Bonsai Study Group Forum

Species Specific => Ponderosa Pine Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Treebeard55 on July 04, 2011, 03:16 PM

Title: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 04, 2011, 03:16 PM
This is another ponderosa-beginner question. Thanks for bearing with me, those of you with more pondy experience.  :)

I'm waiting until this year's needles on my ponderosa have hardened off, before I up the amount of fertilizer to promote bud set for next year.

But I have to admit I'm not sure when to say the needles have hardened off. These two pictures were taken just today. Personally, I'm not ready to say the needles have finished growing for this year. But I'd like the opinions of some others with more experience. Gentlemen?
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: garywood on July 04, 2011, 03:44 PM
Steve, I can't tell from the shot but how many of the new needles will be in the final design? If there are not many or you are using some for sacrifice, I wouldn't be concerned with length.
Wood
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 04, 2011, 10:34 PM
Wood, thanks for jumping in: but I'm not concerned with needle length so much as stage of development of this year's needles, how mature they are. Does that clarify my intent a little?
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: nathanbs on July 05, 2011, 10:39 AM
I think i have a similiar confusion as Garywood, what happens if you fertilize before the needles harden off?
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 05, 2011, 11:29 AM
Ahh! Until the needles finish growing for the year, the tree's resources are directed toward needle size. Once the needles harden off, resources start going into setting buds for the following spring. Or at least so says every author and experienced grower that I've encountered.

This tree is as big as I want it -- I'm quite happy with its size.  :) I want to encourage plenty of buds (as many of them as possible in the interior) over the next year or two, before it gets its first serious styling.

Have I made myself clearer?
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: mcpesq817 on July 05, 2011, 12:14 PM
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.
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 05, 2011, 01:56 PM
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!  :-[ )
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: 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
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: mcpesq817 on July 05, 2011, 04:18 PM
Steve,

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.

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

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.
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 05, 2011, 10:18 PM
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.
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: John Kirby on July 05, 2011, 10:33 PM
We have been grafting a few with JBP and JWP, stick with what I know.
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on July 06, 2011, 09:11 AM
I slid under the rack a few minutes ago and checked the openings in the bottom of the box. The box is made of 2x4's (what I had on hand;) the bottom has three full-length 1-inch gaps between the 2x4's, covered with 1/8" hardware cloth.

I saw plenty of moist Turface and lava, but no new root tips poking out thru the mesh.

Now I have a question, John: what's the significance of having root tips coming out of the drainage openings? My first inference would be that unless/until I see evidence of that much root growth, I should continue to leave the tree pretty much alone. Correct?
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on October 08, 2011, 07:43 PM
I didn't get the old needles cut until later in August, and I wasn't very aggressive. The tree seemed to hardly notice, which I take as a good thing!

Here's a picture of one branch end, taken 4 days ago. It's typical. Most of the cut needles have died and are dropping off, but they were the older ones to begin with. You can see one new bud to the left in the picture, and there's another one sitting on the other side of the branch, out of this pic.  :)
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: cbobgo on October 11, 2011, 01:39 AM
Not seeing the whole tree, so it's hard to know for sure what is going on, but is there a reason you are growing this branch out so long?  Instead of removing the old needles, leaving you with just foliage way out on the end, wouldn't it have been better to leave those needles then cut back the branch to stimulate new growth closer in?

- bob
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on October 11, 2011, 10:58 AM
Bob, this tree was collected only last spring. Right now, my focus is (almost) entirely on letting it adapt to a new environment, and doing whatever I can to get it as healthy as possible. Styling is going to wait at least until 2012.
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: cbobgo on October 11, 2011, 10:57 PM
So if that is the case, what is the benefit of cutting the old needles?  If you are just worried about health and establishing, wouldn't you want all the needles you could have - more needles=more photosynthesis=more energy for growing roots, etc?

- bob
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Treebeard55 on October 18, 2011, 05:56 PM
Sorry it took me a week to answer, Bob.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. The tree has been doing so well that I thought maybe I could start actively encouraging backbudding a little, while still keeping my main focus on promoting health and vigor.

Maybe we need a "Janus" smiley -- the Roman god with two faces on opposite sides of his head, who carried a contradiction within himself!
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: cbobgo on October 19, 2011, 12:17 AM
You can do both, but I think you would get more back budding by cutting off the ends of the branches, rather than cutting old needles.

- bob
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: John Kirby on October 19, 2011, 08:20 AM
Cut the old needles off, it helps to control fungal infections and opens up the tree, do not cut the buds off of the ends of this tree. Let the tree grow and gather some strength. If you want to cut off the terminal buds to encourage back budding, then I would start fertilizing in the spring as soon as the tree "brightens up" and starts to move. Then in mid-late May or so, do your pruning and then keep the fertilizer on the tree and let it pop. Larry Jackel discusses this in his book, I have done it as well. In my experience we have done better by cutting needles in the spring, fertilizing and placing in full sun.  John
Title: Re: Needles hardened off?
Post by: Potawatomi13 on March 25, 2015, 06:10 PM
 :o As per Ryan Neil do NOT remove any needles(except on the bottom of branches)OR candle Ponderosas IF you want backbudding.  The more photo panels(needles) you have the more energy there is to go into new buds.  When I talked to Ryan last summer in person I mentioned Larrys book which I have and Ryan very much disagrees on technique for back bud development.  Seeing Ryans many Ponderosas I'd have to say he knows where he's coming from.