alisios
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diatomaceous earth for soil?

Hello - thanks to all for their great insights -

In my quest for the perfect desert soil, I have come across diatomaceous earth as a possibility as an amendment to my bonsai soil. Has anyone used diatomaceous earth here?

(btw, still watering every other day and it's December 3 - temps getting down to the mid-high 30s)

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alisios,

I have never used this material and when I first read this I was a bit surprised that you would even consider it. I was not aware that it was available in any form other than the finely ground powder sometimes used as an organic pest control. The quick research I did indicates that it is available in a coarser texture and that it holds a lot of water.

It does seem to be used by some bonsai growers and though I suspect that it might be too water retentive in my area it may be appropriate for yours, try it and see. Do you have a source for it yet?

Norm

arboricola
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I've never used this material, but did some research a while back. Seems to me it would be worth looking into. No harm can come from it. I'm testing Zeolite right now and it's working well for me. I've let the soil go completely dry with my test subjects with no harm. The zeolite acts like a reserve water supply. It holds about 50% its weight in water and seems to be giving it up as the plant needs it..The jury is still out on this one, so more testing will be needed.

Give D. earth a shot and let us know how it works...

Phil...

alisios
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Thanks Norm and Phil -

I found a 25lb bag of 100% DE granules at "Car Quest", an automotive store. It was around 7 dollars for the bag and it actually says on the label that it's a soil additive - mostly people use it to soak up oil spills, cat litter and a deodorizer...

I've rinsed off a handful and soaked them over night - they absorb water and keep their consistency - I think DE will work for me in some amount - I'll only have to figure out what to mix with it and try a practice plant...

I did find an article at bonsai4me - he uses cat litter:

https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm

I've also read that the murky water that comes from rinsing the granules can be used as insecticide - I'll keep that in mind...

Here's a picture of the DE after a day of soaking in a little water...

[img]https://www.robertcory.com/webdata/DEsoak.jpg[/img]

I'll keep you posted!

Burner
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Hey alisios!

I've been finding the DE noted in a few other forums. Everyone seems to like it, even some of the old pro's. I went out the other day and bought a bag of it from Checkers Auto Parts.
I mixed it with pebbles from a harvester ant bed pile, believe it or not (rinsed and sterilized of course) and a little bit of "earth" and a little bit of bark.
I've got two trees in the mix now. I'll keep you posted.
It still seems like it's not going to retain enough water for our arid (as in 2nd most arid State in the U.S.), but we'll see.

Since we live 20 minutes from each other, we can maybe trade notes on some of this stuff.

Glad I found you on here mister. :P

Burner
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Oh, btw. The DE bonsai soil works pretty good on oil spills too. Don't tell anyone.
I'm going to try and corner the market.

alisios
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Hey Burner -

I was thinking about grinding ( like in a coffee grinder) up some pine bark and playing with ratios - I really think DE could be a main component here in AZ -

I put a bunch in a cup, wet them and put the cup outside. Granted, it's been cold and rainy here, but the DE underneath has remained moist for a few days so far...

Now that the humidity is going back down to 20%, it'll be interesting to see what happens... I still believe adding some peat moss in some amount will be the ticket...

My next experiment will be to make some empty pots with various combinations of this soil to see what will help our little bonsai from becoming toast in 15 mins...

ps - the bag of DE I found was at Car Quest, next to NAPA... I haven't checked out Checker... also, I didn't see anything that mentioned "freshwater" DE or not... does this matter?

arboricola
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I agree with adding a little peat to the mix. You might even try a mix of potting soil and DE. I use a 50/50, organic/inorganic mix for my tropicals because indoor humidity in winter here is low (10-15%). Gives me about 4-5 days between waterings. Keep us posted on your results.

Phil...

alisios
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I think this is the mix I'll use for a few trees for testing.. "The Arizona Desert Mix" ( :) ) in its' first version...It's a blend of 2 parts DE, 2 parts Cactus Mix, and 1 part Fir Pine Bark... It's a bit difficult to test though as it's not as hot as it's going to be, obviously... it looks good though - like even I'd eat it... :lol:

[img]https://www.robertcory.com/webdata/dirt.jpg[/img]

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alisios,

For the sake of others who may be interested could you please give us some indication of what comprises the cactus mix that you used? I see that you have decided not to use any peat in this mix. Are you going to experiment with any other mixes this coming year?

Norm

moulman
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scale?

alisios,

Could you provide another pic to show the scale of the DE ? In that pic, those particles look much larger than any DE I am familiar with.

alisios
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Hey Moulman - here's a pic of the DE with a quarter so you can get the size of the granules...

[img]https://www.robertcory.com/webdata/quarterDE.jpg[/img]

Norm -

The Cactus mix component came from a commercial cactus blend from "Nature's Way" - it consists of More Bark, Sand, Humus, Peat Moss essentially... so I did sort of add peat moss from this...

I do plan on making more blends to try - so far, one aspect that I like in the soil, is that the DE gives an indication of when it's drying out by turning white...

I've had a bit of this mix in some small pots, watered the soil and it's been about 4-5 before I would water it again (pots indoors)... I don't know if this will change when there's a plant in there... it might still be a little less water retentive than what I was looking for...

more laters...

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alisios,

Thanks for the additional information, please keep us posted as you come to any conclusions.
I've had a bit of this mix in some small pots, watered the soil and it's been about 4-5 before I would water it again (pots indoors)... I don't know if this will change when there's a plant in there.
Yes it should change, especially once the tree is established and really begins to utilize the water in the medium.

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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Peat moss is not good for use in pots for the most part, unless *very* sparingly used ;-) It is almost impossible to rewet once it dries, IME, though the stuff within cactus-mix is generally not the same 'type' of peat that is sold in bulk (think its a 'Canadian red' or something like that - not as 'cakey' overall). I will mix a small amount into mixes for outdoor-use here when its super-hot/windy to help hold moisture in species that cannot go dry whatsoever, but indoors, I have found the benefits do not come close to the 'risks' of such use. Peat moss is just best avoided whenever possible, IMO, especially indoors where environ is not extreme by any means. Much better to use some 'shredded sphagnum' mixed in or such, but too much by a small margin and soil becomes rather soggy for most species' roots...and plants will be noticeably affected.

I have used the ~Oil-Dri ~calcined clay (which is similar/same-as the DE mentioned) with good results - just be certain to sift out the 'fine' particles for best results :-) Light 'fluffy' soil-mix will give the absolute best results, indoors or out - length of time between waterings is not an indicator of soil's usefulness by any means ;-) Fwiw, 'Turface' (made by Profile, Inc) is now available widely from box-stores under a number of 'brand-names' at ~$15 or less/50# bag with ~30# usable post-sifting-> just look for the 'Profile' logo somewhere on bag ;-) It is usually called 'soil conditioner, and works *great*.

I have done a kind-of experiment over the last few months, and have gotten *outstanding* results from 'light' mix compared to 'dense' mix (with peat added) - the dense mix actually led to demise/failure-to-thrive of several different species (coast redwood, Acer palmatum, Gymnocladus dioicus and Thuja plicata off top of my head) while the light-mix trees (all grown from seed started this Fall) are outstandingly vigorous and needing repotted ASAP due to rootball being too dense now!). I wish I had not even bothered to compare the soil-mixes as I could've had lots more great trees instead of tossing a few dozen worthless pots :-( But now I know for sure

HTH,
Alex

alisios
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alexinoklahoma wrote:Fwiw, 'Turface' (made by Profile, Inc) is now available widely from box-stores
Turface is similar to DE? DE absorbs water, does Turface?
alexinoklahoma wrote:I have done a kind-of experiment over the last few months, and have gotten *outstanding* results from 'light' mix compared to 'dense' mix (with peat added) -
What does your mix consist of? My whole point is to have a more water retentive mix yet keep it light. While I think we have similar temperatures in the summer, our humidity level would make a great martini :)

Thanks all!

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alisios,
Turface is similar to DE? DE absorbs water, does Turface?
Yes. This from the website of the parent Co. [url=https://www.turface.com/sports_fields/product.cfm?category=1&product=trf_mvp]Profile.[/url]
Turface MVP can be incorporated into your infield mix. It fights infield compaction that leads to running, sliding and bad ball hop injuries. MVP holds moisture, nutrients and increases drainage as a result of balanced air and water pore space.

MVP can also be used as a topdressing to quickly turn muddy conditions into dry, safe surfaces. MVP absorbs its weight in water, allowing play to resume quickly after the rain stops.
This is the product I have used in the past, the MVP suffix indicates the size/grade which is larger than some of their other products.

[img]https://www.turface.com/_images/products/mvp_bag.jpg[/img]

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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Alisios: I quite often use chopped-up sphagnum, perlite, semi-fine pine-bark mulch along with varying amounts of calcined-clay (basically sifted Profile-made soil-conditioner, see link of Gnome's above. Same stuff now available under different 'name brands', fwiw, Schultz, Inc being one of at least several, IME, at Ace Hardware). I vary amounts of each 'ingredient, but I do find that the chopped-up sphagnum works much better than peat moss as far as water-retention *and* rewettability (bad word, I know, but is a functional word for intent, I guess, LOL!). Peat moss just goes to 'brick' way too easy (or washes out as well), IMO, but sphagnum seems to last the whole season in an acceptable (and functional) manner...the other stuff helps keep it 'loose' enough for great growth (especially the roots) - and all the above can certainly be adjusted as desired until a happy 'medium' is reached. Just my experiences last year. To each their own, of course :-) Oklahoma is not noted for cool summers, either, LOL! And the wind can dry anything out in short order too, so I had to factor that in as well...

HTH and makes sense to ya,
Alex

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