Montmorillonite Clay?

Edymnion(7a)September 30, 2011

After reading up and deciding on a good alternative to akadama, I settled on montmorillonite clay since I could get a large bag of it for $7 at an auto store as oil absorber. Anyway, I double checked the back of the bag, ingredients listed as being m. clay and silicates (sand particles, presumably), so I poured some into a jar and added water to see how well it absorbed.

The stuff fizzed like I had just poured a can of soda into a glass. No foam, but very loud fizzing and the jar quickly filled with a white vapor. My first thought was nucleation (that the clay was providing sites for the oxygen dissolved in the water to immediately fall out of suspension), but the vapor had a distinct smell and the clay was noticeably warmer to the touch than it had been earlier.

That makes me think there is a chemical reaction that took place, but I don't know what.

Anybody else messed around with this stuff? Didn't seem to continue reacting when I put more water in it, so it may just be that I need to rinse it thoroughly before using it, but it would be more comforting to hear someone else say "Oh yeah, thats normal. Always does that, don't worry about it."

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well, Turface is fired montmorillonite clay, and it is very popular among growers.
I buy Turface from a Turf Supply center, and it costs me 12$ for a 50 pound bag.
I screen the Turface with insect screen to remove the particles under 1/16 of an inch.

Turface does snap-crackle-pop when watered, but that's part of the fun! ;-)

Josh

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 1:04PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Hmmmm... does it have a vaguely turpentine smell to it afterwards?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 4:55PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Oh well, I decided to test it out first. I pulled up a weed sapling tree out of the yard and put it in a container with nothing but this stuff. I figure if it doesn't die within a week or two it must be safe enough.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 11:08AM
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Edymnion(7a)

Hasn't been a full week yet, but I decided to call it early.

The sapling I was testing not only stayed green and healthy, it put on new growth while in the oil absorbent. Water retention in the clay was excellent, the natural clumping action made it nice and stable for the roots, it was all around excellent soil.

Only thing I don't know is how it reacts to freezing (I don't plan on finding out either, I'm growing a pepper bonsai in it, it will never be allowed to freeze), and I don't know if it will turn into mush a year from now.

But, with how cheap this stuff is (was like $6 for a 20-30 pound bag), and considering you need to prune roots every so often anyway, I'd say it wouldn't be a concern if it did break down after a year or so, since you'd be tending to the roots anyway and could just change it out while you're in there.

I definitely plan on using this stuff.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 9:09PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Although you can use 100 percent Turface (montmorillonite clay) to grow plants, you might find that it is too water retentive. I have been using a mix of half peat moss and half Turface to sprout clivia seeds (which are very slow to sprout but must be kept damp, and thus are prone to fungus attacks), and it is working very well. But I would never use pure Turface for mature plants. I prefer the classic gritty mix with equal parts of fir bark, granite grit and Turface for most house plants.

There is an interesting discussion of using 100 percent Turface on Gardenweb that I'll link to below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Question for tapla -- 100% Turface mixtures

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 5:27PM
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