Author Topic: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes  (Read 16133 times)

MatsuBonsai

  • John Callaway
  • Administrator
  • Hero Forum Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1398
  • Thanked: 6 times
Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« on: February 19, 2011, 10:38 PM »
In honor of Peter Tea's visit I decided to whip up a batch of fertilizer cakes.  Here's the basic recipe I've been using for years:

  • 4 cups Cottonseed Meal
  • 4 cups Bone Meal
  • 1 cup baking flour
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 3 cups Fish Emulsion (deodorized!)
  • 3 cups of water

I'll substitute other items from time to time, but that's the basic mix.  In the heat of summer I can usually get these dried in a day.  With the cold still here it takes quite a bit longer.  The cakes are currently drying in the hoop house.

I'm interested to know what others use.
 

scottroxburgh

  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 139
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 02:06 AM »
The recipe that I use is much the same, but after chatting to Boon about it I now do not make cakes, preferring to fill the disposable tea bags that can be bought from Asian grocers.

I use:
1 part cottonseed meal; and
1 part Blood and Bone meal or Meat Meal.

I find it easier to just mix up the fish emulsion and miracle-gro (or other chem fert) and hand water.

It also means that I don't have the stinky cakes sitting around trying to dry them away from our dogs!
 

akeppler

  • Sr. Forum Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 409
  • Thanked: 9 times
  • http://bonsaial.wordpress.com/
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2011, 02:17 AM »
The recipe that I use is much the same, but after chatting to Boon about it I now do not make cakes, preferring to fill the disposable tea bags that can be bought from Asian grocers.

I use:
1 part cottonseed meal; and
1 part Blood and Bone meal or Meat Meal.

I find it easier to just mix up the fish emulsion and miracle-gro (or other chem fert) and hand water.

It also means that I don't have the stinky cakes sitting around trying to dry them away from our dogs!

Now here is a smart man. There are so many prepared fertilizers that can just be cast on the soil surface. I have never understood the need to mix up a batch of stuff with so many soil cloggers to get it to bind, when a box of triple ten can just be cast on the plant and walk away. Is there something about making cakes that makes them superior to usuing a prepared fertilizer? I'm all into simple and making cakes is just too much bother for me.
 

meushi

  • Member
  • Jr. Forum Member
  • **
  • Posts: 50
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2011, 04:18 AM »
8 parts rapeseed cakes
(throw in 2 parts bone meal if you plan to use it for fruit/flower trees)

Water and mix until you get a smooth-ish batter, cover and let ferment for 2 month if in spring or 1 month if in summer. Mix it some more a couple times during the fermentation process. Shape your poo-balls after the fermentation and let them dry some.

You just saved whatever was the price tag on the imported aburakaso.
 

scottroxburgh

  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 139
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2011, 04:40 AM »
Now here is a smart man. There are so many prepared fertilizers that can just be cast on the soil surface. I have never understood the need to mix up a batch of stuff with so many soil cloggers to get it to bind, when a box of triple ten can just be cast on the plant and walk away. Is there something about making cakes that makes them superior to usuing a prepared fertilizer? I'm all into simple and making cakes is just too much bother for me.

I think the benefit to making cakes is that they release ferts slowly into the substrate. I only use the bags to avoid the dogs taking them while they dry.
 

MatsuBonsai

  • John Callaway
  • Administrator
  • Hero Forum Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1398
  • Thanked: 6 times
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2011, 07:48 AM »
Now here is a smart man. There are so many prepared fertilizers that can just be cast on the soil surface. I have never understood the need to mix up a batch of stuff with so many soil cloggers to get it to bind, when a box of triple ten can just be cast on the plant and walk away. Is there something about making cakes that makes them superior to usuing a prepared fertilizer? I'm all into simple and making cakes is just too much bother for me.

Al,

We've got 3 big curious dogs, not to mention other wildlife in the area, that occasionally eat a cake or two, which means the tea bags are out.  They'll eat the whole thing, bags and all.  The cakes are easy to add or remove to control growth rates at different times during the growing season.  This is essential to me, as I grow a lot of black pine.  Our local hydroponics store carries all the ingredients I use in bulk, which means I can get a 50lbs bag of cottonseed meal for about the same price as a 10lbs bag of any of the mixed/ready made fertilizer they carry. 

I do use some chemical fertilizer, liquid fish emulsion, and seaweed during the growing season as well.  There's usually a debate on chemical vs organic fertilizer, so we'll save that for another thread.
 

MatsuBonsai

  • John Callaway
  • Administrator
  • Hero Forum Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1398
  • Thanked: 6 times
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2011, 08:00 AM »
Here's a shot of the fertilizer drying.

 

andrew

  • Legit New User
  • *
  • Posts: 45
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2011, 08:56 AM »
The last two years i've just been buying Hollytone and making cakes with it.  Then spraying organic fertz with a hand sprayer.     andy
 

scottroxburgh

  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 139
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2011, 05:29 PM »
John I seem to recall seeing you state that you use a piece of poly pipe and a knife to shape the cakes is that correct?

The last batch of cakes that I made I used a mechanical icecream scoop. It worked really well and the flat surface makes it easy to keep them on the surface.

I tried rolling about 2 in my hands (w/gloves) before giving up and thinking that there must be a better way!!!
 

MatsuBonsai

  • John Callaway
  • Administrator
  • Hero Forum Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1398
  • Thanked: 6 times
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2011, 08:13 AM »
I use a PVC pipe and a dowel rod to form the cakes.  Load the pipe with the fertilizer then press the cakes out with the rod.  I just break apart into pieces with my (gloved) hands as they come out the end.

I've tried melon ballers, ice cream scoops, and even a sausage press.  I'm not sure my mixture consistency is right to use these, since they always seem to stick inside or break apart.
 

Larry Gockley

  • Sr. Forum Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 275
  • Thanked: 1 times
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2011, 09:49 AM »
I tried cakes years ago, but didn't like the blob of seemingly soil clogging mess they left on the surface. I may have done something wrong. The soil mix I've used for years is an adaptation of a formula I got from Guy Guidry. When he mixes the ingredients, he adds osmocote. All other ferts I use are water soluble, usually a single digit analysis for more developed trees, and at times even Peters 20-20-20, depending on what I want the tree to do. I also am a big fan of fish emulsion and seaweed extract.  Larry
 

Yenling83

  • Sr. Forum Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 321
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2011, 03:35 PM »
I made cakes this year for the first time with the recipe that John posted, except I threw in a little fine ground oatmeal and tiny bit of miracle grow.  I also did a slight variation on the shape.  I used a small melon ball scooper to make half circles with a flat bottom, but then I took my finger and made an indent on the top of each cake.  From speaking with people in Bonsai that I respect, it seems these cakes don't work as well if they dry out, and they work better if kept a bit more moist.  So my thinking is that the small indent will allow some water to pool on the top of each cake, keeping them slightly more moist. 
« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 03:38 PM by Yenling83 »
 

Treebeard55

  • Steve Moore
  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 206
  • A.k.a. Steve Moore.
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 09:25 AM »
Yenling, your indentation idea seems sound to me.

I like the ready-made fert cakes from North Star Bonsai, but I'm not entirely sure they're still in business. (Maybe I wonder because the website hasn't been updated since early fall. Would hate to lose them as a vendor ...) So later this summer I may try me hand at making up some cakes me own self. Thanks for posting your recipe, John.
 

Dale Cochoy

  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 168
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2011, 01:04 PM »
My friend Matt harhager is making /selling/shipping my mix for fertilizer cakes and potting soil.
http://www.thebonsaiden.com/

Regards,
Dale
« Last Edit: March 23, 2011, 01:11 PM by Dale Cochoy »
 

Dale Cochoy

  • Full Forum Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 168
Re: Bonsai Fertilizer Cake Recipes
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2011, 01:11 PM »
Here's my running story.....

                                  How To Make Your Own
                              Slow-Release Fertilizer Cakes
                                         1996 to 2009
                                                                                                            by
                                                                                                            Dale Cochoy

     All experienced bonsai growers agree that one of the best methods of fertilizing styled bonsai is with a slow-release type of fertilizer ball or pellet.  These will release a constant low-dose of fertilizer with each watering or rain.  This constant but slow-release of nutrients keeps your trees healthy and steadily growing instead of the shot-in-the-arm type of strong fertilizing that is often done by enthusiasts from time to time during the growing season instead of a regular fertilizing regime.  These occasional doses of strong fertilizer can cause your bonsai to grow out of control ---like a weed.
     Slow-release organic fertilizers can be very expensive.  Even the rapeseed cakes from China or Japan can be quite costly as well as the more commonly available marketed brand names.
     In 1996 I purchased the ingredients to produce my own slow-release fertilizer balls that I thought would be better than some mixtures I had seen in magazines or heard about elsewhere.
     In my first experiment the ingredients comprising approximately 65% of the bulk were bone meal and cotton seed meal.  These can be purchased easily in 3lb. or larger bags.  I used 20% gypsum as an experiment to help release possible salt build-up in the haydite used in our potting soil mixes.  Blood meal made up about 10% of the bulk of the dry mix.  For the liquid I used a couple of things.  I mixed in some "Alaska Start-Up"tm  low dose natural fertilizer made from molasses, this also contains B-1 vitamins.  I poured in a considerable amount of fish emulsion.  If you are unfamiliar with this product, it is quite possibly the most disgusting substance on the face of the earth! 
     I, by no means, measured anything.  I added bulk and liquid to use up most of the materials and keep the mixture moist enough to form balls.  For about $35 ( 1996) I mixed up roughly  71/2 gallons of the foulest smelling stuff you can imagine!
     It formed balls but they didn't stick together well.  After mulling over several possible additives that might help adhere the concoction, my wife, Nancy, came up with the solution.  I mixed in about 3 cups of flour per gallon.
     It is a good idea to wear some hospital rubber gloves for the mixing involved in fertilizer ball manufacturing.  With the binding problem solved it was time to form the mixture into balls.  I found that two people could process a gallon of the mixture into about 250 balls 2/3 the size of a golf ball, in about 1/2 hr.  We just rolled the mixture in the palm of our hands.    I found that with the mixture two people could make well over 1,000 balls in a few hours, at a cost of about $35.
     Since my original attempts I have made some changes in manufacturing and mixture.  I no longer form them into balls by hand.  A wheelbarrow full will leave you crippled without enough grip strength to hold a beer can.  After trying several different methods of extruding, I found that a simple tool made from about 18 inches of 1 inch or 11/4 inch PVC pipe with a corresponding sized wooden dowel to push through the pipe worked OK but a better, simpler method of forming cakes was adapted.
     I now mix up the disgusting muck in a wheelbarrow then I press it into old hospital food trays ( cookie sheets or pizza pans work well ) about 1/2" deep.  The trays should first by lined with Saran wrap to allow release of the cakes from the pan while still moist. Note: a good trick to get Saran wrap to stick to the tray without fluttering around is to spritz  the tray with a little water first. Another trick my wife came up with!
     After one day of drying in the hot sun I can cut it into 1 or 11/2' squares using a pizza cutter.  The sheet of cakes takes longer to dry than the balls, but can be made in a fraction of the time.  I simply flip them over into another tray once a day until dry.  They easily break apart when dry.  Note:  Try to manufacture your "poo balls" when you are expecting about 4 days of warm, dry and low humidity weather. They take about  four days to dry. If it is very humid or they get rained on it could cause them to mold before they dry. This will not hurt the chemical make-up at all, but some people won't like the looks of them!  You want to get them dried BEFORE they start to mold.
      As I stated, I mix up a wheelbarrow at a time.  The best method for doing this is to first mix all the dry materials together, including the flour.  Mix any amount you want.  Combine all your liquid ingredients in a sprinkling can with some water and slowly pour in while mixing with a shovel.  It is very much like mixing cement.  I slowly add liquid to get just the right consistency.  I use about 10lbs of flour per wheel barrow. This hardens the cubes to where they resist having a finger nail poked into them. I find this to be the perfect "Hardness".
     In about 2000 I made some changes in the mixture.  I now add liquid seaweed to the mix, liquid chelated iron, triple super phosphate, and muriate of potash to assist in strengthening roots and aid in absorption of nitrogen and phosphorus, and to increase resistance to heat and cold.  I only use about 2 cups of muriate of potash  and triple super phosphate to a wheelbarrow. The muriate of potash, triple super phosphate and flour probably round out the 100% total for the "dry" mix.
     I worried about the attraction of flies and maggots so I thought of spraying the finished cakes with an insecticide or mixing in some “Sevin” but I found that my dogs find the cakes an exquisite snack and they disappear often from pots that are low to the ground.  Luckily I have had no problem with flies/maggots and they wouldn’t bother the trees if I did..
     The ingredients I  now use are as follows:
            Bone meal  0-10-0
   Cotton seed meal  6-1-1
   Blood meal  12-0-0
   Fish emulsion  5-1-1
   Liquid seaweed  0.1-0.0-1.0
            ( Note: You can also use Kelp Meal instead of liquid seaweed if you can find it. . The cost isn't much different in the long-run but the kelp meal adds more "bulk" for making cakes which the  liquid doesn't.  10 lbs. of kelp meal adds 10 lbs. of cakes!  These are the two most expensive ingredients so I opt for the "bulk increase" of the kelp meal.)   
   Alaska Natural start-up  2-1-2 w/B-1
   Muriate of potash  0-0-60
            Triple super phosphate 0-46-0
   Gypsum
   Liquid chelated iron
            Agricultural lime         
   Flour

     If you wish to mix up a wheelbarrow full I'd start with about  60-70lbs.+ of dry mix, then add the liquid slowly. This would be an average-sized  wheelbarrow load, which could almost be doubled  if you had a nice big and deep wheelbarrow . The wheelbarrow is nice for mixing because you can move it around to where you want to do your work
     The mixture of dry materials and liquid has to be slowly experimented with as you work to get the consistency right…like cement….not too wet and not too dry.

Update 7/2009 :
     Chemical prices have certainly gone up, but, I find I can  make about 3,000 cakes for about $135 worth of ingredients, supplies  and an afternoon of time.  I believe this mixture is far superior to anything imported into this country, and cheaper in bulk.  They will not burn trees or retard mycorrhiza growth so you can place as many as you want on the surface of your pots.  I put two on a 6" pot, four on an 8-10", and more on larger pots.  Replace as they start to disintegrate.
     Also, as of 7/09 I have started adding a small bag of various ecto and endo micorrhizal  fungi  and colony forming units of 25 species.
     In 2009 I  could no longer find the Alaska Natural brand start-up w/ B-1 here locally.