Author Topic: Substitutes for ...Akadama  (Read 44718 times)

Owen Reich

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #75 on: October 31, 2014, 11:41 PM »
I've seen tons of bonsai all over the country grown in varied ratios (mostly 1:1:1 or close to it) of Akadama, pumice, and lava.  Almost all of them appear happy and responsive to bonsai culture.  I have seen collections that were under watered in this mix that looked crappy and some with horrible fertilization schedules that looked bad too. 

As I've written before, that above mix or Aoki blend have worked well for me.  I've also met people caught up in the soil wars debates who switch media quite often and their bonsai suffer. 

Taking advice from a source you trust and trailing it is a great idea.  Many people seem to pull info from places like here and there is not a back story or the cautionary note or mention of a limitation to that proposed media like "don't water too much with that media if the plant is kept in shade" or the like.

So, Chrisl, I say kudos.  Many Lurkers may not consult professionals hence the diplomacy.
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #76 on: November 01, 2014, 08:03 AM »
Hmm,

now if I grow my Bonsai outdoors during Spring to Autumn before the first frost, and then must cover them with straw or other
insulator,so my soil never freezes, well what is the difference to what we are doing ?

Akadama, is a material desomposing to clay and some pumice or just decomposing to clay. Clay is supposedly the richest source of soil, if it is kept particulated, by calcium or compost. As is done in the old ways of handling soil for crops.
So as long as the material stays particulated, the trees will do well.

This is how we worked it out.

Our local Pines [ Honduran ] do  best in sandy soil. Our J.B.pines grow well in just 5 mm silica based gravel, and compost.
This also how we handle our large areas of sand soil deposits for growing crops.

Our soil research started with information from Rodale, Estonia was one of the countries they explored in their magazine.
Zones 6 to 5 to 4 or so. Maybe no summer as the lower countries know it, cooler.
All we did was follow the old European ways and what the Indians [ India ] did traditionally.

What we suspect makes the difference is - air temperature [ cross the 90's for extended periods and the trees shut down ] and watering - by hand or by hose or by hose with a fine rose.
Plus endless of those who have purchased their way into bonsai, not having learnt how to water or other [ basic Horticultural practices - even to pruning, how and when ]

Is there any real difference to using builder's gravel [ silica based ] and compost in Japan, China or Europe ?
Or is it the size of the inorganic, and not really paying attention to your climate ?

Fortunately, we have growing experience for Pennsylvania, Louisiana, the UK, and Italy, with friends in Japan and China, basically zone 7 to 9.
We have never attempted to try zone 6 to 3, which is more truly Temperate. So no firs, because they might max out at air tempertures of 85 deg.F and less, and really 60's for most of the time.

The reason the Japanese / Chinese suggested for the rapid growth of the now dead after 16 years, Trident maple, was our climate mimics late spring and early autumn, which would encourage very rapid growth.
What killed it was the soil mix, too wet.

If we try to transplant our Tamarinds sourced from the beaches, before April, they normally die.
Learnt this from the Philippinos, who transplant in April /May.
Whereas the tamarinds growing around San Fernando, have no problems.
Subtle shifts in the air temperature.

We have no problems with density of leaf or twig, and don't lose plants through root rotting or that myth of compost decaying and blocking drainage holes. Since compost when aged goes to rounded balls and then to fine powder, which washes out,
Seeing the same coming out of Australia.
So once again the problem seems to be lack of experience on the grower's part.

I believe as Paul put it you can grow in any inert medium.

However it is still a highly individual experience, and isn't that the joy of Bonsai "
Good Day
Anthony

* remember this after 34 years of growing, and still having quite a few of the first attempts.
 

Chrisl

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #77 on: November 01, 2014, 01:16 PM »
I've seen tons of bonsai all over the country grown in varied ratios (mostly 1:1:1 or close to it) of Akadama, pumice, and lava.  Almost all of them appear happy and responsive to bonsai culture.  I have seen collections that were under watered in this mix that looked crappy and some with horrible fertilization schedules that looked bad too. 

As I've written before, that above mix or Aoki blend have worked well for me.  I've also met people caught up in the soil wars debates who switch media quite often and their bonsai suffer. 

Taking advice from a source you trust and trailing it is a great idea.  Many people seem to pull info from places like here and there is not a back story or the cautionary note or mention of a limitation to that proposed media like "don't water too much with that media if the plant is kept in shade" or the like.

So, Chrisl, I say kudos.  Many Lurkers may not consult professionals hence the diplomacy.

Thanks Owen, I was a bit hesitant saying anything as, at times (not just here btw), there seems to be sometimes a rather 'anti-professional' attitude here in the US.  I've withdrawn from posting after I've mentioned sev. things I've learned this past yr, on bnut specifically (not here), and the advice has been ignored, minimized or just plain told I was wrong.  So I rarely post there anymore, read...yes.  But I'm not participating as it's just aggravating. 

  And I def. agree too that many don't properly water/fertilize, or are reinventing the wheel so to speak.  Also knowing how to/and why adjust the ratio's to accommodate just that, diff locale, microclimates, humidity...is crucial no matter what the medium...diplomatically speaking ;)  But I do commensurate with Anthony trying to make best of what's available and affordable for him, as many in the US as well.  But, it we don't look at things critically, we'll never advance as artists imo.
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #78 on: November 02, 2014, 04:44 AM »
Chrisl,

with us it is being practical to the point of being cheap. Both my brother-in-law and I are part Chinese and he is worse, also part Scottish.

Because a family member wanted to start a pottery, Khaimraj spent 3 years, studying local clays and creating safe / non toxic glazes from basic oxides. We are out of what is known as preferential schools, you have to sit an exam at 11 years of age to win a spot in such a school. You are then prepared to enter Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Mit and so on. Most of our friends are scientists employed in research, worldwide.
So if we need help, it's a telephone call away, and if they don't know, they will know someone who will and an introduction will follow.

Our local clays are very similiar to Yi Xing purple clays [ the original stuff ] and have a maturing temperature of 1130 deg.C , melting and bloating coming in at 1180 to 1200 deg.C
Matured body is 3 to 5 % absorbent.

When we did the tests back in the late 80's, we discovered you could sinter bond the clays at 650 deg.C. This left the material, after what is called a - heat soak - bonded weakly, but still active like a clay.
Trouble is our soils are very active and this clay material decays in under two years, like a badly fired local clay pot.

So that was not the way to go.

Additionally, we follow the K.I.S.S. [ keep it simple soldier ] philosophy, so the soil mix stayed simple.
[ there is a reason we also work with grow and clip, though K can wire if he wants to, with no damage to the twiglets.]

As I have said before, we do have a natural clay deposit, used by our cement factory, that is apparently a clay deposited on our central section, when the island was under water and the Orinocco was pumping out clay into the ocean. It is high in calcium and a good bit of iron. Grows plants well. There are two zones of premium grade cocoa, one is in our Central range, the other an island in the East Indies.
Guess what, K has a small piece of cocoa estate land in the Central range, which he does harvest - chuckle - for overseas sales.

Anyhow, we can use this deposit, as the particles are left over from the mining [ for use in cement manufacturing.]
We also did purchase Akadama from the US, fired it as well, but the stuff will return to clay and damage the core of our trees, in so many years / months.
Not a way to go.

For us, the core of a tree is filled with inorganic particles, and can be refreshed with spoonfuls of compost decaying and going down into the left spaces.
As I said we have had no root rot, and insect problems we met only, when we transferred some of the trees to concrete stands,
Before that, the occasional brown grasshopper and leaf cutting ants [ bachac ].

We try to teach, independence, when dealing with Bonsai, making our own pots, and tables if you have that interest.
This hobby need not cost much, and so money is not a problem.
Additionally, the only way we could display is by flat one eyed photographs, since plant quarantine laws will stop any and all movement.
We are our own world, and for good or for bad, use our domed topped trees as the inspiration for Bonsai, there are no naturally occuring Shimpaku or other, just healthy trees.
So as time passes, our efforts will move more and more away from the accepted Japanese or even Chinese look.
Good Day
Anthony
 

63pmp

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #79 on: November 02, 2014, 09:12 PM »
I've thought about this thread for a bit, and I want to say there are many cheaper alternatives to akadama.  Perlite, pumice, composted pinus radiata bark, marbles and even gravel will all do the job; this is because the only really important property of akadama is its particle size.  It's porosity is only slightly important in that it effects available water holding capacity, while CEC is meaningless in a potting mix.  

In reality, there are only three essential parameters that must be met for growing healthy trees in pots.  These are, in order of importance:

1) air filled porosity
2) water quality  
3) fertilizer regime

Everything else is fairly inconsequential.

What I find fascinating with the Western bonsai world is that these are never discussed, or very quickly dismissed.  You cannot grow a tree if one of these parameters is wrong; simple as that.

CEC, organic/inorganic, porous/nonporous, red/white are all irrelevant compared to:
 
Particle size.
The quality of your water (ie salinity + alkalinity),
and the nutrient solution (what elements are in it and there concentrations) you apply.

Paul
.  
« Last Edit: November 02, 2014, 09:14 PM by 63pmp »
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #80 on: November 03, 2014, 12:51 AM »
Paul,

Akadama has a property you didn't consider:  it breaks down over time. Which is actually beneficial. You see, when trees are reported, we want to encourage strong root growth. An open media supports and encourages vigorous root growth.

Once established, especially on refined bonsai, we don't need vigorous root growth. We need enough root to support the tree and take up nutrients, but since the roots now fill the pot, we really don't need any more.

As the soil ages, akadama breaks down. Thus slows down root growth. Which is exactly what we want!  An open soil when freshly repotted, a denser soil later when roots are established.

I know of no other soil component with this property.
 

63pmp

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #81 on: November 03, 2014, 03:02 AM »
No, I don't agree.  I don'believe this is a good way to grow bonsai.

Paul
 

SHIMA1

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #82 on: November 03, 2014, 03:41 AM »
; this is because the only really important property of akadama is its particle size.  

In reality, there are only three essential parameters that must be met for growing healthy trees in pots.  These are, in order of importance:

1) air filled porosity
2) water quality  
3) fertilizer regime


Paul
.  

The particle sizes of the pumice (screened) I use are identical to the akadama I used to use where it didn't rain so much.
Water? From the sky into a 10Kgal tank for bonsai and house, and acid, thanks to Kilaeua.
Fertilizer? Later ;D
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #83 on: November 03, 2014, 06:17 AM »
Hmm, particles breaking down, returning to clay and the core begins to decay.

Health, versus that old idea that your tree should look like something from the edge of a cliff, and you don't have to spend as much time pruning.

Adair, I have very great respect for your abilities, but clay ..................................????????????

If we want to slow growth, we just work with compost, still has nutrients, but growth really slows, and as long as the tree remains deep green in full sun, is able to hold all of it's branchlets/twigs, plus leaves, it can stay like that.
We can presently do that with rounded 5 mm silica based gravel and compost.
[ Leucaena leucocephala's leaves are rated as high as manure ]

Thanks for taking the time to write Paul.
Good Day
Anthony
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #84 on: November 03, 2014, 07:04 AM »
You know, the real question that we asked was simply,

so you have an oldish Bonsai, say 30+ and you have gone from the every year repot, to every three to five years, and at sometime will the core have large fat anchor roots developing?

We will test the pie shaped soil removal, and Adair's suggestion of half the soil, save we are not that brave, so it will be 1/3.

The reason for an inorganic core, was to allow organic particles to pass through, roots to rot and now we seem to have pillbugs burrowing through the core. That it would be easier to remove if we have to, inorganic material.

Accidental testing this year showed that a mature Fukien tea, grown in an inorganic mix with compost as the organic, slowed the growth to the point of very limited new shoots. The extension branch on the lowest point, grew way more slowly and there were no extensions at the top. Normally, there are many, additionally, no new branchlets grew in the heart of the tree anywhere.
Not sure if one really wants that type of control.
So the peatmoss / cocomoss will be put back in.

The use of a clay, would be very frightening, especially since we have the President of the Bonsai Society, haveing tried to mimic akadama soils and then losing all of his J.B.pines.
Whatever he gives as gifts to K, is normally flushed clean of his soil mix, and inorganic stuff put back. Lost a good few things before it was realised that his clay thingee soil was doing it.
Good Day
Anthony
 

coh

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #85 on: November 03, 2014, 09:48 AM »
This idea of the akadama breaking down being a good thing both makes sense, and doesn't make sense (to me). I know that is what Boon teaches, and many members here are Boon students (including Adair). Any one else have any thoughts on the matter? Owen?

I've only started experimenting with akadama this season, so I don't have any long term experience. I acquired a small tree this summer (silverberry) and the potting medium appears to be largely akadama that has broken down quite a bit. Seems to be slow to take up water and not something that I would think is good for a potted tree...but what do I know?

There is the guy who is all over facebook promoting "calidama" as an akadama substitute. His claim is that one of the benefits is that it "never breaks down" (I don't have any, but he posted a video of it being sifted and the stuff sounded like rock, so it must be really hard). That seems to be a direct contradiction to one of the supposed benefits of akadama.

Chris
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #86 on: November 03, 2014, 10:06 AM »
Akadama is a natural product, there are soft varieties and hard varieties. Unfortunately, some of the best was destroyed by the sunami a couple years ago.

The akadama I use will crush if I squeeze it really hard with my fingers.

I use Boon mix. Boon tried to copy the mix his nursery used in Japan, which was equal parts akadama, river sand, and lava. He substitutes pumice for the river sand. Japanese river sand is more like our pumice than like our river sand.

The professional bonsai nurseries in Japan all use akadama. If there was something better, they would use it.

Do you HAVE to to use akadama?  Certainly not. But it works very well for trees in a pot.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #87 on: November 03, 2014, 10:12 AM »
Chris,
One of the things people frequently don't do is change out the soil at the corr of the root mass. Roots break down Akadama by infiltrating it. Over gime the soil needs to be refreshed, this can be over a decade or two in some species, Japanese White Pines, or on a relatively rapid cycle as with Trident Maples early in development, etc. hard hosay what is going on with your Eleangus, a picture or twomight help.
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #88 on: November 03, 2014, 12:51 PM »


 A few points and questions -

[1] Has anyone checked with a Japanese professional who actually studied Soil as a scientist ?

[2] Studying Oil Painting in Florence, many of the practices were word of mouth. The main problem was ingredients added to the binding oil, because someone said the Old Masters used those ingredients in their paintings.
Research done scientifically, showed that these ingredients were never used and in fact shortened the life of the Oil Painting.

The teachers however were so indoctrinated into the practice, they refused to change.

[3] How many of those studying in Japan actually do any Scientific research or for that matter any training in Design?

Bonsai must have some science in it for it to move forward.
Good Day
Anthony
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #89 on: November 03, 2014, 01:31 PM »
Anthony, I'm sure there have been some scientific inquiries into the qualities of akadama for bonsai. I cannot cite any, perhaps Owen can.

Owen and Ryan Neil both have degrees in horticulture, obtained in the US before they went to Hapan to study bonsai. Both continue to use akadama since their return.

Plants don't need substrate. There is a whole industry, hydroponics, devoted to growing plants without soil.

The Japanese bonsai professionals will use what works best. Peter Tea tells a story about how he was told to put fertilizer on the trees. It was cottonseed meal. So he asked what the composition was. Like, N,P,K. Mr. Tanaka looked at him, and replied, "I don't know!  Just go put it on!  It's cottonseed meal!  It works!"

Now, I'm not suggesting that this topic doesn't merit further study. But, for me, I really don't care why it works, as long as it does.

And, there's the old joke about how the scientists and engineers "proved" that the bumblebee cannot fly. And yet, it does.