Where to purchase Fertilizer?

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Post  drgonzo on Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:26 pm

JimLewis wrote:
Many deciduous trees including Maple and Beech, have little control over the rate and quantity of chemicals in fertilizers are absorbed into their transpiration stream, hence we get toxicities (sometimes quite rapidly) as these chemicals are accumulated in plant tissue.

Citation????? Especially as to how that might apply to a bonsai grown in an inorganic substrate.

Two texts that would be of great help in your understanding of horticulture are;

1. Understanding Ph Management for Container-Grown Crops, by Argo and Fischer

2. Plant nutrient disorders 5 Ornamental plants and shrubs, by G.C. Cresswell and R.G. Weir

The second text frequently mentions fertilizer interactions in soilless media. Either of these two texts would help educate and hopefully correct much of the incorrect botanical knowledge you repeatedly present on this forum as fact.

-Jay

PS. This is the first time in a year since I joined this forum that I can remember ANYONE being asked for a citation for proof of something they were posting...



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Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:38 pm

Actually Chris,

using a type of material we have down here called - yellow stone - it's a clay and silt bonded with calcium/magnesium etc and iron [ I believe a formation caused by fresh water hitting salt water at the mouth of a river/sea, and given thousands of years to be pressured by weight of it and other deposits ] which if sifted can support life in small containers easily. No organic particles needed and in hot sun, I can do the same with my crushed sifted porous earthenware red brick.

The above as a soil also responds to being fertilized with 1/3 strength lawn fertilizer [ Super green 35 -5- 5 ]
I use this fertilizer in our Dry season - no rain and lots of breeze to keep the leaves deep green, but it does not cause weak growth.
Additionally, any nitrogen fixing plant grows well on it as does grass. Example would be our local acacia and the sensitive plant [ mimosa p.]
[This is old stuff mentioned on the IBC,I believe when it was an e-mail service.]

It's very hard to stay sterile where birds, bugs and dust flies naturally.
Later.
Khaimraj

These are two roots about 5 to 6 years old - Fukien tea, growing on yellow stone.
Note the weeds and moss growing as well.

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Post  Treedwarfer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:59 pm

It's important to understand that not all inorganic substrates are the same, neither are all organic materials. Haydite has little cationic exchange capacity (cac) whereas turface has an extremely high and potentially dangerous cac. Akadama has none and grit have none. Same with organics: peat low, bark practically non-existent, leaf litter moderate to high. Also, as Dr Gonzo pointed out, not all species eat and drink with the same table manners.

One thing that is important to bear in mind is the NPK of whatever feed you use. Overfeeding with 3:3:3, or even up to 6:6:6 will do no real harm (and probably does good) in good bonsai soil, but overfeeding with 20:20:20 probably will cause problems fairly quickly.

There are so many variables that the more you try to analyze fertilization practices, the more confused you're likely to get.

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Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:13 pm

"There are so many variables that the more you try to analyze fertilization practices, the more confused you're likely to get"

Response - probabably because, the questions are only focusing on soil/fertilizer reaction and not air humidty,time of year,exposure-wind and sun, watering technique - hose, watering can, drench or just enough and so on. Plus age of plant and purpose of training - grow on, maintain and so on.

Welcome to the engaging hobby that is Bonsai.
Love it.
Later.
Khaimraj
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Post  coh on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:17 pm

Treedwarfer wrote:It's important to understand that not all inorganic substrates are the same, neither are all organic materials. Haydite has little cationic exchange capacity (cac) whereas turface has an extremely high and potentially dangerous cac. Akadama has none and grit have none. Same with organics: peat low, bark practically non-existent, leaf litter moderate to high. Also, as Dr Gonzo pointed out, not all species eat and drink with the same table manners.
If there was ever a paragraph that needed citations, this was it! Where did you get this from? We had a thread a while back (kanuma thread) where people were posting actual numerical cec values for various soil components. The numbers posted there do not match your characterization of them.

That said, no doubt the actual composition of the inorganic portion of the mix is important!

Treedwarfer wrote:One thing that is important to bear in mind is the NPK of whatever feed you use. Overfeeding with 3:3:3, or even up to 6:6:6 will do no real harm (and probably does good) in good bonsai soil, but overfeeding with 20:20:20 probably will cause problems fairly quickly.
I'm pretty sure Walter himself said he buys "whatever is on sale".

Treedwarfer wrote:There are so many variables that the more you try to analyze fertilization practices, the more confused you're likely to get.
So, what are we supposed to do then? Just blindly follow fertilizer advice from someone in a different area using different soil components? Isn't it worth trying to understand it as best possible so we can apply that knowledge to our own trees?
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Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:31 pm

Once again--

it takes 3 to 5 years to learn how to grow a tree and this can change from type to type, cultivar to cultivar and so on.

The idea behind these discussions is to open the mind to adaptation.

Problems can also be made by using a tree, not adapted to a zone and an unwillingness of the individual to adapt the surroundings to the tree, and then blame it on everything else but..............
For example trees from South China --------------- South China has no tropical climate ---- I present the Serissa.
Gives no problems by me and my friend Carl winters them outdoors in New Jersey.

These are also from South China, Murraya p., Citrus, Hibiscus,Fukien Tea, Elm and all grow outdoors down here as 14'+ shrubs.

I still water individually by hand, and use a hose only in emergencies.
Later.
Khaimraj


Last edited by Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:33 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : poor english)
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Post  FrankP999 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:35 pm

Since Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) was mentioned, this chart from Journal of American Bonsai might be helpful.
Substrate CEC pH water retention
Kiryu River sand 11.7 5 low
coarse sand 0 7 low
Perlite 1.5-3.5 6.5-7.9 low
akadama 31.4 6.5-6.9 high
red lava rock 10-30? 6 med
haydite/calcinated clay 15-40 7 med
decomposed granite 1-15 6.5-7 med
pumice 15 7.0-7.5 low
Kanuma 62 6.4 high
Turface 33 n med
pine bark 53-100 4.0-5.1 high
charcoal >200 6.7-9.7 low
sphagnum peat 100-180 3.9-4.9 high
Journal of American Bonsai Society Vol 43 #4 2009 page 6

Frank

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Post  coh on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:39 pm

Thank you for re-posting that in a readable format! As opposed to what I did in the other thread...
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Post  drgonzo on Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:49 pm

We see here that Akadama has about the same CEC as Turface, neither would be considered high or dangerous, quite the contrary.

CEC is not as important a factor in bonsai soil, where roots have limited surface contact with soil particles, as it is in finer soils such as clay loam, where greater surface and CEC site contact is normal (I.e in the ground) or soils where root hairs are actually able to penetrate each particle such as Kanuma

-Jay

I have no citation available for that, I learned it from Paul (63pmp)
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Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:17 pm

http://soils.tfrec.wsu.edu/webnutritiongood/soilprops/04CEC.htm

Jay,

a little confused. If the organics in the table seem to have a high CEC value, and even if the inorganic particles are the same size and you get the ball bearing effect, won't those spaces be filled with the organic material.

Wouldn't the roots make contact with them, and because Bonsai soil is usually richer in proportion to say loam soils with nutrients,wouldn't the tree be able to feed better and be healthier ?

Any explanations?
Later.
Khaimraj
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Post  JimLewis on Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:20 pm

PS. This is the first time in a year since I joined this forum that I can remember ANYONE being asked for a citation for proof of something they were posting...

Wow! I'm not going to get into a pissing contest, but for a LOT of stuff posted here over the years, a citation would certainly help. Neither of those cited here would seem to me to have much relevance to bonsai -- which, BTW, I've been growing for longer than you have been alive. Meaningless, I know, but I also am reasonably well educated -- maybe not as much as some if that "dr" stands for doctor -- but still, my University work was in biological (and geological) sciences. That includes a bit of botany. I've taken Horticultural classes from the U of F and am (FWIW) a Florida Master Gardener and Advanced Master Gardener. So, despite the supercilious comments, I have a reasonable knowledge of plants, plant physiology and plant nutrition.

I'm opposed to mystical plant tonics that have no apparent scientific basis, and whose origin seems obviously to be based solely on marketing hype. You guys can blast away, but I reiterate: Don't make too much mystery about fertilizing bonsai. It is NOT complicated (unless you make it that way).


_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician
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Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:08 am

Jim

I'm sorry your not interested in either text I have offered as response for your asking for citation, the second one has been excellent in furthering my understanding of plant nutrition.

Thank you for another spirited discussion!

-Jay


Last edited by drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:08 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : change of heart)
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Post  Treedwarfer on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:19 am

coh wrote:
If there was ever a paragraph that needed citations, this was it! Where did you get this from?

To be honest, That was my recollection of an article in a Royal Horticultural Society journal some years back. I could be wrong, the article could have been wrong. If so I stand corrected and apologize. One can assume the ABS article was correct.

coh wrote:I'm pretty sure Walter himself said he buys "whatever is on sale".

I'm sure he does, and I'm equally sure he heaps on the 3:3:3 heavier than the 20:20:20!

coh wrote:So, what are we supposed to do then? Just blindly follow fertilizer advice from someone in a different area using different soil components? Isn't it worth trying to understand it as best possible so we can apply that knowledge to our own trees?

Of course we should try to understand fertilization, but it's not as complex as some try to make it - "Buy some mid-range NPK fertilizer and use as instructed on the pack," is probably the best advice. The point I was trying to make in my misinformed post was that understanding the soil components is probably more important than over-complicating feeding.

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Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:24 am

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:http://soils.tfrec.wsu.edu/webnutritiongood/soilprops/04CEC.htm

Jay,

a little confused. If the organics in the table seem to have a high CEC value, and even if the inorganic particles are the same size and you get the ball bearing effect, won't those spaces be filled with the organic material.

Wouldn't the roots make contact with them, and because Bonsai soil is usually richer in proportion to say loam soils with nutrients,wouldn't the tree be able to feed better and be healthier ?

I'm not too sure I understand your question, but I believe you are confusing particle composition with particle size.

Clay loam soils as we find in the ground, have much finer particles (smaller size) this increases the over all surface area of each particle for contact with the roots. The same way ice melts faster when you smash it up into finer (smaller) pieces and increase their surface area exposed to the warm air.

Bonsai soil is not richer then regular soil in the ground if by richer you mean higher in humic content as in bonsai soil we tend to us larger sized inorganic particles. The roots of plants in large particle bonsai soil aren't able to get in all the small crevices of these particles that, if they could, would allow them full access to all the CEC exchange sites on the surface of each particle, smash the particles up very fine, as in garden soil, and you increase the surface area available for the roots to physically contact therefore the CEC has a greater influence on nutrient availability.

You also reduce the air porosity by doing this, and our soil in Bonsai culture maintains this porosity.

An example: plant a tree in regular garden dirt, lift it from the ground and see how much soil sticks to the roots. Plant it in bonsai soil and lift it and watch all that nice loose soil fall away..which plant was in better contact with the soil and therefore better able to be influenced by the soils CEC?

I hope that helps a bit.
-Jay
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Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:36 am

Treedwarfer wrote:
Of course we should try to understand fertilization, but it's not as complex as some try to make it - "Buy some mid-range NPK fertilizer and use as instructed on the pack," is probably the best advice.

In my opinion, and I used to think quite the opposite until I began studying it, understanding plant nutrition is not all that complicated. Learning to write or read music is harder by far and yet the musician with that ability has a greater depth and breadth to their artistic experience then one who never bothered to learn..

Keeping healthy bonsai is an art in itself and though I would love to have been one who could just 'point and click' with my fertilizing regime, my 70 some odd different species and their fertilizer needs, combined with every problem that can go wrong with hard water and its direct influence on Soil water pH forced me to learn the ins and outs of plant nutrition...circumstance simply forced my hand

Trust me I never wanted to have to get that deep into it but now I'm very glad i did!
-Jay
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Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:52 am

Jay,

thanks for responding. I take it by roots we are talking about the fine hairs [ cilia ?]

Anyhow thanks for taking the time to explain.
Later.
Khaimraj
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Post  Treedwarfer on Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:33 am

drgonzo wrote:Trust me I never wanted to have to get that deep into it but now I'm very glad i did!
-Jay

We are all glad you did. Very Happy

I, for one, am fortunate enough not to have water quality issues, but I have observed the effects over many years of different soil compositions on plants that are receiving the same feeding program, and those observations have generally been born out by others.

Here's an example of where theory doesn't match experience: Akadama and turface have similar cec, yet Japanese maples planted in pure Akadama are healthier and have better rootage than in any other medium. Try pure turface and you will get nowhere near the same result.

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Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:48 am

Treedwarfer wrote:
Try pure turface and you will get nowhere near the same result.

I have all seven of my different Japanese Maples, along with just about every other tree I own, growing in pure Turface, all/most are thriving.

The reason they are thriving is that after several years of planting in pure turface only this year did I finally learn how to water it correctly. My only alteration to the mix next year will be to add in some grit as I find Turface alone to be too water retentive. I have been told Julian Adams also came to the same conclusion with regards pure Turface and found the addition of grit to be necessary.

-Jay
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Post  Poink88 on Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:25 am

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Once again--

it takes 3 to 5 years to learn how to grow a tree and this can change from type to type, cultivar to cultivar and so on.
Once again, I disagree. Some people learn a bit faster than that.
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Post  Treedwarfer on Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:24 am

drgonzo wrote:I have all seven of my different Japanese Maples, along with just about every other tree I own, growing in pure Turface, all/most are thriving.
But how do you know that if they were all growing in pure Akadama they wouldn't be doing even better?

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Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:28 am

Treedwarfer wrote:
drgonzo wrote:I have all seven of my different Japanese Maples, along with just about every other tree I own, growing in pure Turface, all/most are thriving.
But how do you know that if they were all growing in pure Akadama they wouldn't be doing even better?

That is an excellent point! I refrain from pure Akadama due to its tendency to break down easily as Walter warns quite correctly, but I will probably try experimenting with it next spring.

BTW I've heard US customs is getting very picky about Akadama entering the country. A large shipment was turned away last week because of foreign plant material in the mix (dried roots and bits of leaves and junk) might want to stock up before they go crazy and ban it altogether.

-Jay
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Post  Treedwarfer on Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:54 am

drgonzo wrote: I refrain from pure Akadama due to its tendency to break down easily ....

This is an interesting topic that should really be a thread in its own right. However.... Akadama does break down but this is not the problem you might think. You don't need cavernous spaces in the soil to hold oxygen, even garden loam has sufficient oxygen space, so the coarse gritty stuff that Akadama eventually becomes is still good. You just have to adapt your watering as the drainage slows.

The larger spaces in turface (and similar) cause the roots to flatten in order to maximize contact. They also grow thicker, for the same reason. Eventually the spaces become clogged with roots which have their own water-retentive capillary action and this, combined with the saturated turface can create problems.

On the other hand, roots can grow into and through the particles of Akadama, they are finer and more efficient. This has two effects: first, it causes finer top growth and, second, it increases the density and volume of the root mass which reduces the stress from root pruning.

drgonzo wrote: A large shipment was turned away last week because of foreign plant material in the mix

Akadama is surface mined and more or less shipped as is, so it's not unusual to find bits of root in the occasional bag. They are all totally dessicated so pose no threat to the fragile American flora, but rules is rules, I guess.

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Post  63pmp on Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:53 pm

My main references for fertilizing is:

Principles of Plant Nutrition 5th ed. BY Konrad Mengel and Ernest A. Kirby ISBN 0-7923-7150-X(HB), 1-4020-0008-1(PB)

For potting mix design:

Growing media for ornamental plants and turf by K.A. Handreck, N.D. Black ISBN 0868401773

These two books are the most comprehensive I have found on these subjects.

This discussion has covered many topics but I think the core issue that runs through this thread is how plants take up nutrients, fertilizer composition and how plants take up fertilizer and implications of salinity.

These are all huge topics and impossible to cover briefly, so you'll just have to take my word for how it works. If you want citations look at the two books above.

A very important structure in plant roots is a thing called the "Casparian Strip", this essentially blocks extracellular water movement through the roots. The Casparian strip develops just behind the root tip and the distance form the root cap varies a little depending on the rate of root growth, but usually it's not much more than a few mm. The development is maturity related and depends on the cellular development of the root. Basically it forms when the vascular tissue is being formed and maturing.

This means there are two ways water can get into the root. Via cellular transport (through root cells), and extracellular (between the cells) at the root tip. Water take up during periods of low transpiration (eg night time) is via cellular transport and is mostly determined by osmotic strengths.

During periods of high transpiration rates, water is sucked directly into the roots wherever the Casparian strip doesn't exist, much like sucking up soda through a straw.

Fertilizer strength very much influences the rate of osmosis, the term for solution strength is SALINITY and is measured by EC. Plants have a limit to the salinity they can cope with, at a certain salinity level water will not be taken up by osmosis into the roots. This limit varies for every species of plant, there a lists available online to check salinity tolerance of plants. Interestingly J. maple in rarely included, but I think this species is highly intolerant of salinity. So strong fertilizer solutions will limit water uptake during times of low transpiration rates.

During high transpiration periods water is sucked directly into root tips, so any salts that can travel between root cells, K, NO3, Na, CL, SO4, will also be sucked into the transpiration stream, this is an uncontrolled uptake of nutrients, and why it is recommended that people use dilute fertiliser or not at all in summer. Fertilizing with high concentrations runs the risk of nutrient toxicities/leaf burn.


The ratios of plant food have nothing to do with the strength of the fertilizer solution, 10g/l of 20:20:20 with have a similar EC to 10g/l of 3:3:3.

The ratios are provided so that you can calculate the concentrations of the nutrients in the fertilizer solution. So if you want to feed with 100ppm of nitrate 60ppm of K and 10ppm of P, you can calculate how much fert to weigh out. That is all, it is almost meaningless to say I fertilize with 20:20:20 if you don't give the amounts you use.

Now most of this is academic. If you are happy with your fertilizer program than fine. If your plants are not growing well then you need to change that and means learning about plant physiology and fertilizer design, see above books.

Walters fert program may well work well for him with his environmental conditions, water type, and management practices, etc. But the further you go away from his conditions, the more likely you will develop problems. eg he has hard water, what if yours is soft? Does he have alkalinity in his water? What is you have non? All these different factors will have an impact on the success of the fert program. Using high doses of fertilizer infrequently doesn't make sense to me for the above physiological reasons. Philosophically this watering and fertilizer program can lead to high levels of nutrient leaching and is becoming less popular with the commercial nursery industry. There are many rivers and creeks polluted by nutrient run off that is of great concern. While most people only have a few trees, and its not a problem, if you have a thousand you will be using an appreciable amount of fertilizer.

regards

Paul

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Post  drgonzo on Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:10 am

63pmp wrote:My main references for fertilizing is:

Principles of Plant Nutrition 5th ed. BY Konrad Mengel and Ernest A. Kirby ISBN 0-7923-7150-X(HB), 1-4020-0008-1(PB)

For potting mix design:

Growing media for ornamental plants and turf by K.A. Handreck, N.D. Black ISBN 0868401773

These two books are the most comprehensive I have found on these subjects.

I'm afraid Paul that because these texts don't have some sort of suffix like "for Bonsai" in their titles some forum members may not believe they are relevant botanical texts for use in bonsai culture. As such, It's important for us all to remember that the basic rules of botany and horticulture, as well as texts dealing with these subjects, apply just as much to Bonsai as they do to all plants.

63pmp wrote:
During high transpiration periods water is sucked directly into root tips, so any salts that can travel between root cells, K, NO3, Na, CL, SO4, will also be sucked into the transpiration stream, this is an uncontrolled uptake of nutrients, and why it is recommended that people use dilute fertiliser or not at all in summer. Fertilizing with high concentrations runs the risk of nutrient toxicities/leaf burn.

As always Paul thank you for taking the time to add your expertise to our discussion, we are very fortunate indeed to have forum members such as yourself who take the time to relate accurate horticultural information.
-Jay
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Post  coh on Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:53 am

63pmp wrote:
The ratios of plant food have nothing to do with the strength of the fertilizer solution, 10g/l of 20:20:20 with have a similar EC to 10g/l of 3:3:3.

The ratios are provided so that you can calculate the concentrations of the nutrients in the fertilizer solution. So if you want to feed with 100ppm of nitrate 60ppm of K and 10ppm of P, you can calculate how much fert to weigh out. That is all, it is almost meaningless to say I fertilize with 20:20:20 if you don't give the amounts you use.
So, am I interpreting this correctly: using the same amount of 20-20-20 and 5-5-5 will result in similar values of EC (or TDS), but in the first case the amount of N,P,K will be roughly 4x higher. So all that extra EC comes from "junk" that is not usable by the plant? Carrier molecules, for example?

Edit to add - by extension, then, if I use 5-5-5 and want to get the same ppm of N as using 20-20-20, the resulting solution will have EC (or TDS) roughly 4x as large?
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