Monday, 10 November 2014

Post 182 Zeolite

Finding the right inorganic components for a good bonsai growing medium is challenging. Size range is critical as is the absence of very fine material. The physical nature of the particles is important too. Sharp surfaces make for much better root development too and with that comes trunk flare. It is possible to buy all sorts of crushed or decomposed rock products but to get them ready for use demands a lot of sieving and washing; hard work and what do you do with the 30% of the material you don't want.

Diatomite is a product sold as an absorbent because of its porosity and as such it is processed and screened to a sizing that is good for bonsai use. It is also readily available in small bags. Diatomite is a mined product but is the remains of marine organisms and is totally a silica material and can be quite soft.

Another mineral product that has wide use as an absorbent and filtrate (filter bed material) is zeolite. It is a hard volcanic rock, typically alumino silicate like the rest of the crust and is also very porous like diatomite. The interesting thing about zeolite is that it is cationically active forming weak bonds with positive nutrient ions like ammonium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and various metals that are useful as trace elements. So zeolite can act as a reservoir of these essential nutrients and TEs for the plant to access over time, as well as the water that it can store in the minute pores in the rock.

I searched out a supplier for Castle Mountain Zeolite this week and managed to get my hands on some of their product. It is sold as Booster Crystals!

 This one is screened to 1 to 3 mm in size and has almost no fines at all. While 2 to 4.5mm would be ideal, as it will be very useful. The rock is crushed so it is very sharp and will be a very valuable additive to my bonsai medium. I can easily see this taking up a 20% position in my mix.

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