Suitable bonsai soil on a budget

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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)
My cedar, and live oak are pre-bonsai
 

dick benbow

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I find buying the best soil as a group helps reduce costs and provides excellent KNOWN results. wasteing years in experimentation, can be more costly in the end run... In trees and monetary endeavors.

a similar topic that I enjoy is special mineral additives purchased with the intent of doing good but often leads to introducing harmful amounts of some type
of poison to the detriment of the trees. The problem occurs because nothing is known as to what the local water contains. ( needs to be tested) one I'm very familar with is copper.

BTW, when wood chips break down they rob the soil of nitrogen to accomplish the process.
 

markyscott

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About what size should I screen the material too? I have plenty different sizes from my prospecting gear. 1/2 inch down to 100 mesh.

Dispose of anything smaller than 1/8". 1/4"ish is ideal. Be sure to contact Smoke by PM - he'll be able to point you exactly where to go in your area.
 
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This guy has nice trees and opinions on substrates that make sense to me.
I agree this seems smart. I just wonder, though, does it allow for liquid fertilizer? I suppose you could have a hose fixture which applies the liquid, but then when showering plants, can the leaf canopies tolerate being drenched with the liquid fertilizer?
 
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0soyoung

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I agree this seems smart. I just wonder, though, does it allow for liquid fertilizer? I suppose you could have a hose fixture which applies the liquid, but then when showering plants, can the leaf canopies tolerate being drenched with the liquid fertilizer?
I guess that you've not heard of 'foliar feeding'!

Loosely, the foliage is as tolerant as the roots are, maybe a bit more.
 

augustine

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I second the suggestion of perlite and bark for prebonsai.

I also agree that there is no substitute for good soil mix.
 
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I love his 'cut the crap' attitude.


Everything doesnt have to be complicated, expensive, and exotic.


My kind of bonsai artist!

This guy has nice trees and opinions on substrates that make sense to me.

I'm curious whether vermiculite would be considered a 'modern substrate'... guessing yes, if it's as simple as being inorganic. Are its water retention and dissipation favorable for this method?
 

DeeJay

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I second the suggestion of perlite and bark for prebonsai.

I also agree that there is no substitute for good soil mix.
How about a compost mix, that drains pretty good?
Maybe add some small pebbly mix to aid drainage?
I like the idea of perlite.
 

Paradox

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How about a compost mix, that drains pretty good?
Maybe add some small pebbly mix to aid drainage?
I like the idea of perlite.

Will stay too wet.
When I started bonsai, I used pure sand and gravel with no compost in it whatsoever and even that stayed too wet and my trees had poor root growth
 

DeeJay

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Will stay too wet.
When I started bonsai, I used pure sand and gravel with no compost in it whatsoever and even that stayed too wet and my trees had poor root growth
Is that for an established bonsai tree? I have an azalea I intend to start the process on. Right now it is a regular bush.
 

Paradox

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Is that for an established bonsai tree? I have an azalea I intend to start the process on. Right now it is a regular bush.

I do not recommend a sand and gravel mix for anything.
In fact just the opposite. As I stated, I had poor root growth with it

For your azalea, you could use pumice
 

DeeJay

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I do not recommend a sand and gravel mix for anything.
In fact just the opposite. As I stated, I had poor root growth with it

For your azalea, you could use pumice
I see that good drainage is going to be a huge issue going forward!
 

ShadyStump

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👆All of that, for better or worse.

I've been playing this game since I started a couple years ago, and it's a big part of why I have pretty much nothing to show for all my efforts in bonsai.
I tried potting some aloe vera in pure sand - very fine stuff mind you - and it stayed too wet and compact. Heavier grit compacts less, and holds less moisture, but little room for root movement. I've tried about everything to mix in compost, but keep coming up against the too-wet-too-long issue, especially since my kids like to water the plants when I'm not looking.

I am convinced there's a way to allow all the positive aspects we need in soil, but not have to water multiple times a day in summer. Just haven't found it yet.
There has to be, otherwise I might have to quit until I'm too old to go camping.
 

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