...And so the mostly inorganic experiment begins

AaronThomas

Chumono
Messages
670
Reaction score
545
Location
Tucson, AZ
USDA Zone
8A
I will preface this post by saying this is an experiment that I know many of you will feel is not so much of an experiment because I know many of you have been growing in inorganic soil for years... but this is totally new to me and I'm kinda geeked!!! I am aware that its pretty well into the growing season and this is definitely not the most opportune time to start my experiment... however due to my poor soil choice this season my elms are not doing as well as they should be. The organic soil along with the granite and course sand used had become hydrophobic (think that's the correct term). Watering had become stressful and super frustrating.... and there are not enough medications to alleviate my obsessive-compulsive issues to allow me to wait till next season to remedy the situation.
With that being said, I have been PMing with a gentleman here in the nut house who has been way too kind in answering my multitude of noob questions.... I will not mention any names.;) But if your reading this, thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with me and turning my attention to the articles you forward on!!!!! I promise to be slightly less annoying in the future!
I feel I am in a bit of a different situation then most being that I live in the desert. With summers topping out at 115 with zero humidity, I'm trying to find the right amount of water retention and at the same time hoping to take some of the guess work out of watering.
I picked up two 5 gallon bucket of red lava at the gravel center here in town along with a bucket of pumice. After sifting the lava with an 1/8" sifter and a 1/4" sifter I was left with approximately 4 gallons of usable substrate (shitty return).... the pumice was pre-sifted at about 1/8" to 3/8" pieces.... the average size about 1/4". I'll mention I picked all this up for less then 10 bucks.:) Oh.... and all the components were washed after sifting.

But wait... there's more!!!

After reading articles which my friend sent me, I discovered there is a school of though that organic components, namely pine bark, weather it be composted (which it rarely is truly composted) or even orchid bark provides little to no value to bonsai soil. I learned in fact pine bark which isn't truly composted is usually acidic and while it is braking down it is leaching nitrogen into the soil. Orchid bark (redwood bark) however is not bad for roots but is according to the author... is benign... A lifeless particle of wood that will at some point break down but not before one would re-pot so leaching nitrogen is of little concern.
On my own... I found a few articles and postings by bonsai enthusiasts is in my neck of the woods (Tucson and Phoenix) that highly recommend the use of orchid bark as a soil ingredient for bonsai in the desert due to its ability to hold water.
Hence my experiment...... Sorry..... I'm sure I lost some of you.
I took 2 trees which I feel I could sacrifice to the bonsai gods should things not workout with the re-potting.
Below is a pic of the re-potted trees.... each one was washed of its old soil before re-potting. I figure the fact that they are elms and they are pretty resilient little trees is going to work in my favor... I have read that a gradual soil change is not necessary for elms like it is with some other trees...but we shall see.
The ugly tree in the even uglier maroon pot was re-potted using approximately 50% lava and 50% pumice. May have added just a bit more lava due to its smaller volume over the pumice.
The second tree (yeah my attempt at a semi cascade) is potted in 30% sifted orchid bark 35% lava and 35% pumice.
And that's all I got...2 trees isn't much of an experiment but ya gotta start some place.
Thoughts, criticisms, or corrections of my interpretation are very welcome... I can take it!!!!;)
Thanks reading...

IMG_4563.JPG

IMG_4561.JPG
 

milehigh_7

Mister 500,000
Messages
4,554
Reaction score
5,225
Location
Chandler, AZ
USDA Zone
Hot
Looks nearly perfect. If it were me I would drop the bark down to 15-20% but wait and see how it does.
 

Adair M

Pinus Envy
Messages
11,107
Reaction score
23,271
Location
NEGeorgia
USDA Zone
7a
If you need more moisture, you could put a layer of Chopped New Zealand spaghnum moss on top. Or use chopped Orchid Moss.
 

M. Frary

Bonsai Godzilla
Messages
13,574
Reaction score
20,157
Location
Mio Michigan
USDA Zone
4
If you need more moisture, you could put a layer of Chopped New Zealand spaghnum moss on top. Or use chopped Orchid Moss.
Maybe I've asked this but don't remember but why New Zealand sphagnum moss? Why not northern Michigan sphagnum moss? Moss from kiwi land better in some way?
 

fredman

Omono
Messages
1,910
Reaction score
2,363
Location
Wellington New Zealand
USDA Zone
9

markyscott

Masterpiece
Messages
4,449
Reaction score
11,744
Location
Houston, TX
USDA Zone
9A
Take extra care with that cascade pot. This may be counter-intuitive, but for the same soil volume tall pots hold much less water than shallow pots. This is because after the excess water drains out the bottom, you'll end up with higher water saturation near the bottom and lower on top right from the get go. So shallow pots retain more water.
 

aml1014

Masterpiece
Messages
3,662
Reaction score
5,711
Location
Albuquerque new mexico
USDA Zone
7b
You didn't lose me...
But by that line or a little after I thought it was @aml1014 !

Lol!

Elms!

Sorce
Man sorce you are pretty damn good. I actually do have obsessive compulsive disorder lol

On the soil note, I've done 50/50 orchid bark and pumice with awsome success. Orchid bark definitely is a good ingredient for us in the desert.

Aaron
 

GrimLore

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
8,502
Reaction score
7,332
Location
South East PA
USDA Zone
6b
Take extra care with that cascade pot. This may be counter-intuitive, but for the same soil volume tall pots hold much less water than shallow pots. This is because after the excess water drains out the bottom, you'll end up with higher water saturation near the bottom and lower on top right from the get go. So shallow pots retain more water.
Thoughts,
What he said is spot on and to control that a bit better I have in the past first filled the bottom half of tall vase like pots with stone. I then cover the stone with a couple of layers of landscape cloth and plant over the top. The cloth slows the drainage a bit and the roots are easier to control. That stone also helps stabilize the pot as the plant grows counteracting it being top heavy.

Grimmy
 

AaronThomas

Chumono
Messages
670
Reaction score
545
Location
Tucson, AZ
USDA Zone
8A
If you need more moisture, you could put a layer of Chopped New Zealand spaghnum moss on top. Or use chopped Orchid Moss.
Think I am definitely going to need to use that… In less than 12 hours the soil in both pots was bone dry. I could see this being a significant problem in the future LOL especially since it was only in the 70s last night.
 

AaronThomas

Chumono
Messages
670
Reaction score
545
Location
Tucson, AZ
USDA Zone
8A
I actually do have obsessive compulsive disorder
I wasn't kidding LOL maybe it has something to do with the name.
On the soil note, I've done 50/50 orchid bark and pumice with awsome success. Orchid bark definitely is a good ingredient for us in the desert.
I'm wondering if I may have to add more… I really already worried about how fast the ingredients dry out… And it's not even summer yet. I have no problem watering two times or even three times a day but any more than that I have a feeling is going to suck not only the moisture out of the soil but the fun of having trees.
 

AaronThomas

Chumono
Messages
670
Reaction score
545
Location
Tucson, AZ
USDA Zone
8A
How much for a 5 gallon bucket of either if I might ask?
You may!!!! A bucket of lava is $3 and a bucket of pumice is $4. Next time I'm there ill ask if I can use my sifter on sight.... Lots of waste with the lava.
 

AaronThomas

Chumono
Messages
670
Reaction score
545
Location
Tucson, AZ
USDA Zone
8A
don't know what "orchid bark" is
Orchid bark is red wood bark or at least the stuff I get is. I get it at Mesquite Valley..... Its sold by Black Gold and comes in bags of what they call fine which is 1/4" sizes and in bags of large but not sure of the size. Its all graded but need to be sifted to get out the dust. Its actually recommended by the Phoenix bonsai society.
 

GrimLore

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
8,502
Reaction score
7,332
Location
South East PA
USDA Zone
6b
I will Scott thank you… I did put some gravel at the bottom but perhaps I should somehow reduce the size of the drainage hole.
No, don't let water pool in the gravel at all, serious. What I described makes a shallower amount of substrate and allows to drain more slowly to the stone which drains quickly. I have done that when I could not find a shallow pot that fits good in a tall one.

Grimmy
 

Similar threads


Top Bottom