Cement as substrate

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  mokster on Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:01 pm

Hi Damien,

Its small clay pebbles used for aquariums. You probably can find them in the pet stores or specialty aquarium shops in those Mega malls that have ski slopes and roller coasters in them!

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  Damienindesert on Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:19 pm

Hi Mokster

You'd be surprised how little is available in such malls (if you're not into expensive clothing and jewelry). No

I think I know what you're talking about though. I got some hydrostones today which are likely a similar thing. Fired clay balls with chunks of what looks like black lava in. I'm just about to set-to on the stuff with a big hammer. I'll mix it with hardwood charcoal and that should do the trick.

Thanks for the heads up Cool

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  RichLewis on Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:29 pm

I've started a couple of ROR bonsai (contoneaster, korean box) using smashed up lumps of concrete as the R. They are field growing right now. Used concrete partly because 1) it's highly textured and 2) wanted to see if it would work. The feeder roots are in close contact with the concrete; 2 years on and both contoneaster and box are extremely vigorous.

Interested to see what results you come up with.

Cheers

Rich

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  Salted Maple on Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:05 am

This idea of using concrete intrigued me so much I made an account to post about it. I have been making papercrete training pots (mortar and maserated paper, very light and inexpensive to make) the last couple of days and I noticed that they absorb water a small amount with a very smooth finish. Seeing this thread got me thinking about making a very loose slurry of papercrete and making a thin sheet to break up when it sets as suggested earlier. Having a new toy at my disposal got me thinking a little more. My new toy is a fifty pound tank of carbon dioxide set up to carbonate drinks. What if I carbonated a slurry of cement/concrete (what is unset concrete called? Cement is the powder and concrete is the finished product. Hmmmm). I am thinking if I release the pressure when it has just set, it will break up and have a large surface area and maybe space to hold water. I have the paper soaking for my first test run tomorrow.

@Rich how old was the concrete you are using before you used it as a medium?

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  Damienindesert on Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:39 am

@Salted Maple

Interesting idea to expand surface area/water holding potential. When I was making artificial backdrops to reef tanks, I mixed various grades of salt, from coarse rock salt to finer stuff, into the cement mix shortly before use. These dissolved with curing and submersion and created millions of tiny air pockets increasing the osmotic potential something crazy (although that's not the reason I did it - it was for algae/bacterial colonization).

The thing is, if any potentially damaging chemical effects can be overcome, the sky's the limit in creating custom substrate. For example, how about mixing a standard sand cement mix with an equal amount of vermiculite and then shattering it up after?

Let us know how the the CO2 plan comes along and post pics if you get interesting results.

Regards

Damien

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  RichLewis on Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:24 pm

Salted Maple wrote:what is unset concrete called?

@Rich how old was the concrete you are using before you used it as a medium?

Don't know about when it's liquid, but when it's been lain for about 24 hours and is still soft I think they call it 'green concrete'.

The piece I used for the cotoneaster, I would say 2-3 years. For the box I used probably 1 year old pieces, and cemented them together a week before planting the tree onto them. All the concrete had been outside in the garden and exposed to the elements. I don't know if the calcium(?) in the cement would pose a problem, so far so good this end.

It's interesting you mention mixing gases into it. Engineers do that in construction to create minute air pockets, which is supposed to stop the propagation of cracks in extreme freeze/thaw climates, so they say. Perhaps it'll make your pots extra frost proof, if that's an issue.

Cheers

Rich

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  gope on Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:54 pm

Damienindesert, what about a crushed brick? If there is red or even cream brick available in Dubai (I can't imagine it's not), then you have a source of material for your substrates.

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  MrFancyPlants on Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:24 am

I tried a landscaping size bag of red lava rock, but had no suitable way to crush it into small enough pieces. I even tried running it over with my car. Instead I donated it to the ravine. I certainly empathize with your search for good soil.

Did you mention collecting tamarinds in a spillway? no river sand to be found? If you had a big enough sifter It would all be powdered sugar?

I love the experiments and would love to throw some crushed brick in my mix, but there should be something more organic(pun intended) available somewhere.

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  Damienindesert on Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:43 am

Hi All

Nice ideas bouncing around here.

Firstly, my understanding of what 'concrete' is, is cement mixed with crusher stone, as would be used to build foundations, support beams and slippers for guys who cross the Mafia Sad
Cement is the term I refer to as either the raw powder in bags, or the final product (ie. powder + sand + water). Semantics Mad . No point in arguing regardless.

As for red brick, I have no seen it around. The UAE has a thriving local cement industry and each emirate has enormous cement factiries that look like something out of Lord of the Rings! also, being a fairly 'new' urban environment, alsmost everything is concrete and glass. I have kept my eyes open though, and will snatch whatever's available. I tried some of the pottery studios in nearby Sharjah, but the quality of the fired clay is horrendous and the stuff just turns to powder and mushes up in water.

The tamarix that I collect grow directly out of the sugary sand. It's more like a saline bog really. A bit smelly, oxygen starved and very salty. I guess suitable substrates must be found in the Eastern side of the country where there are large gravel plains and mountains, as well as huge quarries, but it's just making the time to get out there!

I've smashed up a bit of old cement and have popped a few rooted ficus cuttings in there. In the meantime, I've smashed up these Hydrostone balls into suitable gravel, mixed them with an equal amount of crushed charcoal and added about 25% coarse (no dust) organic material sieved from my normal soil media. I need a wee bit more retention than most due to the heat. Now it's up to waiting and seeing.

Thanks again for all your suggestions. They all help a lot

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  GerhardGerber on Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:05 am

Ahhhhh....

Gope, you just gave me a new lead, bricks! cheers
thumbs up Hammer time! Laughing

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re cement as substrate

Post  john5555leonard on Wed Aug 10, 2011 4:32 am

hi damien, i live in thailand and i cant get many of the soil products either, but one of the best i,v found here is bricks, they use a small red brick here in construction maybe they use the same in dubai . somebody gets broken ones and puts them through a crusher and sells them bagged up for gardens. but you could get a few and do it with a hammer. regards john

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Re: Cement as substrate

Post  Damienindesert on Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:32 am

Hi John

Clay bricks are like hen's teeth here. Everything's cement I'm afraid. Sad

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Re: Cement as substrate

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