water

Bonsai Soil Tests: Part 1: Water Retention

Welcome to Appalachian Bonsai. This video is one of a series to discuss soil components and some of their properties as they pertain to bonsai. These components are what we’re available to me at this particular time. What’s available to you may vary by region or by country. When it comes to bonsai soil no two person’s soil mixtures are alike. Each soil mixture depends upon the species, the climate, and the person who’s using them. I hope that just seeing these components in testing will allow you to make choices for your own.

Thanks for watching. Today, we’re going to look at water retention and a little bit on drainage. All plants need water so let’s see how much water these components hold. Both organic and inorganic materials were considered. Just because something holds moisture doesn’t make it good. Conversely, just because it might not absorb moisture doesn’t make it bad. I began by measuring equal volumes of each component and measured their dry weight for reference. Next, I added distilled water to each type and let it soak for one hour. This should allow plenty of time for each type of soil to fully saturate.

After an hour, the components are removed from the water and allowed to drain. Each is weighed out over time to calculate retention. Let’s see the differences. We’ll begin with organic materials. Coconut coir is commonly used in flower baskets and hydroponics. It is sold in brick form and soaks up water like a sponge. It fills the entire cup. That’s a lot of water! But, all available space is filled, which isn’t necessarily good for bonsai. We’ll will look more on that type of drainage in another video. After draining for an hour and 45 minutes, we weighed each sample. We weighed the samples again 3.5 hours later.

By comparing the different weights, we are able to determine the amount of water retained, and a basic percentage of loss. At 129 grams of water retained, plus minimal loss, Coconut Coir ranks number one in organic material water retention. This is mushroom compost I bought in bags at my local nursery. It is damp at purchase time, so I oven-dried it before I used it. Small twigs and sand may be present, and the content will vary depending on where you purchase.

It drains well and has a slight alkalinity. I’ll do a video on pH at a later date. At 26 grams of water retained and 31.5% lost, Compost comes in at number three with water retention for organic material. Sphagnum moss is found in cooler damper regions of the world and is known to hold moisture very well. However, in the United States commercially available peat moss comes in a fine kiln dry powder.

Unlike fresh sphagnum. In this processed form it does not whet easily, much like baking flour. More information will be available in a future video. You can see it has absorbed very little water, and is actually floating on top. If powdered peat moss in a soil mix is allowed to dry out potential dead zones may occur. If it is saturated, powdered peat moss will hold plenty of moisture, but for this test, it did not perform well. After draining for five and a quarter hour, peat moss only held six grams of water with 40% loss. It ranks number four on the organic list. Pine bark and fir bark are fan favorites in the bonsai world. I have pine bark available in my region.

Here, pine bark chips can be sold as soil conditioner. I sift it to a proper size and put the rest in the garden. Sifted bark drains well and holds good moisture. Beneficial microorganisms like bacteria can thrive in these porous structures. As a quick note, pine bark is on the acidic side. At retaining 22 grams of water at a 14.8% loss, pine bark comes in at number two in organic water retention. Let’s look at the Inorganic materials and aggregates. Akadama is the classic gold standard of Japanese bonsai mixtures. Here in most of the U.S., it is expensive and not readily available. It is often purchased online or at dedicated bonsai nurseries. Its large particle size drains well and its porosity absorbs and retains moisture. Because of the expense and its scarcity outside of Japan, people around the world look for alternatives to akadama. With water retention of 22 grams at a 26.6% loss, Akadama ranks number two overall in inorganic material.

Diatomaceous Earth, or diatomite, is a lightweight fossilized clay that is used as an absorbent in kitty litter and oil dry. This product needs to be sifted well before use. It also compacts and breaks down over time. We will look at that in another video. Like Akadama, it absorbs and retains moisture very well, and in fact, retains more water than akadama. At 37 grams of water retained with 30% loss, Diatomaceous Earth comes in at number one overall ranking, Chicken grit or granite chips is a popular aggregate in soil mixtures. Its popularity stems from its excellent drainage, its inert structure, and it’s pretty cheap. It’s also one of the heaviest components used. The color depends on the quarry, and for the most part is non-porous and absorbs little water. Most of the water retained is merely from surface tension. With only one gram of water retained and a 94.4% loss, Granite chips ranked last in our list of inorganic materials. Expanded shale is becoming more available as a soil component because of its ability to prevent compaction. It has a semi porous structure and can absorb some moisture.

The large particle size I had available to me drains very well. It has a good color, too. Unlike some other expanded materials this one does not break down easily over time. With only two grams of water and 84.6% loss Expanded shale ranks number nine on the inorganic list. Lava-Rock, which is sometimes known as scoria, is a hard yet porous material with excellent drainage. Its large pores absorb some moisture and can house beneficial bacteria. It also has a pretty color which makes it a good choice for top dressing. Similar to expanded shale and granite, it can last a long time without breaking down.

But 4 grams of water at 76% loss, Lava Rock or Scoria ranks number eight overall in inorganic material. Perlite is a type of volcanic glass that is expanded with high heat. It is common in growing mediums here in the U.S. Its porous structure allows it to float. Much like lava rock and granite, most of the water retained is through surface tension. Also like these other components, It does not break down easily over time One of the problems for bonsai is its stark white color. This usually means it’s only used for training trees and not for formal presentations. At 14 grams of water and 36% loss this product ranks number six on our list. Pumice is a less dense, but more porous variety of Lava Rock.

It, like processed perlite, will float. Like nearly all materials that you use in bonsai, you need to make sure that you sift it and wash it well before you use it. It drains well, and it’s similar to Akadama and its ability to hold and retain good moisture. With 22 grams of water retained and only 29% loss, Pumice holds the number three rank for inorganic material. Sand is one of the most available components around the world. It’s also the heaviest of the components that we tested. Small grains of sand can easily block drainage, so it must be sifted well before use. Sand also drains very well, but the majority of the moisture held within it is from surface tension and not from absorption.

With 12 grams of moisture retained in 67.5% loss, Sand ranks number seven on our list. Turface is a type of Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate or L.E.C.A. It is one of the most common Bonsai soil mediums used outside of Japan. It readily absorbs moisture, but like all of these components, it does have some drawbacks that will be discussed later in another video. Turface drains well and has a very good color. Though it’s relatively stable, it can break down over time. Turface held 30 grams of water with 36% loss.

This ranks at number 4 on our Inorganic list. Vermiculite is sold in various forms, including this expanded type. It’s most common use in the gardening world is to break up clay soils. Its use in bonsai depends upon the person. Even though it floats along the surface it does absorb moisture without becoming soggy. There is potential for vermiculite’s small size to clog drainage. Because of its 28 grams of retention with 41.6% loss, Vermiculite comes in at number five. Bees. Again, this is not a full list of components used for bonsai soil mixtures, but what we’re available to me at this time.

I have more tests to show you so stick around. Leave a comment in the section below about what types of tests you’d like to see me perform in the future. If you haven’t already, Follow us on Facebook or Instagram Stay tuned… There’s always more to come! Thanks for watching!! .

Honeysuckle Bonsai – Update from 2018

Welcome to Appalachian bonsai. Today’s video is gonna be a pruning of this Amur Honeysuckle. This honeysuckle was collected back in 2017. It was on my friend Lemuel’s property. Now, the thing about the Amur honeysuckle is it is extremely invasive here in the United States. Originally it comes from Asia, but it has made its way over, and I think that it is perfect for collection. If any of you out there have issues with collecting trees from the wild, give invasive species a try. There’s nothing wrong with collecting a tree that’s not supposed to be there in the first place. The footage for this video was captured April 2018, which was a fine time to prune. it’s now January 2019, which is not necessarily a good time to prune, but, January is a great time to edit videos you didn’t have time to edit last year. I hope that clears up any questions you might have had about the seasons.

If you’ll notice with this pruning, I’m taking it down to one or two buds per branch as well as thinning out the branches. These Amur honeysuckles are extremely vigorous. It’s one of the reasons why they’re invasive. Because of that, it can handle this type of pruning. There were many parts on this tree that were already dead, and I knew that going in to collecting it. But now that it’s had a full year of growth I understand where I want to grind, where to carve, and where to make artistic changes to the trunk and the structure of the tree. When using a pruning saw be careful not to force the blade. If you force the blade, your last cut might continue on and cut another section of live tree that you did not want to touch.

When I cut a large piece, like right here, I’ll cut the majority of the way through the trunk and then I will come on the back side and slightly cut it until it just falls off. There are many ways to carve up a tree, but I’m gonna be using a four inch wire wheel. Now, this wire grinder is often used for cleaning metal, but it does a pretty good job of carving up old dead wood, too. What I’m doing here is adding a taper to the trunk. We have a flat top and by cutting out a chunk I can make it look as if the tree is tapering towards that larger left branch. So, breaking it off right there, and I have better taper.

Now to finish it up a little bit more. The beauty of these large tools is you can eat away a lot of material at one time. Just be careful you don’t take away too much or hurt yourself. Now I’m using a Dremel tool with a little burr on it, and this is adding some finer details. You see those holes are actual worm holes. Those are from beetles and other types of insects and I am exploiting them. They are natural, and I want to accentuate them and add these lines that follow the curve of the trunk, follow those bug holes, open up those bug holes, and it just adds so much depth. I think it’s just a really gorgeous feature. I’ll finish it up with a little wire wheel.

This miniature wire wheel just takes off all the little frayed pieces of the wood. Let’s take a look at those roots. This tree is extremely hardy, as I’ve said before. Wow! Look at that! That’s a lot of roots! That’s one year of growth from this particular species. It’s also one of the reasons why I’m able to do a heavy prune on the top and a heavy prune on the bottom and still allow it to survive. Use your chopstick to clear out the old soil. This tree has been without water for a couple of days. With the soil a little bit dry it falls out so much easier. You don’t have a muddy mess. There’s our puppy dog. His name is Rocky. He is a pain. We love him. tease those roots out with your hands, with the chopsticks, or whatever tools that you find easiest for this type of work.

As you work your way underneath the root ball you can find some roots that can be removed. It will allow the tree to sit a little bit lower into the pot. A nice sharp pair of bonsai pruning shears can make really quick work of these wide outer roots Here is another large root that needs to be removed. It has some smaller fine roots that are growing off the sides above my cut. This helps make sure the root stays alive and I can get it into the pot. I know it seems excessive with all the roots I’ve taken off and all the top I’ve taken off, but as I may say again this is a very hardy species. It can handle this type of work.

Okay, so now that I have the roots pruned up, I can put them into a pot. I have my wires and my screens in place, and I’m adding a little bit of pre-made soil. My soil mixture is three parts Turface MVP, which is a type of fire clay, three parts of pine bark, two parts diatomaceous earth, and one part coarse masonry sand. I have them sifted between two and six millimeters. Check the description for those items if you need to look at them again. You’ll notice I’m adding a little bit of plastic tubing to this wire. This is airline hose, which goes with a lot of aquariums. I’m using it to protect those roots so that as it grows it doesn’t form around that wire, which is sometimes known as wire bite. And then you pull and twist. I’m adding soil to the pot one or two scoops at a time. And then I use my chopstick to work that soil in between each of the roots, starting from the trunk and working my way outward.

If you’ve watched any of my previous videos, I’ve mentioned about working the chopstick up and down, wiggling it from side to side, sometimes you can tap the sides of the pot with your fist and that all helps get that soil in between those fine roots. After you’re done working the soil into your pot make sure you water it thoroughly. Protect your tree from strong sunlight and strong winds for the next couple of days until it’s recovered.

Also, be wary of young puppy dogs. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video. Like and Subscribe, because there’s more to come. Thanks for watching! .