Low Maintenance Soil

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
272
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
I work during the day and have no way of watering my trees more than once in the morning (5am) and when I get home (5pm). Since I only have outdoor trees and it has been getting quite sunny and hot out, is it a mistake to be potting new trees in standard bonsai soil (1/3 akadama, 1/3 pumice, 1/3 lava rock)? I'm considering changing the type of soil I use to something that doesn't drain as much. I have standard potting mix on hand - should I use that or go an order some non-organic peat moss or something and just add that to the Bonsai mix?
 

penumbra

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,871
Reaction score
11,056
Location
Front Royal, VA
USDA Zone
6
I see a lot of folks here cover the tops of the soil mix with shredded sphagnum.
I have a few very thirsty plants that I have mixed a little sphagnum in the soil mix.
A couple extra thirsty plants have saucers under them and if plant is watered and saucer filled on a hot day, it is empty by evening.
 

Firstflush

Chumono
Messages
795
Reaction score
940
Location
coastal sage scrub and chaparral
USDA Zone
10B
Your current mix is the classic fast draining media. I’m here in the desert of Southern California. I have to up my organic amounts so I don’t have pots drying out in half a day. In my opinion the planting type mixes, not potting (unless that’s all you have now) work well. They are meant for outdoor plantings where you do a 50/50 with the native soil.
Because of this intended use, you get more course material with much less fines. Suggest using what you already are plus maybe 20% planting mix. The fines in organic material is what everyone curses as it clogs soil pore space inhibiting draining and root growth movement.

I like G&B planting mix, harvest supreme or acidic planting mix. If you want to put in extra effort you can sift it.
Take it for what it’s worth. Others will suggest orchid bark or other composted small hardwood bark chunks.
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
Messages
31,814
Reaction score
43,698
Location
Berwyn, Il
USDA Zone
6.2
There's a lot of variables left out, particle size most important of a hundred or so!

I used to do a shift like that and never really had problems, nothing not easily fixable with a handful of measures. With DE though.

I think folks underestimate the difference between large APL and anything familiar, plus that gets amplified by the BS that is "let them dry until", and it makes for problems.

Sorce
 

Paradox

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,925
Reaction score
7,823
Location
Long Island, NY
USDA Zone
7a
Why not use a hose and a sprinkler on a timer for the morning watering?
My climate isnt that different from yours.
I use the same mix and I only have to water 2x per day when its very hot (over 90 deg F).
Its ok if the pots dry out a little bit, just as long as they dont dry out completely.
 

Dav4

Drop Branch Murphy
Messages
12,085
Reaction score
25,056
Location
SE MI- Bonsai'd for 12 years both MA and N GA
USDA Zone
6a
Fwiw, given the typical summertime ambient humidity that SE PA has, I'd find it surprising that you'd need to water more then twice daily, and once daily should suffice on a typical day unless temps are high but humidity is low, which is more of a spring/fall situation.
 

Lutonian

Chumono
Messages
533
Reaction score
1,245
Location
Luton, East Anglia, England, Great Britain
USDA Zone
9a
I use pumic akadama and lava. to increase how much water it can hold and for how long there are a few thing you can do. Increasing the percentage of akadama will increase water retention. Using a smaller partial size will increase water retention. Top dressing with sphagnum moss will also help water retention. Using a deeper pot will increase water retention. Burying the pot up to the rim in a larger container with wet sand will help too. Shade cloth or wrapping pots in aluminium foil can slow evaporation too. Moving the trees to a less hot area or the garden and away from surfaces that reflect heat like walls etc can help. Due to my climate I only have to use such measures in heatwaves in the summer and mostly for shohin or small trees or thirsty trees in shallow pots. If this does not help might be time to trial new soil components.
 

AZbonsai

Masterpiece
Messages
2,486
Reaction score
5,287
Location
AZ
USDA Zone
9
Twice a day watering in PA sounds a little much to me to begin with and you want to add another? I do twice a day when between 105f/110f and 3 times a day when it is 110+. That is with much lower humidity than PA I am sure. My trees on south/west exposure with a 70% shade cloth. Many at PBS say I overwater at that (they know not what they speak :)
 

PA_Penjing

Chumono
Messages
751
Reaction score
1,154
Location
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
USDA Zone
6b
How new are you to the hobby? I mean absolutely no offense at all, but a lot of beginners over water their trees. Which is better than under watering them at least. I’m still guilty of it and I’m a good number of years in. I’m nearby and water once a day in the morning, granted I don’t have APL money so it’s apples to oranges. It’s a scary experiment and it can seem like trees in a good soil are very dry but maybe you could try pushing the time between watering on a few you don’t feel attached to and get a better idea of the actual threat of drying out. Without mossing the surface of apl it will feel dried out very quickly but underneath it should be cool and moist.
And if you have been doing this for a long time and have lost several trees because they dried out then I apologize. But to echo everyone else, our part of the country shouldn’t need too many special alterations to the classic. Especially because we are so prone to rain, which can be an issue if you’ve gone and made all the pots moisture holders. Especially in the winter
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
272
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
How new are you to the hobby? I mean absolutely no offense at all, but a lot of beginners over water their trees. Which is better than under watering them at least. I’m still guilty of it and I’m a good number of years in. I’m nearby and water once a day in the morning, granted I don’t have APL money so it’s apples to oranges. It’s a scary experiment and it can seem like trees in a good soil are very dry but maybe you could try pushing the time between watering on a few you don’t feel attached to and get a better idea of the actual threat of drying out. Without mossing the surface of apl it will feel dried out very quickly but underneath it should be cool and moist.
And if you have been doing this for a long time and have lost several trees because they dried out then I apologize. But to echo everyone else, our part of the country shouldn’t need too many special alterations to the classic. Especially because we are so prone to rain, which can be an issue if you’ve gone and made all the pots moisture holders. Especially in the winter
No offense taken! I'm definitely new to the hobby but I'm certain that I shouldn't be letting the soil get completely dry down to an inch or so. During these hot days, the soil seems to dry to that degree by the time I get home. Perhaps as long as I water it again before the next hot day, then it might be fine? This soil just drains so fast and the akadama dries more quickly than I would have expected, that I feel like the tree (for some period of time) is baking in the sun without much soil moisture available to it.
 

Paradox

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,925
Reaction score
7,823
Location
Long Island, NY
USDA Zone
7a
No offense taken! I'm definitely new to the hobby but I'm certain that I shouldn't be letting the soil get completely dry down to an inch or so. During these hot days, the soil seems to dry to that degree by the time I get home. Perhaps as long as I water it again before the next hot day, then it might be fine? This soil just drains so fast and the akadama dries more quickly than I would have expected, that I feel like the tree (for some period of time) is baking in the sun without much soil moisture available to it.

Try this. Take a wooden chop stick or piece of dowel at least 8 inches long and stick it in each pot and leave it there.

Water the trees in the morning and check the sticks before you water when you get home. If the stick is still wet or very damp, you don't need to water. If it is dry or almost dry then you need to water.
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
272
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
Try this. Take a wooden chop stick or piece of dowel at least 8 inches long and stick it in each pot and leave it there.

Water the trees in the morning and check the sticks before you water when you get home. If the stick is still wet or very damp, you don't need to water. If it is dry or almost dry then you need to water.
That's a neat trick, I'll try that. Thanks!
 

Paradox

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,925
Reaction score
7,823
Location
Long Island, NY
USDA Zone
7a
That's a neat trick, I'll try that. Thanks!

It's a great way to learn how often your trees really need water. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn't tell you what's going on halfway down or at the bottom
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
272
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
It's a great way to learn how often your trees really need water. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn't tell you what's going on halfway down or at the bottom
Yea, I usually stick a finger down at least an inch but this method seems like a really good second way to check because I'm obviously not going to jam my fingers to the bottom of the pot every time I want to check for moisture xD
 

Tieball

Masterpiece
Messages
2,481
Reaction score
2,429
Location
Michigan. 6a
USDA Zone
6a
My trees are all outdoor, full sun, all year, all weather. During the summer I have a plastic screen I use over the substrate. It’s like a shade screen….probably 90% or so. It’s sold in stores as a pet-screen. It’s tough. Meant to be tough so claws of pets don’t rip it like they would an aluminum screen. The screen allows air and water in. And keeps critters out. What it does also in shade the substrate and the moisture seems to last longer. It works for me.

I used to use broken terra cotta pot parts to shade the substrate. Nursery places give broken pots away…it’s simply junk to them. There’s a bin they toss them into. I also had several old pots that were cracked and some I just did not want anymore. I broke them down into larger pieces and arranged them over the substrate. Handy too…the wind would not blow them away and it kept critters out.

I water in the morning and then in the evening. All my trees have excellent drainage. When I mixed my substrate I always include some aged pine bark as it holds moisture between waterings on hot days.
 

Pitoon

Masterpiece
Messages
4,335
Reaction score
8,967
Location
Southern Maryland
USDA Zone
7b
I see a lot of folks here cover the tops of the soil mix with shredded sphagnum.
I have a few very thirsty plants that I have mixed a little sphagnum in the soil mix.
A couple extra thirsty plants have saucers under them and if plant is watered and saucer filled on a hot day, it is empty by evening.
Another option is to mix in chopped sphagnum into the substrate.
 

Potawatomi13

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,092
Reaction score
3,530
Location
Eugene, OR
USDA Zone
8
Pumice 3/16-1/4" more porus holds H2O better than lava. Krapadama waste of $$ not needed! IF more H2O retention needed could use sifted rotted pine bark 20-25% at most.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom