Sunday, March 18, 2007

baked loam as main ingredient for bonsai substrate

I try to avoid the word 'bonsai soil' because there is no soil in modern bonsai substrate. I use for ALL plants that are in containes (bonsai, also the most expensive ones, flowers for the house and terrasse, tomatos tec.) 70 to 80 % of baked loam and 20 to 30 % of rough peat. Instead or in addition to baked loam you can take pumice, lava split, hard akadama (not the cheap one, because it decomposes and can kill your trees, crushed bar etc.
Baked loam is sold under many different names. Look for mateirals that are for tennis courts, addtion to soil for golf courses, sports lawns, material used by fire departments to pick up lost oil, material used in the building industry for insulation against cold and heat and for sounds. In America a product called 'turface' is fine. If you ahve a choice between the round particles and crushed ones always take the crushed ones.
In Germany a product called 'Maxit', 'Fibotherm' is OK. Use particle size of 2mm to 4mm. sometimes one gets a wide variation of sizes. Sieve your material and throw away everything that is smaller then 2mm.
Do NOT create a special drainage area in your pot. Your SUBSTRATE IS DRAINAGE SUBSTRATE:

This has the following properties:
cheap
easy to get in any garden supply store
one CANNOT OVERWATER! Yes, you can water as much as you want, any fool can water properly
One MUST water often and a lot every time
one must feed on a regular basis, like every 10 days to two weeks (any fertilizer that you can get for NORMAL plants, liquid or not, high nitrogen content is OK!
it is light when dry! This means one can carry very large trees without help.
On many of these products the color is very good. No other top soil needed.

That's it, this is my soil secrete.

1) bag
2) baked clay or loam
3) substrate ready for planting 80 % baked clay and 20 % rough peat




44 comments:

Marija said...

My compliments for this blog, it is very useful and inspirational for bonsai enthusiasts :-)

I have few questions...

What do you think about using Bims as part of soil mixture?

Since you are using mixture of 70 to 80 % of baked loam and 20 to 30 % of rough peat, do you need to use more fertiliser than regular?

Thanks,
Regards, Marija

Walter Pall said...

Marija,

Bims and pumice is the same. You can use it instead of baked clay. Pumice only does not have a good color and is so light that it swims away when one waters strongly.
One needs more fertilizer than with old-fashioned bonsai soil.

Walter

Rune Kyrdalen said...

Hi Walter. I have a question. Why do you set the minimum limit of particle size at 2mm and not for instance at 1,5 mm. I have just bought a lot of baked and crushed clay with a particle size of 1,5 mm- 2,5mm. (They were out of 2,5- 4 mm, whitch is what I really wanted). I understand that bigger particles are better for bigger pots, but do you think that 1,5 mm particles are too small for big pots.

Rune Kyrdalen said...

Hi Walter. I have a question. Why do you put the limit to particle size at 2mm and not 1,5 mm for instance. I just bought a lot of baked and crushed clay with a particle size from 1,5 mm- 2,5mm. (they were sold out on 2,5mm- 4mm whitch is what I really wanted). I understand that bigger particles are better for bigger pots, but do you think 1,5 mm is to small for big pots?

Rune Kyrdalen said...

One more question. How much does the clay you use weigh pr kg or ton?(dry weight)

Walter Pall said...

Rune,

you can also take 1.5 mm. I took 2 mm because that's the size of the brand I use. One should avoid to use very small particles because they tend to clog the substrate and then it is not well draining and aeriating anymore.
I am not so sure about the weight. I can carry 50 liters easily with two hands when it is dry, which means it should be around 25 kg per 50 liters. This makes it roughly .5 kg per liter. Probably even less.

Walter

Rune Kyrdalen said...

I just realized that my last question was rather stupid. I meant to ask about weight pr. volum : )

Walter Pall said...

O well Rune, that's alright. I took into account that you are sitting in the Norwegian outback and you are having winter depression. :-)

Good to see you are going to post some styling at KoB.

Walter

Spotted Dog said...

Hi Walter. Sorry for simple questions, but Can you define "rough peat". When I go to the supply store they look at me funny and ask if I want to buy "Peat moss" in the large compressed bricks or not.

Thanks for the info.

Rob

Walter Pall said...

WARNING:
I found out on my American trip that soft Akadam is sold as 'bonsai pumice' in America. This is a dirty trick to circumvent import restrictions. It is forbidden or very difficulut to import soil, but it is OK to import stones. Pumice is a kind of stone. But akdama certainly is not pumice nor stone, it is clay. So please do not use akadama thinking it is pumice. It should be forbidden altogether.

Rough peat is this bronwnish blackish stuff that comes from the bogs. It is eihter more like dust and then you should not use it. Or it is still old dry sphagnum moss. This is what I call 'rough' peat.

Walter

Bogdan C. said...

Dear Mr.Pall,

A friend with much more experience in Bonsai than me is also using with good results that kind of 'peat' obtained from the outer shell of the coconut; we can find this material easier than true, rough peat.

Also in Romania we can't find yet baked clay (the one you're mentioning as used for construction purposes). That's why we use some replacements, sometimes even homemade ones...For instance I am currently testing some natural red clay granules, irregularly shaped, which I find in a certain place in a forest (a red clay vein in the soil). I baked these granules in tin cans under heavy fire and the result is a black granulated material, hard to crush, which can hold about 1/4 of weight water. The nice thing is the granules are already made by nature (this type of clay naturally break in granules, under frost/defrost cycles), I only have to sieve them, the general size is around 3-5 mm, with sharp edges.

Keep up the good work and thank you for this blog!!
Bogdan.

Marija said...

Could you tell us more about importance of pH value of supstrate.What do you think about usage of vermicutite?

Regards from Croatia!

Walter Pall said...

Marija,

I don't care really about pH. Yes, it is important, but most of the time it is fine anyway. All standard substrates keep pH around neutral. Trees can stand a wide variation of pH. Just look at all over the worlk where trees grow. They don't care much about exact pH as long as it is not extreme.
I have no experience with vermiculite.
I am playing around with Chabasai, which is really a form of zeolith. This is similar to akadama, but only much cheaper and it does not decompose. I will take mostly Chabasai (zeolith) this spring fro repoting, having ordered two tons.

Walter

Marija said...

We are searching for proper rough peat. We have find some Klasmann's Lithuanian Peat Moss pH 4-4,5, but I consider that to much acid for olives, phillyreas etc., but not for pines and oaks. This if far away from neutral?! Except this one, we have find Tref's peat moss and white peat supstrate - pH6, but it is not such coarse, as you have suggested that it must be (0-40 mm). Have you any suggestions from this list http://www.klasmann-deilmann.de/index.php?idtop=1035&idsub=1057&artikel=1057?
P.S. No more bad soil mixes here in Croatia, we have pumice on market!!!

Thanks!

Walter Pall said...

Marija,

I would take 80 to 85 % pumice and this:

932 Weißtorf Litauen grobfaserig 0 4.0 - 4.5 grob + faserig

It is true, that the peat is acidic. But it is only 10 to 15 % o f the substrate. and you have to water with tap water!! Your water is very hard and it will neutralize the peat at every watering. I would not add anything else but peat. This is not soil, it is substrate!
You have to water on a regular basis and agressively so. You also have to use feed on a regular basis, like every ten days or two weeks. I use common commercial liquid feed as is sold for garden and household plants.

Walter

Marijachi said...

Thanks! :-)

Pawel said...

Walter, how much approximately does coast 'Maxit', 'Fibotherm'(50 l bag) in Germany?

Walter Pall said...

Pawel,

a 50 liter bag costs around 18 to 20 euro if you want just one or two. If you buy them wholesale for building, of course, the price is much less, like closer to 10 euro.

Walter

Pawel said...

I have one question about this Chabasai (zeolith) which you ordered two tons. Do you know Walter what origin is this zeolith? Is it from Slovakia or from Mexico? On the website I can't find this information. But this is very important for me, so if you know, please tell me about it.

Walter Pall said...

Pawel,

I have no clue and I don't care about such things.

Walter

Pawel said...

I don't know why you think that you shouldn't care about this. There are several types of zeolith. Every contains different quantity of clinoptilolite. This is important because clinoptilolite create porosity, porous structure. When in zeolith is more than 80% clinoptilolite that is good. On the website is that information but I don't believe this. I found scientific study about zeolith and I assure you that the origin of zeolith is very important. If you can, please find out about this.

Walter Pall said...

I certainlky have better things to do. You are overestimating the impoortance of exact details of substrate enormously. I can assure you that this does not matter in day to day practice like it does not matter to know the EXACT ingredients of what you are eating every day.

Walter

meushi said...

Walter,

thank you for sharing your soil secret! I have been searching for a cheap alternative to akadama for some time now.

I will check the all the bauzentrum around Trier this weekend.

Thanks again,
Michael

dheran said...

Hi Walter

With modern substrate, should one stop feeding from autumn through winter? WHat do you feed your trees during this period?

tx
dheran

Walter Pall said...

With or withuot modern substrate one should not feed during the inactive period. You will have to find out yourself when this is in your climate with your trees.
WP

dheran said...

thank you for always responding

Its great that there is someone like you out there, willing to share your knowledge and always available to assist

thanks

Anonymous said...

Walter, can I also use any kind of baked loam for azalea's? I always hear that they are always planted in kanuma.

Thanks!

Walter Pall said...

Azaleas are always in kanuma in Japan and with folks who believe that the Japanese have the monoply on plant wisdom. Kanuma is not bad but there are also other ways.

In Europe in Germany there is an area where millions of azaleas are produced. They ALL stand in rough peat with sand and are doing very well. Nobody there has ever heard of kanuma.

I use baked loam for azaleas with 25 % rough peat. I only have a couple azaleas, and they do very well.

Anonymous said...

Walter, you're right. I've planted my azalea in the same substrate mix in March and the tree is growing beserk! It's even doing better than when it was growing in kanuma.

Is it possible that a larch is making longer needles in the substrate in combination with the heavy feeding and watering?

Walter Pall said...

It is normal for larches to grow longer needles. Eventually you will ahve to cut back on feeding.

Tom from Holland said...

Hi Walter,

Although I've just started with Bonsai, I already have a lot of knowledge of it thanks to your blogs, photo galleries and demonstration videos. Vielen Dank!

Inspired by your natural styling of native deciduous trees, I started collecting some. I now have among others a white Birch, European Hawthorn, Common Ash and a Norwegian Acer. Some of them I already have for one or two years, some of them I have just collected.
The trees are still in larger pots with soil now because I want them to grow first before I start styling. I find that they grow very well, but still I'm wondering if I should put them in a pot with a nice pumice/peat substrate. What would you advise?

Walter Pall said...

Tom,
soil in a container will always cause you prolbmes. If not now then maybe later, in winter e.g.. But there a many 'soils'. So if your trees grow well, let them grow first. In substrate they grow best, that's for sure. But only if wartered and fed well and often. In soil you cannot water and feed as much and they will not grow so well.

Tom from Holland said...

Thank you for your quick reaction and this useful answer!

While reading more from this blog I started realising that you had already answered this question more than a dozen times, so sorry for that.

I think I will just let my new trees rest for some time now and then repot them in modern substrate in a few months, so that I don't stress them to much at the same time.
I will also start looking for bims or chabasai to mix with peat and of course some cheap fertilizer. From your trees I've seen enough evidence that this works.

Btw, any chance of you coming to holland for a demonstration? Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Mr Pall,

I cannot find any backed loam ( Maxit as 104 ) here in my country. Because I do not want to use akadama, what would you advise as a suitable substitute for baked loam? I already saw Seramis, but it is way to expensive and the color is wrong.

Mark Davies said...

Hello Walter,

Thanks to you I have been using Maxit clay since the end of last year and I believe that this change along with the daily watering and regular feeding as resulted in a pine and a spruce surviving their transplant from the wild to their new home (a pot) in my garden. All of my bonsai, both indoor and outdoor, are growing well now that I have repotted them in to this "soil".

Message to Anonymous. The product code that Maxit use here in Finland is different to what Walter is showing in his photo. Also it was not for sale in the any shop locally but I was able to order a pallet of 18 bags direct from Maxit.

Thanks again Walter.

Mark Davies
Raisio Bonsai
Finland

Tom said...

Hi there,

Would anyone know how I can purchase Baked loam/Maxit/chabasai in Holland? I've looked for bims but I can only buy it by truckload. When I search for Maxit clay, adds show up for Germany but not for shipment to The Netherlands.. Taking advise from Walter Pall, I'm eager to repot in substrate so if anyone could help..

Cheers, Tom

Mark Davies said...

Hello Tom,

Weber Saint Gobain makes the Maxit product. Below is the link for the Dutch website. Hopefully from there you can find the same product with size of particles from 2-4mm.

http://www.weber-beamix.nl/tegelen/maak-uw-keuze.html

Mark.
Raisio Bonsai, Finland

Tom said...

Thank you very much Mark!

Klaus said...

Years later, but since I came across this exceptionally informative blog, others will, too, therefore I hope my question will be answered despite being a very late follow-up:

1. On particle size:
How important is the substrate's particle size? I bought lots of baked clay, pumice, lava and zeolith lately (for very cheap), but they are all 6-8 mm.

2. On usage of oranics like peat, bark, ...:
I have no peat, bark or such and would rather not use it anyway (i.e.: keep my substrate mineralic). What is the function of organics in your substrate? Do I need to use organics? What happens if I don't?

Best regards
Klaus

Walter Pall said...

Klaus,
particle size is not as important as the fact that they should be about equal size.
Very slowly decomposing organic matter s are for creating a living 'soil' and to prevent quick dehydration of substrate, especially with small trees and trees which have a lot of foliage.
If you use pure substrate with well fed Japanese maples eg you will have to water two to three times per day when ti is warm.

Gaspar Sandor said...

Hello Mr Pall,
Reading this article I've got concerned about the drainage of my substrate. And I want to ask you a question regarding this issue: if the trees were planted in March 2013 is it alright if I change a substrate to one with a much better drainage in the following spring ex:March 2014?

Thank you,

Walter Pall said...

Gaspar,

sure it is alright.

Βασίλης Σιββάς said...

hi mr Walter i just bught 3 bags of the material and im thinking to mix it with 1/10 redsoil collected from mountens and 2/10 usual planting turfe. do you think that will be ok for my trees ?
regards vasilis from Crete - Greece

Walter Pall said...

Forget the red soil from the mountains. NO SOIL!!!! Read my articles.