Suitable bonsai soil on a budget

Underdog

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Hello Gearhead. I'm with you. New but also read this site enough to know this is a hot topic.
I'm cheap and my trees are as well. I'm using Napa Oil dry and potting soil. Some moss and bark too.
Smaller pots and closer to bonsai material I sift both. Cheap and easy to get. There are as many better products as opinions on this subject but this seems to be working for me.
 

ysrgrathe

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Without getting into soil wars, I'll state that in California you can get pumice and lava rock for a very low cost -- these are great components. If you look up Boon's mix you will see these comprise most of it. Pine fines are another very low cost component that is popular with some for deciduous trees. Look up some recipes that include these ingredients.
 

Paradox

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Also trying to avoid yet another soil war thread, so I wont get into specifics. You can research and figure that out on your own.
There is no substitute for good bonsai soil. The experienced bonsai hobbyists and the pros use what they use for a reason. As Brian Van Fleet has said on numerous occasions, usually when something goes wrong with a tree, 90% of the time its the roots and the soil.
Yes good bonsai soil isn't cheap, but you have a huge advantage being on the west coast. My solution to expensive soil components is fewer, better trees and reusing what I can.
 

fredman

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Nah everybody loves a good soil war.....:p Soil particles is like your weapon, when you go to war...!
Most wars are won simply because of better weapons. A good soil war puts all the weapons on display for the recruits to evaluate and choose from. All the experienced warlords started out with an array of weapons. They learnt from lots of wars what their best weapons are. When they draw their weapons, and the particles starts flying, that's when one has to be sharp, quiet and observant.... That's when you learn !!! ;)
 

mwar15

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I bought 1/2yd or pumice and a 1/2yrd lava cinders for $35 and then I built a sifter out of pallets bought $5 worth of screen and have more soil than I could use for a couple years. Just add whatever organic material that you want if you want.
 

Alain

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First of all: are your trees bonsai or pre-bonsai?

I only have pre-bonsai for the moment so my trees are in a cheap soil recommend by Brent from evergreengardenswork: 8 parts perlite/8 parts pine bark/1 part sphagnum moss + osmocote.

If one day one of my tree makes it to the bonsai stage then I'll get real bonsai soil for it...

That sounds to me like a cheap idea. :)
(but if you are really hooked bonsai, like every other dependencies, isn't cheap anyway)
 

Underdog

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Didn't think to look where you're from. I can't get pumice and lava is pricey even landscape. I pick out the smalls for my plants and put the big ones around the house.


New Gearheads add soil.
I still have one JapMap in 100% Napa Oil Dry and looking great. All leafed out and making me wonder if It should have been cut back a little. I'll let it live... It's in for the weekend on the shelf. Drys fast tho... gonna cover with moss this spring it think. Crappy pic but it's middle on shelf by window. Lotsa red leaves looking happy.
 

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michaelj

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A lot of people don't like perlite because if you use a lot of it, when you water, it can float to the top, but it's a good ingredient and roots do well in it.
 

markyscott

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You're an hour from Fresno. PM Al (Smoke) and get his advice on what works in your area and where to get it at a good price. You have tons of choices where you live.
 

KennedyMarx

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A lot of people don't like perlite because if you use a lot of it, when you water, it can float to the top, but it's a good ingredient and roots do well in it.

I've had really good results with perlite. Once I found horticultural perlite with larger particle sizes where I could screen the fines out to get a larger uniform particle it was a game changer. I don't think I would use it in a bonsai pot unless it were a deeper pot where I could put at least 1/4" of regular soil mix above the perlite, but in nursery containers it's an essential for me now. If I had local access to pumice I would use it instead, but the perlite is way cheaper where I am.
 

GroveKeeper

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A lot of people don't like perlite because if you use a lot of it, when you water, it can float to the top, but it's a good ingredient and roots do well in it.

I haven't noticed the floating issue with coarse horticultural perlite. I think the particles are just big enough that the water flows through before it can create a water table. Also, a solution to the floating is just to top dress with another material. I use wood chips because they're free and it's good for the environment.
 

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