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  #1  
Old 04-09-2021, 09:40 PM
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What is everyone’s thoughts on using solely pumice and/or charcoal? I hesitate on Leca because of what I’ve head about alkalinity over time. I don’t mind watering more, if it means healthy ventilated roots/ less chance of rot.

What should I be worried about?

---------- Post added at 08:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:39 PM ----------

Any other ideas to consider?
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  #2  
Old 04-10-2021, 12:26 AM
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LECA, charcoal, pumice, wine corks, bark chips, sphagnum moss, cinders, gravel can all work fine. It depends on your conditions and how you grow.
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  #3  
Old 04-10-2021, 07:32 AM
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I am curious where you got the info about LECA and increasing alkalinity with time. Alkalinity is the resistance to pH change, usually due to the accumulation of carbonates in the medium, and they often come from hard water, not from the medium itself.

Besides, for the most part, LECA brands are pretty much neutral.

Charcoal is not an inorganic medium, being wood that has not been fully burned.
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  #4  
Old 04-10-2021, 12:37 PM
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So the LECA info was from... YouTuber switching her collection into LECA and was getting those results

2020 Orchid Recap - Why I gave up LECA, Jewel Orchids, cool growers & more! - YouTube

You’re probably correct about it coming from the water. That is definitely something I consider using LA tap water, I’m thinking of adjust pH down to offset this. I’m around 7.4 and want to go to just above 6 if practical for any sensitive plants. I’ve been having good luck with flushing the pots with warmer water, perhaps a more acid flush on occasion would do well. Still need to check the pH of the tap with each of the fertilizers I go between.

With charcoal, I’m considering it relative to sphagnum fir bark and the like. I will likely include a small amount of fir in the mix just for comfort.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray View Post
I am curious where you got the info about LECA and increasing alkalinity with time. Alkalinity is the resistance to pH change, usually due to the accumulation of carbonates in the medium, and they often come from hard water, not from the medium itself.

Besides, for the most part, LECA brands are pretty much neutral.

Charcoal is not an inorganic medium, being wood that has not been fully burned.


---------- Post added at 11:37 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:32 AM ----------

Also Ray, looks like you have some fantastic information on your site, I’ll comb through later today.
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Old 04-10-2021, 12:55 PM
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That you tuber is straight up wrong lol

I consider charcoal in-organic due to its longevity and almost totally resistance to any fungus but Ray is correct. It behaves differently when in a wet sphag and bark mix than an open and airy basket with rocks. I have some in baskets at least 5 years old. Still the same as when I put it there.

I am a big proponent of inorganic
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Old 04-10-2021, 01:36 PM
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When selecting a medium, just realize that not all orchids are the same. I grow nearly everything in red lava rock but I have a few that really prefer NZ sphagnum moss or being mounted...and that is what they get. I will probably switch the Phaius to a light potting soil/sphagnum/bark mix but the Phal bellina really loves the moss so she will stay in it. But this is in my growing conditions and everyone has a different environment and level of care.
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Old 04-10-2021, 02:57 PM
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Well said Leafmite. That IS the most important consideration
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Old 04-10-2021, 03:10 PM
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Minerals on LECA come from the water. If you use water with low mineral content, or if you water the LECA so it doesn't dry completely, minerals will not build up on the LECA to any extent. I use my tap water with dissolved minerals of 800-1,200 parts per million (=mg/l) on some plants in S/H. With frequent watering I don't get mineral buildup.
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Old 04-10-2021, 04:20 PM
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Thank you everyone for sharing your experience. I realized as I was typing it that referencing a YouTube video, no matter how well intended, wasn’t a great qualifier. I’m certainly not looking for a definitive stance but more what I should be aware of moving to a medium that is largely pumice. I should have included that I am concerned about my pH and TDS in the original post. Also I have to admit that I feel more comfortable over watering compete for the dryness of my balcony where I have all resilient species. The only sensitive things I have are in terrarium and get fog and distilled water. I have a Phal. Schilleriana coming in for an eastern window growing area that I’m working on for species that want a bit more moderate environ. I heard, that this Phalaenopsis’s growth distinctly improves with the lowered pH.

For the balcony plants with the heat, air movement I want to avoid detrimental alkalinity and salt build up. Overall just reducing stressors where I have control giving them the best chance to deal with the variable I cannot control.
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Old 04-10-2021, 07:13 PM
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my thought on the matter is that most substrates have advantages and disadvantages.
The problem is finding what suits the orchids, our schedules watering them and doesn't need replacing too often.
Some people like fast drying but it requires more watering. Moss is quite water retentive so generally needs less watering but it depends a big chunk of moss dries slower than a thin layer of moss.

When starting out my orchids were all different sizes and in different substrates and different pots and it was hard to work out when to water each one without overwatering others. It took a while to find what worked best for me and it is different for everyone.

So the big disadvantages with moss and bark is that they degrade faster and they change their structure as they degrade.

If one doesn't like that idea inorganic substrates are a good choice.

I think perlite is a bit underrated myself, it compacts over time but added to a substrate it can't compact that much and even if it does a little I find it beneficial, as it retains more moisture so you can't fill a pot with too much perlite or it compacts and stays too moist but a little adds aeration, moisture retention and makes the pot lighter, meaning roots can grow through the substrate easier. It's also very cheap.

Leca has got some of the biggest disadvantages in my opinion but it is very cheap so it is worth using for that reason. The problem might have nothing to do with alkalinity which was probably just a poor choice of word to describe the problem.
The problem with leca is that it can absorb water a bit too well. I have the same issue with moss. What this means is that water and nutrients are constantly absorbed and transported to evaporate on the surface and what this does is it leaves the nutrients behind as a deposit while the water evaporates.
I do not like using leca as a top layer for this reason.

I've never used charcoal but heard it can give good results but needs even more watering than bark.

A mix of different substrates usually gives the best results to achieve a mix that dries out in the timeframe that one wants with the environment they are growing in.

To start with it is impossible to know what substrate gives what result and will need to be watered in what way, some only need light misting on the surface, other substrates like charcoal probably need a full soak every once in a while. It can be very confusing but over time one learns what the disadvantages and advantages are and how to use them to ones advantage.

Pumice is the most expensive and it is a natural product so it can be very pure grade or contaminated with other rock. If it is low grade generally it will be less good for orchids but high grade pumice is a very good substrate even completely on its own. I find it hard to source - especially the very good grade.

But even the low grade pumice has its advantages. It is still pumice, it just holds a bit more water so it can be used if a pot needs to be kept wetter for longer.

The only real problem is that this is all good in theory but how does one convert this knowledge in practice. Because one can't try something, see if it works, repot if it doesn't and find what works best on the 5th attempt but the only thing one can do is learn as one goes along and improve from that knowledge.
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