kitty litter?

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kitty litter?

Post  srqstyle on Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:02 am

Hey guys,

I am trying something out tonight... I have been reading about akadama and turface as bonsai medium and I stumbled upon cat litter.... The UK seems to hold the title for the best bonsai-friendly "kitty" material. However, I went to my local grocery today and found a cheap, unscented litter that I wanted to try. I soaked it in water, and rubbed it between my fingers, but it will not crumble. I planted two of my smaller nursery stock in pure washed and screened "litter" and would like to see how this media works as a bonsai soil. Please, if anyone has ANY opinions on this subject, let me know!!! Very Happy




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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:42 am

whats the name of the litter? When I was litter hunting a few years ago I couldn't find anything suitable so I defaulted to turface

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  srqstyle on Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:56 am

I live in Florida, and Publix is the main store around here. It's their brand... It doesn't give much info on the label (if any at all). But it is described as "non-clumping, non-scented or perfumed and derived from clay" I'm sure it is not kiln fired, but it seems to hold up to water incredibly well. It seems like small stones once you wash it ad infinitum, lol! There is a lot of dust that creates mud from the washing, but once you clean it, it seems to be only perfectly sized absorbant pellets...

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:00 am

derived from clay makes me wonder if its a fullers earth based product like oil-dri, yet with obviously larger particles. Good luck with it!

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Todd Ellis on Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:08 am

Time will tell whether or not it breaks down. I tried an oil-dry product from NAPA (Auto Parts) and the soil became mush within a month. Good luck with your kitty litter. Do you have a cat? cat
Best,
Todd

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  stavros on Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:15 am

I would suggest that you perform some trial before you plant trees in it.
You may follow Harry's suggestions:
To test a new product for its ability to retain its structure, first soak some of it in water for 24/48 hours and check that the granules do not break down. Then try putting the wet granules into the freezer for a few days and see if they retain their structure after thawing out. Reject any products that break apart.......http://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm



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Re: kitty litter?

Post  gtuthill on Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:24 am

I am in New Zealand and have been testing the kitty litter here. There are two kinds here that look similar to the one you have. One is made from attapulgite and the other from zeolite.

I found the attapulgite to be unsuitable as it broke down after a week or two. The zeolite has proved to be useful in terms of not breaking down, and retention of water vs drainage. The zeolite however is not a colour that i like and now the temperatures are dropping here, the zeolite is starting to turn green from (moss i guess).

I have made the effort to import some turface, but thats a couple of months away at least Smile

Cheers
Greg

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:13 pm

stavros wrote:I would suggest that you perform some trial before you plant trees in it.
You may follow Harry's suggestions:
To test a new product for its ability to retain its structure, first soak some of it in water for 24/48 hours and check that the granules do not break down. Then try putting the wet granules into the freezer for a few days and see if they retain their structure after thawing out. Reject any products that break apart.......http://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basicscatlitter.htm

He reported on his trial in his first post. Freezing will not be an issue in Sarasota, Florida. I think a critical step in his preparation process was the washing.
BUT, I am still not sure the stuff will work. And, I am going to Publix this morning and might buy a small bag to test myself.

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  stavros on Wed Apr 20, 2011 1:55 pm

gtuthill wrote:I am in New Zealand and have been testing the kitty litter here. There are two kinds here that look similar to the one you have. One is made from attapulgite and the other from zeolite.

I found the attapulgite to be unsuitable as it broke down after a week or two. The zeolite has proved to be useful in terms of not breaking down, and retention of water vs drainage. The zeolite however is not a colour that i like and now the temperatures are dropping here, the zeolite is starting to turn green from (moss i guess).

I have made the effort to import some turface, but thats a couple of months away at least Smile

Cheers
Greg

a fellow bonsai enthusiast in Greece uses attapulgite. He fires it on high temperatures and he says it is as good as any other fired clay product....

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:11 pm

my fired clay product is available through order at my local true value hardware and they call it pro-field conditioner, 20 bucks for a 50 lb bag and its basically turface by another name. I find it to be extraordinary and so do my trees! Just wanted to throw out to you folks my experience that turface as such is sold all over and under many different names! Its worth reasearching and asking at local agricultural or hardware stores, "fired clay by any other name." you know?

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:57 pm

Recently a comment was posted to the effect that the person liked cat litter because it "was well drained".

Forgetting bonsai at the moment why do cat owners buy cat litter?
Because it soaks up cat urine................
Therefore it isn't well drained but very absorbent, otherwise when you emptied the litter tray there would be a steady stream of cat urine being poured out.
Anyone not believing this can fill a glass up with cat litter then pour in a measured amount of water into the glass and then drain any excess water into another glass and see how much has been absorbed by it.

Most is a derivative of Fullers earth which has been calcined.
It has been marketed under various names over the years such as Turface, Biosorb and Moler to name a few.
Biosorb which was sold by McLaughlins in Thursk was marketed to spread on waterlogged sports pitches to absorb the excess water.

Whilst it might be okay in climates which do not suffer cold winters unlike the UK, unless trees can be overwintered inside, there is a danger that if watering is not carefully monitored the medium will freeze solid eventually causing the death of the tree.

Trees coming out of last winter in the UK, will provide the answer.

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  stavros on Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:37 pm

Dave Martin wrote:Recently a comment was posted to the effect that the person liked cat litter because it "was well drained".

Forgetting bonsai at the moment why do cat owners buy cat litter?
Because it soaks up cat urine................
Therefore it isn't well drained but very absorbent, otherwise when you emptied the litter tray there would be a steady stream of cat urine being poured out.
Anyone not believing this can fill a glass up with cat litter then pour in a measured amount of water into the glass and then drain any excess water into another glass and see how much has been absorbed by it.

Most is a derivative of Fullers earth which has been calcined.
It has been marketed under various names over the years such as Turface, Biosorb and Moler to name a few.
Biosorb which was sold by McLaughlins in Thursk was marketed to spread on waterlogged sports pitches to absorb the excess water.

Whilst it might be okay in climates which do not suffer cold winters unlike the UK, unless trees can be overwintered inside, there is a danger that if watering is not carefully monitored the medium will freeze solid eventually causing the death of the tree.

Trees coming out of last winter in the UK, will provide the answer.

Hi ,
I could not disagree with you more.

Cat litter can be many things, from compressed paper bits, to different type of clay products....
All of them absorb liquids (this is why they are used anyway)
Not all cat litter products are the same. Some are really good for planting trees in, some not.
An example, the danish company Damolin, sells fired diatomaceous clay for cat litter (one of them sold by tesco's), and the same product under a different name (Terramol) is sold for horticulture.

So it is better not to generalise it without doing a thorough research.
If you check a previous post, there is a link to www.bonsai4me.com, talking about cat litter.
Many enthusiasts use similar products with very good results, i would dare say maybe better than akadama.

The thing is, one has to find the product with the proper qualities, regardless if it is used as cat litter as well.

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:36 pm

Stavros,
It seems to me that you could not be agreeing with me more if you tried any harder.

To quote you, "All of them absorb liquids" isn't that what I said?
If they absorb liquids they are not well drained that seems to be logical.

As to regards generalising, I was not talking about cat litter containing compressed paper bits and I haven't seen that sort mentioned in this thread except by you.

My point in the penultimate paragraph still stands and is based on fact.
Recently a bonsai colleague John Turner, who has like me 28 years experience repotted a Scots Pine which contained Biosorb the water retained by the Biosorb had resulted in an adverse effect on the roots of the tree.

People like Bob Bailey, Tony Tickle, Chris Thomas and Peter Adams will all be able to verify John Turner's ability regarding Bonsai should you need it.

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  stavros on Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:54 pm

Dave Martin wrote:Stavros,
It seems to me that you could not be agreeing with me more if you tried any harder.

To quote you, "All of them absorb liquids" isn't that what I said?
If they absorb liquids they are not well drained that seems to be logical.



My point in the penultimate paragraph still stands and is based on fact.
Recently a bonsai colleague John Turner, who has like me 28 years experience repotted a Scots Pine which contained Biosorb the water retained by the Biosorb had resulted in an adverse effect on the roots of the tree.

People like Bob Bailey, Tony Tickle, Chris Thomas and Peter Adams will all be able to verify John Turner's ability regarding Bonsai should you need it.

All porous materials absorb water (lava, akadama, pumice, perlite etc). This does not mean that they stay waterlogged.
When there is need for the roots to receive water, they can absorb the water contained in the porous material.
I have seen Graham Potter using terramol (cat litter) in his soil mixes. Harry Harrington (bonsai4me) uses it all the time as well as so many other people.

Who am I to say anything about John Turner, or his experience in bonsai? (I would never do it for any person) Nor do I dismiss his bad experience with the substrate he use on the pine. When a tree dies though, one cannot be sure 100% of the cause; we just make assumptions. By the way a couple of weeks ago, we were discussing terramol with Tony Tickle at the BoBBs and i showed to him pictures of the rootballs of trees planted in 80% terramol (that had their roots previously chopped) and in 6 months time they filled the pot with roots....So in some hands it works fine.

There are more facts that fired diatomite clay works fine than the other way round.



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Re: kitty litter?

Post  bonsaistud on Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:35 am

G'day to all...

I've spouted off before on the subject of kitty litter for bonsai soil in the US of A...I'll keep this short, and address a single point, that being water testing...

If you repot your bonsai EVERY THREE DAYS, then a 48 hour soaking might work. However, if you have some specimens that you repot every 4-5 years...you had better run the soaking test for at least FOUR years.

So, for what ever it's worth, IMFMHO, here in North America, kitty liter IS NOT WORTH THE GAMBLE. It's not even worth running the test

Pat...the stranger riding off in all directions on his 3-wheeled horse...

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:44 am

Its been my experience that bonsai soil, its constituents, and propper mixing ratios, could perhaps be the most hotly debated subject within the world encompasing this art form!

this thread I think proves that point.

Additionaly one hardly ever encounters the word 'penultimate' in every day usage. Thank you Dave. Very Happy

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:43 am

Dave Martin wrote:Recently a comment was posted to the effect that the person liked cat litter because it "was well drained".

Forgetting bonsai at the moment why do cat owners buy cat litter?
Because it soaks up cat urine................
Therefore it isn't well drained but very absorbent, otherwise when you emptied the litter tray there would be a steady stream of cat urine being poured out.
Anyone not believing this can fill a glass up with cat litter then pour in a measured amount of water into the glass and then drain any excess water into another glass and see how much has been absorbed by it.

Most is a derivative of Fullers earth which has been calcined.
It has been marketed under various names over the years such as Turface, Biosorb and Moler to name a few.
Biosorb which was sold by McLaughlins in Thursk was marketed to spread on waterlogged sports pitches to absorb the excess water.

Whilst it might be okay in climates which do not suffer cold winters unlike the UK, unless trees can be overwintered inside, there is a danger that if watering is not carefully monitored the medium will freeze solid eventually causing the death of the tree.

Trees coming out of last winter in the UK, will provide the answer.

I'm not sure what your getting at here Dave. Any particle substrate that doesn't break down in time and reaches saturation point will then drain, leaving wet particles and air space. Thats what we want isn't it? I'm pretty sure Acadama would make very expensive but excellent Cat litter. If you say these types of substrate are no good for the UK for instance, what are you suggesting as an alternative?
I for one will carry on with sophisticat in my general mix as it works well for me and keeps the price down.


Last edited by will baddeley on Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:56 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  stavros on Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:48 am

I have seen over and again people dismissing an otherwise fine product to be used in horticulture because it is also used as cat litter. I also understand the confusion that exists, because not all products sold as cat litters can be used for growing plants.

The most important thing is to know (or find out) the properties of the boxed/bagged product in order to decide if it is any good for growing plants. Fired diatomaceous earth (moler clay, terramol) is very good, non-fired products (attapulgite, bentonite) are not because the particles tend to clamp together.

Some products have been tried and tested with very good results, regardless of what tradition in bonsai says (that Japanese soils are the gold standard). As with every other thing, I am sure that we can find many who have great results with cat litter and similarly, find many who have had bad experience with it. That does not mean that we should dismiss it.

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:39 am

Will,

I initially agreed with your statement regarding the draining capabilities of these products back in the 1980s.

Most of my friends used Biosorb when it was first marketed by a firm McLaughlin's now trading as Viresco. In fact one friend went so far as to order a pallet load, this is someone who is so fastidious, writes down a complete record of his trees including daily temperatures.
If you visit us as we are hoping, you will meet him.
He found as we all have that whilst the material drains it also highly efficient as to the moisture it absorbs. If, any proof of this were needed conduct the experiment I described, to my mind and that of my colleagues it over absorbs. Even most advertising describes it as super absorbent.....

The problem then arises during severe winters such as the one we have just had, surely no one in the UK will argue on that point?
In my local relatively protected area the temperature fell to below minus 14deg. C. on four or five occasions.

The point that I was trying to make was that the moisture in the product, (whilst the product does not break down and I don't recall saying it did) manifests itself as ice crystals around the roots( I presume that there is no argument regarding the scientific fact that when water freezes it expands, therefore it is logical that it has to go somewhere?)

This has the same effect as the 'red death' described by Peter Adams brought on by Akadama, in locations which suffer from severe cold wet freezing winters.

I have no doubt as Mr Rhodes stated he has no problems in the state of Florida or others with similar climates where the winter is of a different type to ours in the UK.

You may recall that I said if you use this material the trees will need to be protected and watering carefully monitored to avoid tree deaths.

To those who have only just discovered or have yet to cat litter/Biosorb/Moler/Turface, as I said earlier, we were using it in the 1980s. There is very little new in bonsai.

Through hard learnt lessons my group of friends have now discarded it, except to put in gravel trays with accent plants on them.

What I is a great pity is that when discussing this product or even worse Akadama, anyone who has a contra view as to their efficacy is branded as someone who should be burnt at the stake as a heretic. No account seems to be taken of the practical experience of the person or his peers. But that could a whole new thread silent


Last edited by Dave Martin on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:50 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : correction to text and punctuation)

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:16 am

Interesting points you raise there Dave. Firstly I was not suggesting you said that these products break down, it was just to clarify a molar type cat litter from the others. Surely any medium that drops to the kind of temps you talk of inour wet and cold Winters will create ice crystals?
I would be interested to hear about your prefered mediums for bonsai cultivation. Very Happy

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  MikeG on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:10 am

I would love to know what you recommend for colder climates as well Dave. Especially here in Canada where we get REAL winters. -15 in Jan is a warm, balmy day, lol! I'm new to bonsai and don't want to be planting my trees this spring in anything that might kill them come fall.

Thanks, Mike

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:31 am

Will,
My comment about it breaking down was not directed at you.

I note a previous comment regarding roots filling the substrate. This has also been said of Akadama in the past. Well to the previous commentator guess what, I can show the same results.

As regards the formation of ice crystals excess retained water must lead to excess ice crystals, more is more in this case

Of the Japanese substrates I like Fuji grit and kuryu. But the cost of transportation across the world together with the ecological impact of that transport is making it harder to warrant their use.

Of my own mix preferences, I use Melcourt propagating bark, a small proportion of compost ericaceous or multi-purpose as appropriate, grit, kyodama, pumice and round aquarium gravel. The other material I used to use was Canterbury spar, both grit and sand. The sand was excellent (sand is really a good description as it was coarse) but the source became unavailable. Because of the materials used most of it recyclable. I admit that because of the free draining nature of the medium I use I monitor my watering regime but I have plenty of time to do that.

I do have to confess that I sometimes use Akadama as a surface dressing only especially when showing or displaying . Embarassed

PS. Will not be visiting Salem any time soon . Smile


Last edited by Dave Martin on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:32 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : mispelling)

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:38 am

Will
I thought I should post a couple of pics of trees in my soil mix

The Deshojo was a collected tree, which was given to my partner by her brother, who has sadly since died so you can understand the relevance to her and my need for care to turn it into a bonsai.
It was in a large 18 inch deep terracotta pot, after looking at the roots I pruned them and placed it into the 4 inch deep pot you see. That was 2 years ago and I have had to re-pot it both last year and this year as the root growth was so much.

It is obviously a work in progress and I have thread grafted branches and will probably air-layer both trunks before it is finished.
The second pic is a close up of the soil mix for info.



The Grolsch bottle is of course purely for size comparison!




The next is a Seigen shohin a bit shaggy at this time of the year.



The last is a Little Princess Maple on the left bought from a garden centre as a pot plant 6 years ago, it has 360 deg nebari first year in a pot previously in a seed tray.
Next to it is a Korean Hornbeam bought from the Bonsai Garden, Dorset first year in a formal pot.



Obviously I still have work to do on all of them, but they are progressing

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Guest on Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:48 am

Hello Dave and thanks for the info. Some cracking trees there and I know that Siegen are particularly difficult to keep. Obviously testament to your soil conditions and bonsai knowledge. Got any pictures out of leaf? Very Happy

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Re: kitty litter?

Post  Dave Martin on Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:12 am

Will, I haven't got one pic out of leaf.The only pic i have got is one shortly after I 'stole/bought' it from that fantastic fella, "Bonsai" Bob Bailey at an Abba meeting when it was in a pond planter as you can see the trunk and movement was worth the money. It actually won the display class of the AOB contest 2009, and I got my Robert Steven pot prize 3 weeks ago............A long wait but worth waiting for.



it has progressed a lot since the picture in 2007, I might even see it 'finished' one day, at the moment the apex needs to grow in height about 2 inches to be in proportion but heigh-ho, that's the joy of bonsai Smile

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