Too Many Ingredients?

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
Okay, I've narrowed it down to what I've purchased recently and what's in the garage. This is for pre bonsai as I already have a good mix for trees in bonsai pots. Also I'm using a variety of pots; 1-3 gallon cloth planting bags, 12" colanders, and I have a variety of 1-3 gallon plastic nursery pots. I've thought about adding 1 to 1 ratio of everything, but it seems too much. I'm growing mostly pine varieties from the west coast, as well as deciduous maples, and a few oaks. I also have a bunch of tropical trees. I know granular size is important and most of the ingredients are very similar, between 1/8" & 1/4". I have to move some trees now because they're sitting in dirt/potting soil only.

Yes, I'm missing bark, charcoal, akadama, lava, and some other ingredients, but this is for pre bonsai. I'm convinced most soils will work, but would like to find a good combo with what I have. I'm in the Pacific Northwest and straight potting soil drowns and kills everything. Do you see any good combinations here?

Perlite
Pumice
Calcined Clay (Turface)
Diatomaceous Earth (Napa style stuff)
Granite Pebbles (Fish Tank gravel/excellent size)
Potting Soil
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,108
Reaction score
17,989
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
Soil mix is something that only YOU will be able to determine based on many factors, but two are important.

1. Flow thru
2. Moisture retention ability.

If you achieve both of those parameters and your plants thrive, use what ever gets you that. It is not important that the forum know what it is you used, because frankly what you do probably won't work for the guy 100 miles down the road.

Some other factors, but not essential.

Soil heavy enough to support tree in pot
Price for aggregates
availability
 

Sansui

Mame
Messages
169
Reaction score
221
Location
Southeastern PA
USDA Zone
7a
Hi Palmer 67,

Do a search for 'Al's Gritty Mix'. This is a generic, general purpose recipe that contains a mix of organic, inorganic absorptive and aeration/displacement materials. It is a good starting mix which allows you to interchange materials and ratios for conifer or deciduous trees. Regarding the stone component, (granite) we try to use crushed (sharp) granite to promote fine root development, but this is not a show stopper to get the trees established in a bonsai soil mix environment. Most importantly, follow the advise of the experts like Smoke and his peers.
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,108
Reaction score
17,989
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
I have a silly question.

Many times here I have read that people will have a soil mix for growing out bonsai and then a mix for growing the tree in a bonsai pot.

I know the reason, I just don't get the why. If the soil is good enough to "GET" the plant there, why is it not good enough to use in the nice pot? Why would you use the best soil to put the tree in after it needed the best soil to get to where you want to go. Does not the tree need the best stuff in training and cheap crap later after its all done, when the plant basically just coasts for the rest of it's life?

Just wondering how people justify growing bonsai. I use the same for everything. It's just easier.
 

Sansui

Mame
Messages
169
Reaction score
221
Location
Southeastern PA
USDA Zone
7a
I'll take a guess at this. Aesthetics of the soil (presentation), age of the tree (repotting frequency) versus organic component needs? Longevity insurance, real or perceived?
 

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
I have a silly question.

Many times here I have read that people will have a soil mix for growing out bonsai and then a mix for growing the tree in a bonsai pot.

I know the reason, I just don't get the why. If the soil is good enough to "GET" the plant there, why is it not good enough to use in the nice pot? Why would you use the best soil to put the tree in after it needed the best soil to get to where you want to go. Does not the tree need the best stuff in training and cheap crap later after its all done, when the plant basically just coasts for the rest of it's life?

Just wondering how people justify growing bonsai. I use the same for everything. It's just easier.
Good point. I've been convinced by articles and videos that I have to use Akadama/Pumice/Lava or some combination for trees in bonsai pots. Yes, I'm really new! These ingredients are very expensive and hard to find, and just not reasonable when you have dozens of trees growing in big nursery buckets. For my "nice" trees in bonsai pots I buy overpriced premixed soil from a bonsai supply that has those ingredients, especially Akadama.

I would love to find the right combination for all my trees that works, regardless if in nursery buckets or bonsai pots. I've been told the only way to get good roots and ramification is using Akadama, hence overpriced prepackaged soil. I have a handful of trees in bonsai pots that will need re-potted next spring and I dread buying the premixed stuff. I hope I can find a good alternative before then. I'm getting the feeling Akadama and Lava is overrated.
 

leatherback

Masterpiece
Messages
2,838
Reaction score
4,208
Location
Northern Germany
USDA Zone
7
I have to use Akadama/Pumice/Lava
I use none of these. I just use cheap stuff I can get locally.
Some broken baked clay, kitten litter and bark. Getting several feet growth on my maples over summer, my yews are glossy green and I get 3-6 growth spurts on my beeches. Who needs Japanese import?
 

Cofga

Chumono
Messages
895
Reaction score
790
Location
Western NC
USDA Zone
7a
I think it depends on the size of where you are growing it out. If in the ground then it really is a moot point unless you dig in a bunch of aggregate to improve drainage. But basically a big wooden box is similar to some degee in the basic hydrology. I have been using 50:50 pumice and hadite mix for my grow boxes and to recover plants I have collected. For these I want it to drain well and still retain a little moisture. So far it has worked for hinoki and yew and pine. Once I get them into a bonsai pot I need a bit more moisture retention so add 10-20% pine bark. A bonsai pot is a much smaller reservoir so I want something to hold enough water for the tree to make it through until the next watering. That’s my reasoning and so far it has worked well for my trees.
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,108
Reaction score
17,989
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
I've been told the only way to get good roots and ramification is using Akadama, hence overpriced prepackaged soil.
You have been told a lie as big as the Democrats are soon to find out about.

Did your plant tell you it needed akadama?
Did your pot tell you it preferred akadama as a pretty soil?

Your needs will be met when the plant responds with healthy growth and vigor. What that is, might be any combination of things.
I, for thirty years was an akadama snob. It is plentiful here and fairly cheap. It wasn't until I got the cob planted in my ass by the bonsai elites that say if you aren't using akadama you ain't doing bonsai. I exchanged the akadama for plain ole fir bark and have never looked back. I now keep maples in the most extreme heat conditions and my leaves look like the first day of spring. I was never able to do that with akadama.

Never stop experimenting
Never let perceived snobs tell you how it HAS to be done.
Find what works well for YOU and build from there.

Let your trees be your calling card. No elitist is going to argue about your soil when your shit is better than theirs.

Something to shoot for......
 

Stan Kengai

Omono
Messages
1,080
Reaction score
1,139
Location
North Georgia
USDA Zone
7a
In my experience, akadama, while a worthy soil component, is not the magic ingredient in Boon mix. It's pumice. The pumice provides excellent drainage and air exchange. Then you need a water retentive component, like orchid bark, pine bark or akadama. A mix with these two types of components is very light, so you need to add a third component to add weight to the mix to help stabilize the soil in the pot, like lava, sand, gravel, etc. Lastly, these three components should all be the same size.
 

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
You have been told a lie as big as the Democrats are soon to find out about.

Did your plant tell you it needed akadama?
Did your pot tell you it preferred akadama as a pretty soil?

Your needs will be met when the plant responds with healthy growth and vigor. What that is, might be any combination of things.
I, for thirty years was an akadama snob. It is plentiful here and fairly cheap. It wasn't until I got the cob planted in my ass by the bonsai elites that say if you aren't using akadama you ain't doing bonsai. I exchanged the akadama for plain ole fir bark and have never looked back. I now keep maples in the most extreme heat conditions and my leaves look like the first day of spring. I was never able to do that with akadama.

Never stop experimenting
Never let perceived snobs tell you how it HAS to be done.
Find what works well for YOU and build from there.

Let your trees be your calling card. No elitist is going to argue about your soil when your shit is better than theirs.

Something to shoot for......
Oh my God I'm glad you've said this because it helps reinforce what I'm learning as I get more into bonsai. The bonsai world jams akadama and lava down our throats, but it's expensive and hard to find. Hell, I read straight granite was all the rage in America not that long ago. I've been looking at the chemical compositions of soil material and one stands out. The properties of diatomaceous earth suggest it's almost equal to akadama, kind of. Toss in some granite, pumice or bark and I could have a winning formula. What you said is refreshing to hear, and more than ever I plan to stick to general guidelines, water and oxygen balance with drainage tailored to my environment. I have to get creative, forget the akadama and lava.
 

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
In my experience, akadama, while a worthy soil component, is not the magic ingredient in Boon mix. It's pumice. The pumice provides excellent drainage and air exchange. Then you need a water retentive component, like orchid bark, pine bark or akadama. A mix with these two types of components is very light, so you need to add a third component to add weight to the mix to help stabilize the soil in the pot, like lava, sand, gravel, etc. Lastly, these three components should all be the same size.
Thanks for the input. I went to the hardware store today and bought 10 gallons of pine bark!! It's 1/4" so it matches other ingredients I already have. I've never worked with bark, even with the 200+ houseplants I have. I don't do orchids... However, I know it's chemical properties and it makes perfect sense why this material would be excellent for trees. I'm thinking no more than 25% organic material to start, and bark is now my first pick. Plus, bark seems a popular choice nationwide. I have a ton of ingredients to work with now, everything but akadama and lava. ;)
 

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
Holy crap. I just realized sifting all this material is gonna take me 2 weeks! I've never sifted for other plants, but every article and video I've seen on bonsai recommends sifting ALL material. Please let me know if I'm wasting my time sifting, otherwise here we go...
 

Cofga

Chumono
Messages
895
Reaction score
790
Location
Western NC
USDA Zone
7a
Yes, you need to sift out the fines. This is especially true of the bark. It really doesn’t take as long to sift it as you might think. Check out these sieves that fit on a 5 gal bucket and can be stacked. I can go through a full bag of pine bark in a couple hours, and sift enough pumice and hadite to mix up 10 gallons of soil in an afternoon. Here is a link:

https://www.amazon.com/SE-GP2-18-Patented-Stackable-Sifting/dp/B008B0TJAI/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2HMG72CW0KGAD&keywords=bucket+sieve&qid=1566174590&s=gateway&sprefix=Bucket+sieve,aps,229&sr=8-2
 

Palmer67

Yamadori
Messages
58
Reaction score
43
Location
Lake Stevens WA
USDA Zone
8A
Yes, you need to sift out the fines. This is especially true of the bark. It really doesn’t take as long to sift it as you might think. Check out these sieves that fit on a 5 gal bucket and can be stacked. I can go through a full bag of pine bark in a couple hours, and sift enough pumice and hadite to mix up 10 gallons of soil in an afternoon. Here is a link:

https://www.amazon.com/SE-GP2-18-Patented-Stackable-Sifting/dp/B008B0TJAI/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2HMG72CW0KGAD&keywords=bucket+sieve&qid=1566174590&s=gateway&sprefix=Bucket+sieve,aps,229&sr=8-2
Thank you for confirming. My current shift at work has me starting at 12pm, so it looks like the mornings will be coffee, doughnuts and sifting for a while.
 

PABonsai

Mame
Messages
144
Reaction score
96
Location
York, PA
USDA Zone
6b
I have a silly question.

Many times here I have read that people will have a soil mix for growing out bonsai and then a mix for growing the tree in a bonsai pot.

I know the reason, I just don't get the why. If the soil is good enough to "GET" the plant there, why is it not good enough to use in the nice pot? Why would you use the best soil to put the tree in after it needed the best soil to get to where you want to go. Does not the tree need the best stuff in training and cheap crap later after its all done, when the plant basically just coasts for the rest of it's life?

Just wondering how people justify growing bonsai. I use the same for everything. It's just easier.
I've been struggling with this. In the thread I started the other day I ended up coming to the determination that I'm going to try perlite, bark fines, and 8822 as a grow material since it is cheap. But for regular pots I will try grit, bark fines and 8822. I have rationalized that those cheap materials should work for growing out. But there seem to be issues with perlite in the final mix, so I will replace it with grit because grit is heavier and would look better. And the 8822 should work well in both because it's in the middle weight wise, so it is a compromise. Now, I'm an amateur who has yet to even scoop these out and mix them. But to me that seems like a logical way to go from one to the other and have two that work but are both cheap and similar enough.
 
Last edited:

PABonsai

Mame
Messages
144
Reaction score
96
Location
York, PA
USDA Zone
6b
Thank you for confirming. My current shift at work has me starting at 12pm, so it looks like the mornings will be coffee, doughnuts and sifting for a while.
I sifted 50 lb of grit in half an hour, just ran it all on the #10. The perlite took a while, because I sifted into >#5 and then #5-#10. Took about 2 hours for a 2 cf bag which is huge. The pine bark took the longest cause I only kept #5-#10 size, again 2 cf bag. After half an hour it becomes a kind of meditation.


One of my biggest questions is how to store the bark...can it be put into a bucket with holes in the lid? no holes? Should it be laid out and dried first?
 
Last edited:

Potawatomi13

Masterpiece
Messages
2,749
Reaction score
1,719
Location
Eugene, OR
USDA Zone
8
You have been told a lie as big as the Democrats are soon to find out about.
:cool::D🤪! Truest words.


Oh my God I'm glad you've said this because it helps reinforce what I'm learning as I get more into bonsai. The bonsai world jams akadama and lava down our throats, but it's expensive and hard to find. Hell, I read straight granite was all the rage in America not that long ago. I've been looking at the chemical compositions of soil material and one stands out. The properties of diatomaceous earth suggest it's almost equal to akadama, kind of. Toss in some granite, pumice or bark and I could have a winning formula. What you said is refreshing to hear, and more than ever I plan to stick to general guidelines, water and oxygen balance with drainage tailored to my environment. I have to get creative, forget the akadama and lava.
Krapadama is for those that can't get pumice or are worshipers of so called "elite" Bonsai practioners and arrogant ones on here that think they know it all. Many different substrates used for this hobby. You are in similar climate there. Personally use 100% pumice on conifers, 70% pumice 30% organic on deciduous and works great;).
 

Similar threads


Top Bottom