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SHS
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Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:13 pm
Location: South Florida - Zone 10

Organic vs. Inorganic soil

As a preface let me come clean and admit I am a novice at the art of bonsai.

I have recently purchased two Juniper Procumbens Nana in about 1/2 - 3/4 gal pots (in my intro I incorrectly said 1 gal pots) at a nursery and I am looking to repot these soon. I have been reading incessantly about soils and found this site https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm
....and was wondering of it had validity. It seems like good info but I am still in the learning stage (as I will be forever) and willing to listen to other techniques before deciding upon a soil. Specifically I am intrigued by the Diatomaceous Earth.

I also have a Fukien Tea that is small ~ 3/8" trunk at ~ 7" tall, a Ficus Retusa that has a nice start with a 2+" trunk at 17" tall and a Brazilian Rain Tree that is also 2+" trunk and at 22" tall. All of these already in bonsai pots and doing nicely in training I will be contacting the provider of these to ask what he has used as I want to follow what he has done, at least initially as they are very healthy and he is local.

I have read the many posts on creating my own soil from the various components but it seems like some include organic ingredients and some use inorganic only.

Yes, I know conditions vary with growing zones and I will be keeping the Juniper outside while keeping the others inside at an East/SEast window and a grow light (which I will purchase this week) used as needed. So far I have noticed the Brazilian Rain Tree is waking up nicely to the morning sun and staying open until dusk so I assume (yeah I know the addage) that it is liking the amount of sun it is getting. I will keep a close eye on these as they acclimate.

I am listening and welcome all comments.

PS: I did read and I will re-read ynot's post on soils. It is a good read but I would like to hear other members chip in on their experience and soil composition successes and :( failures as well.

Spelling is my bane BTW, I apologize for the mis-spells!!!!

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

SHS,

Hello and welcome to the forum, I'm glad to see that you are doing your research. If you read Ynot's thread and followed the links I'm not sure what I could add. A couple more articles that somehow escaped Ynot and are definitely useful can be found here.
https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/earthpot.htm
https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/soilage.htm
In fact a new grower should familiarize themselves with all of Brent's writings. A few might not have relevance, for instance you might not care about Black Pines right now, but most are quite good.

To try to give you something specific, I have my Juniper in a mix of roughly 50/50 Lava and Haydite, with just a little Pine bark. I also am working on some young Pines that are in a similar mix. My deciduous trees are potted in a mix with more organics, for me that is also Pine bark.

To quote Brent form the second link above:
There is no 'best' soil, there are only soils that work well in a set of environmental conditions that include the species of plant, how it is manipulated, who is doing the manipulations, watering, the climate, fertilizer type and practice, light/shade. All these things are interrelated.
Norm

FLBonsai
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Welcome SHS!

(please note all advice given is opinionated in some manner! bonsai is a great experiment :D)

From all my experiences I highly recommend diatomaceous earth (such as unscented kitty litter or floor dry).

Consider the main components of a healthy medium mix:

- holding sufficient moisture
- allowing for free drainage and for oxygen to be pulled down to the roots
- having enough organic material to allow maximum absorption of fertilizers + keeping micro bacterial life alive.

With this in mind we should address the specific plant. Your juniper procumben will want to stay more dry than your ficus. For this I use and recommend a similar mixture:

10% pine bark+sphagnum mix (50:50)
60% calcined clay (diatomaceous earth, kitty litter etc..)
30% grit (small lava rock etc.. *if it doesn't hurt you when you rub it between your hands your potting grit isn't jagged enough)

For your ficus add less grit and more organic, maybe up to 30% pine bark/sphagnum.

This being said Walter Paul (bonsai4me.com) uses 100% straight kitty litter. This is a good route to go also if you know exactly when and how to fertilize!

As for my own experiences I planted my ficus in nothing but poor potting grit and didn't fertilize and it still did fine... Point is plants are hardcore and flexible to an extent. Good luck in your adventures!

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SHS
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Location: South Florida - Zone 10

GREAT

Thanks for the replies!

Gnome - I read the info on the links, as a matter of fact I saved both as my many favorites, along with many of the links that Ynot has. (whew, I need a break) It makes sense what he, ummm as in Brent, says and it is stated in simple terms.....I like that. (not that I am simple.....well, yes I am)

FLBonsai - Hello neighbor! I get it and I'm willing to experiment with my Juniper, but I am hesitant to shock my others as they are more advanced and I will be cautious with drastic changes to their environment.

That said I am on a dual quest:
1) Indoor bonsai - My Ficus, Fukien Tea and Brazilian Rain Tree
2) Outdoor bonsai - ie: my Junipers, my hunt for bald cypress in the swamp just down the street, and the Banyan that is growing nearby (yes I know this is a type of Ficus but it near and available! (did I mention I am good at digression?)

...well maybe a third and forth quest as well, but i digress, sigh again (hey you have got to be good at something!).
3) Soil types
4) Dormancy in zone 10 for them thar yankee plants.....(yeah but I have my tee-shirt, I spent 30 winters....that's 11 yrs in layman speak in Wisconsin) ...yes I want some of the species from the north land if I can actually grow them here without having to have a walk in freezer to emulate winter.

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Gnome
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FLBonsai,

One minor, to me perhaps not so to Harry and Walter though :wink: , correction to your previous post. Bonsai4me is actually the site of Harry Harrington. If you or SHS would like to read what Walter Pall has to say about bonsai 'soil' it can be found [url=https://walter-pall-bonsai.blogspot.com/2007/03/baked-loam-as-main-ingredient-for.html]here.[/url]

SHS,

Be careful about using Kitty Litter here in the states, I have yet to find one that is appropriate.

Norm

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SHS
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Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:13 pm
Location: South Florida - Zone 10

ok

Loam, rough loam, peat, rough peat, lava split,"Maxit", "Fibotherm", hard acadama, crushed bar, bark, lava rock, turface, baked clay, moler clay, dioamaceous earth, perlite. sand, decomposed granite, pumice....

and an optional:
Organic structural element which can hold some water and nutrients: fir bark, pine bark, nitrolized redwood chips, etc.
AND/OR
A water holding element (optional): compost, peat moss, or vermiculite

ok I got it! OR >>>>>>>>>>>

mix this with my night cap of single malt and I will finish my Padron Maduro then -good night, ...I will decifer his tomorrow night!

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Gnome
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Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:17 am
Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Re: ok

SHS wrote:Loam, rough loam, peat, rough peat, lava split,"Maxit", "Fibotherm", hard acadama, crushed bar, bark, lava rock, turface, baked clay, moler clay, dioamaceous earth, perlite. sand, decomposed granite, pumice....

and an optional:
Organic structural element which can hold some water and nutrients: fir bark, pine bark, nitrolized redwood chips, etc.
AND/OR
A water holding element (optional): compost, peat moss, or vermiculite

ok I got it! OR >>>>>>>>>>>

mix this with my night cap of single malt and I will finish my Padron Maduro then -good night, ...I will decifer his tomorrow night!
See, nothing to it. :?

Seriously, you don't need to worry about all of that stuff. A lot will depend upon what you can get locally. Turface MVP is good, as is lava rock. Then all you need is an organic component, a set of screens and you're good to go. Or you can purchase ready made bonsai soil if you only need enough for a few trees this year. Then you can worry about this all later.

Norm

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SHS
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Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:13 pm
Location: South Florida - Zone 10

onward

I did contact the provider/creator of my Brazilian Rain Tree bonsai and he invited me to the local bonsai club meeting next month and I think that will be a good route.

The first person experience will be valuable.

Thank you all for your replies. I will update this thread with my choices when I have a better grasp of some of these options.

Scott

Rosaelyn
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Location: Brighton, Michigan

Scott,

Good for you! We are definitely willing to help with any questions you might have, but yes, first hand experience cannot be beat. You should get even more great advice there!
Rosaelyn @}>---'---,---

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. ~ Hal Borland

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