Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => General Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: bwaynef on February 08, 2013, 03:57 PM

Title: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 08, 2013, 03:57 PM
Having used turface, and tested kitty litter, I don't really consider them to be substitutes to akadama.  Cheaper alternatives maybe.  Al (http://bonsaial.wordpress.com) recently stirred up the internets posting about GrowStones.  He likened the size of the package to twice that of a package of Akadama, and that's all some needed to see this as a viable alternative to Akadama.  It's not (and to be clear, Al didn't imply it was).  It's manmade lava/pumice.  What I'm looking for is something that has similar qualities to Akadama. 


Has anyone used Hydroton, Hydrocorn, or Hydrolite?   Would they work?

The first two seem to be similar in nature to what Akadama is, even down to how they're made.  The latter I'm not positive how it's created.  Google is your friend.


Hydrolite:
http://www.botanicare.com/Hydrolitetrade-W66.aspx (http://www.botanicare.com/Hydrolitetrade-W66.aspx)
http://www.warhammersupply.com/images/stories/virtuemart/product/14215.png (http://www.warhammersupply.com/images/stories/virtuemart/product/14215.png)





ps.  Zoo Med's HydroBalls seems to be another similar product.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 08, 2013, 06:17 PM
Heard about them, never tried them. The death of akadama in the US may be premature. It is my undersranding, after picking up a bunch acouple of weeks ago, that one or more importers have negotiated to have their material heated to 300 degrees to kill off any live organics. APHIS then buys a bag periodically and sends it down to their Maryland Lab for testing. As long as they comtinue to be clean, it is still possible to bring in containers of Akadama.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: 0soyoung on February 08, 2013, 07:49 PM
Hydroton is a rather large, high fired, bead that floats; nothing at all like akadama. For me, it was passable once I smashed the beads - it has a hard, black, foam-like interior similar to fine pored lava-rock/pumice. I am quite sure that it will never break down like Akadama does. However, it also involved a lot more work washing out fines to put it to use, and it was just not worth the effort once I found a source for Turface MVP. You definitely won't like Hydroton for bonsai.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on February 08, 2013, 09:27 PM
After thirty years of bonsai and hundreds of pounds of soil, and living where components are easily attainable, I can say there is no substitute for akadama.

But here is the rub.....

Why do you want it? What is it that you feel can be gained by finding a substitute for something there is no substitute for. Expanded shales (haydite and many hydroponic soils are made from shale that is not naturaly porous, or at least not porous enough for our horticulture needs. Heat treating it causes it to expand and "open up" creating a more porous structure.

I have said it a million times and still people look at me crazy when I say it, and I will say it again. Akadama works because it is "organic". It is volcanic soil, much like all the premium soils around the globe that are perfect for growing things. there is nothing better for growing than growing in soil created froma volcano. Ever wonder why?

Cause when the volcanos erupted millinia ago, like (200 to 300 million years ago) they took with them flora and fauna. millions of tons of fauna and flora. It was covered over by tons of lava, ash and volcanic debri, much like the coal beds of many places on earth. As this volcanic lava decomposed thru erosion, wind, new flora and fauna, earthquakes and rivers, it became clay in nature due simply to the fineness of the decomposition. Sand is clay, it just is not fine enough yet. Now the flora and fauna that became embedded into the lava flow has also undergone chemical and deep pressure changes. It has turned into humas or humate. This is the secret of the reason why akadama is special to plants and Glenn's Cali Dama is just another clay ball with no magic. It's history is metamorphic and not igneous. Millions of years of runoff from some of the tallest mountains in the world have eroded the mountains down to trillions of tons of sediment that has collected in the San Joaquin Valley. It is here that this finely ground dust when combined with water makes clay. Clay so sticky that walking 20 feet in a cotton patch hunting phesant will yeild shoes 12 inches tall.

That clay along with a thousand other chemicals cements the particles together in bands of hard pan. Soil so hard is akin to concrete. West side farmers have to actually blast holes in the soil to plant almonds and pistachios, as the central valley now grows more pistachios that any place on earth. This hard pan is what Glenn crushes to make his hard clay particles. They work well as a soil medium, but do not have the magic of akadama. Now you can understand my work with humates and humic acid to turn things like cali dama and haydite and mocha lava into the kind of soil we can get from the giant volcano called Japan and reproduce it here in Fresno economically.

Now you all can continue to try and chase a pipe dream looking for volcanic clay, or you can turn many cheap alternatives into the kind of stuff that makes akadama work. "Its organicness".

We laugh at Naka's books and his recipes for soil, things like loam....loam is organic. bark.... bark is organic. As lifestyles changed and we couldn't be around to water when the soil was dry at mid day every otherday due to the organics in the soil, or the roots rotted becuase the plants drown in a pot full of water, we moved to more inorganic soil mixes. we don't have to worry about over watering anymore because the water runs right thru, along with all the nutrients and fertilizer. So now we fertilize more, Walter says what ten times as much is not too much.

This group, the Boon followers, what would be the one component of Boon mix that can't be done without? You could leave out the pumice and add double lava, leave out the lava and add double pumice. Could you do without the akadama? NO, the akadama is what makes his soil work so well. Leave it out and you might as well be potting in kitty litter. They add nothing to the soil mix except volume. Now you could pot in kitty litter and use fertilizer cakes rich in humates or use a humus tea weekly and get pretty much the same effect without the expense of the akadama.

The best source of humic acid in the United States is Leonardite from soft coal veins in New Mexico and Arizona. This soft coal is coal just like many back east use to heat boilers only not as hard yet. It was laid down during the carboniferous period and has so much humate in it that it can reach levals as high as 40 percent pure. The only place on earth richer than that is China at levels up to 80 percent humic acid. Of course you couldn't grow a plant in Leonardite, cause you will kill it in about ten days. It would just burn up. Now some of the areas around the periphery of these deposits may actually be good places for a soil guy to set up shop.

Here is what my soil box looks like. All these are readily available to me, very cheap, and by the truck load in some cases.
tl...ag pumice
tm...cali dama/lava blend
tr...Scoria
ml...lava
mm...charcoal
mr...growstones
bl...small akadama
bm...large akadama
br...mocha lava

There ya go....what ever you use get the particles as large as you can without going overboard. 1/4 to 3/8 is perfect. Some sand will make it wetter as well as akadama or organic bark.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Don Blackmond on February 09, 2013, 08:20 AM
Good post Al.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 09, 2013, 11:17 AM
All, heat treating to 300 does not remove organic matter, it only kills the organisms contained within. Until the ownership change at the Double Red Line folks, they heat treated. Change ownership, try to save a little money, no killing of soil microorganisms, no more shipping until fixed. I certainly can tell the difference inlast years shipment vs prior years.

And as I have said many times before, if you have something you like better, use it. If you don't want to pay to use akadama, don't. You don't want to sift your soil, don't. I don't understand Al's personal discomfort with Boon, or myself, or others. Americans didn't lead the charge to modern bonsai soils, the Japanese did, looking for greater predictability and uniformity of response. The transfer of these materials to the US in 70's-90's to some, came in force during Naka's declining years. A basic premise of Boon's work is that once the tree is established with good roots and it is healthy, you can apply appropriate technique and get a predictable response. So, if you want to work with Boon you get your trees into an appropriate soil mix. If you don't want to work with Boon, you don't have to. It is up to you.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: BoneSci on February 09, 2013, 07:38 PM
Quote
And as I have said many times before, if you have something you like better, use it. If you don't want to pay to use akadama, don't. You don't want to sift your soil, don't. I don't understand Al's personal discomfort with Boon, or myself, or others. Americans didn't lead the charge to modern bonsai soils, the Japanese did, looking for greater predictability and uniformity of response. The transfer of these materials to the US in 70's-90's to some, came in force during Naka's declining years. A basic premise of Boon's work is that once the tree is established with good roots and it is healthy, you can apply appropriate technique and get a predictable response. So, if you want to work with Boon you get your trees into an appropriate soil mix. If you don't want to work with Boon, you don't have to. It is up to you.

I'm not so sure what exactly was so offensive about Al's post above. I read it to be in agreemnet with Boons philosophy, with the added point that Akadama is the key ingredient. If I understand his post right, this is because Akadama has a higher percentage of humates compared to other clay materials (i.e. turface) that are released as it breaks down, making it more effective and difficult to substitute. The other point being made, which I guess is debatable or maybe needs to be tested more scientifically is that using a humate-rich fertilizer with other clay products CAN substitute effectively for akadama. (Al, I am correct in this thinking?)

When Boon was at our club, he stated we could use twice the lava in place of the pumice because we had an extremely hard time finding it in suitable size here in NJ/PA. I beleive he also said it took him a while and a lot of experimentation to settle on what he currently uses. He was insistent on 2 two things, bark was not effective in soil mixes, and organic fertilizer was best.

To me, his philosophy and Al's post are in agreement.

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on February 09, 2013, 11:55 PM
Quote
And as I have said many times before, if you have something you like better, use it. If you don't want to pay to use akadama, don't. You don't want to sift your soil, don't. I don't understand Al's personal discomfort with Boon, or myself, or others. Americans didn't lead the charge to modern bonsai soils, the Japanese did, looking for greater predictability and uniformity of response. The transfer of these materials to the US in 70's-90's to some, came in force during Naka's declining years. A basic premise of Boon's work is that once the tree is established with good roots and it is healthy, you can apply appropriate technique and get a predictable response. So, if you want to work with Boon you get your trees into an appropriate soil mix. If you don't want to work with Boon, you don't have to. It is up to you.

I'm not so sure what exactly was so offensive about Al's post above. I read it to be in agreemnet with Boons philosophy, with the added point that Akadama is the key ingredient. If I understand his post right, this is because Akadama has a higher percentage of humates compared to other clay materials (i.e. turface) that are released as it breaks down, making it more effective and difficult to substitute. The other point being made, which I guess is debatable or maybe needs to be tested more scientifically is that using a humate-rich fertilizer with other clay products CAN substitute effectively for akadama. (Al, I am correct in this thinking?)

When Boon was at our club, he stated we could use twice the lava in place of the pumice because we had an extremely hard time finding it in suitable size here in NJ/PA. I beleive he also said it took him a while and a lot of experimentation to settle on what he currently uses. He was insistent on 2 two things, bark was not effective in soil mixes, and organic fertilizer was best.

To me, his philosophy and Al's post are in agreement.

Chris

Thank you, you are quite correct. Boon people just seem a little more twitchy when someone brings up his name in any way other than that in which they agree. For the record in I had the resources and the time from work of all the people in the world in which I would want to study with, Boon would be my choice. He best fits my philosophy on bonsai design, and his obsessive treatment to detail of which I have OCD about.

You are right, My comments had nothing to do with Boon perse but much more to do with the following here and the strict observance to "Boon mix" and akadama. Johns comments are totally off base...but thats OK, John and I know each other and he knows from where I come so I take his comments with a grain of salt. We have talked at each other many times face to face and we both know that a puffed out chest is easy to do on the internet. Trust me both of our bellies would touch before our chests ever would!!
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on February 10, 2013, 10:48 AM
Al, you are quite right about Boon being a stickler for detail.  Which is why I selected him for my advanced studies.  To improve  the trees, it is the details that make the difference.  Some things don't matter, but others do. 

Boon will tell you (if you attend one of his Intensives) that "Boon's Mix" works best for him in San Francisco.  He will also suggest minor modifications to it for other climates.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Dave Murphy on February 10, 2013, 11:36 AM

Boon will tell you (if you attend one of his Intensives) that "Boon's Mix" works best for him in San Francisco.  He will also suggest minor modifications to it for other climates.
So, if you happened to be a SOB living in N. GA, what minor modification would one make?...just wondering :).
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Chrisl on February 10, 2013, 06:50 PM
Interesting discussion guys.  BoneSci brought up the most relevant to me when he asked " is that using a humate-rich fertilizer with other clay products CAN substitute effectively for akadama".  It'd be great to have an American alternative.  But I have two new trees that I got in akadama (dries out much faster than my inorg. mix of turface/lava/grit).  But I like it, much like the imported Japanese soil I got when I had a fresh water planted.  They actually got it from the banks of the Amazon...dark beautiful color and extremely rich in nutrients.  I had 2 other exact setup tanks using a diff. substrate and the difference was like night and day.  Prodigious growth.  So I know using something that works is diff. than using something that rocks.  So yes, I'll be trying some in my mix when I repot my nicer trees. 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on February 10, 2013, 09:48 PM
Actually, Boon didn't suggest I make any changes to the soil mix. But, as it happens, I have acadama and lava, but I don't have any pumice. So, I substitute granite grit. I have an unlimited supply from my horse arena. I just have to sift out the fines and dry it.

Boon would say to incorporate more acadama if you need more water retention. Or water more frequently.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Dave Murphy on February 11, 2013, 06:31 AM
Actually, Boon didn't suggest I make any changes to the soil mix. But, as it happens, I have acadama and lava, but I don't have any pumice. So, I substitute granite grit. I have an unlimited supply from my horse arena. I just have to sift out the fines and dry it.

Boon would say to incorporate more acadama if you need more water retention. Or water more frequently.
Clayton Feed Farm and Home, Canton, GA.  They carry Drystall...give them a call.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on February 11, 2013, 07:29 AM
Thanks! I've checked my local feed stores with no luck.  Everyone uses pine shavings here.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: augustine on February 11, 2013, 10:08 AM
Al,

Thank you - I am starting to finally understand the core issues of bonsai soil.

Augustine
central MD - 7a
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 11, 2013, 12:37 PM
Dave Murphy, depends on what you are growing, your exposure and what your watering program are.

Adair, there is a name for pots full of granite grit: heavy.

Back to snow removal, john
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Dave Murphy on February 11, 2013, 02:40 PM
John, is this your first 30" plus snow storm?  Ahhh, they never get old :).  Based on the last 15 years or so in southern New England, I would plan on one ever 6-8 years.  By the way, my folks on Cape Cod are still without power and might not get it back until Valentines Day.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on February 11, 2013, 03:29 PM
John,

LOL!!! You're right! Granite grit is heavy.  My current mix has only a little in it.  I'm going to find some Stall Dry.  (Pumice.)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 11, 2013, 04:05 PM
I'm going to find some Stall Dry.  (Pumice.)

NO! NO! NO!

Get that out of your head.

NOW!

You want DRY-STALL.  Stall-Dry will get you the wood chips that you don't want.  Ask for DRY-STALL!

(You're welcome.)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 11, 2013, 04:25 PM
Adair,
Doesn't somebody out there bring in haydite? If not there is a pumice source.

Dave, for  CT this one was pretty massive, we don't try to keep up with Northern NE. The winds from the noreaster exacerbated it, we had gusts that pegged the city meter at 70. Makes the January 2011 storm look pretty mild. I am sure that you are enjoying Georgia.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: BoneSci on February 11, 2013, 08:10 PM
Adair, I couldn't find pumice here either, but was able to have our local farm bureau order some DryStall. You should know the particle size is very small. Probably 90% is smaller than 3/16 which is what I use to split my 'large mix' from 'small mix'. I assume from having seen some off your trees in posts that you are using a larger size mix correct?

I used granite instead last year, but will try the Drystall in my small mix this year to see how it goes. I grow mainly deciduous and need more water retention anyway.

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on February 12, 2013, 07:17 AM
I do use a larger size particle.  I'm not a shohin kind of guy.  Most of my tree are pines which enjoy good drainage.

To be honest, I've only been using "Boon's Mix" for the past year.  I'm still transitioning into it.  (From the old style mix I used 20 years ago.)  I'm doing several "half bare-root" repots to remove Brussel's mix from trees that were sourced from there.

Last year, I barerooted my azalea (sourced from Brussel')s into straight kanuma, and it's doing great.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Chrisl on February 12, 2013, 10:17 AM
Adair, I couldn't find pumice here either, but was able to have our local farm bureau order some DryStall. You should know the particle size is very small. Probably 90% is smaller than 3/16 which is what I use to split my 'large mix' from 'small mix'. I assume from having seen some off your trees in posts that you are using a larger size mix correct?

I used granite instead last year, but will try the Drystall in my small mix this year to see how it goes. I grow mainly deciduous and need more water retention anyway.

Chris

Chris, Jim Doyle uses pumice in his mixes.  Maybe he has some now?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: BoneSci on February 12, 2013, 07:00 PM
Quote
Chris, Jim Doyle uses pumice in his mixes.  Maybe he has some now

Thanks Chris! I will definitely look into that. I will be at MABS so could definitely swing by to get some.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 21, 2013, 08:03 PM
I've not really been satisfied with the responses received ...and after re-reading my post I see its because I didn't ask the question correctly.

Alas, I've got a few bags of the stuff to play with.  Its significantly harder than akadama.  Its also (mostly) larger than the akadama I'm used to.  Other than that, I'm going to substitute it in place of part of the akadama for some of my in-development trees.

They hydroponics folks really wanted to order me some GrowStones.  (I think because they've never had any moreso than really wanting to drain me of any more money.)  Maybe later.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 22, 2013, 11:13 AM
After thirty years of bonsai and hundreds of pounds of soil, and living where components are easily attainable, I can say there is no substitute for akadama.

But here is the rub.....

Why do you want it? What is it that you feel can be gained by finding a substitute for something there is no substitute for.
I'm having some difficulty sourcing akadama locally.  Price isn't the primary concern, though I wouldn't balk at finding a cheaper alternative.  So far, all the alternatives I've seen aren't superior based on price.
Quote
Expanded shales (haydite and many hydroponic soils are made from shale that is not naturaly porous, or at least not porous enough for our horticulture needs. Heat treating it causes it to expand and "open up" creating a more porous structure.
In hydroponics, they seem to make some distinction between expanded shale and clay-based products.  I'm particularly interested in the clay-based products, ...as mentioned previously.

Quote
I have said it a million times and still people look at me crazy when I say it, and I will say it again. Akadama works because it is "organic". It is volcanic soil, much like all the premium soils around the globe that are perfect for growing things. there is nothing better for growing than growing in soil created froma volcano. Ever wonder why?

On what basis do you claim akadama to be volcanic?  Japan has many different kinds of soil in different regions.  Where's akadama (primarily) mined/produced?  Or are you saying that Japanese soil exists because it was once spewed from middle-earth? Also, what's your basis for claiming akadama to be organic?  All my research into Lava seems to indicate its inorganicity (if that's a word, ...and this browser's spell-check takes an issue with it.)  At the temperatures at which lava erupts (and is able to destroy flora/fauna) I would think the flora/fauna would be turned to smoke and released into the air before it would cling to the lava that's burning it.  Maybe I'm overthinking.  Where can I read more about this?


Quote
This group, the Boon followers,
*groan*

Quote
...what would be the one component of Boon mix that can't be done without? You could leave out the pumice and add double lava, leave out the lava and add double pumice. Could you do without the akadama? NO, the akadama is what makes his soil work so well. Leave it out and you might as well be potting in kitty litter. They add nothing to the soil mix except volume. Now you could pot in kitty litter and use fertilizer cakes rich in humates or use a humus tea weekly and get pretty much the same effect without the expense of the akadama.


I notice below that you have Akadama in your soil box.  I also notice that there isn't any kitty litter.  I've also read that you're a big proponent of humic acid ...and "broke" the news to the (online) bonsai world.  I don't think its overstating to say that many folks consider you a pioneer w/ humic acid as it relates to bonsai soil, though you've deferred to the history and experience of the hydroponics/farmers before you as the real pioneers.

Regardless, if you believe what I'm quoting you (in bold) as saying above, why do you deal with the expense of Akadama rather than recreating its properties w/ kitty litter and humic acid?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Dirk on February 22, 2013, 03:33 PM
I did use all kinds of soil mixtures. Now I'm using akadama, lava and pumice. I also ad to this mix
about 10 - 15% of pine bark. This is for adding organic material to increase CEC without increasing
waterretention.
I also used clay based catlitter in stead of akadama in about the same mix. The result is a somewhat dryer mix.
catlitter doesn't breakup, so the soil doesn't compact. its stays loose and that's what i don't like abort it.
But what is more important, plants do seem to love it. especially my field maples colonize the soil in no time
with roots.
I think plants don't care about catlitter or akadama. for CEC akadama isn't important either.
Adding some organics like pinebark improves a lot I think. I tried chopped sphagnum moss as organic additive,
but won't make that mistake again. Sphagnum is to waterretentive.
I think any well draining soil, that is able to hold some nutrition and supports
microorganism es is good for growing bonsai.
Dirk
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2013, 07:17 AM
Wayne,

two points ----- Is Akadama volcanic soil ?

secondly - I have noted that if you use a glazed, but porous clay pot, you can use a richer in organic mix as the pot wicks away extra moisture at the bottom [ the Chinese sell pots that are glazed on the outside, but not underneath.]

Additionally, if I use the above philosophy, the pot becomes an expendable item, throwing away every some many years, but easily replaced.
It is also possible to glaze with a glaze designed to look like stone, see Mayco, Duncan and anyone else.
Or you might be able to apply a coat of paraffin wax to the outside of the pot, which would penetrate the exterior to say 3 mm and not grow strange stuff.

The older books kept suggesting porous pot as the growing pot for bonsai. Stoneware, I wonder when that became the normal pottery body to use?

I will ask at the cement factory, what the material they use as an ingredient is called. It is absorbent, fast draining, plants do well in it and it is resistant to decomposition by roots. Additionally this is the material the world's finest quality cocoa grows in, there is one other place in the East Indies, on the opposite side of the world.
I suspect the US or simply North America has similar deposits.
Good Morning.
Anthony 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Dave Murphy on February 23, 2013, 07:24 AM
I've heard that, from a geological perspective, akadama is considered a type of pumice, and pumice is volcanic in it's origon.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2013, 08:53 AM
Thank you Dave.

I did some reading on perlite and peatmoss recently. Found it interesting that the perlite holds the man-made fertilizer [ say miracle grow ] in the water it can absorb as does peatmoss. [ does that mean that a porous pot would also hold fertilizer to later release to the plant's feeder roots ?]

According to the Canadian peat moss association, they are only using some 40,000 acres [ less than 2 % of Canada's bog lands ] and they close the bogs when the sensible regrowth limits have been met. So no real harm is being done to the environment. At the same time there is cocopeat.

I wonder if what we should be looking for is apart from the obvious symbols of health, is a comparison of say Japanese quince grown to Kokofu standards, and what we grow in our backyards [ if quince grew in the tropics, but I am writing to  North American readers.]
Once our trunk, root proportions match up, how do our branchlets and leaves do [ and were are growing the same type of quince.]

So perhaps our various soils work, we just have to find a way to check our progress against the standards out there???
Good Day.
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 11, 2014, 04:01 PM
After thirty years of bonsai and hundreds of pounds of soil, and living where components are easily attainable, I can say there is no substitute for akadama.

But here is the rub.....

Why do you want it? What is it that you feel can be gained by finding a substitute for something there is no substitute for.
I'm having some difficulty sourcing akadama locally.  Price isn't the primary concern, though I wouldn't balk at finding a cheaper alternative.  So far, all the alternatives I've seen aren't superior based on price.
Quote
Expanded shales (haydite and many hydroponic soils are made from shale that is not naturaly porous, or at least not porous enough for our horticulture needs. Heat treating it causes it to expand and "open up" creating a more porous structure.
In hydroponics, they seem to make some distinction between expanded shale and clay-based products.  I'm particularly interested in the clay-based products, ...as mentioned previously.

Quote
I have said it a million times and still people look at me crazy when I say it, and I will say it again. Akadama works because it is "organic". It is volcanic soil, much like all the premium soils around the globe that are perfect for growing things. there is nothing better for growing than growing in soil created froma volcano. Ever wonder why?

On what basis do you claim akadama to be volcanic?  Japan has many different kinds of soil in different regions.  Where's akadama (primarily) mined/produced?  Or are you saying that Japanese soil exists because it was once spewed from middle-earth? Also, what's your basis for claiming akadama to be organic?  All my research into Lava seems to indicate its inorganicity (if that's a word, ...and this browser's spell-check takes an issue with it.)  At the temperatures at which lava erupts (and is able to destroy flora/fauna) I would think the flora/fauna would be turned to smoke and released into the air before it would cling to the lava that's burning it.  Maybe I'm overthinking.  Where can I read more about this?


Quote
This group, the Boon followers,
*groan*

Quote
...what would be the one component of Boon mix that can't be done without? You could leave out the pumice and add double lava, leave out the lava and add double pumice. Could you do without the akadama? NO, the akadama is what makes his soil work so well. Leave it out and you might as well be potting in kitty litter. They add nothing to the soil mix except volume. Now you could pot in kitty litter and use fertilizer cakes rich in humates or use a humus tea weekly and get pretty much the same effect without the expense of the akadama.


I notice below that you have Akadama in your soil box.  I also notice that there isn't any kitty litter.  I've also read that you're a big proponent of humic acid ...and "broke" the news to the (online) bonsai world.  I don't think its overstating to say that many folks consider you a pioneer w/ humic acid as it relates to bonsai soil, though you've deferred to the history and experience of the hydroponics/farmers before you as the real pioneers.

Regardless, if you believe what I'm quoting you (in bold) as saying above, why do you deal with the expense of Akadama rather than recreating its properties w/ kitty litter and humic acid?

Any takers on that last question?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 11, 2014, 05:46 PM
Ah the Joys of soil debates. Wayne, have you checked in on Mike Hagedorn 's soil blog post? All you really need is pumice, and a good watering plan. Horticultural pumice is cheap, and if youcan't find that just sift perlite to the size you want and cover with sphagnum. Of course fertilizing becomes a bit of a challenge.


I'll keep using Akadama til I can 't get it anymore.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: dre on February 11, 2014, 05:51 PM
Ah the Joys of soil debates. Wayne, have you checked in on Mike Hagedorn 's soil blog post? All you really need is pumice, and a good watering plan. Horticultural pumice is cheap, and if youcan't find that just sift perlite to the size you want and cover with sphagnum. Of course fertilizing becomes a bit of a challenge.


I'll keep using Akadama til I can 't get it anymore.

i'll second that one akadama till it no longer available
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich on February 11, 2014, 09:39 PM
Has anyone used Espoma Soil Perfector or the larger sized stuff called Grow Stone?  Apparently the hydroponics store people can't keep it on the shelves with all the pot growers snapping it up.  It's expanded recycled glass from what I've read. 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: sekibonsai on February 11, 2014, 09:47 PM
I just bought some to start playing with it.  I think Al Keppler uses it?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich on February 12, 2014, 08:02 AM
I've done a few tests with it and the smaller particle and larger particle size out of the bag both hold a fair amount of water IMO.  One caveat would be the stuff apparently has a high pH off the shelf and a chemical has been added to drop the pH by soaking the media in water for 24 hours.  That is disconcerting.  It's super light weight and has a million pore spaces so I'll give it a go on a few "non-essential" trees this spring. 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 12, 2014, 09:34 AM
Al K "debuted" it in a post @ bN (I believe) sometime last year.  I'm not sure how he uses it, or if its a replacement for either of the big three.  I've been tempted to grab a bag, but I'm also debating bringing in a pallet of soil products ...if I could only get organized.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on February 12, 2014, 08:09 PM
Al said:
Quote
   Now you could pot in kitty litter and use fertilizer cakes rich in humates or use a humus tea weekly and get pretty much the same effect without the expense of the akadama.



Wayne said:
Quote
Notice below that you have Akadama in your soil box.  I also notice that there isn't any kitty litter.  I've also read that you're a big proponent of humic acid ...and "broke" the news to the (online) bonsai world.  I don't think its overstating to say that many folks consider you a pioneer w/ humic acid as it relates to bonsai soil, though you've deferred to the history and experience of the hydroponics/farmers before you as the real pioneers.

Regardless, if you believe what I'm quoting you (in bold) as saying above, why do you deal with the expense of Akadama rather than recreating its properties w/ kitty litter and humic acid?


Any takers on that last question?


Because I do not use akadama in my soil for fertilizer retention. I use it because of its hydraulic properties. I live in a place with weeks at 106 and temps at 100 degrees still at 2AM. I water once a day at 4Pm every day and akadama allows me to do that. Like Peter Tea, I also like its properties of decomposition and allowing for even better moisture retention as it breaks down. Something that high fired soil components can't do, like turface or haydite. Humic acid is a catalyst that changes the ionic charge of many inert objects allowing fertilizer ions to bond with it.

As far as grow stones. I like them. They are all the same size, absolutely no dust in the bag and no smaller sizes to sift out, so each bag is what you get. Color is not that bad, sort of a light tan color. Last year I used it at the very end of repotting since when I found it I was mostly done repotting. This year I planted a nice project in it all by itself just to see what it can do. It is a group of five trident maples planted on a clay terra cotta water dish with the rim cut off. Drilled five 1.25 inch holes in it and planted the five tree in the holes. The trunks were about an inch on these. The most unusual tree was planted in the middle since it had the most buds down low. This will be the future tree. The other four will layer above the plate and meld together into a large tapering base trident maple. Hopefully with one of those melting cheese nebari's. Everyone should have one.

All of this process is available at my blog: http://bonsaial.wordpress.com/ (http://bonsaial.wordpress.com/)

Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on February 12, 2014, 08:20 PM
That colander is 24 inches by 7 inches deep. It held a whole bag of grow stones all by itself. The moss was placed on top to keep the stones from washing out during watering.

The good news is that the trees are opening their leaves so at least I know they are not dead.....
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on February 13, 2014, 01:21 AM
Forgot to show the dish and holes.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Herman on February 14, 2014, 12:53 AM
This is really interesting, the people in south Africa still use a mix of 50/50 composted pine bark silica sand, there are a few guys experimenting with other materials, as they aim for a more modern potting medium, but those are few and far in between. We dont have akadama or pumice or lava rock or expanded shale . This severely limits our options. Ive been experimenting with high fired expanded clay which is hard to come by...and ive found with my deciduous trees that they dont like the soil less media. My pomegranate looks dreary this year and if it doesnt become vigorous next year I will return to my previous mix of 25% of each sifted composted bark broken up clay bricks palm peat and granite grit. My conifers look happy in my soil less mix, my black pines have never been this happy, nor my junipers. I really dont think akadama is a must...maybe in a soil less mix it performs way better than composted pine bark...but we down here have never felt the urgent pang to try and import akadama. I guess that this is because you guys over the pond enjoy much more japanese influence and tutelage than we do.

Regards

Herman
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Leo in NE Illinois on February 17, 2014, 04:04 PM
I've been adding about 15% of total mix Grow Stones to my orchid mixes when I ran out of perlite, and they have had no bad reactions, I like the stuff. Nothing wrong with using perlite either if you sift it to get the right sizes.

One thing I am more convinced of, I am going to be thinking more about my growing mix in terms of growing the mycorrhizae, rather than just the tree. The more I read, the more I am convinced, we will get the best from our trees when we figure out how to keep the fungi happy.

But I am early on this project, so I don't have any good info to add, I am wondering if anyone else has done more work, or experimentation on determining what will keep the symbiotic fungi happy?

I do have access to used orchid media, I save media when repotting my orchids, dry it some, sift it for size, then use it as my organic addition to my mix. It is mostly 2 year old decomposing fir bark, perlite and charcoal. Have not been systematic, so don't really have much to say except since I started doing this my trees have seemed better. BUT I have been improving other aspects of my culture too, so I haven't separated out 'causality'. So right now my bonsai mix is 80% inorganic, being Hydrolyte, granite grit, hort charcoal, dry stall, and what ever else I have around. I have grown some trees in 80-90% coarse perlite (sponge rock) with good results, the other percentage is my spent orchid mix. This works. I am working on finding cheaper source of pumice, lava or scoria in my area, dry stall is too fine for any tree in a pot larger than 5 inches in diameter.

Sponge Rock is cheap for me, I've been thinking for trees in training there is no reason not to use it extensively, and switch to more natural colored mixes only on older trees nearing "good enough to bring to the monthly club meeting" stage.

Those are my thoughts, adding humates definitely would feed the fungi, which is good, so I see the value of making them part of a fertilizer program.

Anyone have more thoughts about soil mixes that would promote symbiotic, mycorrhizal fungi?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 17, 2014, 07:35 PM
Leo,i believe the fertilizer we use now is some of what is actually feeding the fungus, rather it is what the fungus uses to get fed, the fungus changes the fertilizers from the soil into the form that the plant uses, and the plants give them sugars...

This is a good overview http://www.mykoweb.com/articles/Mycorrhizas_1.html (http://www.mykoweb.com/articles/Mycorrhizas_1.html)

From what I understand, this says the fungus eat the sugars created by the plant and in exchange breakdown the ferts, NPK etc that the plant needs. I actually brought something similar up recently on here. I wondered how much better a tree would do if you already had the myccorrhiza permeated throughout the soil. So the roots would not have to grow much to absorb what it needs, the myccorrhiza would add whatever exponential amount they add to the feeder roots immediately. I felt this would be a great option for collectors, a lot of yamadori die off the mountains, maybe this is what is needed. I need Bonsai intensive care soil, give me 100 cc of myccorrhiza stat!!!

I think I read that wood chip mulch would be like feeding fungus. This year I'm setting up a compost tea bin, and in that maybe I'll soak wood chip in some distilled water and then add that water to the tea. The reason I'm thinking that is because of the concentration of particles in the tea is so high that I would imagine not that many, if any of the sugar would flow out of the wood chips because of this saturation.

Leo, just add this to your fertilizers- http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/product/sigma/g6918?lang=en&region=US (http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/product/sigma/g6918?lang=en&region=US)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 17, 2014, 07:40 PM
And there must be a substitute for akadama bwaynef, the problems is, there is no way to find a worthy substitute until you identify scientifically, exactly what it is that makes akadama so valuable so great...
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on February 17, 2014, 08:14 PM
I've been trying to get some growstone soil aerator for over a year now...my hydroponic store keeps ordering it but can't get it delivered for various reasons. Would like to try it. I'm just starting some experiments with akadama so I don't have much to say on that (yet).

Did want to bring up something about mycorrihza - has anyone encountered situations where there is too much of it in your pots? I've got a scots pine that became almost potbound, but not with roots...with mycorrhiza. Water was not penetrating the mix and I had to aerate (poke holes) to get some drainage. Going to be repotting that one this spring and I'm very curious to see what's in the pot. I was discussing this with David DeGroot last summer when he was in Rochester and he mentioned that he's seen that kind of overgrowth at times as well. Anyone else?

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 17, 2014, 08:32 PM
Cheaper than Sigma- http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/now/dex.html (http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/now/dex.html)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 17, 2014, 11:11 PM
coh I'm going to take an educated guess that you used the powered myccorrhiza? I have seen that before as well, not on bonsai, but with wild fungus. I would think you will not find less roots than normal, they do not compete for space but rather work together.

John, nice the bodybuilding glucose gives a new meaning to sumo bonsai haha! However, I think scientists think that the fungus just use the carbon in the sugars, so maybe a more direct source of carbon would be better, like (no surprise here) charcoal! I would guess that perhaps a mix of dextrose/carbon in the form of soaked wood chips & charcoal would successfully feed the fungus

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89562594 (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89562594)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on February 17, 2014, 11:53 PM
coh I'm going to take an educated guess that you used the powered myccorrhiza? I have seen that before as well, not on bonsai, but with wild fungus. I would think you will not find less roots than normal, they do not compete for space but rather work together.

Nope, have not added any powdered myco. All natural. When I slipped the tree out of the pot (couldn't do a full repot because it was middle of summer) the soil mass appeared to basically be filled with myco. Didn't think to take any photos, unfortunately.

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on February 21, 2014, 04:17 AM
Has anyone used Espoma Soil Perfector or the larger sized stuff called Grow Stone?  Apparently the hydroponics store people can't keep it on the shelves with all the pot growers snapping it up.  It's expanded recycled glass from what I've read. 

I'm not active on this forum but a link brought me here and I use growstone so I thought I'd chime in. Pumice is expanded glass, growstone is expanded recycledglass. Volcanos make pumice. I live on one but have to have pumice imported from mainlandia, go figure.  Someone mentioned a problem getting growstone. Seems like if it can get way out to Hilo on a speck in the Pacific it shouldn't be a problem closer to the source. Milled sphagnum on straight pumice/growstone is ideal for my conditions, (alpine rainforest). I also used this mix in Northern California with excellent results. I've never understood the addition of cinder (lava) unless one prefers the black/white effect. The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Judy on February 21, 2014, 05:29 PM
The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
I would much appreciate it if you would expand on the ways you deal with pumice color...thanks. 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: bwaynef on February 21, 2014, 08:56 PM
The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
I would much appreciate it if you would expand on the ways you deal with pumice color...thanks. 

The one I hear most often put forward is to cover it with a better looking soil (or soil mix).
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 22, 2014, 05:30 AM
The white can be a bit disconcerting in a bonsai pot.

Joshua , um dextrose (aka d-glucose , the biologically active form of glucose) is a direct way to get carbon in to your little pot bound ecosystem , not that I would. Carbon in charcoal is of limited availability for biological functions. You frequently find charcoal from old fires many thousands of years after the event and this has led to the concept of utilizing " biochar" the charcoal residue of pyrolosis as a way to sequester Carbon from the atmosphere in a near inert form. The little graphic from NPR shows a very nice representstion of th organisms involved in converting complex carbohydrates to simple bioavailable sugars, and perhaps for converting lignin as well. One of the things you will learn as you move through your academic experience is that complex interactions like those seen in a soil mix in a pot are not linear responses, thus simple predictive models rarely work, and are almost never scalable from simple component analysis. The ecosystem within the pot is a dynamic and complex set of interactions.  

There is a great saying I learned in graduate school "For every complex problem there is an answer, clear, simple and wrong." HL Mencken.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Don Blackmond on February 22, 2014, 07:55 AM
The white can be a bit disconcerting in a bonsai pot.

Joshua , um dextrose (aka d-glucose , the biologically active form of glucose) is a direct way to get carbon in to your little pot bound ecosystem , not that I would. Carbon in charcoal is of limited availability for biological functions. You frequently find charcoal from old fires many thousands of years after the event and this has led to the concept of utilizing " biochar" the charcoal residue of pyrolosis as a way to sequester Carbon from the atmosphere in a near inert form. The little graphic from NPR shows a very nice representstion of th organisms involved in converting complex carbohydrates to simple bioavailable sugars, and perhaps for converting lignin as well. One of the things you will learn as you move through your academic experience is that complex interactions like those seen in a soil mix in a pot are not linear responses, thus simple predictive models rarely work, and are almost never scalable from simple component analysis. The ecosystem within the pot is a dynamic and complex set of interactions.  

There is a great saying I learned in graduate school "For every complex problem there is an answer, clear, simple and wrong." HL Mencken.

2 things:
First, charcoal absorbs odor, and sometimes its good to have a little in your soil for no other reason.
Second, every problem has at least one answer, and every answer creates new problems.  The idea is to find the answer that creates the least amount of new, unrelated problems.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 22, 2014, 08:35 AM
Don, that is why many of us add activated charcoal to our soil mix, though if you look at the scientific literature (peer reviewed)  their isn 't a whole lot of demonstrated effect. But I still do it.

Oh, and ee add a littke decomposed granite to the soil mix as well....   
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Leo in NE Illinois on February 22, 2014, 10:52 PM
............
Did want to bring up something about mycorrihza - has anyone encountered situations where there is too much of it in your pots? I've got a scots pine that became almost potbound, but not with roots...with mycorrhiza. Water was not penetrating the mix and I had to aerate (poke holes) to get some drainage. Going to be repotting that one this spring and I'm very curious to see what's in the pot. I was discussing this with David DeGroot last summer when he was in Rochester and he mentioned that he's seen that kind of overgrowth at times as well. Anyone else?

Chris

Curious, interesting. One possibility, something I observed with growing orchids, I have found occasionally when a fir bark or pine bark potting mix is made up with a lower grade of fir bark or pine bark that has a lot of wood in it, I have seen a problem with a white rot fungus. It appears as a cottony mass in the pot, that seems to repel water. It is not pathogenic "per se", it does not attack the orchid, but it is also not a mycorrhizal symbiont either. It will kill the orchid by mechanically surrounding the roots, or by forming a water repellent cap over the potting mix, thus preventing water from getting into the plant. If you repot the orchid before the plant has declined too much, it recovers quickly, with no 'rot' episodes. As long as the fresh mix has no wood in it, the white rot does not re-occur, so it really isn't pathogenic (to orchids). You don't even need to eliminate all the pieces of the white fungus, if there is no wood, it will die off, and disappear. If your pine was in a wooden grow box, your case might have been a similar species of fungi. In other words, in addition to the normal symbiotic mycorrhizae  for your white pine, you also had a white wood rot fungi in the pot. If there was no wood source, if your pine was in a ceramic or plastic pot and there was no wood chips in your soil media, then this comment does not apply to your case. Anyone else see something like this?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 23, 2014, 01:08 AM
John and Don, very thought provoking, I thrive on these kinds of questions...

Don, I think your right, the whole point in furthering society is to answer questions which result in a net decrease in our energy expenditure right? That is a governing mantra in my life, what is the quickest way Q from point A to B as fast as solution C but at less cost to I than C, where I=me & Q(cost to I)<C(cost to I)  =)

John I agree with most of what you said but, if academia took what Mencken said as law, A LOT of discoveries may have been cynically overlooked. But I think I know what you meant by it, a saying like that is the grain of salt with which to take a shot, and I am nowhere near proud enough to think the answers are easy or simple to arrive at or that I would know how to do things better than nature. However, as far as biological systems go, I think the system in a bonsai pot is RELATIVELY more simple than most, in that a lot of variables can be kept constant, and in this way we can at least boil it down to a few culprit variables. THEN, maybe looking at a modeled simplified experiment would be in order, but only inasmuch you then test it in the system as a whole, like drugs in 3rd phase testing...

How about this, alls I'm saying here is, there IS PROBABLY an easier alternative to akadama as far as pure expenditure on energy than importing it from japan. Maybe something along the lines of finding out what grows around akadama quarries finding something similar local, then high firing it. Testing the clays for soil properties is not all that hard. Or maybe for testing what akadama does, Something along the lines of a laboratory setting testing five "possible substitutes" of akadama growing some pine youngsters- equal parts pumice, lava, and test particle, using equal parts mycorrhizae, fertilizers etc. keeping light,moisture, fertilizers, & fungus all equal. In this way, we boil down the ONLY difference to be the test particle. Therefore, we don't need to know exactly wtf is going on, just the results that counts. Wouldn't you be curious about those results!?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on February 23, 2014, 10:49 AM
If you are interested in phenomenology fine. Clays and their contributions to soils are well defined. The complexity of a bonsai pot is pretty tremendous, full of roots and mycorrhizae, immediately after repotting, in the drainage layer, at the soul midpoint or at the surface? What kind of variability in response are you looking for? Will the selected sample size  give you enough power to isolate differences in a statistically relevant manner? We know a lot about soils and soil components, from application and from the scientific community. I think Peter Tea said it best in his blog on soil in 2012, what you use  is less important than how you water in response to your tree and its stage of development. Akadama and pumice have proven performance across a broad range of conditions (as does kanuma pumice for ericaceous plants).

Mass Spectrometry, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, 3D molecular Imaging and simulation are all nice and powerful technologies. The niche of bonsai soils is a tough place to do too much because of cost and the relatively small returns. The Mencken quote has never been intended or interpreted as meaning questions should not be asked, rather it is cautionary to remind us that things may not be as simple as they seem.

I think the concept of finding a North American substitute with similar CEC and other general attributes, getting it mined, dried and sorted to size, and bagged is a notable endeavor for any entrepreneurial individual. Ryan Neal in Oregon has raised this point on numerous occasions as have others. Al Kepler experiments with numerous products. But think about this whatever you find has to be cheap. The potential substitutes for Akadama are not cheap, otherwise why would I pay nearly the same price for a product that I can get the real deal for.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on February 23, 2014, 12:27 PM

Curious, interesting. One possibility, something I observed with growing orchids, I have found occasionally when a fir bark or pine bark potting mix is made up with a lower grade of fir bark or pine bark that has a lot of wood in it, I have seen a problem with a white rot fungus. It appears as a cottony mass in the pot, that seems to repel water. It is not pathogenic "per se", it does not attack the orchid, but it is also not a mycorrhizal symbiont either. It will kill the orchid by mechanically surrounding the roots, or by forming a water repellent cap over the potting mix, thus preventing water from getting into the plant. If you repot the orchid before the plant has declined too much, it recovers quickly, with no 'rot' episodes. As long as the fresh mix has no wood in it, the white rot does not re-occur, so it really isn't pathogenic (to orchids). You don't even need to eliminate all the pieces of the white fungus, if there is no wood, it will die off, and disappear. If your pine was in a wooden grow box, your case might have been a similar species of fungi. In other words, in addition to the normal symbiotic mycorrhizae  for your white pine, you also had a white wood rot fungi in the pot. If there was no wood source, if your pine was in a ceramic or plastic pot and there was no wood chips in your soil media, then this comment does not apply to your case. Anyone else see something like this?

This particular scots pine is in a plastic pot. I acquired it about a year and a half ago from a well-known eastern grower. It was field grown, then potted in a primarily turface mixture (with small amounts of peat and granite grit). As far as I know there is no wood or bark in the mix (or very little) and it has never been in a wooden grow box. My plan is to repot this spring and replace most of the turface with a pumice/lava/akadama mix. I will try to remember to document the process and the status of the root system.

Your comments about the wood fungus are interesting. I have another plant, a spruce, that is in a wooden grow box and pure pumice. It is exhibiting similar symptoms (slow draining, not sure if due to roots or fungal growth),and will be due for repotting this spring. There looks to lots of myco or fungus of some type on the bottom of the box.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Leo in NE Illinois on February 23, 2014, 01:49 PM
what you describe for your Scotts pine is different than what I was describing for my orchids. It is interesting. Do let us know what you find out for both trees.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2014, 02:04 PM
Joshua,

simple - write to the old timers around the US and see what they use. Not the professional names, just the old guys in clubs, who have healthy trees. They may not be great designers or prone to exhibiting, but they have healthy trees.
I have seen records of some who use, I think it is called red lava.

The trick is, is it healthy and does it have as many branchlets / fine leaves as say an exceptional tree in Japan of the same type.
Age of the tree may be the evidence you need.

In the Far East they use a black volcanic material successfully, as shown by Robert Stevens, but this is Tropical.

I can offer nothing more as we are also Tropical and our soil mix is just a simple blend. KISS - keep it simple stupid.
Best to your research.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 23, 2014, 03:18 PM
Thanks John and Anthony.

Anthony, I have done a bit of research, probably not enough but it does seem like the north uses Akadama, although a lot of others grow in different soil with just fine results, there seems to be a wise/stubborn few (whether they are the stubborn or wise few depends on what the facts are) who refuse to switch. In the south I tend to hear mixed results, as some say it breaks down too quickly.

John, I do realizing what your saying, and believe me I know most of what I say is pipe-dreaming, but I will not, no I can not stop asking these questions until I feel satisfied with the answer, it is just the way I'm built. And I know your not asking me to stop, but rather just letting me know that the road I'm traveling down has been traveled down before with limited success. As far as the right price that is mostly just chemical economies of scale, if they can charge 9 dollars for a 50 lb. bag of growstones, they could have chosen another particle to high fire, high pressurize and make some worthy akadama substitute. As a chemical engineer I am well aware of processes at say exxon mobil with huge increases in pressure and very high temperature, high enough to reach supercritical fluid levels, that cost next to nothing because they reroute some exothermic process results from elsewhere, and the pressure is just some huge weight pulley system on a rigid body.... And phenomenology is all we need to  know right? We don't need to know why it works, we only need to know, that it works! Why look into it more, unless a relevant question can be answered.

As far as this little dumb experiment I'm going to carry out, I think it bests not to break it down into it's parts such as right after repotting, top, middle, bottom of drainage layer, why? because you do not single out akadama for each of these parts, rather for the sum of the whole right? For the sake of simplicity you generalize your soil and say akadama works best. Well how does it work best, it grows the best right with some medium ground between it growing the best and taking about 3-5 years to break down? Therefore, with all other things kept equal including- light, amounts of myccor (in case part of akadama's advantages involve interactions with mycorrhizae), water, air, nutrients, other soil components (which will be lava, pumice), particle size, exposure to the elements.

Please continue to play devil's advocate, as no one else will play and all work and no bonsai make Josh a dull boy.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2014, 04:07 PM
Joshua,

a dumb suggestion. My brother-in-law bought himself $14.00 US of 10 mm glass marbles. Enough to fill a small stainless steel colander [ 16 cm x 7 cm like a bowl ] and then some.
The idea, Ball Bearing idea [ can only compact so much ] and as the organic, home made compost. In this he will grow probably a Serissa sinensis or Tamarindus or other. When the roots begin to show through the holes [ underside ] the colander will be entered into a another colander [ probably plastic ] about 3 cm larger all over.

The second colander will have almost 100 % compost, if too soggy, he will add some 5mm gravel.

The idea being to test, air spaces, water retention and anything else that pops into his head.

There is already a bonsai container with larger marbles growing, a tamarind and one with smaller marbles for ixoras.

Already tested is 5mm gravel [ silica ] and a local composite material of hardened clay from a zone of uplifted hills [ probably a heavy deposit of clay, pressured under saltwater from the Orinocco as Trinidad was once part of Venezuela and under water.
The gravel / compost mix [ less than 10% by volume ] grows the local ficus p. like a dream.
The composite material / compost mix [ less than 30 % by volume ] grows tamarinds well.

Thus far the balance seems to be water retention and air spaces after watering.

Still searching for 5mm glas marbles.

Please note our climate goes from No rain after Christmas, and rain around May/June. Additionally, anything less than 15 mm of rain is considered to be drought for the San Fernando area.
We drop to 50 % humidity and with rain return to 80% humidity.
Plus heavy winds during the Dry Season.

What we do is transplant after the 2nd of January, and use up to 1/3 compost by volume, the dry weather allows for hand watering with a 1.5 or 2 gallon plastic watering can.
Starts as once in the morning and once in the early evening. Then goes by March to twice in the morning and once in the evening.
Then with rain, by observation.
All fertilising is in the dry months if needed, by 1/3 liquid into moist soil or granules of Blaucorm or a osmocote type.

Because we go through our version of Desert to modified marine type climate, we can test heavy organic use to heavy inorganic or the reverse.

Also we can modify [ as the Chinese and Japanese did back in the 1600's and early/later ] the clay body type,porous or non-porous.
Porous, will allow a heavier use organic material, at all times of the year.
Originally the Chinese seem to have done this simply because if a pot cracked, you just bought another [ this was the hobby of the very wealthy back then.]
The Japanese seem to be using Chinese stoneware used originally for holding incense or other, and drilling expertly to create Bonsai pots.

Anyhow, the use of soil [ Loam ] was more prevalent, and the factor was water retention and air spaces, plus some form of compost, and originally very deep pots.
Good Day,
Anthony

The Chinese zones are 9 to 8 / 7 , the Japanese seem to hover around 7, in the plants used by this group.
There is no Tropical zone in China. Though a thin band of zone 10 may exist near the sea and around the their islands.
The mallsai, come from mainland China [ so the Fukien tea for example is also not Tropical.]
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on February 23, 2014, 04:33 PM
Anthony, you never mentioned how the clay from the mountains performed RELATIVE to the dreamy substance =) How did it grow the ficus, and how did the dreamy gravel grow the Tamarind?


John, Don, Anthony and all the other vets please give me your advice in this hypothetical situation- you have 6 different possible substitutes to Akadama, how would you setup an experiment to test which one performs better than the next?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2014, 05:53 PM
Joshua,

the gravel / compost mix allowed the ficus p. to fill the pot with roots, grow new shoots / leaves, and there was no root rot, as was seen in the standard mix used of 1/3 broken brick, 1/3 gravel and 1/3 compost by volume.

The clay type from the central range, at 5mm, did not break down in 4 years of use. Allowed the tamarind to grow normally and become as dense as it did in the standard mix [ seen above ] and you could sprinkle on a heaped tablespoon of compost as soon as it disappeared into the spaces in the stone over time.
The repotting showed some of the spaces filled with compost balls, with roots passing through many of balls.

There is also a fukien tea in a small container of just the central range clay type/stone, with a teaspoon of compost added every now and them.
Repotting showed, a soil mix that looked like a standard soil mix. 4 year situation thus far.

A simple test.
Grow 6 seeds [ same type ] or 6 similar rooted cuttings [ same type ] in the same size containers under as closely as possible the same conditions.
See what happens.

Note also - what can cause soil confusion ------------ different cultivars of the same tree.
Good Day
Anthony

Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on February 23, 2014, 06:17 PM
Oh Joshua,

the reason a soil mix that decayed was rejected [ became a clay. a powder or other ] had to do with the development uff a core.

There was enough information around in the early 80's about having to go into the heart of the tree and hose out the clay.
Instead the objective became to introduce an inorganic material that would stay and create spaces for more organic material to filter down into [ much as it occurs in nature ] this also took into account two situations,

[a] roots - either dieing and decaying into compost ,
or
roots enlarging and losing the ability to help feed the tree.

Hence the pie cuts.

Trouble was, experience - when to pie cut and how not to cut through a large active root, and kill the tree.

Thus far as I stated in another topic, we have J.B.pines with root structures that look like azalea rootings.
Oh well, you live you lean.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on March 09, 2014, 06:20 PM
Ok, so I sent chemical analysis of Akadama to a supplier of Hydroponic/Chemical aggregates for industrial use that is a family friend (same place I got my pumice). He sent me back a bunch of samples that were similar in analysis to Akadama, and this was the most interesting to me. Here is it next to the akadama chemical analysis for comparison-

Table1
Chemical analysis of Akadama & Akadama mud
Composition of Akadama
Percentage
SiO2-51.30%
Al2O3-38.05%
MgO-1.94%
MnO-0.26%
CaO-0.78%
Fe2O3-7.67%
pHpzca-6.9

Composition of Sample-
Percentage
SiO2- 70.8%
Al2O3- 14.1%
CaO-2.2%
Mgo-4.6%
K2O-1.3%
Fe2O3- .8%
Na2O-.2
pH- 6.6


Both this sample and akadama are both are non-swelling bentonite minerals, you can just about break it apart with a fair amount of pressure and hopefully will behave very similar under growing conditions, this is the stuff I'm going to experiment on.  And it is 1/10 the cost of akadama. I'll post some pictures soon, gotta weird thing happening where my laptop doesn't recognize my sd card
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on October 28, 2014, 06:49 PM
I've just waded through this thread (whew!) and can't believe I'm jumping into a soil discussion. But I'm new here, so what the hell...First off, I've always wondered why pumice and lava? I know there's lava and there's lava, depending where it's mined, but the lava here , we call it "cinder" is not nearly as porous as pumice, has ragged edges which lock together, and  being black, is a heat sink. But until I brought in pumice and the word got around ("what's that white stuff?") I was the only one not using lava and organics.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on October 28, 2014, 07:00 PM
I've just waded through this thread (whew!) and can't believe I'm jumping into a soil discussion. But I'm new here, so what the hell...First off, I've always wondered why pumice and lava? I know there's lava and there's lava, depending where it's mined, but the lava here , we call it "cinder" is not nearly as porous as pumice, has ragged edges which lock together, and  being black, is a heat sink. But until I brought in pumice and the word got around ("what's that white stuff?") I was the only one not using lava and organics.
I wrote this a few weeks ago and found it in "Draft", never posted it. And now I find here the first cogent answer to my question. I still won't be mixing lava in with pumice as I don't think it's necessary with large 1/2 inch or so pumice, But  I can see the value of using it with smaller pumice.
So thanks BSG, So glad I found you. And thanks also to Owen for the suggestion. ;D
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Chrisl on October 29, 2014, 11:06 AM
I was taught that pumice is good for moisture availability, and lava was for oxygen exchange, and akadama for cation exchange.  Each has a function.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on October 30, 2014, 09:10 PM
I was taught that pumice is good for moisture availability, and lava was for oxygen exchange, and akadama for cation exchange.  Each has a function.
I would think oxygen exchange wouldn't be a problem with larger size pumice. Or most any media.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on October 30, 2014, 10:14 PM
We could try it as,

[1] crushed porous red earthenware brick for controlled moisture retention, [5 mm size ] and fertiliser in solution,

[2] builder's gravel [ silica based ] for a freely draining situation [ 5 mm]

[3] compost for the ability to hold moisture /fertiliser and supply nutrients and help micro organisms.

Would be even better if the inorganics were round [ the ballbearing idea ]

But what the hay, we have plants growing well in the above since 1980 or so, in full sun, no rain, heavy rain and I am told they have excellent twigging or leaf density.

We also have the local ficus and tamarind growing in rounded gravel and hydroponic pebbles, with or without compost, in the mix [ added later as teaspoons on the surface, watered in.]

Should be interesting to see how far the rounded gravel can go with regards to different tree / shrub types.
Will let you guys know as we keep testing.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich on October 30, 2014, 10:48 PM
Shima, I've had the same thought about nixing the lava.

 I've had discussions with growers in Japan who use pure low-fired akadama for deciduous bonsai in middle to late development with great success.  I've tried it on some smaller deciduous trees in shallow containers and it seems to work pretty well.  My concern was with my consistent lack of being home; allowing for longer drying time between waterings.

In my opinion there is no media debate.  If your bonsai are performing to the level you desire, don't change anything.  If you are not happy with your trees' health and response to technique application, the media is a likely culprit as well as watering habits.  I do not ask the Inuit how to get good fruit set on citrus; sticking with local experience on media selection seems most logical to me.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Chrisl on October 31, 2014, 10:56 AM
The problem with that approach Owen though has it's faults; I had thought I was getting great growth w. turface and pumice, until I tried akadama this yr and saw what "great growth" really looks like.  I was resistant, but tried it after Ryan strongly encouraged me to give it a try. 
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on October 31, 2014, 10:02 PM
The problem with that approach Owen though has it's faults; I had thought I was getting great growth w. turface and pumice, until I tried akadama this yr and saw what "great growth" really looks like.  I was resistant, but tried it after Ryan strongly encouraged me to give it a try. 

hmmm....thats kind of refreshing......
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich on October 31, 2014, 11:20 PM
I should clarify. If you're not sure what media to use local resources are often a good idea.  I'm trying to be diplomatic I suppose. :-).  Local resource reference also referred to Anthony's recommendations of using decomposed organic material and marbles.  While Anthony's research is interesting and I enjoy learning about the trials, there isn't a whole lot of relavence there to a temperate climate versus one at the equator.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Chrisl 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: 63pmp 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
.  
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: 63pmp on November 03, 2014, 03:02 AM
No, I don't agree.  I don'believe this is a good way to grow bonsai.

Paul
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony 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
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M 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.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on November 03, 2014, 04:15 PM
Wow the island "don't worry do what you like" dude is asking for scientific research on akadama? Wow.

I will say it again, please don't use Akadama. Don't waste it.

Please, don't worry about it. If you want to grow your trees in clinkers and composted cow manure or silica or bark, or Turface, please do. But don't try to start a fight. I don't care what you use. People ask what the alternatives to Akadama are, and there currently isn't anything that is generally accepted by those who have studied in Japan for temperate climates. Why temperate? Because I personally don't care what people in the tropics or Antarctica use.

Can't get pumice. Sorry. Can't get lava. Sorry. Don't want to listen to Boon. Don't. Boon's and Ryan's and Michael Hagedorn's and Peter Tea's and Own Reich's, etc, etc, etc, soil recommendations are all variations on the same theme. Minor variations, major to connosseurs but really just variations based on experience and training.

I have frequently criticized the faux science on bonsai threads. No replication, no control, inadequate numbers to identify differences, yada, yada, yada. I think the fact that soil particle size, moisture needed, fertilizer changes, etc. as bonsai get more highly refined should clearly contraindicate a simplistic soil study. There is both art and science to the production of fine highly refined bonsai.

John











Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 03, 2014, 04:36 PM
Adair,

I did some looking around for Akadama information, I found this on Michael Hagedorn's page,

http://crataegus.com/2013/11/24/life-without-turface/ (http://crataegus.com/2013/11/24/life-without-turface/)

Look at image 4, it is also the result we get.

My request John for research on Akadama was genuine. Apologies for upsetting you.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on November 03, 2014, 05:28 PM
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

It makes sense if your climate  allows it to slowly break down.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Jason E on November 03, 2014, 07:29 PM
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.




That pretty much hit the nail on the head. thanks Adair!
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Owen Reich on November 03, 2014, 08:01 PM
It is my understanding that Akadama production was started by bonsai practitioners in Japan, then adopted by lots of bonsai professionals and practitioners.  Akadama is also used for aquariums, house plants, etc.

I also heard there was a ton of testing and documentation but I have no idea how to track that down.  I tried to document exactly what chemicals were used in many different products and nobody I could find could even read the kanji on the labels.  I figured out some of the chemicals by their odor cross-referenced against what we were killing and from previous chem app experience.

I was and am as persistent as possible with any bonsai professionals I meet in any country trying to find why things are done the way they are.  Some times, I am told (after my teacher long ago realized I was not going to give up) "no idea" why this product is good vs another. 

As for Calidama, I have only seen a few bonsai on the East Coast that had it in the mix (all were for air exchange/drainage layer).  It certainly is heavy  ;D. 

So, hopefully some who read all this will gain some insight into the medias of choice.  I'll use whatever makes the bonsai I work with grow well and respond to technique application in my climate and those of my clients.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 03, 2014, 08:47 PM
Owen,

I did find an answer over on Bonsai4me, there is a Soil Scientist from I believe Norway, who did tests between diatomaceous earth and Akadama.
I believe he invited discussion, which when I get some time, will check him out.

I think Cali-dama is hard pan. The guy was either on this forum or Bnut, through I believe Al Keppler.

I also wonder, if as Colin Lewis has it, the roots go finer into the decaying Akadama, but what does the root do when going into compost [ and not cow manure as suggested by John, which is the mix used in N.E India, with an Akadama type material ]
I hope this is not another legend as the --- when roots meet sharp surfaces they tend to divide more aggressively.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on November 03, 2014, 09:13 PM

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.

As long as you realize that it is a joke/urban folklore, see i.e. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/flight-bumblebee (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/flight-bumblebee)

I understand the point "I don't really care why it works, as long as it does." But the key part of that phrase is "as long as it does." What happens if it stops working, or if akadama (or whatever) is no longer available? That's when understanding can be a little helpful. It's like the whole debate/argument about water quality and whether/how much it matters. Well, it doesn't matter if your water is good, but what if it's not? Then it's good to have an understanding of pH, alkalinity, etc.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for sharing their opinions and experiences.

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on November 03, 2014, 09:15 PM

I think Cali-dama is hard pan. The guy was either on this forum or Bnut, through I believe Al Keppler.


Anthony, Al has talked about calidama but he is not the person who is producing and selling it.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on November 03, 2014, 10:48 PM
Coh,

If akadama becomes unavailable, I think I would just go with lava and pumice. And water more often.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on November 04, 2014, 08:11 AM
Anthony, not upset. Just find the whole, I don't believe akadama works argument to be specious. I want to be clear I understand that you were not implying that, others may have. Akadama is not magical, it is my hope that "we" (North Americans) will find a clay in a volcanic area that can be produced reasonably enough to be substituted for Akadama.

If you want to see how roots penetrate and then move on through substrate, put styrofoam packing peanuts in to your drainage layer. After a year or two, you see how the roots enter the styrofoam matrix and then continue on, growing and thickening as they continue to extend. You will see that root tips 'colonize' the styrofoam and then several roots emerge and continue to grow on their way.

No, I am no advocating the use of packing peanuts in bonsai soil. I have just had to repot trees (3) that had styrofoam packing peanuts as a 1-4" deep drainage layer. In reallly big pots. I am told this was done by a certain professional to lighten the final product so one person could carry the tree.

Please don't use Akadama. This is my new signature line.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on November 04, 2014, 09:13 AM
More for us then!
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on November 04, 2014, 10:07 AM
Yes.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 04, 2014, 07:45 PM
John,

just to say thank you for taking the time to respond, and even though you are being very polite, I am also guilty of - I don't believe akadama works,

Because, I was going on the mixes seen in the early Bonsai Today articles, especially where one adds a % of Akadama to Japanese sand for J.B.pines.

I found this mix over on this site - http://torontobonsai.org/archive/Journal/Journal.2005/oct.2005/boon.soil.htm (http://torontobonsai.org/archive/Journal/Journal.2005/oct.2005/boon.soil.htm)

Boon's mix is given as -

"Boon responded to my email quite quickly. Below is his soil mix.

Soil Mix for BIB and Bonsai Boon. Our soil recipe contains:

1 part lava rock

1 part pumice

1 part Akadama

a cup of horticultural charcoal (per 5 gallon mix)

a cup of decomposed granite (per 5 gallon mix)

For deciduous, use small size mix (1/16"-1/4") and add 1 extra part of Akadama.

All ingredients must be bone dry, screened and sized. The dust is discarded.

The use of pumice for bottom layer drainage (5/16") is recommended.

For conifers from the desert and high mountains use medium size mix (3/8" - 5/16").

For lower elevation conifers and water loving conifers, use small size mix (1/16" - 1 / 4")

Note:

Proper repotting technique needs to be applied; otherwise this mix is not recommended. For best results, organic fertilizer is recommended at the correct times and season. A thin layer of coarsely screened New Zealand sphagnum moss should be placed on top of the new soil. The moss will keep the soil in place during watering. The thickness of the moss layer should vary according to climate and watering habits.

This soil mix has been used successfully throughout North America."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From  what I am seeing there, by volume, the Akadama is less than 1/3 of the equation.
With a layer of pumice to enhance drainage ? - correct ?

This is different to what I see with the Japanese features on Youtube, where it seems to be 100 % Akadama.

Down here there is a similiar mix used with some clay being added to sand and some organic matter. Standard Agricultural practice. Probably an artificial Sand Loam.
It works well for 2 or 3 years and then starts to hold water.
We said no to that a while ago.

Essentially we just replaced the clay with fired brick ,but fired earthenware clay which will perhaps decompose in a million years. Porous and a compliment to the Gravel and Compost.

The information for this came from - Basic Bonsai Student Workbook - L.Liggett on pg.11 - printed sometime before 1980.
Since the book was bought sometime in 1981.

I read and then I ask questions, hope you guys can survive the questions.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Judy on November 04, 2014, 09:16 PM

1 part lava rock

1 part pumice

1 part Akadama

a cup of horticultural charcoal (per 5 gallon mix)

a cup of decomposed granite (per 5 gallon mix)

For deciduous, use small size mix (1/16"-1/4") and add 1 extra part of Akadama.

All ingredients must be bone dry, screened and sized. The dust is discarded.

The use of pumice for bottom layer drainage (5/16") is recommended.

For conifers from the desert and high mountains use medium size mix (3/8" - 5/16").

For lower elevation conifers and water loving conifers, use small size mix (1/16" - 1 / 4")



From  what I am seeing there, by volume, the Akadama is less than 1/3 of the equation.
With a layer of pumice to enhance drainage ? - correct ?


Pardon me Anthony for butting in, but how on earth thru all the conversations could you miss that the soil mix is most always used as a three part mix.  Akadama Pumice Lava.  How many times has this soil discussion been thrashed, and it's always the same three ingredients in Boon mix.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Adair M on November 04, 2014, 09:28 PM
Anthony, I'm with Judy on this.

Boon's mix has always been these three parts: akadama, pumice, and lava, with a minute amount of charcoal and maybe some granite grit.

That's the "basic mix". He will vary the proportion of akadama if he needs soil that retains more water.

This formula has been discussed on many threads on tis forum.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: coh on November 04, 2014, 09:59 PM
Talk about splitting hairs...

Sure, if you add some granite and charcoal, then the final mix will be slightly less than 1/3 akadama. Let's see, there are 16 cups in a gallon. So if you make up 5 gallons of 1/3 pumice/lava/akadama, that's a total of 80 cups, and each component equals 26.67 cups. If you now add 1 cup of granite and 1 cup of charcoal, you now have a total mix of 82 cups. There are still 26.67 cups of akadama in the mix, so 26.67/82 = 32.52% instead of 33.33%.

But what's the point again?

Chris
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: M. Frary on November 04, 2014, 10:24 PM
  People still argue about substrates. Akadama is the greatest. No it sucks. Everything has to be the same size. Kitty litter is awesome. If you're a cat wanting to poop. Charcoal,pine bark,busted bricks,pumice on bottom no on top. Wait it'll float away! Your tree will only just hang in there. It will grow too fast. It's just going to die. Hahahahaha! What do I do? What will I use? I need someone to tell me something I already know The substrate holds up the tree. But wait. Apparently some prop it up better than others. The more it costs,the harder it is to obtain the better a soil is? That can't be right can it? We waste a lot of time discussing dirt.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on November 04, 2014, 10:26 PM
I have found this useful for moving my trees around. I would like to patent it. I think I will call it a "wheel"
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: 63pmp on November 04, 2014, 10:54 PM
I continue to think about this post, and at the risk of being a pain in the ass I would respond to this bit;

"Akadama has a property you didn't consider:  it breaks down over time. Which is actually beneficial."

I have considered this.  Its in the Air Filled Porosity bit, particle stability is very important here.  Particle size determines the air filled porosity (AFP) in a potting mix.  That is how much air is retained in the mix directly after watering.  This is the minimum amount of air the mix will have till the next watering.  The amount of AFP required varies with each species, obviously mangroves and willow don't need much, J maples need lots.  Decomposition of soil components and root growth always lowers the air filled porosity.  There is a threshold at which plant growth suffers, if your mix falls below this point the plant will begin to decline, the further AFP reduces, the more the tree will decline until it dies.  I don't see the decomposition of any component in a mix beneficial.

You may notice that boon recommends a smaller sized particle for plants that like a bit more water, this is because it produces smaller pores which hold more water, but also less AIR. The mix with smaller particles will have a lower AFP, for better or worse. 

Organic based potting mixes did this frequently and was the reason why people moved to inorganic mixes.  I have no issue with Akadama, as long as the particles remain stable till the next repot. 

I do have issue with using asphyxiation as a technique to reduce plant growth.  I find it worrying that bonsai professionals are always saying the tree must be healthy before you can work on it, and then purposefully do something, like starving it of oxygen, that impacts on the plants health to stop it from growing. 

From what I understand akadama and kunama was made when tuff from a volcanic explosion was buried some long time ago.  It underwent a degree of re-mineralization and cementing while buried, similar to how diatomaceous earth hardens.  Tuff usually breakdowns very quickly to clay minerals and silica when left on the surface of the ground, however, when buried it solidifies like concrete. This solidification process, ironically, was how the residents of Pompeii died in 79AD .

Paul
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on November 05, 2014, 12:49 AM
I do have issue with using asphyxiation as a technique to reduce plant growth.  I find it worrying that bonsai professionals are always saying the tree must be healthy before you can work on it, and then purposefully do something, like starving it of oxygen, that impacts on the plants health to stop it from growing. 

Paul


How does air exchange take place in the ground compared to our pots? It seems plants live quite happily in an enviroment which must be devoid of air exchange 6 inches under the earth?
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: 63pmp on November 05, 2014, 02:34 AM


How does air exchange take place in the ground compared to our pots? It seems plants live quite happily in an enviroment which must be devoid of air exchange 6 inches under the earth?
[/quote]

One would think there's hardly any air in the ground.  However, the soil, while it looks solid is highly porous, they are just really small.  But, yes oxygen decreases the deeper you go, but it is in feet rather then inches.  Also most of the root activity happens in the top 3- 12 inches. There is often problems with agricultural soils due to compaction from traffic, and degradation of soil structure due to salinity and overworking.  This does have a serious impact on crops, in the range of billions of dollars of lost production per year.  If you look at tire tracks across a paddock, the compaction of the soil surface below the tires affects not only water movement, but air movement, into and out of the soil, preventing anything from growing in the tracks  (water can still enter the soil under tire tracks due to capillary action, and why they are often soft after rain.) 

If you dig up a healthy garden soil you will see that it falls apart into small crumbs, well it should, but doesn't always, there are little tiny continuous pores around these crumbs, these let air in.  Also worm holes, ant burrows and other macropores allow air movement into and out of the ground.  Soil physics spends much of time looking at measuring soil porosity, connectivity, water movement and storage, field capacity and total porosity are all important parameters in soil science.

Ground soil is continuous and very large, gravity has a very powerful effect on slopes pulling what amounts to tonnes of water down hill, even on very gentle slopes.  However, sometimes things get saturated, after really wet weather, and it has an effect, plants drown in boggy regions (bogs are natural regions of where water can't escape).  Landslides occur because of saturated soil, water cannot drain out of it quick enough and the soil liquifies, then slips.

Mostly air moves into the soil by osmosis, though it can be sucked into the ground following rain as the soil drains, also on slopes water pulls a lot of air into the soil as it is pulled downhill by gravity.

In pots it's the same.  Air is pulled into the potting mix as water drains out of the pot, when it evaporates out, and when plants suck it up.  It also moves in by osmosis when gross water movement stops.   

In soil, and potting mixes, water moves from big pores to small pores to smaller pores.  The force needed to extract water from pores increases with decreasing size.  Plants can extract a lot of water from ground soil because the roots are in very close contact to small pores.  This is not the case in bonsai pots where roots are surrounded by really big pores and soil components are in lose contact with roots, here water in micropores is unavailable, so we have to water more often (or use a component that roots can grow through, such as perlite, pumice and akadama). 

Bonsai pots represent a small amount of soil surrounded by one extremely big pore (the atmosphere)  Since water moves from large to small pores, it is reluctant to leave the pot and go out into the wider world.  This is why there is always a saturated layer in the bottom of a pot. Basically the weight of water in the pot is not enough to overcome capillary attraction of water for soil particles.   The size of the pores dictates how high this saturated zone is.  If we use garden soil in a pot the saturated zone will be very high and necessitates special care of the plant.  So we use large grained components to allow the soil to drain enough to get the right balance of water to air.  The old sponge demonstration is the iconic example of this.

Oxygen travels through air a thousand times faster then through water.  This is important as roots are surrounded by water, they sit in a film of water, so oxygen has to be absorbed by the water on the root and then enter the cell.  This film of water may only be in the order of 100th of a millimeter thick.  When roots are sitting in a saturated potting mix, the thickness of the film may now be in the order of millimeters to centimeters thick, it easy to see that oxygen is not going to get to the root cells quick enough to keep them going.  Roots have some capacity to cope with this of course, some better then others. During dry hot weather plants will extract the extra water and its not a problem, in wet cool weather, the saturated zone may last for weeks, roots won't cope with that. Hence the concern with decomposing soil components. 

Sorry for rambling a bit, been a long time since I visited this stuff.

Paul 

 


In pots the saturated zone   
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 05, 2014, 04:38 AM
Judy, Adair,

you seemed to have missed my apology, and are assuming that I read at this site religiously.
As John says, I am from the Tropics, and that can blind me to many topics on your side.

Remember I only came here to read about J.B.pine pruning and because our trees are already lush, needed no information on soil.
Once again, an apology for my stupidity.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 05, 2014, 04:55 AM
Paul,

as always, thank you for the information.

We bought the book -

Soil conditions and plant growth - E.W.Russell 10th Edition,

which you recommended. AND so you don't think this is lip service - pg 209 - mound builders are fungus growers, but in Australia they are not.

It will take a while to get through this book, as K also has a few weeklys as well - for example- New Scientist.

I have tried to leave enough basic information in this topic, so the readers, who only read can look up in the Library on soil information.
AND at times, I will make a fool of myself, or step on toes, but on our side we try to keep the cost of Bonsai, as hobby, down to almost zero, so others with less money can still enjoy it.
The gravel we use still has to be purchased, at $ 65.00 TT [ 10 US or so ] for 25 Kili / 50 lbs +
[ apologies - We went metric since 1970, but the North Americans didn't, so I keep trying to convert and am often too lazy to use the tables on Google.]

It would probably help a good deal more if some science was added to the use of Akadama, other than it works or I don't care how it works, but I suspect that will be rectified by those to come.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Sorce on November 05, 2014, 05:00 AM
It's not the soil.
It's the watering.

It's not the oxygen.
It's the watering.

It's not the care.
It's the attention.

It's not the Sponge.
It's the Patrick.
And wouldn't it be nice if squirrels had fish bowls on their heads?

One could water in more compost to the mix to simulate the great property of Akadama.
As Anthony does.

The hydro version of this arguement would go....
My water is wetter than yours.

Explain the vigorous rampant growth of nursery potted trees. Of course. They grow them in Akadama and secretly plant them into "nursery soil" when you turn your back at the register.

Let's start a "my tree is smarter than me" thread. And it's teacher is dirt.

I know you fellers just hold stock in Akadama......

Soon, us Great Lakers will be shipping pails of water to California.....it will be more expensive than Akadama. Stock in this company, as well as a bridge, will be available soon.....

Sorry for rambling a bit, been a long time since I visited this stuff.  ;)

Science Rules!

Sorce

Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 05, 2014, 06:36 AM
Ha ha Sorce,

you may not have seen - The Air Pots - from Scotland, made from waste plastic and boy do they make roots efficient.

The Tamarind we grew it in, ended up with a wooden root core and bits of inorganic here and there.
I also believe that the nurseries are supposed to use 100% compost, and this is with really big trees. Youtube has the images.

What we also learnt [ went back and bought litre to 10 litre pots ] was the roots became more efficient, but ageing is unaffected.
We are presently testing air clay pots - ha ha ha. Results in writing after January 2nd.
Thoughts about bonsai shaped airpots that can be placed into a traditional pot for display.
Imagine having to root prune and tidy the core of those babies. Ha ha ha.

Probably akin to cutting a cake.

It's a new world, and one cannot get away with -
Sifu, how does this work ?
Shut up student, this is how we do it by tradition.

Understanding and the ability to explain is important, for the brighter and more inquistive minds, no matter the age of the body.
Tried to explain this with the Art practice versus Science [Restoration ] bit earlier

Bonsai - Horticulture - Biology - Soil Science .....................
Bonsai - Design ------ some form of Art training other than a triangle with bumps.

The topic is -------------------- Substitutes for Akadama
Substitutes listed ........
Health and density of branches / twiglets to be checked [ Akadama mix to Substitutes ]
5, 10, 20, 30 year ........................ checks.
Practices listed for both studies

Should be an interesting study.
Science Rules, but remember ------- Technology does not a Civilization make.
Good Day
Anthony

* I believe I saw the name of K.Murata linked with Akadama [ and probably Bio-Gold ]
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: M. Frary on November 05, 2014, 02:22 PM
I have found this useful for moving my trees around. I would like to patent it. I think I will call it a "wheel"
[/quote

  Don't you think you ought to give that back to Fred? Flintstone that is.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: akeppler on November 05, 2014, 02:50 PM
I don't think so. In light of recent events it looks ripe for reinventing.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on November 05, 2014, 08:14 PM
Ah, substrate conversations. Lile I said previously, please don't use akadama.

Thanks,
John
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Sorce on November 06, 2014, 06:06 AM
The latest shipment of Akadama was hijacked by pirates........  :D

           ¶
         ¶¶
       ¶¶¶     £
  \_____ll_____/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~/\~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Anthony on November 06, 2014, 06:29 AM
Sorce,

be careful teasing these guys. What is not being said, is simply, put up examples that will stun us Designwise, using the substitutes.

We have pines from seed at over 25 years, lush and so we know two things, one our simple soil mix works, two, we have to use pots with at least the base being porous, because of water retention in our rainy season. Even with 80 to 90 % of the soil being builder's gravel [ silica ], the rest is just compost.

As I also wrote previously, we have to try Adair's idea for soil removal. We have been advised by folk in Europe, China and Japan to go slowly, especially since we have no way of obtaining new trees save by seed or now, cuttings.
Which is why we are now focused on growing so many test victims.
It will probably be say 5 to 10 years before we get through the pruning situation.

We got long candles on command this year, much later than most folks, but long candles - Yahoooooooooo!!!!
Soon short needles.
Good Day
Anthony
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: Sorce on November 06, 2014, 10:44 AM
I have nothing but respect for all these folks!

I hope they know that.

Watch out for the shark!

Sorce
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on November 06, 2014, 10:34 PM
Talk about splitting hairs...

Sure, if you add some granite and charcoal, then the final mix will be slightly less than 1/3 akadama. Let's see, there are 16 cups in a gallon. So if you make up 5 gallons of 1/3 pumice/lava/akadama, that's a total of 80 cups, and each component equals 26.67 cups. If you now add 1 cup of granite and 1 cup of charcoal, you now have a total mix of 82 cups. There are still 26.67 cups of akadama in the mix, so 26.67/82 = 32.52% instead of 33.33%.

But what's the point again?

Chris

What's left of the brain is over-heating! ;)
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: SHIMA1 on November 06, 2014, 10:37 PM
I have found this useful for moving my trees around. I would like to patent it. I think I will call it a "wheel"
This is money on the island of Yap.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: fredman on November 18, 2014, 05:23 PM
I live in NZ. No baked clay allowed in. I did see "growstones" at the hardware store the other day but at $39.00 per 9L bag  :o
We do have an abundance of pumice so that is what I make do with.
My mix is mostly 1 1 1 pumice, composted pine bark and quarried granite. All roughly the same size 1/4 to 5/16.
To increase water holding I add some chopped sphagnum moss which is also in abundance here....
For my developing trees I use 5/1/1 pine bark, pumice and moss...
Works well for me.
Title: Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
Post by: John Kirby on November 22, 2014, 06:59 AM
Please don't use Akadama. Thanks.