JBP clinging to life!

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Hey all!
Question with a JBP of mine, but backstory first...

I bought this tree as bare root stock last year from a vendor though Amazon. It came early summer in very nice condition for what I was expecting. I threw it into a deeper pot to not disturb the roots since at the time I was still extremely new to bonsai and was afraid to kill it. I took the candle in midsummer, which I probably shouldn’t have since the tree was at most 3 years old at the time. My bad.... winter did it no favors; definitely did not protect it adequately so it had a rough go. I figured it had been killed since there was minimal green left by early spring, but I kept it since I had the space. To my delight, I’ve spotted new candle growth and teeny tiny needles starting to grow. 9EF79DDF-1D25-4288-82C4-F2ADD4AB8EDC.jpeg
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My question is what to do with all the old brown needles? Should I leave them be and let the tree drop them when it’s ready or would I be better served by removing them myself to allow more light in to the healthy growth?

P.S. I have no plans to decandle this season lol.
 

Potawatomi13

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Personally; allow tree to grow and leave needles alone in case new small sprouts hidden at their base. After all hardened off gently see if brown needles are loose/ready to fall off;). Also suggest light fertilizing and foliar feeding. Use care to see soil is not wet, just damp.
 
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Thats what I was leaning towards. I planned to use the same fertilizing schedule as I did with my other conifers, once monthly 16-9-9. In early spring I also treated the soil to bring the pH down closer to 6 (it was a hair above 7 before treating) then I hit it with some iron supplement. What do you suggest for foliar feeding? I’ve never gone that route before.
 

Forsoothe!

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Give it more light by pulling the brown needles straight off, one at a time. Straight out in parallel with the needle's shaft, not sideways, and not groups.
 

sorce

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Mine are like that too. Dead AF.

Odd because last winter was way colder.
But this winter took my Southern winged elm too.

I reckon the Halloween Snow, then warmer weather kept them less primed for winter, so when it hit lower temps, that was it.

If you aren't willing to set up an entire cold greenhouse.....

We have the option of wintering our JBP at THG, it's not too expensive.

Sorce
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I would NOT pull brown needles off. Just in case there are other small buds emerging. They will fall naturally over the summer. This tree is in precarious health, barely alive. Mostly just leave it alone except to water it. A little fertilizer is okay, but probably I would not even fertilize it until new growth had expanded and has hardened off. This tree is too close to death to risk doing anything.

I fear your "adjusting the soil" pH may have been one of the things that caused this winter die back. You are in the Chicago area, there is absolutely no need to adjust the pH of our water, nor the pH of the soil if you used any of the conventional bonsai media ingredients. Chicago water quality is go, moderate Total Alkalinity (roughly 180 mg/liter as calcium carbonate) and moderate total dissolved solids, about 225 ppm. This is all in the range of "acceptable" for JBP. The JBP is a coastal pine, from Japan, and it tolerates fairly hard water and a moderate amount of salt in the water. There is no need to worry about pH for a JBP.

IF you were raising carnivorous plants, or other extreme calcifuges, bog plants, you should worry about water, but for JBP Chicago municipal water is just fine.

The pH of tap water MUST be buffered to a pH above 7.8 by law, or you would give everyone lead poisoning. It is not a very heavy buffer system that the Metropolitan Water District uses, the trees cope with it nicely.

pH is a "red herring" in that pH alone is never the issue, it is the buffer capacity of water that is the issue. When one gets into adjusting pH of their water, the danger is that you get into cycles of adjusting water that really doesn't need adjusting, or getting a false high or false low pH reading and keep re-adjusting the pH when it really never needed to be adjusted in the first place.
 

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Give it more light by pulling the brown needles straight off, one at a time. Straight out in parallel with the needle's shaft, not sideways, and not groups.
Bill has a good point here! if you are more comfortable with scissors you can cut the brown needles one by one close to the branch. This will protect the needle buds from accidental injury when removing the needles by pulling and will also provide more light to the new shoots.
 
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@sorce i totally forgot about that Halloween snow we had. That and then a warm November is probably what killed a bunch of the JWP seedlings I had too (I’ve only got 2 that made it from last year).

@Leo in N E Illinois I used what I’ve since found out to be a crummy substrate. Sandy and tons of small particulates. “Universal Bonsai Soil” my ass... As for the municipal water supply, Im actually on well water. Not sure exactly how alkaline it is, should probably get some litmus paper and figure that out. I used a sulfur compound to acidify the soil. Sprinkle some on and let the water run it through the pot. If it’s a red herring I’ll quit with doing it. I was remembering some random fact from high school science about pines liking “slightly acidic soils”. Maybe outdated info or just BS lol.
 
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Brought it inside to get a good look at it under some light and sure enough, even down where it all looks dead, there’s some young growth there!
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Just in carrying it in quite a few needles fell off, so I’ll carefully clear those out of the mess but other than that I think I’ll leave the rest on so as to not disturb the young growth at all. Seems as though they’ll come off soon enough on their own.

It’s a shame. I was hoping to do some shaping of the truck this year. I put a slight bend in it last year so it wasn’t straight up but was excited to do more. But at least it’s alive, if only just!
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@sorce i totally forgot about that Halloween snow we had. That and then a warm November is probably what killed a bunch of the JWP seedlings I had too (I’ve only got 2 that made it from last year).

@Leo in N E Illinois I used what I’ve since found out to be a crummy substrate. Sandy and tons of small particulates. “Universal Bonsai Soil” my ass... As for the municipal water supply, Im actually on well water. Not sure exactly how alkaline it is, should probably get some litmus paper and figure that out. I used a sulfur compound to acidify the soil. Sprinkle some on and let the water run it through the pot. If it’s a red herring I’ll quit with doing it. I was remembering some random fact from high school science about pines liking “slightly acidic soils”. Maybe outdated info or just BS lol.
"Ah, you open the door and the light goes on." I had assumed you were on municipal Lake Michigan water. Sorry to hear that you are on a well. I am not sure of the specifics of YOUR well, but if your well is more than 100 feet deep, I would assume your total dissolved solids would be around 600 to 900 ppm. And that your total alkalinity is near 525 to 800 mg/liter as calcium carbonate. Note, the total alkalinity is buffer capacity, not pH. Though if you stuck a pH meter in your water it likely would be around 8.0 to 8.5 pH.

A couple things come to mind.

The sulfur soil additive you should use is Elemental Sulfur. This will lower the total alkalinity. You will need probably 2 to 3 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) per gallon of potting mix (roughly 4 liters of mix). There are 2 grades of elemental sulfur, the fine grind for use as a fungicide, and the slightly more coarse grind for use as a soil amendment. The soil amendment grade should be added, as above, once per year. It will take the better part of a year to dissolve that amount of sulfur, re-apply once year as a top dress. The fungicide grade, because it is so fine, will dissolve more quickly, Here dose half the amount, but dose twice per year.

Other sulfur compounds may or may not work. Gypsum, which is calcium sulfate, is sold to break up clay soils into more crumbly, friable peds. This will have minor effect at lowering total alkalinity, but it is not the best, and can tie up some nutrients. Similar are the sulfur-aluminum compounds, the common name is escaping me, but read labels, make sure it talks about acidifying soils, not just talking about breaking up clay soils.

So the sulfur is a good additive for your soil mix, and highly recommended because you are on well water.

Notice, I have not really talked about pH. It is not the important measurement. The pH is driven by buffer capacity, also known as Total Alkalinity. By working on ways to change the total alkalinity, automatically the pH will fall in line.

If it is possible, we get fairly frequent rainfall in the Chicagoland area, you could collect rain water. As few as half a dozen 3 gallon plastic pails, scattered about the yard can collect enough rain water to significantly supplement watering over an average summer. I can fill 2, plastic 55 gallon barrels in a few weeks in spring by this method. Every morning after a rain, I dump these open pails into the rain barrels. This gives me enough rain water to keep my 10 or so azalea watered most of the summer without having to use municipal water. Or you could set up a rain water collection system tied into the gutters of the house. There a quarter in of rain on a 2000 sq foot roof will give you around 75 to 100 gallons of water.

Lastly,
There is life in that pine, but it is fragile. If may just pull through.
 
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Insightful as always Leo!
The house was built as new construction in 2017, I can’t remember exactly how deep the well was drilled but I wanna say it was more than 200 feet. I know the pump is set at 180.

Since it’s new the filtration systems are nice and for the most part I can’t tell the water is any different from municipal water, which is what I grew up on. But anytime I drink out of the hose or something like that I can definitely tell it’s a well.

When I treated the soil I did pretty much exactly that. I’m fortunate in that my father has spent 40+ years working for/running an arborist company so he’s got a few handy tricks up his sleeve!
 
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Update:
After a couple weeks here is how we look.
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Been really windy and stormy the last couple weeks so a lot of loosely attached needles have come off. Fertilized after the original post and the tree is responding nicely. I’ll keep this thread updated so I can have a reminder of how close this tree was to death. Might be cool to look back on someday.
 

sorce

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I been burning my JBP needles. Yours is giving me hope my littlun might pull through....

But I swear to God this afternoon ....

I heard my mugo say....

"Fuck that bitch ass JBP".

Sorce

PS this is just a "colourful" way of saying, there is more hope in other species.
With an emphasis on "Japanese knowledge can't teach our climate".
 
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Lol I’ve got a little mugo behind the JBP in that last pic actually! Where do you have your JBP that it’s burning?? Mine sits in direct light pretty much all day!
 
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Ran outside tonight before the big rain we’re about to get to check on my trees since I haven’t had a chance to lately. Took a quick look at the JBP and the word vibrant is what came to mind
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Still a couple clusters of dead bits but for the most part the dead needles have fallen away. Looks a bit ridiculous if you ask me but who cares! It wasn’t a precious piece beforehand so I’m just happy I still have it to work on.

Lesson learned: Don’t give up on a tree in March, no matter how bad it might look!
 
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So I’ve noticed some weird coloring coming out in the last week or so. It shouldn’t be suffering from Chlorosis or anything since it’s had some iron this year, right?

I have noticed while watering these last two days that the dirt in this pot in particular is more hydrated than others. It occurred to me that since it’s been cooler and cloudier this week that maybe it’s been getting water when it doesn’t need it. Water stress???
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0soyoung

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This sort of thing, I call a 'blinding flash of the obvious'.
some weird coloring coming out in the last week or so
It occurred to me that since it’s been cooler and cloudier this week that maybe it’s been getting water when it doesn’t need it.
Doh!


Water stress???
I think it is called 'root anoxia', meaning the roots are so wet that they cannot get the oxygen they need to live --> in other words, they are blowing bubbles, drowning.


Regardless,
Good for you.
Now do what you know you must do and then keep it looking better.
I'll just note to you that these needles may never become completely green again (meaning ... :rolleyes:).
 
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@0soyoung when the realization hit I felt like such a fool. It’s easy enough to move the pot out when I water, so it should be a simple enough fix. If the needles keep a yellow hue that wouldn’t be the worst thing. Seeing where this tree was 8 months ago I’m just happy there’s any green at all!

Pretty sure my substrate is a big part of the problem. This was one of my first trees and I was so excited I threw it into a pot with whatever I had lying around (I mixed some low/mid grade bonsai substrate with a peat/perlite mix like some kind of dumbass). I’ve known it will need a repot sooner rather than later, but with the damage it took last winter I’m hesitant to disturb it too much too soon. Might just have to take the chance and do it this next spring.
 
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