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Because bonsai trees are cultivated in limited amounts of soil, adequate feed is very important. As a general rule, a small amount of feed is given in spring and a larger amount in fall. Feed for bonsai should contain three principle ingredients; nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash. It is also a good idea to use a fertilizer containing "chelated" iron. Water before fertilizing your tree and then apply at half strength recommended by brand's manufacturer. Rotate use of brands since different manufacturers add different amounts of trace elements and minerals. You could also add Superthrive, which is a vitamin supplement to fertilizer mix. You may find it simpler and easier to use slow release fertilizer granules (placed over soil) whose nutrients are released with each watering.
All potted plants will eventually outgrow their containers. While houseplants need to be "potted-up", that is, placed in larger and larger containers, miniaturization of a bonsai trees is maintained by keeping roots confined to small container. On average, repotting will be necessary every 3-5 years, but tree should be removed from its container and its root system inspected once a year. If roots form a circular ball around perimeter of pot, it is time to trim roots and repot.
When repotting remember to: Use only bonsai soil Remove air pockets by working soil down through roots Do not remove more that 20% of root system Repot during appropriate repotting season Water well and keep out of sun for a week or two
Trimming & Pruning
The main objective of trimming and pruning is to shape bonsai into desired form and to reduce growth above ground in order to maintain a balance with root growth.
The process of shaping begins when tree is very young and is on-going as it continues its growth. Trimming is accomplished by using a sharp scissors or shears. This traditional tool is called butterfly shears or bonsai shears and is used for removing foliage and light branches. When heavier branches are removed, we call it pruning and tool to use is concave cutter, for which there is no substitute. The concave cutter allows you to remove small, medium and even large branches without leaving any visible scars. Some trees such as Juniper should be trimmed by using thumb and index finger to remove new growth and to prevent browning and a "sheared" appearance.
Pests & Diseases
As living trees, bonsai are susceptible to insect attacks and disease. Preventive and corrective measures include: Keeping your bonsai in good health, since insects and bacteria tend to attack weak trees Giving your tree ample light, fresh air and ventilation Keeping soil free of spent blooms and fallen leaves etc. You may also use an insecticidal soap spray which is not harmful to humans or animals. This soap derivative, however, may require more than one application to control insect population. It's also a good idea to use this spray weekly to prevent any attacks.
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A national and internation freelance writer since 1985, Sara has myriad articles and special editions to her name. Main interests include science & technology, and organic gardening.