Foliar feeding

DaveV

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I just finished reading an article in our local bonsai cluds news letter. The topic was on foliar feeding. It said that plants utilize 90% of the fertilizer when applied on the foliage and only 10% when applied on the soil. I know that some people foliar feed and others don't. For those that do foliar feed, have you noticed any dramatic changes in your trees apperance/health since you started foliar feeding?
 

Smoke

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Some other reading....

http://www.homegrownhydro.com/foliar.html

This site here has a vast array of bio product which I have used during the course of 4 years since trying humates as part of my fertilizer program. Click on "Foliar spray products" and scroll down thru the product list. They have a vast array of products that will stimulate most anything to grow better. Learn from the dope growers, they will tell you how to grow "buds" fast and which products will stimulate huge explosions of growth.
http://www.4hydroponics.com/FAQfoliar.htm

Al
 

mapleman77

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I think that you might find this article interesting as well. As it comes from Brent, I consider it true to the last comma! LOL Anyway, this should help you. Read under the section "How Plants acquire fertilizer." http://evergreengardenworks.com/fertiliz.htm

BTW I have never heard that plants mainly acquire nutrients from the leaves. But I, and others, could be wrong as well. ;)
 

Smoke

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I just finished reading an article in our local bonsai cluds news letter. The topic was on foliar feeding. It said that plants utilize 90% of the fertilizer when applied on the foliage and only 10% when applied on the soil. I know that some people foliar feed and others don't. For those that do foliar feed, have you noticed any dramatic changes in your trees apperance/health since you started foliar feeding?


A simple experiment that would be worthy of even a 6th grader. Buy two small 4" tomato plants. Get your self some humic acid based fertlizer of at least 12 percent like gro power. Dissolve in water and make a black tea. Be careful to cover soil surface with clear wrap before foliar feeding one of the plants. Don't allow the foliar spray to drip on the soil or it will contaminate the results.

Spray the one plant once a week for thirty days and let us know of your results. You will pleasantly surprised.
 

Smoke

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I think that you might find this article interesting as well. As it comes from Brent, I consider it true to the last comma! LOL Anyway, this should help you. Read under the section "How Plants acquire fertilizer." http://evergreengardenworks.com/fertiliz.htm

BTW I have never heard that plants mainly acquire nutrients from the leaves. But I, and others, could be wrong as well. ;)


Like everything we do in bonsai it is subject to change. As new and better ideas about how to maximize the results of fertlizing, even this article will become dated as John Naka's book did 15 years later. Of course now we find out that loam is a very benificial part of a bonsai soils makeup, but oh how to get it in there.





The second part of my soil article has to do with fertilizer. The two, soil and fertilizer work hand in hand and is the reason I am combining the two here. Many think that fertilizer is a step that can be taken haphazardly during the year without much emphasis, but keeping fertilizer front and center throughout the years is more important than anything else we do in bonsai.

First lets take a stroll down memory lane and bonsai in its early years. Many of the bonsai books written in English in the last fifty years have alluded to "loam" in the soil. What is loam?

Loam is composted organic matter i.e.; garden loam. Farmers will plant silage crops in between cash crops to plow into the soil to help renew it by composting in the organic matter. Home gardeners have also benefited by adding composted garbage from dinner as well as grass clipping and yearly leaves. Huge amounts of money are spent on home composting devices that will compost leaves in weeks rather than months. Back when I was young, my father would drive to the foothills where the oak trees grew. He would park the pickup near a cattle crossing, a sort of open grate device that allowed cars to pass over but would keep cattle from passing over. The oak leaves would collect under the grate device and compost over many years. My father would shovel this thick black almost spongy material into the back of the truck. Upon arriving home, it would be placed in the home garden and tilled into the earth to help nourish our vegetable garden. Unbelievable material the “oak leaf mold” as my father used to call it. This was something his father did while my dad grew up in Ohio. He brought it out here and I have never known anyone that has ever collected the black gold.

Why was loam important?

Because loam offered the composted organic matter to the soil mix. This was the catalyst that enabled other organic matter to become colonized with beneficial bacteria to breakdown organic fertilizers (mostly used back then) into useable compounds that the roots could use. Without these organics, fertilizer would become unusable and wash out of the pot before being used by the plant. At this point all the organics in the pot used to help breakdown the fertilizer would clog up the pot causing the roots to rot due to being submerged in a pool of water captured in the pot. This anaerobic atmosphere is fast death for a colony of healthy roots. (More on captured water later)

In time, it was believed that a more porous soil mix with inorganic components would keep the soil from clogging up. We were right, it did. The soil is fast draining and water will never pool on the surface even if the water source is left to rain on the surface forever. It continues to run straight thru. The addition of decomposed granite; larger sand particles, lava, haydite, expanded shale, and pumice have gone a long ways towards helping keep the soil friable and fast draining.

One thing was missing

The missing link in the whole soil chemistry was humates. In our zeal to remove the soil clogging organics in our bonsai soil and substitute inorganic last forever particles we lost the ability for the soil to harbor bacteria, and chemicals beneficial to the plant for thriving conditions. These composted materials help to efficiently break down the organic fertilizers into useable compounds, and make them useable for the roots to absorb.

The trick is to get back to a soil medium that is fast draining, yet contains the organic material useful for the tree. At this point, most people have decided that they like the inorganic soils and have spent many years developing recipes that work on specific species and geographical regions.

The secret catalyst

I was introduced to humic acid about four years ago. I came by it in a more sinister way than I really feel comfortable sharing. Lets just say I came by it by accident in my work while investigating a basement that had flooded. Upon finally gaining access, I found that some amazing “farming” was going on behind closed doors. As I gained acceptance and he figured out that I didn’t really care how he made his living, he would go on to share what he was doing to get super human plants fast. Lets face it when growing cash crops time is money…so to speak.

Humic acid was everywhere within the lab. It was used for every step in the process. From making cuttings to forcing buds. The humates were used in conjunction with the specific NPK values to increase yield in whatever step was needed. The problem with this newfound information was that I did not know how to get the humic acid. It wasn’t as if I could go down to the neighborhood pot store and buy the stuff. (I would later find out I was wrong).

I began to look for information about humic acid on the Internet and did indeed find out that this was a very miracle type material. What I found out was that humates are used in farming locations that have very poor soils, especially clay type soils. Clay soil is very poor at holding and releasing nutrients. It has a very low cation exchange capacity (CEC) With the addition of humates to the soil it allows the soil to repolarize thereby allowing the fertilizer ion to bond with the clay soil. A byproduct of the catylistic exchange is that the soil can now hold more fertilizer while also allowing a faster bacteria bed to break down the organic compounds faster and make them more available to the plants roots. Less fertilizer is needed because the clay now holds the fertilizer and the soil does not allow the soil to wash out the fertilizer as it did before.



Nevertheless, I don’t want to add compost to my new draining soil

Humic acid is available in many ways. The easiest way to introduce it is by adding pure humates in the form of leonardite to the soil surface. Leonardite is a mineral mined in a few places around the world. It was laid down during the carboniferous period nearly 350 million years ago. It is black and considered soft coal being nearly 40 percent pure carbon. It can contain as little as 5 percent humic acid to upwards of 80 percent humic acid depending on where it was mined. I have experimented with 40 percent humic so far but have never seen stronger percentages in the USA. The larger percentages seem to be mined in China. The humic acid can also be chemically extracted and sold in liquid form for dilution and used as a soil drench or applied with liquid fertilizer either by soil uptake of applied on the foliage.



University experiments bear out the fact that liquid fertilizers applied with humic acid did improve the plants ability to take in the fertilizer by folier feeding to the point of even surpassing root uptake. An important side note is in a past issue of Bonsai Today, it was noted the poor CEC of Japanese akadama. I am a firm believer in the miracle red balls from Japan but never really understood the reason the soil acted differently with my trees. Further research has shown that Japanese volcanic soil (akadama, kanuma, and huuyga) all contain percentages of humic acid.

Humic acid is not fertilizer. It is just an additive that makes fertilizer work easier, faster and better. Humic acid will still require a full compliment of fertilizers to work properly. I have found that small percentages of humic acid premixed in a good fertilizer to work best. Two of the products I use now are Gro-Power. A fertilizer fully endorsed by Ted Matson. I also use Gro-Power planting tabs. A simple tablet that will sit on the soil like any Japanese fertilizer cake. The bonus is they do not smell and are looked over by pets and rodents. Both of the products are distributed by Kellogg’s fertilizer company, which carries a full list of fertilizer containing differing percentages of humic acid.



Why haven’t we heard about this before?


If you read Bonsai Today many years ago you probably did, you just didn’t know it. In 1997, Michael Persiano along side Chase Rosade wrote an article for Bonsai Today (issue 47) about “super feeding”. The article explains a myriad of fertilizers and concoctions for this super feeding program. The super feeding fertilizer cake recipe contains a product called Roots 2. In the first article, Michael used the dry form powder for his cakes and would go on in a later article to use Roots 2 liquid with iron, Killing two birds with one product. Many people would go on the use that recipe for making cakes thinking they were super feeding not knowing that if they didn’t include the Roots 2 (which was/is hard to find) they were not adding the humic acid part of the formula. Michaels article and subsequent follow up article neglected each time to tell us of the miracle properties of the Roots 2 formula with humic acid. I suspect that all the additional components that were used to add to this chemical cocktail were probably not needed and the Roots 2 alone would have done just as well.

I can’t find this humic acid stuff?

For those of you that can’t find humic acid which can be found in most cities that have a hydroponic store (the place all the pot growers hang out) look to the internet. There are many companies out there that have fertilizers that list humic acid in the contents right on the box. Even Home Depot and Lowe’s will carry at least one product that lists humic acid. Humic acid is really coming on strong in the fertilizer trade and will continue to grow as more is learned and results gathered. For those out there still not finding it you can make it yourself. Garden composters can be made to throw grass clippings and leaves as well as dinner scraps and stuff like banana peels and coffee grounds. This will have to be composted down. I mean really composted, to the point that a hundred pounds of raw material will be only about 20 pounds when done. It will be black and will smell good, like mushrooms. If it smells bad and is really smelling like rotten garbage than it is not composted enough. At the point of decomposition it will have enough humic acid in it to be used for trees. It can be placed in a bucket with water and made into tea which can be used as a soil drench. Remember you still need fertilizer, this is just the humic acid.

Remember that oak leaf mold my dad used to collect? That stuff would be very good to make tea from. Not something you would want to add to your soil mix (although many probably did many years ago) but the tea will do amazing things.

Like many new things that are introduced to bonsai, they are slow to catch on. Many think this is just the new Super-thrive or HB-101 but after 4 years I have had huge success with the products I have been using. It is very inexpensive to try this for yourself. I hope you can and you might thank me for the heads up.


Al
 

DaveV

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Thank you everyone for the references and your article Smoke.
 

JasonG

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Yes foliar feeding works..... it will work better on a juniper vs pine, but still works. It isn't a myth.... it is fact.

Jason
 
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Dave,

Perhaps the most important thing to be learned here is to research, experiment, and research some more. There is a vast number of bonsaists and very seldom will they all agree on any one thing, just ask anyone what is the best soil mix, or what is the best fertilizer, lol.

Guy Guidry successfully grows killer bonsai in a mix containing 1/3 to 2/3 potting soil, yet many will tell you potting soil will kill your trees. Many bonsaists swear that you must use clay imported from Japan to grow successful pines, yet successful pines are grown in many mixtures not containing such. A good number of bonsaists will tell you that you must use cut paste on wounds, yet some of the best artists in the world never use it.

So research, not just bonsai books and magazines, but also books on plant and trees, read the journals, ask the experts, talk to local bonsaist that grow in your climate and always, always come to your own conclusions based on various sources of information. One of these sources should be Brent Walston's site, I also highly recommend the book "The Growing Tree" by Brayton F. Wilson, nothing about bonsai, but everything about trees, how and why they grow.

Bonsai is an old art, but in many ways it is a young art. It wasn't long ago that wire wasn't being used, or inorganic soil, or chemical fertilizers. New discoverers are being made, old traditions are being put to pasture, it is indeed an exciting time.



Will
 
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While I agree that to a limited extent this method works, a few points while beating this dead horse.

A note to the admin, you need some animated dead horse beating emicons like they have over at Arborsite.


Humic acid is the best thing since skimmed milk but how does this have anything to do with how plants take in nutrients through their leaf.

With broad leaf plants one must spray under the leaf for it to do any good. Their are no stomata on the top of the leaf, and no way for anything to get in except light.

In my climate during this time of year I really do not want any water on the leafs of most stuff especially pines. The only thing I am spraying now is Draconil, Neem Oil and BT for leafrollers.
Fungus this year is rampant with all they humidity and lack of sun.

...something to think about.

If you do everything right down below I do not think you need to foliar feed, just my o2. And if you need to feed on top because something aint right down below than you need to adjust what is going on down low, ya know.
 

Smoke

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While I agree that to a limited extent this method works, a few points while beating this dead horse.

A note to the admin, you need some animated dead horse beating emicons like they have over at Arborsite.


Humic acid is the best thing since skimmed milk but how does this have anything to do with how plants take in nutrients through their leaf.

With broad leaf plants one must spray under the leaf for it to do any good. Their are no stomata on the top of the leaf, and no way for anything to get in except light.

In my climate during this time of year I really do not want any water on the leafs of most stuff especially pines. The only thing I am spraying now is Draconil, Neem Oil and BT for leafrollers.
Fungus this year is rampant with all they humidity and lack of sun.

...something to think about.

If you do everything right down below I do not think you need to foliar feed, just my o2. And if you need to feed on top because something aint right down below than you need to adjust what is going on down low, ya know.


Maybe I can make a believer out of you in September when I do a lecture on humates in Santa Cruz. Hope to see you there.
 

Smoke

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While I agree that to a limited extent this method works, a few points while beating this dead horse.


Humic acid is the best thing since skimmed milk but how does this have anything to do with how plants take in nutrients through their leaf.

With broad leaf plants one must spray under the leaf for it to do any good. Their are no stomata on the top of the leaf, and no way for anything to get in except light.

In my climate during this time of year I really do not want any water on the leafs of most stuff especially pines. The only thing I am spraying now is Draconil, Neem Oil and BT for leafrollers.
Fungus this year is rampant with all they humidity and lack of sun.

...something to think about.

If you do everything right down below I do not think you need to foliar feed, just my o2. And if you need to feed on top because something aint right down below than you need to adjust what is going on down low, ya know.


I was in Santa Cruz Saturday last weekend for dinner on the pier at Stagnero's and then drove on to Monterey and their bonsai exhibit on Sunday. Unbelievable weather both days. Light breeze 75 during the day and perfect conditions to foliar feed any time from 11AM till 3PM. Any wet would be long gone and not be cause for alarm with fungus.

As far as foliar feeding goes it is something you have to do. If your not doing it then it won't work.

Like akadama and many other things we do in bonsai experimenting is the only way to really know how a product works. Like I said try a couple tomato plants and see for your self. If you have no luck then by all means don't use it or do it. There are plenty of products on the market like miracle grow that give satisfactory results. The main thing is to fertilize. Most do not do it enough.

Big Redwood above Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
At the pier
Sierra Juniper of Katsumi Kinoshita
Wessel Cypress of Thomas Leonard
 

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Yamadori

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Ok Al, what does the picture of a parking lot have to do with anything? Did you make the stand in the last picture?
 

rockm

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"The super feeding fertilizer cake recipe contains a product called Roots 2. In the first article, Michael used the dry form powder for his cakes and would go on in a later article to use Roots 2 liquid with iron, Killing two birds with one product."

I still take Persiano's recommendation of Roots 2 with a grain of salt. His name was on the product promotional material if I remember correctly, or at least in ads for it that I saw a local nurseries.
 
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Hey Al, you tourists get lucky and only come out when the sun shines.:D As you know there are many microclimates here and my pines all have needlecast of varying degree. My Oaks get powdery mildew if you look at them wrong with the hose in my hand. Water will not completely dry on the leaf untill 1 or 2 pm.

I still do not understand how anything you do in the soil actually enhances the benefit of foliar feeding. From what I understand this is species specific i.e. Redwood takes in moisture and/or nutrients through foliage more efficiently than Elm due to their adaption to environment. How could adding anything to the soil enhance this.

I need to see about Bonsai Kai, it's just that I always have to work on the weekend.

Cheers
 

Smoke

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Hey Al, you tourists get lucky and only come out when the sun shines.:D As you know there are many microclimates here and my pines all have needlecast of varying degree. My Oaks get powdery mildew if you look at them wrong with the hose in my hand. Water will not completely dry on the leaf untill 1 or 2 pm.

I still do not understand how anything you do in the soil actually enhances the benefit of foliar feeding. From what I understand this is species specific i.e. Redwood takes in moisture and/or nutrients through foliage more efficiently than Elm due to their adaption to environment. How could adding anything to the soil enhance this.

I need to see about Bonsai Kai, it's just that I always have to work on the weekend.

Cheers


Man you have to do more research and alot more experimenting. I am in the process of experimenting with foliar feeding useing club soda as a vehical. The Co2 in the soda does all kinds of marvelous things to a leaf when sprayed on it. Almost the same as MSDO.

There are about 5000 or more articles about humates on the tube. Many of them talk about how humates benifit foliar feeding by changing the structure of the plants nurishment mechanics, think about it like taking blood pressure medicine and being able to enlarge blood vessels to help with relieving the pressure. I take my pill every day like a good boy and it may buy me 20 years of life. I don't care how it works nor do I care to know...just that it works.

I feel the same way about humates. I know they work and I know they supercharge foliar feeding. For instance there are many articles on the net about myths in bonsai. Many of them are and some are not. Will Heath has written about a few. His research is thick and comes from credible sources. But the research does not consider what we do to asthetic pleasing trees grown in small pots. He will argue with you to the death about the research but pays little tribute to those that offer actual experience with these myths. The proof is only a box of fertilizer away. Maybe about 8.00 bucks. With that box you could do your own experiments about foliar feeding and see just how good it performs. You do have to use it though. The old San Lorenzo lumber nursery had about 10 different kinds of fertilizer with humic acid in it as well as humic acid by the box. I was just there and bought some different items I had never seen before. I think it is called ICG lumber or something like that.

This is so easy...don't take my word for it...try it! I can't understand why someone would actually sit there and cast stones at a process that a few years ago was a closely guarded secret that is being willingly shared and yet rather than try it it is easier to question it.
 
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Smoke

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Ok Al, what does the picture of a parking lot have to do with anything? Did you make the stand in the last picture?


That parking lot is about 1 mile out on the pier and a picture of Stagnero's restaurant in Santa Cruz.

No I did not make the stand. It may be a stand by Al Nelson or one by Bob Sigourney. Bob's widow sells blueprints for making these stands. I think she lives in Oregon now.
 

Bill S

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In Nick Lenz book, Bonsai from the Wild, he talks about foliar feeding newly recovering trees, I do not remember exact specifics, but as I remember the thought is that you can check the root recovery by foilar feeding, if it takes off and greens up with a foliar feed, and you have started fertilizing, then the roots have not recoved enough.

Not sure if there is a difference, but when I fertilize, I rain it down over the foliage and all, so I assume I am foliar feeding.
 
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I am not casting stones at you, just challenging your science with foliar feeding and it being enhance by what you put in the soil, I am open minded enough to grow and discover.

Yes, San Lo, I go there all the time and in fact just bought that stuff you were probably starring at the other day, Jon and Bobs soil optimizer which is humic and fulvic acid in pellet form. I spread this on top of the soil on all of my container plants. This was 2 weeks ago. I do know the benefits of these acids and believe in them strongly, especially in rocky soil. I am shure they are doing there part.

but

would I be seing the same growth w/o them? I may never know. This is like the superthrive argument In which you did do some good testing in. I too have been known to sneak over and buy some ST for tree's that I have done heavy root work on, I have also not used it.

I can tell that my soil structure is changing in the last 2 weeks, like a webb patina or a spongy feel to the surface. Could be accelerated myc growth. I gotta tell you though I cant tell you I am getting stronger, faster and better growth.

It's allot of work workin that spray bottle
 

kytombonsai

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Dave, I have used foliar feedings for the last 15 years on all my trees. The junipers turn a brighter green color for a short time and the pines seem to look better. All other trees look the same. Fish emulsion really brightens up the junipers but if the wind is blowing, I think my neighbors have some issues with the odors. Not to mention the bees that are attracted to the smell. I usually try to fertilize in the mornings.

Tom
 

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