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Author Topic: Bonsai soil mix  (Read 1803 times)
Adair M
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« on: February 02, 2012, 04:58 PM »

I have the following materials available:

"Double Red Line" akadama
Beam Clay pumice
granite grit "M10" (from my horse arena)

Bonsai seives:  1/4 inch, 3/16 inch, 1/16 inch (window screen)

acadama:  Virtually all the akadama will pass through the 1/4 screen.  I can collect 3/16" and 1/16" sizes.  Anything that passes through the 1/16" screen is fines and will be thrown away.  I would estimate about half will go through the 3/16 seive, and half does not.

pumice:  I can collect some that will not pass through a 1/4 seive.  They're still relatively small, so I could possibly use this as a bottom, drainage, layer.  Most of it will pass through the 1/4" seive, but get caught by the 3/16" seive.  Maybe three quarters of the pumice will get caught.  The remainder gets caught by the window screen (1/16). Very little is fines.

M10 (crushed quarry granite):  I can collect all sizes.


As I understand it, the goal is to have a fairly uniform particle size.  (Not including the bottom "drainage" layer.)  So, I can create two sizes: One that will pass through a 1/4 inch seive but not a 3/16".  And the other can pass through a 3/16" but not a window screen.

The larger of the two sizes seems fairly large!  But I think it would be appropriate for pines.

The smaller of the two would be good for deciduous trees?

I am thinking of having 2 parts akadama, 2 parts pumice, and 1 part granite.  If I can find it, I might toss in a little charcoal.

Am I on the right track? 

(Back in the day, I used to use turface "right out of the bag", and added Nature's Helper.)  I have access to better ingredients now.
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Kajukid
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 06:20 PM »

I have the following materials available:

"Double Red Line" akadama
Beam Clay pumice
granite grit "M10" (from my horse arena)

Bonsai seives:  1/4 inch, 3/16 inch, 1/16 inch (window screen)

acadama:  Virtually all the akadama will pass through the 1/4 screen.  I can collect 3/16" and 1/16" sizes.  Anything that passes through the 1/16" screen is fines and will be thrown away.  I would estimate about half will go through the 3/16 seive, and half does not.

pumice:  I can collect some that will not pass through a 1/4 seive.  They're still relatively small, so I could possibly use this as a bottom, drainage, layer.  Most of it will pass through the 1/4" seive, but get caught by the 3/16" seive.  Maybe three quarters of the pumice will get caught.  The remainder gets caught by the window screen (1/16). Very little is fines.

M10 (crushed quarry granite):  I can collect all sizes.


As I understand it, the goal is to have a fairly uniform particle size.  (Not including the bottom "drainage" layer.)  So, I can create two sizes: One that will pass through a 1/4 inch seive but not a 3/16".  And the other can pass through a 3/16" but not a window screen.

The larger of the two sizes seems fairly large!  But I think it would be appropriate for pines.

The smaller of the two would be good for deciduous trees?

I am thinking of having 2 parts akadama, 2 parts pumice, and 1 part granite.  If I can find it, I might toss in a little charcoal.

Am I on the right track? 

(Back in the day, I used to use turface "right out of the bag", and added Nature's Helper.)  I have access to better ingredients now.
i wouldnt throw away the fine soil...use it for the top layer to make it look good... everything els sounds good...you should get some red lava rock too..and use equal parts...
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Adair M
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 07:06 PM »

The pumice I have is red lava rock.  (You guys in California might get something different.)

And the fines are dust. 

Kid, have you watched Boon's potting video?  Where he waters "until the water runs clear"?  This is the stuff that gets washed out.

I don't mind having my mix show.  That way it will have good drainage and air. 

When it comes time to show the trees, I'll add moss.  Temorarily.

When I repot my zelkova, I will put a bit of spaghnum moss over the top. Not for looks, but to help the roots from drying out super fast in our hot summers.
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scottroxburgh
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 10:48 PM »

Looks pretty good to me, but you'll just have to play with it to see what proportions/sizes suit your climate.

The dust can be used to make muck for slab plantings but I usually just add it to my garden.

I use 1 part Akadama to 2 parts pumice, and cover the top in sphagnum moss. We get summer tops of around 105 F-113 F (though not this year, only around 95 F Huh?)
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Chrisl
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 01:39 PM »

Adair, have you noticed any improvement in the growth and health of your trees since switching to akadama from turface? 
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Adair M
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 02:42 PM »

Chrisl,

I wish I could give you an answer to that!  I used turface 20 to 25 years ago.  Then dropped out of the hobby.  I don't have any of those trees any more.

I have recently (the past year) started back up.

In fact, I was searching for turface, couldn't find any, and tried a bonsai shop in another town, and they had the akadama and Beam Clay red rock pumice.  So, since those on this forum advocate Boon's mix, I'm trying to reproduce it here in NE Ga.

I can tell you that in my previous bonsai life, my soil mix had a LOT more organics in it than this mix!  I will say, I had pretty good results with turface and too much organics, so if Boon's mix is better, then my trees should do great!
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Chrisl
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 03:50 PM »

Thanks Adair!  I guess I'm going to have to try the akadama for myself.  I have already gotten lava and working on some pumice and turface.  But since so many are using some content of akadama, I need to try it out Wink

Chris
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Adair M
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 04:59 PM »

The akadama balls are rather soft.  That is, I can crush them between finger and thumb.  I don't remember being able to do that with Turface.  I could break it with my fingers, but I'd have to use both hands, and twist it.  The red pumice is quite hard, and does not break up.

The akadama is round.  The pumice is shaped like rounded ovals.  The turface had more sharp corners.

My M10 granite grit has sharp corners.

I can see where a soil mix made up of entirely "rounded" components would allow for better drainage, and air movement as there would be more space between particles.  Hmm... my granite grit might not be such a good idea after all...

Oh, one more observation:  The akadama has a relatively smooth surface and has a solid core.  The pumice has lots of texture, and is kinda "hollow" inside.  Two particles of akadama and pumice of the same size would have the akadama weighing maybe twice as much as the pumice.
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bigDave
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2012, 11:55 PM »


Am I on the right track? 

 
Yes
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Owen Reich
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2012, 05:32 AM »

I have always liked granite grit as it really promoted fine root development / division.  It can make thing a bit heavy, but I've used it for newly collected trees at about 25% total media volume for conifers and the rest was mostly Primera One (like turface) say 60% and the rest composted peat moss.  I tried growing some oaks in pure granite grit once and it produced some very short and compact trees over the two years in the pure granite.  When I last collected blueberry burls in Tennessee, I used 25% granite grit, 50 % peat, and 25% turface.  Definitley works well as I got almost no fibrous root on two and they never missed a beat.
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Chrisl
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 09:07 AM »

Great info Adair.  It's an interesting topic that I'm still learning, so Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Adair M
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Posts: 495
USDA Hardiness: 7B

« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2012, 05:04 PM »

I have spent the better part of the day sifting bonsai soil.  I'll upload the photos in two posts.

The lava pumice was more difficult to sieve than the akadama. 

The lava had 25% pass through the 3/16" sieve. 

The akadama had 75% pass through the same sieve.

About 5% of the lava would not pass thru a 1/4" sieve, so I'm using that for when I need a "drainage layer".

Photos of the bags of the raw material and the drainage layer rock.
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Adair M
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2012, 05:07 PM »

And photos of the end result.  Two mixes:  1)  a smaller mix that passes through the 3/16" sieve and 2) the larger mix.  I put a little of my granite grit in each mix.

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BoneSci
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2012, 08:21 PM »

Thanks Adair for the info and photos. I was planning on asking this same question as I only have access to the Beam red lava and akadama (or turface). The third component is pumice I beleive (which I cannot find) but the granite grit seems to be a nice alternative.

Before I purchase some, can someone tell me which brands of akadama hold up best to freezing temps? I'm in northeast PA and my bonsai aredefinitely exposed to freezing temps over winter. I'm concerned about the akadama not holding up - especially if you can break it by squeezing it between your fingers.

Thanks again,

Chris
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Adair M
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Posts: 495
USDA Hardiness: 7B

« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2012, 08:51 PM »

Chris,

The akadama is not easy to crush, I have to really squeeze, and grind it.  But it can be done.

Some brands of akadama are harder than others.  I used what was available at my local bonsai shop.

I'm happy my photos were of help.

Oh!  I should add that I was able to get some charcoal over the weekend, and I'll add a handful or two of that to both mixes.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2012, 08:53 PM by Adair M » Logged

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