Friday, November 2, 2007

Newsletter October 2007

Don’t worry to much if you haven’t completed all your repotting yet. Many trees, such as azaleas, elms and junipers all can still be done as long as you are careful with their aftercare. Other trees such as figs prefer to be done a little later in the season, so these can be safely done in the coming weeks. Trees such as black pines are now best left until Autumn, and done with care, or leave until next spring.

The most important aspect of repotting is the after care. Make sure you place your tree somewhere it will be shaded, but not in a dark or drafty place. 7 days should do it and then move it back to its original place.

When repotting make sure you don’t leave any air pockets around the roots as this can lead to root rot. This is best achieved by using a chopstick and gently working the soil so it is compacted around the rootball. Be gentle with this so as not to damage the tiny roots. Also the word compacting can be a little misleading. You don’t want the soil packed in so tight that the water has trouble penetrating the soil. The worst thing you can do is water your tree in and then push it down hard with your hands, this will pack the soil to tightly and cause problems.
Always use good soil! Don’t scrimp on soil and try and use some old stuff from a previous tree. You will transfer disease, and use soil that is denuded of needed nutrients for you growing tree. Remember your tree is in “grow mode” so it will be needing the best it can get! As mentioned before I am now having my own mix made commercially and am selling it at the nursery. It is specifically designed to promote good root growth, which will obviously promote good leaf growth! Remember, don’t try and save a dollar on a tree that is worth $100!!

Some trees will need to be repotted twice a year such as privets. It is therefore best to do these early in spring, and then again in say march. Often these trees will fill their pots with new roots very quickly.

Yep their back! Unfortunately, as we experience all this new growth, so are all the little bugs. There are various methods of keeping them under control, but the best is prevention.
Although I have hundreds of trees, I still water by hand. Sprinkler systems are fine but you will learn a lot more about your trees by hand watering. In one day you will notice a whilting, or chewing insects or yellowing etc. By being so prompt in dealing with the problem, you may avert a massive infestation. Keep your eyes open, as soon as you notice something different, find the cause.

Something to watch for is when you tree seems to be very loose in the pot, and is looking sickly. Often the cause of this is the “curl grub” These are little white grubs the size of half your little finger. These guys love to eat roots, and will be merrily munching away with you wondering what is going on. When in doubt with the health of your tree, always check the roots.
You can use insecticides for these but if you have the tree out of its pot, you can just as easily pick the little blighters out. Make sure you check right up under the trunk, often this is where you will find them hiding! This is not drastic as if you hadn’t done this you would have lost the tree anyway.

Many people fail to keep an eye on what is going on under the soil, “out of sight, out of mind”.
If you suspect a problem, check the roots, smell the soil, does it smell like its rotting? Maybe your drain holes are blocked, and water is slowly rotting the roots. Roots need oxygen to operate!

Your mix should be free draining allowing fresh air to be drawn down into the soil as you water.
Keep the area that you have your trees in nice and clean. Keep any surrounding trees free from pests also.

Tree selection.
Its important to understand when you are selecting a tree to shape as a bonsai, that often you are not looking at the entire tree. More often than not the tree has been grown to its current size just to increase the trunk thickness. Don’t try and work out how you could shape the whole tree as it is. Start at the base of the trunk and imagine a tree with good taper using maybe only one third of the tree! You may throw the rest away. Try and resist the instant bonsai pressure and begin to plan for the future, you will be surprised how fast time goes. I have recently cut of the whole top of a juniper and kept only the bottom branch, and turned it into a lovely cascade. By doing this you have a nice strong looking tree, with heaps of wow factor. If you are keen to do something like this, let me know next time you are at the nursery, and I will show you some trees that I keep my eyes on! This is a great way to expand your artistic ability and talents!

Happy Bonsai-ing