We, "BONSAI ARTISTS", who reside in this great Sonora Desert, are fortunate to have two growing seasons; one in the Spring from March through Summer, and Autumn. Let's make the best of it. All of our trees fall into one of the following classifications, which determines their best growing season for our trees.
CONIFERS: These trees have needle-like foliage and like cool weather. To name a few, Pines, Junipers, Cypress and Cedars.
BROADLEAF EVERGREENS: These trees do not lose their leaves in winter, are very active in the spring, slow growing in the heat of the summer, and continue to grow with a burst of speed into the fall. A few examples are Boxwood, Yaupon Holly, Sage, and Sumac.
DECIDUOUS: These trees lose their leaves in winter and remain dormant until the spring. Maples, Oaks, Elms, and Willows are in this group.
TROPICAL and SEMI-TROPICAL: These are HEAT LOVING TREES which are very active from June through September, are very frost sensitive, and are grown best in a hot house environment during the winter months. Bougainvillea, Fukien Tea, Ficus and many more are in this group.
All classifications require the same amount of CARE year round, in varying degrees, depending upon the season. Let's review the care needed to survive our hot summer months.
Summer care begins with your tools. When was the last time you cleaned, sharpened the cutting edges, and disinfected your tools? Disinfect tools using 1 part bleach to 4 parts of water, or with alcohol. Failure to disinfect tools increases the risk of transferring fungi from one tree to another and the tree dying. Before working on cotoneaster, or pyracantha, ALWAYS disinfect your tools.
In his recent blog, David Meyer said, “Let’s practice good husbandry with our bonsai”.
Work on your trees by cleaning the trunk, the branches, and the nebari (root system) by gently brushing them with a soft brush (toothbrush) to remove dried bark and dust particles. A solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water doesn’t do any harm. If your tree is wired, check to see if the wire is girdling the branches, since your tree is in a growing mood. If so, cut the wire off. Do not risk breaking the branches by trying to pull the wire off. Clean your pots, using the same vinegar/water formula, to remove calcium and alkali deposits. Having complied with all of the above, you should have a beautiful, healthy looking bonsai.
FERTILIZERS AND INSECTICIDES
There is a broad spectrum of fertilizers and insecticides in our marketplaces, in various quantities, prices and "promises". Listen to your Mentors. The products we use, and promote, have been proven true over the years. If you have your favorite brand, serving its purpose, good for you, continue to use it. Remember what Brother Gabe Reed has told us, "It's your tree"!
Now then, you should listen to your tree. The tree will tell you by use of “sign” language, so to speak, just how healthy the tree is or how anemic (weak) the tree is. Look at the leaves on your tree. If they are drying out and curling up around the edges of the leaves, it's a sign of too much salt (from our salty water) or a sign of overwatering; most likely it’s salt. If the leaves have a dried or burned area in the center of the leaf, the problems is sunburn.
The leaves are turning yellow and have a herring-bone pattern (fish skeleton), the problem under most circumstances, is an iron deficiency. This is quite prevalent on bougainvillea and ficus. Yellowing of leaves is also a sign of magnesium or sulfur deficiency. Use Epsom Salt to control these deficiencies. It's a plant nutrient that aids your tree in cell development, and in the tree’s uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur—turning your leaves green again. Epsom Salts are used best as a foliar spray over the trunk, branches, leaves and roots, at a ratio of 1/2 cup of salt to 1 gal. of water.
It's natural for the trees to have leaves turn yellow, now and then, during the growing season;
not to worry. These leaves have fulfilled their usefulness to the tree, are being spent, and will be replaced by new, healthy leaves, ready to carry on the photosynthetic process of producing nutrients for the tree.
PEACH LEAF CURL
A fungus that twists and curls the leaves during our hot summer months. Check on your pomegranates. Control: Bayer Advanced Systemic Insect, Disease & Mite Control.
BLACK SPOT FUNGUS
This fungus develops in spring when temperatures rise above 60 degrees due to too much retention of moisture. It appears as a black pin head size spot on leaves, which will turn yellow. Control: Bayer Advanced Systemic Insect, Disease & Mite Control.
Now then, (here he goes again!) you should look for these insects on your trees.
If not controlled, they will kill a juniper in a hurry! Mites suck the juices from your trees. Look for webbing, or for the browning or yellowing of the needles, and on the leaves of other tree species. If you suspect spider mites, hold a white piece of paper under your tree. Now strike the branches with your hand, or a tool, until debris from the tree has fallen onto the paper. Be patient and carefully look at the debris on the paper. If minute dark specks begin to move around, you have spider mites. At this point in time, control is simple. Use your hose (the nozzle on the jet setting) and give the tree a blast of water, and the water pressure will blow the mites off the tree. Follow through several days later to maintain control. Or, mix 1 tablespoon of Dawn Dish Soap to 1 gal. of water. Spray the solution over the tree, while the tree is in the shade. Again, follow through within a few days to maintain control.
These are very tiny pear-shaped insects of various colors; I have seen green and yellow. They suck the juices from the leaves, stems, branches and the roots of trees. Look for them on the underside of leaves. Aphids’ waste is a substance that attracts ants. If you find ants on your trees, look for aphids. Control aphids with the use of Dawn Dish soap and water, or Bayer Advanced Systemic Insect, Disease & Mite Control, or Ortho Bug B Gone.
Tiny white cottony bugs bunched together, giving the appearance of a white string of thread. They too, suck the juices from our trees, causing stunted growth, and even death to the tree. Use your fingernail to scrape them off or bathe them with the use of a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
SOWBUGS (pill bugs)
Sowbugs survive mostly on decomposed organic matter and are mostly a nuisance, more than any damage they might cause your tree. Control: Bug B Gone by Ortho.
Other insects found around our trees (but not limited to) are Fungus Gnats, Leafcutter bees, and white Flies. They too are more of a nuisance than any real damage done to your trees. For control use: Bayer Advance Systemic Control, or Ortho's Bug B Gone, or your favorite insecticide might do the job.
Never fertilize a dry tree, always water it first!
Never fertilize your trees during the heat of the day!
Early morning is the best time to fertilize your trees, at least once a week. If you are concerned about too much fertilizer for the size of your tree and the size pot that it is in, use it at half strength, and fertilize more often. When fertilizing, cease to apply the liquid just as it starts to run out the bottom of the pot. No need to waste it.
ORGANIC fertilizers are derived from living organisms, such as barnyard products, fish emulsion, and decayed forest products. Because organic fertilizers continue to break down over a period of time, nutrients are retained and released to your trees more slowly. A few are:Alaska Fish Emulsion 5-1-1, Seaweed 1-2-5, Earth worm castings.
INORGANIC fertilizers are composed mostly from chemicals and minerals (iron, copper, sulfur, to name a few) all very important in the development and the health of our trees.
Inorganic fertilizers provide rapid nutrition release to the trees. Such as Alaska 0-10-10, Miracle Grow Bloom More 10-52-10, and DYNA-GRO 7-9-5, to name a few. Therefore, alternating the use of an organic and an inorganic fertilizer on a regular schedule ensures your trees receive (in addition to the required nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) all the essential trace elements to insure your trees remain healthy.
In addition to the fertilizers of your choice, the following should also be a part of your regular
Pennington Epsom Salt: corrects yellowing of leaves due to magnesium and/or sulfur
deficiencies, both are trace elements. Purchase at Home Depot or Lowe's.
Arizona's Best KE REX Super Iron Chelate (ke-late) for iron deficiency. Whatever the iron product’s brand name, be sure it is “Chelate”, or you are wasting your money.
Gypsum: a soluble source of plant nutrients, calcium and sulfur. Also breaks up compacted
potting mix. Use it twice a year in early spring and late fall, or during the monsoon season.
Protection from our hot summer months
Trees in bonsai pots should be watered every day. Remember what Hector Espinosa has told us about watering, “Water 3 Times! Once for the pot, once for the potting mix and once for the tree!” With the use of your watering can, or your hose with sprinkler nozzle attached, water your tree and wait for a moment. Water the tree a second time, allowing the water to drain out of the bottom of the bonsai pot. Hold off for a few minutes and water for the 3rd time until water drains from the pot.
This system ensures the roots are well hydrated. During the hot summer months, May through Sept., many of us water our trees two to three times a day. Water during the early morning, at noon and in the early evening. Remember, our heat peaks between 3:30 and 4:00 pm. This is the time of day you might want to mist your trees. In my Gazebo, misting the trees lowers the temperature, for a short while, by as much as 5 to 10 degrees; when the temperature is 100 to 115 degrees, that short respite is beneficial.
SUN EXPOSURE—HEAT PROTECTION
Mentors advise using morning sun, from sun-up to about noon, and evening shade, from
4 pm until sundown, by placing them under large trees in your yard, or under awnings, or any shady place in your yard. There are some species of heat loving trees that will survive in full sun; bougainvillea, sage, elephant food, desert willows, and sumac.
Hold off from potting or repotting tropicals until the monsoons arrive and the dew point is above
35 to 40 degrees. Monsoons and rainwater are the best, harvest it to water your trees.
To keep your pots and trees from overheating, wrap the pots with heat reflecting material. REFLECTIX Radiant Barrier Insulation: sizes 16" X 25’ or 24” X 25’ is very easy to work with; it has an aluminum foil appearance and is available at Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Home Depot. For full sun protection, cut a section of the insulation about an inch wider than the height of your pot and long enough to go around the edge of the pot at least two times. Wrap the pot with the insulation, like wrapping a gift, along the edges of the pot only, and tie it off with string, or heavy-duty package wrapping postal tape, or Gorilla tape.
BURLAP: Is available at Home Depot and Lowe's Garden Centers. Same process as with the foil, only wrap the burlap around several times more. When you water the tree, the burlap
remains wet for a period of time and keeps the pot cool, thus the trees are cool. Any “heat reflecting material” will serve your purpose; cardboard, old carpeting, or construction foam insulation. The idea is to keep the pots cool so the roots stay cool.
sphagnum moss: Once the pot (pots) are wrapped, place sphagnum moss over the potting mix covering the roots. Be sure it is sphagnum moss. This process serves two purposes. One, it cools the potting mix, and two, the moss retains water, and a combination of the two creates an
environment for the roots to grow closer to the surface where it’s desired to have them.
Our trees grow into the Zenith, right into the sun. To maintain stable growth on your trees, rotate the pot 1/4 turn, in the same direction, every other week. This process should be done year-round, but specially during the summer months.
If you have any questions, please contact one of your mentors:
David Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Vasquez: email@example.com
"If you are working on a young tree, YOU dominate. If your tree is old, strong and well
established, your old tree dominates.” Dennis Makashima, Bonsai Master
Now that our plates are full, let's get started!
Words from Ray’s Woodshed… (JUL-DEC 2014 Newsletter)
Since I did not have any handouts from my lecture on bonsai soil and components, several members asked me to do a summation in the newsletter. There are four requirements of all good bonsai soils------nutrition, aeration, structure to hold the plant in position, and water or moisture. A fact that really blew my mind is that in a handful of typical garden soil you will find bacteria, fungus, nematodes, protozoa, mites, and micro-arthropods; the greatest majority consists of bacteria. These organisms break down plants and animal materials into simple compounds and thirteen essential minerals which are the building blocks for growing and maintaining healthy plants. READ MORE
HEAT is coming next, after a delightful spring. Time to make sure your shade screen is in place (or lath framing or both), to help reduce the temperature of your bonsai pots. Those black plastic cans absorb a lot of heat as well. The best summer protection for your trees is, of course, under a shade tree--whoda thunk it? If you're just starting out, and your only plants are still in cans, your watering will be once daily, unless you have a really thirsty species. For bonsai pots, overhead shade is essential, and later in June we may need to apply a layer of sphagnum moss to the top of our root ball, even skirting to reflect heat. Rod covered all this at the last meeting, in case you missed it!
As we hit the 100 degree mark, and go over the top, you should consider watering twice daily, both early morning and mid-to-late afternoon, but not after dark. How would you like to go to bed with wet feet?
Early morning misting of foliage, and again at dusk, is always helpful, simulating dew. We have resumed fertilizing, and you can still use a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 formula, as our nights are still cool. Once our nighttime lows stay above 70, some of our plants, especially conifers, will slow down to conserve energy and transpiration. At that time, in about two weeks, we can reduce nitrogen to the 5, 6, 8 level. Fish based products are good, such as a combination of fish emulsion and some liquid kelp. Spraying all your foliage once a week with Pro-Tekt helps strengthen the plants against drying winds and heat, and don't forget to add some to your fertilizing or watering. If you can't find it locally, order it through Amazon.
June offers a smorgasbord to spider mites, as we're warm and dry. A good blast of water once a week, with a few drops of liquid soap added, will help to fend them off.
If you spot them, usually by a color change in foliage, spray with a summer or all-season oil, which has a paraffin base, and is not toxic. Check your bonsai every time you water, and you'll head off most of these problems.
We all look forward to our summer rains -- enjoy!