Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

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Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Brett Summers on Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:11 am

Just over a year ago a member on ausbonsai described a fast growth method for figs that he has been using. It entails growing figs in almost pure Dynamic lifter fertiliser which is a pelleted fertiliser containing Composted chicken manure, Blood and Bone, fish meal and seaweed.

Here is what he said

I have used this method in Darwin, Sale (Vic), Perth and now have 2 trees under cultivation here - maybe I should take some pic's of those .
I recently told Jamie my method would be sure to generate discussion as it is fairly unbelievable, but pup has sort of confirmed (unknowingly) the system works in one of his posts under the "Do we under fertilise" thread. As he said in that post, it is possible to take cuttings/tubestock to 100mm trunked trees in 4 years and a lot less time as well. Only problem is that you really do need to work on the trees constantly.

So to it: Get hold of a large styrene box, and cut as many holes in the bottom as you can, without the bottom breaking. I usually get around 30 holes, each about 30x30mm, but you can make them larger if you like. Cover each hole with individual pieces of mesh, same as a Bonsai Pot.
Now put in a layer of 3 to 7 mm grit. I have used anything up to 10mm by the way. Only mentioned 3to 7 ├žause thats what everyone adds to their potting medium isn't it This layer should be around 50mm deep.
Now over the grit spread a layer of Pellitized Chook Poo (you know the one) To measure out this layer I use a 100mm flower pot and I put 4 of them in.
Now put 2 pots of Blood and Bone over the Chook Poo, followed by 2 pots of Pelletised slow release fertiliser (again you should know the one).
Lightly mix the three layers together, trying not to disturb the grit layer. (you need that it place to hold all the fertiliser in place, otherwise it will just run straight out the drainage holes when you water)
Now place a hard flat object (I used a lino square) on top of the fertilser. The piece I use is usually about 200mm square, but size isn't important - just make sure there is enough gap around the edges to let the roots get to the fertilizer. Next place a thin layer of grit over the lino, to cushion the roots and place your tree on top of this grit. Spread the roots radially around the trunk and then spread another layer of grit over the top of the roots, leaving about 50mm to the top of the box
Now, fill the rest of the box with Dynamic Lifter, oops pelletised Chook Poo, and water in well. I have found it is beneficial to water again a couple of times as the Chook poo takes up a lot of the water.
Place the tree out in full sun and water as often as necessary.
Now as we need to fertilise our trees regularly what you should do is refill the box with Chik Poo Weekly. Pup's mate scraps the Poo off every week and replaces it, but with this method there usually isnt anything left on the soil surface at the end of the week as it leaches down through the box. I also throw in a good serve of Blood and Bone at the start of each season and if feeling generous will throw in a couple of handfulls of the pelletised slow release as well then. The trees also get regular foliar feed with whatever I have in the watering can as well. In Darwin I grew Orchids, so the Bonsai got that fertiliser as well
You will find over time you get quite a bit of fertiliser under the box, which can be scooped out and used on the lawn or elsewhere as it will still be working.
I have used this method to grow some very large trunked Ficus Rubiginosa, Green Island, Little boy (although you do loose the small leaves) Willow Leaf fig, I have also used it to grow Hibiscus, although the flower size will frighten you . I was also growing an Azalea using this method, however it "passed away" following a watering mishap so not sure of the long term viability for this species.
Two things to watch if giving this a try. First, do not neglect watering and secondly keep the root pruning up. Roots will quickly escape the box and get into the ground and we need to keep all the roots in the box so the tree remains being force fed. Trees will need to be rootpruned yearly as the box will fill with course thick roots quickly and the tree will need to be top pruned daily once it gets going. Dont worry about leaf size, although I did defoliate mine 4 or five times a year - just so I could keep an eye on the trunk developement and direction.
As I said in the beginning, this will (hopefully) generate a bit of discussion, but it does work. You will also notice there is absolutely NO soil of any kind involved in this method of growing trees fast.

Sounded so crazy I just had to give it a go.
My climate is not ideal for Figs with minimal months of growing period and frost burn in the Winter. I have not had the amazing results Graeme suggests but I am still surprised to see the fig is very happy in this mix and it is growing quite well for my area.
Here is the tree just over a year ago

and the tree today.


Brett Summers
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:57 am

Different grow box, can't see the trunk, no sense of scale.

Billy M. Rhodes
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Alain Bertrand on Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:46 pm

This kind of topics regularly comes on bonsai boards with the marvellous solution found by someone.
Plants don't care much about the origin and the form of their mineral nutrition. They do care though about the total osmotic strength of the solution their roots are in contact with, and some others factors like the NO3/NH4 ratio.
If the main goal of a culture is maximum growth, I'd suggest to resort to well studied and well controlled fertilization procedures like those employed by nursery professionnals.
A search with "nutrient management conductivity fertilization container site:.edu" will easily give some primers.

Alain Bertrand
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Brett Summers on Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:29 pm

Hey Billy
I can see the fig and I am still not sure how much help this DL (Dynamic Lifter) mix has been. The pic is just to show the health of the tree in a surprising mix.
Another Fig I was growing in Akadama had less foliage growth than this DL one but the trunk seemed to have thickened more.
So I was thinking with the DL fig it had lots of top growth but as the roots had all they needed they did not bother growing which was actually hindering fast growing the trunk. But when I unearthed the DL fig this spring I am thinking the trunk may have thickened more than I thought and the roots where very long.
So I am not advocating this gives amazing results but I think it is interesting enough that the fig will grow happily in pure fertiliser pellets that turn to sludge.
As I have such a short growing season here for figs I want to try this once more and pot the tree up in another fresh batch of DL when the tree is really pushing growth as I think alot of the fertiliser was gone by the time the tree really got going.

Hi Alain
I doubt any nursery would find this cost effective I may have used as much DL as would buy me a better tree Laughing But I can say much the same after going fishing most of the time Embarassed I have considered doing a course on Fertiliser because I think I have stretched my knowledge of fertilising as far as I can on my own. So I am not only surprised that the tree grows happily in this sludge but at what must be such a high osmotic strength. Many would think it crazy to suggest fertilising trees at 3 times the dilution strength as Walter suggests and I am not going to ignore that just because general nursery professionals don't do it.

But I put this up much more as an interesting odity than advocating how well it works. Yet it has encouraged me to add alot more DL to my other figs and I am pretty sure they are the better for it.

Brett Summers
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Brett Summers on Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:07 pm

Your post disappeared Alain ? I will answer as best I can from memory.

Sorry if I misunderstand osmotic strength. I take it as being the amount of salt/sodium in the soil/solution. But the economic reference was only that using this system in a nursery would not be cost efficient.

If I am correct in layman's terms that osmotic strength is the amount of salt/sodium in the soil/solution then I would be surprised that all plants have the same limit. I understand that some plants have different tolerances.
Hornbeam is one that I believe does not like a high concentration and maybe she oak is one that can handle a higher concentration and from this DL fig mix it seems they can as well?

Brett Summers
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:20 pm

Brett,

are you able to test this idea on one of the very small leaf ficus types. I am seeing some [ apart from Too-little ] very small of leaf, variegated and ones' with a slight curl on a narrow leaf. It would be easier to check, than on a large of leaf ficus.

For my part, I am seeing better results with more inorganic mixes [ 75 to 85 %] than with 50 % organic mixes and a weak addition of Phostrogen's Lawn Fertilizer. Also the use of shallow pots of soil.
Thanks for the information.
Until.
Khaimraj

* Look also for extra branching / branchlets.

Khaimraj Seepersad
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Alain Bertrand on Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:34 pm

Brett,
I have suppressed my post because I thought it was, in fact, useless.

Osmotic strength is the sum of all soluble species in a aqueous solution, whatever they are. As you wrote, there are differents limits between species, but to my knowledge, they don't differ that much among tree species commonly grown as bonsai in temperate countries, azalea being on the sensible part of the range.
regards,


Alain Bertrand
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Re: Growing Figs in Pure Fertiliser

Post  Brett Summers on Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:58 pm

Khaimraj
Maybe the fig with the slight curl is Ficus mexicana? I remembered reading about it in an old Bonsai Today issue that discussed identifying Ficus.
I have not come across the thinner leaf figs but then agian I have not looked hard as figs are not the best in our cold Winter.

Growing hornbeam in the heat of my climate I always battle leaf burn. I finally realised at the end of last season that the salt content of my substrate needed better management as hornbeams are sensitive to salt which will show as edge leaf burn.
I kept getting references that organic fertiliser reduced the salt content but wondered why they always had lower NPK ratios. All research I have looked into tells me that nutrient content to salt content go hand in hand and you can't get nutrients without salt no matter if it is organic or inorganic. So is it just that organic fertilisers are weaker. Not sure that is the whole answer?
This still confuses me some but my best guess is that organic ferts go in not as salt and it is the microbes/organisms in the soil that turn them into salt/nutrients. I have no idea how correct this is though.
So in the cooler Spring I tend to use the inorganic as it is available for the tree to use right away but in the hotter period I tend to use the organic ferts on my hornbeams and some other cool climate trees that get leaf burn.
It seems to be working well this year but it has been a cooler year than normal and it is often the end of the season I tend to drop the ball and end up with burnt leaves and no Autumn Colour Sad

An interesting side note to this is that Walter has an article in an Old Bonsai Today on Hornbeam care and he states that they are salt sensitive and special care must be taken but now he has corrected himself saying that he gives them the same triple strength mix all his other trees get and now with his free draining mix they have no problem.
I am still sticking to fertiliser on the light side for my hornbeams this year though Wink

Brett Summers
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