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May Bonsai in Bonsai
On May. 01, 2021 by admin

March and early April in my backyard was rainy and cold. There was no time that I had to water everything, I just watched daily and watered those that needed it.

Anyhow, we must assume that they will now fall into a 'normal' routine and proceed with the usual May bonsai care, maybe modified a bit.

Leaf pruning would normally be done in May only on very healthy trees. However if your trees broke late you should make sure that they have sufficient food and light and time to make and store enough energy to produce a healthy set of new leaves before the heat of summer. The new leaves need to have time to mature before the heat sets in. If in doubt do not leaf prune this year. My rule of thumb is no leaf pruning of deciduous species after Memorial Day.

If you have flowering or fruiting bonsai, they should probably not be pruned until June so they will develop the necessary flowers and the fruit will need a lot of foliage to support the tree while the fruit grows. Azaleas usually have too many buds and should have some buds removed to allow room for the flowers to open fully.

Repotting season is getting close for tropicals. Generally they may be done whenever the night temperatures stay above 60 degrees. The repotting of tropicals is done when they are in active growth. Be extra vigilant to prevent the roots from drying during repotting. Place the repotted tree in an area with good light but little direct sun. It should have good air flow but no wind until it shows new growth. A good organic program takes care of both the feeding and the insect problems. The trick is to be sure to thoroughly cover the plant including all the leaf axils and do it on a regular basis. A regular schedule is needed with chemical sprays too.

The standard horde of pests will be knocking of your door any day now if they are not already at the dinner table. Pale leaves would indicate spider mites. Aphids and woolly scale are easy to see but you need to look for them. Small caterpillars are easy to miss until you see holes in your leaves. My overall cure for these is an organic foliar spray of one tablespoon each of fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses and apple cider vinegar in a gallon of water. It will not only feed the tree but take care of any vermin there. Be sure to spray the under sides of the leaves and the leaf axils too. Use a hand or pump up sprayer to get a fine spray to cover all top and bottom of leaves, a hose end sprayer doesn't cover good enough. This is also true if you want to use commercial chemical sprays.

A regular schedule is needed because you need to hit them while they are moving and out of their protective coating especially scale and bagworms. The life cycle of spider mites (from egg to adult laying new egg) can be as short as 5 days in hot weather. You may have to use a systemic control for scale.

Fungal diseases can show up with damp weather. Leaf spot can be serious on Catlin and chinese elms and on hollies. Mildew can be a problem when the weather turns warm. There are organic fungicides available, baking soda is one. Check an organics nursery or publications. A 1% solution of hydrogen peroxide (dilute the standard 3% store bought stuff 2 parts water to each part peroxide) is also recommended but it can injure tender new shoots.Most Americans do not fertilize their bonsai properly. We are addicted to quick and labor saving techniques. Chemical fertilizers tend to fall in that bin. Plants can only utilize a small amount of nutrients at a time. Organic fertilizers break down slowly by microbial action. When you water over an organic fertilizer you wash those nutrients into the soil constantly providing the required small amount of food. Water soluble chemical fertilizers give a large quick dose of food. However our bonsai soils do not captivate the fertilizer as well as dirt or commercial planting mixes. The next time you water you wash all nutrients away and the tree starves until the next feeding. I do not like loose organic fertilizers because they tend to wash into the top layer of soil and reduce the air space and keep the soil too moist. Ball type fertilizers do not do that. You can try using a small plastic or paper cup to hold a teaspoon of the loose organics. Punch small holes in the bottom and hold them in place with a nail.

Be sure to keep the pruning utensils going, do not let the growth get coarse. Ideally you would never let the new growth on developed branches get more than 5 leaves and prune it back to 2 or 3 leaves. Also develop a habit when pruning of checking the wire you may still have on the tree. Remove it before the branch grows into the wire. Wire marks can never be fully removed.

If in spite of your efforts a tree gets dehydrated from being in high winds or from lack of watering some special care will be needed. If the tree was recently repotted, that compounds the problem. First move the plant to a protected area out of the sun and winds and mist the foliage, branches and trunk.

Treatment would depend on how much damage you have to the foliage. If the leaves are dried, go easy on the watering until new growth starts. Do not pull the dead leaves off because you may damage the latent buds. You may cut the leaf stem if you desire. No fertilizer until the plant starts growing again. If the leaves are mostly green with only damaged tips continue normal care. If the tree is not stressed too much you can then leaf prune later and obtain new foliage.

Make preparations to protect your trees and pots from the heat that is coming. Be sure to remember that the most critical time of day is late afternoon. Usually that is when the temp is highest and the air is driest (the relative humidity is low) and lets all the suns energy through to your backyard. The bonsai must be protected from the sun coming in at a low angle getting under your shade cloth or trees. Use chopped sphagnum moss on the surface of your soil to help retain moisture in the soil and it also helps with keeping it cool. I like to water after sundown to cool the roots so the plant can recover overnight. Water other times as needed.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015

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