Author Topic: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil  (Read 5040 times)

mc4mc44

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Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« on: April 30, 2012, 10:33 PM »
Hello everyone.

I bought a Ponderosa from Andy Smith at Golden Arrow Bonsai last year, when i first got the tree the soil drained very well. But over the last year Iv'e noticed that the tree didn't drain properly and took awhile for the soil to dry out at all.  I had always read that Andy does a very good job with the roots on the pines he collects, and it seems like he did a good job on this tree too, but there is quite a bit of the old soil from the mountains still in the pot. Im pretty sure its blocking water from draining. Besides the soil problem the tree seems to be in pretty good health. The candles have begun growing slightly farther than they did last year, there is some back budding, and the needles have a very healthy looking shade of green. The tree was only collected two years ago, and i dont have very much experience with Ponderosas. I decided to get some input from the online bonsai community before i repoted it.

Ill post pictures of the candles, soil and the whole tree tomorrow for somebody to judge its health and if it really is in need of an emergency repot, and if it is healthy enough for a repot. Its a to dark to take any pics now.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Im getting a little worried about this tree. I know Ponderosa Pines like to get air in the soil and drain, this tree really isn't getting either.

Thanks for reading,

Mike
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 11:06 PM by mc4mc44 »
 

cbobgo

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2012, 11:42 PM »
The tree sounds pretty healthy, so I don't think there is any emergency.  It may just be that the tree is growing so well the pot is full of roots.  The only way to know what's going on is to take it out of the pot and have a look.  But again, if the tree is not suffering, there's no reason that you have to do it now.

- bob
 

mcpesq817

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2012, 11:52 AM »
Have you been using organic fertilizers?  Sometimes they crust the soil surface impeding proper drainage.

Also, another thing you can do which I learned from Larry Jackel is to aerate the soil in a couple of spots and backfill the holes with inorganic mix.  You can use long scissors or something similar to do it.
 

mc4mc44

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2012, 04:28 PM »
The tree sounds pretty healthy, so I don't think there is any emergency.  It may just be that the tree is growing so well the pot is full of roots.  The only way to know what's going on is to take it out of the pot and have a look.  But again, if the tree is not suffering, there's no reason that you have to do it now.

- bob


The tree is pretty healthy, but i'm worried because I've heard of Ponderosa going south fast when they have soil issues... i don't want the tree to have real problems halfway through the summer when its way too late to repot anyway.

Have you been using organic fertilizers?  Sometimes they crust the soil surface impeding proper drainage.

Also, another thing you can do which I learned from Larry Jackel is to aerate the soil in a couple of spots and backfill the holes with inorganic mix.  You can use long scissors or something similar to do it.

I do use organics, but I'm almost 100% sure that its not the problem. The best draining soil seems to be at the top in the pot. I dug a little in the corner of the pot to see how the soil was, through the first half inch it's mostly the crushed granite Andy uses in his mix. After that it becomes the soggy clay-like soil from the mountains. I stopped digging there because i hit a root that i didn't want to mess with (it was a thick root that probably wrapped around in the pot)

Thanks for the help so far, here are the pics too. So far i think i'm going to let it go. The tree seems happy, so ill take a chance and wait. I'll repot next spring, or in the fall if the tree does go downhill. The pics are here though, if it does look bad to you guys please tell me.


Mike
 

mc4mc44

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2012, 04:42 PM »
Here is the pic of the soil after digging a little. And before anyone asks the flowers on the buds look like that because i tried cutting them instead of plucking this year. I think im just going to leave them altogether from now on. What do most people do with them? should they be removed or does it not really matter?
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2012, 04:51 PM »
Where are you located?
 

mc4mc44

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 04:59 PM »
I'm in NE Pennsylvania. I'm bringing it with me to Natures Way the next time I'm there. I'm going to try to get Jim or someone else there to take a look at it and give me there opinion too.
 

Jason E

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 06:27 PM »
maybe you could add a few more drainage holes in the meantime?

 

bwaynef

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 07:56 PM »
another thing you can do which I learned from Larry Jackel is to aerate the soil in a couple of spots and backfill the holes with inorganic mix.  You can use long scissors or something similar to do it.

Here's what Brian Van Fleet did over at bonsainut recently:
http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread.php?7730-New-JBP-Project&p=98152#post98152

I'd probably use something besides rebar; a bamboo chopstick, or better yet, a smooth metal chopstick.
 

cbobgo

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 08:46 PM »
people still post on bonsainut?  About bonsai?

- bob
 

mc4mc44

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2012, 10:43 PM »
maybe you could add a few more drainage holes in the meantime?



I added more drainage holes to the pot the first day I got the tree. I add drainage holes to almost every plastic pot i get. Ill add even more tomorrow. Its gonna look like Swiss cheese under there.

another thing you can do which I learned from Larry Jackel is to aerate the soil in a couple of spots and backfill the holes with inorganic mix.  You can use long scissors or something similar to do it.

Here's what Brian Van Fleet did over at bonsainut recently:
http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread.php?7730-New-JBP-Project&p=98152#post98152

I'd probably use something besides rebar; a bamboo chopstick, or better yet, a smooth metal chopstick.

I saw that thread just the other day. I was thinking about doing this, but I always thought the water would then just drain through the new holes and soil and the areas with roots would dry out, or at least never get the same amount of water. Has anyone here ever tried it? Does it really make a difference?


I just cant make a decision. The tree has horrible soil conditions that need to be changed, but it was only collected two years ago. I'm afraid that re potting may cause more damage than good. But if i don't repot i think the soil will be cement by the end of the summer, and then it will cause some serious problems...

Based on the pictures, do you guys feel that this tree would benefit in the long run from being re potted, or should i let it go for the year? If it is repotted its gonna be set back another couple years, but that dosn't matter to me. I'd rather have a healthy tree.
 

PaulH

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2012, 11:15 PM »
people still post on bonsainut?  About bonsai?

- bob

It's still got the most interesting bonsai content of all the forums I visit. And the jerk from Oklahoma sold all his trees and doesn't bother us anymore.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012, 12:43 AM »
A month or so ago, I pushed aside the mix in my ponderosa's growing box, and with a hose and rubbing with my fingers, got rid of quite a bit more of the native soil. I did not depot the tree. The washed-out soil was replaced with more scoria mix. I got rid of maybe 1/3 of the remaining old soil that way. Next year I'll either repeat that operation, or do a full repotting. (It will then have been in the box 3 years.)

You might want to try something like that. I wouldn't advise repotting now, unless it's a real emergency: the candles are already to the "porcupine" stage. If you do try my approach, make sure to keep the fine roots from drying out, and have fresh mix ready to replace what you wash away.

As for strobili, I broke them off with my fingers.
 

cbobgo

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2012, 02:49 AM »
people still post on bonsainut?  About bonsai?

- bob

It's still got the most interesting bonsai content of all the forums I visit. And the jerk from Oklahoma sold all his trees and doesn't bother us anymore.

Interesting - in that case I might have to check it out again.

In regards to your tree and soil - based on the pics it looks like your organic component has broken down.  I was going to suggest the same thing treebeard did - try to rinse out as much of that as you can without disturbing the roots too much.

But I'll say it again, the tree looks healthy, it doesn't not seem to be suffering from your current soil condition, so I don't think there is any rush to do anything drastic.

- bob
« Last Edit: May 02, 2012, 02:53 AM by cbobgo »
 

mcpesq817

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Re: Ponderosa with Compacted Soil
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2012, 10:20 AM »
To me, the needles and buds look great so I would imagine that the tree is very happy.  With a normal spring, repotting now might be ok for your area.  But, I'd be a little concerned that given the early warm weather that we had this year that we are actually further along in the growing season by a few weeks at this time of year than normal.

I would think about aerating the soil in a few spots and backfill it with fresh soil.  In a month or two, you could always do it again.  I've done that with my trees (including non-collected trees) and it seems to work well as it helps break up the native muck.  Otherwise, I would try not to fuss too much with it.  I've never tried Treebeard's technique, but I think if I was going to go that far that I would instead just go ahead and pop the tree out of the pot and bareroot 1/3-1/2 of the rootball, going slowly and carefully using chopsticks or tweezers.  Just my opinion though.