(Several) Beginner Horticultural Questions

ThirdCoastBorn

Sapling
Messages
37
Reaction score
20
Location
Texas
USDA Zone
8B
Greetings everyone!

First of all, thank you for being on this forum -- I'm brand new to the bonsai world and have been reading/learning as much as I can. Between old BN forum posts, various other sites, and numerous library books however, there's been a lot to digest, often with differing opinions, so I've compiled a list of basic questions here. If forum rules are to split these up into separate posts, please let me know rather than booting me off :) I started this journey in earnest about three months ago.

tl;dr version of my current plant status is: ~10 nursery plants that I'm treating as pre-bonsai material to trunk thicken (in large containers, rent so cannot field-grow), four plants I bought at the local society auction (three already in bonsai pots, 1 in large pond basket), and my first tree (stereotypical purchase of a juniper by the side of the road, the only thing I've done 'right' with it is keep it alive for three years). I've also embarked on the seed route and have a few sprouts of various species. I will try to detail my inventory further somewhere in my profile.

1. I gather that over the last XYZ years (10-15?) the trend is to use 100% inorganic soils. I'm curious about WHY this has occurred relatively recently; have read the two resource documents, which I (somewhat) understand, but even 5-10 year books that I have still recommend varying proportions of organic/inorganic. It's hard for me to grasp why this wasn't realized earlier within the community. I live in zone 8B and while I currently can water multiple times a day if necessary, won't always be the case.

2. How closely should I follow 'calendar of care' type guidance here and in books, given that my area is likely two or even three months from its first frost and we usually only get ~10 nights hovering around 32F? Figure I can also always wrap them or bring inside if one comes early...Specifically,
-- Fertilizer: Whether I need to switch to liquid 0:10:10 now, or whether I can still use balanced liquid and/or pellets that contain nitrogen and trace, depending on the plant/pot.
-- Repotting: Whether I can/should repot some trees now to correct mistakes that I've already made over the summer? Mostly relating to soil choice, as my nursery stock is in mostly organic potting soil, with only some Napa 8822 mixed in. Some are also in plastic pots rather than terra cotta (cost-effectiveness). I'm worried about developing root rot over the winter, as some go 2-3 three days without needing water.\

3. Regarding placement, my back yard is (currently) shaded and west-facing. The front walkway gets only intermittent periods of direct morning/early afternoon sun. I was previously keeping most of my plants in the back on a tiered rack where the only direct sun was 3pm-7pm; I figured any direct levels were better than none, but was told otherwise at my first local society meeting given the TX heat. So a few weeks ago, I started placing them on top of a garden shed where they get early morning and early afternoon sun, and then moving the ones that I felt were perhaps too damp to also snag those last few hours.

-- Is it bad to move plants around so frequently within the course of a day? I'd keep them where they only get the early sun, but it's not somewhere convenient for enjoyment and inspection.

Thank you in advance for your perspectives, I have many others 'smaller' questions, but will hold off for the time being :)
 

Wires_Guy_wires

Masterpiece
Messages
2,686
Reaction score
3,866
Location
Netherlands
1. Why now? Because people have found it to be fool proof through experience. If every plant is dear to you, it's best to play safe. And nowadays we have the internet at our fingertips so no death is attributed to 'fate' or 'it just happened' or 'I don't know why, it was fine yesterday'. Every issue can be answered and countered. It is best to fix the issues on places where we can't see them like the roots, before they start. By providing a mixture that provides water retentive capabilities, aeration capabilities and can hold nutrients.

2. Depending on your skill level, knowledge and ability to provide after care, the calender is either something to hold very close, or something to let go completely. This all depends, everything depends. You're going to hear that a lot in the bonsai world.
Do you need to switch to 0:10:10? I think personally nobody ever should. But some people do it and they have their reasons. It depends.
Can you repot trees now? If they show that they're having a hard time, then yes. Otherwise, no. See? It depends.

3. Is it bad to move plants around frequently? Yes, it is. Not that it's going to kill them, but the constant change of environment can give them a hard time. We wouldn't want to give them a hard time. It's not just the sun, it's also the localized micro-climate they adjust to. The humidity, the rainfall, the wind. It's best to meet in the middle, but full sun plants like pines and junipers prefer full sun. If you can't provide that, then don't get those types of plants. Most deciduous species tend to be fine with just a few hours of direct sunlight. Again, here too, it depends. Moving plants because they're too damp, might mean you're just watering them too much. They don't have to dry out every day either.

What's best for beginners I think, is to try and grasp the logic behind why people do things. It doesn't have to be spot on immediately (like you mixing nappa in potting soil), but as long as your knowledge is evolving and expanding, there's advancement! Within a few months of reading and asking questions, I think you'll be settled in pretty well.
 

MattE

Shohin
Messages
307
Reaction score
212
Location
Alberta Canada
USDA Zone
3b
quick question im gonna ask in this thread since it newbie questions and im also a newbie, when buying lights for winter time, do you recommend full spectrum grow lights . or just a cool white based light ?
 

Wires_Guy_wires

Masterpiece
Messages
2,686
Reaction score
3,866
Location
Netherlands
quick question im gonna ask in this thread since it newbie questions and im also a newbie, when buying lights for winter time, do you recommend full spectrum grow lights . or just a cool white based light ?
I recommend full spectrum, but for my own indoor garden I have cool white LED's hooked up. They seem to do better than I would have expected. Internodes stay short, foliage is happy and green. I have 3 metres of LED crammed above a 60x60cm floor space. Maybe that's why it works.
But some plants do really need that dormancy. And indoor growing is a hobby by itself; there's a lot more to it than just lighting.
 

0soyoung

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,435
Reaction score
10,395
Location
Anacortes, WA (AHS heat zone 1)
USDA Zone
8b
A few fundamental tidbits to keep in mind, @ThirdCoastBorn.
  • the sun has the same intensity in the morning as in the afternoon
    • sunlight can raise the temperature of your potted plants above the ambient temperature.
  • relative humidity tends to decline as the air heats up through any given day
    • transpiration (the loss of water from the foliage) increases with decreasing relative humidity - this is why the locals advise you that afternoon sun is bad
    • water also evaporates from the surface of the soil/substrate at a higher rate the lower the relative humidity.
  • roots strop growing by the time their temperature reaches 95F (this can be another reason for your local 'morning sun' advice).
    • stick a simple meat thermometer probe in your pots, among the roots and near the pot wall. See what the temperatures are instead of guessing/imagining. Do what ever it takes to keep the root temperature down appropriately.
      • water has a huge heat capacity, hence it keeps the soil temp down - water in the afternoons, maybe.
      • shade the pots, say, by covering them (and even the soil) with a light colored towel (maybe even dampened as evaporation from it will lower its temperature and the pot beneath - until it dries out, of course)
  • roots must get air (oxygen specifically) to do what they do; they also must be damp; else they die and so does your plant
 

Leo in N E Illinois

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
7,468
Reaction score
13,551
Location
on the IL-WI border, a mile from ''da Lake''
USDA Zone
5b
The "current fad" of using all inorganic soils is inorganic in conjunction with organics cake type fertilizer. Within the year of repotting the cake type fertilizer have added a significant amount of organics to what is in the pot.

If you use only chemical fertilizer, you should have some organics in your potting mix.

Pines prefer more inorganic mixes, because of the better drainage. Deciduous tend to like more water retention, and many really prefer some organics in their mix.

At least that's my opinion.
 

Anthony

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,208
Reaction score
7,977
Location
West Indies [ Caribbean ]
USDA Zone
13
Also Leo,

one could add on, when you use teabags to hold the organic cakes,
[ High level hydroponics ? ]
One might change the equation to a negative.
But some also add fish emulsion,
So some organic stuff is filtering

Mr.Wikle also recorded a basement with lows of 64 plus deg.F
On our side that temperature range or weaker winter light,
might bring on dormancy for say -Sageretia or Fukien or Southern Ulmus
or Serissa s. [ save for the Fukien tea [ zone 9 ] all the others are zone 7 ]
Good Day
Anthony

Our difference to Hydroponics - 5 mm silica based gravel -
is the addition of aged compost.
 
Top Bottom