Spring is in full swing and I’m excited to see all of my trees starting to grow again. The Winter hasn’t been very cold and many trees have started growing much earlier this year. Early isn’t too big of an issue because we don’t get sudden hard freezes during the Spring months so our trees continue to grow. Because of this, we can get started working on a trees slightly ahead of schedule.
Deciduous– By mid April most of the leaves on our deciduous trees will have hardened off. That’s the perfect time to start working on the trees. We can focus on cutting, wiring and for some, defoliation (only for certain trees). If the leaves haven’t hardened off yet, hold off for a few more week till they do then start working on them.
Broadleaf Evergreen– These trees can be worked on this month as well though there may still be some sensitive new growth on the tree. We just have to be careful not to damage the new foliage when working with the tree.
I recommend using Aluminum to wire deciduous and broad leaf evergreen. It’s much easier to use and easier on the tree itself since these trees have much thinner bark and live tissue.
Conifers– Conifers such as Junipers, Cypress, Cryptomeria, Spruce, and Cedars can be worked on this month. If you have Japanese Black/Red Pines, hold off working on them till June. If you have High mountain pines (any pine that grows in the mountains), allow them to grow through the Summer and start working on them in September. If you had just repotted the tree this Spring, hold off working on them till the Summer. Since Conifer roots grow slower than Deciduous trees, we need to give them more time to fill the pot and re-establish themselves.
Trees Need Water
Now that everything is growing, our Bonsais will need much more water. Watch out for trees that are drying out and be sure to keep them all hydrated. Having Bonsais dry out too much during the Spring will weaken the tree and cause problems in the foliage’s ability to grow well or handle the Summer heat.
Fertilizing Made Easy
For those that aren’t sure about when to fertilize, here is a simple timetable you can use to make it easy. Since we all use different fertilizers and our soil components aren’t the same, I can’t tell you how much to feed but rather when to feed. It’s up to you to observe how your tree is growing and if it’s growing the way you want it to grow.
I currently use Grow Power Plus 5-3-1 organic fertilizer that I put in tea bags. I like using it because the Nitrogen is water soluble which means it’s readily available to the trees now versus other organics where the Nitrogen needs time to breakdown into a usable form. This schedule is mainly for environments in Northern and Central
This timetable is for trees that are in branch development mode. Do not use this timetable for trunk growth or sick trees. They fall into a different schedule. We will go more into the, “why?” details of the schedule during the workshop.
Japanese Black/Red Pines
March 1 – June 1
August 1 – December 31
High Mountain Pines
September 1 – December 31
May 1 – December 31
All Other Trees
March 1 – December 31
Being and Getting Consistent
One of the major issues people have while learning and practicing Bonsai is developing consistency in their work. If we don’t become consistent in Bonsai horticulture and styling, it’s makes refining Bonsai harder, causing us to cap the potential of the Bonsai. Since we’re trying to guide our Bonsai to grow and look a very specific way, we have to be consistent with the work so we can get predictable results allowing us to push our developmental and refinement process even further.
The following are 4 main categories that affects how our trees grow. How we manipulate these four categories will change how the tree grows. The first 4 are the easiest to change whereas the 5th requires a lot of time and practice to do well. Focus on getting the first 4 down before working on #5. Always ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing helping to turn the tree into Bonsai?”
Sun– The Sun is so important for life on Earth. Sunlight is a key component to photosynthesis and how our trees create most if its food. We have to understand how much Sunlight our individual trees need and provide that for them. If we provide them with too little light, then the trees would tend to grow leggy and weaken. In some cases, the tree may even die off. On the other hand, if too much sunlight is provided, trees can burn and loose branches or even die all together.
Take the time and observe how your trees are doing in the sunlight you are giving them and make any necessary adjustments. If your backyard has too much sun or too little sun, it may force you to work on specific types of species only.
Water– It’s important to understand what our individual water quality is like. Hard water causes a build up of salts in the soil and turns the soil alkaline which most trees dislike. Deciduous trees have a much harder time growing in alkaline conditions whereas conifers then to tolerate it more. For example, unless I run my tap water through an Reverse Osmosis filter, my deciduous trees grows very poorly.
How we water also plays a role in the tree’s growth. Depending on the soil’s ability to hold water, over watering or under watering will cause trees to slow down or weaken. Be sure to water when the tree needs it. If you’re watering and you notice your trees are still wet from the last watering, hold off and wait for it to dry out a little bit more. Keep fine tuning your watering schedule till you find a good compromise between what the tree needs and your personal schedule.
Soil– If you’ve repotted with me before, you know that soil is a very important part of Bonsai. What type of soil we use and how much water it holds will cause our trees to grow very differently. Drier soil mixes causes the tree to grow faster whereas wetter mixes causes the trees to grow slower.
Repotting interval also causes the trees to grow differently as well. Deciduous trees grow slow when repotted often whereas Conifers grow faster when repotted often.
Fertilizing– It doesn’t get easier then this. Fertilizing is a great way of giving our trees that little extra push to grow more. But again, be sure that you’re not causing the trees to grow in a manner that’s not inline with your goals for the tree. Fertilizing is good but sometimes over doing it can cause more problems, such as burning of the roots (more likely with Chemical fertilizers) or excessive un-needed growth.
Styling– This the fun part in Bonsai and why most of us got into the Art in the first place. Styling includes cutting and wiring techniques. We tend to jump to this before we cover the above 4 categories first. This category is very involving and takes a good amount of time and practice, which is why we take workshops together.
During the workshop we will continue to cover all sorts of Bonsai topics but they all fall into the 5 categories discussed above. Remember to always ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing helping to turn the tree into Bonsai?”
As always I look forward to working with you all. See you at the workshop!