Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => Fruiting and Flowering Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: boon on March 28, 2012, 09:48 AM

Title: bad soil = bad root
Post by: boon on March 28, 2012, 09:48 AM
this crab apple grew in this pot for at least 2 year.  i think the material is haydite and bark and some other fine particle.
the tree will not develop into anything  without good root.
old soil is washed away.  it does not have much root in this mix. 

my point is to show that root will not grow in poor bonsai soil. 
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: John Kirby on March 28, 2012, 10:58 AM
We opened up some "windows" and covered with Sphagnum and then repotted in to a slightly deeper (but smaller) pot with better drainage. It went in to double screened Clay King brand soil (small, not shohin) mixed 2 to 1 with screened pumice. Wired in, lets see what we get. The goal is to cut off the lower part in 1 or two years (depends on if we get roots out of the drain holes this year.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Yenling83 on November 20, 2012, 10:53 AM
I think alot of people see that the tree is growing and think that means it's healthy.  I know I use to use a mix of Turface and bark, my trees were growing in it but the roots looked like this.  Now using Akadama, Pumice, Lava, my trees grow much better and have way stronger roots. 
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: akeppler on November 20, 2012, 07:59 PM
There is nothing wrong with the components....

.....the particles are too small. If all these particles were 1/4 or larger this tree would have grown way better roots. 
Roots grow because of available vapor. Larger particles make larger openings in the soil, so more vapor. You could gro strong roots in pea gravel if you water correctly and didn't have to move the pot around.....

I have trees that gro roots right out of the pot and gro along the top of the benches. They are in no soil and perfectly healthy. They are healthy because they are exposed to the air (vapor) and it never dries out because the misters come on about 4 times a day.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: MatsuBonsai on November 20, 2012, 08:25 PM
There's nothing wrong with it other than what's wrong with it?  Got it. ;)
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: akeppler on November 20, 2012, 11:10 PM
There's nothing wrong with it other than what's wrong with it?  Got it. ;)

Posted by Boon
Quote
i think the material is haydite and bark and some other fine  particle.

There is nothing wrong with bark, haydite and the finer particle, just use large particle sizes. Now you got it.....
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: akeppler on November 20, 2012, 11:23 PM
Whats the worst soil you could gro a bonsai in.....Clay.

What is akadama......clay. Why is it good? because the particles are large and they are fired. Unfired akadama breaks down into the same soupy mess Boon shows in the pot. Turface is a great substrate ....if we could get it in a 1/4 to 3/8 particle size.

Turface in and of itself is not "poor soil" just bad particle size. The small grain size has too much surface tension and it tends to adhere together making it impermeable to air flow. 1/4 to 3/8 size aggregate stays friable even when wet due to limited adhesion to its nieghbor.

Plant a tomato in a gallon container of 1/8 akadama for one year. in one year turn the plant upside down and the soil will stay in the pot.

Plant a tomato in a gallon container of 3/8 akadama for one year and in one year turn it over and tell me what you get?

Paper towels for your shoes!
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: MatsuBonsai on November 21, 2012, 07:05 AM
Akadama isn't fired.

Oh how I've missed the great soil debated.  It's all about who's got the bigger particle size.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: crust on November 21, 2012, 10:02 AM
I had heard that only SOME akadama is fired and that the best is not.  If akadama is just fired clay that would be easy to replicate. My understanding is that what makes it special is that it is not fired and it holds and exchanges moisture better than hard fired products.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: akeppler on November 21, 2012, 12:12 PM
Akadama isn't fired.

Oh how I've missed the great soil debated.  It's all about who's got the bigger particle size.

Not fired like a pot, but excavated, crushed, and kiln dried to retain shape, and graded. Once it is wet again it contains the capacity to break down. If akadama, in a tempertae climate, without freeze thaw cycles, is of 3/8 size, and dry at time of repot, will retain is shape and size for three years here in Fresno. It does not break down. If smaller size like 3/16 and smaller, just the act of watering is enogh to erode it to mush.

The post has nothing to do with akadama though and has to do with haydite and bark and a fine particle. My point is that those elements in and of themselves are not "bad soil", the bad soil was that the particle size was too small and the roots were drowning.

oh how I've missed the great arguments, its a Boon post, I should have known better.


Ok back to my bunker.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: MatsuBonsai on November 21, 2012, 12:48 PM
So John, how's the tree doing?  Has it survived in spite of having clay in the pot?
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: John Kirby on November 21, 2012, 03:15 PM
It is doing great.

Aroumd here if you plant a tomato plant in anything and ce back a year later, you have a dead plant and potting mix.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: nathanbs on November 21, 2012, 03:23 PM
I had heard that only SOME akadama is fired and that the best is not.  If akadama is just fired clay that would be easy to replicate. My understanding is that what makes it special is that it is not fired and it holds and exchanges moisture better than hard fired products.
The fact that it is not high fired is a benefit because if it were high fired it would no longer have an ok cation exchange. My understanding is that once its high fired anything it loses its CEC.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: nathanbs on November 21, 2012, 03:25 PM
There's nothing wrong with it other than what's wrong with it?  Got it. ;)

Posted by Boon
Quote
i think the material is haydite and bark and some other fine  particle.

There is nothing wrong with bark, haydite and the finer particle, just use large particle sizes. Now you got it.....

I have had problems with my JBP in soil with particles larger than 1/4". Too much vapor, especially on a hot day. Ryan Niel thinks it cooks the roots
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Elliott on November 24, 2012, 05:55 PM
Bags of akadama say "fired" because by law it cannot contain any organic material as it is imported from Japan. If the Feds found out soil that has not been nuked into oblivion was being imported into the US, Akadama would be the the soil component "we used to use".
 Al says it's kiln dried. I don't know how hot that is, but I have opened bags of Akadama and found dead whole ladybugs, dead snails and lots of little twigs, so It can't be exposed to too much heat. As Nate said, if it was cooked, it would only be good for water retention and lose it's Cation exchange capacity which is already relatively low compared to organic material, which most people won't use.
 I think the key is inorganic soil of the correct size. pumice for water retention, lava for air and heat retention, and akadama or kanuma for cation exchange (in other words, Boon's mix).
 Last year, I was thinking large particles for large trees, med for med, and small particles for small trees. Ryan pointed out to me that the functional part of the root system on a tree is about the same size, no matter if it's a huge tree or a shohin, so soil should be the same also.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: bigDave on November 25, 2012, 04:11 PM
Good stuff E-Fark,

So Kiln drying and kiln firing two different things.  If I remember my college Ceramics, apprrox

212 water turns to steam and leaves the clay
440-580 organics burn off, also sulphur,carbon
600-800 H2o in the clay molecule is burned off

This is where I think unfired akadama is cooled

1060 and up, clay turns ceramic, never again will it turn back to clay

probably where so called fired akadama is probably cooled

so if you find lady bugs its kiln dried not fired... and watch out of you find a tortoise, EF

Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: paulpash on December 31, 2012, 03:08 PM
How would you actually measure 1/4 (inch I am assuming) or 3/8? I have LECA but not sure of it's actual diameter...
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: nathanbs on December 31, 2012, 04:26 PM
By using measured screen or mesh to sift your soil. For example if you have 1/4" hardware cloth then all that falls through is under a 1/4 inch and all that stays is over 1/4 inch. You must do atleast one more size of screening to then eliminate the particles that are bigger or smaller than 1/4".
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Don Dunn on February 02, 2013, 06:49 PM
Question about lava and Akadama for planting. When I was big into orchids we tried many different things for growing. Of course most orchids grown in trees with little or no soil. For Terrestrials like Cems, Paths and Phals we used redwood bark. Also often used was red lava. The problem we had with the lava is it breaks down after a couple of years like Akadama and you can end up with mush and rooted roots. So being on top of your re potting is very important if you are using anything that breaks down. We also tried every thing from marbles to gravel with excellent results as long as you stayed on top of the watering and fertilizing.
Sorry for being so long about my question but here it is.
I'm a novice in Bonsai so I may still not understand Akadama's use. Why is Akadama so popular when it seems to me that it is used to hold moisture? Lava I think holds moisture as well if not better and is way cheaper. If Akadama breaks down so easily then I think you would have to be re potting at least every couple of years. Which should probably be done anyways  just for root maintenance. If pumice, Lava and some type of granite or other rock works as well then why purchase the Akadama?

I really want to understand this because it does not make since to me and probably because I'm thick headed.
Is Akadama used simply because we want to replicate the Japanese method or Is it far superior to a mix of other types of soil?  I would rather spend my money on trees and tools but the correct potting medium is more important.
Why is Akadama better than lava?
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: MatsuBonsai on February 02, 2013, 07:22 PM
There are many threads here and elsewhere explaining (debating, arguing) soil components and their advantages.

I estimate that I spend about $10 per medium sized tree on soil at each repotting. I repot every 2-3 years. I haven't found it to be too cost prohibitive for me, and the soil ingredients I use seem to work for me, in my climate, with my watering habits, etc, etc.

Also, in that time I've never had lava break down. In fact, I rarely notice much break down of akadama, even with our freeze/thaw cycles.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Don Dunn on February 02, 2013, 08:26 PM
Thank you John
 One thing for sure, if it is working that well for you then no way you would or should ever change. I know there are a whole lot of post about Akadama I just have never seen any one say why it's better than the other mixes. I have seen a lot of very large words used in their explanations but why is it better. I still do not know the why.
I guess some times you just have to accept what is. I am really not trying to beat a dead horse but some how to me it's still a mystery. I'll pick up a bag at the next show.
I do appreciate your reply
 
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Adair M on February 02, 2013, 10:30 PM
Don,

All akadama is not alike.  Some is fired at higher temperatures, and so will be harder.  It doesn't break down as easily as others.  It won't hold as much water, however.

The advantage with akadama is while it can (will) break down over time, as it breaks down, it retains it's "grainularity" rather than becoming "mud".  However, you should be repotting often enough that it doesn't become an issue.

Oh, if there is a domestic product that works as well as akadama, we'd all use it.  I've heard that some are experimenting with a product mined in California.  Nicknamed "Caladama".  We'll see how that works out.

Oh, by the way, Boon said that a commercial mix called "Clay King" is pretty good.  I have no idea where you can get it.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Don Dunn on February 02, 2013, 11:50 PM
 Adair
Thank you and every one else for being so patient with us rookies. That does help I did not know it stays granular I figured it would just crumble and turn into mush. At the BIB show I was told they had the kind that  did not break down as fast. It was being sold for $28 a bag. I almost purchased it then and there. At the  next show the end of this month I will try to get some then. I don't have that many trees so it will probably last me awhile. I live in California so maybe I can see what that caladama is .
Thanks Don
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Adair M on February 03, 2013, 10:00 AM
Don,

$28, is a good price.  I have to pay about $45 here in GA.  (Assuming it's the same size bag, of course!)

Akadama is kinda hard to find here.  I buy it whenever it's available.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Don Dunn on February 03, 2013, 01:12 PM
It's kind of hard to find here also, I've only seen it at shows so far. That's one of the reasons I was looking into other potting mediums.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Adair M on February 03, 2013, 01:31 PM
Don,

Did you meet Boon at the BIB show?

He's the best resource for all things bonsai in your area.

I travel from Georgia to take his Intensives 3 times a year. If you are at all serious about bonsai, you should become one of his students.
Title: Re: bad soil = bad root
Post by: Leo in NE Illinois on February 16, 2013, 01:08 PM
@Don Dunn
Welcome to another orchid person. When I give orchid talks I do end up telling people you can grow anything in any soil if and only if you understand how and when to water it. More or less holds true for bonsai.

Actually after a long close read of Walter Pall's fertilizing recommendations I have modified this statement. By the way, I could not use Walter's method, for reasons that follow.

Potting media components and particle size, water quality, water frequency, fertilizer, and local climate (whether indoors or outdoors) all interact and will determine the success or failure to grow. You can change to just about any media, and if you can modify the other factors in the right directions, you can grow in it. The reverse holds true. If you don't water as frequently as Walter Pall water's his trees, you can not, and should not try to use the fertilizer concentrations he uses. He needs to use high concentration fertilizer because he flushes plants twice daily with clear water, every day for the two weeks between fertilizing. Use his high concentration without the heavy flushing with clear water, and your trees will  burn up in a month.

Back to akadama, I don't like two things about it, it is not easily available near me. I can only get it at three shows, each show venue is more than one hour drive from me, so a long drive and only 3 days a year to get Akadama without spending an arm & leg on shipping make it a less than ideal media. Second thing I don't like is inconsistency. One bag, one brand (I can't read Kanjin) breaks down to a gritty sand consistency in one season, the next bag I got the particles are still hard 3 years later. Can't read the labels, can't be sure what I am getting. Often by the time I get to the shows there was an earlier mob scene, and there is only a bag or two left.

I think a stable particle size is key in choosing soil components. Multiple component mixes have less trouble with compacting than single component mixes. But not need to get too complicated. A 3 or 4 component mix should be adequate. I like Turface, Dry Stall, and Poulty grit or Turkey grit grade of crushed granite, all available 6 days a week from a Feed store and Farm and Fleet store. Source should be local, so any day you run out you can get more by the next business day. It should not feel like you have to re-finance the house to get. (that's relative, to some Akadama is cheap enough, to some it is expensive)

Savior of many a tree are the sieve sets. Screen all potting materials, eliminate fines.

Experiment, settle on one mix design to test, try it, try adjusting water and fertilizer to match the mix design. This is key - different potting mix demands a different watering schedule. Give it a growing season or two, then evaluate and either tweak it or try something new until you settle on the right mix for your own growing technique.

Unfortunately, while this is all easy to say, it always seems to be a moving target. I am constantly changing the way I grow, so I haven't quite 'settled' down yet. Some summers I get in the nearly daily watering, some summers I have to find ways to help the trees get by with once every 3 or 4 days, as work, life and other things interfere with the hobby. In the end, the few trees I have that have survived more than a decade with me are trees I cherish for their adaptability and resilience.