Air Layering Tips...

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Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Thu Nov 24, 2011 8:36 pm

Hello all,

After having done the "post mortems" on a few of my air layer attempts this year, I'm wondering if anyone has any tips and tricks towards performing successful air layers.

I got good callouses but no roots and I believe it was due to using long strand sphagnum that was too moist and packed in too tightly around the ring wound. They were never watered all season and were still wet from the initial installation back in May. A good cloner would look at that set-up and say "Jay you need a more airy and friable medium." Maybe a mix 50/50 of sphagnum and perlite...and only loosely fitted around the wound. I used the old saran wrap and tin foil method.

So what does everyone use as their rooting medium for air layers while they're still on the tree?
Do you folks use the 'Bag" method or prefer the rooter pots?
I would be grateful for any nuggets of wisdom with regards to this technique!

My best, and my thanks as always.
-Jay

drgonzo
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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  marcus watts on Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:01 pm

hi,
it could vary from species to species but so far I have successfully air layered;
acer palmatum mikawa yatsubusa, trident maples, juniper - rigida & shimpaku, chines elm - cork bark & normal & crab apple. All these i have removed from the base stock in the same year with good results. Firstly i believe it is important to be sure the tree you are working with is strong on its own roots and that it produces a strong compact root system -if you have a grafted tree the chances are it was grafted for a reason - probably that the trees own roots are poor, or produce poor growth.

once you have a good viable stock i fully ring bark the trunk, apply clonex rooting liquid / gel to the wound and wrap a sheet of strong clear plastic around the trunk ( i actually use bits of empty acadama and kinyu bags! ) i secure the plastic with a cable tie and loosely pack in fresh sphagnum moss - not soaked in any potions - then i secure the top with another cable tie and leave them alone. Once the layer is made i do not prune above at all.

the crab apple was the only one that took months to root - after about 12 weeks i painted the callous with more clonex - then it rooted in 4 weeks. i dont use black plastic, foil, syringes of water, vitamin B, but also i havent tried species that dont offer good success as there is no point.- resinous trees are notoriously slow to root, if they do at all - pines, etc, hawthorns and blackthorns are reported to take 3 years or more to root, if at all, they often produce a few poor roots and die once seperated.

i think there is a trend to imagine airlayering as a wonder method to produce roots on all stock but we need to look at the decades of horticultural history to see which trees are worth trying - by all means experiment as learning comes from that, but dont ruin a nice bonsai by ringbarking it to try and get 2 trees, as the scar and lumpy callous will never disappear if it fails.

last thing is really feed the trees hard - i feed hard on all material that is being developed or practiced on.

cheers Marcus

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:35 pm

Thank you Marcus

we both basically follow the same steps. I believe I simply jam packed wet sphagnum in my bag and the resulting anaerobic condition inhibited rooting beyond the callous stage. The sealed plastic bag with no breathing holes kept this condition throughout even the hot summer months as today I open a bag from a failed layer and it is just as wet as when I packed it months ago. i am an decent cloner, and its due mostly to the loose medium I use. We need the oxygenation to induce root formation.

I am contemplating a design for a "bag" thats made from burlap. It would be both air and water permeable so it could be easily be watered simply by hosing it from outside without the need to unwrap and disturb the layer, yet it could easily hold my rooting media. The roots would not receive damaging sunlight as the bag is opaque. Any roots that would grow outside the bag would hit air through the loose weave of the burlap and die back to further ramify inside the bag, like growing trees in colanders. I also envision a rooting mix of say 1/3 Perlite and 2/3 chopped sphagnum. I've also got some ideas to include velcro sewn to the sides so a "pocket " could be made to ease in filling with the media. Kind of like a ravioli made of burlap around the branch. Velcro on one side would also make peeking in to check on things easier then unwrapping this whole bag of plastic wrap. I know the cultural conditions necessary for successful rooting I just need to figure out how best to create those conditions affixed to a tree limb and hold them there.

I am layering wild trees on my property, apples, pears, hawthorns..Things that should be relatively easy, and all the layers I set this spring have all had the same problem throughout all the different species I have tried.

I must build the better mouse trap
-Jay

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  JimLewis on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:37 pm

You may have cooked the roots if the layer was out in full sun. Clear plastic plus water plus sunlight equals HOT water.

I can't imagine that we could pack sphagnum in tightly enough to affect roots or root formation. Seedlings germinate in heavy clay and those roots do just fine.

Cuttings need sunlight. Layers should be shaded if they are in plastic with no foil wrapped around it. Layers in pots are really little more than cuttings; just attached.

OR . . . you may simply have lacked patience. If you got callus, things usually progress from there.

_________________
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: Air Layering Tips...

Post  coh on Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:40 pm

I've had mixed (and somewhat similar) results with layering. I've used pretty much the same method Jay described. Earlier this year I layered a leggy Chinese elm in a bonsai pot and it rooted and was separated in under 3 months...but I think Chinese elms root if you look at them funny! On the other hand...last year I applied 4 layers (2 each) to 2 crabapple trees on my property. 1 layer on each tree "took" and was separated that year, but it took basically all summer...and the roots produced were not very strong. Nevertheless, the new plants are doing well. One of the other layers finally rooted this summer and was separated, but the final layer still has not rooted, after 2 seasons. Plenty of callous, though! I'm probably just going to remove that piece and treat it as a hardwood cutting this winter.

I also put a layer on a stewartia and pyracantha in my yard this spring and didn't get roots yet. I've tried twice now to layer a larch in my yard without success (branch browned/died in both cases, though the first layer did produce one feeble root before giving up). Someone suggested that I try the wire tourniquet method on larch instead of the ring bark method, may give that a shot next year.

I do know that the moss stayed very wet this season. It seems to be a fine line - too much air and the moss dries out (or requires frequent watering), too little and it stays too wet.

Chris

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  Kev Bailey on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:38 pm

I think that the "still wet" is very likely to be a problem that is arising from moisture entering the layer. The top seal has to be absolute to prevent rainwater from tracking down the trunk, where I live! If it stays too wet, the callus forms but new roots just rot.

Heat is helpful in root formation, but overheating is not. It is a judgement call and depends on species and where you live. For my layers, the more sun and heat, the faster and better results. Experimentation and observation will eventually lead you to a routine that is successful for you. Best of luck!

_________________
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin.

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:43 pm

I just pulled all the sphagnum out of one of my dud layers and it is sopping wet and pretty compacted, I think If i had done it much looser I would have had better luck. Roots wont form in anaerobic conditions and I had a swamp in those bags thats for sure.

I'm re-working the system by learning from my failures I'll get it probably next year. I'm going to work on a much more aerated mix.
thanks for all the input guys
-Jay

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  bucknbonsai on Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:27 am

water runs down bark and gets into the moss, so what I do is poke a couple holes in the bottom portion to help with drainage.

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  Mitch Thomas on Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:43 pm

drgonzo
One important aspect of airlayering is timeing I always start mine in the late spring about 3 to 4 weeks after the parent tree leafs out and they harden off.
I have good success airlayering many deciduous trees using this method. First I take a basic plastic nursery pot size as needed. Cut a hole in the bottom the same diameter as the trunk of the tree then cut a slit so it can be placed around the tree. Now do your basic ring cut being sure to cut all the way thru the cambiem layer if this is not well it will fail. Apply your rooting hormone, I use the powder type. Place the pot in position with the ring low in the pot and secure the pot so it will not move. I use duct tape around the sides. Now I pack moss tightly in the bottom this will hold moisture right where you need it. Now I use a fine bonsai mix with no organic to the rim of the pot. Now you just water it everytime you water your tree, the mix and moss will hold all the water it needs draining off any extra water. I have some elms ready to separate in as little as 6 weeks.

Hope this helps Mitch

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:06 am

Mitch,

I'm going to try something very similar to your set-up on an American Elm thats growing through my deck, the spot I want to ring is vertical, and i could use a pot easily around the tree, unfortunately a lot of what I am interested in in the woods on my property is somewhat horizontally positioned, for those sorts of layers I'm trying to invent a better bag, and rooting media system.

-Jay

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  Mitch Thomas on Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:18 am

drgonzo
I have done horizontal layers with this method. I just reorientated the hole in the pot to the horizontal so you would have the holes on the sides for the branch/ trunk to go thru. It worked very well for me.

Mitch

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:34 am

Mitch Thomas wrote:drgonzo
I have done horizontal layers with this method. I just reorientated the hole in the pot to the horizontal so you would have the holes on the sides for the branch/ trunk to go thru. It worked very well for me.

Mitch

Thats brilliant I never thought of that, Ultimately what I would love to do would be to use Turface as my rooting medium, maybe with a little sphagnum mixed in, or sphagnum and pearlite if weight was going to be an issue. Thats why a hard container has always been in the back of my mind but I could never figure out how to do a horizontal branch without spilling media all over, jeez I cant believe I never thought of that!

Thank you!
-Jay

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  Mitch Thomas on Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:22 am

Jay
One other I forgot to mention is to make sure your hands and tools are disinfected when you make your ring cuts most layers fail because of bacterial or fungal infection. I use anti bacterial dish soap.

The spagham moss has three different rolls in airlayering.
First is it has a natural anti fungal agent.
Second it holds moisture where needed
Third it's the perfect environment for new roots.

And it holds the bonsai soil from leaking out.

Hope this helps
Mitch

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  bucknbonsai on Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:05 pm

Ive even heard the spagnum moss has such good antifungal properties that in world war 1 (or was it the civil war?) it was used to pack wounds on soldiers.

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  Mitch Thomas on Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:30 pm

Hey Jay
I found this on stone lantern. Looks pretty handy to me.


***Bonsai Air-layering & Bark Stripping Tool***

this unique tool makes time consuming tasks quick & easy

retail 35.00, our low price 26.00

Mitch

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  alonsou on Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:25 pm

So far I had done 2 air layers on Tridents and they've been both successful. Graham Potter have a very nice video about it and I pretty much did exactly what he shows on the video. Hopefully this applies to you as well.


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Re: Air Layering Tips...

Post  drgonzo on Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:56 pm

actually Alonsou, it was Grahams video that inspired me to try air-layering this spring because he explained and demonstrated it so well, My problem was when I made my nice compact ball around the wound I think it was TOO compacted and a bit to wet.

Grahams whole series of videos is excellent, as is his taste for that classic metal band Rainbow.
-Jay

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Re: Air Layering Tips...

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