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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So I have really been pondering and researching and I think I have a great way to make the next best thing to a branded wabi-kusa ball, and will make a guide with pictures if it works once some supplies get here.

In the meantime, I have been looking at Japanese websites with pictures of REAL Wabi-Kusa balls.

In this website: http://translate.google.com/transla...//pxyg.blog50.fc2.com/?tag=%D0%C9%A4%D3%C1%F0

The owner of the ball says (I think) that one of his wabi-kusa got old and/or died and so they were curious and dissected it. ROCKS! You can see there are several relatively large rocks in the middle! This must explain why they sink easily as is seen in the ADA catalog. There is no planting... you just place them where you want them. Before I found this website I saw another website where the same rotting straw was wrapped around a single larger pebble, but the translator didn't make it clear enough for me to understand so I assumed someone was making it themselves, but in retrospect I think they were tearing one open.

Also it seems that they are not peat or clay based, but instead are mostly straw and moss. My attempts to make them have always failed because when I try to use soil and /or sand and clay, they always are loose at best and make the water muddy. The fact that they seem to be straw or grass based could explain why the pictures of the real ones seem to always be in clean water (especially in the "waterfall" type aquariums"

There may be some peat and/or clay in there, but it appears to be mostly straw. If anyone with a genuine ADA brand wabi kusa, like Frank (he's the only person I know of who has real ones) would like to help us all out and confirm or deny the presence of rocks, all that would need to be done is stick a safety pin or needle into one and see if it pokes a hard rock or if it glides through without resistance. That would be a good test since it wouldn't harm the plants or structure of the wabi-kusa and you wouldn't need to dissect it and ruin it.
 

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This interests me because of the beauty of it.

I have no idea how it's done so I can't contribute with any actual information.

But just speculating... Maybe one can think of these "balls" simply as a hydroponic setup in the shape of a ball. Then the make-up of the actual "subtsrate" that forms the ball is easy to theoretically figure out. In hydroponics the substrate only provides a way for the plant to stay straight and nothing else. In the case of a "ball with plants sticking out of it" one can say that the ball itself could be any kind of matter that will provide support for the plants. Even plastic scruby pads:


I'm not advocating using cheesy dish scrubbing pads. Just using them as an example of a "holding media".

And of course - the ball needs not be too dense (so it allows gas exchange), it needs to be able to wick and hold water, and one can do anything they think of to provide built-in nutrient sources (that do not pollute the water). Or just make sure the water in which the ball sits provides some nutrients.

I can imagine a rock placed in a mesh bag with a little AquaSoil. Tied up together so somehow the AquaSoil is all around the rock it should work very well.

It all seems too much like hydroponics really. But I still would like to know how ADA does it.

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think you're right. I think it really is just straw as a supportive media with rocks inside to make it sit upright/sink.

That is probably why they sell Be Green, which is a fertilizer just for Wabi-Kusa that you can spray on the plants or pour a capful in the water each week. If it was aquasoil based as I had assumed before now, you wouldn't really need to fertilize for quite some time.

I did have an idea to mix aquasoil with a little bentonite to hold it together, wrapped in long fibered sphagnum moss. I even ordered the bentonite last night to try it out, and then I saw this and think I am going to ditch that idea.

I collected a liter of long dried grasses and their dead seed stalks and am letting them soak a few times in hot water to remove tannins and make them more pliable. There is some pine straw in there too I think. I am taking pics to document the process. Fun!
 

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Two mediums commonly usedi in hydroponics are rockwool and coco fiber.

I can easily see how both of them can be used to cover a rock and wrap with some very fine black net. Or just wrap with the thinnest fishing line you can find. The cocofiber maybe too fine. Rockwool is basically perfect, but ugly looking in my opinion. Mosses growing on the ball will cover all ugly details.

Googling for both medias always leads you to marijuana growing websites. What they all sell is basically everything hydroponic. I bet you can find these stores locally too. I never felt comfortable in anyone of them. Back when I grew HC hydroponically I went to look for some hydroponic fertilizers and those stores looked so strange to me. I could not understand the fascination for hydroponically grown petunias and strawberries until it finally dawned on me what it was all about, haha.

--Nikolay
 

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With a little inspiration from armedbiggiet and a trip to my local hydroponic grow store I was able to pick up large blocks of rock wool. 10 minutes sitting at the table later, and with a sharp serrated knife I had a perfect ball carved out of the wool. I then hollowed it out, filled it with aquasoil, and topped it with a thin piece of rockwool. I only needed string to cover the outside with moss and/or riccia, and then I was ready to plant.

The rockwool holds up real nice, and soaks up water like a sponge, so it sinks right to the bottom of my wabi-kusa bowl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Josh, I got mine from ADG because I couldn't fine one as wide and short as the glass cylinder 3005 they sell (I think that's what it was) and it was $30 IIRC.

You can find other vases at places like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Ikea, Ebay, etc. Look in the floral department. I have seen smaller cubes and cylinders that are pretty much the same as the ADA ones but only cost $5-$10!

I am waiting on a ball of aquasoil powder to freeze in the freezer before I finish up. I am freezing it to make it solid and easier to work with white I wrap it up.

I had to boil the grass four times before the water was clear enough for me to use the grass. The boiling didn't degrade the grass, and the grass strands are about a foot to a foot and a half long so it should be easier to use than coir.

Here is the grass before boiling:


Water after the first boil: I had to do this four times until most of the tannins were out.



Grass after the boil: soft and pliable!


Moss I collected from the back yard. I expect the submerged moss to die and the emersed moss to live. If it dies anyway I will just plant HC or Glosso or something over it. I would have used aquatic moss if I had this much lying around.





I stole ten granite rocks from the neighbors driveway and put them in the center of the grass, which I patted down to compress it in this container. It's a ten or eleven inch container.



1/2 cup of aquasoil in some of my mom's pantyhose. I'm going to freeze it solid then remove the pantyhose to make it easier to work with while I wrap up the ball. I'll place it over the rocks. I don't know if the aquasoil will "leak" silt through the grass and moss to dirty the water. Hope not, but I have a feeling it will. If I try not to water from the top or move the ball it might be OK.



I'm trying to keep with the philosophy of wabi-kusa and use natural things like grass and moss instead of plastic pot scrubbers or rock wool. Nothing wrong with that, though, and should work great too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Here is the finished product! It's pretty big....

The aquasoil powder does not leak silt from the ball! All of that grass and moss catches it all! Yes! I wrapped this ball pretty tight so it is dense but hopefully not too dense. It is very nice I think and isn't going to fall apart or spread out. It should keep this shape. It is pretty firm and sturdy.

Freezing the ball of aquasoil definately made things a lot easier.

I have seen several different methods to making these balls, and I have tried them all. I honestly believe this method is superior to simply wrapping dirt and/or sand with moss. It uses straw and rocks so it is most like a genuine wabi-kusa ball compared to the other methods I have seen, with the added nutrients in the aquasoil. With the other methods I tried, all I ever made was a mess or a loose, leaky ball.

Using rock wool or other artificial components would have been easier and probably better than straw since straw decays, but I am very happy with my wabi-kusa! If you don't care about using all-natural stuff, I'd go with rockwool.







I want to make a few more smaller balls to balance this dish out and cover them with Glosso, Hydrocotyl sibthorpioides, dwarf lobelia and eleocharis. Maybe some ludwigia or rotala. Spreading plants. I'd like to try making one with sphagnum moss instead of grass to see if it is as good. If it is as good and doesn't rot faster or anything like that, I'd rather use Sphagnum because it is a lot of effort to boil the grass four times, and Sphagnum absorbs water better as well (plus at our cabin there is a lot of live Sphagnum moss :) )

I am going to be on the lookout for mold. That has me worried a little.
 

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When I was groing HC hydroponically I found 2 things to be an issue;

1. Mold
2. BGA

Mold is fought successfully with a daily immersion of the plants completely under water for 10 min to 1 hr. I don't know how that can be done with Wabi-Kusa. But Copper sprays and other anti-fungal chemicals did not work at all for me.

BGA - Erytrhromycin.

--Nikolay
 

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Nice info on the Sphagnum moss!

I was afraid that fungus and BGA may prove to be a recurring problem. Hope this moss really makes a difference.

Once again when I grew HC and was trying to fight fungus with Copper containing chemicals it dawned on me that big aquarium plant growers probably spray all sorts of stuff on the plants agains pests. Then you put that plant in your tank and wonder why shrimp and other sensitive animals die. Few months ago that speculation of mine was confirmed. Without making a big fuss out of that - lets be at least aware that emersed plants coming from a commercial nursery MAY need to be put through some form of quarantine. Until you are sure they do not release anything funky.

As far as Wabi-Kusa is concerned - you can spray this thing of beauty with anything you want to keep pests away. But as I said - from the large selection of anti-fungal chemicals none worked for me. At least be aware of that. And that's why the info o Sphagnum moss was so interesting to me.

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I used to grow carnivorous plants so I used sphagnum a lot. it does have antifungal properties, but IME time after time if I used anything but pure R.O. water it would grow algae, turn slimy and disintegrate.

For me, atleast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I made another one today except this time I added a couple tablespoons of bentonite to the aquasoil ball and it really holds it together. No need for freezing.

Edit: it holds it together well... but then when you put the ball in water it clouds up all of the water so I tore it apart and re-made it without the clay. The clay is messy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
My Japanese mud pies are starting to grow mold as the moss I wrapped it with is dies off. I don't care about the moss dieing but the mold doesn't look fantastic.

Other than that the mud pies are growing in nicely but slowly compared to subleased growth. I made two, one for me and one for a friend.

I also discovered that you really don't need a lot of water. At first the balls were half submersed but all you needs enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and the way-kusa soak it right up just fine. The bottom of the balls still smell a little anaerobic though when I change the water : (
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
If anyone is still following this, a sprayed the ball with H202 heavily at the time of my last post and all the fungi died, and hasn't returned. The moss mostly died from that, but has mostly grown back.

Now that it is spring, I may put the ball outside to get the morning sun. I was happy to discover than white roots have grown through the wabi-kusa and out of the bottom : )
 
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