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Fertilizer Week Conclusion

Posted May 9, 2008 by matsubonsai

By now you should be saying, "I get it, I should be fertilizing more." Next week I'll be focusing on a more broad range of topics.  However I think early May, Spring-time in the United States is a great time to discuss fertilizing bonsai.  It's time to setup growth for the entire year, which is why I spent the week focused on the topic of fertilizer.

If you missed the series you can follow the links below. 

What would you like to add to the discussion?  Join in the discussion below.

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Read the complete series:

Bonsai Feeding Schedule
Bonsai Fertilizer Cakes
Fish Emulsion and Happy Neighbors


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Fish Emulsion and Happy Neighbors

Posted May 8, 2008 by matsubonsai

For the past few days I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about bonsai fertilizers. I've posted about my feeding schedule and a recipe for fertilizer cakes. All the ingredients that I use to fertilize my trees have some sort of an odor. The cottonseed meal and the fish emulsion are among the worst offenders. These two ingredients are enough to catch the attention of just about anyone and everyone. There are a few things to remember when dealing with these smelly items.

  1. Wear gloves. Whenever mixing fertilizer be sure to wear gloves. The organic materials that I use aren't necessarily harmful to the skin, but the smell has a way of attaching itself to you.
  2. Outside only. Fertilizer should be mixed and applied outdoors. If you are growing tropicals indoors you may want to seek alternatives for your fertilizer. Fish emulsion and cottonseed meal are just not something you want to find their way into your home.
  3. Deodorized. Neptune's Harvest and a few other suppliers offer "deodorized" versions of organic materials. Deodorized fish emulsion is the only way to go. Trust me, I speak from experience. There is a big difference between deodorized and not.
  4. Charcoal goes a long way. My bonsai soil mix contains a little horticultural grade charcoal. A dash of charcoal added to your soil mix goes a long way towards filtering out some of the odor that fish emulsion and other fertilizers will add to the soil.

If you have neighbors in close proximity to your bonsai collection you may want to try your best to stay on their good side. A note in their mailbox or a friendly wave and a chat about the new smell in your backyard could ease a potentially awkward conversation later.


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Bonsai Fertilizer Cakes

Posted May 7, 2008 by matsubonsai

In my last post on Bonsai Feeding Schedules I mentioned the use of organic fertilizer cakes. I have written about my recipe for fertilizer cakes before, but have since tweaked the recipe a bit.

I no longer allow an extended period of fermentation.  I've found this to be unnecessary as well as yielding a more foul smelling result.  You'll find that you have better relations with your neighbors if you allow the cakes to dry quickly in the hot summer sun.  Once dry, the fertilizer is far less pungent.

Materials:

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Paint stick
  • PVC pipe
  • Dowel rod
  • Drying tray
  • Storage container

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Cottonseed Meal
  • 4 cups Bone Meal
  • 3 cup Fish Emulsion (deodorized!)
  • 1 cup baking flour
  • 1 packet of yeast

Combine all ingredients into the 5 gallon bucket and stir with the disposable Paint Stick.  Once you're satisfied that everything is mixed thoroughly you can add the Fish Emulsion.  A fair amount of water should be added until you reach an even cookie dough type consistency.

The latest trick of using PVC pipe and a wooden dowel rod was sent to me by my friend Timothy in Dallas.  Essentially you will make a Play-Doh factory from these two items.  Take a PVC pipe with an inner diameter of 3/4" to 1" and a wooden dowel rod with an outer diameter near the same dimensions.  Cut the PVC pipe down to about 8-10" in length, and the dowel rod a few inches longer. 

With your new PVC tool you're ready to form the cakes.  Fill the interior of the PVC tool with the fertilizer mixture.  Next, insert the dowel rod into the end of the PVC tool.  Press and pack the fertilizer, and break off an inch or two cakes from the open end of the PVC tool.  You should be able to press out several cakes each time you fill the PVC tool.

You may choose to dry your cakes in the sun or apply them directly to your trees.  I find it's best if I make several batches of fertilizer, dry, and store in a dry location.  An old plastic bucket with a lid makes a great storage container.

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I would love to hear what others are using to fertilize their bonsai.  Add your comments below to join in on the conversation.


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Bonsai Feeding Schedule

Posted May 6, 2008 by matsubonsai

This year is absolutely flying by.  It seems like only yesterday that there was snow on the ground allowing only daydreams about bonsai.  So, here we are in May already.  With May comes heavy fertilizing, something that I feel isn't done nearly enough in the United States.

Proper fertilizing is the subject of far too many debates.  In bonsai we want healthy trees.  The healthier a tree is the quicker it is to recover from wiring, pruning, defoliating and decandling.  Healthy trees are stronger and can take much more abuse.  Also, increased ramification can be obtained in far less time when optimal growth is achieved.

With a nod to Michael Persiano (oh how I wish he would get a proper website) and his Superfeeding routine, here is my fertilizing schedule.


Components:

Schedule:

Week 1

Liquid Seaweed

Week 2

Fish Emulsion

Week 3

Liquid Seaweed + Iron

Week 4

Fish Emulsion


Start with 3-6 fertilizer cakes, depending on the size of the tree, evenly distributed across the surface of the soil.  Add 2 cakes ever 2-4 weeks onto open areas of the bonsai soil.  Fertilizer cakes can stay on the tree for 4-6 weeks before they need to be removed.  At the time of their removal they may be replaced with new cakes.

This schedule is adjusted somewhat through the growing season to control growth on different species.  For example, defoliated maples and decandled pines will get a little different treatment to control the size of leaf and length of needles.

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Over the next few posts I'll be discussing several topics related to bonsai fertilization.  What does your schedule look like?  Add your comments below to join in on the discussion.


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