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Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss - Page 3 Toplef10Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss - Page 3 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss - Page 3 I22gcj10Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss - Page 3 14dhcg10

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Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss

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Goosegirl
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Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss - Page 3 Empty Re: Let's Work Together to Chart Alternatives to Vermiculite and Peat Moss

Post  floyd1440 9/1/2012, 7:54 am

plantoid wrote:I think the vermiculite is a bye product from a type of silica that has been heated to release silicone oil if so , in a way it would perhaps be more environmentally friendly than some clay that has been fired for several hours just to crush it up for garden use. But it would most likley have a much longer life that vermiculite which will break down into a fine talcum powder type product over a few dozen years of being in a cultivated garden bed.

The only way to determine if haydite would last longer than vermiculite is to have a "contolled garden" with haydite in one and vermiculite in the other and this will take time to determine.
Next haydite is a "mined" product that some on this non SFG thread are concerned about.

http://www.hpbhaydite.com/haydite/haydite.html

Now I have to do some checking next week with one of my vendors as we do use a masonary product that is very light and the employees love to use as to if it is made with haydite.

Since it is used in nurseries I am sure it will be readily available at Agway when I stop there this morning..Wonder if it comes in 2,3,4 cu ft bags?
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Post  plantoid 9/1/2012, 5:35 pm

Had a quick read in the link , the only problem I see is that the Haydlite will is likely be a bit gritty like coarse pummice .
I wonder pound for pound wah the differences of water absorbtion and retention will be betweeen vermiculite and Haydlite
The process of high bheat making the clay give up gasses and leaving a sponge is similiar to the effect when liquid coal is blown into the furnaces of a powerstation and the resutant vitrified fly ash sponge is like a clean smooth sand that holds water & air .

Where I use to live , many thousands of houses have been built on old excavated clay pits that have been filled in with pure fly ash it does not degrade , it is so strong it can hold many thousand of pounds of buildings up without any subsidence.
It is also apparently also used in a sort of brickmaking /construction thermal insulation block and concrete.
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Post  floyd1440 9/1/2012, 6:31 pm

Well I checked at my local farm supply stores and none have heard of haydite. Agway was kind enough, since they were slow, to call all the nurseries they sell to and none have heard of that product either; however they do sell a lot of medium grade vermiculite.

It will be next week before I can get the warehouse to check with the old vendor who used to supply us with that like block as we do not use it any more due to the failure rate caused by pressure. We tried stacking them flat but then they were no longer cost competitive; not even close.
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Post  thegreatcob 9/1/2012, 7:59 pm

as for using sand in square foot i would limit it to low level for drainage only.
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Post  Damon 9/2/2012, 8:26 am

thegreatcob wrote:as for using sand in square foot i would limit it to low level for drainage only.

I agree. Although I have a more traditional garden, I've found that course "fill" sand is better than that super-fine mason sand.
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Post  Turan 9/2/2012, 2:15 pm

Damon wrote:
thegreatcob wrote:as for using sand in square foot i would limit it to low level for drainage only.

I agree. Although I have a more traditional garden, I've found that course "fill" sand is better than that super-fine mason sand.

Carrots and other root crops like a sandier mix. My sand is pretty coarse, I get bags of traction sand each fall for the trucks and each spring I spread them over the garden. They do what I need by loosening up compost based soil and adding trace amounts of mineral over time. The raised bed increases the drainage and warms faster in the spring. Too much sand would make a bed that drains too quickly. I have much less than 30% in my mix, closer to 5% I suspect (a bag of traction sand is about 1 cubic feet and my garden is 200+ sqf and I have added maybe 12 bags over the years) and feel I could use double the amount of sand easily but in no hurry unless a sand pile appears in the night.
I doubt that one needs agonize over grade too much in the garden. If the garden's compost needs loosening then mix a little sand in, add more if necessary. Various composts have a broad range of characteristics plus those of the sand. Like making a pie dough, add just enough water for the flour/butter mix to gain the right feel.

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Post  Daniel9999 9/6/2012, 10:36 pm

For sand you might wanna look into something like greensand. You get all the drainage of regular sand plus some trace elements like you do with rock dust.

Other sand types like lava sand are supposed to to be good for adding trace element as well.

I have been looking at a blended sand product called Volcanite lately...its a mix of lava sand greensand basalt sand granite sand and zeolite.

It be nice to get an ingredient that does double duty in the garden and that provides more than just drainage.
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Post  Damon 9/7/2012, 8:34 pm

I use both: greensand for the fertilizer, plain sand for soil structure.

I mean really there is no either/or with gardening. It's usually both/and. I don't see why so many are up in arms over using something other than vermiculite and peat moss.
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Post  RoOsTeR 9/7/2012, 8:46 pm

It's not that we're up in arms, but this is the Official Square Foot Gardening Forum, so of course our mission here is to support the method as layed out by Mel.
If you can come up with proven improvements to the method, I'm sure Mel and the foundation would love hear from you.
Also, when you received the message that you didn't have authorization, it was because the topic was reported by other users. When that happens, the topic is placed in another area for review.
Damon, by all means have a pod cast, but do it on your own site. That's not what this forum is here for.

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Post  Damon 9/7/2012, 9:52 pm

Okay, great! Thanks. Although I do ask this is the Non-Squarefoot Gardening section, right? So the mission of the Non-Squarefoot Gardening forum is to only to support the Squarefoot Gardening method laid out by Mel? Is this logical?

(Agreed, the podcast episode would be only posted on my Web site.)
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Post  RoOsTeR 9/7/2012, 10:11 pm

The point of the Non SFG forum is to discuss other forms of gardening, not how you can adulterate the SFG method.

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Post  Damon 9/7/2012, 10:51 pm

I apologize for the negative and non-supportive comments.

Has anyone heard of biochar? I wonder if that might be an alternative; although it seems it could throw the balance of potassium way off in the long run.

NOTE: The link is a wikipedia article.
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Post  walshevak 9/7/2012, 11:38 pm

In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown.

Kay

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Post  southern gardener 9/8/2012, 12:15 am

walshevak wrote:In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown.

Kay

There appears to be rice hulls in my pre made MM. They don't seem to do much? They don't hold moisture, and I'm not sure if they add any nutrition. Do they work well in the Philippines?
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Post  walshevak 9/8/2012, 2:16 am

They seem to do the same thing that vermiculite does. sorta keep the mix lighter and fluffy. They do add nutrition. The orgainic teacher there had some good lettuce.

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Post  Goosegirl 9/8/2012, 8:13 am

Damon wrote:
Has anyone heard of biochar? I wonder if that might be an alternative; although it seems it could throw the balance of potassium way off in the long run.

NOTE: The link is a wikipedia article.

Organic Gardening Magazine had a nice article on Biochar a some time ago.

GG
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Post  Damon 9/10/2012, 8:30 am

Kay, could you explain more of how the carbonizing method works? I've been wanting to try something like that for a while, but I've been completely unsure how to do it.

Goosegirl, thanks. I'll see if I can find that article as well. I did find this article over at Mother Earth News: "Make Biochar."
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Post  walshevak 9/13/2012, 6:38 am

I wish I could, but all I got was a verbal explanation. I never saw the operation in progress, but I did see some of the final product. It looked like coffee grounds in color and somewhat in texture. I'm planning a trip to PI after the first of the year. I'll see if I can find out more.

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Post  Damon 9/13/2012, 7:50 am

If at all possible please do. I wonder if coarse sand and biochar together would make a good vermiculite alternative?
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Post  floyd1440 9/14/2012, 5:52 am

Damon wrote:If at all possible please do. I wonder if coarse sand and biochar together would make a good vermiculite alternative?

Let stick with biochar which is formed by burning organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The temperature will rise to over 1000 degrees, burning off any volitale matter and organic by products, leaving you with a form of carbon. Most believe pure carbon is black but it is actually silver in color and if biochar is black to start with it will over time turn silver.

But living in Alabama there is a ton of high quality carbon material that I am sure is superior to biochar; it is know as coke or you need coke breeze. Pure carbon, very tough and somewaht porous, and all you may need is a few bags, a mask and goggles, all right in you back yard.....
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Post  No_Such_Reality 9/14/2012, 1:49 pm

Biochar is getting quite a bit of study lately. Currently, the commercially produced bio-char is not cheap, it's more expensive than vermiculite or peat moss.

That said, as a potential alternative to one or the other or both, I'd like to see it investigated as a potential substitute to help improve upon the 100% compost solution for those areas or people that don't have the infrastructure in place to obtain vermiculite or peat.

I don't have Mel's book handy, but if my memory is correct, each component has the following roles:

Vermiculite's role in the mix is to provide aeration, friability and drainage. It also provide moisture retention due 'puffed' nature of it.

Peat's role in the mix is provide moisture retention, also helps provide aeration and slows nutrient leaching and helps with friability.

Compost's role is largely as nutrient delivery and additional structure.


What makes biochar interesting is the potential to use it in place of vermiculite and peat. It retain moisture similar to peat and attracts and retains nutrients. Similar to vermiculite, it's long term stable in the mix and promotes friability.

Coupled with the ability to self-produce from local organic sources, it becomes a potential resource for developing world to improve their food production and the developed world to improve sustainability.



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Post  Damon 9/14/2012, 4:51 pm

Thanks, No_such, that's about what I was wondering. It's the ability to self produce that excites me most.

Flyod, yeah, I'm in the middle of coal country. In fact a nearby town is called Coaling, AL.
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Post  floyd1440 9/16/2012, 7:58 pm

Damon wrote:Thanks, No_such, that's about what I was wondering. It's the ability to self produce that excites me most.

Flyod, yeah, I'm in the middle of coal country. In fact a nearby town is called Coaling, AL.

Hey Damon

I used to live near Birmingham and you should be able to get all the coke particles you will need for free; some of us are not so lucky. Get a Home Depot bag and go down some railroad tracks and you should find as much as you ever need. Let me know how it works........
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Post  Turan 10/13/2012, 6:57 pm

bumping this for 'greenhome' as it basically answers his questions on how SQ Foundation approaches the problems of not enough compost etc. It is a gradual realistic approach.
SquareFoot wrote:This has been a great discussion. I really enjoy how you all are trying to look for ways to improve the system. We are always looking for ways to improve, so if you do find something, let me know!. By the way, I do travel extensively to 3rd world countries for SFG and Yes, I teach 100% compost as that is all that is available there.

However, the point that it takes a while to make enough compost to use is also true. So I combine ideas here. I tell people to set up compost bins and start composting immediately. However, I also tell them to get planting in whatever they can get. If they only have dirt available, let's see what we can add now(husks, leaves, to increase aeration, friability,etc) and add diluted human urine or wood ash (which are fantastic fertilzers) for instant 'improved soil' (consistent use of Urea has shown to double the yield on many crops!) I then have families use the SFG system to plant efficiently.

Yes, there will be weeds in this improved mix while the compost builds, but they have handled that for generations, so that is not as big a turnoff. Once they see the crop sizes and yields compared to the amount of space they used, they are converted. Then when the compost is ready, we add that and increase the yield even more. I thought you guys might like some real like experiences here. Alan Wink

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Post  CindiLou 10/16/2012, 3:48 am

For the biochar issue, I was at a seminar in Aug for our continuing education in MG. We had a class on biochar. There are students doing their thesis on it. I will try to find some links for it. They are getting good results as an alternative to vermiculite.

"Biochar is the solid product of thermochemically processing biomass, used for agronomic or horticulture purposes. As soil amendments, chars have been shown to increase soil fertility by improving nutrient and water retention, lowering soil acidity and density, and increasing microbial activity. In addition, energy production from biomass that stores carbon as biochar can be considered carbon negative due to biochar’s high recalcitrance."

They are doing studies on the different sizes of the particles.
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