Don't throw out your Mule Mix

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Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  steveb on Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:15 am

Last spring I bought eight 50 lb bags of Mule Mix, which like Turface, is kiln fired absorbent clay used on ball fields.  This product was recommended here on IBC.  Anyway, I read recently somewhere, sorry I don't remember, that Turface shouldn't be used to grow bonsai because dry spots can develop in the pot and the roots will die in these areas.  I started thinking, what can I do with 400 lbs of Mule Mix.....

Well, today I noticed roots growing out the bottom of the grow box.  Roots were also poking out the top of the soil.  Water was draining okay, but obviously the roots were filling the box.  So I decided to re-box.  (It's early, but the tree is well protected, well, very well protected).

What I saw was a box full of roots.  Obviously this Trident Maple had no issues growing in 100% Mule Mix.  The brown soil at the surface is mulch used in the heat of summer to keep the top roots from drying out.    

The point of this post is...don't throw away your Mule Mix because you read you should.   There is probably a bigger point, or maybe even no point.  

But, people like to see pictures and I feel obligated to share something.  

Feel free to comment or not on the actual tree.  


Steve


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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  0soyoung on Mon Feb 09, 2015 4:03 am

Those are the same kind of results I get with Turface.

The horror stories about Turface 'dry spots' are because of the use of organic ferts - don't put shit in Turface, is my moral for the stories.

BTW, nice roots!!


Last edited by 0soyoung on Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:04 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Oliver Muscio on Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:16 am

Yes, I have been using Mule Mix (and soluble inorganic fertilizer) for several years. Works fine for me!
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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Sorcertree on Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:10 am

How often are you fellers watering the turface?

Oso, you are beginning to make me change my mind about it.

Sorce

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  JimLewis on Mon Feb 09, 2015 1:28 pm

Anyway, I read recently somewhere, sorry I don't remember, that Turface shouldn't be used to grow bonsai because dry spots can develop in the pot and the roots will die in these areas.

A calumny spread, no doubt, by those who insist that the only soils that are "good for bonsai" are those that are exported from Japan -- which also is arrant nonsense.   Misery love company.

I'm probably the one that recommended Mule Mix.  In Tallahassee, I lived just a few miles from where it was produced in S. Georgia.  I used it exclusively for many years.  I liked it better than Turface, in face.  Grain size seemed a bit more uniform.  Less waste.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  manumidam on Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:42 pm

i believe the one refered as saying turface is to be avoided is Michael Hagedorn (see his article http://crataegus.com/2013/11/24/life-without-turface/). he doesn't insist that the only soils that are "good for bonsai" are those that are exported from Japan, but he talks about pumice being a near-perfect particle for fine root growth.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  steveb on Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:23 am

Thanks for the replies.

Mr. Young, I've been lazy and fertilizing with cough cough...inorganic pellets. I'll up my game this year and move to organics. It's probably time.

Sorce, I water about once a day in the summer and twice a week the remainder of the year. I have noticed that the top does tend to dry out so I add mulch to the top keep it moist. Once my trees start looking better, I'll find something nicer.

I believe you did recommend it Jim. Thanks - it has and will simplify my repotting chores tremendously.

Steve

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  0soyoung on Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:15 am

steveb wrote:Thanks for the replies.  

Mr. Young, I've been lazy and fertilizing with cough cough...inorganic pellets.  I'll up my game this year and move to organics.  It's probably time.  

confused

For the most part, I use osmocote - I consider myself smart, not lazy. I am aware of others using Miracid and/or ordinary 'chemical ferts', Walter Pall among them.

There is much to be said for organic ferts, but I expect you to encounter difficulties, like Michael Hagedorn famously reported, if you stay with Mule Mix / Turface. Perhaps if the poo is in teabags ...


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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Dave Murphy on Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:45 pm

Thanks for the thread. I've been trying to locally source (within an hour or two drive) Mule mix for several years with no success. Based on your results, I may have to expand my search radius!

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  JimLewis on Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:38 pm

http://www.mulemix.com/distributors/

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Dave Murphy on Tue Feb 10, 2015 3:19 pm

Thanks Jim.  I've been there before.  They're aren't any active distributors remotely close to Atlanta at the moment (the one in Holly Springs never answers the phone or returns Ph calls).

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:39 am

Folks,

1 of my ingredients is a crushed fired earthenware red brick [ 5mm ], and I also use less than 1 third compost / peat / cocopeat by volume. Third ingredient is builder's gravel [ silica based, 5mm ]

I water in the early evening one pass and two passes in the morning before 8 a.m.
This my 35th year in the hobby.
Our climate has no rain from Christmas until May/ June and the odd July.

No dry spots.
Laters.
Khaimraj

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  steveb on Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:04 am

Mr. Young,
I oh so misread your post. My bad. Organic fertilizers are a no no with Turface /Mule Mix. I should use chemical ferts instead. I now consider myself informed. Thanks.

Mr. Murphy,
I bought mine at Knoxville Co-op in Knoxville, TN. Hope this helps.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  0soyoung on Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:13 am

Its oso ok.
One just has to pick their "poison"

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Dave Murphy on Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:26 am

steveb wrote:Mr. Young,
 

Mr. Murphy,
I bought mine at Knoxville Co-op in Knoxville, TN.  Hope this helps.
Thanks for the lead, Steve...still a bit further then I want to drive, but a possibility.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  JimLewis on Thu Feb 12, 2015 8:37 pm

Organic fertilizers are a no no with Turface /Mule Mix.

PLEASE explain. This flies in the face of my understanding, experience, and practice over LOTS of years.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  steveb on Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:45 am

I was simply repeating what Oso was saying. I personally have no clue what ferts work best so have no opinion of my own to share.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  0soyoung on Fri Feb 13, 2015 5:00 am

JimLewis wrote:
Organic fertilizers are a no no with Turface /Mule Mix.

PLEASE explain.  This flies in the face of my understanding, experience, and practice over LOTS of years.  

I had it in my mind from a few years of reading forum posts that you, Jim, favored Miracid. I am mistaken and surprised to be so.

Would you PLEASE explain your understanding, experience and practice over LOTS of years with using 'organic' fertilizer with Turface/Mule Mix. You are the the first notable exception of which I know to the 'don't put shit in Turface' axiom. Do you use teabags as I supposed might work?

As I said earlier in this thread, Michael Hagedorn published a now famous/infamous post condemning Turface. He is an 'organic fert' user. Others with credible and similar stories are all 'poo-ists' as well. If it was not because of Michael's using 'organic fert', how do you explain the problem he reported?

I also said earlier in this thread that I use Osmocote and/or whatever balanced chemical fert is available. I haven't ever had problems with Turface developing hard dry regions. Others who use various chemical ferts and don't use poo with Turface and Turface-like media also have had no such problems, to the best of my knowledge.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  JimLewis on Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:30 pm

Well, I'm not a fertilization mystic. Trees don't give a damn how they get their NPK and trace elements, just so they get them. I tend toward Walter Pall's advice and, if I recall truly, Brent Walston's -- whatever's on sale is fine as long as it has NPK and trace elements.

BUT, as far as organics with inorganic soil is concerned, I was taught in My Master Gardener --- general and advanced MG -- classes that for best results you would use organic ferts for inorganic (sandy, etc.) and inorganic ferts for organic soils. I was also told that the differences were minimal, so there'd be little effect whatever I used. The reason -- organic ferts adsorb (cling) best on inorganic soils and inorganic ferts to organic soils. I stress the ADsorb -- not ABsorb. Othewise the ferts tend to pass straight thru and to "stick" around as well.

I do tend to use more of the Miracle Grow-type fertilizer, but I do use quite a bit of Fish Emulsion, too -- but ONLY after adding trace elements, which it lacks measurable amounts of. But . . . re-read the first sentence.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Vance Wood on Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:02 pm

I suppose I should stay out of this debate but I find a few things interesting:  I have used Turface off and on for more than fifty years.  If I had a problem I would have said something.  It is interesting that  the debate over organic fertilizer and chemial fertilizer can be boild down into two camps:  Think about it; with the exception of trace elements you are applying Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium to the soil. There is essentially no difference between the two except with the Poo Balls you get organics. You have two choices; apply it in chemical/liquid form or Poo-Ball-Organic form.  In the end they are the same.  Those who don't like organic material like composted Pine bark in a soil mix are those who generally prefer Poo-Ball-Oganic form.  I wonder why that is and I wonder if any of them have given this any thought?  Those who use things like Turface and Composted Pine Bark prefer the Chemical fertilizers.

So now you get the points of view that you don't poop on my Turface and don't wee on my Pumice or Akadama or any other imported soil element. Give it some thought.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:57 pm

i used to use osmocote because it was easy, but then i heard that it is temperature dependent for its release into the substrate...
just wondering if anyone can anyone substantiate or refute that ?

and if i recall correctly, walter pall uses both inorganic and organic fertz...
paraphrasing him: "whatever chemical fertilizer that is on sale at the garden center and once a year i throw chicken poop at them..."
so i myself have no hesitation using both...

after all, the tree will grab what it wants/needs and the rest gets washed away (in the proper substrate)

glad i never even started using turface with all the debate...
started with and have stuck with napa's diamataceous earth for that type of component.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  coh on Fri Feb 13, 2015 4:48 pm

Osmocote (and similar products) do have a temperature dependent release rate. I'm not sure exactly how that rate varies with temperature, but they usually state that the expected lifespan (3 months, for example) is based on an average temperature, usually something like 70. Don't hold me to those exact numbers, though. I have seen studies on the internet where the release rate was evaluated as a function of temperature, so if you really want to know...google can probably help.

There are differences between organic and chemical fertilizers. Standard chemical ferts (like miracle grow) have the components in a soluble salt form (such as ammonium nitrate, potassium chloride, etc). Since the components are soluble they are immediately available to plants. The organics consist of such items as bone meal, cottonseed meal, etc. In these, the nitrogen and other components are contained in more complex form and generally require breaking down by bacteria - ultimately the same components (nitrate, for example) are available to the plant but not so quickly.

Miracle gro and some other chemical ferts also contains urea (nitrogen source) which requires breaking down by bacteria.

I'm sure someone will correct me if I've got any of the above wrong, but that's my understanding.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Vance Wood on Fri Feb 13, 2015 10:59 pm

You're not wrong but I think you have pointed out that both are essentially the same. Nitrogen is an element not a compound.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  Oliver Muscio on Fri Feb 13, 2015 11:16 pm

Vance Wood wrote:You're not wrong but I think you have pointed out that both are essentially the same.  Nitrogen is an element not a compound.
Well, the organic and inorganic fertilizers are not really the same, and some (especially the organic, as well as some components of inorganic fertilizers) must be broken down before they are accessible to plants as coh has indicated. Although nitrogen, itself, is an element, no fertilizer contains elemental nitrogen (but the air we breath is mostly elemental nitrogen.) All nitrogen in fertilizers is in the form of compounds.
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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

Post  coh on Fri Feb 13, 2015 11:51 pm

Vance Wood wrote:You're not wrong but I think you have pointed out that both are essentially the same.  Nitrogen is an element not a compound.

Well, yes...and no. Plants can only take up nitrogen as ammonium or nitrate. They can't take it in directly as N2. Even in those that "fix" nitrogen, the bacteria in the nodules first convert the atmospheric nitrogen to ammonium or nitrate.

So the difference is timing, really. Use an inorganic water soluble fertilizer and you immediately flood the root zone with readily available nitrogen compounds (ammonium and nitrate). If you use an organic, then the complex nitrogen compounds must first be converted by bacteria to ammonium or nitrate. This obviously depends on having the right bacteria and also is temperature dependent. But ultimately, the same compounds (ammonium or nitrate) are taken up by the plant.

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Re: Don't throw out your Mule Mix

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