Bonsai Tonight

Drying bonsai soil

Posted in Bonsai Care by Jonas Dupuich on August 21, 2012

To date, my summer has been filled with some traditional, and some not-so-traditional, activities. I went canoeing last weekend on the Russian River. When I got home, I set about drying some dirt.

Watching summer days shorten has become a cue for me to begin preparing bonsai soil. I wash the dirtiest soils and dry and sift the others. The goal is to amass enough  soil mix to get me through the coming repotting season.

Wet, or even moist, bonsai soil can be difficult to work with. Particles can stick to each other and dust can stick to soil particles. This is true of most, if not all, bonsai soil ingredients. Dry, dust-free bonsai soil is easy to work with and drains well.

How the soil dries isn’t important. My usual approach is to spread the soil out on a warm day and let the sun do the rest.

I cleaned off a cement pad

First, I clean a cement pad

Dumped out some lava

Next, I dump out some soil

Spread it out

And spread out the soil with a broom

Let it dry and then swept it up

A day later, the soil is dry and ready for sifting

Sifting the soil is messy work. The red lava pictured here was very dusty, leaving my (outside) workshop covered in a layer of red dust. I start by sifting out the largest particles, then the medium particles, and then the dust. When the sifting is done, I’m left with three sizes of lava just right for small, medium, or large sized bonsai.

Sifted lava

Large lava particles after sifting

Small particles

Smaller sizes before sifting

Large, medium, and small lava

The result – clean, dry, and sifted lava

Once the individual ingredients are dry and sifted, I can quickly prepare any mix I need (see “Bonsai soil” for details about soil mixes).

Next up, a post about decomposed granite and picking a soil mix that works.

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  1. Rick Trumm & Janet Nelson said, on August 21, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Jonas, Your description of soil drying is pretty much what we do, but with a couple exceptions. a.. we use a plastic sheet or tarp on which to dry soil, making it easier to pick up/move/clean up than using a cement pad. b.. we sift out the dust/smallest particles first. That makes the subsequent sifting of small, medium and large size particles less dusty than having the dust in each phase of sifting. This seasonal info is helpful as always. – Janet Nelson

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