Tips and tricks for “putting in the ground”

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Newly obsessed with bonsai. I just purchased a large number of trees (mostly juniper) from a local nursery that has gone out of business. I would love to let some of them develop while I practice on others and have seen many forum post responses to plant trees in the ground. I’ve read through some very interesting articles on planting on tile or boards but I am wondering if y’all might have some advice on other simple methods.

I live in 5a. I have a lot of space to plant in rich topsoil, I also have a section of gravel (former driveway with very compact gravel) that I would like to someday turn into a sort of juniper bonsai and succulents garden. Willing to put some money into buying additional gravel/soil amendments to improve the planting. Looking for advice/inspiration.

FYI cannot wait to attend my first workshop in a couple weeks!
 

leatherback

The Treedeemer
Messages
10,754
Reaction score
18,281
Location
Northern Germany
USDA Zone
7
Diving in headfirst huh?

My.main recommendation would be in the direction getting stock that is worth your effort: some junipers will beef up fast. Others less so. Some are prone to disease. If you are putting something in the ground for 5, 10 years, you better grow something that is special.

Grow things that are local to your climate, else you have winter challenges

Work the roots before planting. Make sure roots are not intertwined or circling before putting them into the ground.
 

penumbra

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,037
Reaction score
7,693
Location
Front Royal, VA
USDA Zone
6
I have a raised bed with amended topsail that I am growing out plants for 2 to 3 years. These are mostly younger or smaller plants and being in a raised bed enables me to survey them more easily. Larger and faster growing plants like maples , elms and such, I am planting in grow bags in the ground. This is not the same as the grow bags that are used for root pruning. If you are going to put them in bags in the ground make sure that the grow bag you choose was designed for in ground use. I used these types of bags over 20 years ago for nursery stock. Most people at that time thought they were a fad. I am using them again now to grow out pre bonsai stock.
 

Paulpash

Omono
Messages
1,948
Reaction score
5,173
Location
UK. Yorkshire
Grow location appropriate trees so Juniper and Pine in full sun, maples need more sheltered conditions. Do your homework on tree preferences. You can use Juniper & Pine as windbreak trees to protect more sensitive ones behind.

If you have the space plant 5-6ft apart. This will give the trees space to expand and you the room to monitor progress and dig without disturbing the others.

Learn about the basic principles of growth to produce a quality trunk, eg sacrifice branches and their use, initially planting your stock tree at an angle, how & where to cut to produce taper and movement. Certain trees should not have much or any scarring for quality, ie Japanese Beech, maple, stewartia whereas others you could get away with carving to disguise chops.

These are the basics - trunk building is a whole separate but related business to bonsai. I'd recommend reading this article too:


As a beginner I highly recommend reading all of the articles on Brent's site. Good luck - it's a great and rewarding experience building your own tree.
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Is there any other way than to jump into an obsession?

Thanks for the advice. Regarding quality material, most of these are Sabina ‘broadmoor’, I’m not sure about the variant but it seems like Sabina is a good material. The foliage and wood look very nice to my untrained eye. Most of these plants are a bit sparse or leggy (but when you’re buying 15-20gal junipers for $2, beggars can’t be choosers).

Thanks for the note on root prep, I suspect many of these will be pot bound to some extent.
 

Shibui

Masterpiece
Messages
4,008
Reaction score
7,735
Location
Yackandandah, Australia
USDA Zone
9?
I'll endorse root work before planting. Ground growing does not only increase trunk size. It also increases root size. Small ugly roots become thick ugly roots that really stand out and they will probably have fused with other nearby roots and be impossible to remove after a few years in the ground. Some years ago I planted some black pines in the grow beds. It was late in the season so rather than arranging the roots I just tipped them out of the plastic pots and planted as they were. A few years later when i dig those I found they all had fused root nebari exactly the same size and shape as the plastic pots they had come from - obviously with the same reverse taper the pots had.
While nebari is not considered really important for juniper bonsai it definitely looks better to have good looking roots on juniper bonsai.
Good root pruning and preparation is all that is needed. i do not use tiles, boards, etc. I know it is currently a fad but IMHO it is unnecessary. i believe I get as good or better results because I don't rely on random chance and tiles.

If you have the space plant 5-6ft apart. This will give the trees space to expand and you the room to monitor progress and dig without disturbing the others.
I plant trees much closer than this. It is near impossible to get a good look at how the trunks are really looking and lying on the ground to check lower trunks, etc properly is not for me. Can see enough with just a quick look, even when they are planted closer together. I also tend to dig all the trees at the same time. Roots are always cut short after digging so close planting is no problem. Even if some trees in a row are dug, cutting a few roots of the next tree is not the end of the world. Might even be valuable to force some closer feeders.
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Thanks for the article link, I can’t wait to delve deeper into the rest of the website. I find that my basic googling skills continue to bring up the same group of websites.
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
For those doing some root pruning/root management before planting in the ground: is it ok to do this now or should I be waiting until early spring and treat it more like a repotting? Again, I’m in 5a.
 

Shibui

Masterpiece
Messages
4,008
Reaction score
7,735
Location
Yackandandah, Australia
USDA Zone
9?
Even in my much warmer winter climate spring is the best time. You will probably find you'll need to trim a lot of roots to get nursery stock roots sorted out.
 

Brian Van Fleet

Pretty Fly for a Bonsai Guy
Messages
12,777
Reaction score
37,842
Location
B’ham, AL
USDA Zone
8A
4 tips:
1. Get the roots right first, spread them radially and on a single plane.
2. Don’t plant everything straight up. Plant trunks at sharp angles to get some interesting movement down low.
3. When you chop, chop low, much lower. Pick the spot, then go lower by another 50%.
4. Plant in a sunny area that is easy for you to access and water.
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
Messages
30,670
Reaction score
42,206
Location
Berwyn, Il
USDA Zone
6.2
Welcome to Crazy!

Sounds you have enough to plant a few now and see what happens.

The moon is good so they'll survive.

Sorce
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Thanks for the advice on planting at an angle.
Is this as important for junipers?
Most of mine seem to have trunks that are spreading and I was wondering if there are any tips for selecting or training these trunks to create a more upright tree shape. Most of the trunks are 3-4” in diameter so they are definitely too thick to bend...I think. I attached two pictures of one trunk that is fairly typical of what I have.
 

Attachments

  • 41ACD798-B714-44E9-ADD1-7F6136CE1A2C.jpeg
    41ACD798-B714-44E9-ADD1-7F6136CE1A2C.jpeg
    243.6 KB · Views: 30
  • 43CB8970-AF6C-4D17-8F42-20D1094F222C.jpeg
    43CB8970-AF6C-4D17-8F42-20D1094F222C.jpeg
    253.8 KB · Views: 29

Shibui

Masterpiece
Messages
4,008
Reaction score
7,735
Location
Yackandandah, Australia
USDA Zone
9?
Thanks for the advice on planting at an angle.
Is this as important for junipers?
Normally with younger stock it is important. We are not usually trying to grow telephone poles or mill logs.
Your trees are already quite big. Why put them in the ground? How thick do you want your bonsai trunks?
As you say, these trunks are already way too thick to be able to bend by normal means. there are advanced techniques but these already have good bends so you probably won't need more bends down low. Just work with the shapes you already have when designing your bonsai.
With junipers, if you want a more upright trunk just plant it at the desired angle next time you repot. Try to show the start of some roots but if some are buried deeper on one side of the trunk that is not considered a big fault with juniper bonsai.
Dead wood is common on junipers and juniper bonsai so when you have excess branches or trunks consider cutting longer and strip the remainder to create interesting dead wood areas.
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Fair point. Mostly I am trying to buy time with these trees before I start butchering them. I’ve been practicing on some smaller juniper material, but the larger ones are a bit overwhelming (but very inspiring) for me.

I guess I imagine some of these as having plenty of trunk to create big yamadori type deadwood, and although they are already pretty thick, they are not that big.
 

JonMarek

Seedling
Messages
15
Reaction score
7
Location
Spearfish, South Dakota
USDA Zone
5a
Welcome to Crazy!

Sounds you have enough to plant a few now and see what happens.

The moon is good so they'll survive.

Sorce
Could you refer me to your favorite moon charts? I’m having a hard time finding one that accurately accounts for zone 5a repotting schedules. Lol
 

Paulpash

Omono
Messages
1,948
Reaction score
5,173
Location
UK. Yorkshire
I did a progression thread for a Juniper I developed in the ground from a young plant. It might help. It was quite recent so maybe a page or 2 back.

FWIW to produce quality Juniper you have to be pretty decent at wiring. I'd work on this aspect if it needs improvement as a top priority before they come out of the ground.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom