Minor Spring Tasks

Posted by on Apr 17, 2016 | One Comment
Minor Spring Tasks

This time of year, it seems like there is a lot to do, but much of it is small steps. The timing in spring can be quite critical for many tasks. In the last week working on bonsai I’ve undertaken a variety of things to move along young trees and older ones alike.

This spruce is the one that Matt Reel wired for me in November of 2014. I had let the tree grow all last year without anything but water and fertilizer. A repot this past winter gave it some new room to grow in the same container.

After a year of good fertilizer and water this spruce is sending out some good strong spring growth.

After a year of good fertilizer and water this spruce is sending out some good strong spring growth.

To contain and help balance the tree I pinch off the tip of some of the shoots.    I would certainly NOT pinch all the tips.   Just like pinching the longest candles on a black pine, I pinched the longest and strongest ten percent of the shoots.   Most of these were on the top and outsides of the tree.

To contain and help balance the tree I pinch off the tip of some of the shoots. I would certainly NOT pinch all the tips. Just like pinching the longest candles on a black pine, I pinched the longest and strongest ten percent of the shoots. Most of these were on the top and outsides of the tree.

This spring I started a batch of about one hundred Japanese black pine seeds. After last year’s crop got eaten by a bird before it sprouted I’ve been anxious to make sure that these make it. Planting the seeds is not only the easiest thing, it also is the time when they take up the least amount of room. With about 80 in the container and the center growth popping out it’s time to thin them out. I plucked out 48 to make three flats worth of 4″ containers. For more on seedling-cutting technique, check out Jonas’ archive on the topic. After cutting them with a grafting knife, I used Dip-N-Gro at the 1:5 dilution. I let the cuttings, just the 1/4″ near the cut, soak for about 2 minutes in the solution while I prepared the containers.

I left about 30 of them in the container without trimming the roots. This was primarily a practical way to reduce space needs, but also a way to compare how the seedling cutting technique affects the root structure and growth over the first year.

This year's batch of Japanese Black Pine.   They're ready to have the tap-roots cut.

This year’s batch of Japanese Black Pine. They’re ready to have the tap-roots cut.

After cutting the tap roots I left the seedlings to float in water.    A dip in rooting hormone was next and then I planted them up into 4" containers.   It'll be two years now before I have to do anything but water and fertilize them.

After cutting the tap roots I left the seedlings to float in water. A dip in rooting hormone was next and then I planted them up into 4″ containers. It’ll be two years now before I have to do anything but water and fertilize them.

This elm is a good example of what I often do in the spring with deciduous material. Analyzing the long-term plan for the tree, I typically will let some branching grow for a few weeks or longer to make sure that the tree is vigorous. Then I typically cut back to balance the growth across different parts of the plant. Long shoots on the outer branches and the top are cut shorter while weaker shoots that are lower or interior are left to elongate more.

A medium size elm that I blogged about last year.   With the spring growth out about 4 inches uniformly and the sacrifice at the top really taking off I cut back many of the strongest shoots to keep the branching from getting too coarse.

A medium size elm that I blogged about last year. With the spring growth out about 4 inches uniformly and the sacrifice at the top really taking off I cut back many of the strongest shoots to keep the branching from getting too coarse.

After the trim.   The sacrifice is left to help heal a wound near the top.   I'll likely remove it in another couple months.

After the trim. The sacrifice is left to help heal a wound near the top. I’ll likely remove it in another couple months.

Timing your spring tasks to take advantage of the new growth is the key to success. If you wait too long you’ll have growth that is too large or stiff. If you start too early you will have growth that is so tender that you can’t wire it without crushing it. As I mentioned in my previous post about incremental progress on Maples – making trees into good bonsai is a series of simple steps. When the right conditions arise stay on top of the tasks like pinching (only where appropriate), pruning and wiring. If you can get the timing right you will be able to make progress with your trees.

1 Comment

  1. max
    April 26, 2016

    Very useful as usual!