Thoughts on ferts

Gustavo Martins

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I've been doing some reading I see many people using different NPK ratios depending on the season/tree state, etc... For instance, some say feed a high N during growing season and replace by a low N (e.g. NPK = 0-10-10) later in the season (for growing trees). Mature trees may receive a low N most of the time I suppose to control growth.

The way a see things, all this seems a bit... strange.

1. Liebig's Law of the minimum:
The Law states that the nutrient in least supply relative to the plant’s requirement will limit the plant’s growth. Although this may not be true in a strict sense as plants do have some ways to compensate, it sure does have an effect (Agren et al. 2012). As such, using a i.e. 0-10-10 will mean that no PK will be used as the plant is limited by N. So this goes against the use of specific ratios.

2. In the planted tank community, many (including myself) stand by a method called Estimative Index. This index is a simple way to make sure that all the nutrients are supplied at a level that is above the requirements of plants and thus they are never the limiting factor. To control the build up of nutrients, at least 50% of the water of the tank should be replaced every week. In bonsai, where many people use free-draining inorganic substratum, nutrient build-up should not be a problem so I suppose one could also use the same rationale of supplying every little nutrient by excess.

3. Plants need three things (other than water) to grow: Light, CO2 and nutrients. Light is by far the most important followed close by CO2. Nutrients are the least important for sure. CO2 in the atmosphere is not limiting and it is difficult to control (unlike in planted tanks where one needs to inject CO2 because it is limiting in water). However, light can be controlled (careful selection of position, using sun-cloth, etc.). So why is it that people use nutrients to limit the growth of, say, mature bonsai when this is the least important and limiting of the three (light, CO2, nutrients). It should be much mor effective to control the light (e.g. either intensity or duration).

I'd like to hear your thoughts on these

References:
A ̊gren GI, Wetterstedt JAM, Billberger MFK (2002)Nutrient limitation on terrestrial plant growth – modeling the interaction between nitrogen and phosphorus. New Phytologist 194:953-960.
 

sorce

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I never search media....but I found this there the other day.
simple-plant-deficiency-guide.png

I thought, alright, good to go, I got none of that really going on!

So random applications of Chem fert have been working!

But still I am switching to all organic this year.

This thread will continue to be confusing.

So why is it that people use nutrients to limit the growth of, say, mature bonsai when this is the least important and limiting of the three (light, CO2, nutrients).
This is the most important thing that needs addressing IMO.

We can Not control light without changing what we are trying to achieve...
Green leaves, short internodes, health.

Without a greenhouse in a vacuum, we can Not control C02...but I breath on my trees intentionally when pondering them!

Which leaves us with the only control in our hands.

To keep from confusion, albeit with a little more legwork....

Find a guy in a similar climate, with similar trees, that are nice to you, and do exactly what they do!

Or you will spend a lot of good tree think time on this roundabout subject.

For instance....
Anthony uses a lawn fert with 30N.
BVF uses fish and poo cakes.
And Walter Pall does the heavy dose of cheap chem.

And they all have excellent trees!

Sorce
 

Gustavo Martins

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I never search media....but I found this there the other day.
I thought, alright, good to go, I got none of that really going on!
So random applications of Chem fert have been working!
But still I am switching to all organic this year.
This thread will continue to be confusing.
Sure. Lack of nutrients is bad. Hence, why limit them?

organic vs inorganic. Well, nutrients (N, P, K, Mg, etc.) are inorganic. I cannot see why there would be a difference really. To me, inorganic = more control and that's it. But as I say above (and below), nutrients are the least important compared to light and carbon.

This is the most important thing that needs addressing IMO.

We can Not control light without changing what we are trying to achieve...
Green leaves, short internodes, health.
I do not have experience to tackle this, but I would think that there are factors other than light alone that control greening of leaves, internode length, etc... Otherwise, plants on shade would all be badly ill, no green and with long internodes. For instance, ethylehe gas controls elongation. So, reducing the air circulation around the plant should promote the build up of ethylene causing shorter internode, regardless of the light. Why are leaves closer the trunk generally smaller? It is because they get less light, or because the amount of leaves around it reduce air-circulation promoting ethylene build up there? Does anyone ever tested this?




Or you will spend a lot of good tree think time on this roundabout subject.

For instance....
Anthony uses a lawn fert with 30N.
BVF uses fish and poo cakes.
And Walter Pall does the heavy dose of cheap chem.

And they all have excellent trees!
Exactly. No matter what they use, and they all use different approaches, the end result is the same = excellent trees. What does this mean? It just supports the idea that nutrients have little influence. This is because light and carbon are the really macronutrients. All others are measured in ppm's.

I think that of all the above, Walter Pall is the one that thinks more or less like me. Throw everything at the trees and let them decide what they need to uptake. Provide everything so that growth is not limited. Prevent nutrient build-up through frequent watering and using free-draining, non-retentive, substratum.

I'm a beginner in bonsai, so I am still grasping the horticultural aspect of it. However, as in many other areas (planted tanks, etc), there seems to be so much misinformation and myths that makes someone starting really struggling to get a honest answer. I suspect that a lot if this stems from anecdotal evidence which lacks any scientific support.

Anyways, I'd like to hear the thoughts of others.
 

sorce

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Sure. Lack of nutrients is bad. Hence, why limit them?

organic vs inorganic. Well, nutrients (N, P, K, Mg, etc.) are inorganic. I cannot see why there would be a difference really. To me, inorganic = more control and that's it. But as I say above (and below), nutrients are the least important compared to light and carbon.



I do not have experience to tackle this, but I would think that there are factors other than light alone that control greening of leaves, internode length, etc... Otherwise, plants on shade would all be badly ill, no green and with long internodes. For instance, ethylehe gas controls elongation. So, reducing the air circulation around the plant should promote the build up of ethylene causing shorter internode, regardless of the light. Why are leaves closer the trunk generally smaller? It is because they get less light, or because the amount of leaves around it reduce air-circulation promoting ethylene build up there? Does anyone ever tested this?





Exactly. No matter what they use, and they all use different approaches, the end result is the same = excellent trees. What does this mean? It just supports the idea that nutrients have little influence. This is because light and carbon are the really macronutrients. All others are measured in ppm's.

I think that of all the above, Walter Pall is the one that thinks more or less like me. Throw everything at the trees and let them decide what they need to uptake. Provide everything so that growth is not limited. Prevent nutrient build-up through frequent watering and using free-draining, non-retentive, substratum.

I'm a beginner in bonsai, so I am still grasping the horticultural aspect of it. However, as in many other areas (planted tanks, etc), there seems to be so much misinformation and myths that makes someone starting really struggling to get a honest answer. I suspect that a lot if this stems from anecdotal evidence which lacks any scientific support.

Anyways, I'd like to hear the thoughts of others.
Love button!

Man!

I think you might be onto something....

And these people almost had me convinced that we know everything already!

I gotta come back and read everything!

But you got my attention.

Flying in the face of conventional wisdom does that for me!

So far, I'm on your side with any arguments that come this way!

Bravo!

Sorce
 

GrimLore

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I almost got onboard here and decided to opt out, have fun all! And a good weekend!

Grimmy
 

Waltron

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Jack Wickle recommends a low dose with every watering. there are variables, of course, here is a tid bit from a great article he wrote.

http://www.fukubonsai.com/2b2a2a.html

FERTILIZER. Of course trees do not rely on fertilizers, so-called "plant foods," as energy sources. Their energy, held in the tree as carbohydrate, comes directly from the sun. Typically soil, decomposing organic matter and fertilizer are the sources for plants of some 20 mineral elements (nutrient elements) now considered essential to their health. Use of soil-less mixes to grow our bonsai makes regular fertilizer application essential.

My indoor fertilizing practice has been intentionally kept simple. I have used commercial fertilizers such as Miracid, Miraclegro, Peters 20-20-20 or Rapid-gro in very dilute solution applied almost every watering year around. When in a big hurry, an application may be skipped. This fertilizer solution is made up five gallons at a time by adding one level teaspoon of fertilizer to five gallons of water; so the concentration is one-fifth teaspoon per gallon.

After watering well, some of this weak fertilizer solution is run through the soil. So, as stated earlier, this process leaches and fertilizes at the same time. One caution. Experience shows that even this weak solution can do a lot of damage to some trees when applied on dry soil. Make sure you water first then apply the fertilizer. However, fertilizing with this weak solution can be done immediately after watering without damage.

I do not fertilize newly potted or repotted trees until they begin to produce new foliage. I also withhold fertilizer from sick trees since it seems to do more harm than good.

GROWING MEDIUM. Most people who persist as bonsai growers agree that choice of soil mix, "growing medium" if you prefer, is very important. But then confusion arises. Beyond the general principles that wonderful garden soil is inadequate in a pot and high porosity coupled with good moisture retention are desirable, we don't agree on what to do.

A bonsai growing doctor tells me that in medicine when many different remedies are being used in treating a problem you can be sure none of them work well. Makes one think.
 

GrimLore

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Same here. My thoughts on ferts are the same as Walter Palls.
Same, and if people argue with him and call him crazy there is certainly no point in me getting in arguments. All I can say is he has solid advice and methods from my first hand experience.

Grimmy
 

Anthony

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Gustavo,

all we did was simplify the soil mix, inorganic [ 1 or 2 types ] at 5 mm and aged compost for less of the NPK but more for micronutrients,
since we also use weeds, which are supposed to collect micro-nutrients.

Remember the Miracle grow stuff is used at 1/3 strength and into a moist soil.
The effect [ under full sun and some breeze during our dry season and early wet season - January to July /August - rain takes over ]
is deep green leaves and slow even growth with shoots that are not insect tasty.

The compost also represents at around 1/3 by volume or less, what would happen in nature.

Recent readings are also saying roots also produce chemicals that can attract the organisms they need for efficient use
of oxides as well as the electrical to attract the oxide nutrients.

Part of the argument put forward is that the micro organisms, consume oxides as well. So if the NPK is added in balance the
roots and organisms live in harmony.
Readings from American university field stations show 12 N as being a staple for Conifers and it seems to work for our local
trees as well.

We also observe the rest period of Christmas to Mid February, that our trees go through and wait for a month to begin any
type of fertiliser programme after a repot.

I can safely say some 38 years or so later, it seems to work. As we don't use insecticide or fungicide.
Though we do have a grasshopper and leaf cutting ant period.
The bonsai soil still supports pill bugs, the occasional worm and millipedes. In fact we do collect the millipede refuse for
use on the mostly silica based gravel soils of the ficus and other trees.

Our 30 year check showed also no thicken roots, just fine roots, and this was also on the Tamarind which is an aggressive
grower.

The simplifying of the soil and hand watering allows the mind to focus on the Art bit as well as allowing ideas to form about
other things naturally. So images of paintings to come form in the quietened mind of my brother-in-law K as well as designs
for rings, architecture, landscape and so on.
The trees are mostly kept at a generalised shape with a drawn design to control the idea, no need to try and remember
everything, just where to find it.

We also do not bare root our trees at repotting time, something I see being done frequently.
For us.
The pot bound plant is lifted out and depending on what the tree needs say an 1" [ 2.5 cm ] is cut on all sides and underneath.
Then the core that is left is lightly raked to 1/2 " [ 1.25 cm ] for tangled roots,if any they are cut and then the tree is repotted.
A week of bright light and then back into the sun, from early morning.

What we also suspect is happening is too much use of hoses, and over doses of fertiliser, too frequently and too strong.
Eventually, with no rest and the bare rooting, heavy fertiliser the tree dies, but after 2 or 3 years.
Hope this helps.
Good Day
Anthony
 

chansen

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I'd like to hear your thoughts on these
In general, sure, don't limit nutrients as a way to stunt growth. Unless you have to.

In bonsai, there are lots of variables that are not normal in relation to plants/trees in the ground. So I limit nutrients at certain times, with certain species and I'm trying to achieve a certain result. For example, when decandling japanese black pine. You don't starve the tree, but you remove nitrogen at a specific time in relation to when you remove the candles, and put the fertilizer back on when the new growth has reached a certain point.

So my thought is, starving the tree isn't a good idea. But temporarily removing fertilizer from a tree is fine. It's something I can easily control and get the result I want without endangering the health of the tree. While trying to control the various gas compounds around a branch sounds nice (and may well be effective), as an example, it's a lot hard to measure and control in my backyard.
 

Gustavo Martins

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Jack Wickle recommends a low dose with every watering. there are variables, of course, here is a tid bit from a great article he wrote.

http://www.fukubonsai.com/2b2a2a.html

FERTILIZER. Of course trees do not rely on fertilizers, so-called "plant foods," as energy sources. Their energy, held in the tree as carbohydrate, comes directly from the sun. Typically soil, decomposing organic matter and fertilizer are the sources for plants of some 20 mineral elements (nutrient elements) now considered essential to their health. Use of soil-less mixes to grow our bonsai makes regular fertilizer application essential.

My indoor fertilizing practice has been intentionally kept simple. I have used commercial fertilizers such as Miracid, Miraclegro, Peters 20-20-20 or Rapid-gro in very dilute solution applied almost every watering year around. When in a big hurry, an application may be skipped. This fertilizer solution is made up five gallons at a time by adding one level teaspoon of fertilizer to five gallons of water; so the concentration is one-fifth teaspoon per gallon.

After watering well, some of this weak fertilizer solution is run through the soil. So, as stated earlier, this process leaches and fertilizes at the same time. One caution. Experience shows that even this weak solution can do a lot of damage to some trees when applied on dry soil. Make sure you water first then apply the fertilizer. However, fertilizing with this weak solution can be done immediately after watering without damage.

I do not fertilize newly potted or repotted trees until they begin to produce new foliage. I also withhold fertilizer from sick trees since it seems to do more harm than good.

GROWING MEDIUM. Most people who persist as bonsai growers agree that choice of soil mix, "growing medium" if you prefer, is very important. But then confusion arises. Beyond the general principles that wonderful garden soil is inadequate in a pot and high porosity coupled with good moisture retention are desirable, we don't agree on what to do.

A bonsai growing doctor tells me that in medicine when many different remedies are being used in treating a problem you can be sure none of them work well. Makes one think.
I suppose that in the end of the day this is the same rationale I was talking about: Providing nutrients ad libidum. Sure, he only uses small doses, but he does it every single day. I am sure that the small dose is enough to cover all the tree requirements for that day.
 

Gustavo Martins

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@Anthony
Yeah I see. keep it simple. If it works for you that's great. I like that as well. But I am only starting. And, having a scientific background, I do tend to question things. Before embracing the aesthetics I must first dominate the horticultural side of growing bonsai. You know: keeping the tree alive, healthy and growing. I need this to become my second nature so I can set my mind free for the 'art'. And, I just can't do something because everyone says I should. You know, there was once a time when everyone would say that the sun revolves around the Earth. It's not a life or death thing I know, but I want to understand what's behind each option so I can make my own mind. Hell, in the end, I may find myself doing as everyone else :)

I'm now going to tell you something I did in a planted tank I had. I was keeping lots of plants and some shrimp and I was also using a lot of ferts. Many people said that I should not use as many ferts cause that would mess with the shrimp. And I said. Ok I am going to experiment. I dumped over 100 ppm of N in the tank (the normal concentration would be 2-3 ppm every other day). Do you know what happen? Nothing. Shrimp kept going as usual. Plants as well, as they were already receiving nutrients by excess. So it was only a waste of ferts. How does that translate to bonsai? I don't know ;)
 
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Gustavo Martins

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For example, when decandling japanese black pine. You don't starve the tree, but you remove nitrogen at a specific time in relation to when you remove the candles, and put the fertilizer back on when the new growth has reached a certain point.
But... according the Liebig's Law of the minimum, if you remove N, you are depriving the tree from all the other nutrients as well. It's a stoichiometric thing. So, in theory, there's no need to keep giving the tree the other nutrients (PK). Just stop using ferts at all. The result should be the same.
 

Gustavo Martins

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@quietobserver
I just don't get the early... early in the morning? why?

thanks for the article. I think that what Walter Pall writes in that article makes a lot of sense. And, to be honest, it makes life easy - no need to think much. The only downside would be the waste of nutrients that are flushed away... I guess.
 
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@quietobserver
I just don't get the early... early in the morning? why?

thanks for the article. I think that what Walter Pall writes in that article makes a lot of sense. And, to be honest, it makes life easy - no need to think much. The only downside would be the waste of nutrients that are flushed away... I guess.
Apologies Gustavo it's a figure of speech, early & often. As you've said, in well draining bonsai soil excess nutrients just wash away so what's to lose if one overfertilizes.
 

chansen

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But... according the Liebig's Law of the minimum, if you remove N, you are depriving the tree from all the other nutrients as well. It's a stoichiometric thing. So, in theory, there's no need to keep giving the tree the other nutrients (PK). Just stop using ferts at all. The result should be the same.
You're right, I misspoke. I remove all fertilizer in that case, not just the nitrogen. I always use a balanced fertilizer, when I use it.
 

Anthony

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We tend to also think about too much fertiliser and what it does to the structure of the plant.
Fast grown wood is also good food for termites, even if the wood is naturally toxic to pests.
Example - our local cedrula [ called cedar ] is a medium hard lumber. Used for making bee hives
and supers.

Bought a batch of lumber [ cedar ] from our Northen Range, rainfall well over 100 " [ 254 cm ]
and the wood was very spongy, soft. Termites had a feast.
So my response to your shrimp would be, what was the internal like, lifespan etc.

Good to see you have the curious mind. We do tests continuously. Using what is called the Ball
Bearing Principle, freely draining, with fresh O2, is what our soils are built on.
As I have mentioned before, soils are tested as 3 mm glass spheres, 12 mm marbles, 12mm or so Leca
fired clay [ hydroponics ] hand rolled earthenware spheres --------- the only constant is the
aged compost.
All support life easily and with many different types of trees / shrubs.

This is also why you see me pleading for mother plants and not to experiment on them. Do so
on cuttings / seeds and learn to keep them healthy.
Take time to experiment.

Something else we watch.
When volcanoes erupt, and coat land with lava, ash etc flows, the vegetation that follows has evolved
to handle, alkalies and alkalines /sulphates etc.
If you take this material and use it with other than the primary vegetation, what happens to those plants?

This is why we are lucky our gravel is silica, with very minor ingredients.
We tested the use of Canadian granite [ or basalt ] the acid type trees didn't like the inorganic material
at all.
Trees from our Northern range live in a - rotten rock - with clay soil. They do poorly in our rest of island
covering of clay or simple peatmoss / perlite mixes.
Even the seeds grown in our soil mix turns yellow.

So we wonder if all those volcanic soil mixes are actually causing problems for other than Pines etc.

Good luck with your experiments and research ----------- learning.
Good Day
Anthony
 

sorce

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tend to question things. Before embracing the aesthetics I must first dominate the horticultural side of growing bonsai. You know: keeping the tree alive, healthy and growing. I need this to become my second nature so I can set my mind free for the 'art'.
Bonsai would still "suck" if it wasn't for this attitude...lol I should have left it artitude!

Walter Pall is the one that thinks more or less like me.
I agree....

However......

I have noted, not scientifically researched, that organic fert makes things grow better.

Not arguing with Walter....

But seriously questioning the integrity of the Chemical Ferts I have used.
The downfalls of unusable Urea based N.
Etc...

Or even, (because another scientist has written) the temperatures at which the quickly flushed Chems get used.

Solid organics in the soil means availability to the plant at any time of day, so when the temperature reaches a point they can access it, it is there.

And the most unscientific earthboy observation.
Fish and chicken shit smells like it grows things better than piss.

Chemical....

It's a harsh WORD!

To earth.

Sorce
 

Gustavo Martins

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We tend to also think about too much fertiliser and what it does to the structure of the plant.
Fast grown wood is also good food for termites, even if the wood is naturally toxic to pests.
Example - our local cedrula [ called cedar ] is a medium hard lumber. Used for making bee hives
and supers.

Bought a batch of lumber [ cedar ] from our Northen Range, rainfall well over 100 " [ 254 cm ]
and the wood was very spongy, soft. Termites had a feast.
So my response to your shrimp would be, what was the internal like, lifespan etc.
Not sure it affected any of the population dynamics of the shrimp. I did not measure anything. What I know is that they kept alive and reproducing.

However......

I have noted, not scientifically researched, that organic fert makes things grow better.

Not arguing with Walter....

But seriously questioning the integrity of the Chemical Ferts I have used.
The downfalls of unusable Urea based N.
Etc...

Or even, (because another scientist has written) the temperatures at which the quickly flushed Chems get used.

Solid organics in the soil means availability to the plant at any time of day, so when the temperature reaches a point they can access it, it is there.

And the most unscientific earthboy observation.
Fish and chicken shit smells like it grows things better than piss.

Chemical....

It's a harsh WORD!

To earth.

Sorce
If it's working for you, just use it then. Yes N can be found in many forms and not all are readily or as easily taken up by plants. I think it is Ammonia they like the best. Although I'm pretty sure that most chemical ferts are using nitrate (KNO3) as a source of N (and K).

Very easy to make your own ferts:

for Liquid solution
33g Potassium Nitrate (KNO3)
7.2g Monopotassium Phosphate (KH2PO4)
250 ml of water (It is preferable to make up the solutions in RO water or deionised water, but tap water can be used if need be)

This is your stock, highly concentrated solution.
Dilute 5 ml of the stock for each 50 L of water (for watering the trees).
Water with this 3 x a week.
Each time you water you add 8ppm of nitrate and 2ppm of phosphate

If you want to dilute the salts directly on the 'watering water' instead use roughly this:

40-80 litres of water water

1/8 tsp KNO3
1/32 tsp KH2PO4

80-150 litres
1/4 tsp KNO3
1/16 tsp KH2PO4

150-225 litres
1/2 tsp KNO3
1/8 tsp KH2PO4

225-350 litres
3/4 tsp KNO3
3/16 tsp KH2PO4

350-500 litres
1 1/2 tsp KNO3
1/2 tsp KH2PO4

You can also buy a trace element mix and do a separate fert for micronutrients.
 

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