PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

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PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  immAGinoso on Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:50 pm

Trying to design a low maintenance indoor bonsai display by introducing automatic systems.  In downtown Toronto, Canada- Zone 6b, not sure if the zone matters. Tried 3 trees before and they all dried out and died.  After flushing money down the toilet and feeling so frustrated, I decided not to give up because I have fallen in love with the art of Bonsai so much.    

So fellow forum members, bonsai experts and bonsai gods, please help me get it right this time... Smile

I have outlined details with questions of my indoor bonsai display stand below.  I've also attached drawings and diagrams. To make it easier for you guys, you can just reply for every point, ex. B.1) Xxxx xxxxxxxx xx xxxxxx .....  Your input will be so much appreciated. Smile



A) LIGHT

The living room has an easterly exposure, not 100% true east, slight tilt towards the north at about 8-10 degrees.  Perforated vertical blinds are installed, I leave the blinds open at about 45 degrees, the open gaps are therefore facing south.  

A.1) ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING FOR INDOOR GROWTH- For interior design reasons, I personally prefer a cluster of pendant lights.  Could anyone recommend the best bulb to use-fluorescent, metal halide or specialized plant bulbs?  
I assume that pendant lights are going to be on timer and will be turned on from 8AM to 5PM, supplementing the natural light coming from the window.
What is the recommend light level in general, assuming all the species are tropical?  Any simple way to measure the light level, a light meter?  

A.2) EVENING DISPLAY LIGHTING - Someone vaguely mentioned to me that plants only respond to a specific light spectrum or wavelength.  Assuming that is right, can anyone suggest a nice way to subtly light the bonsai in the evening? Preferably with a warm yellowish white glow, like all the other lamps in the apartment.  And that will not disturb the bonsai's evening/night rest time.

In the exploded view of my proposed bonsai stand, I have drawn LED strip lights placed inside the wooden box-so light will be glowing from the box, through the perforated screen, lighting the pot from below. d  This might not be enough to sublty and evenly lit to appreciate the bonsai.





B) AUTOMATIC WATERING SYSTEM and PLANTING MEDIUM


B.1) AUTOMATIC WATERING SYSTEM

I have sketched a diagram and brought it to a hydrophonic store here in Toronto called Bustan.  The owners were very accomodating and recommended products to build this. Only things I don't have yet is the water reservoir and the clear plastic tube hook that will hang on edge of every bonsai pot.    I will have to set it up and see first how much water will get into every pot, but that can be regulated by splitters.  Assuming that there will be a lot of water for every pot, then a well draining planting medium is very important.

B.2) PLANTING MEDIUM
As a starting point for the planting medium mix, my plan is to follow Jack Wikle's suggested mix (from http://www.fukubonsai.com/2b2a2a.html) :
one part, by volume, starter chicken grit (small particles of granite) available at stores dealing in livestock feed
two parts sphagnum peat (not sphagnum moss) available in bales at our local garden centers
three parts baked clay (product called Turface used in constructing golf greens and athletic fields).  
Has anyone tried this? Any comments or suggestions because I plan to use an automatic watering system.  

C) HUMIDITY

C.1) HUMIDITY LEVELS  
Ironbeaver has recommend a hygrometer (http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=73921&cat=2,42191,42190,73921) which I bought last week to test what I currently have.
What is the recommended reading for indoor tropical bonsai species?

C.2) HUMIDIFIER
Ultrasonic? Fine Mist? Warm Mist? Cool Mist? Or Both?   Please recommend a product.  My idea is to put it on timer as well, running about 15 mins every hour to minimize water refills.

C.3)  MISTING
I plan to mist the bonsais myself because it is enjoyable and to regularly check how they are doing.  But just to ensure no one gets too dry, is there an automatic mister? Fine mist perhaps so as not to ruin the adjacent TV on the wall.

C.4) HUMIDITY TRAYS
I am planning to get cheap ceramic or clear bowls that will be filled with gravel.  Every pot will drain into them.  What material is best to put in the humidity trays?  Crushed coral? Mixed with some kind of fabric or cloth?  

E) FRESH AIR SUPPLY

Given that Toronto is a winter city, worst case scenario is that I do not open any windows for 8 months straight, relying on the centralized HVAC of the building, will that be enough fresh air supply?
Also, assuming worst case scenario, none of the pots will be brought outside on the balcony during the summer months...  This may sound mean, but I imagine it will better adapt the trees to indoor lifestyle all throughout the year...

F) SPECIES

Tropical and Sub-Tropical?  Probably only Tropicals... I imagine they are easier... please enlighten me if I am wrong....
I have started to make a list of Tropical Species that has relatively small leaves below.
I would surely like to do the following styles:  Penjing style, Cascade, Semi-Cascade, Inform Upright and Literati.   Please feel free to add to the list and match which species is best for every style.

Parrot's Peak (Gmelina Philippensis)
Chinese Sweet Plum (Sageretia theezans)
Pixie Bougainvilla
Natal Plum  - good for semi-cascade
Singapore Holly
Grewia
Pyracantha - Fire thorn
Philippine Bantige (Pemphis Acidula)
Brazilian Raintree

E) KUSAMONO / ACCENT PLANTS

As I have already started collecting many different small bonsai pots...Plus, Kusamono art for me is equally interesting as Bonsai art.   Please recommend species that have fine leaves, low maintenance and will thrive best in my proposed design.

immAGinoso
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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  kevin stoeveken on Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:13 pm

from my experience, and generally speaking, plants grown under artificial lights need alot more than "normal daylight" hours...

i currently have my tropicals under fluorescent grow lights from 4 am to 9 pm or so... but that may be dependent on what type of artificial light you are using... but that longer light period may eliminate your need for, or ability to have, "evening mood light"

re your existing exposure, if i understand your orientation correctly, you are only getting a few hours of weak morning light coming in through the gaps... made even weaker by the glass and the distance from the glass... so that light does not even count...

thats all i can offer...

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PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  geo on Wed Feb 24, 2016 3:56 am

There are two people on this site that have been posting about indoor lighting for a bit now. JWT and Dreamcast.Your lighting plan seems to be almost nonexistent.This is bonsai FIRST and everything else a distant second,including cute architectural elements.BTW,if you can't manage to learn how to water trees well in person,maybe you are just not interested enough or are really trying to mix apples and oranges.I do not mean to be harsh,but I think you really have to re think your involvement with "bonsai" and decide if you are passionate enough,or are just trying to incorporate elements of it into your grand scheme.


Last edited by geo on Wed Feb 24, 2016 4:03 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : info)

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  immAGinoso on Wed Feb 24, 2016 4:43 am

Hello Geo,

Thank you for your reply.. I will take it as a constructive criticism.  
I am passionate enough to have spent a loooot of time and money trying to learn more about Bonsai.  I am simply trying to make the most out of what I have, spacewise and timewise.  

SPACEWISE
Regarding the pendant light fixtures, as a designer, it is in my nature to explore alternative aesthetic solutions at the same time trying to balance them with function.  And I have seen plant grow bulbs in the market (at least online-see attached picture), so I took it as a hint to explore the pendant light approach.  Hopefully it will work out, then in the future...  I can then incorporate more green into the interior projects I deal with.


TIMEWISE
I have chosen to take the artistic route in architecture and design.  My job is rather demanding, with unpaid hours, 24 hours straight in the office sometimes to bring projects to a quality level that a firm has to maintain.
Plus, like everyone does. there are out of town weekends as well.
I cannot afford to keep flushing trees down the drain so what I am trying to achieve here is some cushion before failure.  

Thanks for pointing out the indoor lighting posts started by JWT and Dreamcast.  I will definitely read them.  Surely to gain more knowledge which I can apply to further develop my design.

immAGinoso
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PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  geo on Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:05 am

Sorry.i was a tad out of line there.I should realize that I really do not know your situation at all and come off sounding like a judgmental dick.That crowd,I do not need a membership in.
On a more positive note,perhaps you should consider other substrates for your plants-in tandem with the auto water system.Seems to me(others may differ-always a contentious issue),but the inclusion of turface and peat would probably need you to be checking moisture levels anyway.Both materials are problematic. Other choices would be scoria,pumice,DE and a lot of others.Please forgive the previous tone.I have a frozen shoulder at the moment and three bloody Marys did not help. Embarassed
Do try to keep them outside some of the time.That period will contribute strongly to the trees' ability to fight off the insect and fungal problems that seem to lie in wait for the indoor light garden if the humidity and air circulation are not really good.


Last edited by geo on Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:28 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : info)

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  immAGinoso on Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:48 pm

No worries man! Smile

Thanks for the advice on the planting medium... so as a general rule: Watering more = Better draining soil.
Whenever I have the free time, I love fussing with my plants, giving them extra TLC Smile so surely they will go on sunbathing breaks on the balcony during the summer months.
What I've written above is all about worst case scenarios... Hopefully someone who has dealt with the same situation of having Condominium Centralized HVAC in their homes. I think I might just ask the building management or developer what was the mechanical design allowance for fresh air exchange in the installed system.
I have a new idea for the lighting scheme, will make a 3d iteration and will post soon asap. Wink

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  LanceMac10 on Wed Feb 24, 2016 6:51 pm

Trees grow like crap inside. When I bring my tropicals in, they go under some run of the mill T5 bulbs and in front of a south facing window.
Water once a week. Run a hot mist humidifier during the day, every so often. I keep my place fairly cold until January, then I set the heat to 65-68 degrees fahrenheight. They start to move a little at that point. I have a Brazilian Raintree that usually has no leaves for 4 to 5 months!!

I do wish you luck, just don't expect to spend a bunch of money on your set-up and get wild growth.
All I expect from my indoor plants is to survive being inside for 6 to 7 months...... Dance

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  kevin stoeveken on Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:25 pm

amen brother and can i get a witness !!!

tropicals in winter is all about survival because they sure aint gonna thrive pale
unless you really invest heavily in all the good shit for indoor growing $$$$$$
and those who disagree have probably spent that boat-load of dough on indoor gear...

i am lucky though in that my BRT aint gone bald yet !

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update on my project

Post  immAGinoso on Wed May 04, 2016 5:09 am

Hello again guys!

Please excuse my silence, I have taken your advices here: join my local club and checkout the LED for indoors thread.
Both have been very very effective and helpful to my project.

Thanks to Dreamcast and all others on that thread, very informative.
I had consulted my design with SANlight as well, and they have been extremely helpful, and their products looks very promising to our hobby. Highly recommended!

Now my biggest challenge is to look for species that will thrive beautifully for the balcony. There has been very little advice with confidence given to me from the more experienced members of the Toronto Bonsai Society. It is because most of them, their generation had more opportunity to have gardens. I cannot afford to have one right now and I am making the most out of my one-bedroom condo that fortunately has a good depth balcony. The comment I received the most was the conditions being so much drier up on the 17th floor, I have evolved the bench design to have water channels that gently continuously flows to supply humidity... Here's a snapshot, still developing it.
https://i86.servimg.com/u/f86/19/42/58/80/with_w10.jpg

As I do not want to see my outdoor trees barely surviving, but rather thriving beautifully and growing on a healthy normal rate. It is better to stick to endemic species of Ontario, Zone 5b, or colder zone species, arctic if needed Smile
Could someone kindly share info on this? Or who could recommend particular species to me.

Also, if anyone can direct me to a thread or website on overwintering boxes design for my outdoor trees, I imagine that the most effective and fail proof one would be to design it to a certain R-Value (thermal resistance).

I would very much appreciate your help Smile

Thanks in advance y'all Smile

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  kevin stoeveken on Wed May 04, 2016 12:33 pm

your overwintering (on a balcony no less) will be your biggest challenge...
get that sussed out and the number of species available to you would be plentiful...
(keeping in mind that the "zone" of a plant is for when the plant is in the ground rather than a pot)

your biggest concern will be wind protection more than temperature if using native species
but a big ugly styrofoam box would do nicely

but dont grow them indoors in the spring-summer-fall...
depending on the orientation of your balcony they may do well outside, but they will definitely not do well inside

which sort of renders this thread moot... Wink
may i suggest a title for a new thread ?

something like:
PLEASE HELP DESIGN A HIGH-RISE CONDO BALCONY GARDEN FOR MY ZONE 5B NATIVE SPECIES Razz

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  Fiore Falinesti on Tue May 10, 2016 8:39 pm

I don't if you'd be able to make it over there, but I've personally learned a lot from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxWc7cn-M-22gie8oPslLcA. He's part of the Kitchener Waterloo Bonsai Society and it looks like they are a fairly active group.

As for your automatic watering system, I've seen all over the internet that it's never a good idea to water on a schedule. I've been working on a watering system myself and the next thing I'm going to try to add to it is a sensor to tell when the soil needs to be watered. It really depends on how much you know about electronics or how much you're willing to spend, but a system that waters the plants when they need it is much better than one that waters every day or two.

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  immAGinoso on Wed May 18, 2016 9:34 am

Fiore, thanks for your reply and yes I agree watering on schedule is not ideal... just like in nature, it doesn't rain every MWF every 3pm...
I have seen a product, made in Austria, auto watering with sensor heads that detects moisture levels in the soil.... but these heads are pretty big... more like a mushroom head... about 1 inch diameter if it was a sphere... it would look quite unattractive fixing it in the pot, especially shallow pots....

Do you know specific products of the system you are describing or have seen?
If you don't mind sharing, I'd really appreciate that Smile

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  kevin stoeveken on Wed May 18, 2016 4:16 pm

it seems that watering systems should be used as a back up, or for when on holiday/vacation...

having bonsai is like having pets... and the well-being of neither should be compromised just to indulge in having some.

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

Post  Fiore Falinesti on Wed May 18, 2016 7:07 pm

immAGinoso: I saw this sensor a while back that might work, otherwise the same site has other sensors that could be hooked up to any system with a bit of know-how.

beer city snake: I agree, and I water most of my plants by hand. I just love tinkering around and trying to automate things. I do it more for the challenge of getting it to work than the actual end product.

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Re: PLEASE HELP DESIGN AN AUTOMATED INDOOR BONSAI DISPLAY

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