Author Topic: Valid option or dangerous whim?  (Read 8054 times)

Treebeard55

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Valid option or dangerous whim?
« on: March 03, 2011, 09:46 PM »
I got this tree in Andy Smith’s 2010 “Burlap Bonanza” last year. It had been collected in March 2010; I received it in mid-April, and potted it within two days in this growing box. The mix is 50% lava, 30% bark, and 20% Turface, all sifted to remove fines. Very little of the native soil was removed, and I did very little root pruning; not much more than cleaning up the stubs of some broken roots. The nebari was never exposed, which figures in my question.

After about six weeks in shade I moved the tree to our deck, which is the sunniest spot I can offer it. Thruout the summer I fertilized it along with everything else, using both fert cakes (from North Star Bonsai) and supplemental liquid fertilizers. I had read that fertilizing in the first part of the year results in lo-o-ong needles, but I didn’t mind that right now: more important was to make sure the tree was able to re-establish itself well. Sure enough, the needles produced in the latter part of the year were twice as long as the needles with which it came!

In early-to-mid fall, I removed the terminal buds on several branches; the tree replaced them by winter. It has spent the winter in our sheltered side yard, with plenty of snow and cold but very little wind.

The first picture shows the tree as received from Andy, the second just after potting-up. The third pic is from last September. The fourth was taken after the one genuine blizzard (all 10-12 hours of it) that we got this winter.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2011, 09:57 PM »
(Continued)

As the pictures show, it’s doing very well, I think. And that led me to a thought: I had meant to leave it alone, except for fertilizer, for one more year. But now I’m wondering if it would be safe to repot again this spring. The reason for doing so would be to remove a little more of the native soil, enough to see the nebari. Until I see the nebari, I’m not ready to make a final decision on planting angle. (A personal preference: I like a reasonably level nebari, because it usually looks more stable to me.)

This is only my second ponderosa, and I killed my first thru ignorance. I don’t want to kill this one, especially since it, like my first, is a Valentine-birthday-anniversary present from my lovely wife!

So I’m looking for comments, advice, feedback, especially from experienced ponderosa growers. Would it be OK to repot again this spring? Or should I slap my hands, give myself 50 lashes with  wet spaghetti for even thinking of such a thing, and leave it strictly alone until 2012?

These three pictures were all taken earlier today. The first: the tree as it is right now. Second: blue line shows the length of the needles with which it came, yellow arrow shows needles that grew in the second half of 2010. Third: the three new buds that were set after I removed the terminal bud from the highest branch last fall.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2011, 10:03 PM »
Wait a year. then clean off 1/2, dont wash just clean with tweezers/chopstick. I would omit the bark, but you know that. You have to get the roots out of the muck, but redoing it this year could be real trouble.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2011, 06:20 PM »
Thanks, John. I appreciate your feedback, and certainly respect your experience with ponderosas.

Waiting is what I was/am inclined to do, my default option if you will. I just wanted to be sure that I wasn't missing an opportunity to go ahead a little faster with this tree.

I'm going to try to give it a little more phosphorus this year, if I can find a high-P fertilizer. Maybe I'll just use a little extra bonemeal.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2011, 10:42 PM »
Why you want it to bloom?
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2011, 10:57 AM »
Why you want it to bloom?

 ??? ??? Doesn't phosphorus also promote root growth? Or was I more tired last nite than I realized???
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2011, 04:48 PM »
A few days ago I scooped aside the lava mix and took out a little more of the native soil with my fingers. If memory serves, that native soil was fairly compacted when I got the tree, tho that may have just been from being wrapped for shipping. In any event, the native soil is much more crumbly now, easy to remove a bit at a time.

I'm sure the native soil is gradually being dislodged by rain percolating down. Just so it washes all the way out of the box, I'm happy!
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2011, 12:18 PM »
Our weather has been unseasonably chilly for the last 2-3 weeks, which has slowed the metabolism of everything outside. But the trees' buds are slowly elongating, and there are plenty of them! <happy dance>
 

mcpesq817

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2011, 09:14 AM »
Sounds good over there Treebeard  ;D  I repotted a couple of Ponderosas this spring that I've had for a couple of years, and noticed that the remaining native soil fell off pretty easily.  Was nice to see because the first ponderosa I repotted a couple of years ago took me hours to get a bunch of that native soil out.

One other tip that Larry Jackel gave us in a workshop - he aerates the soil using scissors or a something similar and backfills the holes with bonsai mix.  That helps break up the native soil over time.  I don't remember how often he did it, but I would think that you could do it twice a year as long as you didn't go too crazy popping holes all over the place.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2011, 12:14 PM »
Larry also mentions that poke-and-fill technique in his book. I tried to do it when I potted the tree last spring, but my chopstick hit serious resistance almost immediately. Either the soil is full of roots, or it was rather compact. Either way, I didn't want to risk injuring any roots, so I desisted.
I may try again in a few days. Aeration is going to be important in a climate wetter than the tree is native to.
 

mcpesq817

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2011, 04:57 PM »
The soil mass could be holding in some rocks too, which might explain some of the resistance.  Could also be a very thick root that was cut.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2011, 05:17 PM »
You're right, Mac, those are possibilities. I'll just try a couple of different spots. I didn't before because I was so nervous about doing any root damage!
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2011, 10:28 PM »
Took a few pics today of the bud and candle progress.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2011, 05:41 PM »
A bit of a progress report. I applied fertilizer cakes yesterday, half as many as the manufacturer recommends. I want keep this pine "happy," as John Kirby once described it.

After the needles harden off I'll increase the fert dosage, for bud setting. Jerry Meislik also suggested cutting the older needles in half in mid-summer, to stimulate back-budding.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Valid option or dangerous whim?
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2011, 05:53 PM »
Candles are elongating nicely, and now I wonder about something else. I've given Larry Jackel's book a pretty good going over, but so far have not found an answer to this.

Pines are (generally) apically dominant, some very strongly so. I don't know strong that dominance is in ponderosas, but I'd hate to lose some healthy inner buds due to apical dominance run amok. So I'm considering breaking the apical candles in half, sometime within the next couple of weeks, to keep them from starving out their brethren.

But is this something that is much of a concern on a ponderosa? Thoughts?