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Re: Kitty litter review

> Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997 12:24:56 -0400 From: Dan Q <dqallwet at avana_net>
> Subject: Re: Kitty litter review
> > Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 22:27:32 -0500
> > From: krombhol at teclink_net (Paul Krombholz)
> > Subject: Re: Nutrient deficiency symptoms related to lighting?
> > Next, I would recommend you try a plant potted, not in kitty litter,
> > but in ordinary topsoil that you get somewhere near your home from
> > relatively undisturbed soil where untended plants are growing.  In
> > most places in North America, the topsoil has a considerable amount of
> > iron, which gives it a yellowish color.  The kitty litter we use (for
> > our cats, not our plants) is grey, and I wonder how much iron it has.
>     I gotta admit, it bothers me when I read that kitty litter may not
> be a good choice for a substrate. It's also frustrating when the remark
> comes from a respected APD helper that has probably never tried it.
>     I really think this subject needs a little debate and perhaps be
> more informative if someone had the ability to have some kitty litter
> analyized. That aside, here are some points I would like you to think
> about when choosings a substrate.

[snip enumerated arguments]

I don't want to get directly involved in a substrate argument, but I
thought I'd clarify a couple points.

First, my use of kitty litter was not intended as a test of kitty litter
as a substrate.  Rather, I assumed (and still do) that kitty litter can
enhance the ability of a substrate to provide certain nutrients to plants.
If I didn't make that assumption I never would have used it.  The plant in
the pot with kitty litter substrate continued to suffer the "deficiency"
syndromes, but there were a lot of reasons why that might happen.

Second, I didn't take Paul's comment to mean that kitty litter was a
problem.  Instead I understood him to mean that I should use a more
complex substrate.  Any simple, sterile, prepared and marketed substrate
(including gravel, sand, laterite, kitty litter and even peat) offers only
a limited spectrum of trace elements and few pathways for plants to access
the trace elements.  A substrate that is started with simple materials can
develop more complex characteristics over a period of time, but in a
relatively short term test I can only get that level of complexity by
starting with a real soil.  Kitty litter - even though it may be an
excellent substrate in the long run - would not provide a broad spectrum
of trace elements in a short-term test.

Incidentally, my backyard soil is a tan, fine sandy loam called "Vinton
Loam" by the soil conservation service.  It's great for growing things
that aren't real pH-sensitive.  I spent years feeding compost and leaf
mold into that soil and its reaction pH is still 8.4.  I don't think I'll
try using it in my aquariums.  The nice, reddish clay - fine sand mix in
the Rio Grande is a likely candidate.  So is the black silt that does such
a nice job of growing sagittaria and potamogetons in the local drains.

Roger Miller

In Albuquerque where the morning weather forcast calls for clear skies,
calm winds, cool temps and skattered hot air balloons :).  Ya gotta love