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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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Gadz

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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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Sorry for bumping and older post. Just wanted to talk about the consensus here. It seems people are agreeing it's basically fine. Yet searching google still yields dozens of pages of people regurgitating the same information about how there is salt (Na?) in coir. Maybe it is not a 1:1 substitute for peat but it seems to have a rightful place in the community. I'm just getting into this hobby and would rather use it as the base for my bog garden.
 
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If you can guarantee you're getting the stuff from a place sourced inland, no there won't be salt. But that doesn't guarantee it being clean of other minerals and such that may end up there during processing. It also starts out pretty well-draining and easy to wet, but can break down rapidly in very wet conditions (like a bog) and, despite what many claim, it is not actually more environmentally safe than the minimal peat harvesting we as carnivorous plant growers would equal (because the real problem is peat harvest for burning in northern Europe and Asia and mass-harvesting for potting mix production for the worldwide every-other-plant market). While it is itself a byproduct, it is the byproduct of often large palm plantations that are taking the place of ever-shrinking and highly fragile tropical forest regions, which is far less sustainable than peat collection, and if demand for coir gets high enough as a believed substitute for other components, plantations will eventually occur just to provide that market.
So, until the planting methods become more sustainable for palms of any kind, the products are at best comparable, at worst one just isn't as great for carnivores because they don't already grow in it. It all boils down to where you're getting your material from and their practices in the end.
 
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Wood chips.

I just repotted the S. alata I mentioned in an earlier post in this thread. I had potted the plant in playground wood chips after winning it in the 2021 NASC auction and this morning I found it had lots of healthy roots, no unhealthy roots, and I repotted it in new wood chips. I've never used the chips before and was relieved to see how nicely they worked.

These are the screened wood chips - I'm guessing a 1" screen - and they're sold around here as playground wood much and similar names. The chips probably largely come from the chippers of commercial arborists before being screened for playgrounds, etc. They must be as environmentally benign as anything else we might use. I'm using chips that sat out since last year with any fines that come along with them. The plant is in a relatively small pot that sits in a pan of water that I allow to vary between 0-3" depth, with 4"+ of chips above the highest water level.

Some further details, because YMMV: I'm in the NE US (CT), so it's a reasonably humid environment without intense sun. I suspect wood chips might fail miserably in Phoenix even if they don't ignite on a hot afternoon. Our water is reasonably unhard and I have no qualms about watering Sarrs with it during a prolonged dry period. I sometimes pour water into the pot but usually just pour it into the pan. This is US Hardiness Zone 6B and we sometimes drop below 0F, but I overwinter Sarrs outside by just burying the pot in the ground with the top of the mix around ground level and several inches of tree leaves, etc forming a loose mulch above. I keep an eye on the snowpack because it can melt on top and the water refreeze underneath, suffocating plants in pots.
 
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Sorry for bumping and older post. Just wanted to talk about the consensus here. It seems people are agreeing it's basically fine. Yet searching google still yields dozens of pages of people regurgitating the same information about how there is salt (Na?) in coir. Maybe it is not a 1:1 substitute for peat but it seems to have a rightful place in the community. I'm just getting into this hobby and would rather use it as the base for my bog garden.

If the post is still relevant, I say BUMP IT!

Anyway, I'm still growing the (above mentioned) N. (lowii x veitchii) x campanulata in coco coir, coco fiber and fir tree bark. It has many leaves with pitchers. So it's been doing well for about a year now. I also have a N. gracilis "black speckle" growing in the same conditions, for about a year, and it's doing well too.

In my experience, coco coir and coco fiber works for carnivorous plants. I believe recirculating outdated information, lack of experimentation, and mostly fear, are the biggest things stopping people from using coco products with carnivorous plants.

Just my thoughts. Good Luck! :)
 
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In my experience, coco coir and coco fiber works for carnivorous plants. I believe recirculating outdated information, lack of experimentation, and mostly fear, are the biggest things stopping people from using coco products with carnivorous plants.
It probably is safe to say that "...outdated information, lack of experimentation, and mostly fear..." are the biggest impediments to people doing all kinds of things they perhaps ought to do. The problem is that trying something new can require an intimidating leap of faith - I was willing to try an alternative mix for the single CP I have now because I used to have a lot and felt comfortable experimenting. If not for that, methinks that outdated information and fear might have won out.

As for the salt thing, a few thorough soak/rinse cycles with fresh water would wash away all the salt even if a coco product had been soaked in Great Salt Lake. The Na and Cl want to go with the water, not hang out in coco husk.
 
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