Archive for the ‘akadama’ Tag

Bonsai Tips with Justin Case ~ Summer Heat   1 comment

Summer Heat, keeping plants cool

Today is the first day of triple digits for me. This is the first day of many weeks and an endurance race to make sure the plants stay hydrated during this California drought. While the Governor has said the grass must die, container plants can be hand watered as well as watering to keep trees alive. My trees are in containers so I think I’m double protected. There is no doubt that summer heat can play havoc on any plant in a container. Since most bonsai container tend to be dark in color, they attract heat and can send soil temps into the stratosphere. Soil has a good ability at buffering away heat. Add water to that and soil temps even in triple digit heat can stay well below 80 degrees. Soil temps above 90 degrees, roots essentially stop growing. Prolonged contact with soil at this temp will eventually die. It is important to keep soil temps well below or at least 80 degrees or lower. The temperature band for optimal growth is narrow. 60 degrees seems to be the temp at which most roots wake up from Winter slumber, and 85 degrees seems to be the limit for summer soil temps without root damage. Anything above 90 degrees will shut the plant down and above 100 degrees for prolonged periods will show sign of stress like drooping leaves and shoot die back. Leaves turning Herman Munster grey green and dry and crisp is borderline death. The stems may still remain green and emergency watering may save the plant. When the leaves are brown and crispy and the bark on smooth skinned species starts to get wrinkly, death is sudden and without saving. It’s too late.

How can we protect our plants in the summer time to keep them from death?

There are many way to keep plants cool thru the summer. One of the easiest ways is to keep them watered (hydrated). For some people this may mean watering several times a day. If one has an automatic watering system this is simple to do. If one does not have a water system and one works, then auxiliary methods must be employed. There are many soil amendments that can help retain water in hot and dry conditions. The addition of clay as in the Japanese red soil, akadama is one way. This clay holds lots of moisture and gives a sort of time release to the soil container providing water vapor for most of the day.


DSC_00031 Adding a wood component to the soil mix will also add an extra measure of moisture holding properties to the soil mix. Orchid seedling mix is a good additive to the soil mix and this will also add water vapor thru the day. DSC_00360004

DSC_00370005 Transpiration not only happen on our leaves, it happens on our soil. During the hot day water vapor is released to the air until there is no more to give up. In an effort to keep this soil transpiration to a minimum, the soil surface can be covered with many water holding mediums. Wood bark is a good choice since it has many bacteria fighting properties due to its tannic acid. This keeps the formation of molds and fungus to a minimum. A good layer of fir bark will add moisture for the day. Sphagnum moss is another good medium for keeping added moisture at the top layer of the soil. It also aids in keeping fine surface roots cool and not burning off when the temps soar. I have seen people use wet towels to cover their pots and keep down transpiration. This will work but only if the towel is full contact with the soil. If air pockets between the towel and soil are there, the air in the pocket can rise to unsuitable temperatures. DSC_00280002

What about mechanical contraptions for keeping a collection cool?

Shade cloth is a simple solution for many to help shade plants from the sun during the hot part of the day. Optimum height for shade cloth is 12 feet from the plants. Most people do not want nor have the room to build a structure so tall in their yard. It will provide shade for the plant but just know that the percentage of shade stated by the manufacturer is for the 12 foot height. If you have 50 percent shade cloth 4 feet above your plants it will probably be around 75 percent shade.  There will not be enough peripheral light to give the 50 percent value. DSC_00270001 Yard trees make an excellent shade medium. make sure to set up benches, if possible, on the east side of the yard with a good tree on the west end of the yard. The hot sun in the latter part of the day will be shaded by the trees and lend the needed shade to help keep pot temps down. DSC_00350003 A misting system on a time clock may help keep plants cool in the hot part of the day. Misting is a good way to cool down a pot but some go overboard with the misting and start fungal problem with the overly moist conditions. In most climates the hottest part of the day seems to be around 3 to 5 PM in the afternoon. A one time a day misting in that time frame may be all that’s needed to help keep the pots cool. If your misting, which I do not do, spray with fungicides….Justin Case

Realville gets a makeover   10 comments

This trident goes by the name Realville. Some day I wish to add small metal tags to the trees and number them so I know which ones are witch. Until that day I just name them. Not all of them have names but sooner or later something comes to me and it sticks. The name comes from the title of a blog post here I did a couple years ago. A search on the home page with “realville” should pull it up.

What I wish to do for this tree is shorten it up to maybe work as shohin. I think it will work but it will take a couple years to achieve. As it stands, the tree has a pretty good trunk and good taper. It has a terrible nebari and even though I tried to graft whips to the bottom, they failed and the base looks crappy still. I took the tree to a shohin study group I belong to hear and developed the plan.

So here is the measuring stick I made to measure at a glance the category a tree fits into. As we can see the tree is just about 1.5 inches too tall for shohin which is at the top of the orange portion.



I figure that if I layer the tree at the thickest part I can shorten the tree and put a better base on the tree in one throw.


Leaves fell off and the line is marked at the study group.



So today I carve a groove all the way around the base of the trunk at the line.


A large piece of wire is tied around the trunk. The wire is pounded into the trunk tissue and allowed to follow all the curves and indentations.


Once the wire is affixed a collar is made of plastic canvas for holding the soil.


A little bit about the soil. This is a bag of akadama I picked up several years ago…maybe about seven. I had no idea what it was that I had. When I opened it I was kinda like …”what the hell is this “.


The akadama is in round balls. Perfectly round balls. No broken edges, no rough sides, just smooth round balls. It is soft, very soft, and absorbs water like no bodies business. I mean it holds a lot of water. What’s really good about it is that being round, one can see in the picture all the shadows. It is about 60/40, akadama/air. It never compacts and allows perfect air exchange. This stuff grows roots so fast even I am shocked. No hormone here. I have used this on my large trident after the squirrels ate the nebari off and I had roots with this stuff in a collar like this in a few weeks. I have used this medium for all my layers thru the years and am on the look out for a bag to replace this one with. I have about 25% left. I’ll be back in 60 days and brush away some particles and we’ll see what we have.


Almost too late   2 comments

I looked over the trees on Friday and had a trip to the coast planned for Sat. The buds on the maples looked good and I felt I had some time to repot. Good…I can go to Santa Cruz on Sat. and repot the maples on Sunday. Got up Sunday and decided they would wait until next weekend. Big Mistake! Never put off to tomorrow what you can do with your lazy ass.

Came home from work today after a 74 degree day after the small rain storm on Friday and Sat. The buds on the tridents had jumped right over the swelling stage and bolted right to the green leaves unfurling stage. No time to lose, move the table into the yard, get the buckets of soil already made and wire for the pot this is “go time”.

The tree was already in a state that need repotting for sure. The tree was pushing the root pad up and out of the pot.


The tree was unwired from the pot and the whole root pad was lifted from the pot. It was thick as the pot and dense and fiberous. The entire rim of the pad was removed from the tree. In past years I have taken this even shorter to the trunk but this year the nebari is finally improving to the point that cutting back too short means getting into larger roots and I don’t want to disturb those yet.


This is how short the pad was made this year. At this point it still has a small layer of soil on top and the pad is full thickness, about 1.5 inches.


I then rake the bottom of the pad to dislodge the roots from the bottom. These are allowed to hang down and then are trimmed flush with the hard bottom of the trunk.


Now the old soil is raked off and the roots teased for the new soil. At this point the root pad is about 3/4 inch thick. The tree is oriented for aesthetics and then placed directly on the bottom of the pot with out soil. It is wired firmly…I mean firmly, so that it will not push away from the pot. I want all the energy of the first growth spurt to be against a hard surface to get maximum girth on the roots around the tree and to swell at the soil line. The tree at this point is starting to get a good flare at the soil trunk transition and this is due to planting directly on the pot and firm tie in of the tree.


The tree is tied and I can pick it up by the trunk and the pot does not move. The tree at this point still has no soil in it. Just a tree and pot. The soil for the whole tree is backfilled around the depression around the edge of the pot. The soil in the roots from the previous season are not washed from the root mass. This allows the new roots to fill the new area with roots while the roots next to the trunk can inarch and graft together to help form the nebari.


The tree is now backfilled and watered in and placed back on the bench. It will be full of leaves by Friday.



Squirrel’s -1, Keppler – 0   7 comments

I have squirrels bad. They are everywhere in my backyard. They drive my little dog crazy. They tease her, she chases them, she barks and the flip their tail and chitter. The squirrels are not really afraid of the dog as many times they have come down into the grass area and the dog has chased them back and fourth across the lawn or around in circles. The squirrels can get away anytime they want by leaping up to 8 feet onto my benches or up a tree. For some reason they love the tridents. It must be that the wood is sweet from the sap or something cause they bother no other trees except the tridents.

Last year in June I experienced a catastrophe. The squirrels had moved in and had eaten the entire nebari off of what I consider my most prized tree. I love the tree not because it is a great example of a maple tree, but I like it because I think it is a great example of a Classical Japanese Style Moyogi Maple. I have other maples that look like maple trees, but this one for me is classical and thats why I love it.

Whats left of pencil size roots are now just chewed off stubs. I had removed some very large roots from the trunk several years ago and had been developing a new root base on this tree. The squirrels chewed off in one day what had taken me about five years to do.



Feeder roots were left exposed and dryed out. Some of the larger roots are shown below just layin on the soil.




After inspection a collar was made out of plastic canvas. It was back filled with round akadama and covered with moss. Round akadama is what I use for all my layers and emergency repotts or things of that nature. With it being round there is no chance of losing a good air exchange and roots seem to thrive in it. I only have about half a bag left and can no find it any longer so I do not waste it.



In this close up you can see the small akadama spheres. I had just exposed the roots some to see what was going on. This was in September and now that I knew I had roots growing out of the stubs I could relax some.


Lots of new roots growing. Now it will just take time. Much of the scar damage on the lower trunk is from squirrels just “nibbleing” in past seasons. It heals up and just adds charecter. Chewing a whole root off is another story!


Now it was time to repot for this season. I was excited to see what was going on with the root pad after the repair. The tree was pulled out of the larger Jim Barret pot.


The small spherical akadama is super soft. While it does a bitchen job of growing roots, it does a better job of making mud.


So this is what I was looking for. Many of the roots had already started getting some bark on them and they had grown much larger since Sept.




The root pad was trimmed back to an oval shape. I take off about 50 percent of the roots on this tree when I repot. All or any roots that are growing from the bottom of the trunk are removed.


In preperation to tying the tree in, I made some small hair pins to hold down some of the smaller, but thicker roots that I did not want to remove, but did not allow me to cover them with soil. This pot is only about an inch and a quarter thick on the inside for soil. The root pad is very thin so no roots can stick up. Usually I just cut them off, but I wanted to keep anything larger than a pencil lead.


I tie my trees in by going all the way around the root pad and tying off, but leaving the ends long to go to the next wire. I will have to post a sequence of how I do this for those that wish to tie like this.


Once its tied in and all the wire are tight with pliers I can pick it up like this and the whole thing stays together, pot and all.


The tree all potted up. It’s a shame that I can’t expose a better nebari than this now since this year was really going to look good. Oh well, maybe in four or five years I can show what it should have looked like.


Posted February 23, 2014 by California Bonsai Art in Repotting

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Colander or Colonder?   2 comments

It must be Colonder because my Smart Ass Wife says I have my head up my ass and these will not work cause “these “pots” are full of holes and the soil will just fall out”.

Hah! just go back and take another nap and let me do the growing of trees. She is so helpful that way. I went back to the Super Asia Market and bought another load of baskets for all the projects I have with tridents this year.

The pink baskets I bought last week. This week I bought the larger ones and the smaller ones.


The green ones are 12″ x 3.5″, pink are 14″ x 5″, first blue is 18″ x 6″ and the big one is 23″ x 7″. I have no idea what I am going to put in the big ones yet. I think Frokensteen will go into the smaller of the two big ones.


I wish to talk about volume. A five gallon bucket filled to the brim holds 80 percent of a cubic foot. Most bagged soil amendments are sold by the cubic foot on the bag, sometimes it is in dry quarts or similar. The nursery container called a five gallon can at the nursery holds 3.5 gallons. It is pretty close to holding a half a cubic foot. The bucket holds my base mix, pumice and lava 50/50. To this I add the akadama. and sometimes huyga.


I put the large blue basket in my wheelbarrow and it barely fit. I poured in the contents of the bucket of mix and it came within two inches of the top leveled out.



On top of that I placed a bag of akadama. A bag of akadama contains half a cubic foot of material. I figure that this container will hold two bags of akadama easily, or about a cubic foot of soil. Thats a pretty big basket.


This is how much white space was left after pouring the bag of akadama into the bucket.


Oh I remember now. I know just what I am going to do with the big one. Savin that for a future super duper project.

Posted December 27, 2013 by California Bonsai Art in Repotting

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I found the Holy Grail   4 comments

OK here it comes….

Made in the USA, will be readily available, super light, good color, made from a renewable resource.


Three cubic foot bag, about the size of two bags of akadama. About 1/4 to 3/8 inch (10mm)

$17.95 a bag

100% recycled glass. I looked at this stuff and thought it was pumice from a brown volcano. Imagine my surprise when it was made from a machine and from recylcled glass.

There is a store locator on the “About” tab





I have taken a picture of the bag since the bag is vague on the size. I have taken the one foot to the third power to mean 3 cubic feet. If the Home company says its two cubic feet then so it is. This is what I had to go by. There has been some mention of size on some forums as well as my blog here. It is comparable in size to most of the soil making components out there. It is just a tad larger than some, but it is actually the size soil should be. Most substrates like akadama, turface, haydite, kitty litter and the like are much too small a particle size. I raised a stink on the Bonsai Study Group a month or so ago on a post titled “Bad Soil, Bad Root”. There was not much related into why the soil was bad, just that it was clogged and did not promote a gaseous exchange of oxygen to the roots. What was used may have been OK when it was fresh, but broke down or was too small in the first place. Substrate is substrate. It does not matter much what it is as long as the particle size promotes some modicum of moisture retention, is gas permeable, and has some porosity to colonize bacteria. That can be sintered glass, (as here), or clay balls, (akadama). The plant does not really care what you plant it in as long as you meet those criteria mentioned above. The bag details on volume. Anyone care to take a stab?


This is how the glass looks compared to some other substrates I use.

At 12 oclock- Akadama

At 3 oclock- Mocha lava

At 6 oclock- Growstone

At 9 oclock- Lava

I use larger lava on larger trees up to 3/8 size. This is about 1/4 or smaller. Same with the akadama. The mocha lava is a full 1/4 inch in size.


As far as price? This is a hydroponic growing medium intended to be used in the cultivation of indoor cannibis. I have seen plant nutrient solutions sell for $129.99 for a quart bottle. I am sure this will be priced differently regionaly and from store to store with in same towns. Lets just say that most of these “products” are subject to “whatever the traffic will bear” pricing, and unfortunatly most of these people have more cash than sense. So there you go.


28.3 liters is one cubic foot. So this bag is one cubic foot. I also poured a cup full into a tub of water and it does float. Of all the particles about 7 sunk. I filled a bonsai dish with the substrate and watered it with a waterwand and the water flowed right thru. While it does float it seems to have enough weight on its own to allow water to flow thru. If the pot did not have drainage holes I am sure it would float right over the pot edge. Of course like any true pumice it floats. I do not see this as an issue when used by itself or mixed into a substrate blend. Doesn’t bark float??? oh yea thats right it does.

New Update

A tree grown in 100% Growstone and the results

Posted February 5, 2013 by California Bonsai Art in Uncategorized

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