Author Topic: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?  (Read 15261 times)

Joagraha

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Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« 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
 

John Kirby

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #1 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).
 

Yenling83

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #2 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   
 

Jerry Norbury

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #3 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

It can be used 100% or cut with grit and akadama - depending on how much water retention you want/need.
 

nathanbs

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #4 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.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #5 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.
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2012, 08:56 PM »
And the search for an akadama replacement continues.  :)
 

biglou13

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #7 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
 

akeppler

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #8 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
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 09:59 PM by akeppler »
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 10:11 PM »
He have a website?  Or a way to contact (without publicly posting an email, inviting spammers)?
 

akeppler

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #10 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
 

kcpoole

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #11 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

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

Ken
 

Larry Gockley

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #12 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.
 

akeppler

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #13 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.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 10:40 PM by akeppler »
 

scottroxburgh

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Re: Natural Cat Litter as Alternative to Akadama?
« Reply #14 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!
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 11:17 PM by scottroxburgh »