Cat litter as Bonsai soil

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Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  F. Waheedy on Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:38 am

Hello everyone,

My question is ,How good or bad is cat litter as planting medium for bonsai ? Some experienced enthusiasts say it's much better than akadama and other well known mediums.

Their argument is that these soil components are all (basically) clay granules that have been fired/heated to create small pellets or granules that are water retentive, extremely well draining and are stable, that is they will not breakdown over the course of the year. also, its much cheaper and easily available.

I have most of my trees planted in cat litter but at times i get a bit worried because some people say it could absorb all the moisture from the roots and in some years could kill the tree.

Wonder if any other members here use cat letter or have any knowledge of the product. btw, some of the well known bonsai nurseries are selling in bags of 30 ltrs.

Regds,

Faisal

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  jon hultgren on Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:54 am

I don't use cat litter per say but I do use turface which is basically the same thing and I think it works well. It holds alot of moisture without having to much standing water. I also get pretty good root colonization in the soil.


F. Waheedy wrote:
I have most of my trees planted in cat litter but at times i get a bit worried because some people say it could absorb all the moisture from the roots and in some years could kill the tree.

Your worry about it absorbing all the moisture from the roots does not really seem likely to me. They only way I see it absorbing moisture from the roots would be if there were absolutely no moisture left in the soil structure. Now some trees do like to get a little dryer between others but you would never let your soil get so dry that this would occur.

If a soil matrix ever did get dry enough to allow it to try to absorb moisture from the tree roots it wouldn't matter what soil medium your using as you have probably already killed the tree.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  F. Waheedy on Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:01 am

Thanks Jon,

What you say makes sense. Lets see what others have to say.

Thanks for your input.

Cheers

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cat litter

Post  Robert Taylor on Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:21 am

I never trusted cat litter as is. It can turn to clay mud if used that way. Maybe it's OK if your making muck. ( I do that sometimes when I plant my larch trees on a stone slab and they seem to thrive that way.) I did buy the cheapest clay litter but I would fire it in a kiln when I'd do a bisque firing of my pots. The last batch that I did contained a lot of sulphur dioxide and yellow smoke came pouring out. Most nasty! I now buy turface, other Bonsai soils, and 1/8" crushed gravel by the ton at a gravel company nearby.


Last edited by Robert Taylor on Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:25 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling error)

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Hawaiian77 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:06 am

Howzit Faisal,

Asorbents not only absorb the moisture but when it evaporates it goes right back into the roots. I've been using it in my soil mix (asorbent for oil soills) and my trees are doing fine.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Smithy on Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:03 am

I've used it for a few years now and have no problems. It doesn't break down like akadama. I reuse it also.

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Cat Litter - Diatomaceous Earth

Post  pmjos on Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:59 am

Hi Guys

The cat litter thing gets emotional because people wouldn't want to plant their valuable bonsai into something kitty would use as a toilet. However, the one that I have seen used is oven baked granules of diatomaceous earth. It sounds more scientific it is interesting because it is a clay made up of billions of microscopic silica shells and is almost entirely inert. It looks close-up like a bucket of spikey sea shells. It contains about 90% silica, 3% iron oxides and 6% alumina (aluminium oxides).

The pockets in the shells collect moisure and hold it for a long time without binding together so they both hold moisture and leave pores open for air flow. The other effect this stuff has is that it is micro abrasive so when insects come in contact with it, the material attacks the lipids protecting the exoskeleton and the insects dehydrate and die. Powdered it is used all over the world as an organic pesticide powder.

Diatomaceous Earth is used as a vetinary treatment because it kills internal parasites and is available in a grade fit for human consumption for the same reason. It is entirely natural and of itself is ph neutral and it doesn't breakdown in water because its almost entirely silica and its structure is stable at a microscopic level.

It is fair also to say that this material if inhaled as a powder is harmful to lung tissue. That is why cat litter is baked and densified so it does not powder. That's why you can buy it in a supermarket without a health warning.

I cannot say horticulturally if it is wise to use it or if a given product contains perfumes or other things but; there appears no obvious reason why it should not be as stable a substrate as other named products. This is not a recommendation just a few facts, perhaps others could add more information and horticultural wisdom.


Last edited by pmjos on Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:00 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling!)

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Paul B (Scotland) on Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:07 am

I use it in my soil mix - about 70% cat litter mixed with peat compost, gravel and pine bark making up the remainder.

I've had no problems using it and would highly recommend it. Only downside for me is the perfumed smell when you first use it, this disapears after you've watered it a few times.

I bought a bag from tesco last week and found that the size of the granules are smaller than they used to be a couple of years ago. Sophisticat brand is supposedly the same stuff, but with larger granules.

Paul

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:19 am

Faisal, this topic has come up on a number of occasions over the past few years. Here is one of the previous ones and its responses:

http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/bonsai-questions-f7/cat-litteri-t760.htm?highlight=cat+litter

The consensus generally would appear to be that Harry Harrington's article remains the best source of information - certainly for those of us over here in the UK where there isn't so wide a variance of temperature zones etc.

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


Hope these help.

If he doesn't come on here and reply to your post, you could also PM Peter Thorne as he has experimented quite a bit with it. Ask him about Kittycrete too!

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:07 pm

I use it, but not in a form sold as kitty litter, it is sold at O'Reilly's Auto Parts Stores as an oil absorbant. (They sell two types, one is listed as suitable as a plant soil amendment, the other does not include that option.)

I haven't had any problem with it breaking down any quicker than any other baked clay product.

Just remember, if you are going to screen it, do so gently, the screen will cause it to break apart and yuo will end up with mor dust that particles.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  JimLewis on Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:16 pm

The answer seems to be that it's OK in the UK, but NOT OK over here. We USAians appear to pamper our cats (or ourselves, I suppose) and make litters that smell like a . . . perfumery or clump into bricks. UKers are hardier souls and just use high-baked clay, which works fine for bonsai. I keep reading about Tesco cat litter as THE one to use.

Here in the USA, we will always do better with Turface, Mule Mix, Profile, or Shultz aquatic plant soil.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Hawaiian77 on Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:38 pm

Jay Gaydosh wrote:I use it, but not in a form sold as kitty litter, it is sold at O'Reilly's Auto Parts Stores as an oil absorbant. (They sell two types, one is listed as suitable as a plant soil amendment, the other does not include that option.)

I haven't had any problem with it breaking down any quicker than any other baked clay product.

Just remember, if you are going to screen it, do so gently, the screen will cause it to break apart and yuo will end up with mor dust that particles.

Just to add my two cents in, Napa Auto Parts also carry good adsorbents too. Smile

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:46 pm

I am using Tesco unscented cat litter for the first time this year, so no results yet. I have been a big advocate of Acadama and Kiryu in the past but its soooo damned expensive.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Kev Bailey on Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:06 pm

The Tesco brand has smaller particles. I far prefer the Sophisticat Pink which I have been using for 12 or more years. It used to be called Pink Perfection and Danish Pink. Never had ANY problem with it.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  mr treevolution on Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:21 pm

Me too.
I have used sophisticat as it now called for years, great stuff. Nice large particles and does not break down. Longest use between repots was 4 seasons and it was like the day it went into the pot. Just repotted a large Hornbeam in a mix using 60% sophisticat. Its use makes those bigger trees that bit lighter to lug about too. Most of the large chain pet stores in the uk carry it, about £9 for the 30l sack. Akadama is nice stuff but i now think that cat litter does better in our wet climate her, especially overwinter.
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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Fuzzy on Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:50 pm

I’ve been using Tescos kitty litter with a little peat and grit for the past twelve months with good results, and as already stated the perfume smell disappears after a few days watering. I was a little nervous about using it after reading the article on Bonsai4me.com but as I say I’ve had no problems whatsoever. Hope this helps. Smile

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  F. Waheedy on Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:50 pm

Thank you everyone for all the inputs and great advices. At least i don't have to worry anymore.

Once again, Many thanks.

Regds,

Faisal

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RE: Cat Litter as Bonsai Soil

Post  CharlieC on Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:07 pm

The cat litter sold by Tesco & Sophisticat is Terramol. I buy it from www.britishbonsai.com under the Bonsai Soils section. They do two grades - 3-6mm Standard grade & a 1-3 "shohin" grade. It doesn't have the chemicals added that cat litter has to make the perfumed smell. They also do ready mixed soils which include Bark, so I assume that they also sell bark, so those looking at the Bark posts here may also be interested.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  Kev Bailey on Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:18 pm

The cat litter sold by Tesco & Sophisticat is Terramol.

Don't know where you got that from. The Sophisticat is calcined Montmorillonite. I've looked into this in great detail. Terramol sounds like a trade name.

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  jon hultgren on Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:48 pm

Kev Bailey wrote:
The cat litter sold by Tesco & Sophisticat is Terramol.

Don't know where you got that from. The Sophisticat is calcined Montmorillonite. I've looked into this in great detail. Terramol sounds like a trade name.

Intersting that it is montmorillonite that is used in these products. This specific clay mineral in the ground is usually the cuase for swelling in clays. It can take in an absolutely hugh amount of water. Though this could be the reason why when fired it makes such a good soil.

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Post  CharlieC on Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:54 pm

Hi Kev - Sorry, should have been more specific - The sophisticat that I was refering to was the sophisticat pink, which is Danish pink or molar clay. Not sure what the standard sophisticat is made from, but you're probably right. Terramol is the trade name for the horticultural product. I contacted them about six months ago & understand that they supply both Tesco & sophisticat & other companies that use it for soaking up oil spills. I found the grain size on the Tesco cat litter to small & was going to look at sophisticat until I found someone who sold the unscented version.

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The best supplier for bonsai Soil

Post  Tony on Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:27 am

You can get Large and smaller bags of Sophisticat here: Cat Litter

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  RichLewis on Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:54 pm

Hello

By way of an introduction, I'd like to show you a fir tree planted in cat's litter for 18 months. It was on the 'dead' pile at the local garden centre, I took a couple of them home for free. When I planted it, it had very few fibrous roots, the pic shows the tree when I repotted it this February. The litter was completely colonised with roots (see how the litter is not even falling off the root ball), and there was a ton of microrhizzae at the bottom. This is the Tesco's lightweight, I have started using sophisticat pink for larger trees as it has a larger particle size.

Diatomeceous earth = OK



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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

Post  David Reece on Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:59 pm

Hello everyone.

I also use a similar product here in the states, Its a product from NAPA.

I love it personally and have been useing it for almost 2 years exclusively.

Only problem i have found is the expansion of the soil is pretty dramatic durring the first freeze.

I have found that if i use a thin layer of organic topsoil that it helps maintain moisture and also reduces soil expansion durring freezing..

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Re: Cat litter as Bonsai soil

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