Akadama soil problems

Want to know why the akadama mixed with pumice and lava broke down and turned into mud at the bottom of my pot and most likely will kill my JBP. The soil came from a source that our club uses. Its happening to my other conifers as well. Carol Ebreo

Check with the source would be the first step. Then check with other club members to see if they have the same problem. It is possible that you received a bad batch or they purchased lower quality soft Akadama. It is not suitable in freeze/ thaw situations.
You have not mentioned the period of time it has been in use or the climate in your area so it is difficult to know if those are factors. Some years ago I purchased Akadama from a local source and found it to be very poor quality. The vendor stopped carrying that brand and switched to a higher quality afterwards.

For the past seven years i have used the double line brand ( medium ) with excellent results.

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In general, akadama that breaks down is a good thing. Can you tell us more? Am curious, for example, what signs you see that the soil is breaking down at the bottom of the pot.

When I’m trying to troubleshoot soil-related issues, I’ll ask myself:

  • Over what period of time did the akadama break down? Even hard akadama can break down quickly depending on the weather and how often the tree is watered.
  • Does water percolate well through the soil? If there’s a drainage issue, I’d want to address that first.
  • What were the particle sizes? Smaller particle sizes will break down first.
  • How well was the soil sifted? Starting with dust or over-working the soil during repotting can affect percolation.
  • How old are the trees and how quickly are they growing? Trees growing fast can produce lots of roots that break down the soil and affect how quickly soil drains from the pot.

It could be that none of these are relevant in this case. Do you have experience of trees suffering because the akadama broke down quickly?

For what it’s worth, regardless of the hard aggregates I will use in my soil mixes I have learned to always thoroughly rinse them in a sieve to get rid of all the accumulated “dust” before I commit them to my soil mix. That dust can end up as mud in your pot right away. This mud can build up over time and get even worse.
Definitely check the bran - call them and bitch. They’ll probably send you a new batch.

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The comments above pretty much explain the soil issue.

In the meantime before you can repot with different soil you might try aerating the soil. The idea is to penetrate the harder base of decomposed soil so the soil will drain and provide oxygen to the roots.

FWIW…I use a couple different size T-handle allen wrenches (for different size pots) and somewhat sharpened the end. Very easy to penetrate the soil and aerate.

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