Species Specific > Ponderosa Pine Bonsai Discussion

Needles hardened off?

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Sure, clear as mud  ::)

All joking aside, is this one of your newer ponderosas?  If so, I would be fertilizing pretty strongly all year so that it helps the tree get more established.  I wouldn't be worrying about cutting back fertilizer for needle length reduction purposes or to reduce the length of extension growth/candles until the tree is established.  My oldest ponderosa is one that I got from a Larry Jackel workshop back in 2008.  In my experience, I have never gotten overly long candles on that or my other ponderosas from aggressively fertilizing them like I do with black pines, so I don't think you necessarily have to be too concerned with the tree outgrowing its current size.

Thanks for your input, mcpesq. This is, at the moment, my only yamadori ponderosa; got it last spring (April 2010) in Andy Smith's Burlap Bonanza.

Come to think of it, there wasn't much candle elongation this spring. Several brand-new buds broke, but some didn't extend more than 1/4-inch. The longest extensions came at the branch tips, as in the photos.

Getting it well established has been and remains a priority. Last year I fertilized it as heartily as anything else. It was doing so well by last fall that John Kirby referred to it as a "happy pine!" (Made me feel good, of course.  :) ) I haven't been withholding fertilizer this spring, just keeping it quite light. And there's a visible difference in the length of this year's needles compared to last year's.

I have in mind, in rough terms, a design for this baby, and it's not going to use all the present branching. That's why I'm thinking in terms of promoting back-budding, in the tree's interior, as much as possible.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself -- or more to the point, ahead of the tree. (I thought 9-year-olds got ahead of themselves, not 59-year-olds!  :-[ )

John Kirby:
STeve, I will start fertilizing my trees (in CT)  in a couple of weeks (except those that have been grafted- they have been fertilized since the beginning of spring). Do you have roots growing out the drain holes yet? John


That's great news.  Sounds like you've gotten the pine quite happy in a short amount of time.  I picked up a couple of burlap trees from Andy this spring and have been fertilizing them pretty strongly.  They seem to be happy, but I'll probably continue to fertilize them strongly next year throughout the year as well.

--- Quote from: John Kirby on July 05, 2011, 03:05 PM ---STeve, I will start fertilizing my trees (in CT)  in a couple of weeks (except those that have been grafted- they have been fertilized since the beginning of spring). Do you have roots growing out the drain holes yet? John

--- End quote ---

Hi John,

Not to hijack Steve's thread, but when you talk about the trees that have been grafted, what are you grafting them with?  I ask because Colin Lewis was the guest at my local club last month, and he mentioned having good success grafting dwarf mugo foliage onto ponderosas.  Just curious what you are using.

Thanks for your further input, John and mcpesq. Besides seeking input here, I sent an email to Jerry Meislik. Jerry's known for his tropicals, but he used to keep pines, including ponderosas, when he lived in MI. One advantage of using email is that I could send the pictures full-sized, which allowed better detail.

Jerry's answer was very simple: touch the needles and see if they're still soft and flexible, or hard and stiff. Which, of course, is why it's called "hardening off!" DOH! Pretty easy once someone connects the dots for you. (Where's the "Homer Simpson" smiley?)

I checked my tree: this year's needles are just as stiff, and of the same shade of green, as last year's. So they have "hardened off," and now I'm thinking that they've been mature for at least a couple of weeks. (I've been observing this tree pretty closely.) On Jerry's advice, I'm going to give the tree a few more weeks and then cut the old needles in half. This, in his experience, stimulates backbudding.

As for fertilizing, it wouldn't hurt to start now, methinks. The tree is only 16 months out of its native range, and it's still a couple of years from styling, I think. It's time for a fresh round of fert cakes anyway, so I'll just include the pondy along with everything else.

John, I haven't checked the root tips. I'll try to remember to get under the rack tomorrow and see what I can see with a flashlight: the training box is heavy enough that I'm not enthusiastic about lifting it over my head. I can also poke around carefully in the soil.


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