Tuesday, June 2, 2009

feeding again

I wrote this mail to a friend and thought this could interest many others. The friend had asked why I would feed a lot more than other folks.



Normal feed mixtures are for normal plants. Normal plants grow in soil which already has nutrients. They just grow and should not grow too much anyway. Like house plants.

Bonsai sit in very well draining substrate and are watered aggressively. The minerals are washed out quickly. Bonsai have to grow MORE than other plants during development phase. 99 % of bonsai are in development phase. They have to grow much to make it possible to style them quickly. They have to grow lots that can be cut off several times during a summer.
I definitely use three times the advised strength of fertilizer. I definitely use regular cheap fertilizer for normal plants. That is 10-10-10 or 20-10-10 or similar, anyway lots of nitrogen. And I feed every ten days to two weeks throughout the whole growing season. Compared to regular bonsai folks I feed about 20 to 60 (sixty) times more.
My trees look as happy as trees can look like. Yes, they grow much stronger than in other gardens and I have to cut off lots and lots. I think this is great because my trees can be developed much faster than others. My trees have no pests because they have very strong immune systems. So far I have not realized any damage from my super-feeding-program.
I feel that in America the following happened: During the past fifteen years the overwhelming majority of bonsai folks have changed from soil to modern substrate with their trees. But they are still applying the old wisdom concerning watering and feeding which was correct with soil. As a result many trees are suffering from drought and are starving. Nobody is telling people that with the new substrate they RADICALLY have to change watering and feeding schemes.

I hope this helps
Walter

49 comments:

johnson said...

thank you for you insight paul. my question to you is what exactly do you use to feed. You mentioned what you use on house plants what about your trees

Christian said...

Hallo Walter,
How does your feeding differ from Michael Persiano's 'superfeeding' from some years ago? I wasunder the impression that his program was not sustainable over the long term and the trees developed some problems after a few years from being pushed so much. Is this possible? Do you allow them some rest period every so often? Vielen Dank!

Dave Verbik said...

Hi Walter, thanks for sharing this!

Sincerely,

Dave V.

Dave Verbik said...

Hi Walter, Thanks for sharing this with us! Take care.

Sincerely,

Dave Verbik

Dave Verbik said...

Hi Walter, Thanks for sharing this information with us. Take Care.

Sincerely,

Dave Verbik

Walter Pall said...

Christian,

my scheme is similar to Michael Persianos's super-feeding. Only that I did it before him. and I write two sentences where he wrote long articles: "feed MUCH more and MUCH more often tahn you used to with ANY regular plant fee throughout the whole vegetation period. You MUST have modern very well draining substrate and you MUST water every day abundantly in addition".
so the difference is in the second sentence. Folks who only listen to the first sentence only will have big problems.
I ahve done this since about ten years now and I am very happy with this. so are many of my students.
I have to repeat it: You have to do all three things:feed and water aggressively and modern substrate. If you only do one you will have problems.

WP

Walter Pall said...

johnson,

this is a misunderstanding. I use feed that is meant for regular houseplant s for bonsai. There is no such thing as bonsai feed. It is an invention of folks who either have too much time or too much money or both. Bonsai are regular plants, Only they need MORE feed than regular plants because we cut off things constantly and want them to regrow fast.

WP

Bandi said...

Hello Walter,

My qestion is, do you use the same NPK% feed mixtures for every type of tree(deciduous, conifers, etc)?

Walter Pall said...

Bandi,

YES! I use it for all trees, for the tomatoes of my wife and for my roses. I use it for azaleas and Japaense maples. I use it for recently collected or repotted trees immdeiately. i always water and feed everything the same.

WP

Lucas said...

Hello Walter,

one question: in your last comment you wrote about fertilizing repotted trees/yamadori. Do you mean you feed them right after their repotting/digging or do you wait any period before you start to do this? Or is it just another bonsai myth that should be cracked?

Best regards,

Lucas

Walter Pall said...

Lucas,

another bonsai myth. Trees need nutrients badly after collecting or repotting. When in modern substrate they have no nutrients in the substrate. They have to be fed right away. Since we also MUST water aggressively there is no such thing as salt-built-up in the substrate. Salts are washed out very soon.

WP

Oliver Schneider said...

Hullo Walter, hullo all.
Just wanted to add: I believe the 'myth' that bonsai don't need fertilizing after repotting comes from the fact, that normal plant soils are always enriched with nutrients (but I think most forgot). You can read the info on any package and it tells you not to feed for a month ... till the nutrients are used up.

Oliver

Anonymous said...

Hi Walter
Thank you for, once again, keeping it simple and straight forward!
It is a pleasure to follow this blog.
Kindest regards from Denmark

Christian said...

Hallo Walter,

Vielen Dank für deine Helfbereitschaft und aufschlussreiche Wegweiser! Hoffentlich kann Ich irgenwie dein Garten besuchen.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Christian

Anonymous said...

Hello Walter,
I want to make sure I understood....
You said you use fertilizer at three times the recommended strength.
So if the label says one tablespoon per gallon, you use three tablespoons?
Thanks,
Jay

Walter Pall said...

Jay,

correct. This is what I do.
but you will have to make a decision for yourself.
And don't forget: you must also water heftily every day and you must use modern substrate.

WP

Anonymous said...

Thank You Walter!
I was pretty sure that is what you meant. I'll have to experiment with my trees and conditions, but I think I can benefit from your practice.

Jay

Maros said...

Hi Walter,
what is your opinion on methods for reduction of needles (leaf) size (with pines for example) with fertilizing with low Nitrogen content (and low watering of pines in spring, for example described in Colin Lewis book).

Walter Pall said...

Maros,

not a good idea at all for all tree which are still in development. Which means all trees anyway. With lots of feeding and hight nitrogen content the needles first get much longer. Then the tree will produce many more buds. The next needles will get shorter and in the end you will have many more needle pads with shorter needles. And the tree will be very vigorous and healthy.

WP

Barry Meiring said...

Hi Walter,
As a first time visitor I have to say thanks for all the information you share/provide on your website.

Just wanted to get your opinion on the product called super thrive for use on bonsai, as I have read/heard different opinions on it. I know you mention it's use in an article for wild collected trees as a 'tonic' through growth hormones it contains. I have never used it before personally and could not find any at first glance here in New Zealand. I normally use a seaweed solution at a very high rate for collected/transplanted trees as they also contain varios plant growth hormones.

I would also be interested to know at what rate you would use it for collected trees versus maintenace fertilising of your trees.

Kind Regards

Barry

Walter Pall said...

Barry,

you can use Super Thrive, or you can pray a Rosary, or you can sing the International Solialistic Hymn in Russian to the tree. All threee are of about equal value. I prefer the last one.

WP

David said...

Can you recommend cat litter at all Walter.

Regards David

Walter Pall said...

David,

cat litter is not always the same. There are some sorts which I can absolutely not recommend. These are the soft ones which are really a mashy mess. Some are good, but you will have to look at them carefully.

WP

Roger Kulp said...

Hi Walter,

Just one quick question.What do you think of using "tea" made from treated manure as a primary fertilizer?This is what I have been using for the past couple of years, with very good results.I have found in the past when I use regular house plant fertilizer, especially in higher concentrations like you suggest,it dries and leaves a crust on the soil.

Then again,that could be due to the hot New Mexico sun.

Roger

Walter Pall said...

Manure tea is fine with me if you can stand the smell. The tree love it. If you have crust from liquid fertilizing on the soil you are probably not watering enough. You have to water aggressively so that everything is dripping wet. There should be more water than fits in the container. The crust can well be form calcium in your water though.

WP

Andrija said...

You have many times mentioned that in addition to chemical fertilizer, twice a year you put organic fertilizer - chicken manure on soil.Can you please tell me what is the exact moment to put it, since we are in different climates. In which phase plant must be when we put it? Here in USDA 8 we put it in middle September and February. Is it OK?

regards from Croatia!

Walter Pall said...

Andrija,

that's fine. I feed organic in the end of May/beginning of June and again beginning of September. I think February is too early even in your climate. The day temperatures must be above 20°C, otherwise the organic feed is worthless.

WP

Andrija said...

After putting organic fertilizer in September, is it necessary to continue fertilizing with chemical fertilizer until the end of growing season? I mean with fertilizer with small amounts of element N, and higher P and K?

Walter Pall said...

Andrija,

I feed chemical until it becomes quite cold. This is until second week of October in my area. Yu can look at contents, but if you use my method (lots of watering) everything that the tree does not need is washed out anyway eventually.

WP

Warren said...

Hi Walter.

Good day to you and everyone.

I'm an admirer of your work and your teachings. I live in the Philippines and things here are a little bit limited, this is with regards to availability of the material for soil. With your modern soil mix you are using akadama, turface, lava rocks, etc. But we don't that kind of material in here. Here is what we have; pumice, clay cat litter, coco fiber/coir, river sand, crushed gravel, aquarium peebles, vermicompost and dried moss. As of now I don't have a "fix" soil mix and my soil mix is crushed gravel (about 1/4in) at the buttom, mixed (cat litter, crushed gravel 1/16 to 1/8in, vermicompost and pumice) and topped with crushed gravel (1/16in). Would this be a good soil mix if I'm going to follow your feeding regimen? Of course I will be have lots of watering. And one last thing, on Michael Persiano's superfeeding it was mentioned there that he was using humic acid for greater nutrient uptake. Are you also using it? What would be an alternative for humic acid?

Regards,
Warren

Walter Pall said...

Warren,

use pumice 80 % and coco fiber 20 % and you have a modern substrate with all necessary patterns. Use crushed granite on the very top as top soil just for the looks.
Humid acid you need if you have pure sterile substrate. I use rough white peat and it is all humid acid by itself. If you use coco fiber you have the same effect.

good luck
WP

Warren said...

Thank you very much Walter. I will start looking for the coco fiber tomorrow, I only have pumice on hand right now. And I will be using your suggested ratio for the soil mix for my repotting session. I hope I will have as much luck as you.

(Dreaming on having one of your trees)

Thanks again.

Warren

SR. RUBIO said...

Hi Walter, my question is that soil mix is best for the bonsai. Pardon my ignorance, I'm new.

Thanks and best regards

Walter Pall said...

Rubio,

can you read? I said it clearly. Where is the problem?

WP

Walter Pall said...

It does not matter what exactly you use as long as it is modern substrate!!!!
Very well draining, coarse particles, no dust, NO SOIL, taking in water, light. cheap. There is way too much discussion about soil.
The confusion comes from bonsai books and bonsai fundamentalists that still tell you the old stuff. Forget what the books say!

WP

Warren said...

Hi Walter.

Good day.

I was already starting to use your suggested soil mix. But my problem is that I already used up my pumice and I can't find it anywhere because its out-of-stock. Can I use charcoal as substitute for pumice?

Thank you.

Warren

Walter Pall said...

Warren,

you could, but I would not. Go to your large building supply store and try to find baked loam. it is used for insulting.

WP

Warren said...

Walter,

Good day.

I have been looking for any baked loam or baked clay at our construction/building supplies stores and hardware stores but haven't got any luck of finding it. What they have are river sand, gravel, crushed granite, marble chips, aquarium peebles and some small peebles from the seashore. Nothing that would comes close to a baked loam or clay, akadama or turface. what I can easily acquire is the clay cat litter (non-clumping). Would this be a good substitute for pumice?

Thanks.

Warren

Walter Pall said...

Warren,

if the cat litter is absolutely not clumping it may well be good. But there are many very different kinds of cat litter. You have to try.

WP

Warren said...

Walter,

I once tried using cat litter on some of my trees and so far so good, it didn't crumble to dust and its been about 6months now. I'm using the Tidy Cat clay cat litter for multiple cats.

Thank you very much for your help. I hope I will learn more from you.

Warren

AJ said...

Walter,
In regards to your agressive watering, do you ever see root rot? Or would the theory be that the abundant watering would flush out any bactieria and it does not ever stagnate.

Thanks

Walter Pall said...

It is not a theory but a fact that with very well draining modern substrate there is no root rot. The bacteria and fungi are, of course, ALWAYS there. But the roots do not die and rot afterwards. Trees do not die from root rot. The roots die because something was wrong and then they rot. Root rotting is like fever, a symptom and not a cause. Forget everything that you think you know about watering and feeding if you use modern substrate. All bonsai books are dated in this regard.
Roots have to get lots of oxygen. As long as they get it they will function and not die. Aeriating is just as important as well draining.

WP

Walter Pall said...

It is not a theory but a fact that with very well draining modern substrate there is no root rot. The bacteria and fungi are, of course, ALWAYS there. But the roots do not die and rot afterwards. Trees do not die from root rot. The roots die because something was wrong and then they rot. Root rotting is like fever, a symptom and not a cause. Forget everything that you think you know about watering and feeding if you use modern substrate. All bonsai books are dated in this regard.
Roots have to get lots of oxygen. As long as they get it they will function and not die. Aeriating is just as important as well draining.

WP

Warren said...

Hi Walter.

Good day. If you don't mind I have another question. What would you feed the newly dug up yamadori once it is put in the growing/training box? Do you use rooting hormone or directly feed with 20-20-20?

Thanks.

Warren

Walter Pall said...

I feed it right away just like all other trees.

WP

Walter Pall said...

I feed it right away just like all other trees.

WP

Warren said...

Do you use rooting hormone? To help send out new roots.

Anonymous said...

Hello Walter!

I've been searching for info on coffee as fertilizer and have read that it is hi in nitrogen. Have you ever used it ?
Thanks!

Anita Sabharwal said...

Hello Walter,
Thanks a lot for such a valuable information. Now I know why your trees are so healthy and beautiful.
You are THE BEST teacher.
How I wish I could have at least one tree in my garden, like that of yours!
Anita.