New to the site . . . looking for suggestions on starter material and watering

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Hey everyone. I just joined, so I figured I'd pop my head in and introduce myself. I live in Greensboro, NC (I'll update my profile later) and I've been dabbling in bonsai for the last two or so years. I say dabble, because I can't really claim that I do bonsai.

I got my first "mall bonsai" juniper about two years ago. It didn't perform well, and it died (I think b/c lack of water). I then learned from my mistakes and got an oak, japanese maple, juniper, and black pine (all in rough condition, and I'll probably be asking for help soon) for cheap through ebay or the local nursery over the course of the past year and a half. Unfortunately, I took a vacation in the height of summer last year and asked my neighbor to water the plants. She did not. Only the black pine made it, although it's seen better days.

So, I replaced the japanese maple last weekend, and ordered a cork bark oak online. Both seem to be doing well so far.

But, I'm looking to solve a few problems. For starters, what do you guys use for watering? I try to water once a day during spring/summer/early fall, then in winter no watering at all, but my work schedule sometimes leaves gaps in the watering schedule. Also, I've been having some difficulty knowing when is too much water, and when is not enough water. The smaller bonsai pots (and the larger 1-3 gallon growing pots) don't allow for too much water retention, and it appears it needs 2-3 waterings during the summer. So I was thinking an automatic watering system? Any experiences, tips, suggestions?

Second, I'm looking for some good starter beginner material. Something that is going to be forgiving in my mistakes, still look wonderful (to keep my enthusiasm), is good to learn techniques off of, and still doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Most of the pre or stock material I've found online runs about $100-300, which is way more than I can afford right now (other than the seedlings or the $10 material that would take 30 years to produce anything). I've been keeping my eye on ebay for the used cheap stuff, that's still in good condition, but it's hard to come by. My local nursery doesn't appear to be much help, as they only sell the big trees for big bucks, and the ones that have smaller trees (distributors) don't sell individual trees to the little guy (me). Any suggestions on where I can find good stock? I was hoping to do some pine (although not juniper, not really a fan of the look), hopefully black pine, red pine, and white pine (although I may be getting ahead of myself) along with some elms and oaks, but not too sure what I'm getting into here.

Thanks for bearing through my ramblings. I appreciate all the help.
 

mcpesq817

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Some thoughts:

1. On watering, I generally use a hose with a masakuni watering wand attachment. Usually I water every day, sometimes twice a day in the summer, unless it has rained or rain is expected. I use an automatic sprinkler system when I'm out of town. My soil mix is for the most part 100% inorganic, so I don't worry about overwatering.

2. For starter material, don't run into the trap of buying lots of small sticks in pots for $10 because you won't be doing much with them aside from the painful process of watching them grow. It's better to save your money until you can afford decent stock. Two places you can possibly get good starter stock for decent prices:

-- join a local bonsai club, as clubs tend to have raffles, auctions, sales by club members looking to get rid of excess material, etc. and you can get some good deals.

-- go to your local garden nursery in late fall and buy trees/shrubs that has been heavily marked down for clearance before winter. You can get some real steals that way.

Also, if you have a little patience and some growing room, you can buy trident maple seedings and plant them in the ground. Seedlings are very cheap, and they grow like weeds. I planted a trident with a 3/4" trunk in the ground two years ago, and it's now about 10 feet tall with a 3" plus base.

Good luck! :D
 
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krazykangaroo

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The main reason beginners get into trouble is because they get into bonsai without realising just how much work is involved.

The first thing to do is get into the habit of checking your trees before and after work each day. You will not always need to do anything but you will get to see how much water each tree uses during cool and warm days, you will also learn how each tree looks when it is stressed so you can see the beginning of stress before it becomes damaging.
If working on hot days means that your trees are drying out too much you can have them sit on a tray of pebbles and water with only the base of the pot touching the water (you might need to take them out at night and put them back in the morning) this should not be a lazy alternative to checking for water twice a day.
In the heat of summer I put covers on the soil of my trees to keep the moisture in but this would not work if you are in a high humidity climate as it can encourage rotting.

For beginner trees that can take a lot of abuse and for learning on - try Chinese elm, trident maple and junipers. You don't have to buy expensive starters online, try your local nursery first.
 

Bill S

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Some of this may sound harsh, it is not intended that way, my comments are in blue.

"But, I'm looking to solve a few problems. For starters, what do you guys use for watering?
Whatever can get water from where you keep it to the tree.

I try to water once a day during spring/summer/early fall, then in winter no watering at all
Do you know the song TAPS, usually blown on the trumpet, too often at funerals, this will be done for your trees if you don't water them all winter.

, but my work schedule sometimes leaves gaps in the watering schedule
that NEEDS to be fixed one way or the other - either find a way to check and wwater, get someone to do it for you, or take up a new hobby.
. Also, I've been having some difficulty knowing when is too much water, and when is not enough water. The smaller bonsai pots (and the larger 1-3 gallon growing pots) don't allow for too much water retention, and it appears it needs 2-3 waterings during the summer. So I was thinking an automatic watering system? Any experiences, tips, suggestions?"

If you can't keep a 3 gallon nursery can wet for a day, you either are in hell, or something is seriously wrong with your horticultural skills. If you can't water a plant an automatic system unless set up by someone else isn't going to help you.

I'll bite where are you? Put that info in your user info, ithelps give you advice, based on localities.

My suggestion would be to find a local club, or someone doing bonsai, and get help. Also suggest reading up on soil for bonsai, it will help you figure out the watering issues.
 

Bill S

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(although I may be getting ahead of myself) said:
May I suggest that you spend some time reading thru this site, and others, get a better idea what is involved and evaluate your time and skills to see if it a viable option. From your post very very basic things are foriegn to you, you say that, then tell us you've had issues, then go into describing what kind of trees you want to work with, many of which aren't "beginners trees" so to speak, take a step back and learn to swim before jumping into the deep end.
A bonsai book in a thread to tell you everything bonsai won't work, you have to chase the information, and apply it based on species, season, desired effect, etc.

I am not trying to discourage you, slow you down a bunch yes. Patience is a word that gets thrown around a lot in bonsai, there are many reasons for that.

By the way junipers are one of the easier plants to deal with for bonsai.
 
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Thanks to everyone who has offered suggestions, I do my best not to take criticism lightly.

On watering, I generally use a hose with a masakuni watering wand attachment. Usually I water every day, sometimes twice a day in the summer

I went to Home Depot and got the watering wand that they use in their nursery. Sure it probably isn't the best wand, but it was the best one I found near me. It does a good job transferring water from the hose to the soil :) I thought automatic watering systems were more common for bonsai users. But hey, I'm wrong! Now I know not to bother with that stuff, and work more on my skills in understanding the stress levels of the plants. Good to know.

don't run into the trap of buying lots of small sticks in pots for $10 because you won't be doing much with them aside from the painful process of watching them grow.

Good advice. This is the kinda stuff I need to know. I was thinking that, but having no experience in the matter I wasn't sure.

Two places you can possibly get good starter stock for decent prices -- ... a local bonsai club ... -- your local garden nursery

I'm unaware of a local club, although I'll look harder. I've also already tried the local nursery, haven't found what I was looking for (no elms [classic beginner material] and no tree material in-between seedling and 8 foot tree). What exactly should I be looking for, size wise, at a nursery store? It's possible that it's there, but I just don't know what to look for.

Previously, I was looking for a good, healthy tree, that was small (between 2-4') with a great trunk and good roots. I wasn't concerned with branch size or location, as I know that can be moved and positioned. There wasn't much to choose from in the 2-4' range (almost nothing) that didn't cost over $100.

you can buy trident maple seedings and plant them in the ground.

Funny you should mention that. I did get seedlings two years ago. Black, white, and red pine. At the moment I have a black and white pine in a container, and one black, one red, and three white pines in the ground (out in the woods behind my house). All are growing very slowly. But it's fun to watch. I was hoping for something a LITTLE more engaging though.

The first thing to do is get into the habit of checking your trees before and after work each day.

I have already moved the plants near the front door, to ensure that I check them on my way in and out the door. I hope I learn to get much better.

If working on hot days means that your trees are drying out too much you can have them sit on a tray of pebbles and water with only the base of the pot touching the water (you might need to take them out at night and put them back in the morning) this should not be a lazy alternative to checking for water twice a day.

I was looking at humidity trays that are sold on some sites, and thought it might be a good idea. I was weary to purchase them and have it be another thing I got that I don't need. Do you think I would be better off just getting the waterings down, rather than getting the trays? Or are they worth it?

try Chinese elm, trident maple and junipers.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll see what I can find :) I'm not too much of a fan of junipers, but I've been on the look out for a nice chinese elm (I've been told they are great beginner material). I thought trident maple's were more advanced material, while japanese maples were more beginner. Or did I just get that backwards?

TAPS . . . this will be done for your trees if you don't water them all winter.

So here is a good misunderstanding that I had. That's good, lets get these out of the way. I thought the bonsai plants needed substantially less water in the winter for two main reasons. 1) Because it isn't as hot, the water that is available doesn't evaporate as quickly, and 2) Since the plant is dormant, it's water uptake has slowed significantly. Both of these (as was my understanding) meant that instead of watering once a day, you only needed to water every three or so days. It rains (on average) once every three or so days here, so I didn't think additional watering was needed. Obviously I'm wrong. Can you help me understand why? Or how to correct it? Over the winter, should I water once every three or so days? Won't the extra water cause additional rot/ root issues?

either find a way to check and wwater, get someone to do it for you, or take up a new hobby.

Thanks for your honesty. I'm on it ;)

If you can't keep a 3 gallon nursery can wet for a day, you either are in hell, or something is seriously wrong with your horticultural skills. If you can't water a plant an automatic system unless set up by someone else isn't going to help you.

I don't have a problem with the 1-3 gallon containers. I've only had issues with the smaller bonsai pots (that only SOME of the plants were in). Additionally, the first Juniper died from my own actions. I learned from those. The others were due to a vacation sitter that ended up not actually being a sitter.

Are you suggesting that I move all of my plants into three gallon containers?

I can take pictures of what I have, if it would better help you in understanding my situation.

I'll bite where are you? Put that info in your user info, ithelps give you advice, based on localities.

I actually put it in the first post. I also changed my profile 3 min after I made the first post. I'm in Greensboro, NC. I'm unaware of my USDA zone, but I realize I need to get used to that.

My suggestion would be to find a local club, or someone doing bonsai, and get help. Also suggest reading up on soil for bonsai, it will help you figure out the watering issues.

As I stated above, I'm unaware of a local club, although I am looking. I'm also unaware of anyone locally that can help. I've heard of a guy an hour and a half away in both directions (Charlotte and Chapel Hill) but no one that I can "knock on the door." My guess is when I find a club, I'll find a "mentor."

I know nothing about bonsai soil. Do you have a suggestion on where I should start? I know it's very particular on the type of tree.

From your post very very basic things are foriegn to you, you say that, then tell us you've had issues, then go into describing what kind of trees you want to work with, many of which aren't "beginners trees" so to speak, take a step back and learn to swim before jumping into the deep end.

I'm willing to learn, and I have in no way attempted to claim that I'm experienced in this stuff IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM. I'm fully aware that I'm lacking some of the basic understandings. That is why I've come to this site, to learn.

I appreciate your honesty, but telling me to "read through the site" doesn't help me. I'm in the process of that. However, much of bonsai is hands on experience. I understand that I need to learn, and that's what I'm willing to do.

I never said that I had to work with anything in particular. I merely asked for suggestions. I understand that black, white, and red pines are some of the most difficult. All I was asking for was some "pine" suggestions, or other suitable types that would be good to learn off of. I like the look of the BW&R pines, but if they are too advanced for me, simply point me in a right direction. I've heard elms are good to learn from and junipers. In the past I havn't liked the junipers I've seen. They just remind me of "mall bonsai" and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not literally).

But, if that's what I need to do, so be it. Are you aware of a "soft" juniper that is forgiving to learn off of?

I am not trying to discourage you, slow you down a bunch yes. Patience is a word that gets thrown around a lot in bonsai, there are many reasons for that.

Again, I appreciate your help and honesty. I'm willing to learn, I just need some helpful pointers (ok, maybe a bit more than "some"). Maybe I do need to slow down a bit.

However, I don't feel I'm moving too quickly. In reality, I have four plants at the moment. One is a cork oak in a 8" pot that is being grown out. It is doing fantastic, and is in my house under a grow light waiting for a bit warmer temps (it came from CA, so I'm giving it time to transition to the colder temps). Another is an Orange Dream Maple in a 10" pot, not meant to be bonsai just meant to grow out and enjoy the beauty of it. It is doing wonderfully as well, and I don't consider it a bonsai, just a plant (it chills with my 8' Apple). One is a Black Pine that I got for cheap off ebay. It's survived my abuses, and I've learned alot from it. It is my only true "bonsai" tree. The last one is a red japanese maple that I got last weekend. I put it from a one gallon pot to a three gallon pot to let it get established a little more. It appears to be doing great. I also have a few other seedlings here or there that are really just to watch grow, nothing to train or repot or anything.

So, perhaps I should ask, is this more than I should be getting into at this point in time? I didn't think it was too much, but I'm new. So if it is, I get it, I'll deal with what I have. I'm looking for honest help to get me to improve. And that's all I want, a relaxing enjoyable hobby that I can improve in.

If my heart or my mind is in the wrong place, please let me know. I'm just trying to have a good time and learn something along the way.

Thanks for all the help, you've been VERY helpful.
 

John Ruger

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Don't bite off more than you can chew. A lot of people, once addicted, will begin to buy everything they can get their hands on. Start off slow, buy stock that you can honestly give proper attention to-yeah, I know that's hard, but discipline yourself to that and at least you'll know that nothing died due to neglect.
 

FrankP999

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The best thing for you to do is find a local club. The Asheville Arboretum has a collection Here are some clubs in N.C. taken from the American Bonsai Society's web page at http://absbonsai.org/bonsai-club-directory/usa#NC


North Carolina
NORTH CAROLINA - Asheville
Blue Ridge Bonsai Society. We assemble around 1:30 with the program starting at 2pm. Bring a tree for show and tell or to ask questions. Beginners are especially welcome! Yearly membership is $25. Meets at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville,NC. For further info about our club contact Bob Thatcher at 828-667-9563 tman15@earthlink.net

NORTH CAROLINA - Charlotte
The Bonsai Society of the Carolinas, the oldest bonsai club in the Carolinas, normally meets the second weekend of each month at the Bonsai Learning Center at 4416 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte, NC. Meetings vary between Saturday and Sunday, depending upon the availability of the speaker. Both beginner and advanced programs are offered. Out of state artists are frequently featured. Annually, the society sponsors a bonai pavillion at the Southern Spring Show in Charlotte, NC. This event is usually the last week in February. For more information, visit the society web page - http://www.bonsaicarolina.com For more info contact: Bob Wymer, 8328 Kapplewood Ct., Charlotte, NC 28226, tel: (704) 541-5776 or Tel: (24 hour bonsai hotline) - (704) 552-6551

NORTH CAROLINA - Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill
Triangle Bonsai Society. Meets at The Commons Building, Wake County Office Park, 4011 Carya Dr., Raleigh, NC. Meeting dates vary by month, please check the website for current information - Contact Harold Johnson. 6806 Knotty Pine Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27517 email

NORTH CAROLINA - Winston-Salem
North Carolina Bonsai Association. Contact: Terry W. Brandsma, 4208 Brentonshire Ln., High Point, NC 27265

Good luck
Frank

PS I agree that tridents are a great specimen for beginners.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Welcome! To add a little to the conversation:
1. Look up Randy Clark (www.bonsailearningcenter.com), his nursery near Charlotte may be the closest.

2. Look up Marc Torppa (http://www.thegrowinggrounds.com/), in Cherryville...may also be close.

3. The comments about starting with larger material are probably the best advice a beginner can hear. They have a much wider margin of error. Stay away from pines...for now. Elms, Maples, azaleas are good for now.

4. More engaging than pines growing out back = having a larger collection. This is also good so you don't love a few trees to death!

5. Learn how to water.

6. No matter what people say, Home Depot, Lowe's etc, is not a good source of bonsai material. Save that $30 in a jar each time you're tempted by the box stores until you have $150-$200 and then go see #1 or #2 above and get some rough stock with a trunk developed for bonsai and some branches you can work on. You'll thank us later.

7. Keep reading. Get involved in clubs so you can get the feeling of bonsai. It's different when you see them in person, and can work on them with another individual with some experience.

8. Go collecting! Then you can get some big stuff for free...or at least the cost of your labor!

Enjoy!
 

milehigh_7

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One thing to add (at least one thing but it is a start). Look around at what folks grow for landscape. Chances are that will do great for you as bonsai. What's more if you keep your eyes open, you can "help people" by removing unwanted trees and shrubs that will be real nice for your use, free and will thrive in your area.
 

milehigh_7

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Oh yea, stay out of the 'karaoke bar' unless you have REAL thick skin and a fairly thick skull.
 

360

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Hi kay, Maples and Black pines are not good material for beginners like us. Junipers, olives, ficus, and bougainvilleas are more suited for people just getting into bonsai. Try to avoid over watering wither automatic or by hand as its a common rookie mistake. No one will tell you where to get inexpensive bonsai stock because these places are fast becoming scarce, so don't bother asking. You can buy good material at the box stores but beginners usually just end up buying cheap junk because they haven't developed the bonsai eye yet. You can develop the bonsai eye by looking at many bonsai as well as attempting to make bonsai. Don't dig up plants until you develop the eye. When you need help, posting pictures is better than writing long descriptions. I'm telling you this because these are the mistakes Ive made during my first year in bonsai. And remember its pronounced bone sigh. Welcome to the forum.
 

milehigh_7

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Hi kay, Maples and Black pines are not good material for beginners like us. Junipers, olives, ficus, and bougainvilleas are more suited for people just getting into bonsai. Try to avoid over watering wither automatic or by hand as its a common rookie mistake. No one will tell you where to get inexpensive bonsai stock because these places are fast becoming scarce, so don't bother asking. You can buy good material at the box stores but beginners usually just end up buying cheap junk because they haven't developed the bonsai eye yet. You can develop the bonsai eye by looking at many bonsai as well as attempting to make bonsai. Don't dig up plants until you develop the eye. When you need help, posting pictures is better than writing long descriptions. I'm telling you this because these are the mistakes Ive made during my first year in bonsai. And remember its pronounced bone sigh. Welcome to the forum.

The thing is, the box stores really don't even have good prices. I have now have several hundred sticks that might someday make nice bonsai for my kids or someone else. I however, enjoy the gardening side in which I grow plants that will become bonsai.

If you want bonsai soon you must either:
A: pay someone that has grown the stock for you or
B: dig stock that mother nature has grown for you


There is no substitute for time. However you can take certain shortcuts with money spent wisely.
 

mcpesq817

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One thing to add (at least one thing but it is a start). Look around at what folks grow for landscape. Chances are that will do great for you as bonsai. What's more if you keep your eyes open, you can "help people" by removing unwanted trees and shrubs that will be real nice for your use, free and will thrive in your area.

This is definitely worth considering - take a look on Craigslist as people are always looking to have unwanted material removed from their yards, sometimes for free, sometimes for a nominal price. Last year I managed to collect a 15 year old yew for free, as well as part of a 20+ year old boxwood hedge for free. Even better, the boxwood had already been dug up sparing me the labor :D

It's a good idea for your first trip or two to take someone experienced in collection to show you the ropes.
 

mcpesq817

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The thing is, the box stores really don't even have good prices. I have now have several hundred sticks that might someday make nice bonsai for my kids or someone else. I however, enjoy the gardening side in which I grow plants that will become bonsai.

If you want bonsai soon you must either:
A: pay someone that has grown the stock for you or
B: dig stock that mother nature has grown for you

There is no substitute for time. However you can take certain shortcuts with money spent wisely.

Just to clarify what I meant by nursery, I didn't mean the big box stores. I was referring to a good landscape nursery. For example, last fall I bought a 6 foot japanese black pine with a 6 inch flared base, nice movement, taper and bark, and some lower branching for only $80 at their fall clearance sale. Assuming it survives (it seems to have made it through the winter despite the fall repot into a good soil mix and chopping it back a couple of feet) I'll most likely have to graft branches lower down on the trunk. But for $80, considering what JBP stock normally goes for, I think I got a steal.
 

chansen

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Here's a good article on soil, watering, and fertilizer and the balance between them. You can't really understand watering without knowing how your soil acts.

http://walterpallbonsaiarticles.blogspot.com/2010/06/feeding-substrate-and-watering-english.html

I use an automatic watering system every day and haven't lost a tree from it. However, I check my trees everyday to make sure they're getting the water they need, and I make sure that I observe the system in action at least once a week. If I notice a problem with a tree during my daily check (usually after work) I'll run the system to find/fix the issue. Since I use a very free draining soil, I make sure the system thoroughly soaks my trees. I can't really overwater.

I wish I had collected more trees when I was still living in Virginia. You will likely have access to lots of American hornbeam. They are probably one of the easiest trees to collect. They're very tolerant of the collection process, even if you're new and mess it up. The first trees I collected were American hornbeam and I did a terrible job. But they survived the collection process just fine and have grown robustly since.

Don't forget that there are lots of things to spend your money on in addition to trees. You'll need to buy soil components, pots, tools, something to put the trees on, fertilizer, etc. Don't overspend on trees and not have enough left to get all the other stuff.

Good luck!
 
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Here's a good article on soil, watering, and fertilizer and the balance between them. You can't really understand watering without knowing how your soil acts.

http://walterpallbonsaiarticles.blogspot.com/2010/06/feeding-substrate-and-watering-english.html

Thank you so much for the article. It was very helpful, and I think it clarified quite a few things.

So, I think I've realized a few things over the past few days. Perhaps you guys can make sure I'm at least on the right track.

1. Calm down. Take your time, and selectively choose the right stock to include in your yard. Too few is almost never a problem, too many is often a different story.

2. Based on #1, I have decided to stick with the three that I have: a black pine, an cork bark oak, and a japanese maple (from Home Depot, sorry guys). I would also like to get three others, but take my time in aquiring the right one. Patience is best. I would like to get: one chinese elm, one juniper (just because everyone is telling me to do it), and either one trident maple or one wild "caught". Does that sound reasonable? Basically going from the three I have now, to six within a few months.

3. I can't afford "official bonsai stock." So in acquiring the three others, I'd like to visit nursery distributors more. I havn't found anything in the past, but who knows. I'd also like to keep my eye on craigslist (havn't found anything yet) and ebay (please don't whip me) looking for very good, but discounted, material.

4. I had a very wrong understanding over soil. I was mixing garden soil with sand (to increase drainage) along with some perlite. I had no idea that bonsai was "soil" free. I need to repot my japanese maple this weekend if that's the case. I don't have a "sifter" and havn't found a place locally that sells "bonsai soil." Can you guys recommend a mixture that I can make at home, through stuff at the local Walmart or target? I know I'm going to get drastically different responses, but some input would be helpful. I don't know if I can get lava stones, pumice, or coconut peices (but I havn't really looked before). Maybe I should stop by the local Hydro shop, they might have some good stuff, right?

5. I think some of my "watering issues" might have been from the soil. Too much organic matter might have trapped too much water on some occasions, but not enough on others. Does that sound like it might have been a problem? I've avoided feeding up to this point, thinking they were getting the nutrients from the soil. When I switch mediums, I'll start feeding in the spring.

6. I'll look into a club. There are three within a two hour drive, so hopefully one of them would work. If only I can find the time to drive out there . . . lol.

7. Last one, sorry guys. I found some decent stock on ebay, is it cool to post links and ask suggestions, or is that not something that you do? Or are you all going to start out bidding me anyway? lol.

Thanks 1,000% for all the help. You have been so great!
 

rockm

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Be very careful about what you buy via Ebay. Only a few decent bonsai sellers on there. Avoid anyone that sells "bonsai seeds" Read the fine print in the ads. Some people use really nice pirated pics of bonsai, but say in the fine print you will get a "seedling" :rolleyes: Some stuff is vastly overpriced and some of it can be dead or dieing.:mad:

Affording "bonsai specific" stock is a matter of money management--You can buy three bad to mediocre pieces of stock--or save and buy ONE decent starter stock from a reputable bonsai seller. Of course this is something to keep in mind at beginning stages of getting into bonsai. Beginners usually kill about 90 percent of their first trees anyway learning to care for them. Sad, but true. I killed dozens of trees in my first five years or so. The initial learning curve for bonsai is very steep. Consider anything you buy now as expendable...:eek:

Soooo, I had to to it all over again, I'd spend some money on cheap stock up front, learn how to take care of it for a few years--including killing a few trees--THEN start buying actual bonsai stock..

FWIW, pines are a pain for beginners. They can't really take the abuse (overwatering in particular) and fuss that beginners give them. Elms are indestructible for outdoor trees, as are most ficus species for "indoor" trees.

Also FWIW, I would NOT try collecting from the wild -- at first anyway. Collecting trees (worthwhile trees beyond seedlings anyway) complicates things greatly. Collected trees require specific kinds of care depending on species, root mass, top reduction and other factors not the least of which is finding something to collect (which could require getting permission from landowners to dig it). All that goes far beyond basic care. If you are learning the basics, all those extra variables will frustrate you. Busting your rear end digging something up, only to kill it is a bummer (been there). If you're going to sweat and strain your back for something, you'd better be able to keep it alive or all that effort is for nothing.
 

Bill S

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Dude you have learned a lot in a couple of pages of thread, better than usuall for sure. :)
That hydro store could be just the (pardon the pun) joint.:cool: They will have good fertilizers too.

I think you get the soil part now too, much better anyway, Drystall is a product you may be able to find redily, as well as turface, go to a building supply store and get aquarium gravel sized sand blasting sand, pine/cedar bark mulch, equal parts of each with decent watering regime can do well for you.

Just use patience, and avoid the feeling that you need to work on them all the time, think one insult per growing period.

Worth it's weight in gold is this site, so much reading you will think you stayed at a Holiday Inn - http://www.bonsaitalk.com/lug/link_in_frame.php?link=11&c=59 go to the articles section, it's bonsai heaven on earth for information.
 

mcpesq817

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Here's another fantastic site for great tips:

http://www.bonsai4me.com/


One more thing - bonsai mostly involves "cutting down" larger stock, rather than growing out. I spent my first year buying lots of smaller sticks in pots, and have resorted to planting them in the yard or getting rid of them. Better to spend your money buying a decent "trunk", and then working on that.
 
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