Substrate mix; Same for all? Species specified?

Ingvill

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I've been doing a lot of reading up on substrate mixes and there's one aspect of it that I'm left wondering about.
It may be a really dumb question, but as a newbie I hope to get away with it :p

When you guys have decided on a substrate mix you wanna use in general, do you then;
- Use it for all your trees regardless of what is "100 % optimal" for different species?
- Make just a few additional mixes that suits each big group of trees well?
- Make "the perfect" mix for each and every kind of tree?

I will be repotting many different types of trees come spring time, and I would love to hear your experiences or views regarding this, so I can prepare properly.

Thank you for any input you guys may have :)
 

Anthony

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We use a simple mix, of 2 or 3 ingredients.
The inorganic is at 5 mm.
If we need more moisture , apart from the organic, we have a
inorganic that can hold moisture in itself.

I have left it as inorganic - organic - and size, so you can easily
find what you need in Norway.

An inorganic that is non porous
An inorganic that is able to hold water [ and fertiliser in solution ]
An organic that holds water and fertiliser.

You should not need more than 30 % by volume [ spade as a measure ]
of the organic, for moisture retention.

Now just match the term - inorganic to something in Norway.
As well as organic to something easily available in Norway.
Plant nurseries can be very helpful.
Good Day
Anthony
 

AZbonsai

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I am new at this as well. I currently have 35 trees that I have in pond baskets. I use diatomite (60%) organics (20%) perlite (20%) in these baskets for all plants. I try to aim for consistency in the mix so I know how its going to drain and how much water it retains.
 

Paradox

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For my large training pots, I use a basic mix of pumice and lava. For smaller training pots and regular bonsai pots, I use lava, pumice and akadama in equal amounts.

This is the basic mix for pines and junipers. If I find the plant wants more moisture, I'll increase the akadama.
 

RobertB

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From my limited experience there is a balance with building your soil mix for you and for specific plant species. A soil that my say be best for a juniper, might not be the best for a trident maple or azalea. It seems like apart, from spending lots of money on high quality soil components on the internet (akadama, pumice (if you cannot get any locally), lava), its best to search what's available to you, understand how it performs (perform some water absorption tests, etc) and try different things. Remember some plants like to be dryer than others. Also, you have to determine how frequently you can water, how your local climate affects your soil mix. There is a lot to it. If you are new to bonsai, buy a lot of cheaper plants (small ones of the types you want to grow) and try your different mixes and see how they perform. I've been doing this for several years and have about honed in on a mix that works for me that it pretty easy for me to obtain in the southeastern US. Of coarse, I am still planning to try some new ingredients this spring.

Another great option is to join a local club. They will be able to help you out the most.
 

Paulpash

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3 mixes - heavy, standard & free draining.

Most organic I go for things like wisteria & potentilla is 15% (heavy). At the other end of the spectrum is white pine which is in 60% pumice.

Common ingredients are

Akadama
Kyodama
Pumice
Lava
Moler
Coir fibrous
 

AutumnWolf13

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I like to research the tree/plant and the type of environment the tree is indigenous to, and build a soil to match. If a plant came from a moist forest floor with lots of leaf litter, more organics. If it comes from a gravely crag on a mountain top, more grit and free draining.
 

ghues

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I like to research the tree/plant and the type of environment the tree is indigenous to, and build a soil to match. If a plant came from a moist forest floor with lots of leaf litter, more organics. If it comes from a gravely crag on a mountain top, more grit and free draining.
Not trying to start another soil war.......But that’s a huge assumption, a tree growing in a pot is way different than in its natural environment. Also, trees can grow (sustain life but not Vigor) in a wide assortment of “native soils” from bogs to well drained sandy loams.
Perhaps for Ingvill’s help you could elaborate on what your definition on “more” is.....which isn’t very specific or helpful to her initial question.
 

Shima

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Not trying to start another soil war.......But that’s a huge assumption, a tree growing in a pot is way different than in its natural environment. Also, trees can grow (sustain life but not Vigor) in a wide assortment of “native soils” from bogs to well drained sandy loams.
Perhaps for Ingvill’s help you could elaborate on what your definition on “more” is.....which isn’t very specific or helpful to her initial question.
I admire your courage! Don flame-proof suit! ;)
 

KiwiPlantGuy

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I've been doing a lot of reading up on substrate mixes and there's one aspect of it that I'm left wondering about.
It may be a really dumb question, but as a newbie I hope to get away with it :p

When you guys have decided on a substrate mix you wanna use in general, do you then;
- Use it for all your trees regardless of what is "100 % optimal" for different species?
- Make just a few additional mixes that suits each big group of trees well?
- Make "the perfect" mix for each and every kind of tree?

I will be repotting many different types of trees come spring time, and I would love to hear your experiences or views regarding this, so I can prepare properly.

Thank you for any input you guys may have :)
Hi Ingvill,
I am trialing a bonsai mix this year ( my first) in some Azaleas. Probably not acidic enough for them but here’s my recipe

30% Kitty litter ( 100% Zeolite here)
50% Pine bark chunks over 4 mm
20% Pumice (2-4 mm) - only one I could source.
My guess is Akadama is really expensive, as is a natural DE at 25kg @ $75 NZD.

Anyway first impression after first 3 months of 9 month season is that it’s water holding is too great (booo) and I will adjust this differently for deciduous vs conifers.
Hope that vaguely helps.
Charles
 

M. Frary

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I like to research the tree/plant and the type of environment the tree is indigenous to, and build a soil to match. If a plant came from a moist forest floor with lots of leaf litter, more organics. If it comes from a gravely crag on a mountain top, more grit and free draining.
How many trees around you are growing in akadama?
 

AutumnWolf13

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Not trying to start another soil war.......But that’s a huge assumption, a tree growing in a pot is way different than in its natural environment. Also, trees can grow (sustain life but not Vigor) in a wide assortment of “native soils” from bogs to well drained sandy loams.
Perhaps for Ingvill’s help you could elaborate on what your definition on “more” is.....which isn’t very specific or helpful to her initial question.
I should have been a little clearer, I didn't mean to use an exact replica of the native soil, but an equivalent potting mix of the tree's air, water holding and pH preferences. I didn't put any specifics in because I don't want to be in a soil war either. Just saying I would not use the same soil mix for a Conifer that I would a Japanese Maple. Ingvill's Question was "do you use one soil or species specific?" I do the latter. As for the specific ingredients and their percentages...I'll leave that to people with "messages" counts higher than 25!
 

Guy Vitale

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It's very easy to overthink soil, whatever it is you use, you should be able to use those components across the board. You can modify water holding capacity by the particle size, smaller holding more water, larger holding less water. Also changing the percentage of the components, if you need to hold more water, use more of the water retentive components, less if less water is desired. Coming up with custom soil recipes for individual trees can be overkill.
 

GrimLore

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I will be repotting many different types of trees come spring time, and I would love to hear your experiences or views regarding this, so I can prepare properly.
May I ask if you are wanting Organic for growing or Inorganic for Finishing?

Grimmy
 

Guy Vitale

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So I've been transitioning to a less organic, larger particle size soil. My more developed trees get an APL soil, smaller grain for smaller trees, a bit more Akadama for trees that prefer more moisture, less Akadama for conifers. Trees transitioning from nursery or field I use an unmeasured mix of lava, growstone, decomposed granite, and some decomposed pine bark. I use this for transitioning trees because I don't want to waste the good stuff on under developed trees needing a larger container.
 

Ingvill

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Thank you all for your replies so far, a lot of good information here, and it's very much appreciated :)

Grimmy;
I have young trees that needs conditions for growing at the moment.
The trees I plan to buy when our bonsai store stocks up new trees in the spring, will also be mostly young.
Maybe with a couple of exceptions, depending on the quality of the available trees versus their price.
A little more "developed/established" tree can easily cost 1000 USD and up, so I won't be buying too many of those :-D
Every single tree needs new substrate next year as the substrate they were bought with, and will be bought with in the future, isn't good enough.

The trees I currently have, and plan to buy in spring, are all different species with a little different needs.
Which is why I was wondering how species specified I should aim my substrate mix to be.
I was beginning to get a little freaked out about making "30" different mixes:p

All the typically used substrate ingredients are available in Norway.
Even Akadama, which I think is the most expensive one (about 37 USD for 14 litres / 2.9 gallons).
I have not yet fully decided on which ingredients and which ratio to try out first, I'm reading & reading up on it and it's a bit mind boggling :-D

Judging from your replies so far, I am thinking I could get away with making maybe a handfull of different mixes?
Like making one mix for elms & their similars, one mix for junipers & their similars, etc ?
 

Ingvill

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Rnlabarnes:
Thankfully the climate where I live should be excellent for a lot of species, so luckily I don't think I need to worry about the climate too much when it comes to choosing my substrate mixes;
- it's rarely too humid, too wet or too dry, and it's never ever too hot by US standards :p
- on them few really nice, hot sunny summer days, we may reach 25 C / 77 F at peak hours.
- on that one, super rare, scorchingly hot ,summer day, when we reach 29 C / 84 F for a few hours, the whole nation passes out from heat stroke :-D
- outdoor trees in winter; their roots will be protected using garden bark and packed snow as insulation around the whole pot.

But if I am wrong, and I should indeed do something specific with my substrate mix regarding my climate, please let me know :)
 

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