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March Bonsai

Mar. 01, 2021 in Bonsaiby admin

The end of 2013 and start of 2014 illustrate why you cannot just do bonsai tasks on a 'schedule', you need to vary them according to nature. In 2013 the temp here was well above average all summer, with 100's into Sept and 90's into Oct. After that the only two temps above 80 were on Oct 23 and Nov 17. Then it was a cold winter. In a way that was good because the plants stayed dormant. But you need to be extra vigilant because some species tend to respond to the lengthening daylight and others to temperature to break dormancy. Last spring my trees were confused. The order of growth was mixed up, some oaks were out before some elms etc.

Bonsai will start growing in late February or March in this area depending on your wintering techniques and on the species. After growth starts some species can take a couple degrees of frost but unless you know what your particular tree can take you should keep it from freezing. Also, newly growing roots are more tender. In this area you should keep the new foliage out of the strong winds however they should have some breeze to help harden the new foliage and to help keep insects and fungal diseases at bay.

You may continue repotting on deciduous species until you see a tiny bit of green on the tips of the swelling leaf bud. Be sure to keep the newly repotted tree out of the wind and late morning or afternoon sun. Broadleaf evergreen species will generally be okay to repot later on. Yaupon do better if you wait until it warms a bit more. Even though it gets quite warm now, we can expect a freeze in March so you may have to protect trees that have started growth and those that have been repotted this winter. Don't repot tropicals until the night temps stay above 60.

There are two different approaches to branch and tree care. The first is the development stage of the tree where you are growing and developing branches, doing root work and generally developing the style of the tree. During this time you will cut and wire and then let it grow for a good period of time developing taper and interesting bends and twists. Timing of these functions is not as critical.

The other approach comes after the development stage and results in the refinement of the bonsai. This gives it the twiginess, small leaves and patina of age which takes it from a commercial bonsai to a piece of art. It is quite time consuming especially in the flush growth period after dormancy breaks. If not done carefully, the new growth will thicken the twigs and cause long internodes which will ruin all the previous work and may even send you back to the development stage.

Now you should get your tweezers and shears ready for the real job ahead. In order to develop the ramification and fine twigs you want you must be pruning the new growth as it develops. Waiting until the shoots are three or four inches or longer results in coarse twigs with long internodes. These will have to be cut off and new ones developed.

Junipers in development should be trimmed with shears. Styled juniper may be done with the fingers. As the new growth develops grasp the twigs with one hand spreading the foliage in a fan shape. Then with the other hand grasp the tips between the fleshy part of your thumb and finger and pull it off. Using fingernails or scissors will result in brown tips on the cut foliage.

As the weather warms up the insects will surely make their appearance. Use the foliar spray (1 tablespoon each of fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses, and apple cider vinegar per gallon of water) weekly to control aphid, mites, caterpillars etc. Commercial sprays may be used but follow directions closely. Be sure to spray with a fine mist sprayer to cover thoroughly.

Be careful when using a new insecticide or cure. The best advice is to try it first on some lesser plants to see how it behaves in your yard. Hydrogen peroxide is suggested as a control for fungal problems. The peroxide degenerates into water and oxygen fairly rapidly so is no threat to the environment. Personally, I have used 1% peroxide on elms and yaupons later on in the season spraying once a week. It got rid of the black spot with no damage. However, when I sprayed tender new spring foliage with it I caused considerable leaf burn. Therefore anytime I use peroxide it will be on mature foliage and at a 0.5% solution.

Fertilizing is necessary once the trees start to grow. Too many trees exhibited do not have a good dark green foliage. Since we are using soilless mixes for the most part, a different technique is required than used for most potted plants. Water soluble chemical fertilizers should be used at half strength and more often than given since they will wash out with the next watering. The same is more or less true with liquid organic fertilizers. The best technique is to use solid organic fertilizers. Fertilizer cakes on the surface is the best way. They break down slowly and a small amount is carried into the root zone each time you water. Pelletized organic material can be spread on the surface also but they tend to crumble and create an undesirable surface. Be sure that the fertilizer you use has a balanced formula and not high in nitrogen. Be especially careful with chemicals or manure based organic fertilizer on newly potted plants.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015


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