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BIM1229 05-27-2014 11:41 AM

Potting soil advice (newbie)
Hey everybody,
I have been using this forum as a resource for sometime now however I couldn't seem to find an adequate response to my question. So I decided to poll the experts. I understand the basics of the types of soil bananas need to thrive, well draining, rich in organic matter, etc... However I was wondering if someone could provide me with and ingredient list of how they make their soil or a pre-bagged that people have had success with, or how to amend sed pre-bagged soil.

I previously followed some instructions I found online suggest 1/3 small rocks, 1/3 sand, and 1/3 high quality soil (I used roots organic). However the mix looks too sandy to me and although their has been growth of the plant it is not as fast as I would have expected (however I am new to banana cultivation). Btw that mix was for a java blue I purchased on line with one offshoot. Additionally I have (all supposed sterile tissue clones) a dwarf cavendish, a dwarf double Mahoi, dwarf red, truly tiny, and Orinoco in a cactus mix I found at the local garden center that I supplemented with extra perlite. It is hard to judge the growth of these bananas because they were sent too me contaminated with spider mites (never order from Florida hills) s/he refused to refund the plants as well.

Either way I am about ready to transplant the tissue clones and wanna give my bananas the best environment to grow. Hence I am looking for the best soil mix possible for potted banana plants. Also if the mix I used for the lager plant should be changed please advise.

Btw I live in a northern climate usda hardiness. Zone 6-7 depending on the source so I plan on bringing the ladies inside for the winter. Also I have been using fabric pots in hopes of increasing air circulation to the root zone(25 gal. For the big girl and I plan on using 5 gal. for the smaller plants until they are more established.

Thanks in advance for all of the help,

P.s. I hope I posted this under the right category I apologize if I didn't.

2woodensticks 05-27-2014 12:18 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I,myself use cheap potting or top soil then I add perlite and black cow composted manure..i use more perlite..better drainage, easier to regulate water..all depends what I am planting..

sunfish 05-27-2014 04:18 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
Pure peat moss, pearlite added -- good drain -- good growth

raygrogan 05-28-2014 01:45 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
This is for taro and the occasional banana pup before it gets planted out.

I start with a 5 gal bucket of the best soil I can find. Then sift it thru a tennis racket. Then add the following fertilizers and amendments: ("oz" = volume, like 4 oz is a half cup)

Fert – in HI spring 2014 my standardized mix was 3 oz of 10-20-20
1 oz Ironite
4 oz dolomite

Iowa – well, no more dolomite (at least I haven't seen) I could add a little epsom salt (Mg sulfate).
3 oz 6-24-24
1 oz Ironite
.5 oz Epsom salts (so in PB jar by eye, half as much as Ironite)

I usually re-pot the taro after about 2 months, to a bigger pot. A typical progression is start in 1 cup, then to a quart, then to 3 gal. Each time the roots are not disturbed, just surrounded by the new dirt. When I don't re-pot it starts heading for maturity and sometimes I see deficiencies like K.

For the final re-pot before it gets dropped into water to mature I add a tsp of a high K fert like 10-5-29 near the bottom of the new pot. After about 2 mos I top up with more dirt mix with added calcium nitrate at 4 oz per gal. That is the last fert they get.

I can use soil like this for a few reasons that might not apply to your bananas. Since my biggest pot is 3 gal weight is OK. I wouldn't want to be moving 25 or even 5 gal of wet dirt. Also I have ready sources of dirt. And taro does not mind "wet feet". Good luck. If you test a few different methods please post your results.

Tortuga 06-02-2014 01:45 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I am using a mixture of mostly Kellogg All Natural Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables mixed with steer manure and composted chicken manure. This seems to drain really fast, although the soil stays moist for a long time. I have mine (an impostor blue java and a dwarf red) in pots topped with about an inch of wood mulch.

I haven't seen any growth on them since they were planted which was almost 2 weeks ago now. I have been checking on them daily and only watering when the soil starts to dry out. Don't want to leave them with soggy feet. My plan is to bump them up to a 20-25 gal container when they fill out the ones they are in now, but I'm wondering if I need to do something to get them jump started.

Please help!

austinl01 06-02-2014 03:50 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
Bananas hate pots. Plant them in the ground if you possibly can. Mine grew terribly last year with very good potting soil in their containers.

Abnshrek 06-02-2014 04:12 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)

Originally Posted by austinl01 (Post 245865)
Bananas hate pots. Plant them in the ground if you possibly can. Mine grew terribly last year with very good potting soil in their containers.

My Banana's like pots.. :^)

Iunepeace 06-02-2014 04:49 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I'm wondering if you could expound on that Abnshrek? To add to what the OP posted, I just came back to my country after being away in school for awhile and I admit I left my bananas to fend for themselves while away, not they're not doing much at all; they sometimes put out buds but all the naners dry up, so sad :(

Because of this (and my inherent inclination towards "efficiency") I'm thinking of just digging up a few of the smaller varieties and just growing them in some pots I have lying around. I have a couple shorter varieties that hover around 5 feet or less even in ground so I'm thinking they should be okay. My questions are what size pot (smallest preferably) could I grow them in with reasonable success? I'm in the 10th or 11th growing zone so growing season is not an issue. Also I pretty much an trying to fund my growing venture on a college student salary (i.e. mostly nothing lol) so any cheap fertilizers/growing methods would be appreciated. And lastly I would love to be able grow some taro as well (popular in cuisine here) so I'm wondering if those three gallon pots grow large enough taro to be consumed and if the soil he was referring to that he grows them in was just normal soil from the yard or something that he added the fertilizer to?

Thanks in advance for you guys' responses, I gave you a lot to chew on ^__^

P.S. The gardening center nearby doesn't have large quantities of perlite readily available to buy in bunk if I remember correctly. Can I use anything else/something natural to fluffen the soil/improve drainage? They do have the cow manure stuff so that would be fine :D Now to find a good summer job to fund my gardening exploits....

Abnshrek 06-02-2014 05:01 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I have Banana's that I do not want to subject to the Winter Elements so I keep them in Pots.. When I put a Banana in a Pot I usually put it in the shade so it doesn't loose its leaves for 2 weeks so it can grows roots. Once I see movement they get moved into sun.. My Dirt Mix is Black Cow, Perlite, and Peat.. I coat my root ball and soil near rootball w/ Mycorrhizae for a better root system.. I use Fish Emulsion, Fruit Fuel, and Potassium Sulphate in my initial watering, and I don't water again till I see growth/ Vertical movement.. How's that? :^)

sunfish 06-02-2014 06:56 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)

Originally Posted by sunfish (Post 245500)
Pure peat moss, pearlite added -- good drain -- good growth

Bump :woohoonaner:

Pancrazio 06-02-2014 07:59 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
Cheap potting soil here, mixed with pumice. I keep all my plants in pots during winter, some in a cold frame, some other inside the house in an heated room.
Never had any problem, related to the potting mix.

Also keep in mind that there's some degree of substitution between good potting soil and good cultivation. You can stay on the cheap side with potting soil if you pay a lot of attention to watering, fertilization, etc.

Tortuga 06-02-2014 10:18 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
So it sounds like I need o get these guys out of the direct sunlight until they get their root structure established, is that right? I've got them in some 3-5 gallon (not sure, they are recycled from other trees I bought) pots now, which I assumed would be best for them straight out of the mail-order package.

They've been going for about 2 weeks and the original leaves are browned a bit. Am I too late or can they still be saved?

raygrogan 06-03-2014 12:20 AM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
Iunepeace - taro - yes, absolutely to eat! Delish! You can see some pix and tips here Soon I will put up more on the dirt mixing, going from small pots to large in several steps, etc. Almost any method will work. The dirt I start with changes depending on where my construction contacts are digging foundations, but generally good to medium top soil or just below. Since I add good nutrients I lean more toward good "structure" and weed-free than rich.

Abnshrek 06-03-2014 09:16 AM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)

Originally Posted by PR-Giants (Post 245906)
For starting out new plants I prefer to use sand & small rocks, no ferts, and later add compost to the watering.

Although many commercial banana growers start with a high Phos fert like 0-50-0.

What happened w/ the grass clippings?

raygrogan 06-03-2014 11:24 AM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
Great roots, and perfect timing to re-pot / set out before they start getting crowded. Good idea for new plants to emphasize air vs soggy over-fertilized soil. I just did 5 pups my way and 1 rotted, 4 did fine, so clearly borderline.

Iunepeace 06-03-2014 12:12 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I like how this thread is blowing up with activity! You guys are posting some incredibly useful info and a relatively novice grower like myself appreciates it!

Abnshrek, thanks for your broken-down process of how to pot up bananas! The shade and only-initial watering sound like really good ideas, gonna try those. I already have some Black Cow and some Fish Emulsion so a start at least :)

Ray, thanks for the reply about the taro. I haven't had luck growing it in the ground so here's to a good container experience! I clicked on your link and Whoa Nelly! You have an incredible wealth of step-by-step visual gardening processes, logging, and info in those albums. Thank you for taking the time to make all those descriptions. I just breasted the cusp of them and already was drawn in :)

My mom offered to take me to get some seaweed today so I'm wondering can I just use that to add xyz to the soil? I remember reading that it contains a lot of minerals, it's pretty decent as mulch and breaks down, and there's a sure lot of it in regular supply lol. What do you guys think?

from the sea 06-04-2014 03:27 AM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
i use seaweed all the time, that is what a lot of the dirt here in the keys is anyways

Iunepeace 06-04-2014 09:39 AM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)

Originally Posted by from the sea (Post 245970)
i use seaweed all the time, that is what a lot of the dirt here in the keys is anyways

Thanks, I'm glad to hear you do. Is there anything special I should do with it or some way I should prep it before adding to the soil? I know some people claim it's too salty for plants. Also best method of application in your experience. I seem to recall it breaks down after a while :)

merce3 06-04-2014 05:19 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
i use peat moss, perlite, black cow and some organic potting soil they have for $5 at home depot.

BIM1229 06-05-2014 01:20 PM

Re: Potting soil advice (newbie)
I tend to agree with the previous statement regarding acidic soil. It seems to me that the majority of people use some form of peat based soil mix. Most peat moss is innately acidic especially as it decomposes releasing all of the delicious nutrients our bananas love :). Also through my personal experience I have discovered that peat has a very interesting characteristic of changing its pH depending on how wet or dry it is. (This also appears to be true of most soils however the pH swings do not seem to be a drastic as they are in peat moss). Ultimately this serves to seriously complicate the problem because when one attempt to pH the soil are the looking for the pH when it is dry or when it is wet. At this point most will say well get a pH meter or test kit and then suggest to follow some protocol involving digging up a soil sample and then testing a soil water dilution. However this tells you nothing as well because there are so many confounding factors it is impossible to differentiate what is the soil pH and what is the effect of the water dilution. Recall that pH is a measure of the concentration of free hydrogen Ions in solution however this is not always the case depending on how you define an acid or base, Arrhenius (concentration of free H+, Brønsted-Lowry (acids are proton donors and bases are proton acceptors), or Lewis (acids are electron pair acceptors and bases are electron pair donors). This confounds soil analysis results because each type of tester is based on a different Acid-Base Definition color kits are usually based on the Arrhenius definition while electric/analog meters are based on the Lewis definition. Therefore unless you know how they analyzed the soil when they made the claim bananas like acidic soil you really don't know if you are assessing the free Hydrogen Ion concentration (Arrhenius) or the Ionic Composition of the soil (Lewis).

Either way the point I was trying to make was that when I first began Gardening I attempted to optimize everything I could based on the best scientific information I could find and spent way too much time trying to adjust the pH to exactly 6.8 because that was what the literature said and I usually ended up killing my plants in the process. Eventually I realized that Gardening like everything else is both an art and a science. Thus, one must learn to read the plants and interpret what they are telling you and use the science to confirm it. For example if your plants are showing weird "nutrient deficiencies" (which personally I believe are to an extent acid base issues but that is a discussion for another time) and the leaves look deformed you probably have some form of an acid base problem and it would be large enough to detect on any type of meter. Or if you are growing in dirt or beds use a meter initially to get in the general pH range. But after that let the plants do their thing.

In summary learning to read your plants through experimentation is way more reliable than the most expensive and well thought out pH/Nutrient/Light/ Moisture test anyone could ever preform. So don't stress the pH and try to learn from the people who have been doing it forever and having success such as my new friend Abnshrek who saved my nanners. Huge Props I look forward to learning as much as I can from you and the rest of the experienced Gardeners on this website. You contributions are invaluable to us noobs. I’ll post some pics soon when I have a chance.

Hope this Helps,

P.S. I apologize for any spelling/grammer areas as you have probably deduced I am a scientist not a writer.

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