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Properties of alternative growth media

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***notice: if a thread on this exists and I somehow overlooked it, feel free to delete this and point me in the right direction***


I've seen the issue of sphagnum and peat sustainability pop up quite frequently, but I haven't seen a centralized list of alternatives and pros/cons of their use. Once my garden gets a bit more established I'd be willing to run experiments to see which species do well in various soils. I'm also willing to do experiments without plants right away. Any ideas?

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Certainly a good place to start. When things slow down a bit I'll fill some containers with the individual soil components listed in that cpuk thread. I'm slightly limited in my current test setup, but TDS and PH measurements over time would be a good place to start. I could also do some agar cultures to see what microscopic beasties are common, and compare that to the mix I currently have. I figure there'll be some regional variations. A long term goal is to get a gel electrophoresis setup going too, but that is still maybe 6 months to a year off. Optical microscopes and dead reckoning will do for now. Feel free to mention any avenues for testing I've left out.

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To add an update . . . I've been growing Cape Sundews (Drosera x 'Hercules') in a mix of ground Coco Coir and Perlite for about a year. I gave away the smaller plants but the one I kept has grown big.

So, Drosera x 'Hercules' does not need peat or sphagnum moss to live and thrive. With those results, I imagine other Sundews don't need it either and would grow fine on Coco Coir.
 
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Gadzooks

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Has anyone tried hydrogel? I have been rooting Nep cuttings in water retaining hydrogel with some success. Some gel crystal varieties do contain fertilizers so you have to be selective. I think it also outlasts other potting media because it will not rot. I have rooted a N. Ventrata cutting and have been growing in the gel for a year. It even started to put out pitchers prior to a visit from thrips. The plant is now on the rebound following systemic granules. I intend to run the experiment until the plant declines and then will shift over to a more favorable media.
 
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For what it is worth - my understanding of the argument against coir is that it often contains salt. Perhaps some sources do and some don't?
I've heard that too, but also that it depends on how far inland the processing facility is, so it may vary widely by brand. Also salts can be flushed out.
 

bluemax

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I've heard that too, but also that it depends on how far inland the processing facility is, so it may vary widely by brand. Also salts can be flushed out.
'Seems reasonable. I have seen from personal experience, with non-cp plants, that it is more durable than peat and also seems to breath better. I would welcome it as an alternative.
 
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For what it is worth - my understanding of the argument against coir is that it often contains salt. Perhaps some sources do and some don't?
I believe this is outdated information that has been passed around for a while. I imagine that when coco coir was first on the market, it was not washed as thoroughly as it is now. All of the coir I've used has resulted in good results for a variety of plants. I've used it with carnivorous plants in the past, but not in such a pure form as I recently used it. I'd also imagine that higher quality would have better purity. I often use coco coir meant for starting seeds or for reptile/amphibian bedding, with the thought that for such sensitive young plants and animals, the coir would be washed salt free.
 
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Back when I was growing orchids, the word was that coconut husk chips needed to be soaked and the water replaced a few times to get all the salt. If you think about it, it makes sense that the chips need soaking time to mobilize salt or whatever that needs to migrate through the material. That isn't an issue for coir. As mentioned above, by the way, it said to matter more for some sources than for others, but many people seemed to follow that procedure.

Regarding coir, I agree 100% with the view that coir is much more wettable than peat. They're complete opposites in this regard. I don't think I agree that coir lasts longer, but I honestly don't know. Some people say it breaks down into a formless goo in a period of time that peat s able to maintain a good structure and I used to believe that, but I might have misinterpreted what I was seeing. We use it for vegetable and other seed starting, which isn't a test of its durability, and it makes for a light and easily watered mix.

As for another alternative mix, I'm growing my first CP in several years - a Sarr. alata from the spring auction and it's going like gangbusters in a mix that's largely "playground" wood chip mulch with a very little black leaf mulch mixed in, sitting in a pan of water that I keep to an inch or below above the bottom of the pot. The plant has increased from one growth point to three and I look forward to repotting in the spring to see how the roots look in that mix.
 
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Since the last NASC auction held here, I've been growing a N. (lowii x veitchii) x campanulata cutting in a mix of ground coco coir, coco fiber and fir tree bark (I would have added perlite, but I ran out). It's already grown roots and a new leaf. Watering is with the tray method, which is how I've grown all my windowsill Neps.

As for coco coir and other coco products, another thing that may be different from early coco use is that many coconut farms have become huge and are well inland now, away from salt drift.
coconut-garden.jpg


In a few months, I'll try to update on how my Nep. cutting fares. :)
 
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