Author Topic: Bare rooting conifers  (Read 3931 times)

Charles Willis

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Bare rooting conifers
« on: March 07, 2013, 12:02 PM »
Routinely the advice is given with conifers only to change 1/3 or 1/2 the soil at a time and not to bare root it. Is this just because of the mycorrhizae being present in the soil? I've been planning on getting some junipers this spring (if it ever gets here). I am going to bare root them, repot them into bonsai soil without much root reduction if possible, and treat them with a product containing mycorrhizae. One of the guys at my club said he bare roots all of his pines and applies mycorrhizae to them. On paper this sounds like a perfect plan, but I figured I'd get some opinions.
 

Adam

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 04:21 PM »
In my (albeit amateur) experience I've found that junipers don't mind being bare rooted too much. The age of the tree is a big factor for how resilient it is, meaning, that younger trees can often take more abuse without having their overall health compromised. If you're talking about some 200 year old Kichou Bonsai, you might have to take things more carefully.

If you're going to be working with nursery stock, I have noticed that if the tree is severely root bound it can get stressed if you have to be really aggressive breaking that apart. This can set you back years just giving the tree time to recover, or the tree can straight die on you. In such cases, the technique of simply sawing the root ball in half, loosening what's left, then planting it into a much larger container, around 3 to 4 times bigger than the original one, is a good strategy. The tree will loosen itself up to some extent, and you can go back in as soon as a year later and do a little more work. If the tree is on the younger side, and you get it to produce vigorous roots, I'd say it's better to work the roots frequently than to let it get too root bound.

I think an important thing to think about is whether there is any drastic advantage rushing your trees into being planted in "bonsai soil." If you're doing it just because that's "what you do with bonsai," and you don't want to look like an amateur with your trees still in potting soil, then you might want to rethink things. Maybe you should change the task at hand from "bare rooting my tree and replacing all the soil with a bonsai mix," to, "creating the optimal root system for my tree." If step 1 for you is bare rooting the tree and replacing all the soil with bonsai mix, then go for it. I'd say that adding mycorrhizae when you repot is working toward the goal of creating the optimal root system for your trees, that's for sure.
 

Adair M

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2013, 09:58 PM »
Adam,

I have to respectfully disagree with almost everything you stated in your post.

The reason to use bonsai soil is to optimize root growth.  Inorganic, loose soil allows for good root structure.  We fertilize with organic fertilizer, so we do not depend upon the soil to provide nutrients.  We also water often, so we do not depend upon the soil to hold a lot of water.  Bonsai soil allows the tree to attain optimum health, given that we also attend to it's nutrients and water needs.

Also, there is no advantage to overpotting a tree.  The soil that has no roots may stay too wet.  The soil that has roots may dry out, but you would never know because the rootless soil is still moist.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2013, 10:11 PM »
Forest Gump said it best. I say, please do what you like, just don't waste any Akadama.
 

bwaynef

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2013, 08:41 AM »
Forest Gump said it best. I say, please do what you like, just don't waste any Akadama.

It's been a while since I watched it, but I don't remember that line.
 

augustine

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2013, 10:10 AM »
The deal is that if you bareroot conifers you may not have success. But there is a better chance if you do not and be more conservative with your cultural practices.

I do not bareroot my conifers. I trim small amounts of the roots at a time and replace the soil no more that 1/2 each repotting. I also wait at least 2 years between repots/root work (and maybe longer if the original soil is not too bad).

On the other hand I don't doubt that some good growers can pull this off. I just choose to be conservative and minimize my casualties. I read that many experts on this forum with beautiful trees choose to replace half the soil at a time.

Bill Valavanis writes that you can do almost anything if you know what you're doing. I am, however, not in that league.

It's up to you but it sure hurts to lose certain trees.

Best,

Augustine
Central MD 7a
 

John Kirby

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2013, 10:18 AM »
Wayne, I would like to think that I was kind enough to use the:
"Momma used to say, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get."

However, my cynical side was leaning more towards the old adapted adage:
"Stupid is as stupid does", defined by

"The phrase "beauty is as beauty does" is a common southern expression. It conveys the notion of judging someone on their actions as opposed to superficial appearance. The mom (played by Sally Fields) in the movie Forrest Gump twisted this saying into "stupid is as stupid does" as way of placating her slow-witted son. It is sort of a meaningless expression, and generated a laugh at theaters in the south. The play on phrases was apparently lost in other regions where the original saying was not known." 

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_meaning_of_the_saying_%27stupid_is_stupid_does%27  ;) :o
 

paulpash

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2013, 11:36 AM »
So ... what is your approach John? Someone gives you an apparently healthy pine in a plastic black container from a nursery in organic peaty soil?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2013, 09:29 AM »
Reduce the rootball, clean out 1/2 replace with good bonsai soil,if the tree grows well, remove the second half in two years. You can bare root conifers, however the odds of catastrophic failure are much higher. You have trees you don't really have much invested in (personal and/or financial) and you can stand the loss/potential loss, go ahead. If you have developed a process for bare rooting in you location that wors well for you, go ahead. My experience is that I get good results faster doing a 50:50 approach.
 

0soyoung

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2013, 01:30 PM »
... however the odds of catastrophic failure are much higher.

So, what are the odds? Say in terms of probability of death, p = #died/#treated, caused by fraction, x, of soil removed?
 

paulpash

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2013, 08:33 AM »
Reduce the rootball, clean out 1/2 replace with good bonsai soil,if the tree grows well, remove the second half in two years. You can bare root conifers, however the odds of catastrophic failure are much higher. You have trees you don't really have much invested in (personal and/or financial) and you can stand the loss/potential loss, go ahead. If you have developed a process for bare rooting in you location that wors well for you, go ahead. My experience is that I get good results faster doing a 50:50 approach.

By clean out - gently rake out and remove the black peaty compost - start from the bottom and sides and work up ? Keep as much fibrous as possible. Now it's a mix of 50 / 50 organic and non organic you have to water probably every other day? The non organic (I use kitty litter) should leach moisture from the peat based medium.
 

Adair M

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2013, 09:18 AM »
Marie,

When he says "clean out", he means pick out ALL the old soil from either the front or back and under the trunk, using a root hook or bent tip tweezer.  When you've got as much out as you can get, gently wash the bare rooted half, taking care not to wash off the soil from the half not bare rooted. 

When you replace the soil use your inorganic mix.  Many of us use Boon's Mix which is equal parts akadama, pumice and lava rock.  Your "cat little" is probably like pumice.  Search this site for more on Boon's mix. 

On the side you don't bare root completely, do comb out about 1/2 inch of the fine roots so that they stick out of the rootball.  When you pot it up, those little fine roots will be in the new soil and will grow into it readily.

Don't worry about the inorganic soil sucking all the water out of the old soil.  (Maybe your "cat litter" might do that, but Boon's Mix certainly wouldn't.)
 

John Kirby

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Re: Bare rooting conifers
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2013, 10:34 AM »
Osloyoung, using the reduce the rootball, replace 50%, I can't remember the last time I lost a pine or Juniper, or anything else for that matter. Indeed, one thing I have enjoyed doing is picking up good old trees that are in decline, then repotting them as described and watching them bounce back. I have done emergency rests on old black pines in Warren Hill's peat and blasting sand mix, bare rooting them and then watering them very carefully and misting the folage to protect them.