Author Topic: Substitutes for ...Akadama  (Read 45887 times)

bwaynef

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Substitutes for ...Akadama
« 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 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. 

  • Clay-based
  • Larger, even particle size
  • High(er) CEC (...maybe that's a given due to it being clay)
  • Doesn't break down in 1 season

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.warhammersupply.com/images/stories/virtuemart/product/14215.png





ps.  Zoo Med's HydroBalls seems to be another similar product.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #1 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.
 

0soyoung

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #2 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.
 

akeppler

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #3 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.
 

Don Blackmond

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 08:20 AM »
Good post Al.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #5 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.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 11:44 AM by John Kirby »
 

BoneSci

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #6 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
 

akeppler

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #7 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!!
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #8 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.
 

Dave Murphy

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #9 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 :).
 

Chrisl

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #10 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. 
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #11 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.
 

Dave Murphy

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #12 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.
 

Adair M

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2013, 07:29 AM »
Thanks! I've checked my local feed stores with no luck.  Everyone uses pine shavings here.
 

augustine

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #14 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