Define Your Perfect Soil!

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Seth Ellwood on Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:46 am

I attended that lecture and it provided me with a wealth of information and helped me adjust my soil compisition for the southern climate.

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Will Heath on Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:46 am

leonardo wrote:

Will, I am a little confused. Do you believe a soil mix should have organic matter or not? You say that the simple truth is the ingredients do not matter, it is the function. Would you expand on this statement as well please.
What I said, and the premise of the article was that bonsai can be grown in anything that is non-toxic, with the proper care.

Based on local availability, climate, and my personal schedule, I use an organic component in my mix. However, local bonsaists here are growing bonsai in 100% turface, mixes heavy with #3 swimming pool filter sand, turface grit and sphagnum moss, and one even in garden soil. Who is right? Who is wrong? As long as they can give the care their personal mix requires and the bonsai are healthy and thriving, they are all right.

If we took a poll here, I doubt we would find many people using the same components in the same proportions, with the same particle sizes, yet we all are growing bonsai. Logically we should all take a master's mix (like Walter's) and duplicate it, we should all use peat. But logic fails at this simple suggestion because we all live in different climates and we all have different schedules. Chances are out trees would die in Walter's mix, unless we adjusted our schedule and climate to match his perfectly. How about using 50% potting soil like Guy Guidry? Certainly he has the results to prove his own mix?

So there is no "perfect mix" except the one that works for you, provides anchorage, drains well, and retains enough moisture and nutrients between times that you can feed and water for survival.

leonardo wrote: Now the only reason I studied it was I became curious to why there were so many answers to this event and why I lost plants out of the blue...drainage and soil hydrology.
Most bonsai deaths are caused by improper care, and if you had improper drainage or poor soil, proper care would have helped until such time the problem could have been fixed. Drainage is easy to judge, if your water runs out of the bottom as fast as you put it in the top, you have good drainage, if it pools or takes a long time to soak in, you have poor drainage. Personally I could stand over my bonsai all day long with a hose and never have overflow, that's good drainage.



Will

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Dustin Mann on Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:44 am

Well said Will. Fini! Move on.Starting to take interest/fascination exclupitory evidence to obsession!! Hallmark of obsession-correct my sematics. Dustin

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Rick Moquin on Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:11 pm

John Quinn wrote:I have a smashing slide show on soils which I gave several years ago...but i can't open the program with my upgraded software programs! In any case, here is a link to some interesting reading from Ohio State...soil particle size and soil saturation... pay special attention to the section on watering containers. I incorporated some of this info into the talk.
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1251.html
Excellent link, that should clarify once and for all what has been discussed here, especially the total uselessness of a drainage layer and it's ability to cause more harm than good.

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Rick Moquin on Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:14 pm

leonardo wrote:Do you want to know why there is a difference between a shallow pot and a deep pot Will? You are getting warmer.

Ciao.....Leonardo
The height of the column of water, physics 101, now let's move on.

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:32 pm

Will Heath wrote:
leonardo wrote:

Will, I am a little confused. Do you believe a soil mix should have organic matter or not? You say that the simple truth is the ingredients do not matter, it is the function. Would you expand on this statement as well please.
What I said, and the premise of the article was that bonsai can be grown in anything that is non-toxic, with the proper care.

Based on local availability, climate, and my personal schedule, I use an organic component in my mix. However, local bonsaists here are growing bonsai in 100% turface, mixes heavy with #3 swimming pool filter sand, turface grit and sphagnum moss, and one even in garden soil. Who is right? Who is wrong? As long as they can give the care their personal mix requires and the bonsai are healthy and thriving, they are all right.

If we took a poll here, I doubt we would find many people using the same components in the same proportions, with the same particle sizes, yet we all are growing bonsai. Logically we should all take a master's mix (like Walter's) and duplicate it, we should all use peat. But logic fails at this simple suggestion because we all live in different climates and we all have different schedules. Chances are out trees would die in Walter's mix, unless we adjusted our schedule and climate to match his perfectly. How about using 50% potting soil like Guy Guidry? Certainly he has the results to prove his own mix?

So there is no "perfect mix" except the one that works for you, provides anchorage, drains well, and retains enough moisture and nutrients between times that you can feed and water for survival.

leonardo wrote: Now the only reason I studied it was I became curious to why there were so many answers to this event and why I lost plants out of the blue...drainage and soil hydrology.
Most bonsai deaths are caused by improper care, and if you had improper drainage or poor soil, proper care would have helped until such time the problem could have been fixed. Drainage is easy to judge, if your water runs out of the bottom as fast as you put it in the top, you have good drainage, if it pools or takes a long time to soak in, you have poor drainage. Personally I could stand over my bonsai all day long with a hose and never have overflow, that's good drainage.



Will

Very good Will so there are three basic soil types:
1. Soilless mixes which are made of totaly inert ingredients which require all mineral nutrients to be introduced into a plants water supply artificially. Soil organics are no longer required for plant to thrive.

2. Soil or soilless mixes that have a portion of organic medium which can act as a mineral nutrient reservoir by the process of decomposition.

3. Soil or soilless that is deemed poisonous or toxic in some way that will not allow plants to thrive.


Now back to the drainage question Will. You mention your mix has perfect drainage. Lets call it Will's mix or WM. Do you think it is possible to damp off a root system via too much water held by soilless in any shaped container if WM is used as a planting medium?

Ciao........Leonardo


Last edited by leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:39 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:37 pm

Rick Moquin wrote:
John Quinn wrote:I have a smashing slide show on soils which I gave several years ago...but i can't open the program with my upgraded software programs! In any case, here is a link to some interesting reading from Ohio State...soil particle size and soil saturation... pay special attention to the section on watering containers. I incorporated some of this info into the talk.
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1251.html
Excellent link, that should clarify once and for all what has been discussed here, especially the total uselessness of a drainage layer and it's ability to cause more harm than good.

This is not 100% true about drainage layer of large pebbles and will challenge at a later time. For those of you that use drain rock as a primary layer, don't panic yet.

Ciao.......Leonardo

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:10 pm

John Quinn wrote:I have a smashing slide show on soils which I gave several years ago...but i can't open the program with my upgraded software programs! In any case, here is a link to some interesting reading from Ohio State...soil particle size and soil saturation... pay special attention to the section on watering containers. I incorporated some of this info into the talk.
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1251.html

Thanks for the link John - very well done. Except that it doesn't explain why there is a saturation zone (engineers like me like to know why - and the answer is surprisingly complex.) Note the article never mentions perched level, but rather calls it "capillarity."

Also, I wonder how fast the saturation zone is reduced due to evaporation in a tall pot versus a shallow pot. The tall pot has lots of soil above the saturation zone so evaporation will be slow. The shallow pot may be totally in the saturation zone therefore the top of the saturation zone will be evaporating at the max rate. In my hot weather climate, temperature and evaporation are important factors in the equation.

Another key pot is root quantity in the pot. Sparsely rooted trees will us less water. Moderate roots use more water and reduce the saturated zone quicker. Pot bound plants will effectively change the particle size and add more saturation to the bottom of the pot.

Rob Kempinski
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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:13 pm

Thanks for the link John - very well done. Except that it doesn't explain why there is a saturation zone (engineers like me like to know why - and the answer is surprisingly complex.) Note the article never mentions perched level, but rather calls it "capillarity."

...........................................................

I was so happy to see that they did not call the saturation zone or as I prefer the capillary fringe zone perched, a term I believe does not fit.
Now to help explain this zone.

Water molecules have positive and negative charges as well as the soilless media. Water tries to stick to water or cohesion and water tries to stick to other objects or adhesion. Water can move through soil by gravity and it can also move through soil by capillary force just like it moves up a tree to 140 meters. When water passes through a soil sample it will be pulled by gravity. But there becomes a point when the force of capillary cohesion and adhesion is stronger than the gravity pull so the water remains stuck. The water molecules will remain in the capillary zone until some other event or reason occurs for them to move from this zone.


Ciao......Leonardo

leonardo
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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Cordon on Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:25 pm

Leonardo,

I'm not sure if your description of capillary forces and gravity is correct. The forces of cohesion, adhesion and gravity are always constant. I'm trying to remember back to my plant biology classes, but I don't think the reason water can be transported all the way to the top of the tallest tree is simple capillary action. I'm pretty sure water is actively transported by root cells, effectively pumping water from the bottom, not the passive capillary action pulling from the top. Also if capillary action was all that was at work the plant could never pull water out of unsaturated soil. Here's a good explaination, with equations, but no pictures, sorry....

http://npand.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/tree-physics-1/


Aside from that isn't the "ideal soil" the one that works best for you, in your environment? regardless of the height of the saturation zone, capillary fringe or any of the rest of it? since we grow plants in pots, each of us is able to tailor our mixes to our local environment. there are general guidelines to follow like trying to keep an open soil mixture, but the best each of us can do is trial and error until we find the best mix for our managment capabilities. For me, I'm recently started these trials and used Brent Waltson's recipe and a starting point. Worked great for my Elms and Quince, Crepe myrtle and Forsythia. My other plants have not done very well, but for reasons not directly related to soil, too much sun. So I think the point that Will was tryign to make with his article, at least to me, was for we waste a lot of time and effort with all the fretting and folklore out there about soils. In the end it comes down to the management of your plants.

Cordon
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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:42 pm

Water in a tube or glass, water by adhesion wants to stick to the sides or a meniscus. If the tube or crevice is small enough the meniscus on one side touches the meniscus on the other or cohesion. Each meniscus wants to move or climb and they chase each other called capillary action Cordon.

Ciao........Leonardo


Last edited by leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:59 pm; edited 8 times in total

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  bobby little on Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:42 pm

It is interesting to read what other people are using.
Somebody, I think Bobby Little from the Midlands wrote: Two parts peat, two parts grit, one part John Innes Number 2 (an organic loam-based mix, I believe).

Very Happy well, nowt's died recently. All growing vigorously and perdfectly happily in my little proto bonsai nursery here in rainy Coventry Cool

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Cordon on Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:33 pm

Leonardo,

I'm perfectly aware of what capillary action is and how it works, if you took the time to look at the link I posted you will see that capillary action plays a part in water transport, but is not the only force responsible for bringing water from the deepest roots to the highest branches. If it was, that wooden chopstick that many people use as a moisture indicator would be constantly dripping water from the top, or at least wet all the way to the top. To be honest, I'm baffled as to why you keep bringing up capillary action, we all agree it plays a role, but is only part of the whole picture. Your description of capillary forces is only true of saturated soil. plants are capable of pulling water out of subsaturated soil, that being the case, there is more than one mechanism at work.

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  leonardo on Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:59 pm

OK Cordon, how about the electrostatic attraction between water molecules and inner surface of xylem tubes? Sound any better?

Ciao........Leonardo

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:01 pm

Boy I took a few days off only to find this thread still pressing on.

The fact is, I started the thread not to establish a perfect soil mix or to get bogged down in the wonderful world of water. Although I must admit, being an agricultural graduate, an environmental worker dealing with hydrogeology, a master gardener and a sruggling bonsai enthusiast, I have never quite been as confused as when reading Leonardo's posts! Shocked

The goal of the thread was to take the people in the US (reading what the folks in the UK, or Panama or China) and vice versa, could discover that there are materials out there locally that can be used to replace the Acadama, or the Turface or what ever else we can find so that we can create the perfect mix for our neck of the woods. Hence the title "Your Perfect Soil Mix" (hope I got the title right!)

Again, I usually use three materials, mixed usually in thirds but occassionally modified to meet the specific needs of specific trees and plants.

1. An inorganic, non-absorbant material to help with drainage. I use either sifted traction sand, poultry grit or a combination of both;

2. An absorbant, but granular material to provide a source for water retention. I use a standard, large particle, baked clay shop absorbant used for cleaning up spills in automotive shops. I don't sift this, because it puverizes my clay.

3. An organic additive. Not necessary for growth of the bonsai because I can replicate its results with chemicals, but it adds to the look, adjusts the pH to a more acidic direction and also holds on to some moisture.

Regardless of what you spend, where it comes from or who you learned it from, you can contact others in your area and modify the ingredients to fit where you are from and how much you can spend.

As for Will, he is absolutely RIGHT, if you want to grow your bonsai in 100% glass shards, it will work, just be carefull repotting! Laughing

Carry on!

Jay

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  bobby little on Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:05 pm

it amazes me how some peole are able to make a competition out of anything. we're talking about bloody dirt here, andpeople are getting snippy with eachither. The world's gone mad. Mad I tell you confused affraid Shocked

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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  Cordon on Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:10 pm

Jay,

Thank you! I was feeling like the only one confused here.

Cordon
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Re: Define Your Perfect Soil!

Post  JimLewis on Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:23 pm

Well, guys, since everyone is confused -- and getting a tad irritated (and irritating) -- and we have beaten this dead horse to hamburger, I'm putting an end to the discussion.

If you want to continue this little "discussion" you can do it among yourselves by private message or email.

_________________
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: Define Your Perfect Soil!

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