Akadama questions

radsnell

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Just ordered Akadama for the first time to add to my soil mix. Having never seen Akadama in person, I was surprised at how soft it is. It crumbled when I pinched it, almost like a piece of dog food. Is that normal, or is something wrong with mine? I expected to be firmer. It seems like this would break down pretty easy over time. Just chop-sticking it into the pot will break it up some. Could it be that it is softer because of high humidity right now in south Louisiana?

Thanks,
Boyd
 

radsnell

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It is the medium grain (1/4"-3/8") product from Dallas Bonsai Garden. If it stays this soft, is that a problem. Would you not use it?
 

buddhamonk

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I use akadame in my soil mix and go back and forth with hard vs soft. Soft won't last as long but plenty for one or two growing season. Just make just you sreen all the small stuff out before using it.
 

GOZTEK

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i started using akadama this year, mine is very hard but i was a bit amused to see it had quite large pebbles in it, when i usually see it, it is not that big. So i had to sieve it in different pieces so i can put the large pieces in the bottom of the pots.
 

rockm

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There are many grades of Akadama. Some are fired, others (the soft ones) are not.

The soft akadama will break down over time. Cold weather cycles--freezing and thawing--will accelerate that process. The thing that makes Akadama valuable is its porosity and permeability to water. It can hold alot of water, yet doesn't remain soggy. Roots love it. You do have to be a bit careful in working with it. Sifting it too much will destroy the particles and produce expensive dust. Sift only enough to get rid of the most obvious dust.

Fired akadama will not break down. It is the consistency of brick mulch, or even pumice. It can be used just like those two ingredients.
 

radsnell

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So my take so far is go ahead and use it? I just wanted to make sure that it doesn't crumble and give me timy particles throughout the pot that would clog up things worse than before. I'm going to Akadama in my mix to get the soil more free-draining. Here in south Louisiana, my biggest problem is getting the trees to dry out. Over-watering/root rot are issues for me.

Boyd
 

Rick Moquin

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So my take so far is go ahead and use it? I just wanted to make sure that it doesn't crumble and give me timy particles throughout the pot that would clog up things worse than before. I'm going to Akadama in my mix to get the soil more free-draining. Here in south Louisiana, my biggest problem is getting the trees to dry out. Over-watering/root rot are issues for me.

Boyd

What other components do you plan on using in your mix?
 

rockm

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Akadama is typically used for conifers that require well-drained, yet mosture-retaining soil, but it can be used with deciduous trees too. The mix you use can depend on a number of things, like species, local climate, etc. It's possible to make a soil that's TOO free draining for some species.


If I were you, I would consult other long-time bonsai growers in La. about what they use. They've already done the legwork on this and would probably be more than happy to share their experience with you. There are almost a half dozen clubs in your state you could contact:

http://www.absbonsai.org/USAClubs.html#LA

Unfired akadama does break down over time. It is not a cure-all miracle product.
 
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radsnell

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I have always used 50/50 haydite/pine bark mulch for deciduous and 60/40 haydite/pine bark mulch for the evergreens. I will be incorporating the akadama, mostly in place of the pine bark mulch. My deciduous mix will be about 50 haydite/30 akadama/20 pine bark mulch. A small amount of charcoal will also be incorporated. Evergreen mix will be about 60 haydite/20 akadama/20 pine bark mulch.

Boyd
 

rockm

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Your mix doesn't have enough grit and/or sharp edged particles, I'd say, but I'm not growing pines in Louisiana.

I've heard that Shane Cary who grows down that way uses volcanics (pumice, drystall) and baby orchid bark in his soil mixes for pines.

As I see your mix recipes from my perspective here in Va., I don't see any smaller grittier component to prevent the others from adhering to one another. I've used what you're using, only I add a third more of swimming pool filter sand--which is quartz sand about 1/8" or a little less n diameter. It's irregularly shaped and uniform in particle size--which is smaller than the haydite and baby orchid bark particles in the mix. It tends to open up more pore space between those particles....
 

boon

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here is the link to Chris about what we used
http://www.bonsaikc.com/bonsai_soil.htm

i develop and use this mix for over 15 years.

my student who live farthest south is Florida and farthest north is Ohio. they use this mix. their trees grow well in this mix.

use soft akadama. it will break down but the other materials do not. they will hold akadama in place till you repot again. even after it break down, it does not lose water absorbability. it just slow down. roots will go through akadama and split out into more numerous feeder roots.

key point is you need to sift the small particles (dust) out.
hard akadama is just like lava rock.

i wrote a part of article on soil mix in American Bonsai society Magazine. you can check it out.

it is your choice

good roots = healthy trees = long life
 

Rick Moquin

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my student who live farthest south is Florida and farthest north is Ohio. they use this mix. their trees grow well in this mix.

Boon,

It has been said that by many enthusiasts that live in colder climates that Akadama (especially the soft type) does not fair well when exposed to the freeze and thaw cycle of their winters, resulting in a total collapse of the substrate, requiring yearly repots. Have you received any feedback from people from those regions?

good roots = healthy trees = long life

Absolutely!
 

boon

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Boon,

It has been said that by many enthusiasts that live in colder climates that Akadama (especially the soft type) does not fair well when exposed to the freeze and thaw cycle of their winters, resulting in a total collapse of the substrate, requiring yearly repots. Have you received any feedback from people from those regions?



Absolutely!

we do not use akadama alone. at least i recommend to add hyuga =pumice into it. akadama will breakdown but it will not completely lose porosity. water will go through it slower.
if you have larger conifer, you do not have to repot every year.
if you have deciduous trees and small trees, you might have to repot annually. roots will fill in the pot quickly. healthy trees will need regular relpotting schedule.

in northern japan, they use akadama only. hard particle can cause damage to the roots when the water turn to ice. we know that water will expand when it turn to ice. hard particle will crush the roots. water can also break the pots.

through out japan, they face the same problem we have. it freezes and thaw in winter. they keep the tree growing healthy using akadama.

i told people who have difficulty finding akadama. use pumice and lava. if you cannot find those, then use course sand and large perlite(last resorce).

stay away from organic material in the potting mix. it will decompose. the process require nitrogen and create heat. the decomposing process will kill some feeder roots also. in time, you will have problem with root rot.

tree need organic fertilizer to grow healthy and strong.
 

rockm

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At the risk of getting into a religious ;-) argument over soils...

Here on the east coast (and Gulf Coast), ingredients that seem common and inexpensive on the West Coast can be extremely hard to come by not to mention very expensive. Akadama, when you can find a reliable supply, is roughly $40 for 30 lbs or so. Pumice in smaller granule sizes is mostly unavailable--or about the same price as Akadama. Same for decomposed granite...While all of these are readily available in Cal., since it's 3,000 miles closer to the source, or in the case of decomposed granite, it IS the source.

If you live in the Mississippi Delta in La., or in East Texas volcanic rocks (or ANY rocks) are not all that common. They have to be trucked in.

Unless we Easterners are potting a really special individual tree, or a bunch of small trees, Akadama and pumice isn't usually in the cards. I know if I potted all my trees in a mix of either, I'd spend A LOT of money that might otherwise pay my mortgage.

That leaves what works and what's not hugely expensive--turkey grit, swimming pool filter sand, baby orchid bark (I understand about inorganic mixes. I've tried them. They work, but there are issues with them--they dry out EXTREMELY quickly. A windy day can cost you a tree or trees if you've not around to keep up with watering...), haydite, composted pine bark are all available at low (er) cost than pumice and Akadama. All work pretty well, at least in the 15 years or so I've been using them.

I know all you Californians and West Coast bonsai folks roll your eyes whenever some Easterner says this, but, bottom line, the East Coast isn't California--or Japan. We have a climate (s) all our own, from Florida to Maine and from Illinois to Texas, it's pretty diverse. What works one place may not work in another...
 

ovation22

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I don't want to debate or dispute either, but I will offer my experience.

I've been using the "Boon Mix" in central KY since I met and began studying with him several years ago. The Lava is trucked in by the pallet from Colorado by our club. Bags are pretty inexpensive and the club even makes a small profit on each sale. It's still a better price than is offered by many retailers.

For Pumice I've been using Drystall. At $12 or so for a 40 lbs bag I find it to be worth the price. The particle size is a little small, but most of my trees are in the small to medium size range.

Double Line brand Akadama is by far the most expensive component for me, but if you buy in bulk it helps break the cost some. Find a few others to go in on a pallet and the shipping can be split amongst the group.

The local Southern States carries Chicken Grit grower size, which is decomposed granite. And, the local Lowes even carries small bags of horticultural charcoal.

That seems to work well for me, in my climate, with my watering, with my fertilizing, with my repotting schedule.
 
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bwaynef

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... but, bottom line, the East Coast isn't California--or Japan. We have a climate (s) all our own, ...

Seems I read somewhere that South Carolina's climate is a close approximation of Japan's. Doesn't make lava any easier to come by though.
 

Tachigi

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Seems I read somewhere that South Carolina's climate is a close approximation of Japan's. Doesn't make lava any easier to come by though.

I disagree, most components boon and John mention are easily attainable on the east coast. It also can be very inexpensive (relatively speaking) especially if you live somewhere near the I 95 corridor.

http://www.northstarbonsai.com/Bonsai_Express.html

Proper soil components in tandem is fundamental and key to success in development the health of bonsai.
 

bwaynef

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I disagree, most components boon and John mention are easily attainable on the east coast.

I think you missed the point. Even though my climate might be analogous-ish to Japan's, the soil components aren't as readily available as they are IN JAPAN and they're certainly not as cheap as they'd be in Japan. I've got all the components I need for Boon Mix™, but I had to do some searching.

Since you brought up your website, why don't you post the prices of the boon mix components. I can't fathom the prices will be close to the price of the components that rockm mentioned.
 
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