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Now Offering a Bonsai Aggregate Sampler

Originally posted 4-1-2014

Bonsai Aggregate Sampler

We now offer a Bonsai Jack aggregate sampler. SKU 799600829882

This will allow you to try the product at cost before investing in a full bag. Use the samples to create a color mix and composition that best fits your needs. Each sample pack contains our best selling ¼ inch aggregates.

The sample packs include one fluid ounce each of

  1. Black lava
  2. Maroon Lava
  3. Pumice
  4. Bonsai Block
  5. Pine Bark Fines

Thanks for viewing.

By Bonsai Jack

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What is BonsaiBlock?

Originally posted 3-29-2014

What is Bonsai Block?

Bonsai Block is a lightweight high fired natural looking aggregate with a variety of earth-tones including peach, ash, black, tan and dark grey. Its a great alternative to Akadama.

This aggregate is reasonably priced(15 to 35% less than akadama), is available in both 1/8th or ¼ inch sizes and does not have a machined look as found with other fired clays.
This is a hard aggregate similar to lava that can be reclaimed for reuse.

This aggregate is similar to haydite but differs in make-up and cosmetics. Here is a photo.

The bonsai soil combinations are limitless. We will be using Pumice, BonsaiBlock and Pine Bark Fines for our tropicals.

Will this aggregate work for you? That’s for you to decide. We can only provide the technicals as seen below…

PH Level

  • ¼ BonsaiBlock 8.63
  • ¼ Maroon lava 9.22
  • ¼ Black lava 9.94
  • ¼ Pumice 8.63
  • Turface 4.41


Water Saturation
24 hours
(increase in weight)

  • ¼ BonsaiBlock 20.1%
  • ¼ Maroon Lava 22.4
  • ¼ Black lava 11.3%
  • ¼ Pumice 16.5%
  • Turface 44.0


Bulk Density(ounces
per cubic inch)

  • ¼ BonsaiBlock .403
  • ¼ Maroon Lava .394
  • ¼ Black lava .470
  • ¼ Pumice .370
  • Turface .385

Evaporation Rate 24 hours

  • ¼ BonsaiBlock 5.5% decrease by weight
  • ¼ Maroon lava 9.5% decrease by weight
  • ¼ Black lava 7.1% decrease by weight
  • ¼ Pumice 9.5% decrease by weight
  • Turface 6.4% decrease by weight

Evaporation Rate
, hour 25-48

  • ¼ BonsaiBlock 4.8%
    decrease by weight
  • ¼ Maroon lava 4.8%
    decrease by weight
  • ¼ Black lava 2.4%
    decrease by weight
  • ¼ Pumice 4.9%
    decrease by weight
  • Turface 3.9%
    decrease by weight

As you can see Turface is the worst offender when it comes to water retention and release. It will increase in weight 44 percent when absorbing but only release 10.3%(6.4+3.9) by weight over a 48 hour drying time at 41 percent humidity.

In my opinion. A good aggregate will absorb water and release it at a decent clip. Excessive water retention can lead to root rot. Turface is probably best left for potted plants that will receive water once a week. We will not get into the other issues of turface such as drainage. In the defense of turface it can probably be used in small amounts, maybe 10-20 percent of a soils make-up. I will not be using turface on my trees.

All other aggregates have an acceptable water release rate.
The best performer in this test is pumice. Pumice is a good replacement for turface. Its quick to absorb and release moisture.

PH levels are pretty much the same on all aggregates with the exception of Turface.

I trust you find this report informative. Feedback, good or bad is appreciated.

Thanks for viewing and for your continued support.

By Bonsai Jack

Please note. Only sections of these tests were performed
by an official lab. The report may contains errors. These tests were performed
on only a small fraction of aggregate. You will find slight variations in other
samples. Other factors such as variance should be considered. Example: Turface
which has a PH level ranging from 4.0 to 8.0 according to the manufacturer.

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What is Bonsai Lime Sulfur?

Originally posted 2-22-2014

What is Lime Sulfur and how is it used in Bonsai?

Ahhh, the stinky stuff everyone hates using. But we all love
the result.

Lime Sulfur has been in use for about 100 years. Remote farmers didn’t have access to a local home improvement store in the early 1900’s. These farmers and Coop’s were able to produce this product in a rapid fashion for little money. Lime Sulfur was used as a pesticide then as it is today. Many lime sulfur grade insecticides can still be found today by visiting your local hardware store.

Lime / Sulfur, at its core, is just that. The two ingredients are blended and cooked together for a certain period of time. The end result is an amber color liquid with a foul odor. Other ingredients such as arsenate of lead and nicotine are added to create insecticide grade lime sulfur. The addition of these ingredients broadens the line of insects it can control. This type of lime sulfur is designed to kill insects and control fungus and it does a very good job of doing that.

Lime sulfur is also used to bleach deadwood in the art of bonsai. Its applied to the deadwood to give it a distinctive color, often contrasting the living wood.

Most people would prefer to avoid added ingredients that can harm a plant. Nicotine for example can stunt the growth of many species.

Our Bonsai Lime Sulfur is created using four ingredients. Lime, Sulfur, water and a specific type of wood ash. I personally prepare every 5 gallon batch. Nothing else is added to our Bonsai grade lime sulfur. Its designed specifically for bleaching deadwood in the art of bonsai. Our mix is proprietary and is a result of many batch tests over a years time. It will out bleach any lime sulfur product available today guaranteed or your money back.

Our products is also filtered using a 70 mesh screen. We have all seen it. The lime sulfur with sediment in the bottom. During production of some products the bottom 10-25 percent of a batch is sediment. This sediment is unprocessed lime and sulfur that has not bonded. The amount of sediment in your bottle from an unfiltered batch depends on what order your bottle was filled. The later bottles will contain more sediment, the earlier bottles will contain less as its coming form the top of the batch. This is why you can order two bottles from Japan and one will have severe sediment and another has none.

You will not have this sediment problem with BonsaiJack Lime Sulfur. Our bottles are consistent. The first bottle will have the same clarity as the last. The sediment is filtered out, dried and used in future batches. This compounds the strength of our product. Nothing goes to waste.

Is our product safe for foliage and roots? No. Its always best to avoid root and foliage contact as best you can. If and when the soil or foliage does come into contact with the product there is less chance it will cause damage when compared to the insecticide grade product. We do not have the added chemicals such as arsenate of lead or nicotine.

Our product consists of superior core ingredients. I wont get into too much detail but its safe to say that we buy in bulk but not the cheap stuff.

We are not the only producer of lime sulfur. Many other companies offer great lime sulfur products. Avoid products labeled as a pesticide or repackaged pesticides. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in it. The MSDS and label should be readily available from the vendors website. IMO its best to avoid India and China based lime sulfur products.

Here is an example of a piece of driftwood that will be bleached, carved, sealed and used for a phoenix graft with a Brazilian Raintree.

I hope this article cuts through the clutter. Its not technically detailed but will give you an idea of our view of Bonsai Lime Sulfur.

To recap:
Our bonsai lime sulfur is designed specifically for bleaching deadwood in the art of bonsai. Its produced with top grade ingredients, filtered and bottled
right here in Florida, USA. This ensures you have a fresh order that has not been sitting on a shelf for three years before reaching you. Its not a repacked pesticide. It offers superior bleaching action.

Thanks for reading. Feedback is encouraged.

By Bonsai Jack

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Bonsai Cut Paste 101

Originally posted 2-15-2016

Bonsai Cut Paste 101

Making a superior cut paste is a difficult and complicated
process. Selecting the proper cut paste can be just as challenging.

Cut pastes and wound dressings can be classified into two
groups. Cream and Clay. The cream type
pastes will come in a tube and have the consistency of a thick lotion. Clay cut
pastes are sold in blocks or tubs.

The premise is simple. Seal any exposed layers below the
exterior bark. This seal provides a temporary skin to the tree limiting
dieback, infection and drying.

These layers include the periderm(cork and cork cambium),
phloem, vascular cambium, sapwood and heartwood. In short, if you have a small
gouge or a deep pruning wound cut paste can be used.

The cream type cut paste is used for level or flat wounds.
These wounds are often level with the bark layer. It should be applied in a
thin layer similar to wrapping a sandwich with saran wrap. Examples would be
sealing the end of a branch you just trimmed back or sealing the trunk when a
branch was removed.

The clay type cut pastes are used for irregular wounds or
voids. An example would be damage from a woodborer. The clay type cut paste
would work best to fill the tunnel created buy the insect.

We will not get into detail on when and if to use cut paste.
Lets just leave it some people use it and others do not. Personally I use it on
all of my trees.

I have studied cut paste for more than a year. Testing and
retesting formulas. I have found our bonsai cut paste recipe to be superior
even though its complicated and expensive to produce. Let me explain why.

  • Its manufactured in the USA with extreme pride and attention
    to detail. This makes it difficult to
    compete with imports, as labor costs in the states are much higher than what
    you would find in other countries such as china. We are competing and winning
    the majority of market share. As of 2-15-14 we have shipped to 44
  • We have five available colors to match your tree. This works well to camouflage the wound,
    especially on trunk wounds.
  • Our product is fresh when compared to imports. Imports pass
    through several suppliers before reaching your tool bag. In the beginning we
    produced all of our cut paste in 32 tube lots. Today we are making batches of
    600 ounces on a regular basis. Producing batches on demand ensures we do not
    have unused product sitting stagnant on the shelf for many years.
  • Our product is free of synthetic oils. I don’t want to point
    fingers at other manufactures but some contain industrial type oils. We use
    only natural food grade odorless oils. If it goes in your car its probably not
    good for your tree.
  • Our product is insecticide and medication free. It is my
    opinion that these added ingredients increase dieback. Think of cut paste as a
    band-aid. If the wound is clean and you apply the band-aid you will not have
    any issues. You will not find band-aids on the market that have antibiotics and
    antiviral medication pre applied. As long as your tools are clean and you apply
    the paste within a few minutes of the cut you will not have issues.
  • Our product will automatically shed when the wound has
    healed. This is because our product remains somewhat flexible months after the
    application. You know how frustrating it can be to remove cut paste from a tree
    only to find it takes off more than the deadwood.
  • Decreased dieback. The absolute test for a cut paste
    application is the amount of dieback it creates. Nothing else matters! We have
    an old video on youtube covering this issue. Our product results in 10-70
    percent less dieback than other pastes.
    The cut paste with the least amount of dieback on your specific tree and
    region is the one you need. Even if that’s another brand.

To recap…

If you are a consumer of bonsai cut paste you need to use
the product that creates the least amount of dieback. No matter the
brand, type, cap color, or ingredients. Use what creates the least amount of
dieback for your region and trees. Nothing else matters as the purpose of cut
paste is to protect a wound with the least amount of scarring.

Thanks for reading. Feedback is always welcome. By Bonsai Jack

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Selecting the proper sized aggregate for your bonsai tree soil

Originally posted 1-13-2014

Not all aggregates are created equal.

Sourcing aggregates for bonsai can be difficult. It can be
even harder to locate the proper sized aggregate. Hundreds of sellers offer
some sort of aggregate intended for bonsai trees. Many of these aggregates are
not ideal for your tree.

The biggest mistake we see is the use of aggregates that are
too small or too big. The ideal size material for most bonsai trees is 1/8th
to 3/8ths inch. This will result in material that averages ¼ inch.You want 1/4 sized material in your trees.

Here is an image showing particles that are too small.

Left: Bonsai lava
that contains 1/8th inch minus all the way down to dust.
Middle: Turface that
is generally too small for most bonsai
Right: Ideal sized
Quarter inch lava.

Here is another image showing particles that are too large.

Left: ½ inch pumice, too large
2nd: ¼ inch ideal
size pumice
3rd: ¼
inch ideal sized lava rock
Right: ½ inch
improperly sized lava rock

There are exceptions to every rule. This image shows 1/8th
inch shohin/mame sized aggregates used ONLY for micro sized trees.

Left: Maroon 1/8th lava
Black 1/8th lava
unsifted Turface MVP
Right: 1/8th
inch pine bark fines


When purchasing lava, pumice, turface, or pine bark fines
you should know the exact size the seller is offering. If the size is not
clearly stated in the description its best to avoid that seller

Don’t make the $5 mistake. Buyers often see a bag of
material that is selling for $5 less than the name brand product. Some of these
sellers will offer a box of material that is ½ inch all the way down to dust. Leaving
you with about 33 percent of usable material.

Lets look at the numbers. A name brand ¼ inch lava rock is
selling for $30. A box of unsorted lava is selling for $25. Both are three
gallons. Lets assume the $25 box has a 33 percent yield of ¼ inch material
leaving you with 1 gallon of useable material. You have just spent $25 for one
gallon of bonsai grade lava rock. You will need to buy three bags(9gallons total) of
the $25 lava to make one 3 gallon bag of usable material. In the end that 3
gallons will end up costing you $75 when you could have simply bought the $30
3-gallon bag of reputable material in the first place.

The above figures show you what we, as an aggregate vendor,
deal with on a regular basis. We receive this raw unsorted material in bulk.
The material is sifted using a custom high speed sorting block. Whatever
material is above 3/8ths is crushed and resorted. Anything below 1/8th
to 1/16th is cleaned and processed for mame and shohin sized trees.
The remaining material is disposed of.

Another factor is volume. Two mistakes are often made.

Buying material based on weight is something you want to
avoid. A prime example is montmorillonite (turface). Even though this material
has been calcined it still holds a considerable amount of water. This material
can hold up to 50 percent of its weight in water. Meaning a 10-pound bag can
also weigh 15 pounds depending on the moisture content.

Bonsai lava also holds water. This material can retain as
much as 12 percent of its weight in water. Bonsai Block, 7 percent. Pumice by as
much as 24 percent. Try and stick with a seller who advertises by volume.

Another factor is volume. Many sellers will state the box is

The problem is many of these are overstated. We have even
seen sellers offering one half of a cubic foot (864 cubic inches) shipped via
medium flat rate box that is 590 cubic inches. The point is the math doesn’t
always work. Many vendors use funny math that doesn’t always add up. Use caution with estimates and verify the
dimensions. Here are some common USPS flat rate box sizes.

Flat Rate Box Maximum Volume = 834.98 Cubic Inches or 3.61 Gallons.
Flat Rate Box Maximum Volume = 590.62
Cubic Inches or 2.55 Gallons.
Flat Rate Box Maximum Volume = 75.33
Cubic Inches or 1.30 Quarts.

benefit of purchasing from a reputable dealer is the material is often washed.
All of our aggregates are washed before shipping. Several bonsai outlets(not only Bonsai Jack) offer great aggregates that have
been cleaned and dried before shipping. This allows you to make immediate use
of the aggregate.

Notes about turface. We sell this product to the die-hard bonsai
enthusiasts. We do not recommend using turface for your bonsai tree as the
particles are too small and the water retention is too high. If you are one of these
turface consumers please consider switching to Bonsai Block. It has a water
retention rate of about 24 percent by weight and is available in a ¼ inch size.
It’s a very durable material that is constantly sized and retains a natural
stone look. This product will improve drainage of your tree.We will be releasing a 1/4 Bonsai Block product labeled as “Bonsai Block” in the coming months.

gallons of Turface will only yield about 1 gallon of 1/8th plus material. If you do
purchase this product please do so from a reputable seller. Some sellers will
sort the top 10 percent off for personal use and sell the remaining less
desirable material. Purchase only untouched turface direct from the factory
bag. If its missing all of its 1/8th plus sized material then you have issues.

is not all bad. It has been used for many years by several bonsai experts. We
still use Turface for Mame and Shohin sized trees. Mixed with 1/8th
lava, and 1/8th pine bark fines it makes a great soil for micro
sized trees.

To recap. You want to find material that …

  1. Clearly states ¼ inch in size
  2. Come from a reputable seller
  3. You want to avoid material that includes the terms fines,
    dust, fillers, supplement, 1/32, 1/16, powder or sand.
  4. Avoid material that is smaller than 1/8th or
    larger than 3/8ths.

This photo shows what size aggregates you should be using
for your bonsai tree.

Left: ¼ inch Bonsai Block
2nd: ¼
inch pumice
3rd: ¼
inch maroon lava
4th: ¼
inch black lava
5th: ¼
inch pine bark fines
Right: ¼ inch
montmorillonite calcined clay. Turface like, but it has a consistent ¼ size.

Before I close this article out I wanted to touch briefly on
Pumice. Pumice has several grades and valuations. Not all pumice is created
equal. To simplify things you want to avoid pumice with characteristics similar
to perlite. This type of pumice is often advertised as “100 percent floating/ float-able/floated pumice”. If the pumice can be easily split with our fingernails you should
probably avoid it. This type of material with break down pretty fast. Bottom line: If it all floats it all breaks down.

The End

By Bonsai Jack

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Why are bonsai soil aggregates so damn expensive and how can I save money?

Originally posted 1-18-2014

Why are bonsai soil aggregates so damn expensive?

Inexpensive bonsai aggregates are out of reach for most of
the country. It would be nice to get ¼ inch lava, pumice, turface or Bonsai Block
for $18 a ton directly from the source. That’s just not possible for most

These aggregates skyrocket in price before they reach your
doorstep. The material must first travel by rail or truck to the
distributor(that’s us). This can cost as much as nine thousand dollars per
load, more than the aggregate itself.

The material is then sorted using FMC machinery that costs
several thousand dollars. The finer particles are discarded and the larger
particles are crushed before being resorted. The final ¼ inch material yield
can be as low as 50 percent depending on the aggregate.

The material then needs to be washed, dried and packaged.

At this point our wholesale cost per 3.5 gallon bag is…

Pine Bark Fines $1.86
Maroon Bonsai Lava $5.22

Black Bonsai Lava $7.42
Bonsai Pumice $3.19
Turface(not processed) $5.18

Why are we displaying our product cost? We are writing
this article in order to give some transparency on the issue. We are not afraid
to show production costs or profits.

If you do the math we are pretty efficient. Who else can
purchase, transport, sort, crush, wash, dry, ship and bag a product and only
spend about $1.50 per gallon?

Why are you selling these bags for $25 or more each? We
still have eCommerce and shipping fees to consider.

At the time of sale the retail site, Amazon or Ebay charges
are about 10 percent of the gross sale. If we sell a $30 bag of lava then Ebay
will collect $3.

We then need to factor in credit card or paypal processing
fees. These are about 2.9 percent along with a 30-cent transaction fee.

The final and largest expense is shipping. We ship using
FedEx and USPS. The average rate to ship a 3.5 gallon 22 pound bag is $14.80.
We have the lowest shipping rates available from these two companies. Other
vendors will pay 5 to 35 percent more. These rates are high because the bags
are heavy. We cannot fault these companies for charging $15 to transport a 22
pound bag 3000 miles to your doorstep.

Here is a sample sale from December of 2013 showing our cost
and profit margin.

$33.95 Gross Income
$14.80 Shipping

$5.22 Product cost
$1.28 Paypal Fees
$3.40 Ebay Fees
$9.25 Net Profit

As you can see we are not getting rich from these products.
These prices do not include labor. The original cost of the aggregate is
pennies compared to the final sale price. We have more than one hour of labor
into each bag sold. We could work for free and reduce the cost of each bag by
$9 but we have bonsai trees to support.

How do I, as the consumer, get the lowest price aggregate
from a vendor?

Here are some tips

  • Order
    directly from the wesbite using coupon codes. You can save 10-15 percent.
    We offer a 15 percent discount for all repeat customers. Others may offer
    similar discounts.
  • Shop
    around for local aggregates. Even if you don’t have access to pumice,
    lava, Bonsai Block, or turface you should be able to find a substitute for at
    least one aggregate. I have seen people use other aggregates such as
    course sand and kitty litter. Check with local lightweight cement block
    and red brick manufacturers. Please do not call these companies asking for
    20 gallons, they will hang up on you. In most cases you will need to order
    a yard or more of material. One yard is 202 gallons. One ton is about 1.5
    yards depending on the aggregate. That’s enough to fill 4 large trash
  • Do
    local pickup. Check the website or call the merchant and ask for local
    pricing. You can often save 30 percent or more on aggregates as shipping
    is not involved. A link for local pickup pricing is available from our
    main page.
  • Consider
    bulk orders. Pool your orders with club members and friends to gain buying
    power. Remember shipping is your biggest expense as it often doubles the
    landed cost. Bulk orders can be shipped with reduced rates. We can ship
    four 3.5-gallon bags via Fedex for as low as $45. That’s a saving of $3.55
    per bag!
  • Offer
    to pay the vendor with a check or cash. This will save you and the vendor
    about $1 per bag in credit card processing fees.
  • A very
    important factor is not to try and save $5 on a bag by purchasing unsifted
    and unwashed material. I hear about this everyday. The customer buys a
    3-gallon bag from a seller and only ends up with 1 gallon of useable
    material by the time the 1/8th minus and 3/8ths plus sized
    material is removed. You saved $5 on that bag but you need to buy 3 bags
    to make one bag of useable material. In fact you end up spending $75 on
    three gallons of unwashed material.
    You cannot use ½ inch rocks or dust sized particle in your bonsai
    tree. We will elaborate on this issue on another blog post.

Lastly. Consider reclaiming your used hard aggregates such as lava and pumice. You spend money to gather these prime sized particles and you should reuse them. These rocks have been around for thousands of years and are absolutely re-useable. Almost every aggregate can be separated from a used bonsai mix. Methods include floating in water, screening, and sorting via vibration which separates lighter aggregates from heavier particles. If you do reclaim your aggregates be sure to cook off any pests or organic matter. We recommend 200 degrees for 1 hour.

The End

By Bonsai Jack

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All aggregates are now washed/rinsed

Originally posted 12-13-2016

All bonsai aggregates are now washed / rinsed prior to shipping. This includes our 1/8th lava rock, 1/4 lava rock and 1/4 inch pumice. Rinsing the aggregates along with our vibratory cleaning ensures you will receive a super clean and consistently sized aggregate for your tree. We strive to offer the cleanest and most consistently sized aggregates in the business.

By Bonsai Jack

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Bonsai Jack Now Shipping Quarter Inch Bonsai Grade Pumice

Originally posted 12-2-2013

We have completed sourcing and testing for our long awaited bonsai grade quarter inch pumice. The first bag will be available 12-5-13 via Ebay Amazon and the website. We trust this will be the highest grade pumice available on the market. As with our other aggregates it will be available in Quart, Gallon, two Gallon and 3.5 Gallon bags.

By Bonsai Jack