Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => General Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Joagraha on April 12, 2012, 02:57 PM

Title: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Joagraha on April 12, 2012, 02:57 PM
Does anyone have experience using natural cat litter (straight fired clay, no scent of other additives) as an alternative soil medium for bonsai? I had read it on a UK-based bonsai forum discussion some time back and wanted to get some input. Given the expense and difficulty in getting akadama, I was hopeful this is might be a real alternative.

adam
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 12, 2012, 04:32 PM
Um,  suggest that you look on all of the forums to see the highlights of the fights over mixes. Last SundayI repotted a couple of old water elms that had been stuck in to oil dry and mulch 6 years ago when they were collected, it is a lot like kitty litter- it was a fine muck and then where dry a fine dust. Put it this way, if you want to to use Kitty litter, good luck. Post pictures- I am sure there will be a bunch of KL advocates. See if they have any "show quality" (not necessarily show trees because I know there is some sensitivity on that topic as well) trees in Kitty Litter.

I think most of the US Kitty Litter crowd has moved on to Turface MVP available at many turf locations.

(I personally use an Akadama-Pumice-Lava Mix, even sold on line at Wee tree Farms in Philomath Oregon).
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Yenling83 on April 12, 2012, 04:45 PM
Don't use Kitty LItter it's Shitty ;)

No but seriously if you have any trees you actually care about, use Pumice/Lava/Akadama.  fired clay does not perform the same function as Akadama.  I used Turface MVP, bark and grit for a couple years then switched to Pumice/Lava and Akadama, the differnce was night and day for health of the tree.  Good luck   
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Jerry Norbury on April 12, 2012, 05:17 PM
Yes, I've used cat litter for 3 years now - specifically, "Moler clay" based CL from Denmark. It's marketed under various labels across Europe. It's Diatomaceous Earth and does not break down.

Here's the most information on the subject: http://bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm (http://bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm)

It can be used 100% or cut with grit and akadama - depending on how much water retention you want/need.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: nathanbs on April 12, 2012, 05:47 PM
Herein lies the problem SOB's, as discussed with Ryan Neil yesterday, the first shipment of akadama from Japan was officially seized and/or denied entry into the US. Akadama days will soon be over. We discussed kitty litter as diatomaceous earth has similar or even better cation exchange than akadama, but only if it is not high fired, apparently the high firing process screws up its cation exchange properties.  Orchid growers use diatomaceous earth products very successfully.  Any other ideas??  We have a product here in California that no one officially mines referred to as Calidama that is purported to be a good cation exchanger. We will still need a water retainer like pumice or hyuga and a air creator like lava but we need something to help hold the fertilizer. The Calidama i referenced does not hold as much water as akadama so I am sure some adjustments will need to be made.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 12, 2012, 06:04 PM
The first shipment was seized because it had roots/plant matter in it. It was headed to Oregon, I expect the next shipment will be clean. Let's see.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 12, 2012, 08:56 PM
And the search for an akadama replacement continues.  :)
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: biglou13 on April 12, 2012, 09:35 PM
I tested special kitty from Wally world a few ago. It mushed in less than 1 hour .  I may try agin it's 2 ish dollars a bag
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: akeppler on April 12, 2012, 09:38 PM
Herein lies the problem SOB's, as discussed with Ryan Neil yesterday, the first shipment of akadama from Japan was officially seized and/or denied entry into the US. Akadama days will soon be over. We discussed kitty litter as diatomaceous earth has similar or even better cation exchange than akadama, but only if it is not high fired, apparently the high firing process screws up its cation exchange properties.  Orchid growers use diatomaceous earth products very successfully.  Any other ideas??  We have a product here in California that no one officially mines referred to as Calidama that is purported to be a good cation exchanger. We will still need a water retainer like pumice or hyuga and a air creator like lava but we need something to help hold the fertilizer. The Calidama i referenced does not hold as much water as akadama so I am sure some adjustments will need to be made.

"THE" person responsible for calidama is "Still" crushing California hardpan here in Fresno and has never stopped. There is no mine. Ted Matosn has been a very good advocate of useing this product. It is still available from Glenn Vanwinkle as it has been for nearly ten years. I still have 5 bags of akadama but also have about 10 bags of calidama that I actually prefer.

Neither akadama nor calidama are good Cation exchangers. In fact both are very poor in attracting and/or holding nutirients. Both really require additions of a humate or copious amounts of fertilizer in which you basically hoping some gets used by the plant. Without a catylist, clay substrates are ineffective at attracting and holding nutrients. Cations are electrically charged particles within the substrate. Nearly all clays repel fertilizer ions. It (clay) requires a chemical reaction to reverse the polarity of the ions in the clay to make them attract the fertilizer ions. This is done thru the application of an acid. Much like pool filters that can clorify a pool with salts or water softeners that work with cation exchange chemicals, we too can change the fertilizer capibilities of clay substrats thru the use of humates (Humic acid) something I have advocated for almost 10 years now. About the same time I started useing calidama. Akadama is Organic soil, make no mistake about it. Scientific analysis has shown that akadama does contain humic acid in somewhat reasonable amounts. This probably accounts for its remarkable "growing properties".

Some pictures of the product
of the bag...
of the crusher..
...and the sifter. (Security screen door leaning on some concrete blocks)

Crude....but effective. For me at least ;D
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 12, 2012, 10:11 PM
He have a website?  Or a way to contact (without publicly posting an email, inviting spammers)?
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: akeppler on April 12, 2012, 10:20 PM
No website, I can email you thru PM.

He is not really interested in shipping. The product used to be much more widely distributed when Royola Pacific was selling to bonsai shops around the country. Since cut backs at Royola, the product is mostly available locally. Some nurseries around California have had but some may have run out. Ishii, used to stock it and House of Bonsai had it. Johnny Uchida as well as Blueoak (closed) used to carry it. I don't know the availbility currently at these places.
Ted Maton used to take some with him when he went to clubs, as I have also brought a pallet or two with me when I do workshops at clubs. When Ted flies, obviously this is prohibitive.
Glenn has pallets of it, as I trip over it everytime I go to the nursery. Last week at the nursery Glenn had twenty bags stacked up for Ted when he came to Fresno last weekend.

Cheers
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: kcpoole on April 12, 2012, 10:23 PM
I do not know if you guys have it but in Eastern OZ we a product called Diatomite that we are using with great success.
There is Much discussion about it on our Local Forum (AusBonsai.com.au) but many of us here use it and swear by it.
A few of us have done tests and comparisons using many different soil components and mixes and getting great results.

I started using it about 7 years ago, and still are reusing the product from my original purchases. Just wash it to rinse out dirt and leaves then dry and sift it. I use a Mix of 2/3 Diatomite and 1/3 Zeolite myself but there are many variations used in search of the magic ratios. I started out trying to source the ingredients for a Boons' Mix here to no avail but after trying diatomite I gave up on anything else. Also tried Akadama ( at great cost) but find my own local product Much better and lasts indefinitely.

It is a Calcined clay and mined in Northern NSW, and southern Queensland. It is used in Several different Kitty litter brands here, but the problem with that source is that sometimes they use different products in batches that are not diatomite. Several people have lost trees due to that issue.

See this thread on Ausbonsai for a discussion of Diatomite v boons mix ( local variation) http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11324&p=119530&hilit=diatomite#p119530 (http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11324&p=119530&hilit=diatomite#p119530)

And this one about testing of various soil mixes here by Grant at the National Arboretum in Canberra
http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=5138&hilit=diatomite (http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=5138&hilit=diatomite)

Ken
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Larry Gockley on April 12, 2012, 10:30 PM
I've been using diatomaceous earth for about 5 years . NAPA auto parts floor sweeping compound. About $7.00 a bag, and I have used it 100% at times. Never got soft or broke down.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: akeppler on April 12, 2012, 10:36 PM
I find all these litter, diatomite, haydite, and turface products much too small for bonsai purposes. Switch to 1/4 to 3/8 size aggrigate in one or two bonsai and watch the difference in vigor.

You will all throw that mini soil in the trash where it belongs.

AIR  is the key to healthy thriving trees, not the components you make it out of.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: scottroxburgh on April 12, 2012, 11:15 PM
...Given the expense and difficulty in getting akadama, I was hopeful this is might be a real alternative...

If you have trees that you want to be high quality show trees, use Akadama/Pumice/Lava. The reason people compare everything to Akadama is because it works!

Herein lies the problem SOB's...the first shipment of akadama from Japan was officially seized and/or denied entry into the US. Akadama days will soon be over...

Until those days come use Boon mix.

Other wise test Cat litter/Diatomite/Turface yourself. You won't get agreement on it being good, bad or ugly!
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 13, 2012, 07:52 AM
Actually another, unrelated conversation with a Bonsai Professional from Japan, has led me to think about planting certain types of trees in 100% "river sand", my fear is that I haven't shrunk the pot size on some of the trees that might thrive in that media to where I and a friend might be able to carry them..... But who know.

On the other Front, just bought another couple of hundred bags, with blending and the relative reduction in tree numbers without a "nursery" anymore, that should get me up in to my 70's. Unless I croak from Silicosis from so much sifting and using dry mix.....
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 13, 2012, 08:10 AM
Don't forget to wear a mask, and put me in your will.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 13, 2012, 08:23 AM
John, you are in my will. You get to sit in the chair with the spike.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 13, 2012, 09:07 AM
Gee, thanks.

Was this a Weetree, Cass, or Peter sale?
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: nathanbs on April 13, 2012, 09:34 AM
The first shipment was seized because it had roots/plant matter in it. It was headed to Oregon, I expect the next shipment will be clean. Let's see.
I dont think they are capable of removing the plant matter, they are not set up for it. In addition it was always believed to be high fired which could/would kill in microorganisms, it is not. Did you really buy 100 bags of akadama? If so great move.

@Al thanks for the further education on akadama and calidama cation exchange, didnt know that about the need for an acid. My comment regarding calidama is that currently if Glenn is the only one supplying he couldnt sustain the entire interested N. American bonsai demand without substantial further investment. And I think think any of the local nurseries down here currently have any in stock.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 13, 2012, 09:39 AM
100 bags of akadama and200 bags of premix. My next five years xmas presents.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: nathanbs on April 13, 2012, 09:56 AM
@John WOw! $$$ whats premix?
@Al, the other thing you mentioned was particle size, that was another topic of our discussion with Ryan. Too much air is a bad thing. In the heat of summer large air cavities + moisture can equal bolied roots. I just had this happen to me this last summer. He adamantly suggests no larger than 1/4", he recommends from 1/16"-1/4", only eliminating the smaller particles as needed to dry up the mix a little.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Yenling83 on April 13, 2012, 11:31 AM
Actually another, unrelated conversation with a Bonsai Professional from Japan, has led me to think about planting certain types of trees in 100% "river sand", my fear is that I haven't shrunk the pot size on some of the trees that might thrive in that media to where I and a friend might be able to carry them..... But who know.


I hear about River Sand alot and don't know what it is exactly?  John-can you import it or is there something similar over here?  Is it just grit-like crushed granite or larger sand?  Did this Bonsai Professional in Japan explain why he felt 100% was good?  And for what type of tree or what situation?  thanks
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Allen on April 13, 2012, 06:08 PM
Plain and simple there are some cat litter's and a NAPA oil dri product that can be used in place of Akadama. I use to go this route due primarly to the price of akadama. In all reality by the time you run these other product thru the screens to seperate size you end up with alot of unusable product. Therefore resulting in not alot of savings.

The cat liter is the cheap stuff sold at walmart it is the same as the NAPA product. It is called Diatonacious earth, something like that. I have read that you can use the "unusable product" mixed with water for aphid control.

I use Akadama.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: akeppler on April 13, 2012, 07:56 PM
@John WOw! $$$ whats premix?
@Al, the other thing you mentioned was particle size, that was another topic of our discussion with Ryan. Too much air is a bad thing. In the heat of summer large air cavities + moisture can equal bolied roots. I just had this happen to me this last summer. He adamantly suggests no larger than 1/4", he recommends from 1/16"-1/4", only eliminating the smaller particles as needed to dry up the mix a little.

I would suggest watering more. I have extended periods of heat for up to a month or more at a time of temps at or above 105 degrees. There are periods when it is still 102 degrees at 2 AM. I don't get the nighty cool off that Southern Cali, can get. I actually only water once a day at 3:30 PM seven days a week.

My exposure of larger particle size came via Kenji Miyata after moving here from the North East. Just don't tell those hydroponic guys about too much air being a bad thing, California's only sucessful cash crop my be in jeopardy with that kind of info ;)
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: John Kirby on April 13, 2012, 08:39 PM
Just repotted Water Elms with 3/4 inch pumice below, the coarse soil really works for coarse growth. Check out Peter Tea's blog to see how he is using a coarse mix.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: nathanbs on April 13, 2012, 10:24 PM
@John WOw! $$$ whats premix?
@Al, the other thing you mentioned was particle size, that was another topic of our discussion with Ryan. Too much air is a bad thing. In the heat of summer large air cavities + moisture can equal bolied roots. I just had this happen to me this last summer. He adamantly suggests no larger than 1/4", he recommends from 1/16"-1/4", only eliminating the smaller particles as needed to dry up the mix a little.

I would suggest watering more. I have extended periods of heat for up to a month or more at a time of temps at or above 105 degrees. There are periods when it is still 102 degrees at 2 AM. I don't get the nighty cool off that Southern Cali, can get. I actually only water once a day at 3:30 PM seven days a week.

My exposure of larger particle size came via Kenji Miyata after moving here from the North East. Just don't tell those hydroponic guys about too much air being a bad thing, California's only sucessful cash crop my be in jeopardy with that kind of info ;)

I think the hydroponics are being done indoors eliminating any of the risks we have outside.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: akeppler on April 13, 2012, 11:51 PM
Drive on up to Fresno, you can load up a pallet of calidama and I can show you acres of outdoor hydroponics. They have been busted twice (2009, 2011), over 50 acres under shade cloth and Eric Holder has made sure they get released from prison before the fingerprint ink dries.  Wonder where that cash is going????

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8276673 (http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8276673)
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: nathanbs on April 14, 2012, 11:33 AM
i stand corrected.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Larry Gockley on April 14, 2012, 12:19 PM
Drive on up to Fresno, you can load up a pallet of calidama and I can show you acres of outdoor hydroponics. They have been busted twice (2009, 2011), over 50 acres under shade cloth and Eric Holder has made sure they get released from prison before the fingerprint ink dries.  Wonder where that cash is going????

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8276673 (http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8276673)

Wow , 50 acres of medical marijuana ! Must be a lot of sick people in Calif.! :'( :'( :'( :'( :'(
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: Sorce on August 16, 2014, 05:25 AM
Everything causes cancer in california.
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: reefed419 on October 28, 2014, 11:20 AM
Have people tried growing in hydroton? Its the marble sized clay pebbles that are used in Hydroponics. Might require more watering, but gives lots of air to the roots...
Title: Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
Post by: SHIMA1 on October 28, 2014, 04:33 PM
I do not know if you guys have it but in Eastern OZ we a product called Diatomite that we are using with great success.
There is Much discussion about it on our Local Forum (AusBonsai.com.au) but many of us here use it and swear by it.
A few of us have done tests and comparisons using many different soil components and mixes and getting great results.

I started using it about 7 years ago, and still are reusing the product from my original purchases. Just wash it to rinse out dirt and leaves then dry and sift it. I use a Mix of 2/3 Diatomite and 1/3 Zeolite myself but there are many variations used in search of the magic ratios. I started out trying to source the ingredients for a Boons' Mix here to no avail but after trying diatomite I gave up on anything else. Also tried Akadama ( at great cost) but find my own local product Much better and lasts indefinitely.

It is a Calcined clay and mined in Northern NSW, and southern Queensland. It is used in Several different Kitty litter brands here, but the problem with that source is that sometimes they use different products in batches that are not diatomite. Several people have lost trees due to that issue.

See this thread on Ausbonsai for a discussion of Diatomite v boons mix ( local variation) http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11324&p=119530&hilit=diatomite#p119530 (http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11324&p=119530&hilit=diatomite#p119530)

And this one about testing of various soil mixes here by Grant at the National Arboretum in Canberra
http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=5138&hilit=diatomite (http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=5138&hilit=diatomite)

Ken
At last! A komrade from down undah with some info about diatomite as opposed to diatomes. I found a bag from Australia at a nursery supply that had been languishing about for years so I snapped it up for practically nothing. I'd stay out of "discussions" about this because of the common thought that diomaceous earth and diatomes were interchangeable.  Even on the all-knowing internet. ;D
The size of this OZ version was +- 1/2 " so it was fine for my purposes. It didn't break down at all in this wet rainforest climate. It's gone now and I'm fine with clean pumice and milled sphagnum. "Boon mix" is ideal and I used it in my old REBS days but even the hardest akadama breaks down too quickly here, sad to say.