Bare Rooting Repot

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Mame
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Most of my knowledge currently comes from my bonsai mirai membership since I can’t fit the local bonsai club meetings into my work schedule. He says never to bare root a tree. I know others do. He’s suggests leaving the center of the root ball intact with native soil then returning to remove the rest of that native soil the next repot. Would this be considered a half bare root? I think from what I’ve read elsewhere half bare root would be taking the left/right or front/back and bare root that section the first repot and then the other the next time. Curious as to how most of you handle this and what species if any you feel you can totally bare root right of the bat.
 

leatherback

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I think it is important to keep in mind what species you are working with. Whether it is a recently collected yamadori or nursery grown. 2 years old or 200 years old. There are many factors at play here.

in general you avoid bare-rooting conifers. Healthy broadleafs in general can be barerooted without any ill-effects.
 

Brad in GR

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There are some great threads on here for “HBR” (half bare rooting) and approaches to collected conifers / repotting conifers. Use that search function for sure.

here’s one: https://www.bonsainut.com/threads/repotting-and-half-bare-rooting-pines.39989/

deciduous wise, I’ve never had any issues bare rooting as @leatherback notes above. I tend to hose off the roots of all my deciduous when repotting as well. No deaths to report yet.

hopefully you can make it to one of the West Michigan Bonsai Club meetings this year - hope to see you there!
 

mrcasey

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I've long thought it's possible that Ryan's and Boon's methods aren't effectively all that different.
Ryan is also doing a partial bare root - he just happens to leave the untouched part of the
root ball directly underneath the trunk.
 

MSU JBoots

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There are some great threads on here for “HBR” (half bare rooting) and approaches to collected conifers / repotting conifers. Use that search function for sure.

here’s one: https://www.bonsainut.com/threads/repotting-and-half-bare-rooting-pines.39989/

deciduous wise, I’ve never had any issues bare rooting as @leatherback notes above. I tend to hose off the roots of all my deciduous when repotting as well. No deaths to report yet.

hopefully you can make it to one of the West Michigan Bonsai Club meetings this year - hope to see you there!
I hope to come some time too. I was at the fall show and bought a couple trees and pot.
 

MSU JBoots

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There are some great threads on here for “HBR” (half bare rooting) and approaches to collected conifers / repotting conifers. Use that search function for sure.

here’s one: https://www.bonsainut.com/threads/repotting-and-half-bare-rooting-pines.39989/

deciduous wise, I’ve never had any issues bare rooting as @leatherback notes above. I tend to hose off the roots of all my deciduous when repotting as well. No deaths to report yet.

hopefully you can make it to one of the West Michigan Bonsai Club meetings this year - hope to see you there!
Thanks for posting this thread. Adair broke down the HBR process very well!
 

Shibui

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I also routinely bare root deciduous trees.
When first transplanting conifers I usually try to shake off the majority of field soil. If they are in clay it is even more important to rake out most of the original soil unless you can take the time to really manage watering in the following year.
 

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One point that Ryan Neil makes about not bare rooting is that it keeps some native soil so as to keep some of the current microbes etc in the new potting medium. I guess something to consider even if the deciduous trees can technically handle a bare root.
 

leatherback

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One point that Ryan Neil makes about not bare rooting is that it keeps some native soil so as to keep some of the current microbes etc in the new potting medium. I guess something to consider even if the deciduous trees can technically handle a bare root.
Mycchoriza are important yes. Bacteria are important too. That being said.. Plants are not sterile. Unless you hose down a rootball you will not clean off the substrate. I would very much doubt there is a need to actively keep substrate except for in a few cases (Pines come to mine, where this seems to be important). Then again, I recycle substrate, so I never use semi-clean media anyway :)
 

Katie0317

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I study with David Cutchin and he teaches for Mirai as well.

They both have degrees in botany and David Cutchin told us to never bareroot any tree. He said it's like removing the plants immune system. It removes the beneficial delicate balance of bacteria and nutrients. He explains it in a way that makes perfect sense.

Am sure it can be done successfully but I'm guessing it can cause issues for some trees too. But that's his reasoning and I'm going to follow his advice because that's why I'm studying with him.

I've also read success stories here and know it can be done but I think beginners need to be careful how they proceed with their trees. Wish everyone had classes available to them where they live but I've heard great things about Mirai's online classes!
 

rockm

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I've been barerooting deciduous trees at repot for literally decades. Haven't had an issue. The "immune" system in the soil is disturbed anyway with a thorough root pruning/reordering. If you want to re-innoculate the new soil with the microbes in the old soil, throw in a handful of the old soil into the pot with the new.

I find the "immune system" stuff a bit on the precious side. Deciduous trees can handle barerooting with very little problems if done at the right time and the tree is healthy.
 

Deep Sea Diver

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Not sure “immune system” would be a proper way to characterize this situation, but more of a teaching term to get students to conceptualize the situation without going into the details. I’ve done the same thing as a teacher.

I can completely understand the concept of disrupting the rhizosphere. Most trees have some form of bacterial or mycorrhizal connection/interface…. Yet I’ve seen bare rooting done. A couple yamadori folks have legendary stories of having done this and the tree has survived.

Wondering if this isn’t really more of a combination issue…. mostly growth but also stability.. Growth inhibition caused by loss of rhizosphere and root damage to the very fine feeder roots and or instability of the tree once barefooted and repotted issue? Sorta linked issues.

Last spring we bare rooting over 30 azaleas, which do have a mycorrhizal interface akin to that of conifers. Their growth stalled for about 7 weeks, then grew well through the year. The end result was less growth then their counterparts that weren’t barerooted.

best
DSD sends
 

Katie0317

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Ryan Neil says, "Repotting a bonsai is like open heart surgery on the tree' in his article on conifers and bare rooting.

I'm sharing what's being taught by experts. I don't have the experience to talk about it from my perspective, but I'm paying to learn from an expert. Don't shoot the messenger.. Do what you do if it works for you, but if you're interested in hearing what botanists and bonsai experts are doing then this is relevant. If it's not significant to you, ignore it.

Ryan Neil's article:

 

Katie0317

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@Deep Sea Diver yes that's his way of starting to talk about bare rooting...comparing it to the immune system but he went on to explain it in great detail the way a botanist would.

He referred to the leaves on a tree as their solar panels and it's simply a way of starting to paint a picture with words. It's an effective technique because if he were to use technical jargon right off the bat we'd all fall asleep.

Also, Deep Sea Dive...You got it right when you explained the reason why not bare rooting isn't a good idea. It's essentially what he said. He went into more detail, but you explained it along the same line as he did.
 

Deep Sea Diver

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The technical term for this method is called providing a representation…. a thought provoking model of the concept.

The issue is that representations have a way of coming back to bite both the learner and the teacher. For the student if it wasn’t an accurate representation, the learner ends up going on a mental bird walk, having to negate the model and rebuild a new one. This is hard and frustrating for a learner… besides the fact that students like to share these models.

For the teacher it’s also difficult as they must overcome the issue of providing a bad representation and its ramifications and create the correct one. Some students end up stuck with vestiges of both…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. imho both immune system and open heart surgery are not accurate models… the latter much worse then the former.

Solar panels is much better, easier to build on to create a pathway to total understanding.

Yet paid professionals (…and I’m a Bonsai Mirai subscriber also) sometimes feel the need to inject a bit of showmanship to excite students. Absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as one understands what’s happening.

Sounds like you are having fun and learning a lot @Katie0317, keep up the good work!

Cheers
DSD sends
 

Lorax7

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Not sure “immune system” would be a proper way to characterize this situation, but more of a teaching term to get students to conceptualize the situation without going into the details. I’ve done the same thing as a teacher.
A better analogy might be the symbiotic relationship between mammals and their gut flora, which play a role in breaking down nutrients into bioavailable forms that can be absorbed by the intestines. Extensive use of powerful antibiotics can wipe out this microbiome. It will be repopulated from the environment, but there may be transient imbalances in the interim as the first microbes to arrive and rapidly reproduce take over as the dominant strains and that can make the animals sick.

Barerooting a deciduous tree is unlikely to be equivalent to wiping out all a mammal’s gut flora. However, barerooting and washing the roots thoroughly, especially with chlorinated water could conceivably wipe out the soil’s existing microbiome. Pines may be at greater risk due to barerooting, in part, because the specific strains of mycorrhizae they depend upon may be more sensitive and easily killed by the exposure to the air, UV light, etc. that occurs during barerooting.
 

River's Edge

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Often missing in this discussion is the manner in which the tasks are carried out and the actual amount of " root work" that is performed.
Balance of the amount of work, skill level of carrying it out and the condition of the tree all play very important roles. Not simply if the soil was removed partially or fully in each case.

For example the individual who carefully combs out the soil with little damage to the roots and a lower percentage of roots cut can expect better results than those who are not as careful and aggressive with root removal. Yet often the crux of the matter is assumed to be " bare rooting" I feel that this is not the key factor determine success, it is the skill and experience of the practitioner.

That being said, given the variables, HBR is considered a safer best practise to teach with conifers. It allows for quicker recovery and the ability to continue working on developing or refining a tree without longer periods of time spent waiting for the tree to recover. If it is done properly with care as well.

There is something to be said for putting a weak tree in a healthier environment in order to give it a chance. In some cases bare rooting a conifer is the right thing to do.
 

leatherback

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Often missing in this discussion is the manner in which the tasks are carried out and the actual amount of " root work" that is performed.
Balance of the amount of work, skill level of carrying it out and the condition of the tree all play very important roles. Not simply if the soil was removed partially or fully in each case.
100% agree.

There are certain things you can just do without thinking about it and it will work reliably, for pretty much everyone. (Say, take cuttings of willow). Then there are things which need a level of insight, experience or intuition without which you easily mess up, such as grafting. Often the technique used or the timing used is not the problem, it is the inexperience with the technique that leads to trouble.
 

MSU JBoots

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Thanks for all the great insight in this thread. With me being totally new to the hobby I’ll stick with the HBR method this spring and do my best to be slow, gentle, and intentional with the process. I might experiment with leaving the shin intact or doing the HBR method laid out by Adair. As of now I only have two maybe three trees that are ready for a repot.
 
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