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Cocoa mulch?

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Per

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Hey,
Has anyone ever added soaked cocoa mulch (the husks from the cocoa seed after they to make chocolate) their bark mix. I have started adding it to a large size bark mix and so far (a few weeks), my test subjects have showed increased vitality. Nevertheless, this effect may just be that they are getting a bit more water since the cocoa mulch can hold a fair amount (I am a chronic, but slight, under-waterer). This stuff is supposed to break down into useable nutrients too, so as long as I don't over-fertilize, it should help on that front as well.

I would love to hear if anyone else has used it. I am especially interested in the longer-term effects. I do know that I will need to repot more often.

Thanks.

~P
 

gonewild

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If it is supposed to break down that in itself may cause problems sooner than later. As it breaks down it may consume nitrogen and also tend to plug up the mix. But then on the other hand it may work very well as a mix additive?
 

SlipperFan

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I used it one year as a mulch in my garden. It smelled wonderful for awhile, but it broke down very quickly. I don't think I'd try it as an addendum to an orchid media mix for that reason.
 

DukeBoxer

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If you're growing slippers in a large bark mix and are an under waterer, than they should be a great addition because they hold so much water, but in my opinion, you could leave that out and pot in a fine to medium mix and your plants should be happier...If we're talking about slippers, right?
 
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goldenrose

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I use to use it outdoors in the flower beds all the time as we had a Nestle's plant rather close by. Every year they had a sale, all proceeds went to a charity. We could get huge burlap sags for $5!
OK so back to the orchids, I have the same feelings as Dot. It doesn't break down as fast in the shade as it does in the sun but it's really fine when it breaks down. There is a possibility it would flush thru the pots but if it doesn't, then it could be a muddy/sludgy consistency which would not be good for roots that need to breath.
 

Per

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First, yes I am talking about slippers for this experiment. I only am planning to use it for more terrestrial types of orchids. I read that the pure mulch does choke true air plants (like catts) if not repotted frequently.

Also, thanks for the great insight. I have my test subjects in clear pots, so I will be sure to keep a close eye on how quickly the mulch breaks down (and repot before it is slush). I am not using the mulch as the majority of the mix (at most 25%), so if I can get 8 months out of it I will be happy. My collection is only about a hundred plants, so increased repotting will not be a huge problem for me. As my experiment progresses, I will try to keep you all up to date. Thanks.

~P
 
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goldenrose

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Definitely keep us posted! Where would we be without experiments?
Outdoors for me, it needed to be reapplied 3 months later, I'd be surprised if you got 5-6months out of it.
 

Per

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NB: This trial was not conducted in any scientific way. It is based entirely on my judgment of the health of my plants. Take it for what it is worth, one person's experience.

Goldenrose was dead on about the break-down rate (~3 months). In those pots with more cocoa mulch (~20% of the mix) I have some increased new root growth, but this is off-set by the mix staying much too wet and the plant becoming otherwise stressed (no deaths, however, since I did not let it get that far). I repotted the worst yesterday (finals procrastination).

For others with less cocoa mulch (~5% of the mix), I am seeing increased virgor and root growth compared with similar non-cocoa treated plants, but without the other stresses. It looks like in these pots, the cocoa mulch has broken down and that process has slightly accelerated the break-down of the bark mulch. This appears to have curtailed the problem I was having where the bark mulch inhibited root growth by taking much too long to get to a stage where it would accept water (even with overnight soaking), but where it was still structural enough to keep air coming in. This appears to be a good compromise for my plants. When I start repotting these plants (the 5%), I will give a better description of the roots.
 

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