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Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by ronnieferg, Jul 29, 2006.
Yes i was wanting to make my own bonsai soil mix does anyone have any suggestions
For bonsai there can be a variety of mixes depending upon the kind of plant you have in mind. What I generally do is develop a very general type of mix and then modify it to suit any particular kind of plant.
Also it also depends on what kind of pot you plan to grow your plant in: a "clay" pot or a plastic pot or a ceramic pot or even a wooden pot or not even in a pot but on a plate or a tray which can be ceramic, clay, or plastic.
For the most basic of mixes the commercially available "Cactus Mix" is a good start. However there is one problem with this mix. The recipes of the ones I have examined all seem to utilize
peat moss in the mix. For bonsai I would rather not have much peat moss in the mix at all. So if you have a nearby freshwater creek or river get a few bags of sand and screen out all the coarse materials. Then make up a recipe of 50% Cactus Mix and 50% sand. If you examine this mix dry then you will discover that the sand will tend to fall out of the mix! So whenever you use this mix get it fairly moist to damp but not soaking wet in potting the plant.
I have left a link in this part of the forum to my website where I did up a Quercus species and I mention the mix I used there. You may wish to check that for additional info.
You will find that most bonsai enthusiasts recommend a gritty type of mix that can drain rapidly yet have some water-holding capacity. The key to me is a mix that does both above but that can hold up for a prolong use so the use of inerts is vital to growing the plant long-term in the same pot. I generally have been using pumice but am leaning towards a small to medium grade of granitic gravel that is locally available from a hardware store. It is used in concrete preparations. I have tried to find shale fragments but such is unavailable locally.
Also I recommend experimenting with other possible ingredients.
The pet shop is a very interesting place to visit as they have over the course of the past twenty years develop a number of substrates for both rodents and reptiles/amphibians that are of particular (though costly) interest in specialized horticultural use. Of these my favorite has to be cypress mulch. There is even ground up corn and walnuts (Lizard Litter!) So there is alot to explore in this facet.
Hi, the riverbed idea is a good one, but I think the majority of us don't always have access to those, and there are so many other things that can be used... Chicken grit (decomposed granite, NOT oyster shells) from a 'Feed' store is excellent (small or med. grade), turface (sold at Can. Tire as 'Profile') or as Schultz Soil Conditioner, is not always easy to find, but it's very good (some people use it exclusively for trees that are watered and fed well, and can get away with no organics in the mix), crushed lava rock - again not always available depending on where you live, but v. good if you do find it, and can be ordered online, along with akadama (expensive but really good), or kanuma (ditto) if you only want small quantities. Roadside grit is iffy because it's so often contaminated with oil, grease, pesticides, etc. Perlite in bags sold everywhere is excellent, but you may not like the whiteness. Vermiculite is not good as it holds too much water and compacts over time, and regular old fashioned kitty litter (a look-a-like of turface) isn't good because the clay is 'low' fired, and breaks down to mush quickly. Small, rough aquarium gravel, or even a slightly larger size in natural colors, does a very good job and is easily accessible for most people You can mix most of these with others in the group, or just with coarse (larger) sized soil from a good nursery. Don't use garden soil (insect eggs, diseases) or potting soil (99% peat most of the time). Compost is only good if well rotted and used only in little bits, ditto for peat (really only 'acceptable' for azaleas). Also important for evergreen conifers (and other acid loving trees) is fir bark mulch/bits, but it's often hard to find in sizes no larger than 1/4", and shredded can actually compact in the soil too, so you may end up straining what you find on the ground in a forest, but then you risk insect eggs and who knows what else, but that's where good compost or leaf mold can help. A good mix is generally one third 'soil', one third grit/gravel, and one third bark, but that's an ideal for conifers, and is somewhat out of date now as more people use a drier mix of up to 2/3 or more of 0grit and gravel, and just water more often, avoiding root rot no matter how wet it gets. Quite honestly, most plants/trees will grow in ALMOST anything (including 100% broken glass bits!) but it's how you water, how fast it drains out and how smartly you fertilize that counts. It's about common sense, fast drainage and attn. to other care that matters, not a hard and fast rule or specific measurements.
I better supply a new link to the Oak Bonsai as I will be deleting the pages on freeservers but have moved the journals to Photobucket.
HERE IS A REALLY SIMPLE RECIPIE!! NATURE'S HELPER--it's a brand of soil conditioner you can buy at lowes or home depot. LEVELING SAND--a really coarse sand used for setting walk way stones. you can find it at lowes in the garden section again. CHICKEN GRIT--make sure that you get the crushed granite and not the groung oyster shells!! you dont want all that calcium in your soil. verry important! you should be able to find the chicken grit at a local aggriculture store that sells horse feed. a lawn and garden shop could steer you in the right direction if you have a hard time finding an agg store. i guess you could substitute PEA GRAVEL for the chicken grit if you have too (you can buy that at lowes in the garden section as well). *the ratio of the mix is 3 parts NATURE'S HELPER, 1part LEVELING SAND, 1 part chicken grit. 3:1:1 thats my mix for deciduouse trees. *for conifers try a 1:1:1 ratio or the ingredients above. a general rule of thumb is that deciduouse trees need more organic material in the soil. thats it pretty straight forward if you ask me. and cheap too!! thats a bonus.