OT? Soil vs. non-soil mixes.

Kenneth Hixson khixson@nu-world.com
Tue, 07 Mar 2006 12:06:29 PST
Adam wrote:
>The soilless mix ideas, (as I remember), can be traced back to  University
>of California at Davis experiments on seed germination and control of
>disease in greenhousesand hydroponics  back in the 30s and 40s.
         To the best of my knowledge, the use of peat based potting mixes
probably started with or was first seriously studied by, the John Innes
Research Institute in England.  California, being a major producer of nursery
stock, early started the study of alternatives to soil mixes, built on the 
from the JIRI, and produced a thick manual on producing and using soiless
potting mixes, which was  required reading for nursery management
students in the 1960's.  I still have a copy somewhere.
         Cornel University in New York also advocated a "peat-lite" mix,
but it is less well known in the western USA.  Other regional Universities
also developed mixes suited to local materials and conditions.  I know
Oklahoma developed suggested mixes, and Florida, also long a major
producer of nursery stock, must have also, but I don't know much about
the Southeast USA.
         The exact materials varied, the real consideration was and is,
to use available and economical materials to maximize plant growth.
We, as individual gardeners, can pay more attention to each plant,
and can and do cater to the needs of individual plants, sometimes giving
a particular growing mix for specific plants, where a large commercial
growing operation usually tries to grow a limited number of plants which
fit its particular growing mix, watering, and fertilizing schedule.  The two
approaches are sometimes very different.
         I've found over the years that I tend to overwater, so I try to 
drainage material--pumice or perlite.  I also prefer to fertilize less, so 
I try
to use some soil in the mix I use.  I could learn to do things differently, 
my system works--for me, and for most of the plants I try to grow.  Other
people will use different mixes to suit their own situation and personal
inclinations.  Do I grow the best possible plants?  No.  I like to grow  too
many plants to grow any of them to their maximum potential.  But, if I
could grow all plants perfectly, what would be the challenge?


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