I think it’s safe to say that winter has arrived, as we expect wetter and colder conditions this Thanksgiving weekend. Based on my recent email inquiries, some of our newer members have concerns about winter care. So, let’s review some advice, which was covered pretty well in our Basics classes. Additionally, some of our website readers who are not members may need some guidance.
First, as to exposure for your plants and cold protection. This will depend on the species of your plant, and maybe the container that it is in; bonsai pot, training pot, nursery can, box, etc. It can make a difference on the cold tolerance of your root system. If you have a bonsai in training, and it is in either the nursery can or bonsai container, let’s consider the species. For junipers or pines, cold is not an issue until we get into the low 30’s, so you should first compare temp readings in your garden or patio to the official weather station readings – are you warmer, or colder? I could have a temp in my backyard of 35 for a morning low, but someone else just a few miles away could have 25 or lower, another may have a low of 40. That’s our Tucson climate – just full of surprises! If you have a broadleaf evergreen, such as boxwood or holly, best to keep it above 35 or so, and this can often be done by use of a frost blanket product, or even burlap. Do NOT use plastic. Now, the danger comes if we have cold rain and your covering gets soaked, and then touches your leaves, and we have freezing temps. If in doubt, just put your plant(s) in the garage overnight, or for a few days. The rain is important, but we don’t want the risk of a hard freeze. For deciduous trees, no worries. They need the cold, and the rain (or even snow – remember that?) I would protect pomegranate from temps below the mid 30’s, and they have been known to die back from freezes, while in a pot.
I’ve had inquiries about fertilizing. We don’t want to encourage new growth, but to maintain health and vigor for spring. My own procedure (and others may disagree), is to reduce nitrogen, but eliminate it only on deciduous trees. For these, I suggest 0-10-10 with trace elements and minerals, which the dormant plant needs to build strength for spring. You can find this at Mesquite Valley, or on Amazon. Follow instructions, and a good dose now should be enough. For many evergreens, a safe formula is a 5-5-5 organic mix, to keep the plant functioning, but not pushing new growth. For junipers and other conifers, we can go back to our earlier formula of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12, as they need more feeding during this cold period, since they go dormant in summer heat. Of course, we don’t forget the use of ProTekt, which offers some protection from temperature extremes, and an occasional acidification with white vinegar (2 tbs to 1 gal of water) to help break loose those deposits of calcium and sodium. Our watering schedule reduces as we get lazy with our winter months: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – if your plant is wet, it does not need water! If your crape myrtle is not yet dormant, simply take it out of the sun, reduce water, and it will take the hint!
Attention shoppers: If you have purchased a “bonsai” from a nursery, big box store, roadside vendor, or received one as a gift, it will probably be a juniper (it will have green needles, not leaves), keep it outdoors! These are not houseplants. Our members already know this, but the impulse buying public may not. Best suggestion: join our Society and learn all about it.
I’m already getting reservations for the workshop at my house on Saturday, Dec. 7, 1-4 p.m. Our club does not have a meeting in December, so our mentors will be on hand to give you a hand with your trees. All sizes are welcome, either trained or untrained. It’s a good time to continue work on those trees that were in the second tier at our show this past spring, and give them some more training, or begin new work. Observers are welcome! We plan to hold a nursery crawl in January, for selection of material suitable for Lindsay Shiba’s workshop in February. My advice to our new members is to jump in and purchase a 5-gallon size plant and sign up for a workshop. Our mentors will be on hand to assist you if you need some help. Consider your purchase, and the workshop fees, as an investment in Bonsai, not an expense.
Our Board will be considering programs for 2020, and I have heard from our members that they want more teachers and mentors to provide their knowledge and skills with demonstrations and lectures, with focus on a specific style, technique, or species. We still need an occasional staging of member trees and critiques. We welcome presentations by our new members in 2020, and donations for our monthly raffle. See you soon!