One does need to be careful though, because manufacturers frequently label their products for marketing purposes (to sell the product) rather than for the convenience and assurance of the buyers. :)



3. Is coconut coir or "coco peat" ok to use?

Here's another quote from Steve from somewhere on the forum to answer this question:
Steve_D wrote:As Veronis mentioned, coir (coconut husk pith) is usually very high in soluble mineral salts that can easily damage or kill Venus Flytraps. The coir needs to be repeatedly soaked for 8-12 hours at a time, and drained between each soak, perhaps 10 or more times in total to bring the TDS (total dissolved solids) in the water drained from the coir down to below 50 ppm (parts per million).

I'm soaking some coir right now. The first water I drained from it, after soaking for over 8 hours, measured over 760 ppm, almost 4 times as mineral-laden as our very hard tap water here in eastern New Mexico.

Coir is a good ingredient for a growing medium and a good alternative to sphagnum peat moss, which is being harvested much faster than it can grow, while coconuts are a year-round tropical crop that is virtually endlessly renewable, since it uses the fruit and seed of the plant rather than the plant itself. However, coir really does need to be carefully treated and desalinated before use, as much of it is processed with very salty ocean water.


4. What's the correct ratio of moss/sand/other components?

The answer is, you want a ratio that's going to make it easy for you to keep track of the wetness and aeration of the soil. Aeration is important for good root growth and to prevent root rot. The moss contributes wetness to a soil mix by holding moisture in the soil, and the perlite/sand helps with aeration by allowing the formation of little air pockets. It's important to remember that in order for perlite to do its job the soil can't be overflowing with water.
The more perlite/sand you have in the mix, the less water the soil mix can hold, the faster it drys out, and the more air can get in. The more moss you add, the more water the mix can hold and the slower it drys out. But this also means less aeration.
Many growers like to saturate their soil, then let it dry out for a while before watering, so that air can get into the soil. This is basically alternating between high wetness and high aeration. Others just have their plants sitting in a tray of water. This is okay as long as you have a mix with plenty (at least 50%) sand and/or perlite. This allows air into the soil but constantly keeps the soil wet. I'm not sure either way is better, it's just a matter of balancing these two properties to keep your plants happy.
It's also important to remember that different plants prefer different levels of wetness, so do your research before deciding on a mix.


5. Can vermiculite substitute for perlite?

Perlite is mostly quartz(SiO2), which is insoluble and inert. This is why It's preferred over many other sands and soils, which contain soluble solids that raise the TDS in your pot. Vemiculite has a similar composition to that of perlite, but it appears there are two forms: an aluminous type, which contains no magnesium; and a silicious type, which does. Magnesium is very soluble, and over time the vermiculite may break down and leak this salt into your growing media. Without knowing more about the chemistry, I would recommend sticking with the tried and tested perlite. If you're sure you have pure aluminous vermiculite, or If you're willing to flush the water regularly, vermiculite should be ok. In that case though I wouldn't be comfortable unless I bought a TDS meter and made sure the TDS reading stays below 50.


6. What about other soil mixes? What else can I use?

As far as the "aeration" part of the soil goes, I've heard of people using smashed up styrofoam cups, plastic airsoft pellets, and other plastics. So long as the material is inert, it should work just fine. One thing to consider though is that perlite/vermiculite are very porous (lots of microscopic holes, like a tiny sponge). This is why they're so light, and probably why they're so good at aeration as well, because they provide a lot of surface area for evaporation and therefore dry out quick. You won't get that effect with styrofoam or plastic pellets. That being said though, if you're careful about watering you can use just peat moss, and there are growers that do this.
As far as the organic component of the media, I've read about people trying flytraps in medias like tea leaves, coffee grounds, and any number of other substances. I don't think I've ever read about any of these attempts being successful, which leads me to believe that they weren't. If you're going to try something like this though there are a couple important things to remember: The soil should be nutrient poor, low in dissolved solids, acidic, and should break down only very slowly. If you want to know about specific concentrations of specific nutrients and small molesules, you'll have to do your own research.

I'll add to this as I think of things, and if anyone would like to contribute, just reply!

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:24 am
by dantt99
dmagnan wrote:If it doesn't say sphagnum somewhere on the package, don't buy it.


This is the only point on the FAQ I'd like to question..... I have used just flat "100% Peat Moss" for a while and it works fine.... And it says sphagnum nowhere.... :) So correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't always have to say sphagnum... :)

But I love this post! Thanks for putting the effort into it! :D

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:08 am
by dmagnan
dantt99 wrote:
This is the only point on the FAQ I'd like to question..... I have used just flat "100% Peat Moss" for a while and it works fine.... And it says sphagnum nowhere.... :) So correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't always have to say sphagnum... :)

But I love this post! Thanks for putting the effort into it! :D


OK, well I can change that. I've just heard bad stories about people buying "peat moss," and not having it be actual sphagnum.

What other questions should I include?

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:19 am
by dark5tar
Maybe, include more on using sphagnum moss as a "topper" , like what plants prefer it, what plants are indifferent, what plants dont like it, and at what size ( of the plant ) is it good to start adding the moss.

...or maybe thats for a totally separate thread?

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:44 pm
by dmagnan
dark5tar wrote:Maybe, include more on using sphagnum moss as a "topper" , like what plants prefer it, what plants are indifferent, what plants dont like it, and at what size ( of the plant ) is it good to start adding the moss.

...or maybe thats for a totally separate thread?


No that's a good idea, I just wouldn't know what to write. If you wanted to write it up I could include it.

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:49 pm
by Daniel_G
You may want to add that live sphagnum need to be trimmed if you use it for seedling,as it can easily out-grow them :)

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:23 pm
by Steve_D
dantt99 wrote:"100% Peat Moss"

Dantt99, can you post a photo of the bag or package in which that peat moss is packed?

Not all peat is sphagnum peat moss, although most of the peat moss sold in the United States does happen to be sphagnum peat moss. But several plants, partially decomposed, are called "peat," including sedges (a grass-like plant that many people consider a problematic weed). So a bag labeled "100% peat" could possibly be 100% partially decomposed sedge rather than sphagnum moss. However, "peat moss" (with the word moss in the phrase) would probably (but not absolutely) be sphagnum peat moss.

One does need to be careful though, because manufacturers frequently label their products for marketing purposes (to sell the product) rather than for the convenience and assurance of the buyers. :)

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:46 pm
by dmagnan
Steve_D wrote:
Not all peat is sphagnum peat moss, although most of the peat moss sold in the United States does happen to be sphagnum peat moss. But several plants, partially decomposed, are called "peat," including sedges (a grass-like plant that many people consider a problematic weed). So a bag labeled "100% peat" could possibly be 100% partially decomposed sedge rather than sphagnum moss. However, "peat moss" (with the word moss in the phrase) would probably (but not absolutely) be sphagnum peat moss.

One does need to be careful though, because manufacturers frequently label their products for marketing purposes (to sell the product) rather than for the convenience and assurance of the buyers. :)



Would you mind if I included that in the FAQ, Steve?

I want this to be something that is worthy of sticky when done, so beginners have a reference, rather than having to ask the same question many times

Re: "Can I use this soil" FAQ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:55 pm
by dantt99
Steve, I don't have the stuff anymore, but I got it at my local garden center and he said that it was peat moss..... Sorry for being so unhelpful :(.

If you want to see it, you can look at some of my picture threads, that's the stuff.... :)

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:13 pm
by dmagnan
This is starting to look complete. Sticky?

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:47 pm
by Steve_D
dmagnan wrote:Would you mind if I included that in the FAQ, Steve?

Sure, go ahead. I've actually bought peat before assuming it was sphagnum peat moss, only to find that it was really sedge peat; I didn't use it although perhaps I should have tried to see what the growing results might be. It's rare but it can happen, since "peat" is a general purpose word for "partially decomposed vegetable matter" (I guess usually consisting of just one or predominantly one plant).
dmagnan wrote:This is starting to look complete. Sticky?

Yes, this seems like a good sticky topic. :) I'll do that right now!

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:43 am
by dantt99
Okay, I apologize... :) As I was getting dirt out of my garage for my D. Intermedia Cuba seeds I found the bag for the stuff and it is "Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss" . So it is real Sphag. Peat! :D

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:24 pm
by dmagnan
dantt99 wrote:Okay, I apologize... :) As I was getting dirt out of my garage for my D. Intermedia Cuba seeds I found the bag for the stuff and it is "Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss" . So it is real Sphag. Peat! :D


No worries, it just emphasizes the point!

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:44 pm
by David F
I want to try using ground up walnut, it comes in different gradient, however I know that the leaves and outer shell (the green, and then black gross stuff surrounding the actuall nut, but not before the hard wood shell) is toxic to wildlife, but I have no idea what affects the ground up shells would cause.

Re: "Can I use this soil?" FAQ

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:45 am
by l0v3lyink
So, I'm a beginner at growing carnivorous plants and I had some questions about the soil that I could replant the one i purchased in. I did read through the FAQ and it didn't answer the questions I have which is why I'm asking.

I actually work at a garden center, though we don't get in many carnivorous plants maybe on occasion a pitcher plant, and I happened to notice that on the pond plant soil bag it said "recommended for: aquatic varieties of submerged plants, water lilies, lotus, bog plants and marginals." I recall reading somewhere that using bog soil for flytraps can work butt i didn't want to jump the gun and get this soil if there is something potentially wrong with the ingredients, which consist of "clay loam, sand."

Would this be adequate soil for my plant? I did consider making my own mix of peat moss, perlite, and silica sand but I didn't want to have to spend a fortune on soil for just the one plant OR buy a bunch of bags and have a ton of material left over. I would appreciate any advice that can be given.