Author Topic: Substitutes for ...Akadama  (Read 45857 times)

bwaynef

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #30 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.
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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.

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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?


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This group, the Boon followers,
*groan*

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...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?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #31 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.
 

dre

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #32 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
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #33 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. 
 

sekibonsai

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #34 on: February 11, 2014, 09:47 PM »
I just bought some to start playing with it.  I think Al Keppler uses it?
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #35 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. 
 

bwaynef

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #36 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.
 

akeppler

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #37 on: February 12, 2014, 08:09 PM »
Al said:
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   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:
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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/

 

akeppler

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #38 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.....
 

akeppler

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #39 on: February 13, 2014, 01:21 AM »
Forgot to show the dish and holes.
 

Herman

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #40 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
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 01:08 AM by Herman »
 

Leo in NE Illinois

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #41 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?
 

Joshua Hanzman

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #42 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

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
 

Joshua Hanzman

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #43 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...
 

coh

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #44 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