Dallas Bonsai advice on fall fertilizing

Thank you Elaine for forwarding the Sept. e-news from Dallas Bonsai.  At our last meeting members discussed their personal fall fertilizer regimes. Since this article addresses the same topic we’ve posted it here for your reading pleasure.

Here’s a link to the full e-news.  Below is an except regarding fall / winter preparation:

Well, it’s that time again – Winter! Old Jack Frost will be blowing all over the US soon.

There are two things you should be thinking right now: location and fertilizer

For outdoor varieties, like deciduous maples, elms, etc. you have 3 options: leave them where they are; bury them, pot and all, in the ground; or move them to the garage or a cold room that is insulated from extremely low temperatures. If you have quality Japanese pots, and you live in a temperate climate, then you can most likely leave them outside where they are. If you expect a lot of snowfall and freezing temperatures, then you can either bury them in the ground pot and all, or bring them inside. By burying them in the ground, you are utilizing the grounds ability to retain heat. The ground will not freeze as fast, or as deep as the soil in an exposed plant in a pot will. Inside a garage is a good alternative for your plants, but there is usually not a lot of light in garages. True, the plants will be in a dormant, to semi-dormant state and will not use a lot of light, but some varieties still track photoperiod, or length of the day to know when to come out and start growing again in spring.

As to fertilizer, you should tattoo this on your arm if you need to because as long as you grow bonsai you must always remember: six (6) weeks before the first frost, you should start giving your bonsai 0-10-10 fertilizer. The low nitrogen helps the plant focus on strengthening the roots during the winter and prepares it for nice quality growth in the spring. This is an absolute must for winterizing regardless of the variety. I do it with tropical’s too because during the winter, the tropical’s aren’t going to be growing much, there isn’t enough light. So all you are essentially trying to do is keep them happy enough so all the leaves don’t fall off. Again, you need humidity to make sure of that.

So remember, start fertilizing your bonsai now with 0-10-10 and prepare a place to move them, or identify what exactly you are going to do with them over the winter. They don’t need much over the winter, just your protection. If you take care of them, they will pay you back in the spring with lush foliage and fantastic growth – for a bonsai. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Fred Meyer

Sept. Meeting info

Greetings Bonsai People………it is time for our fall schedule to begin.

Please plan to attend the next meeting at Eastwood Baptist Church

Thursday,  September 18,  at 7 PM.

Discussing our trees is always a good jumping off point so do plan to bring one of your specimens.

As always program suggestions are welcome AND the library (only two boxes) is looking for a new home.

hope you can be there.


August meeting canceled

NOTE: the Aug. meeting has been canceled. Hope everyone is having fun and staying cool!

Next Cascade Bonsai Meeting is Thursday, Sept., 18 p.m. at Eastwood Baptist.

Visitors, please refer to our events page for directions.

New source for Akadama replacement medium.

Some of our members have been experimenting with using cat litter as a replacement for Akadama. The  information below was found on Harry Harrington’s Bonsai4Me website and seems  useful information for those heading down this road. If anyone else in the club has comments please leave them so we can continue to experiment with these mediums.

Info from bonsai4me

Akadama, Turface and Seramis are among the most popular high quality (inorganic) soil components available in which to plant your bonsai. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to source and are expensive particularly if you have many large trees to repot, have to buy by mail order or just require a small quantity for a small number of trees.

These soil components are all (basically) clay granules that have been fired/heated to create small pellets or granules that are water retentive, extremely well-draining and are stable, that is they will not breakdown over the course of the year.

Some cat litter products are exactly this; fired clay granules. Originally, a knowledgeable fellow enthusiast who has been using it as a bonsai soil for the past decade introduced me to using clay granules intended as cat litter a number of years ago. I have been planting all of my bonsai in this particular brand of cat litter for a number of years now and it has proved to be an excellent material that I would now comfortably recommend as being superior to Akadama and Seramis.

As time has gone on since first writing this article around 2004, I have since heard from many enthusiasts who have switched to Tescos Low Dust Lightweight and a number of other similar (diatomaceous earth/diatomite) products with great success.

United States brands:

1st reference:

NapaBryan Russ has been practicing bonsai for 3 years now and says he has tried many different types of American-brand cat litter’s with no luck. However, Bryan says after a lot of research into diatomaceous earth “it lead me to contact a mineral mine in Nevada and I found out that NAPA auto parts sells their freshwater diatomaceous earth as an oil absorber.  It is 100% Diatomaceous earth and is sold under the NAPA store brand name and comes in a 25 lb bags. It is around 8$ per bag and works awesome!! Make sure to get the 25 lb bag and double check the back of the bag and make sure it says diatomaceous earth in the small print.

NAPA Auto Parts stores are all over the US and anyone should be relatively close to one. Bryan goes on to say “the murky water that is left after one initially rinses the diatomaceous earth for the first time is actually a mechanical pesticide. I spray the liquid on my trees if they get aphids and the aphids are gone the next day. The sharp microscopic edges of the Diatoms cut through the exoskeleton of the insect causing them to dry out and die.”

2nd reference:

Though not diatomite exactly, another very similar product that I have heard being used in the past in the US is ‘Dri-Zit’ or ‘Hi-Dri’. Cory J. has e-mailed to say he has ‘found a very good akadama substitute in the US; it’s called Hi-dri, and you can get a 40 pound bag at Carquest Auto Parts for about 8 bucks. It’s the same thing as Dri-zit, which they unfortunately don’t make any more.’ A quick search on Google shows that a large number of enthusiasts have found this product to be a very viable soil for bonsai with the same qualities as the cat litter I am using.

Here is a link to Mr. Harrington’s website where is discusses this topic.

July 17 meeting topics

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 17th at 7 PM.

Please bring a plant to discuss, a topic you want to know about, or a summer adventure to a bonsai event.  You never know when a new person will be there.

Hope to see you there!