Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

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Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  smokeyjoe on Mon Oct 29, 2012 10:43 pm

new member to this form and wanted to say Hi and glad to be apart of the world of Bonsai,This is my first year and may ask some dumb questions, so please be patient,I have done about 15 trees so far and wanting to buy more expensive ones,my first question is a simple formula for soil,I purchased "Dry Stall" and Akadama I was wondering what else would be good for soil down here in Ga.
Thanks Smokey

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:07 am

We use 1/3 Turface, 1/3 Fafard Soil Condtioner, 1/3 Lava or pea gravel

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  John Quinn on Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:38 am

Welcome to IBC! Go to the home page and use the Google site search and you will find MANY existing soil threads...

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  MikeG on Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:52 am

Welcome Smokeyjoe. I think you'll soon notice that there are probably as many different soil recipes as there are enthusiasts. I would advise contacting experienced people in your area and ask what works best for them.

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  smokeyjoe on Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:34 am

thanks everyone

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JimLewis on Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:46 am

All you need for your mix (probably) is some kind of organic material to mix in with it. I tried Dry Stall, and while it worked, I was put off a bit by its WHITEness.

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Leo Schordje on Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:28 pm

Welcome to the forum. There are a number of bonsai people in Georgia, consider dropping in occasionally or joining a local bonsai club. Nothing beats seeing bonsai live and in person.

I have used Dry Stall for several years now. Good product. It is white, but that changes to a dirty gray-green over time. I like it for trees in training, rather than a final display potting mix. It also works well as a component of a mix. I like blending Dry Stall, Turface, and crushed granite - poultry grit, in roughly equal parts. Then I add one part of fine fir bark, the 1/4 inch size for orchid seedlings. I often add a small amount of horticultural charcoal, same particle size.

The large particle size of akadama, and its relative expense make it problematic to use with the above components. I have used akadama alone, but then it holds too much water for the typical pot sizes I use. It might be ideal for a large tree in a pot much smaller relative to the tree than what I normally use. I tend to over pot, so I don't have to water daily. Akadama as a bottom layer, with the above mix for the top layer seems ok.

For pines I have done a mix of equal parts akadama, lava rock of similar particle size, and coarse horticultural grade charcoal, and one part turkey grit (coarser crushed granite from the feed store). This seems to work well for the pines. For the pines a scant portion of medium size orchid bark is tossed in.

My junipers, bald cypress and hemlocks get the first mix.


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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:44 pm

You must be careful with using "turkey or Chicken Grit" as a number of sources of so-called "grit" are used. If the "grit" is really granite based OK, but here in Florida it is likely to be oyster shell, which might have issues as a soil component. (could retain salt and could be too alkaline)

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  rps on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:03 pm

Leo Schordje wrote: Then I add one part of fine fir bark, the 1/4 inch size for orchid seedlings. I often add a small amount of horticultural charcoal, same particle size.

hi, leo:
not sure if you saw jim's recent post with links to the colin lewis meditation on soil.
http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t11838-soils-interesting-reading
in the articles [colin] lewis charges that orchid bark is sterile & makes a pretty big deal out of that.

i've read your other posts on this site with respect, so wonder about your thoughts on that observation; especially, since they'd be based on first hand experience.

personally, i've been using garden variety fir bark [sifted] with [what i consider] happy results.
having digested the article [and discussion] am inclined to "dance with the girl what brung me".

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JimLewis on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:20 pm

not sure if you saw jim's recent post with links to the colin lewis meditation on soil.
http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t11838-soils-interesting-reading
in the articles [colin] lewis charges that orchid bark is sterile & makes a pretty big deal out of that.

Well, I wasn't offering that article as gospel truth; just as interesting reading. Lots of people use bark as a soil component. Last I head Brent Walston of Evergreen Gardenworks used fir (?) bark almost exclusively to grow trees in his nursery. I've used partially decomposed pine bark in my soils for years.

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  rps on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:31 pm

[quote="JimLewis"]
Well, I wasn't offering that article as gospel truth; just as interesting reading.

sorry i didn't make that clear in my previous, jim --- you certainly made it clear in your original post.

i just wanted to call on leo's direct experience with orchid preperation fir bark. my reasons extend beyond curiosity: i have access to a few litres [well below nursery price] & while the hiatus from sifting would be welcome, i prefer to make an informed decision. it would seem the colin lewis article has gotten under my skin.


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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JimLewis on Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:43 pm

As far as the sterility of the orchid bark stuff goes, it of course would no longer BE sterile as soon as it mixed with anything else in the bonsai soil -- not to mention the tree and the organisms on the roots. It has been my experience that most microorganisms don't waste time in creating a suitable environment for themselves, especially when you mix in daily watering or fertilizer -- especially organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, etc. -- along with sunlight (warmth).

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:10 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:You must be careful with using "turkey or Chicken Grit" as a number of sources of so-called "grit" are used. If the "grit" is really granite based OK, but here in Florida it is likely to be oyster shell, which might have issues as a soil component. (could retain salt and could be too alkaline)

Here poultry grit is just crushed granite. There is a brand for pigeons that has oyster shell, but that is not what I am buying. If I go to the feed store near me the granite is the white with black flecks. If I go 50 miles north to a feed store in Wisconsin I get that beautiful, purple, brown, red granite call 'Cherrystone'. Both products are granite with no other additives.

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Leo Schordje on Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:10 pm

rps wrote:i just wanted to call on leo's direct experience with orchid preperation fir bark. my reasons extend beyond curiosity: i have access to a few litres [well below nursery price] & while the hiatus from sifting would be welcome, i prefer to make an informed decision. it would seem the colin lewis article has gotten under my skin.

My response became long-winded, I used bold type only to highlight where each topic begins.

I read the article by Colin Lewis, and I do respect his talent and experience, but my experience just doesn't quite line up with what he wrote. I'm not saying he's wrong, I just haven't seen the results he's talking about. Keep in mind, I am not in any way at his skill level. He's a pro. He may see subtle differences that I am not observant or methodical enough to see. He also has strict time budgets to crank out trees, I don't.

However, as a 'mere mortal', I believe there exists that wondrous zone called "a useful approximation". I am a firm believer in getting things to the "good enough to get away with it" point, and not get over-wrought over details that make only minor differences. Now I do believe refinement is essential, but once the bonsai (or any other plant I'm growing) gets to the 'good enough' point, I try not to make radical changes from that point, as I don't want to accidentally wander back out of the "good enough approximation of good culture" zone. While we talk about achieving perfection, most of us have day-jobs, and really are only hobby growers, some of you are true artists in your hobby, but we don't have the time or resources to do rigorous optimization trials in our back yards. Myself being as obsessed as most the rest of us, I have to keep reminding myself that there is something that is the "useful approximation".

Specifically about bark. Here in the Chicago-Milwaukee area, there are inexpensive sources of mediocre quality sourced orchid bark, fir bark specifically. By the time this bark, which originates on the west coast, gets to the Chicago market it has already broken down some. It is not a pristine, sterile product. It will decompose to mush in less than 2 years if there is enough moisture present. Since I repot my orchids yearly, this is 'good enough'. So Colin Lewis and I may be dealing with different products entirely. I do not believe that this bark is sterile. Most commercial orchid bark has already begun some degree of decomposition. The 'better' brands have less decomposition, but there is decay none the less. So at least in my local market, the fir bark I buy is already partially composted. Once in the bonsai potting mix, within a month or two it is definitely into the range that is appropriate for a potting mix.

One exception. There is a new product, and maybe Colin used this in his trials for the article. Orchidiata is the trademarked name for specially treated Pinus radiata bark sourced out of New Zealand. This orchid bark is from a pine, rather than douglas fir that most USA sourced barks are made from. The 'Orchiata' has been cleaned, graded, steam treated to extract resin, then soaked in a calicum-magnesium solution and then baked to near total dryness, then packaged and shipped. This product really is pretty much sterile. It lasts 3 or 4 times longer than most brands of fir bark. For orchids this is a superior product compared with fir bark, and this would be a poor choice for bonsai mixes. However, once used for the orchids for a couple years, it could be recycled as a bonsai mix component. Because of the great distance involved in importing from New Zealand to the USA this product is rather expensive, at least 3 times the price of what I am paying right now for mediocre grade fir bark. So it should be easy to know when the bark you are looking at buying is fir bark and when it is Orchiata, because price alone will make you stop and think.

About the "useful approximation of good enough culture"; it may sound overly simplistic, but I came to it after several courses in statistics, multivariate analysis and response surface methodology. After constructing several n-dimensional hyper-volumes, plotting n variables on n axis and then looking at the volumes created as being the zones of optimization, I realized I was not really enjoying this, my sometimes miserable day job in the chemical industry. So I thought about orchids, bonsai and bamboo, my favorite plants. Very Happy

Plants live and die on an energy budget. If they accumulate energy, they grow, if they loose energy beyond their reserve stores, they die.

For each aspect of culture there is a range that a particular species of tree, or orchid can tolerate. Moisture, water quality, humidity, light intensity and duration, temperature, soil cation exchange capacity, nutrients and so on, all these variables have a range within which the plant won't die. They have a narrower range within which these variables would be considered ideal. When any one variable is less than the ideal range, the plant expends energy to compensate for the deficiency. The farther from ideal, the greater the drain on the plant's energy systems. Then there is the point away from ideal where the plant can no longer compensate for the 'out of limits' variable. This is when decline and possible death set in.

When multiple variables are considered at once, the result is, you don't need all variables in the ideal range for a plant to thrive. Good growth can be achieved when some key variables are in the ideal range and the rest are in the range for which the plant can compensate for that variable. So for example, it has been documented (J. Asher et al.) that a certain orchid exudes buffers from the root tips that effectively change the pH of the water film around the root tip, in the case cited, from a pH of 7.9 to a pH of 6.2. This comes at a metabolic cost to the plant, but it allows the plant to survive in an environment that has less competition from other plants. Net gain in engery, the plant thrives. Point of the example is plants expend energy to modify their environments. This goes for most if not all variables one can mention. We don't have to get everything perfect, we just have to get it 'close enough', and the plant will take over from there.

The first goal in horticulture is to find the 'zone' or statistically speaking, the "n-dimensional hyper-volume", inside which the plant can survive. The second goal is to find the optimal regions inside this zone where there is more energy left over that can be used for growth.

A reality is that the optimal regions inside this zone may not be a simple single peak inside the n-dimensional volume. The 'good enough to survive' zone may have multiple peaks and valleys, there may be discrete zones of optimization that are not continuous with each other.

What does this mean in the world of bonsai, orchids and bamboo? It means that one grower's formula for success can look entirely different that another grower's formula of success. Each is successful because the plant is making more energy that it is using, so it has enough energy to grow, flower and otherwise thrive. What these growers may have done is optimize different variables, the net results being good enough growth. But when one compares what they are doing, it might superficially seem they are doing the 'wrong' or contradictory things, they both can't be right? So when I get contradictory growing advice, I keep the thought in mind that they have optimized different variables, allowing the plant to correct the rest. I try to look at key variables necessary for growth, and understand how each of their techniques address the plant's needs.

Walter Pall's soil-watering-and fertilizer regime is a good example. He mentions in the very beginning that one must use his whole system in all aspects or your trees will die. Follow just his fertilizer advice, you will have dead trees. I looked at it hard, and he is telling you the truth. His system in total is excellent, the materials and methods match and create a 'zone' in which his trees thrive. He has living proof. But if I watered my trees like I normally do, but used his fertilizer system, I would kill every one of my trees. This is an example of contradictory growing advice, yet I can see Walter Pall is absolutely correct in using his system in total.

So as a hobby grower, I plod along. I try to optimize variables where I understand them. Sometimes I just can't see or understand why one tree thrives and one doesn't look so good. That's when I have to sit down and think, unless the boss calls and I have to get back to work confused .

I know this missive is too long for polite forums, I hope it makes sense. I tried to pack in a lot of related thoughts as briefly as I could. I have now exhausted my will to type. If you have questions, I'll try to respond tomorrow. Laughing


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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JimLewis on Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:58 pm

I know this missive is too long for polite forums, I hope it makes sense. I tried to pack in a lot of related thoughts as briefly as I could. I have now exhausted my will to type. If you have questions, I'll try to respond tomorrow
.

Hey . . . as they say around here, "No problem. You done good."

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  rps on Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:30 pm

leo: thanks for investing your time and thought in that last post.
it effectively addresses the practicle matter at hand [fir bark], even while treating of broader & more contemplative issues.
i appreciate it for both.

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  Leo Schordje on Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:10 pm

Thanks Jim & RPS,
The impetus in writing the philosophical portion was the fact that there have been a lot of threads lately where very different and superficially incompatible growing advice was being given. And then there was an argumentative tone developing as to who was right. This section was to also address why authors like Walter Pall, Colin Lewis, Ted Mattson, Ryan Neil can all give different directions on culture. This phenomena has to be confusing for beginners. My note was an attempt to explain why so much contradictory information is out there. (With out getting into the issue of posts from those who don't know what they are talking about, rare, but it happens on all forums)

I hope I explained it well enough. I suppose this issue should be in its own thread. Maybe next week I'll move it to a new thread.

Leo

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JimLewis on Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:43 pm

This section was to also address why authors like Walter Pall, Colin Lewis, Ted Mattson, Ryan Neil can all give different directions on culture.

They're all different, experienced people in different places and different conditions talking about (generally) different trees.

The problem arises when they speak (or write) to others. These others also are different people of different (usually much less ) experience and from different places. These less experienced people tend to take the pronouncements of these "masters" as the truth of the ages and stick to it -- forgetting to think of all those differences. Many/most of them don't know enough of the science behind horticulture and bonsai to to be able to manipulate these truths to fit their individual situations.

It's at that point that dogmatism sneaks it. Master XYZ said it; ergo I do it that way and you must also -- even though I live in Wyoming and you live in Georgia (or Sweden and Greece).

Personally, I tend to listen intently when these guys speak about designing a tree, and snooze with half an ear open when they start talking about formulas, soils, fertilizers and other "stuff."

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Re: Hi Im Smokeyjoe - Soil question

Post  JudyB on Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:59 am

Thank you Leo, for a well thought out post. Good reading and it makes a lot of sense.

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