Have you made your own soil?

Zerik

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I was just wondering if I could make my own soil with things I could buy at Lowe's or home depot? If any of you have seen my other post you know I plan on collecting some trees this spring and well I'm going to need a lot of soil for them and if I buy the pre mixed stuff it's going to get pricey fast so I'm looking for a cheaper route and making my own but I'm not really sure what I should use. I did a quick Google search and well each site said different things and some said to use one thing while others said not to and well my head's spinning lol.
 

Tieball

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What you’ve discovered through your Google search is that there is no perfect right answer and there’s no perfectly wrong answer for soil. Other than please don’t plant your trees in muck or flower potting soil. Really.

Click on the Resources tab above here on Bonsainut. There are several knowledgeable-quality information articles about soil. These are from experienced Bonsai people here. A fundamental key component in the soil is drainage and oxygen exchange. Read about it. There are numerous components to use but most will not come from a Home Depot or Lowes. There are common substrate ingredients you can buy in bulk bags. Some ingredients depend on what you’re doing, how much moisture retention is desired and what kind of climate you are in. It will be very helpful if you add your general location to your profile along with your climate zone.

I mix my own soil all the time. I do start with quality ingredients that work for my needs, the tree needs and my budget.

Don’t over-collect so much that you cannot focus on the health of the trees. Know what you’re digging....and why it should be good. Read about trunk chopping and root pruning...essentials if collecting. You probably already know this information.
 

sorce

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Consistency is key for me....

You can find stuff at the depot, but you might not find the same product next year, or the year after...

Thats why I use 8822.

It's always available, always the same, and always works!

Sorce
 

jeanluc83

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my head's spinning lol
Welcome to the great soil debate.

For your reading enjoyment:
Some facts about bonsai soil
Introductory Soil Physics
Inorganic Soil Reference Sheet

When it really comes down to it trees will grow in anything but your choice in substrate will make your life and your trees life easier.

Add your location to your profile. Most of the advice you will get on trees is dependent on your regional climate. Also some ingredients for your soil mix are easily available in some areas in others they are not.
 

rockm

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I;m going to be a jerk (which I kind of am anyway ;-))--I think you're wading in a bit deep right off the bat and setting yourself up for failure with collecting trees.

Successful collection requires a bit of understanding not only of the trees being collected, but of their immediate and longer term requirements after they're dug up and put in a container.

It's not simply a matter of "dig it up and presto-change-o--live bonsai" Far from it. The shovel (and shovels are the best thing to use to collect) is only the first step in a longer process. Soil is an integral part of that process. Soil needs for collected trees can vary depending on the tree's species, age and local growing situation. Conifers require faster draining soil than deciduous species. Soil that dries out quickly may be good for a pine, but will kill a hornbeam...

If I were you, I'd get some experience with growing already containerized bonsai for a while, then turn to collection.
 

TN_Jim

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@Zerik I really jumped in last year with these exact same questions. This is where I’m at today...affordable products in my neighborhood..

Lowe’s
Bag of red lava rock, ~$3
-It’s usually wet because the bags sit outside. I let it sit in the sun until thouroughly dry, or pour it into two big flat pans and bake in oven on 500* until obviously dry.

Dump into tub or bucket and smash down with sledgehammer till I’m tired of hammering, sift fines repeat..I can process a bag in about an hour after dried. Work right!!?..$3.00

Lowes
56L bag of soil conditioner ( it’s pine bark )
Sift fines

Lowes
Bag of pea gravel, ~$3.
This is not ideal. It’s a good size, works as a very large grain sand, allows drainage, but has no porosity cation exchange etc..

Lowes
Bag of perlite, $more than 3, ouch (optional, arguably not a must or even necessarily an ideal component..wish we had cheap pumice in TN)
Sift fines

NAPA
Floor-Dry #8822, ~$4
Sift fines. Do not breath this (dust)..at all, use the wind. Dust is essentially glass powder and you will die, right there, first bag.

I believe these components are enough to make a good mix. Omit perlite perhaps and get a huge tub at Lowe’s for $10..you just spent $25, and can mix a bunch of soil.
The ratio of mix, I can’t tell you what’s best. How often do you want to water? I aim for 2/3 inorganic at least.

As for digging up trees, I say go for it. Expect to kill. I’ve been digging what many call ‘trash trees’ in ditches and places where they are not wanted anyway, and have learned so much over the past year from mistakes. If I hadn’t jumped in, I wouldn’t have learned. The YouTube channel, Appalachian Bonsai, is super for harvesting techniques. I’ve learned that if I’m going to dig up a tree, I’m going to treat that tree like I’m picking up a sleeping newborn from a crib. Don’t cut corners. Sometimes it’s better to put the dirt back and leave the tree be.
 

bonsaidave

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Yup you should get an N95 dust mask and maybe protective eye wear. You don't want a bunch of hard dust getting your lungs and eyes.

I use both when sifting to be safe.
 

sparklemotion

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Re: perlite

My local hydroponics supply shop sells perlite (fine to coarse, your choice) for $6/20 qt, or $25/4 cubic ft (120 qts).

So if you're unhappy with big box store prices, don't forget to check out our friends who grow really nice *ahem* tomatoes.
 

TN_Jim

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sparklemotion, I can not thank you enough. I called up my local hydroponics retailer earlier and they have two cubic ft. of perlite for $18, and to my doubled complete astonishment one cubic ft. pumice ~3/8" for $16. Pumice..are you kidding me? This find is a game change. However, he called their pumice, vulcanite...and swore it was pumice. "What is that, vulcanite?"..."It is the name of the pumice the brand sells."

Is this really, pumice, or comparable? Did I mishear the name of the product?

Also, I very much agree with @[B]rockm[/B], getting trees not from the wild is perhaps vital..and if you have to take the chance on experimenting with a wild tree, please do your homework. Your non-harvested tree may help you define any issues (there will likely be issues) tremendously more accurately than the myriad of problems you may have (there will be confusing issues) with one dug up .
 

Zerik

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Thank you everyone. I will check aroimd tomorrow and see what I can come up with. Also the only reason I'm harvesting these trees is cause the state is coming in and dredging out the stream so they will all be cut down and mulched so I figured I'd try and save a few if possible.

Thanks again :)
 

TN_Jim

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Damn. Save as many as possible! The ones you don't end up with room for, replant in the riparian area or not. Trash bags go a long way. Hopefully the state is doing some good in your stream.
Good hunting!
 

Zerik

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Well I have a huge back yard with nothing but grass and I only work 15 days a month so I have time and space for a lot of trees and in my opinion the state is ruining something great. Ive put a lot of work into getting the area to look nice and encourage wild life to live there. Sigh soon it'll all be gone till nature rebuilds it's self but that'll take years.
 

sparklemotion

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However, he called their pumice, vulcanite...and swore it was pumice. "What is that, vulcanite?"..."It is the name of the pumice the brand sells."

Is this really, pumice, or comparable? Did I mishear the name of the product?
Could he have said "volcanic"? Because pumice comes from volcanos. Vulcanite seems like a totally different thing.
 

GrimLore

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vul·can·ite
ˈvəlkəˌnīt/
noun
noun: vulcanite
  1. hard black vulcanized rubber.
 

TN_Jim

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Rubber, exactly. I hope I misheard, or that he wasn't referring to some kind of fullers earth product ala: http://forum.bcss.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=53532
Guess I will find out on Tuesday when they reopen. If it really is pumice for that cheap here, I'll throw the fines in the air and do a cartwheel through them.
 

TN_Jim

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Re: perlite

My local hydroponics supply shop sells perlite (fine to coarse, your choice) for $6/20 qt, or $25/4 cubic ft (120 qts).

So if you're unhappy with big box store prices, don't forget to check out our friends who grow really nice *ahem* tomatoes.
@sparklemotion, this perlite was $17, again thank you much for this and the thought initiative inspired.

The pumice (“mostly 3/8”” from the wareh
 

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