Author Topic: Freezing your pot off  (Read 4675 times)

AlexV

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Freezing your pot off
« on: January 08, 2010, 09:11 AM »
Hey All,

So I am going through my first Michigan winter, and it is a bit different from the Bay Area.  Luckily I mostly brought trees that will be ok with it, though I have some trident maples and black pines that I am not totally sure of.

I have a poly house out back which all my trees went into.  I also put most of my trees into plastic tubs with vent holes in the bottom that I then piled full of mulch to act as a bit of a buffer and keep some trapped air around the trees.  At this point, everything has been frozen solid for several weeks, and I keep watering a couple times a week.

It snowed a tun yesterday, so after watering I scooped up snow and gently filled the tubs of trees/mulch with a good 6" of snow each.  I figured it couldn't hurt, and might just keep them insulated a bit better.

So for all you bonzai people in snowy places, are there other things I should be doing to protect my trees?  Is it better to leave the snow on them, or keep watering?  Both?  Thanks All!

Alex
 

Don Blackmond

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2010, 09:19 AM »
that may be too much water.  they won't need much water if they are fully dormant and the soil is frozen.  once every 10-14 days is more likely the case.  if the soil is truly frozen it will not be accepting water anyway.  you can leave the trees/pots sitting on the ground and cover the pots with snow.  as the snow melts it will water your trees for you, and while it is still snow it will insulate the pots/roots. 

just watch carefully that you are not overwatering.
 

AlexV

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2010, 10:01 AM »
Good stuff, thanks Don!  I will keep an eye on the water, and leave the pots covered in snow for now.

Alex
 

John Kirby

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2010, 02:43 PM »
Alex, I would suggest that you move to the Bay area, I hear they have a nice "even" climate and it doesn't get very cold. OH, you already know that.

You are now enjoying the Great American Experience- Winter.

John
 

AlexV

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2010, 10:29 AM »
Funny, my wife keeps asking why I didn't stay at Berkeley to do my PhD.  So far we are actually really enjoying the winter, though by May I am sure we will be over it. 

So do people in cold climates just not work on their trees in the winter?  Or do they bring them in, thaw them out, work on them, then return them to the cold?  I guess if you had a heated greenhouse it wouldn't be an issue, but with just a poly house, and cloud cover for a week, the only thing the poly house is doing is keeping the wind off.

Being used to working on my trees year round, it is definitely gonna take some getting used to.  If anyone else has any suggestions I would be glad to hear em!

Alex
 

boon

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2010, 10:39 AM »
stay warm Alex, stay warm.
 

Jay

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2010, 03:20 PM »
Alex, everything is relative especially the weather. This morning my thermometer said 3 degrees F. And tomorrow AM is supposed to be minus 6 or so..... plus this isn't the coldest I will get, can't wait till late January early Feb for the deep freeze.

With that said, (TO ME) this is the best place to be. Not to hot during the summer, great eastern skiing during the winter, and wonderful people. I'm sure everyone may have a different opinion.

Enjoy the weather and the area, keep trees that will be happy in the climate and most of all Be Healthy and Happy!!!

my two (very cold) cents
Jay
 

rockm

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2010, 08:52 AM »
"So do people in cold climates just not work on their trees in the winter?  Or do they bring them in, thaw them out, work on them, then return them to the cold?  I guess if you had a heated greenhouse it wouldn't be an issue, but with just a poly house, and cloud cover for a week, the only thing the poly house is doing is keeping the wind off."

No, definitely not. Quite the opposite. We pray for cold weather and for snow in the winter. We mostly don't work on anything (at least I don't) until mid-late Feb.

Thawing trees out can spur new growth--which is a very very bad thing if you have a month and a half of winter still ahead. Once a dormant tree begins growing, it loses all of its winter hardiness--root death is quite possible and probable if the tree is exposed again to freezing temps.

Snow can be an important ally in overwintering--it not only helps protect roots like mulch, it provides moisture.

I also try to keep  my trees cold enough, for long enough, to avoid early bud break--which can happen with some eager species like Amur Maple, as soon as early Feb. I try to keep those trees cold--late winter warm ups are the most problematic--early spring can bring disaster if we get late freezes in mid-April or early May.


 

AlexV

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2010, 08:57 AM »
Thanks Boon, we are doing our best.  Luckily we came with lots of Ski gear, so we have been pretty ok with the weather.

Jay, So far we really like Ann Arbor, its just the tree situation that is taking some massive adjustment.

Rock, Thank, this is good info.  Causing early budding was one of my concerns, and I will do my best to avoid it.  It sounds like keeping snow piled up around my trees is going to be the best bet, so every time it snows I will bring a load into the poly house.  Thanks!

Alex
 

Don Blackmond

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2010, 09:30 AM »
and watch the very sunny days because your poly house may get very warm.  Its not uncommon for it to be sunny and 14 degrees outside, causing your poly house temp to jump up to 80 degrees.  Be prepared to vent it accordingly or expect an early Spring....  A shade cloth can be your best friend.

Many people up this way don't over-Winter in a greenhouse.  They use sheds or other unheated outbuildings with little or no light.  This allows them to keep the trees stored cold and dormant as long as possible.

Bill Valavanis posted some Wintering info on another forum a couple years ago and then he and I exchenged some more info.  This is what he said he does in upstate New York:

"The structure I overwinter my finest bonsai is an insulated garage which is heated UP TO 27 degrees F. I maintain that temperature by forced air kerosene heaters and a thermostat. The bonsai are watered, perhaps once a month or so until late March when the frequency increases.

Yesterday the weather was not too bad so I sprayed the garage full of the developed bonsai and the other six poly houses full of bonsai, pre-bonsai and nursery stock.

I sprayed with a combination of a fungicide (Daconil) and a pesticide (Sun oil, or Ultra fine). This combination has worked well for me in the past.

The garage and the two largest poly houses are maintained at 27F because the trees stay dormant longer than if the temperature were kept at 35 to 40F. Also, since the soil is frozen most of the time I don't have to water. Usually I water about every three or four weeks from late November to mid-March. Then frequency of watering must be increased.

Another important reason I keep the bonsai at 27F rather than 35 to 40F is because the bonsai will acclimated to below 30F temperatures. I think it's imporant to move the bonsai, especially deciduous species, outside BEFORE the buds begin to swell and open. Then if the outside temperature should drop below 25 to 30F, there is no problem since the bonsai are acclimated to those low temperatures. A couple of photos attached show the bonsai encased in ice in a mid-April ice storm. Since those bonsai were outside since mid to late March, the cold temperatures and ice did not damage the bonsai. Of course I had to carefully monitor the temperature and was careful that the ice did not break any branches.

The narrow-leaf evergreens are removed from the winter protection area also at that time and they are fine in temperatures above 20F. Small size bonsai and those in very shallow containers are moved outdoor a bit later when the temperature is a bit more stable.

I leave my Japanese maples (some which I started from cuttings over 30 years) frozen at 27F, then take them outdoors.

But, the trees are fully dormant so they are acclimated to the low temperatures. In the second photo featuring a Dwarf Austrian pine bonsai, look to the right to see a Cut-leaf maple bonsai encased in ice. It'f alive and healthy.

However, when my Japanese maples are frozen, please remember that it is kind of dark, no direct sunshine AND no wind at all, and high humidity... plus they are carefully watched.

A little prayer does not hurt either.

Evergreen species do NOT need light during the winter dormant period IF it is cold. Cold is about 35 and below. IF the temperature is above 35 then some light might be good. However, direct sunlight should NOT be provided anytime because that will heat up the air condition and the bonsai might need watering which cannot be done because the soil and or water source are frozen. Good luck, don't pamper your trees in a greenhouse."

Bill has some very nice trees and has been doing bonsai for a very long time.  He has been successful with his methods, and was kind enough to share them.  Props to him for being gracious enough to share his experience.
 

rockm

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2010, 11:14 AM »
Don is right. My coldframe is in the shade, as are all the "mulch-only" trees. Direct sunlight is a bad thing for overwintering trees. It's unneeded. While trees preparing for dormancy depend on gradually shorter periods of daylight,  exiting from dormancy is not light-related. It is temperature related. Once soil gets much above 35 degrees, and the individual tree has met its genetically determined "chilling hours" it will begin growing.

That's why it's just as important to keep temperate bonsai trees cold, as it is to protect them from the lower temperatures.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2010, 11:53 AM »
Interesting read. The conundrum we, and many of you out there, have (NW Arkansas zone 6b/7) is that we have elevator weather. This weekend was down around zero to 15 F for 5 days, this week up around 40, won't be surprised to see some sixties thrown in and then another crash to the teens. Lots of ventilation opening and closing,  and we water every 7-20 days depending on what is going on in the houses- then after watering blowing out the irrigation system with compressed air, each and every time..........

Don't youjust love winter?

John
 

Don Blackmond

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2010, 12:11 PM »
John, blowing out the lines sounds like a pain in the rear during periods when you are watering weekly....  But then again, my trees are packed in and hand-watered during the cold Winter months, and that sucks too.  That said, I water with snow on a regular basis (we seem to have copious quantities of snow on hand at any given moment....).  Just think, Spring is right around the corner...in just a four short months.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2010, 12:49 PM »
Understand the pulling hose to water. My next project, maybe next year?, will be to build a temperate green hous to keep trees at 30 F and above after fall chill. If I can't wire during the winter, then I will continue to get even farther behind. Will see how this summer goes. Spring will start here in 5-6 weeks........ But it comes in fits and starts, our State flower is the "daffodil under snow".

John
 

Jay

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Re: Freezing your pot off
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2010, 05:23 PM »
Alex, Don and John,
Up here in zone 3B if you aren't doing tropicals you are basically out of Bonsai for the winter. My trees are in two locations: my attached unheated garage (I do have a copper pipe grid filled with auto antifreeze and electric heat tape). And my sun room, which I set the temp for 38 degrees. Being this room is on a slab the floor on the other side of the from the baseboard heat stays at 28 to 35 degrees. Between these two locations I split my trees and they seem to be happy.

The ones in the sun room will be a problem come late March, the sun warms the room pretty quickly. By then, I move the trees to the garage to maintain there dormancy or I let them pop.

It works for me, but I'm still learning

Jay