How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

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How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:55 am

Probably over discussed, but....

Reading some material a few days ago, I came across the figures 3N / 5P / 3K as a fertilizer for Bonsai, and possibly pre-Bonsai.
Interesting, because I have for the last three months, been using fertilizer at around 5N/ 6P / 4K and still getting good growth. Of course there is some 60% humidity.
Small wonder that one can use ground up and composted bean meal.
Any extra thoughts anyone?
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  leatherback on Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:49 am

naturally, I could be mistaken, but the numbers for NPK just indicate the ratio in which they are present in the fertiliser. not the actual concentration..?

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:38 am

Interesting.
So what is next?
Khaimraj

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:24 pm

I use fertilizer right out of the box at the strength state on the label.

There are lots of schools of thought, but the advantage of using recommended strength is that you have to fertilize a little less often. Fertilizing at half (or other) strength means you need to fertilize more often. And with 150 or so trees, I find that to be a royal pain in the kazoo.

Pre-bonsai or young plants are no less able to use full-strength fertilizer than any other plants. Ditto plants on which you have just done root work -- despite the advice in 99% of the bonsai books you've read.

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:36 pm

Jim,

I normally fertilize once a week, during the dry season, and two months into the wet season. This year we had no pronounced dry season and now two months before the dry season re-starts we have had fewer showers, but much heavier infrequent downpours.So I have been fertilizing for these last months.

Normally I depend on the compost to carry my trees through the rainy season. Growth remains even and constant,with my soil blend.

So perhaps my blend of organic [ compost ] and inorganic allows me to use fertilizer at 1/3 it's strength ???

Perhaps with our humidity, I am able to use even less fertilizer and get good results?

To mix I have a bucket with a mark for x gallons and all I have to do is add a levelled teaspoon to the water in the bucket. Not a problem thus far, but I am still very young and strong - chuckle [ if you don't mind me teasing you a little.]
Thanks for responding.
Khaimraj

Cuttings or [newly repotted I just leave in the shade for a week ] and the plant grows on the compost for a month or so and then I start to fertilize.
No sweat.



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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Fore on Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:33 pm

JimLewis wrote:I use fertilizer right out of the box at the strength state on the label.

There are lots of schools of thought, but the advantage of using recommended strength is that you have to fertilize a little less often. Fertilizing at half (or other) strength means you need to fertilize more often. And with 150 or so trees, I find that to be a royal pain in the kazoo.

Pre-bonsai or young plants are no less able to use full-strength fertilizer than any other plants. Ditto plants on which you have just done root work -- despite the advice in 99% of the bonsai books you've read.

Humm...so Jim, do you start fertilization right after a repot? You're right, that's not what I've read too.

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:11 pm

Humm...so Jim, do you start fertilization right after a repot? You're right, that's not what I've read too.

Usually, yes. In the first watering. If the tree is going into a soil with 30% or more organic material (azalea, etc.) I may not -- but just because there should be sufficient nutrient in the soil.

But I think I fertilize far less often than most people. Keeping in mind that MOST of my trees have been in pots for some years, I only fertilize 2-3 times in the period from spring to fall. The few "new" plants, get fertilized every 3 weeks. The goal of bonsai is not to keep your trees fat and groWING, it's to keep the trees healthy. Just like with us, overfeeding is NOT healthy.

_________________
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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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Fore on Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:53 pm

Interesting Jim, Thanks!

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:21 pm

I
nteresting Jim, Thanks!

But I'm not sure how useful it is. There are too many variables for anyone here to tell anyone else how to fertilize his plants -- unless, perhaps he is a next door neighbor, growing the exact same trees of the exact same age.

Otherwise, all I can suggest is -- Read the label.

_________________
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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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  drgonzo on Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:49 pm

Khaimraj-

If you'd like to hear and discuss my thoughts on this subject feel free to PM me.

Best
-Jay

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  leatherback on Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:02 am

drgonzo wrote:Khaimraj-

If you'd like to hear and discuss my thoughts on this subject feel free to PM me.


Isn't the idea of a forum to share your ideas so that all can learn from it? Rolling Eyes
I for one would be interested too in hearing the thoughts of more experienced members.. Cool

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  63pmp on Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:32 pm

Hi Khaimraj
"So perhaps my blend of organic [ compost ] and inorganic allows me to use fertilizer at 1/3 it's strength ???"

My thoughts on this topic is that fertilizing depends a lot on the type of trees you grow, and somewhat about where you live.

I don't think that there is one right way of feeding bonsai; different species of tree need different fertilizer blends. I'm also a firm believer in proactive fertilizing, when, how and what with affects plant growth and development. Watch Ryan Neil discuss pines on Bonsai Eejits blog. How you feed pines is very important in keeping nodes and needles short.

I think that trees evolve to take up nutrients in a certain way depending on the soil nutrition they evolved in. Moving a tree from one part of the world to another doesn't change that feeding habit, but it changes environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, daylight. This will have some affect on the type of fertilizer used, and how well it works.

What strength fertilizer you use depends on how often you want to fertilize, and with what. I believe that feeding a little bit of fertilizer often mimics plant growth in the soil. Which is why I think organic fertilizer cakes are the best way to fertilize.

Interesting topic, again,

Paul

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:11 am

Paul,

thanks. As you might know, Japanese black pines, don't really candle on our side, at least not at the time they do for the Japanese. Still, they grow very well. Have copied the Ryan N. bit for further study.

My aim with all of my trees is dense branching, and overall an appearnce of health. I found that full sun does that best and the lawn fertilizer at 1/3 is what keeps the green during the dry season, lower humidity.
However, our dry season occurs with winter and ends with late spring.
The earth is still angled to the sun and the greater heat [ sun overhead at 12.00 p.m. ] doesn't really begin until after May. Plus on this island, if you live on the eastern side of a hill and in a wind channel, stays a few degrees cooler.
Our weather report to the world is generated from the airport which is on land at sea level and is extremely flat.
This allows for a bit of leeway.

I never took out the compost/organic element, because I also organically grow tomatoes and papayas etc. Never had any problems and crops are always heavy, vine/tree ripened.

However, even though I may vary the % of compost for certain trees, it is not an exact science and I have excellent stout growth. Pines however do seem to grow best in a slica based sifted sharp sand mix, with some compost.
I tried sifted crushed red earthenware brick and the results are just not as good.
They don't mind a little red brick, but not 100% plus compost.

All my friend and I have been trying to figure out is how to keep the Japanese black pine needles short, and I guess we may have figured it out.
Next year around this time will show the results.

I started this discussion, to see if we were just using too much fertilizer. Say 3N 5P 3K is out of 100 [ plus the micro nutrients ] and I use the factors you left for conversion to P and K, that should be a very weak fertilizer. Closer to rapeseed or other.
Feel free to correct anything incorrect here please.
Thanks once again for responding.
Stay Well.
Khaimraj

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  63pmp on Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:38 pm

Hi Khaimraj

Another thought provoking thread!

I started this discussion, to see if we were just using too much fertilizer.

So let's start here.

The simple answer is I'm not sure. You have to look at how much nutrient plants can take up in a feeding. So if you feed once a month with a strong solution, how much N and P can they absorb in a couple of days, because this is how long it takes for it to leach out, (assuming low CEC). Phosphorus is a little different as it will accumulate in the soil in the presence of calcium, which the tree can feed on for a long period of time. If you have calcium present, otherwise its leached out quickly as well.

Here is an example from my experience, which is fertilizing with a solution that contains 10mg/l of P. Watering once a week with this is adequate for hornbeam, azalea and maples. I use this two or three times a week for conifers. We need to compare this with what other people use. One fertilizer I have used in the past is Yates Thrive, its 4% P, that's elemental P, not P2O5. At recommended strength of 16g/9L that gives a concentration of 0.64 g/9 l, which is 71mg/l (ppm) 7 times what I use. (Thrive at this rate burnt my hornbeams, so I had to dilute it). So for hornbeam I'm using less P. But I also use calcium, so most of that P will stay in the pot. Thrive has no calcium, nor does my water, so most of that 71 ppm P will be washed away. I don't know how much the plant can take up in a sitting. So in effect I'm providing more P with my 10 ppm solution, and was wasting a lot of P with the commercial product.

See how it gets complicated quickly? And P is rather simple compared to N.


Generally, I think we over feed with N and P, and underfeed with calcium and magnesium. That's my take on it.

As you might know, Japanese black pines, don't really candle on our side, at least not at the time they do for the Japanese.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean here, Khaimraj? I have no experience with anything tropical, I've always been attracted to snow covered things. Do your JBP's just randomly throw out candles, or just keep growing continuously. My part of the world has distinct seasons, and the pines respond to this by developing candles at the same time

All my friend and I have been trying to figure out is how to keep the Japanese black pine needles short, and I guess we may have figured it out.
Next year around this time will show the results.


In colder places of the world, the technique is to force a secondary flush of candling in summer by removing the spring growth, and timing it such that the regrowth is halted by the encroaching autumn. Needle plucking, and removing the spring candles takes a lot of energy from the tree, and NOT fertilizing during the second flush keeps everything small. Once the needles have hardened off, then you reapply fertilizer to built up strength for the next spring. Can you mimic that in your part of the world? Or would the Ernie Kuo method work better for you?

My aim with all of my trees is dense branching, and overall an appearnce of health.

My aim as well.

I never took out the compost/organic element, because I also organically grow tomatoes and papayas etc.

I think this is important. From reading your posts, and taking the liberty to imagine most of your trees are tropical, then these plants evolved to depend on composting leaf litter and the microbes within to obtain nutrients for growth. So tropical plants would definitely benefit from high organic matter/compost in the mix. And also, not that I have much supporting evidence for this, but much of the nutrients in compost are bound to organic molecules; amino acids and protein fragments, and simple, but strange, 3, 4 and 5 carbon sugars. I think these influence the health of plants that feed exclusively off leaf litter greatly. I imagine frequent potting is essential for your trees, and this avoids the problem of collapsing media(?)

Regards

Paul

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:37 am

Hello Paul,

after reading many of the Rodale publications when the magazine was able to fit into a pocket easily [ they later went to a large magazine ] I picked up a few simple rules and also from the old Indian farmers on our side [ Indian from India descendants.]

[1] Always use fertilizer at less than full strength and into moist soils only, preferably with some form of compost or well aged manure.

[2] From pottery - trees in their structure use a good deal of calcium, as opposed to none bark producing weeds, which have high alkali content. So my compost always has a blend of both plants. Additionally, I may toss in bonemeal and finely crushed eggshells. I can also decompose seashells that have been washed. Which should also carry traces of Magnesium and other stuff.
This is when making ash glazes and you need to source Alkaline or Alkali materials for good glass/glaze qualities.
[ Weeds like Nettle seem to speed up decomposition, as does Bunny litter even when it is sawdust Laughing ]

[3] I repot most trees yearly, but I see Sageretia is two years since you cannot lift the pot [ potbound check ] by the trunk of the tree.[ I am careful ]
I grow Chinese Elms,Catlin, Celtis, Gingko, Serissa, Podocarpus as well.

[4] When I repot, I also sift out the used soil for coarse particles. The compost will usually ball as well as becoming smaller as powder. So a % of the old soil remains usable.
I have never had my soil collapse or become excessively water retentive, as I also grow for years in 1/3 to 1/2 barrels [ 55 US Gallons ] Mostly I have the organic part disappearing, and the inorganic becoming more dominant, but this mix remains freely draining. It is also a slightly coarser mix.

Overall I have never had any soil problems, and I credit that to Rodale.

Additionally aside from the occasional grasshopper attack or the expected parasol ant invasion, and this year one totally unexpected caterpillar big pig out. I don't get insect attacks.
For plants that might get ant/aphid situations, I use a systemic called Furidan, but this is usually very rare.

With the Japanese black pines, candling with long candles seldon happens and then only in single areas, extensions of any type has needles coming out as well. What I did discover from the Ryan Neal video, is that I naturally fertilize with his cycle, for the first part but because of our rain, I don't normally fertilize in Autumn.
Something I had to do this year as the rains lightened for the last two months and now are almost gone.

My idea was that a simple compost would have something like 1N 0.5P 0.5K [ I have the actual figures but am too lazy to get them ] and a fertilizer of say 3.5N 1.6P 2.9K would be more than enough for a tree. So I weakened a commercial fertilizer down to the above and tried it. [ Miracle grow African Violet food [7.7.7 ] 7N 3.1P 5.8K , apologies I don't have your exact factors in front of me so I am using an average from another fertilizer box where I used your factors for conversion.] Has some micro nutrients as well.
Works, and I have shoots extending as well, and this is once a week, into moist soil.

I tried something called MYKE, but that turned out to be some sort of chemical deposit on peat moss and all it did was grow a white fungus and pour out in every watering as brown liquid.[ Dustmask didn't breathe]

I tried using it as the organic part in a soil, but it killed the cutting in two days.

I fed the bag into some uncured horse manure with sawdust and left it for two months, it composted into a usable mass and it will be aged for another year. Maybe make manure tea, I don't fully trust the stuff.

I shall continue to test the idea that one does not need much fertilizer for Bonsai to get growth and health, even as pre-bonsai, will let the group know how it went.

Aren't Australian native plants allergic to Phosphorus ?

I remember reading that Chinese elms come from river banks in South China and use the leaf mould as it decomposes to retain heat during winter.Additionally the roots of these elms seem to produce alkaline conditions, as the soil mix tends to sheet and that of Tamarinds, seems to be acidic and the soil clumps.

Anyhow I have kept the soil technology simple, and some of my trees are from seed and coming up to their 30's with no health problems thus far. May have to use the pie wedge technique just now.
Hope I addressed all in your response.
Thank you.
Stay Well.
Khaimraj

* My maximum blend by volume [ more by eye these years ] is 1/3 organic to 2/3 inorganic. If you wet the mix and hold in your hand, close, then re-open, it will fall apart and the brick / gravel is always noticeable.
I measure by hand shovel if I need to.


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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  C.A. Young on Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:11 pm

Regarding your use of Myke's. Myke's, alluding to its contents, myccorhizae, is a root innoculant. Though it seems to be nothing but peat moss and perlite, it contains millions of myccorhizal fungal spores. These fungi live symbiotically on the roots of trees--conifers are a paradigmatic case--and, in exchange for some sugars, increase the surface area of the roots as well as process atmospheric nutrients, which then become available to the roots. Myccorhizal fungi are extremely beneficial to most trees--again, conifers especially. And yes, established colonies of myccorhizal fungi typically look like creamy white powder. The problem is that the myccorhizal product "Myke's" uses peat moss and perlite as its medium, and these are not good components for pine bonsai soil. I strongly encourage you to try myccorhizae root inoculants for your pine, but would urge you to look into the pure fungal spore products available from hydroponics stores/websites. "Myconox" and "Sub-Culture M" are two examples.

For more info on myccorhizal fungi, the following link is extremely informative. Caveat: it's a link to the description of Myconox from a bonsai retailer, but I swear I'm not advertising, it's just that this is a very good detailed account of the myccorhizal process.

http://www.hollowcreekbonsai.com/ecommerce/soil/bonsai-soil-fertilizer-s/60cc-jar-myconox-ho-yoku-mycorrhizal-inoculant.rhtml

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:23 pm

I wanted to say thank you. C.A.Young.

Would you know if I could simply use the sand from our stands of pines grown for lumber?

I haven't had any problems keeping black pines lush and growing, so I never thought of having to improve or introduce anything into their soils. However, I should test your suggestion, something to report back on, next year this time.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  C.A. Young on Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:20 am


With regards to the pines cultivated for timber, look around the drip line for heavy deposits of old needles. A few inches deep, you should notice mostly decayed needles (they'll be black), and within this layer of decayed needles there should be evidence of Myccorhizal fungi--tufts of creamy white fungus. Gather some of this, mix vigorously with UNCHLORINATED water, and water it into your pines' soil. However, your best bet is to try a product like Myconox or Sub-culture M. Either way, Myccorhizal fungi are extremely beneficial, and I use them on all my trees...Yes even those of the erricaecous variety.

Oh yeah, and further to your inquiry about pine fertilization, I use a 0-10-10 in early to late spring (with every watering at 1/2 strength), do the staggered candle removal* (for all 2 needle pines), and after the last candle has been removed (end of May-ish), begin a weekly regime of 5-10-10 (at 1/2 strength). I stop fetilizing in August, then use a 20-10-10 from september through october. This high nitrogen feed in fall seems to promote the creation of a multitude of small buds for next season.

* Staggered candle removal involves anticipating when the opportune time is for candle removal (say may 31st ish), then counting back three weeks. So, on the 10th of May, remove all (the entire candle) of the weakest candles (usually bottom of tree). Then, a week later, remove all of the medium-weakest candles. Then, a week after that, remove all of the strongest candles. This seems to redistribute the meristematic hormone such that the second flush of candles is more balanced. Note, however, that this technique works for only 2 needle pines, in my climate (usda 5b). Never try this on 5 needle pines, and be sure to take into account how pines grow in your locale.

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  sunip on Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:44 am

Hello CA Young,

Thanks for your post.
I guess you feed young pines NPK from early spring as you not perform a staggered candle removal on young or not healthy pines?
Do you feed such young pines with a strong N in autumn as well or only PK as i am told to do with all other trees?

Sunip Wink

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Re: How strong a fertilizer to use on Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:40 am

To say thank you,
C.A.Young,

I have copied your response and will see as the new year flows, how much I can factor into my practice of Japanese Black pine growing.
Later.
Khaimraj

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