Performance of ornamental plants in alternative organic growing media amended with increasing rates of expanded shale
Organic and inorganic amendments are often used to improve chemical and physical properties of soils. The objective of this study was to determine how the inclusion of light-weight expanded shale in various organic matter blends would affect plant performance. Four basic blends of organic growing media were prepared using traditional or alternative organic materials: 1) 75% pine bark (PB) + 25% sphagnum peatmoss (PM), 2) 50% PB + 50% wastewater biosolids (BS), 3) 100% municipal yard waste compost (compost), and 4) 65% PB + 35% cottonseed hulls (CH). Light-weight expanded shale was then blended with each of these mixtures at rates of 0%, 15%, 30%, and 60% (v/v). Vinca (Catharanthus roseus), verbena (Verbena hybrida), and shantung maple (Acer truncatum) were planted into the growing media after they were transferred into greenhouse pots. Vinca growth was monitored for 3 months before harvesting aboveground plant tissue to determine total biomass yield and elemental composition. Verbena growth was monitored for 6 months, during which time aboveground plant tissue was harvested twice to determine total biomass yield. Additionally, aboveground vinca plant tissue was analyzed for nutrients and heavy metal concentrations. In the absence of expanded shale, verbena and shantung maple trees produced more aboveground biomass in the 50-PB/50-BS blends, whereas vinca grew more biomass in the pure compost blends. Inclusion of expanded shale in the various organic matter blends generally had a negative effect on plant growth, with the exception of shantung maple growth in the 65-PB/35-CH blend. Reduced plant growth was probably due to a lower concentration of nutrients in the growing media. Macroand micronutrient uptake was generally reduced by addition of expanded shale to the organic growing media. Results suggest that organic materials that have been stabilized through prior decomposition, such as compost or PM, are safe and reliable growing media, but expanded shale offers few benefits to a container growing medium except in cases where additional porosity is needed.
Sloan, J., Cabrera, R., Ampim, P., George, S., & Mackay, W. (2010). Performance of ornamental plants in alternative organic growing media amended with increasing rates of expanded shale. HortTechnology, 20 (3), 594-602. https://doi.org/10.21273/horttech.20.3.594