Cat litter as bonsai or potting soil

Discussion in 'Maples' started by whis4ey, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,011
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    An interesting article ..... regarded as superior because of good drainage and good aeration together with good water retention ... and CHEAPer than purpose bought organic soil additives
    The article gives good information on products available throughout Europe and the States etc (and Argentina and Brazil ... NB Carlos :))
    Anyone else have any experience or comments?
    http://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    11,042
    Likes Received:
    300
    Location:
    Britain zone 8/9
    I remember this came up on another bonsai forum, and 'those in the know' strongly advised against it, as it breaks down too quickly. It is designed to mop up cat pee, not to hold roots in good growing conditions for long periods. The good drainage, and particularly the good aeration, does not last for long.
     
  3. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,011
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    I am not sure that it is 'designed' to mop up cat pee, although it is certainly one of its uses, and the one it is sold for in this article
    Apparently the one recommended in the link does not break down very easily ......
    There is an easy way to find out ....
     
  4. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    2,767
    Likes Received:
    1,509
    Location:
    Normandie, France
    I've looked into this some more, and it appears that the suggested substrate (diatomite) will work very well for either bonsai or in potting soil mix. Other litters (notably Catsan which our Lucy uses for her rare indoor needs) are not recommended.

    However I have been unable to find a diatomite so far in France. My wife actually went to a Mutan (sic, the name of the chain is Mutant) but apparently they no longer carry the brand in question.

    Still this morning I found a cat litter which is sepiolite. Apparently according to French bonsai forums this works very well as a substrate also. I intend to try it! At 0.30 EU/l, it's a pretty fab deal.

    Thanks Sam,

    -E
     
  5. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,011
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    I bought an 8 litre bag for the equivalent of about 2 euros and am trying it out
    I will be interesting to see the results .....
     
  6. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,382
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Southwest France
    Sam,

    Thanks for sharing the information. Looks like a good deal.

    Emery,

    Like you, I went to some stores to see what kind of litter was being proposed and either there was no detailed description of the nature of the litter or it was degradable stuff. What's the brand of your sepiolite based litter?

    Gomero
     
  7. xman

    xman Active Member

    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Plano TX USA
    I do not know about cat litter, but this horse litter will work.

    http://www.drystall.com/dry_stall.html

    I have not been able to get this where I live, as they have a limited supply area.

    xman
     
  8. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    2,767
    Likes Received:
    1,509
    Location:
    Normandie, France
    Gomero, it's called "Sepiolite Naturelle" NEOFELINE. I bought it at the Catena, so that might be the place to try. It's made of 80% sepiolite, 15% dolomite and 5% "autres," all clays and no scent.

    Recommended usage includes cleaning up oil spills etc, though plants are not mentioned on the packaging. The only inconvenience appears to be a PH of 8; for which reason I will try mixed with other soils (and perhaps some pine bark or peat.)

    -E
     
  9. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,648
    Likes Received:
    525
    Location:
    Northamptonshire, England
    Apologies for digging up an old thread.
    Any feedback yet Sam? (or anyone else?) Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Most of the references on the net to diatomite as a growing medium are concerned with bonsai or hydroponics, my interest is as an addition to potting mixes for containerised maples. I am hoping it will prove a suitable alternative to perlite, without being blindingly white when new and a vibrant slime-green when old.

    I have a couple of bags and initial impressions about its air holding capacity seem good. After a few hours soaking in a glass of water tiny air-bubbles are still being released.
     
  10. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,011
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    I was unimpressed
    It seemed fine initially. It soon started to disintigrate and become cloggy .. the pellets didn't hold together as suggested
    Maybe I didn't tend them well enough and neglected frequent watering?
    Anyway, my test subjects died on me :(
    Emery may have had better results as he was trying the same test
     
  11. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    2,767
    Likes Received:
    1,509
    Location:
    Normandie, France
    Yep, so far good for me. I'm using sepiolite, not diatomite.

    Test subjects still alive... ;) (knock knock).

    In particular I've got it in a papyrus, closed pot and this thing likes to swim. If left to dry out, it swallows a huge amount and bubbles a lot as the sepiolite releases air.

    -E
     
  12. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,648
    Likes Received:
    525
    Location:
    Northamptonshire, England
    Thanks guys.

    Sam, sad to hear of the fate of your test subjects, and interested to learn that the pellets disintegrated. That is not what I expected to hear after reading the link above. I have the same type of Tesco diatomite litter referred to in the bonsai article. Hopefully it will retain its structure.

    To test it I'm going to leave some submerged in water for a few days and then put it through a few freeze/thaw cycles and see what I end up with.

    Also, assuming it passes this test, I am going to err on the side of caution and just add 10% or so to my usual bark/compost/loam/gravel mix; if it does eventually break down it shouldn't clog the medium.
     
  13. sasquatch

    sasquatch Active Member

    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    PNW, USA
    There's alot of info about inorganic soils for containers in Bonsai forums. Most people who seem to know what they are talking about say that Cat litter is an inferior soil conditioner, and instead recommend Turface MVP, a soil conditioner that is typically used to improve drainage on baseball fields.

    It is a calcine clay product used to improve drainage, reduce compaction, hold moisture, improve the CEC of the soil. The clay is mined in MS, then run through an oven at 1500 degrees. After the clay is baked at 1500 degrees, a permanent soil particle is produced which will never break down. Kind of like clay pottery, but very small pieces.

    It's probably cheaper than cat litter.

    Here is an online source. $28 for a50lb bag.
    http://www.hollowcreekbonsai.com/item181445.ctlg

    I have been considering switching a dozen or so maples to a mix of Fir bark, Turface and Chicken grit. This combo has good drainage, but doesn't hold water very long, so daily watering is typically needed in hot summer conditions.
     
  14. sasquatch

    sasquatch Active Member

    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    PNW, USA
    While I prefer this forum for Acer discussions, I found that Gardenweb has alot of great info, especially on soils.

    Check out these Search Results for Turface over there. See the multiple discussions on Container Soil mixes, and info about Turface and other Products that are very similar.

    http://search.gardenweb.com/search/nph-ind.cgi?term=turface&x=0&y=0
     
  15. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,648
    Likes Received:
    525
    Location:
    Northamptonshire, England
    Thanks sasquatch, unfortunately Turface is not available in the UK. If anyone knows of a rebranded version please let me know. Some of the discussions on gardenweb were very interesting, one of the recurring themes is that the same products are often not available in different territories.

    I have found out that there are products made of the same Danish moler clay as the "Tesco Low Dust lightweight cat litter" that are used for drainage on sports grounds, golf courses etc, available under such names as Moler or Biosorb or Ultrasorb (Also used for mopping up spills). This article has some info on the different types: Scottish Rock Garden Club - Wisley Alpine Log. It seems the only way to get it cheaper than the cat litter is to buy in units of tonnes direct from the manufacturer. The stuff I have looks exactly like the close-up picture of the wet grains in the link.

    I will see how the litter I have reacts to soaking and freezing before I use any, but it looks promising so far. One of the problems with cat litter may be that manufacturers have no obligation to list the ingredients and could change the formula to something less suitable (for gardening) without telling anybody.

    Another possibility for inclusion in potting mixes might be the the expanded clay pellets such as Hydroleca used for hydroponics, but these look to be more expensive than cat litter.
     
  16. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

    Messages:
    2,767
    Likes Received:
    1,509
    Location:
    Normandie, France
    Update on the original experiment. The sepiolite continues to perform very well, I have incorporated it as a standard part of the potting mix.

    The original soil hasn't broken up and continues to perform as in the beginning. I will transplant the Solanum subjects this fall though.

    -E
     

Share This Page