Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

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Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Mon May 23, 2011 11:36 am

Hey Guys... I've been looking at this forum for a while but just registered. I live in Dubai, UAE which is in the Middle East (desert) so is extremely hot as you can imagine. We get almost no rainfall, temperatures average 45 celcius between June and September during the day and very humid. Winter temperatures are about 20 celcius. I have some ficus microcarpa, ficus benjemina, fukien tea, delonix, Jade that seem to do well with the heat (ficus has to be kept in the shade from now throughout the summer though). The main problem is getting my hands on material for bonsai soil. Even if I could get some I would think that due to the heat the water retention will not be enough. Currently I use potting soil / grit mix (60/40) that allows for drainage as well as keeps enough water. Most of the plants need water daily. I have tried but cannot find any perlite or similar material.

Does anyone have any advice for better soil considering the climate?

Any comments / suggestions will be much appreciated.

Abas

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  stavros on Mon May 23, 2011 11:45 am

Can't you get some crushed lava?? or baked clay ?? Pumice??

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  JimLewis on Mon May 23, 2011 12:04 pm

Your mix is probably OK for your climate, though it probably would be better for root development if the organic component (potting soil) was a larger particle size than typical "potting soil."

I assume you keep your trees under shade cloth?

You may find this helpful: http://www.phoenixbonsai.com/

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Mon May 23, 2011 1:43 pm

Stavros: I have looked but havent found any of those (havent given up though - may have to get something imported). I have looked at some car litter that may fit the bill but am not too sure about this.

Jim: There is not much choice here with regards to potting soil... the type I have is larger than the standard which is why the plants seems to do ok. I have moved them to an area of the garden thats in shade until I get some cloth. I tried with 1 of the focus and the leaves really do get burnt!

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon May 23, 2011 2:19 pm

abasl wrote:H I have tried but cannot find any perlite or similar material.


Abas

I think your soil is probably OK, for the climate. Perlite is not something I would use in a potting soil as the particles are very light and tend to work their way to the surface. I don't like the way it looks.

I would be tempted to try some "composted" camel, sheep or goat dung as a small part of your soil mix. On the surface desert soil can be made up of very fine particles but deeper down I think you would find larger particles.

Soil can be just a way to keep the plant upright in the container, and we supply all the nutrients from fertilizers.

I have a friend that plants some things in pure Turface, which is a baked clay product. It looks like someone spent a lot of time with a hammer on a terracotta clay pot. As I understand it Akadama is a clay baked by volcanic action. I'll bet in the right spot in the desert you could find a similar material.

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Randy_Davis on Mon May 23, 2011 2:35 pm

abasl wrote:
Does anyone have any advice for better soil considering the climate?

Any comments / suggestions will be much appreciated.

Abas

Abas,

If it were me (stress here), Not only would I look for soil components but I would be looking to the Native plants of your area of which there are many, that might be used for bonsai. Tamarix is native to your area and I"m sure there are probably many more candidate plants that are adapted to your climate and native soil which would only need minor tweeking to work well.

Just a thought,
Randy

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  GerhardGerber on Mon May 23, 2011 3:40 pm

Sorry, off topic - I now feel better about not being able to source these materials - Namibia I can understand, would expect more from the UAE? Laughing

Abas, I feel your pain! Very Happy I think you must get used to permanently over-potted bonsai or get a bulletproof watering system.

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Mon May 23, 2011 4:48 pm

Billy... what would be the benefit of the dung? (sorry I am quite new here Smile.

Randy.. I am actually scouring the nurseries these days for some more native trees/shrubs or ones that grow well here. I have a few specimens that I am working on such as delonix regia that does very well ... there are a lot of tamarind trees around but weirdly I have only found 1 seedling in the nursery so far and nothing else).

The soil here is pretty much just sand (or what looks like sand to me) so if I were to incorporate this into a mix what else should I put? The nurserys tend to mix this sand with potting soil for most of their plants.

Gerhard... glad to know I am not alone Smile ! There is even a Bonsai Shop here called the Bonsai Garden that don't know what I am talking about when I mention these materials. Smile

Abas Very Happy

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon May 23, 2011 6:58 pm

Dung = fertilizer and water retention, these animals eat vegetable matter and their digestive systems don't process it completely, so fiber. You compost it to get rid of weed seeds and the break down the nitrogen.

Look for a construction site where they have gone deeper, I think you should find material that has not broken down as much.

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  JimLewis on Mon May 23, 2011 9:17 pm

I have looked at some car litter that may fit the bill but am not too sure about this.

"car litter" may be a typographical error and you mean "cat" litter, or you could have meant "car," just as you typed it.

In either case you may be pointing yourself to a good bonsai soil component.

In the cat litter area, you want PLAIN baked clay cat litter -- no perfumes, deodorants, or clumping chemicals. Once you acquire a small bag of the plain cat litter, put a handful in the bottom of a jar and fill the jar with water. Set it outdoors for a week or two. After a couple of weks have passed, pour out the water and see if the granules are still hard, or if they have turned to mush. If hard, it probably an OK bonsai soil. If mush, forget it.

In the "car" litter area, over here auto mechanics use a baked clay comound on the floors of the garages to absorb spilled oil. It is called Oil-Dri over here, but I'm sure that are a zillion other names. Perform that same test to see if this stuff will turn to mush or not.

A test briefer than two weeks probably will not be definitive.

Good luck.

_________________
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: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  jonathan e on Tue May 24, 2011 3:47 am

This is all getting very complicated...

I live in Concord, central California, USA, which has pretty hot summer weather, and high winds much of the year. My potting mix has a great deal less inorganic (mineral) content than most bonsai mixes in the rest of the world. I use mostly crushed conifer bark (with a little bit of peat moss, less than 10% for more thirsty plants). For plants that like it a little dry, I sift the fine particles out of the bark, and add some pumice (Lava rock). In hot climates like ours, one can get incredible growth rates with these kind of mixes, if you water properly. My soil mixes and watering practices were inspired by Brent Walston of EvergreenGardenworks, who grows bonsai stock in an even hotter and drier climate than me with tremendous success. He has some great bonsai horticultural information here: http://evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm

good luck,
salam,
Jonathan Espalin
http://lifewithbonsai.blogspot.com/

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  GerhardGerber on Tue May 24, 2011 11:07 am

This is all getting very complicated...
Laughing Laughing

I realised this weekend after 5 years with bonsai that my watering needs some work. We've had a record-breaking rainy season and my trees were very happy.
We're in winter and some trees are still growing, but I've picked up that some trees stay too wet, and others are never properly wet through.
Big problem I have is fertilizer contributing to a crust forming on the soil.

I exclusively use a red'ish river sand for potting medium, with various organic bits&bobs depending on the species.

Based on advice here and the lack of anything better I was planning on sticking with this except that shredded coconut hair will feature from now on.

I'm still not happy, and I've got two months of winter to answer this question - lots of trees to be repotted and even more that have to come out of nursery bags into development pots.

Acacia repotting nerves and potting medium doubts - never gets easier! bounce

Cheers
Gerhard

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Damienindesert on Tue May 24, 2011 3:45 pm

Hey Abas

I also live in the UAE. I use potting soil bought at the little bonsai shop at Dragon Mart. It's mixed in with peat and some coco fiber, so doesn't compact too badly. Depending on the tree in question, I also add smashed up pistacio shells and miz them in. I eat the insides a LOT! To prevent dehydration, I lay compacted sphagnum moss (available at some of the plastic plant shops in Dragon Mart) over the substrate and soak it thoroughly in the morning. I keep my microcarpa in a position where they recieve full sun from about midday onwards and they are doing great.

With smaller bonsai, I pop the whole pot into a much larger pot and water the whole lot, thus buffering the effects of the sun.

I've only got half a dozen trees or so as I'm stuck in a small apartment for now but grew several some years ago when I lived in Sharjah.

Take care

D

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Tue May 24, 2011 5:11 pm

Hey Damien.... Nice to see a fellow bonsai enthusiast here in the UAE. Thanks for the advice! I have been looking for sphagnum moss and didn't think for one second that those shops have it. Do you have any other trees? (apart from ficus).

Abas

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  stavros on Tue May 24, 2011 7:39 pm

Hi Abas,

I get desperate sometimes because our Summers are very hot and humid ( up to 45 C= 115 F) and humidity 70-80% but when i think about your long and hot Summer I just smile ( i feel luckier than u ...no offense)....

Can't you find crushed stone from building material stores?? Not even LECA from nurseries??
You may try cat litter only if it is baked clay (like Terramol) so be careful if you want to try it (follow Jim's advice).

I had to construct a simple fogging system that goes off every hour for a couple of minutes in combination with aluminet netting (reflective shade cloth) in order to lower the temperatures slightly and i still have to water twice a day in mid June - mid September.

I think that a bit of higher percentage of organic material than usual in your soil mixture can help you with moisture retention.
As for small pots, Damienindesert has given you some good advice.

You can also try this: cover the pots with aluminum foil (used in the kitchen) to reflect some sun rays and keep the pot temperature as tolerable for the plant as possible...and use if possible light coloured pots.....It is also a goot idea to keep trees together because it raises the humidity in the specific area...


Last edited by stavros on Wed May 25, 2011 3:54 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Wed May 25, 2011 9:32 am

thanks stavros for more good advice. i will try some of your techniques. I appreciate the sympathy with our long hot summers. I have found some gravel that I use for some trees with potting soil to help with drainage however have not found anything else that can be of use. What is LECCA?

Abas

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Damienindesert on Wed May 25, 2011 3:06 pm

abasl wrote:Hey Damien.... I have been looking for sphagnum moss and didn't think for one second that those shops have it. Do you have any other trees? (apart from ficus).

Abas

Hey Abas. That place is nuts. If you look hard enough I'm sure you'd likely find pandas for sale there Crying or Very sad

I have a few F. microcarpa, and as-yet unidentified Ficus, a bunch of Tamarix and a few assorted pre-bonsai experimental bits and pieces.

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Wed May 25, 2011 3:20 pm

yeah your right about that place ! Smile

Where did you get the tamarix? I have a few experiment bougenvillas and 1 tamarix seedling (I think its tamarix anyway). Also, which shop sells the sphagnum moss?

Abas

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  stavros on Wed May 25, 2011 3:53 pm

abasl wrote:thanks stavros for more good advice. i will try some of your techniques. I appreciate the sympathy with our long hot summers. I have found some gravel that I use for some trees with potting soil to help with drainage however have not found anything else that can be of use. What is LECCA?

Abas


LECA is Light Expanded Clay Aggregate

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  Damienindesert on Wed May 25, 2011 4:25 pm

abasl wrote:yeah your right about that place ! Smile

Where did you get the tamarix? (snip) Also, which shop sells the sphagnum moss?

Abas

The tamarix I collect near the waste water treatment plant (not far from Dragon Mart). I'll give you the number of the shop after the weekend when I next go again. If it's more convenient, I can pick up a few packs of it for you.

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Re: Soil for Desert Climate (Middle East)

Post  abasl on Wed May 25, 2011 7:54 pm

Hey Damien.... Just saw your tamarix from your post and am well impressed! I would love to get my hands on material like that. Thanks for the offer of the sphagnum! I will let you know if I can't make it down there or find the shop.

Abas

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