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Trees in Containers II

Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 7, 10 at 19:19

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is a continuation of another thread that has topped out at 150 posts. You can find a link to the previous thread ant the helpful information it contaihns at the bottom of this post.

It's not much of a secret to many, that a good part of what I've learned about plants and plant-related science has come as an outgrowth of my pursuit of at least some degree of proficiency at bonsai. Please, make no mistake, the principles applied to containerized trees under bonsai culture can, and in most cases SHOULD be applied to all containerized trees grown for the long term. Because of the small volumes of soil and small containers these trees are grown in, you might look at bonsai as a form of container culture taken to another level. Before most of the plants I grow become bonsai, they often undergo many years of preparation and manipulation while still in the same size containers you are growing in, so while I am intimately familiar with growing plants in bonsai culture, it would have been impossible for me to arrive at that familiarity w/o an even more thorough understanding of growing woody plants in larger, pre-bonsai size containers like you grow in. This thread is a continuation of one I previously posted on the same topic.

I grow and manage a wide variety of temperate trees and shrubs, both deciduous and conifers, and 75 or more tropical/subtropical woody plants. I'd like to invite you to join the discussion with questions about your own containerized trees and/or your tree problems. I will try to answer your questions whenever I can.

The timing of certain procedures is closely related to energy management, which gets too little consideration by most growers tending trees in containers. Because repotting and root pruning seem to be most misunderstood on the list of what it takes to maintain trees that will continually grow at close to their genetic potential, I will include some observations about those procedures to open the discussion.

I have spent literally thousands of hours digging around in root-balls of trees (let's allow that trees means any woody plant material with tree-like roots) - tropical/subtropical trees, temperate trees collected from the wild and temperate nursery stock. The wild collected trees are a challenge, usually for their lack of roots close to the trunk, and have stories of their own. The nursery stock is probably the closest examples to what most of your trees are like below the soil line, so I'll offer my thoughts for you to consider or discard as you find fitting.

I've purchased many trees from nurseries that have been containerized for long periods. Our bonsai club, just this summer, invited a visiting artist to conduct a workshop on mugo pines. The nursery (a huge operation) where we have our meetings happened to have purchased several thousand of the mugos somewhere around 10 - 12 years ago and they had been potted-up into continually larger containers ever since. Why relate these uninteresting snippets? In the cases of material that has been progressively potted-up only, large perennial roots occupied nearly the entire volume of the container, plant vitality was in severe decline, and soil in the original root-ball had become so hard that in some cases a chisel was required to remove it.

In plants that are potted-up, rootage becomes entangled. As root diameters increase, portions of roots constrict flow of water and nutrients through other roots, much the same as in the case of girdling or encircling roots on trees grown in-ground. The ratio of fine, feeder roots to more lignified and perennial roots becomes skewed to favor the larger, and practically speaking, useless roots.

Initial symptoms of poor root conditions are progressive diminishing of branch extension and reduced vitality. As rootage becomes continually compressed and restricted, branch extension stops and individual branches might die as water/nutrient translocation is further compromised. Foliage quality may not (important to understand) indicate the tree is struggling until the condition is severe, but if you observe your trees carefully, you will find them increasingly unable to cope with stressful conditions - too much/little water, heat, sun, etc. Trees that are operating under conditions of stress that has progressed to strain, will usually be diagnosed in the end as suffering from attack by insects or other bio-agents while the underlying cause goes unnoticed.

I want to mention that I draw distinct delineation between simply potting up and repotting. Potting up temporarily offers room for fine rootage to grow and do the necessary work of water/nutrient uptake, but these new roots soon lignify, while rootage in the old root mass continues to grow and become increasingly restrictive. The larger and larger containers required for potting-up & the difficulty in handling them also makes us increasingly reluctant to undertake even potting-up, let alone undertake the task of repotting/root-pruning which grows increasingly difficult with each up-potting.

So we are clear on terminology, potting up simply involves moving the plant with its root mass and soil intact, or nearly so, to a larger container and filling in around the root/soil mass with additional soil. Repotting, on the other hand, includes the removal of all or part of the soil and the pruning of roots, with an eye to removing the largest roots, as well as those that would be considered defective. Examples are roots that are dead, those growing back toward the center of the root mass, encircling, girdling or j-hooked roots, and otherwise damaged roots.

I often explain the effects of repotting vs potting up like this:

Let's rate growth/vitality potential on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. We're going to say that trees in containers can only achieve a growth/vitality rating of 9, due to the somewhat limiting effects of container culture. Lets also imagine that for every year a tree goes w/o repotting or potting up, its measure of growth/vitality slips by 1 number, That is to say you pot a tree and the first year it grows at a level of 9, the next year, an 8, the next year a 7. Lets also imagine we're going to go 3 years between repotting or potting up.

Here's what happens to the tree you repot/root prune:
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
repot
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
repot
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
You can see that a full repotting and root pruning returns the plant to its full potential within the limits of other cultural influences for as long as you care to repot/root prune.

Looking now at how woody plants respond to only potting up:
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
pot up
year 1: 8
year 2: 7
year 3: 6
pot up
year 1: 7
year 2: 6
year 3: 5
pot up
year 1: 6
year 2: 5
year 3: 4
pot up
year 1: 5
year 2: 4
year 3: 3
pot up
year 1: 4
year 2: 3
year 3: 2
pot up
year 1: 3
year 2: 2
year 3: 1

This is a fairly accurate illustration of the influence tight roots have on a woody plant's growth/vitality. You might think of it for a moment in the context of the longevity of bonsai trees vs the life expectancy of most trees grown as houseplants, the difference between 4 years and 400 years, lying primarily in how the roots are treated.

I haven't yet mentioned that the dissimilar characteristics of the old soil as compared to the new soil when potting-up are also a recipe for trouble. With a compacted soil in the old roots and a fresh batch of soil surrounding the roots of a freshly potted-up tree, it is nearly impossible to establish a watering regimen that doesn't keep the differing soils either too wet or too dry, both conditions occurring concurrently being the rule rather than the exception.

Most who read this would have great difficulty showing me a containerized tree that's more than 10 years old and as vigorous as it could be, unless it has been root-pruned at repotting time; yet I can show you hundreds of trees 20 years to 200 years old and older that are in perfect health. All have been root-pruned and given a fresh footing in in new soil at regular and frequent intervals.

Deciduous trees are some of the most forgiving of trees when it comes to root pruning. The process is quite simple and the long term benefits include best opportunities for plants to grow at or near their potential genetic vigor, and stronger plants that are able to resist the day to day perils that bring down weaker plants. Root-pruning is a procedure that might be considered borrowed from bonsai culture, but as noted above, bonsai culture is nothing more than highly refined container culture, and to restrict the practice of root-pruning to bonsai only, is an injustice to those of us who simply enjoy growing trees in containers.

Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone. ~Jens Jensen

Now that I have made the case for why it is important to regularly perform full repots (not to be confused with potting-up) and prune the roots of your containerized trees regularly, I will offer some direction. Root-pruning is the systematic removal of the largest roots in the container with emphasis on removal of rootage growing directly under the trunk and at the perimeter of the root mass.

Root pruning can start immediately with year-old seedlings by removing the taproot just below the basal flare of dormant material, repotting, and treating the plant as a cutting. This will produce a plant with flat rootage that radiates outward from the base and that will be easy to care for in the future.

Young trees (under 10 yrs old) are nearly all dynamic mass and will tolerate root-pruning well. Most deciduous trees are extremely tolerant of root work. Acer buergerianum (trident maple) is routinely reduced to a main trunk with roots pruned all the way back to the basal flare and responds to the treatment with a fresh growth of fine, fibrous roots and a fresh flush of foliage each spring. The point here is, you don't need to be concerned about the pruning if you follow a few simple guidelines.

First, some generalities: undertake repotting of most deciduous material while the plant is quiescent (this is the period after the tree has met its chill requirement and has been released from dormancy, but has not begun to grow yet because of low soil temps). Most conifers are best repotted soon after the onset of spring growth. Most tropical and subtropical trees are best repotted in the month prior to their most robust growth period (summer). Citrus are probably best repotted in spring, but they can also be repotted successfully immediately after a push of top growth.

For most plants that have not been root-pruned before: With a pruning saw, saw off the bottom 1/3 of the root ball. With a hand-rake (like you use for scratching in the garden soil) and/or a wooden chopstick and/or the aid of water under high pressure from a garden hose, remove all the loose soil. Using a jet of water from the hose and the chopstick, remove the remaining soil - ALL of it. The exception here would be those plants that form dense mats of fine roots (citrus, bougainvillea, rhododendron ...). This should be done out of sun and wind to prevent the fine roots from drying. 5 minutes in the sun or wind can kill fine roots & set the tree back a week or more, so keep roots moist by misting very frequently or dipping the roots in a tub of water as you work. After the soil is removed, remove up to another 1/3 of the remaining mass of roots with a sharp pruning tool, taking the largest roots, and those roots growing directly under the trunk. Stop your pruning cuts just beyond where a smaller root branches toward the outside of the root you are pruning. Be sure to remove any J-hooked roots, encircling/girdling roots or others exhibiting abnormal growth.

Before you begin the pruning operation, be sure you have the soil & new container ready to go (drain screens in place, etc). The tree should fit loosely inside the walls of the container. Fill the container with soil to the desired ht, mounded in the center, & place tree on the mound. Add soil to cover roots & with a chopstick/skewer, or sharpened wood dowel, work soil into all voids in the roots, eliminating the air pockets and adding soil to the bottom of the basal root-flare. Temporarily securing the tree to the container with twine or small rope, even staking, against movement from wind or being jostled will fractionalize recovery time by helping to prevent breakage of newly-formed fine rootage. Place the tree in shade & out of wind until it leafs out and re-establishes in the container.

The first time you root-prune a tree will be the most difficult & will likely take up to an hour from start to finish, unless the tree is in larger than a 5 gallon container. When you're satisfied with the work, repot into a soil that you are certain will retain its structure until the next root-pruning/repot. Tree (genetic) vigor will dictate the length of time between repots. The slow growing, less vigorous species, and older trees will likely go 5 years between repots. For these slow growing trees, it is extremely important that soils retain aeration. For these trees, a soil of 2/3 inorganic parts and 1/3 organic (I prefer pine or fir bark) is a good choice. The more vigorous plants that will only go 2 years between repots can be planted in a soil with a higher organic component if you wish, but would still benefit from the 2/3 inorganic mix.

Most trees treated this way will fully recover within about 4 weeks after the repot By the end of 8 weeks, they will normally have caught & passed, in both development and in vitality, a similar root-bound plant that was only potted up

When root-pruning a quiescent plant, you needn't worry much about "balancing" top growth with rootage removed. The plant will tend to only "activate" the buds it can supply with water. It is, however, the optimum time to undertake any pruning you may wish to attend to.

This is how I treat most of my trees. Though I have many growing in bonsai pots, more of my plants are in nursery containers or terra-cotta and look very much like your trees, as they await the beginning of intensive training. With a little effort at developing a soil from what's available to you and some knowledge and application of root-pruning and repotting techniques, I'm absolutely sure that a good % of those nurturing trees in containers could look forward to results they can be very pleased with. This is the repotting technique described that allows bonsai trees to live for hundreds of years & be passed from generation to generation while other containerized trees that have not had their roots tended to, and have only been potted-up, are likely to be in severe decline, or compost, well before they're old enough to vote. ;o)

I hope you're bold enough to make it a part of your containerized tree maintenance, and I hope what I've written makes sense - it's well past prudent bedtime for me.

Knowing grass, I understand the meaning of persistence.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of perseverance.
Knowing bonsai I understand the meaning of patience. ~ Al

Click Me to go to the Previous Thread

Al


Follow-Up Postings:

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Root shock?

Hi Al,

We did our first repot with the 1st of our 3 mango trees following the instructions above. Now, I'm very concerned about its appearance. It has been 3 days in the "Gritty Mix" and the leaves are wilting more each day like when thirsty. Is this part of the expected "root shock" or is something dreadfully wrong? I have given it a good watering each day, which I thought was standard for a replanted mango for the first week or two. The water drains out so fast in this "Gritty Mix", I'm wondering if I need to increase the watering to twice a day. I suppose if it's root shock it should recover in 4 weeks. When should I expect to see signs of recovery?

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 7, 10 at 22:06

There are always things that can go wrong during a repot, and I'm not trying to dodge a bullet when I say that in almost every case it's related to grower error. So you don't think I'm pointing a finger specifically at you and saying it's your fault, please let me explain.

W/o having seen the tree to get an idea of it's state of vitality, size, type of soil it's in, how root bound it was, how many roots were removed, I can't be much help in determining exactly where the problem is. Not being a mango grower, I have to guess that like most trees, it would have preferred a spring or early summer repot. I don't know if you let the roots dry out during repotting, if you might be over-watering, how the soil was made, where the tree is presently sited .....

It's pretty doubtful you'd need to water a freshly replanted tree every day, so perhaps a wick in the drain hole as a 'tell' to let you know when it's time to water would be a good idea. How did you make the soil? Screened ingredients? What were they? Did you add gypsum or lime? Did you add fertilizer?

It's not unusual for trees to sulk/pout a little after repots. It's possible too, that what is causing you great concern, might not concern me at all?? I would try to keep the roots in the 60-75* temperature range and the tree out of direct sun, sheltered from wind. Make sure the tree is secured to it's pot, that is so the tree can't move in relation to the pot, and be patient, unless you have more to add. I've mentioned many times that trees with fine roots that mat together are best bare-rooted in pie shaped wedges, and not all at once. Did you follow that suggestion?

Al


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Root Shock?

We tried to follow your instructions as well as we could being novices and never actually watching a repot. The ingredients were pine bark mulch, Turface, crushed granite - all screened thru 1/4 in screen and then with insect screen to remove the dust. We did add the 1 Tbs of gypsum per gallon of soil, but no fertilizer yet. We got the mango tree last spring at a nursery and it is 3 feet high. It seemed pretty healthy all summer and even gave us 4 nice fruits. It has been potted up once last spring, just putting the nursery root ball in a bigger pot with new soil to fill in (this before we knew anything). We did have an infestation of scale insects this fall, but they were all treated with "oil and soap" spray and later physically removed. It seemed very healthy when we did the repotting.

We removed all of the old soil with hose and chopstick and found a "birds nest" of small roots. Not much in the way of thick roots other than the main stem root which was about 4 inches long. We kept the roots well wetted with the hose and a bucket of water through the 15 minute or so procedure and untangled the roots manually best we could to spread them out over the mound of soil in the bottom of the new 18 gallon pot. I did not do much root pruning other than a few that looked dead or were badly tangled. I wouldn't say that we handled the roots all that much, but then I don't know how delicate they are in terms of what they can tolerate. The rest of the soil was added slowly and poked with the chopstick to get in all around the roots without air spaces. The hose was used liberally to wet everything as it was added. So, we tried to do everything right without actually having seen it done, except the root pruning. I guess I was reluctant to injure the tree by doing it wrong or too much. I just wanted to free the roots from their old nursery ball of soil and give them some growing room in the new pot.

For the first 2 days the tree was outside next to the lanai, receiving sun and somewhat protected from wind. It was staked to keep the trunk still in the pot. Now it is inside because we are having a very early cold snap with nightly frosts. The inside temp is about 60 degrees.

Anything else that would help you to help us (and the poor tree)?

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al just wanted to thank you for answering all of my questions over the last few months. I'm finished transforming about 4 out of 50 containers to the new gritty mix (slow but steady work!). Also, a big thank you for taking the time to aggregate/update the beginning of the new thread with all of the information from the previous thread.

It is sometimes hard to remember where all the good nuggets are in these threads. When you update the main intro upon a new thread it really helps.

I've really enjoyed reading through all your big threads: 'Trees in containers', 'Fertilizer program', and of course the grand daddy of them all 'Container Soils and water in containers'.

One thing I wanted to throw out at you was have you ever considered creating some online videos for some of the basic procedures you advocate? (root pruning, screening gritty mix, adding a wick, etc...). I know these seem like basic procedures, but to a novice sometimes seeing a video can make learning the techniques much easier to grasp.

I only bring this up because it seems you really enjoy helping others. I think video would be a huge benefit to the gardening community. Also, creating a video clip is much easier these days with the introduction of the iPhone or even the Flipcam and you can host them easily on YouTube. Like the say, a picture is worth a thousand words :)

Anyways, no worries if you can't or don't want to. I still am in eternal gratitude for all the knowledge you have shared!

Thanks,

Bill


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 8, 10 at 9:40

Curt - from what you added to the description of how you treated your tree, it sounds like you didn't do anything I wouldn't have done, in fact, I can be pretty sure I'd have been more aggressive if the tree was healthy. It's still hard to say what impact the scale infestation might have had on the trees (stored) energy level, but how fast a tree recovers depends in large part on it's level of vitality. The wilting, of course, depends on the tree's ability to move water from roots to the canopy AND the rate of transpiration. Reducing transpiration rate by keeping the air calm around the tree so the boundary (air) layer remains as intact as possible, and keeping humidity high by a loosely arranged tent-like structure would be helpful. Can you send a picture of the wilting so I can get a better sense of what has you concerned?

********************************

Hi, Bill. Thank you for the kind words. I've posted a series of pictures that go through a repot/root-pruning pretty much step by step, and I've considered a video, but to tell the truth, I have trouble keeping up with what I have going on, and it's hard for me to take the time to make a video during the repotting season. I suppose I could just buy a nursery plant in August when things have slowed, and repot it ..... I'd probably need some technical assistance, but I have adult kids that are much more electronically adept than I. We'll see. ;o) Thanks again.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al has mentioned this already, but I wanted to concur that protecting the tree
for the first few days can be very important to recovery (even moreso during hot weather).
Al has said that cool soils, initially low in fertility, are conducive to root-growth.
And new roots are essential to perking those leaves up.

Indoors, I'd expect the humidity to be low by default.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 8, 10 at 12:55

Good advice/observations, Josh.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al~
It's always great to see another one of your threads reach a point of "to be continued" ;-)
Always something in them for us to learn from!

Josh,
Yes, good point!
I know I need to get the humidity up in my house.
I used to run the dryer indoors in the winter, but it bit the dust. :( lol..

Have a great day all!
JoJo


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Root Shock?

OK, took me awhile to figure out how to post pictures.
There are 3 posting in the "Gallery" of this forum:
1. has no pic
2. has a pic of the whole mango tree
3. has a closeup of one branch showing the wilting and curling of the newest leaves.

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Curt,
If your using Photo Bucket, all you need to do is copy the html code for the picture, and then paste it into your post. It will look like a huge scrambled mess, but when you prview your post, it will show the pic. If not something went wrong. ;)

JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 9, 10 at 10:22

C - Based on the size of the soil mass & the fact the plant isn't using much water from the soil, I'm sure you're over-watering, though I don't think that's why the plant is wilting. It looks like you have a branch in trouble that was probably having issues before the repot, but so far, I don't see anything that is so far gone it can't/won't correct itself in a short while. Remember, tree time and people time are different. Trees are much more patient than we are, but as a budding tree person, you'll osmotically absorb some of the trees' virtue. ;o)

I would get your plant outdoors and out of the wind, if you can. I'm pretty sure, if it had good energy reserves at the time of repotting, that it's going to bounce back & take off for you.

Keep us posted! ;o)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Here is Curt's Mango pic.

Photobucket


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Root shock cont.

Hi Al,

New pic posted in the Gallery shows the continuing decline of our mango tree - all leaves are curled and drying out. In spite of your recent optimism, I'm afraid it's a gonner. I suppose the only hope now is that the leaves may fall off and if there are sufficient reserves it may leaf out again, so we'll not pull the carcass out of the pot just yet.
The frustrating aspect of this is that if it were an animal or a human, there are things one can do - call 911, start an IV, etc. But with a tree what can you do to rehydrate a plant that doesn't want to drink?

**********
Steve, how did you post my pic in the discussion part of the forum? I assumed that was not available because there is no camera icon next to "Container Gardening" in the Forum list.

Curt


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi everybody.
I am an ex South African now living in New Zealand. My English is not what it should be and I sometimes find it difficult to express myself to the fullest so please bare with me :-)
I started container planting back in SA concentrating on indigenous trees and specifically Acasias. I had about 28 of the 40something Acacias native to Africa when I emmigrated. Very sad when I had to leave them behind.
When I arrived in NZ I started collecting NZ natives and currently have about 15.
All of them are currently planted in heavy soils because I only found this wonderful forum 2 months ago.
I want to add my appreciation to all of you for all the help and abundance of information that is being shared by everybody. You really are an exceptional bunch.
Thank you Al for forever changing my planting life. Very Very much appreciated !!!

I had a real problem sourcing the ingredients for the gritty mix but eventually got hold of what I needed. Turface is not to be found in NZ so I am using pumice.
I am very excited for my plants sake because I only now realize how much i have been torturing them in the heavy soils I have forever been using. If plants could only talk hey?

Now that I found this fantastic soil I REALLY have a major problem. Our summer has just started and all my trees (deciduous and evergreens) are smothering in the heavy soil. They are on avg 3 years old and all of them have been replanted in new containers this spring. The container sizes are on avg 5 gallons. I want to take them out and replant them all in the gritty mix.
My problem is I dont think they will survive it because they are not rootbound so I cant do the pie wedge technique Al suggests. When I remove them the soil will come loose and bare roots cant be a good idea this time of year.

Any suggestions Al?


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RE: Trees in Containers II

That is a very good picture of a plant wilted, but not dead. I have seen lots of trees looking worse than this recover nicely and hope you will be patient with it. Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 14, 10 at 9:48

I'm not putting you off, but read this first (see link below) ans see if it helps you deal with things until you can repot at a more opportune time.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Dealing w/Water-retentive Soils


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al.
I have read it and it all makes perfect sense to me. That is why i am so frustrated at myself. I have placed wicks and lifted all the containers to try and limit the damage the heavy soil is doing.
My problem is the growing season is very short where i stay so i have to make use of every day i have. The containers takes ages to dry out in summer (2-3 weeks) and in winter they don�t need any watering because it rains at least twice a week. They are all planted in plastic containers and I have since started making new containers from wood. I cut up pallets and manufacture square boxes from it. It works beautifully and costs me nothing.
I started out wrong this spring and have to fix it before winter sets in. The heavy soil will be a problem come this winter. I need to get them out and into the gritty mix.
I have read this container forum completely and opened a file in word to save every bit of info as i went. I refer to it on a daily basis.
I have not seen anything to answer my existing question though. My question is how damaging will it be to them if i remove them now and replant them? I HAVE to do it even if I do loose a few of them.
I will do it as quick and cautiously as possible.

Thanks

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 14, 10 at 16:18

What is your weather like? Describe seasonal temperature changes. Do any of the plants you're growing go dormant for reasons other than as a drought response?

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al.

Thanks for responding.

I will try and describe as best I can. My zone is 8-9. I live close to the sea so the humidity is high. Summer is hot (25 � 30 deg C) but cool night temps. Because the ozone hole is right above NZ the sun is exceptionally bright and harming if exposed to for to long (for humans that is). On average the spring and summer conditions are moderate and very enjoyable.
Winter is rainy season. It does get very cold but no frosts or snow�.just a lot of rain.
On average I would describe it as a temperate climate.

I have about a 5 month growing period.

I have not noticed any dormancy other that drought.

I realize that there is a lot of factors to be considered when replanting out of season but I would appreciate it if you could elaborate some about the dangers and/or possible probabilities of replanting out of season as I have not seen any discussion about it yet.
Thank you

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al.

On second thoughts I think I am kind off over reacting and chasing my own tail.
The answer I am looking for is in all the discussions. I think I will just treat them as per the potting up instructions you laid out.
I will remove the root ball intact with as least as possible disturbance to the roots and replant them in the gritty mix.

I will report back after its done. Thanks again for all the effort you are putting in to help everybody. You sure are a blessing.

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hey, Freddie, welcome aboard!

You're doing the right thing by amassing information and consulting Al directly.

I suppose you might consider your situation an out-of-season emergency re-potting.
It can be done - and it seems you are aware of the risks and ready to cope with losses.

You'll need to have everything prepped and ready to go, and then you'll need to work
efficiently while the roots are exposed. I try to re-pot/bare-root in the shade.
After-care will be essential. You must protect your trees from direct sunlight while the
roots are "offline" - with reduced photosynthesis, they won't be using all that light.
They need to be in bright shade, in a location protected from wind.

Depending upon how the trees were growing (sun exposure, et cetera), they might need to
be protected for 3 days to 3 weeks. During this adjustment phase, you'll need to maintain
moisture levels in the root-zone....without over-watering.

If I'm steering you wrong, I'm sure that Al will set you straight.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 14, 10 at 20:47

It seems like you're about the equivalent of our June, so I'm not sure why you can't repot anything evergreen now - especially if humidity is high & you can protect from direct sun. I realize there is danger in painting with a broad brush, so if you want to avoid that, we can talk more about it on a tree by tree basis.

Potting up and then double-potting, or partially burying your pots should get you through until you can repot next spring. I'm not getting a clear picture of what you're growing, and I can't say I'd be familiar with all the species, but if it's used as bonsai material, I'll be familiar with it, and I'm not adverse to doing a little looking around so I can offer more explicit comments.

Your turn. ;o)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

"WOW NOW WE CAN BREATHE".

That's the message i get from my plants as i see a smiley face on each little leaf this morning.
All the stems seems to be standing up straighter and reaching out further overnight.
Its tears and jubilation all around from them this morning. A tear and a smile perched on every little leaf. I swear their leafy little eyes filled with admiration are following me around with every step I take..;-))))

Ha Ha...Before I get carried away to much I have to say I told them that the idea of their new comfy, cool and healthy new home isn't mine but from a Grand Master in America. I told them about this lovely man that loves plants so much he is dedicating his life to learn all about exactly what they want and need in order to make plants as happy as possible. I also told them about how tireless he spends his time educating others how to make their plants happy.

Al. My plants have something to say to you...
"All together now plant childen. Say to uncle Al what you said to me".

" THANK YOU...THANK YOU...THANK YOU UNCLE AL. WE LOVE YOU UNCLE AL".

This gritty mix really is something else�EVEN I CAN BREATHE IN IT !!!
I have this habit of when I see a good looking soil I take a handful and smell it. I love the smell of a good soil. So the first thing I did when I finished mixing my gritty mix...yeah you guessed it...I SMELT IT and it smells like nothing else. I'm blown away. Its like a whole new world has opened up to me. I cant stop thinking of planting now. I want to plant everything I see. I'm collecting cuttings everywhere I go.
When I see a pretty girl along the road I look through her at the plant behind her contemplating the prospect of a vibrant cutting.
I am not a great believer in reincarnation but if I had to make the choice of what I want to be in my next life.... I want to be a containerized dwarfed Acacia tortilis in Al Fazzescis bach yard ;-)))

So from me too AL. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your knowledge with all plant lovers. You have made a bigger difference than you could ever imagine !!!
On the same level I have to thank each and every one of the posters here for the effort you put in to share your love, experiences and knowledge with other plant lovers.
I really am learning heaps from everybody.

From the above it sounds like I have re planted everything but I actually haven't. I am still to scared to do the trees. I have repotted all the Crasullas and Portulacarias because they can handle it better this time of year (summer in NZ) I think. I have some beautiful specimens that are up to 10 years old. I am particularly proud of the one Portulacaria I got from someone 4 weeks ago. The plant is about 10 years old standing 4 feet high and was terribly neglected (and hardened) in a pot. I replanted it in a plastic container in a heavy soil. I replanted it again 2 days ago in a lovely big wooden box filled with gritty mix. I swear I am seeing a difference 2 days later.

My idea a few years ago was to do bonsai. I have a reasonable level of theoretical knowledge that I gathered over the years but never really got into the practical side of it. I collected trees and planted them in big containers in order to grow the trunks but like I said they were all left behind in SA. I have since shifted my focus to dwarfing trees in containers. 1.5m - 2.0m tall is my aim.

Al.
The trees of specific interest that I want to get into the gritty mix are all young 2-3 years old. They stand on avg 3ft tall and not rootbound. They are presently going into their summer growth (although sparingly because they are smothering remember?) They were all potted up 2 months ago at the beginning of spring. I will give you a list and see what we can get to from there. If posible can you elaberate some on the subject of dormancy in the growing period.

Deciduous...

3 species of Sophora
Plagiantus regius
Carpodetus seratus
Acer palmatum dissectum
Quercus robur
Fagus sylvatica purpurea
Grewia occidentalis
Corylus colurna

Ever green...

Coprosma rainbow surprise
Laurelia novae zelandiae
2 species of Metrosideros
Guava
Tahitian lime

Josh.
Good to meet you and thanks for responding to me. I saw you on the C+S forum and very impressed with you babies mate. I also love Crasullas and Portulacarias. Will post some pics in the near future and show you some of mine.

Greetings and thank you.

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 21, 10 at 1:15

I understand root pruning, but why can you not repot every year.I like to use 30 gallon plastic & 55 gallon plastic drums for big plants & 5 gallon buckets for small ones.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 21, 10 at 23:11

Are you confusing repotting with potting up? You CAN repot every year if you wish, though except where very vigorous material is the subject, it's usually not necessary yearly. Potting up can be done as long as you wish, though to give your trees the chance for best growth you would need to pot up (guideline) at the time or before the roots become congested enough that the soil and root mass can be lifted from the pot intact. Once the plant has gone beyond this point, it is virtually assured that simply potting up will ensure continual decline unless root issues are at some point corrected via a root-pruning/full repot.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al

I have a few questions that might be of interest.

1. How long does gypsum stay active in the gritty mix. Dont it wash out over an extended period?
2. Doesn't composted pine bark become hydrophobic when cacti and succulents are left to dry completely between waterings?
3. I did some air layering on trees in my back yard 2 mnths ago. It's the first time I'm doing it so I don't really know what to expect from the process. The trees concerned are Podocarpus totara, Vitex lucens, Pittosporum eugenioides, Coprosma robusta. I used branches of at least 1 inch diameter. I want to establish them in containers when the rooting process is done. Do you have any advice for me on the treatment after the removal from the tree?
Summer is starting now and hopefully they will be ready before winter sets in.

Thanks.

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 22, 10 at 23:13

1) Guideline: gypsum is more soluble than dolomitic lime, so unless your irrigation water has ample amounts of Ca in it, you should probably consider adding a little more gypsum somewhere between the middle to later portion of the active part of the growth cycle in the second year or possibly at the beginning of the third year, but only if your fertilizer isn't providing Ca.

2) Composted pine bark does, but even though the bark does, the gritty mix doesn't. The 5:1:1 mix CAN become hydrophobic if left to dry down well past the point where the soil feels dry. Both bark and peat FEEL dray at about 40-45% moisture content, but neither become hydrophobic until their water content starts to fall below about 30%. This gives you about a 15% cush.

In the case of the gritty mix, even if the bark was to dry down to an extremely low moisture content and become very hydrophobic, the soil itself does not. When you water, the bark initially repels water, but The Turface will not. Neither will the surfaces of the granite repel; so when you apply water to a totally dry gritty mix, water is immediately absorbed by the Turface and also coats the granite. Water vapor will then diffuse, making it's way into the bark particles and gradually breaking the water-repellency, usually over a period of about 15 minutes. This is one of the reasons you have to work very hard at over-watering anything in a properly made gritty mix. Even if there happens to be a little perched water in the soil, it usually diffuses very quickly into the bark. Usually, the only time over-watering becomes an issue is when you irrigate so frequently the bark remains saturated and can't absorb any water that might be perched in the soil. Again, it's almost never an issue if the particulates are large enough and screened of fines.

3) Describe your technique. Sphagnum moss or another medium? Wrapped in plastic or using a container? Any roots showing yet - have you used a technique that will allow you to observe that roots have formed?

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi Al.
Thanks for responding.....understood :-).

I removed a 1 inch section of bark and scraped away the layer beneath the cambium. I then wrapped it with a good quality sphagnum moss (dampened) and covered the moss with clear plactic. I taped the ends of the plastic with insulation tape. I then wrapped it with tin foil and taped the ends again. I poked a hole for excess water to escape. I have not opened it for 2 mnths now but feel it frequently by hand. I can feel that its cool and spongy. That says to me that it still is damp inside. I plan to open it this weekend to see about the rooting. I can easily open and close it.

Thanks

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al.

I'm thinking you would be interested to know that I replanted all the trees in newly made wooden boxes. I planted some in the gritty mix and some in the 5.1.1 mix. Its been 5 days now and they are all looking happy. No droopy leaves. Looks like my limited amount of plant knowledge and vast amount of logic brought me through ;-)

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 29, 10 at 19:20

I said, "Ohhh nooo" .... until I reviewed upthread & discovered you're down under, so the timing isn't the adversity I thought when I first read that you repotted everything.

FWIW - I always have an added measure of respect for those who are able to think and behave logically .... so kudos to you for putting yours to work!

I don't know how well you can see them, but these are some of the grow boxes I've made for growing on bonsai material, from lumber we often get crated freight from at my business:
Photobucket

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al,
Thank you for the very informative post. I know there are no hard and fast rules with container gardening, but we all are looking for the best practices to give us the greatest margins for success. The weather in San Diego is a perfect 75 degrees, and I just completed several repots into the gritty mix... hoping the trees will be fully recovered by the start of Spring. If I can ask a few questions to further clarify your comments:

"Place the tree in shade & out of wind until it leafs out and re-establishes in the container."

I know to keep the tree out direct sun for a couple of weeks and avoid fertilizing. Use Superthrive or similiar rooting hormone to stimulate root development. What do you mean by "leafs out"? Does this mean keep it out of the sun until new leaves start to sprout? What metrics/visual cues do you use to determine the tree is re-established in the new media?

"Most trees treated this way will fully recover within about 4 weeks after the repot. By the end of 8 weeks, they will normally have caught & passed, in both development and in vitality, a similar root-bound plant that was only potted up."

When resuming the weak fertilization program after two weeks, should I continue adding the rooting hormone to the fertilizer mix until it recovers in 4 weeks? 8 weeks? When does rooting hormone no longer aid in root transplant recovery?

Also... wrt Plasmolysis (overfertilization) of a containerized tree where the tree's leaves droop and dry out. After transplant, how is the recovery treatment any different? Even the slightest weak fertilization regime poses additional stress to an already weak tree. What else can be done to reverse the effects of overfertiizaton?

Thanks in advance, Dan


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 24, 11 at 16:54

When I say 'leafs out', I'm referring to deciduous trees in their dormant state. Conifers, particularly pines, aren't so particular about being put right back in the sun after a repot.

You can usually tell the tree is sufficiently established when it has decided it's ready to push new growth. The tree will pretty much remain stalled unless it's sure it can support additional canopy. I'm speaking as though the tree has a will or the ability to decide, but all this 'decision making' is based on the stimulation of chemical messengers being circulated throughout the tree.

When I repot, I soak the newly repotted tree in a water/Superthrive solution for about a half hour, or until the next tree is repotted & ready to soak. In several experiments I've tried, I've seen no evidence that Superthrive has any value as a tonic, but the same tests do show it helps stimulate new roots. It also promotes root bifurcation. I don't think there would be any harm in continuing its use for several weeks if you wish, as long as you don't overuse. Synthetic auxin was a primary ingredient in the infamous 'Agent Orange' so copiously used in Viet Nam.

There is a difference between fertilizing a tree that is weak and over-fertilizing a tree that is healthy. Plasmolysis occurs as plasmalemma is torn from the cell walls as the cell collapses due to water being pulled from the cell because the level of dissolved solids in the soil solution are so high water moves FROM cells instead of INTO cells.

This is why those that assure you that you can't fertilize all winter long are so wrong. IF your soil allows you to flush it every time you water, and you are fertilizing with low doses of fertilizer, it's impossible for the level of solutes to get so high they can cause damage. On the other hand, even if you STOP fertilizing completely in early winter, and the only logical reason you would do so is to prevent solubles from accumulating in soils too water-retentive to flush w/o risking root rot, the level of solubles will continue to increase every time you water because of the dissolved solids in the tap water.

Regularly fertilizing with low doses while flushing the soil keeps EC/TDS as low as it can possibly be w/o nutrient deficiencies. Those that stop fertilizing because of their heavy soils are indeed doing their plants a favor by withholding fertilizer because they have no way of eliminating the excess. That doesn't mean that it is the best plan or solution o/a, just that it's a near requirement in dealing with the effects of heavy soils on solubles levels.

"Even the slightest weak fertilization regime poses additional stress to an already weak tree. What else can be done to reverse the effects of over-fertiizaton?"

The first half of your statement isn't necessarily so. As an example: Trees weakened by nutritional deficiencies would all be condemned to death if we withheld fertilizers from them because they were weak or sick.

The effects of over-fertilization can't be reversed. There is only one degree of dead, and plasmolysis kills cells and the tissue made up of those cells. The best you can hope for is to try to return the plant to the most favorable conditions as possible & let the plant resume growing around the dead tissues that aren't/can't be shed.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al,
Warm thanks for the thorough follow up... With your experience and guidance, even this knuckle dragger gardner has found success. As a Navy helicopter pilot by trade, gardening doesn't fall into my strengths category, but with your informative posts/discussions, I have become quite the educated citroholic... friends and family are truly impressed with my backyard citrus grove that has turned around in the last year.

Thanks again, Dan

Here is the Honey Murcott and Oroblanco before transplant into the gritty mix:
IMG_1237


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 24, 11 at 22:39

Ahhhh - music to my ears! I'm not talking about the compliments, though those are greatly appreciated - I meant your success! That rocks. I'm very pleased for you ..... and THANK YOU for letting us know!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 25, 11 at 6:04

I'm interested in seeing a followup "AFTER" photo of the trees!

I gotta tell ya... all this great education and all these successes are really making me want to obtain a couple of citrus trees! Lemon and orange, mainly.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Jodik,
Here are some follow up pics... I'll take some more pics when Spring is actually here...

From left to right: Melogold, Oroblanco, Algerian Tangerine, Murcott Honey, Cocktail Grapefruit, Meyer Lemon, Meyer Lemon. The potted citrus filling the gaps are newly transplanted in the gritty mix (2 weeks) and have all adjusted very well.

IMG_1980

Melogold Grepefruit pushing lots of new growth

IMG_1984

Bearss Lime growing like crazy; pushing out new growth

IMG_1992

Thanks for all the help received on these forums! My citrus have never been happier!

Dan


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 29, 11 at 17:51

Rockin! If you're happy - we're happy!!

Photobucket

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

My apologies.... forgot this was a Container Forum...

Here is the Meyer Lemon transplanted into Gritty Mix after the first week adjusting in the protected shade.

IMG_1600

Murcott Honey Tangerine transplanted in Gritty and back out in full sun. This tree continued to push new growth during the adjustment period and is starting to take off again after only two weeks after tranplant.

IMG_1998

Moro Blood Oranges grouped under the canopy like grapes.

IMG_1225

Thanks for looking.

Dan


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Man I wish mine could be that full of fruit. Just goes to show you the advantages of living in a much warmer climate and the gritty mix mixed together!

Fantastic Job and thanks for sharing Dan!

Enjoy the juice..

Mike


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 30, 11 at 9:38

Very nice, Dan! Your trees certainly do look happy! I'd be happy, too, if I were in a more tropical climate right now! ;-)

But seriously... nice trees! And look at that fruit! Good growing! Thanks for sharing pictures!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 30, 11 at 10:59

Impressive, Dan. Great job and great looking trees! It sure looks like you have things under control, so keep up the good work.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Dan,
Everything looks great! All that fruit is beautiful and the trees!

It certainly is an incentive for others to try these in containers! Thanks for sharing!
JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Good morning, everyone!

Dan, I must add my voice to the chorus...those Blood Orange look especially great!


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Greetings Everyone. I've been away for a while but glad to be back. Al thanks for the photo up thread of your wooden boxes. Very nice. I'm working on posting some photos of my boxes.

Al. I have sourced some new pine bark. Its uncomposted and dont really need any screening. I buy it direct from the bark farm. I notice some things that concerns me and i would like to share it with you and get some clarification.

1. I filled my own bags when I collected it from the heap. Some of the nuggets have a blueish fungal like coating. Its only noticeable on the lower layers of the heap. What exactly is it and should I be concerned?

2. The guy tested the pH for me by mixing some of the nuggets with water and sticking a pH meter in. The pH reading were 3.5. The bark has a real strong pine smell to it. Its also very hydrophobic. I wet it when got home and mixed 1 tbsp/gallon gypsum with it. I loaded it into a big sealed drum. How long do I have to leave it for the pH to rise to a usable level?

Thanks

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hey, Freddie, welcome back!

Gypsum won't raise the pH. Dolomotic Garden Lime will raise the pH.

I'm sure Al will be buy to clarify if need be.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi Josh, Oh dear i did some Googleing and you're right. Gypsum has a neutral pH. To raise the pH add Dolomotic Garden Lime and when the pH is at the desired level add Gypsum....Oooops !!!
I'll rinse the bark and start again.
Thanks for that Josh ;-)

I like this bark though. Its a bit bigger than the composted ones (about 8mm.) but my pumice (no turface available in NZ)is that size to. I got some crushed granite of the same size so i am going to build a soil consisting of bigger particals. I dont mind watering more often so i will see how i go. Hope I'm not going to be told off by the BIGMAN though.....;-)))

Freddie


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 31, 11 at 23:59

Nope - I've got all the patience in the world with folks that are trying to better their growing experience or trying to help others better theirs. It's the ones that continually try to tear things down that try my patience.

If you're willing to pay the dues in terms of watering frequency, using those big particles, you'll prolly end up with some great plants. It's hard for the soil to actually be too porous (from the plant's perspective), but most of us put a high premium on convenience, so I tried to get the particle size as small as possible and still not have a PWT. You might outshine us all, if you're that ambitious - and I hope you do, sir! ;o)

Best luck to you!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al for the encouragement. I actually have to increase my plants growth rate because of the shortish growth period i have here.
The blueish fungal on the bark still bothers me though. Can you please comment some on that if possible. Also how long to get the ph level up from 3.5? How accurate is the actual test he did? (bark soaked in water and pH probe into the liquid)
Thanks
Freddie


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 1, 11 at 13:06

I'm with you, Al! It's not so much that it tries my patience, though, as it just adds to the already overflowing misinformation and fallacy world attached to gardening.

If people could only learn the true basics of plants before they're inundated by an industry that only wants to profit, and those that simply don't know any better because that's all they were taught... well, everyone would experience great growing, and the industry surrounding gardening would be a bit different.

You most certainly can teach an old dog new tricks... that is, if the dog has an open mind and can admit it doesn't already know everything! ;-)

Anyway... I wish you well with your growing, fredman! I'm sure you'll do fine, though... Al is a stickler for steering us in the right direction! :-)


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 1, 11 at 16:15

It's hard to say (about the bluish 'stuff'. Bark stored in tall/wide heaps or windrows can become very toxic and low in pH if it's not turned regularly. The anaerobic conditions promote the formation of organic acids, nitrates, and other bio-compounds that act like hormones or interfere with hormonal activity. This is one of the reasons that soils that support significant amounts of perched water (anaerobic conditions) can inhibit growth.

You can usually detect the issue by smelling the bark - it will smell 'sour', and it's pH will usually be under 4.0. I don't know how much value I'd put on the pH test your guy did. Usually pH testing is done with distilled water and a calibrated pH meter. Just sticking a pH meter in a solution mixed with the bark particles after a few seconds isn't reliable. If the pH of the bark actually WAS 3.5, you could still bring it up with dolomite, but that doesn't mean it will eliminate any toxins. You might need to moisten and compost the bark for a few weeks, turning every few days if there is a problem arising from anaerobic conditions. Sorry - no way to tell from here.

Do a test batch & make sure everything is going to be ok?

Al


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Oops

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 1, 11 at 16:37

Sorry, Jodi - I got so tied up thinking about Freddie's post, I forgot to say hey! ;o)

There really are tons of misinformation being promulgated by people (not just here at GW, either) that don't have much of a clue as to what they are talking about. People so often read a book w/o understanding the basics of science, then set about trying to stretch and twist what they read in the book to fit a very specific set of circumstances that is being described in a forum setting, then wonder why the misapplied comments are often pointed to as being completely off target by those that DO have an understanding of the exact issue.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi jodik and a big thank you. I have been growing in containers for as long as i can remember. I always tried to do the best for my plants by giving them the heaviest and most compost rich soil i could afford.
A few years ago I went into a slumber and the plants were placed on the back burner. A few months ago I started reading up on something and stumbled apon the Gardenweb forum. You can imagine my stunned surprise when the gritty mix light went on.
That made all the difference in my attitude towards my growing. Now I'm running in all directions and planting anything that doesn't move.

Al made that difference for me and I will forever be grateful to him for that. His patience and general attitude is astounding. How do one really thank a man like that? A THANK YOU seems to hollow if you balance out what you gave and what you received, and a out of control raving seems ...out of control !!!
In the same breath I would also like to thank so many people on here for the abundance of info they so unselfishly share. Not a good idea to name names because I will probably omit some...Thank you everyone !!!

Freddie.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi again everyone. I've not been on GW for a while but needed to ask a question. A friend at church asked me if I wanted some maple, oak and spruce tree cuttings. I've never tried to grow a tree from cuttings so this will be a new experience.

What kind of soil mix should I use? I know Al's grit mix is great for growing trees and other plants but not sure if it might work for tree cuttings. Any advice before I try these tree cuttings?

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 1, 11 at 21:13

Welcome back!

I've had success with several maple species (other than the dissectums - threadleaf/laceleaf) by taking dormant cuttings & sticking them outdoors in loose soil as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Upright spruce are very difficult from cuttings - usually grafted or grown from seed. Cuttings, and even air-layering of oak is difficult and species specific, so I can't help you with advice, other than summer softwood cuttings are sometimes successful under the right conditions (high humidity or mist). Sorry - I wish the news was better.

I knew this, but to be sure, I consulted a text by Hartmann & Kester, a reference commonly referred to by propagators.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Wow Al, thanks for the fast reply. :)

Sounds like I better stick to growing my flowers and shrubs from seeds. Growing trees from cuttings seems like a lot of work and not very successful for these cuttings. I'm glad to find this out before I agreed to take the cuttings!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

No big deal, Al... I'm not phishing for attention. Just wanted to comment on what you said... get my responses in before we lost power due to the winter storms! :-)

I hear ya, Freddie! I only wish I could go back a few decades and learn it all from the beginning!

I'm not sure how all the old wive's tales about gardening got started, or why they're still repeated so often in this day and age of instant information and enlightenment... but they are.

If someone had only told me that there was a world of difference between growing in the ground and growing in a container... and if I had only looked at the gardening and growing industry as any other... I might have had a shot at better growing a lot earlier in life!

It's funny how we simply take what people tell us about growing at face value, without ever exploring the variables. Why would we do that? Well, there's no sense crying over spilled milk... the knowledge that I'm on the right track now is all the motivation I need!

And, yes, it was Al who faced me in the right direction! As soon as I read that first article on Container Soils, I knew I'd hit a gold mine of accurate, usable, easy to understand information! I'll be forever grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and experience.

Welcome back, Margo! I use a rendition of the Gritty Mix for everything I grow, so I'm certain it will work for tree cuttings, too, depending on whether or not the plant type in question can be propagated that way. I keep a close eye on moisture, and I keep cuttings out of direct light until I see signs they're beginning to root in. Bottom heat helps immensely, so I use a small heat mat for propagation.

Good luck to you, if you do decide to give it a try! :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks JodiK. I will keep your advice in mind. So you grow all your plants in Al's grit mix? That's pretty much what I do too, but I do grow a few things in the 5-1-1 mix too. What types of plants do you normally grow? I need to re-read a few of the container soil threads and refresh my memory on these soils. My memory isn't what it used to be lol...

I dont think I'll try the cuttings I was offered. Sounds like a lot of effort and from what Al said a couple of these species dont grow well from cuttings anyway.

Good news is that it's time to start mixing soil for this coming spring! I'll have to do a quick inventory and see what I need this year.

Thanks JodiK and Al for the great advice. My plants will appreciate your ideas this year.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 2, 11 at 20:42

Yes - time for me to be thinking of mixing up a couple of big batches, too. Repotting time starts in March, and I'll be extra busy this year because I'll be working mostly full days while my brother/partner vacations in NZ for almost a month. I'm not used to that - holding down the fort. ;o)

Thanks for the kind words, Margo. I hope we see more of you on the forums.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Before I forget, just wanted to ask Al or others on here if its still OK to substitute the NAPA floor dry for turface in case I have a hard time locating turface. I should review the container thread(s) and refresh my memory but I think Al and others suggested the floor dry in place of turface.

thanks everyone!

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi Margo,
yes, you can use it. :-) Just keep in mind it holds a little more water than turface.

Here's a copy/paste from a post Al placed just tonight in another thread for trees.

1) Equal parts by volume of

*Pine or fir bark screened to 1/8-3/8
Screened Turface MVP or Allsport
crushed granite (Gran-I-Grit in 'grower' size or #2 cherrystone

*If you can find the right size fir bark, 1/8 - 1/4 is best because it's not flat, like pine bark. If you use pine bark, 1/8 - 3/8 is fine.

You can sub calcined DE (floor dry) from NAPA or Carquest for the Turface, and a few other products based on calcined clay or DE if it is the right size. Particle size is important if you want to get the most out of the mix.

2) I have 20+ Acers in containers and use Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 on all of them. It works extremely well for all my trees. It has ALL the 12 essential nutrients plants normally get from the soil (including Ca & Mg, which most soluble fertilizers lack), in an NPK RATIO very close to what plants use and in a favorable ratio to each other. My second choice would be MG or Peter's in 24-8-16, or MG in 12-4-8. All the fertilizers I mentioned have a 3:1:2 NPK RATIO. Soluble fertilizers are easiest to use and have always produced the best results (by far) for me in containers. If you use a soluble fertilizer that DOESN'T have Ca and/or Mg in it, lets talk about how you're going to make sure your plants get it. Adding gypsum to the soil and regular (small) applications of Epsom salts is the best way.

Hope this helps you.
JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Yes, Margo, I do now! Everything I put in a container goes into a rendition of the gritty mix. I do adjust the ratios of ingredients depending on the plant type... but I'm a firm believer that a more inorganic, free draining medium is the way to go in containers. The information Al provided in his article on Container Soils hits logic squarely on the head! I don't know why I didn't discover this decades ago!

I guess I thought plant science was a lot more complicated than it is, and judging by some of the books I've read, it can certainly be made to look that way. But Al has a refreshingly simplified way of explaining how plants grow and what they require. It's the HOW and the WHY of things that's important. Most gardening sources for information don't approach it in the same way.

Anyway... to make a long story short... I'm in the process of converting every containerized plant I have to a rendition of the grittier mediums. My indoor garden is almost done, and in spring, I'm tackling the outdoor potted plants. It makes much more sense to grow them in this fashion, I think. Try as we might, we'll never be able to fully emulate the balance Mother Nature keeps in the garden, within the confines of a pot.

My plants of choice indoor are tender bulbs, mainly Amaryllids from South America and bulbs from South Africa, although I do also grow a few orchids and other assorted plants... Hoya, Chalice Vine, Plumeria, a few cacti...

Outdoor, I have a few trees in containers... Japanese Maple, Wysteria, various Roses, and I grow a few Glads and pots of annuals.

When you think about it, no plant enjoys growing with their roots in compacted soil where they can't breathe and they're constantly saturated. With that in mind, I'll be going all gritty! :-)

I know exactly what you mean about memory... I'm fighting age along with lost memory from a head injury sustained in a car accident many years ago... you should try working with MY memory! I have to reread a lot! ;-)



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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 3, 11 at 14:13

Thanks, JJ & Jodi. ;o)

Margo - if you let me know where you live, I'll help you find the nearest Turface dealer.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks very much JoJo, Jodi and Al. You all are wonderful! I've learned a lot from your posts here and in other threads. In fact I'm going to try and re-read every post in the "container soils" threads. I'll need a lot of time and a lot of coffee! Sometimes I have to read the posts several times but there's a LOT of information in them!

JoJo thanks for posting Al's info on the floor dry (DE). There are a lot of auto parts stores in nearby towns so I can find a NAPA or Carquest store easily. I just need to be sure that the NAPA/Carquest people know that I want DE and not regular unbaked clay floor dry. I have a bag of Turface and its about half screened already.

I may have to order some of that Foliage Pro. I know many people here swear by it. I still have a big box of Peter's 24-8-16 that I need to use up first.

Jodi, it sounds like you enjoy growing everything! And I recall from other threads that you have had excellent luck using Al's grit mix. Its great stuff and your plants seem to like it a lot too. Do you use his 5-1-1 mix or only grit mix? I dont have much room indoors but I bet your house looks amazing with all your beautiful plants. Sounds like your memory is about like mine. Sometimes I have to read a post several times before the information sinks in!

Al, there are a couple John Deere landscaping stores in driving distance so I should be able to find turface in the area, or Carquest or NAPA are alternatives. Too bad they dont sell turface at the local big box stores, that would make things VERY easy!

Thanks again.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 3, 11 at 21:44

Things just COULDN'T be that easy, could they? ;o)

Good luck!!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II - one more question

Oh I forgot to ask this earlier. For the holidays we were given a small (12") Norfolk Island pine as a gift. This is a zone 8 or 9 plant so here in zone 5 it has to be kept indoors. Its growing in what looks like peat soil with a tiny bit of pine(?) bark mixed in. Looks nothing like the grit mix at all. Much denser soil. The pot is about 4" across and tall.

Should I remove this small tree from its current pot and soil and plant it up in some fresh grit mix? I'm not sure when is a good time of year to do this. Any advice?

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 3, 11 at 22:19

I would repot it around the first of April. I would remove half of the current soil in 2 wedges on opposite sides of the tree. If you take an old dinner fork & remove the middle 2 tines completely, it makes a great root rake to help you remove old soil & comb out the roots. Repot into the gritty mix & then finish the chore next spring. After that, you should probably be able to get away with repotting about every 3 years.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II - one more question

Thanks very much for the advice Al. I'll keep the small pine in the current pot and soil until April and then give it a good repot and root pruning. The tree looks healthy now but I have no idea what the roots are like.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

I must confess, Margo, that it took me a few times reading through Al's articles before everything sunk in and the "light" went on, but now that I grasp the basics, it's all so elementary! What he writes makes so much sense!

Believe me, Margo, I don't have much room, either! We live in a second story studio apartment that's very small! Most of my plants are stuffed into a large window alcove that faces east, but I do have every other windowsill loaded with plants from end to end! I have to move pots to open windows in spring, and washing the windows is a major chore!

My bulb collection is always in varying stages of growth... each type rests at a different time during the year. Some rest in winter, others in summer.

I do supplement the light with a few fixtures. I call my east window alcove my "jungle", because it's positively crammed with pots of all sizes! I have to be careful not to knock anything over when working in that space!

Yes, switching to a grittier medium absolutely saved many of my bulbs from rotting. I used to use regular old bagged potting soil, and it simply stayed too saturated for way too long. I lost quite a few bulbs to rotting. I tried just about everything recommended... cocopeat, adding amendments to bagged soils... you name it. But the best thing I ever did was to build my own soil from a more inorganic, free draining, gritty approach.

We're more than happy to help in any way we can, Margo. Growing is fun, but it's even more enjoyable when you see the results of true growing potential!

Funny enough, you don't see the gardening industry touting any real scientific information on what plants really need and how they grow. Like any other industry, they're in it for the profit... so the faster your purchased plants die, the faster you'll buy new ones... or so the industry hopes.

The truth is, plants have the potential to live for long periods of time... and grow healthy, vital root systems... not to mention healthy, vital stems, trunks, leaves, and other parts. But in order to grow healthy above the soil, they need to have healthy roots. And since we're in charge of controlling what happens within the confines of containers, it makes sense to give a plant's roots what they need.

What I've done is taken Al's concept, and adapted it to my own growing conditions. In other words, I adjust the basic soil ingredients from plant to plant. For example, plants that like less moisture retention are grown with less turface. If they need more moisture retention, the mix used contains more turface. I've even gone so far as to add a handful or two of regular potting soil to the bark/perlite/granite/turface mixture for a plant that needs even more moisture retention.

You'll find a happy medium when it comes to ingredient ratios. It will depend on the plant type, your growing conditions, environment, etc... the basic recipes are excellent starting points!

You will need to adjust your watering a bit, but it's not as severe a change as a few people would have you believe. I keep deep plastic saucers under my indoor plants, and once the water drains, I empty them. Or, I simply take my plant to the kitchen sink and water there. JoJo uses a bucket with a grate on top, which I think is an excellent idea! She sets the pot on top of the grate, waters, and the excess runs out into the bucket.

For feeding, I'd love to have Foliage Pro... but I'm stuck using the Miracle Gro liquid I have. I water about 3 out of 4 times with a weak solution of about 1/8 to 1/4 recommended strength, and on the 4th watering, I flush with plain water. It seems to be working well.

Don't worry... you'll get a feel for how it all works. It's definitely healthier for roots, which in turn makes for healthier plants... I can tell you that much! :-)


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Extent of foilage pruning

Hey Al,

I was hoping you could expand on advice around foilage pruning ("above plant" pruning) when performing gritty mix transplants in conjunction with the % of roots removed during the transplant.

Reading through some of your past posts, when I perform the transplants I am in general sawing off the bottom 1/3 of of the roots. I then go through and take out the Circling, J-hooked, knotted, and other misshapen roots. When all is said and done I'm often only left with about 50% of the original roots left.

You had seemed to indicate that now would be a good time to do above the roots pruning so you can be more selective about which branches the new root system could support. However, I was reading last night an article on top pruning during transplants from Linda Chalker Scott, PHD which seemed to offer a different point of view. I think you had cited this author before which is why I was reading through the different "myth buster" articles she has written.

Here is the article:

http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda Chalker-Scott/Horticultural Myths_files/Myths/Transplant pruning.pdf

There are a couple of sections which seem to side strongly with not top pruning during a transplant:

"Obviously, the practice of pruning the crown of a transplanted tree or shrub does not reflect what actually
happens to the plant physiologically. In addition to interfering with the plant's ability to establish its
roots, the removal of a significant portion of the crown also means the plant has lost biomass and cannot
photosynthesize at its previous level. Thus, plants that have been top pruned are hit with a "double
whammy:" part of their photosynthetic system is removed, and those resources that are left are directed
towards new shoot development. It's no surprise that root establishment under these conditions is
difficult."

So I wanted to get your thoughts on this. In general I have been removing closely the same percentage of top growth as I do roots. I.e. if I ended up removing 40% of the roots, I try to balance this out by top pruning about 40%. It seems logical to try to balance these out. As I understood it, the roots contain the stored energy to support the top growth.

However, my situation may be different. As I live in San Francisco where we are pretty much always 60-70% year round many of the plants I am working with (Fuscia's, Abutilons) are always growing so there isn't a really noticable state of dormancy. Or maybe there is and I'm just missing it.

What do you think? Oh and one last question, I'm up to about 8 of my 50 containers switched over to the gritty mix. I usually try to have a lively container with about 3-5 plants in each container (filler/spiller/thriller). Some of the plants seem to take to the gritty mix right away, some like my Camelia's seem to have "droopy" leaves. What is a normal period of 'droopy leaves'? I.e a few days, few weeks?

Thanks in advance! You have been a huge help to gardening knowledge. My plants thank you!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Transplant Pruning


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 6, 11 at 13:46

I've always agreed with Dr Scott in this matter, but she is talking about trees in leaf and trees going into the landscape. To keep containerized trees healthy, we sometimes need to perform operations (root pruning/changing soil) that aren't required of trees in the landscape.

I actually just posted something related to your question just a few minutes ago - 'Houseplants', I think. When I repot evergreens & tropicals, I usually do the root work first, followed by any top pruning 2-3 or 4 weeks later, after the roots have reestablished themselves. THEN, I prune the canopy. I think I said something like, "The leaves are the engines that produce the energy that drives root growth, so I leave them on until the roots are well-(re)established." Since I do this (tropicals) in late Jun or early July, the tree has the rest of the summer to recover and store energy for the winter.

Dormant deciduous trees are different. You can/should root prune during repots AND prune (if they need it) at the same time. Deciduous trees are pretty selective in what they do as far as activating buds is concerned. If you prune the roots hard, and leave all the buds on the tree (don't prune the top) the plant will still selectively open only the number of buds it can support (provide water/nutrients to). Essentially what happens is the spring flush is just later/slower to unfold because the tree is sort of like a cutting. As it grows more roots and can supply more water to the top, buds that were stayed quiet begin to open.

The other side of the coin is pruning the top but not the roots. If the tree was full of energy when it went into dormancy, a hard pruning can cause tons of back-budding. In bonsai, I have taken dormant trees with 6" trunks & cut them back to 6" tall, only to have massive numbers of buds erupt from the trunk - so many at times it leaves you scratching your head as to which to keep & which to remove.

Hope that better explains the energy management thing - but I'm not at odds with Dr Scott. Ask, if something isn't clear or there's more you want to know.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al. That definitely makes sense on the energy management front. I didn't realize she was talking about trees in leaf and going into the landscape.

Any thoughts on that last question I had posed?
>Oh and one last question, I'm up to about 8 of my 50 containers switched over to the gritty mix. I usually try to have a lively container with about 3-5 plants in each container (filler/spiller/thriller). Some of the plants seem to take to the gritty mix right away, some like my Camelia's seem to have "droopy" leaves. What is a normal period of 'droopy leaves'? I.e a few days, few weeks?

Are droopy leaves normal or is that an indicator that you did something wrong? As I mentioned I did hard root pruning as well as hard top pruning, maybe that was too much stress?

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 6, 11 at 23:20

Droopy leaves are a defense mechanism and indicate (in this case) a loss of turgidity (water pressure), so the roots are presently unable to keep up with the water that's being lost from leaves. Hopefully it's not going to be significant enough to cause leaf loss. Be very careful not to over-water. Damp soil is better than wet - even in the gritty mix. Tenting to raise humidity will help if you can manage it (don't let tent material touch foliage), as would raising the humidity in the room if you can. Misting won't help, so skip that if you're considering it. Bright light but not direct sun, and soil temps of 60-65* are helpful, too.

I would look for things to improve within a week or so unless the plant sheds its foliage. Then, it will take longer, of course. Use that dowel rod & be sure the plant NEEDS water before giving it a drink.

Best luck!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi Everybody. I have quick question if i may. Not sure if this is the right place to put it but here goes.....I'm about to order some Foliage Pro 9-3-6 from snowy America to be delivered in sunny NZ :-0
I'm also interested in ordering some Pro-Tekt but not sure if I really need it. Does anybody use the two together? I mainly want to use the Pro-Tekt for its silicon content but not sure if the extra potassium will be absorbed or not.

Thanks

Freddie


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RE: Trees in Containers II

I was thinking about using Turface for my grit mix. When screened there are a lot of fines that are too fine for the grit mix. Can these fines be used for seed starting or for starting cuttings? I get quite a few fines from the Turface bags so if I could use the fines for starting cuttings or growing plants from seeds or something similar it would be wonderful.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 8, 11 at 9:26

I use it on many plants, but I have good reason to intentionally slow growth on highly refined bonsai so they don't outgrow their good looks. ;o) I use it on other plants when I want to continue using the 9-3-6 but control (reduce) the amount of N supplied (tomatoes). If you want to use it continually, adding it to a 3:1:1 ratio with all the minors would be ideal, but if you use it wisely, it won't hurt anything if you add it to your 3:1:2 program.

Don't mix the concentrated fertilizers. Only add the 0-0-3 to your diluted fertilizer solution or it will precipitate the Ca from the CaNO3 in the fertilizer (make it come out of solution into an insoluble form).

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al for the response on the droopy leaves. In one transplant I did for an Abutilon into Gritty mix, it had lost all of its leaves but then a few weeks later started leafing out again and now is relatively healthy (I think this was my fault, did a bare root as opposed to pie sections).

I also had a situation once where I had a fuscia gall mite infestation. One of the fuscias that I had trained into a tree was so bad that I literally just cut the tree stem in half along with all of the branches/leaves. I had read some information that when it gets this bad it is hard to recover.

However, I weird thing happened. I never got around to emptying the pot and a few weeks later the fuscia started leafing out again.

So in a very long winded way to preface a question for you, for evergreen plants, how does it work when they can lose all of their leaves, yet still hang on and have the energy to start branching out again?

I'm trying to understand energy management better. Is it fair to say the leaves power the roots, and that the roots power new leaf/branch growth? If so, are the roots basically using their stored energy to develop new leafs? And they can do this without any leaves even in place?

Thanks again for all the wisdom you provide!!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 8, 11 at 15:06

Let me try this approach: Energy is what drives plant systems, and the only place energy can come FROM, is the leaves. You can think of the sugar molecules manufactured during photosynthesis as tiny (chemical) batteries. These batteries are stored in the plants roots and in the cambium as sugars, starch, oils, and other bio-compounds that can later be metabolized to produce energy.

Any plant that is using more energy than it is producing is dying. To soften that statement, let's say that plants that are using more energy than they are producing will assuredly die unless the trend (stress/strain) is reversed. When we focus on a plant's ability to make energy, it's absurd to focus on one aspect of energy production, when there are so many that can and will limit growth. What we SHOULD be doing, is focusing on making the proper adjustments that allow us to fine tune the engines we call leaves. In almost every case, WE as growers can increase the leaves' ability to produce energy by reducing the effects of not just light, but other limiting factors like soil moisture or air content, nutritional deficiencies/toxicities, insects and disease, as well. Anything that you add in the way of light, water, nutrients that the plant does not need creates an excess. E.g., for optimizing growth/vitality of plants in the ground, we should only fertilize when we know there is a nutritional deficiency, and then only with the deficient nutrient - that's for optimization. For containerized plants, we can go about getting as close to optimizing as possible by ensuring all the nutrients are available at levels high enough to prevent deficiencies, but still low enough that the plant can easily take up water and the nutrients dissolved in that water.

OK - we know that ALL the energy plants use for growth and to keep their systems orderly comes from the leaves. The leaves absorb CO2 and combine it with water; then, with the help of light and a dozen essential nutrients taken up through the roots, plants combine the nutrients to make the sugars starches ..... mentioned above. When anything required for this amazing process is in short supply, the ability to produce energy is limited and the plant loses potential. If the limits are severe enough that the plant spends more than it makes, it moves toward bankruptcy - just as we do whenever we spend more than we make.

To understand energy flow, you need to understand that the plant doesn't always have the same amount of energy in reserve. The plant's highest energy level is usually right at the end of summer. Dormant plants continue to use some energy even when dormant, but they usually wake up in spring with lots of stored energy left to push the spring flush of growth. At that point (after the flush), the plant is fairly low on reserves, but it has its engines working overtime to take advantage of lengthening days and brighter light, replacing lost energy. Still, most plants SPEND that early summer energy on growing longer branches and more leaves. Around Father's Day, a change starts taking place. After the longest day passes, phytochrome ratios in leaf tissues change and chemical messengers start 'telling' the plant to 'spend' less of its energy and to save some for the winter; so plants begin to stop growing in length, and start growing in girth, as they start adding layers of living cells in the cambium to store energy.

Most houseplants are at their highest energy levels in late summer/early fall, too. I haven't done much reading about the winter growers, which is why I said 'most', but it is all, or really close to all the houseplants we discuss here or on Houseplants that are topped off with energy at summer's end. When we move these plants indoors, they continue to make energy within the limits of all the factors. If light limits their ability to make energy, they decline. If lack of air in the soil or too much water in the soil is limiting, they decline - even if they are in perfect light. The same holds true when there is a nutritional deficiency. A lack of a micro-nutrient can limit growth just as surely as a lack of light.

Bonsai practitioners use defoliation and partial defoliation to manage energy. Let's say I have a fat branch toward the top of a bonsai tree that is in the right place, but is awkward looking because it is much fatter than the lower branches, which in nature are always fatter. How do I fix that? Well, I let the skinny low branch grow wild, and prune the heck out of the fat upper branch. The lower branch grows more engines and starts fattening up, while the branch I pruned (or defoliated/partially defoliated slows way down so the lower branch can catch up and pass it. This balances the plants appearance by manipulating its energy flow.

If I defoliate a tree, or if your tree loses it's foliage, it MUST have either enough energy in reserve to push a new flush of foliage, or there must be enough leaves left on the tree so the tree can relocate CURRENT(ly being produced) photosynthate to push that new growth. I often defoliate healthy trees entirely about a month before they are to be shown, because it reduces the tree's energy reserves & the leaves regrow much smaller and more in scale with the size of the tree.

When you have a very weak tree - one that has been in decline for a long time for any number of reasons - loss of foliage could be catastrophic for that tree, while it's healthy counterpart might simply push a new flush of growth and keep on truckin'.

I can't explain everything about manipulating plants, or give you a thorough understanding of how energy flows in them, but this should get you started toward the light (no pun intended). For instance, you can now see why it's much more critical if a plant loses it's foliage going into the winter than it is if it loses it in late spring or summer - and why I never recommend any serious pruning of houseplants in the winter - they need that photosynthesizing machinery. Conversely - you can pretty much prune dormant plants as hard as you want in winter, within guidelines on a per species basis.

That was a good question, and I think quite a few of the growers will get a much better understanding of the relationships I just touched on here if they read this. I'm really glad for the opportunity to add this to the thread. Hopefully it will generate some questions that will lead to an even better understanding & more details.

Thanks too, for your kind comment.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

AWESOME response Al! I'm going to read it about four times, let it digest and then see if there are some additional follow-up questions.

You rock as always, thanks for sharing all that uber knowledge!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 8, 11 at 17:16

Margo - I'm sorry. I didn't realize you'd posted until I found it in my email. ;o)

Fines from Turface are much too fine for starting seeds. Turface holds a LOT of water, and as particle size decreases from around that 1/8" size, water retention doesn't increase in a direct inverse relationship as particle size decreases, it increases exponentially.

Seeds want LOTS & LOTS of air in the soil so they can get a strong root system established. Coarse soils are best for seed starting. 'Damp' rocks but wet stinks for seed health. I know the 'seed starting' question was secondary, but we can talk more about starting seeds if you want to start a thread about it.

I toss Turface fines in my raised beds or use them in hypertufa projects, but don't use them in soils.

Sorry I missed you. ;o)

Good growing.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hey Al,

After re-reading that post a few times I had a follow-up question. Assuming the following:

- you are a doing a gritty mix transplant of an evergreen
- timing is in spring just before the flush of new growth
- you end up whacking off 40% of the roots due to root problems.

In this case, from your previous post it looks like the plant would have a good supply of stored energy in the roots/cambrium.
Is the first priority of the plant to establish new fine roots or is to push out new leaf top growth? Or does it attempt to do both?

Also, can existing stored energy in the roots/cambrium power new root growth? Or does that have to happen from new energy produced from the leaves?

Thanks!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al! You and JoJo and Jodi and the other members are great. Thanks for the good advice!

Here's another question. My son was given a very small 5" tall blue spruce(?) tree in a styrofoam coffee cup as part of a school project. It's currently sitting in our garage where its very cold but we watered it a lot before the soil froze. The soil looks like its just regular potting soil of some kind.

My son plans to keep his tree and one day wants to plant it in our yard when it's large enough. I think we should mix up some soil and move it to a larger container this spring, but what mix should I use? Both grit mix and 5-1-1 mix are better than what it's in now, so which mix should I try? I think it might have to be root pruned or repotted ever year or so as the roots get larger. 5-1-1 is good for plants that are repotted every year but the grit mix may be better for growing trees? Do I have that right?

Thanks.


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 10, 11 at 15:37

Kernul - in the case of evergreens that you root prune in the spring, it may be necessary to 'balance' the amount of foliage to the volume of roots if the disparity is large. I say that because if you don't, the plant will do it for you. To my way of thinking, it's better if I reduce the foliage so the roots can support it because I have control over what gets removed. If the tree/shrub selects the branches IT wants to shed, it may shed something you consider critical to the appearance of the plant. On your side is the fact that evergreens are usually pretty good at self-limiting when it comes to water loss through foliage. This is one of those areas where experience will give you a feel for what you should do or should have done. If you root-prune & see a lot of die-back up top, you probably should have pruned the top for a little more balance between roots:shoots.

If it hasn't yet 'clicked' in your mind - you're very close. ;o) After you prune roots, chemical messengers signal the plant to slow or stop top growth until the plant is able to support additional top growth - until the roots catch up, or until enough top growth dies back so roots can keep up.

Yes - existing stored energy can be metabolized to fuel growth (roots and shoots) just like current photosynthate.

Hi, Margo - I would bare-root the tree in early April & repot into the gritty mix and in a largish container. That way, you can go up to 3 year's between repots with minimal impact on growth. You can do the same thing with the 5:1:1 mix, but you can't use as large of a container, and no more than two years between repots would be best.

When you're ready to plant in the ground, I would at least partially bare-root so you can correct any root defects that might have developed before planting, soon after the frost is out (of the ground).

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thank you, Margo... no problem, we're happy to help! :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hello everyone! Questions about gypsum .... I plan on making a batch of gritty mix for some succulent cuttings and I'm wondering do I need to add gypsum and if so how much. Prolly make enough to put in 1 gallon ziplock bag to save for later. Oh - does mix need to sit a while before I add plants? Thanks and take care. Amy


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 12, 11 at 22:16

If your fertilizer doesn't contain Ca, use 1 tablespoon gypsum (CaSO4) per gallon of soil. If it does contain Ca - no need to use gypsum.

If your fertilizer doesn't contain Mg, add 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of Epsom salts (MgSO4) to each gallon of fertilizer solution each time you fertilize.

Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 (if you intend to use it) contains both, so no need to worry about supplying either.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi all. Just wanted to verify when is a good time to start root pruning and repotting my trees and shrubs? Right now I have a few small trees and shrubs in containers filled with regular miracle grow potting soils. I want to transfer them to the gritty mix this year. Right now the containers are still outdoors and frozen so I'll have to wait a bit.

I think Al said most trees and shrubs should be pruned and repotted in early spring, and some pines in late summer? Do I have that right?

Thanks everyone!

Margo


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 3, 11 at 20:35

What do you have to repot, Margo? How did you over-winter these plants?

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks again to Al and all others that make this forum such a joy.

Here are a few pics of a Avocado Hass that needs a little root pruning.

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I will post more pics later of the Hass in its new gritty mix.

Ron


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Great root-pruning, Ron.
Quite a task, but excellent results.

Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hello everyone...

Great root pruning Preston Gardens!!!

I hope that i can prune that close next time!! LOL...im still nervous to prune like that!!! LOL...

Congratulations on a fine job!!! Looks great!!

Take care everyone!!!

Laura in VB


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Thanks Josh and Laura.

This root pruning was my first and took me 1 1/2 hours to complete. If it wasn't for the advice given above, I would of been lost. I was in a big hurry because I was going to work and I did work up a sweat. I hit the sides of the 5 gallon container to knock the root ball loose enough away from the container edge. Then it came out very easily.

Once the plant was out of the container, I was very careful not to destroy the roots. No matter how careful I was, the roots were falling off as if they had already been cut off.

It was then I decided to be very aggressive and started punching the root ball to remove all the mix from the roots.

I then remembered chop sticks as Al mentioned and just happened to have a few lying around, thanks to Pick Up Stix. It was the perfect tool for getting between the roots and removing the mix.

Now came the part where I hesitated. I was suppose to cut the root off right below the base of the trunk, the largest two roots of the tree. I went for it as advised by Al and then it made perfect sense, the umbrella.

With the gritty mix formed in a mound, the umbrella roots along with the chop sticks made it very easy to pot. In case you missed it from a prior post by Al, the chop sticks help to get the gritty mix where there are air pockets.

I was very happy and here are the results of the Avocado Hass in its new home.


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Gritty mix mound

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Finished...........

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Later on the tree is wilting, as expected. Sorry about the rotation of this pic.

Ron


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That's a nice looking mix!

Is that pea gravel in place of the granite chips?

After bare-rooting and re-potting, protect the Avocado from direct sun or wind for
a couple weeks (if you haven't already). I find that this is the best way to preserve
the leaves of evergreens, such as citrus, maple, gardenia, avocado, et cetera.

As you know, resume fertilization in two week's time.


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 6, 11 at 0:46

Great job ..... and I'm NOT just saying that. Excellent.

If I might make one observation though - based only on the second picture where the plant is shown horizontal on top of the bags, I'm looking at the amount of brown bark just above the roots, and it looks like you might have planted a little deep. The top of the highest roots should be at or slightly above the soil surface. I might be reading it wrong ..... if I am, then the work was perfect.

Al


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Strong work, Ron! Your mix looks very nice! I bet your tree will love it, once it makes itself at home and gets comfortable!

You've given me the added confidence I need to tackle a few root pruning jobs this coming spring! I have a group of 4 year old Wysteria youths tangled in a container of yuck soil, and a Japanese Maple that needs a new home. I've also got a few roses to get into the gritty or 511 mix, and a banana tree that needs help! Documenting the process in photo form is extremely helpful to those of us about to attempt trees for the first time!

Thanks for sharing, Ron!


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Great eye Al. When I went to check the Hass this morning, it wasn't as deep as per the picture above. I can only imagine it was due lifting the pot up a few inches and letting it drop, thus even reducing more air pockets. I still needed to take out 3 cups of gritty mix to make it level with the highest roots. I now feel confident and thanks for pointing that out Al.

Ron

Now for the drum roll ..........................

Photobucket

Even the worms are doing back-flips!


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 6, 11 at 13:40

Lol - now I'll sleep better tonight!

Keep us posted!

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al, sorry I missed your reply a few posts back in this thread. I have a few butterfly bushes, some dogwoods, a burning bush, a few junipers and different maples ready to repot. Also my son's white spruce seedling (lol I thought he said it was a blue spruce) from school.

All were overwintered either outdoors or in an unheated barn and are in regular nursery soil in plastic containers. Id like to start repotting and root pruning them soon as is practical. Right now I think the containers are all still frozen so not quite yet lol.

And I think I read that after repotting or root pruning that we should NOT fertilize the shrubs or trees for a week or two, is that correct?

Thanks Al!

Margo


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 8, 11 at 22:49

This year, I would keep a close eye on them and repot each in turn as soon as you see a hint of budswell. You can follow that guideline every year for the maples, but I would make a note on the other plants (except the junipers & spruce) of when (what date) you first noticed bud movement, and when you next repot, do it about 1-2 weeks earlier than your noted date. Repot the junipers & spruce in early to mid Apr.

In case others are reading these comments, WHEN to best repot conifers will vary by zone, but the advice for other woody plants that is based on bud movement is pretty universal.

Al


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 8, 11 at 23:03

This year, I would keep a close eye on them and repot each in turn as soon as you see a hint of budswell. You can follow that guideline every year for the maples, but I would make a note on the other plants (except the junipers & spruce) of when (what date) you first noticed bud movement, and when you next repot, do it about 1-2 weeks earlier than your noted date. Repot the junipers & spruce in early to mid Apr.

In case others are reading these comments, WHEN to best repot conifers will vary by zone, but the advice for other woody plants that is based on bud movement is pretty universal.

Al


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Thanks Al! I will do my best and let you know how it goes. I've read many of your posts on root pruning and potting up so I hope I'm all set!

All the plants will be going into gritty mix using the standard 1-1-1 ratio, except the junipers which I think like drier soil. I'll add more granite to their mix so it might end up being a 1-1-2 for them. I think thats correct from what I read.

Thanks again!

Margo


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Ron,
It looks great! Love seeing pictures of what everyone is doing! Happy worms! LOL! That's how they should be! ;)

Hi Al~
I got my apricot done today! Boy it felt good to stand back and look at her in the new mix, knowing it's so much better off now!! 10 more to go! LOL!!

Question on how deep the tree should have been put. I see up thread, you mentioned...
""The top of the highest roots should be at or slightly above the soil surface""

I put my tree at almost the same depth it was at in the old mix. Which puts the highest roots at about 2" below the surface. Will this be O.K.? I hope so, I really don't want to have to mess with it now. LOL!

All the old soil came off pretty easy, with very little loss of small roots, and the roots looked good, so I'm really pleased!

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 10:17

The large, top roots are either conducting or anchoring roots & serve no purpose in absorption of water/nutrients, so I plant them at the surface. Actually, I often REMOVE any small roots that adventitiously appear above any large clusters of toots, and make sure the large roots are at the surface. It can be as simple for you, JJ, as just removing a little soil. ;-)

Margo - that's right. I'm so impressed!

YPA


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Hi Al~
Will it hurt the tree if I don't remove the extra?

Simple yes, to remove some, but will also make me crazy. LOL!
The tree is already sitting lower in the pot than I like. I considered yanking it out last night and re doing it, but ran out of daylight. :)

It really bothers me to not have my containers nice and FULL, with mix almost to the rim. lol..

Sorry, not trying to be difficult. :-)

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 13:28

It's not as bad in the gritty mix as it is in heavier soils because the top dries out so quickly. The danger is in the bark eventually rotting & exposing the cambial tissues to the same rot organisms, which can girdle or partially girdle woody stems.

Al


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O.K. I understand that.
It is in the gritty mix.
Well... would it hurt to gently lift it some and tap the pot to close off any air pockets? I could get Mike to help me. I could also remove some of the mix.

I feel kinda silly about the level of the soil being too low, but it does really bother me. :-)

I want what's best for the tree, but need to keep what little sanity I have left. LOL!

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 17:03

You could do that, JJ. ;o) I always tap my pots with a rubber mallet to settle the soil around the roots. Don't worry, I have little quirks that trouble me, too ...... and one or two big ones.Photobucket

Al


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LOL! Love the smiley Al, and thanks for not thinking I'm a nut. ;-) I guess everyone has a quirk of some sort. :)

Hubby said the mallet is at work, so he'll bring it home tonight.

I always give the pot a few good whacks with my palm, but think I will get my own mallet to add to the tool box. Especially since i'm putting everything in large terra cotta's now.

Thanks!
Have a good evening!
JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 19:46

You too, JJ. ;-)

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

This may be a dumb question so no laughing please! :)

If I root prune a tree growing in a container, and I plan to eventually plant that tree in my yard, will the tree be hurt in any way if I remove the large taproots that many trees have?

I would think that for bonsai this would make sense since there is no need, space, or purpose for taproots, but if a tree is moved from a container to a garden bed would there be an issue if it was missing it's taproot?

Just wondering about that, so maybe its a non-issue?

Thanks!

Margo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 9, 11 at 20:51

"If I root prune a tree growing in a container, and I plan to eventually plant that tree in my yard, will the tree be hurt in any way if I remove the large taproots that many trees have?"

That's a perfectly logical question, but it does end up being a nonissue. The main taproot is positively gravitropic - meaning it grows with the force of gravity - downward. Even if you remove the taproot from a seedling, other roots with strong positive gravitropism will grow downward from near the trunk. Part of that is due to the effect of gravity, and part is due to the normal downward journey of a % of the roots that 'follow' the water supply during times of drought. Many trees will have 90% of their roots actively engaged in water and nutrient absorption in the top 6" of soil in the spring and early summer, only to have 90% of the active roots at 18" or deeper during the dry months. The larger roots that run that deep don't die, though the fine roots attached to them often do as more ideal conditions return to better aerated soils just below the surface when moisture levels are again conducive to good root health/growth.

Short answer - don't worry about it. A large % of landscape plants are grown from cuttings. Cuttings = not from seed = no seed radicle = no true taproot on those plants either.

Al


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Hi Al~
Here's my apricot, does it look O.K. :-) I lifted it some and took out a little of the mix. Lower than I like, but maybe i'll fill it with flowers and not see it. ;-)

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A few leaves aren't looking so hot this morning, but the rest of the tree looks good.

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A few of the good..

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It's still under my patio in the shade, out of the worst of the winds. I want it moved out to the yard, but we are expecting high winds again this week, should I leave it where it is a bit longer? I think it's been about a week since I potted it up.

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 15, 11 at 21:04

Yes - keep it out of the wind & direct sun until the roots recover & the leaves perk up. ;o)

Looks like it should be fine - was it in clay?

Al


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Hi Al~
clay? soil or pot?
Black plastic nursery pot, and what ever soil that they used. Are you referring to the dark right at the soil line? I noticed that yesterday.. It is a wet, silky like dirt that i'm going to try and wash off,. I'll pull the soil back some.

I did speak too soon, and some leaves wilted today.
JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 15, 11 at 22:04

Oh - I meant the soil it was in from the grower. ;-)

It should be ok. About all you could additionally do is rig a screen/wind-break or tent around it that would help you keep humidity high (wet surfaces all around the plant inside the 'tent') and slow the air movement.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al, I've been keeping my Yvonne cypress in the garage for the winter. Is it time to bring them out now?


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 16, 11 at 9:35

The top will be fine, but if you think the night temps will drop below about 25*, it would be best to put it somewhere where root temps would be moderated. Do set it directly on the ground instead of up on a deck or other elevated surface where the warmth of the earth will less affect root temps.

Al


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Hi Al~
Thanks! I didn't think about the humidity. It's low! 12% today.

The soil it came out of was peat type, with some bark, mostly sapwood, and a lot of fine sand! It came off pretty easy, but did take a lot of the fine roots with it. All I did in the end was a gentle rinse. I hadn't planned on bare root for this tree, it just ended up that way. :-)

I'll move a few other plants and get it up closer to the house out of the wind as best I can. ;-)

JJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 16, 11 at 14:16

OK - it's not too unusual for a tree to sulk for a little while after a full repot - mine often take a break too. I have a 1" thick root cutting of a Ficus nerifolia that I saved when I repotted last summer. I had pruned it off the roots of a large specimen plant & it laid on the hot cement all through the repot. It was only after I was done that I noticed it had nice movement in the root/trunk, so I washed it off & stuck it in a pot in the shade. I watered it all of Jul, Aug, and Sep before bringing it in. It never showed a single bud, but it was still showed green cambium. It's been sitting under lights, apparently lifeless, in the gritty mix all winter, but when I watered a few days ago, I noticed buds just starting to develop on the trunk and around the cut at the top. It's been almost 9 months since I stuck it in the pot, and it's just now giving up on its pout. ;-) I guess the moral of the story is, it's pretty hard to kill a young tree that is almost all dynamic mass. If you don't over-water, and you keep the soil damp instead of wet, even if you screw up badly on your first repot or first FEW repots, the tree is likely to eventually bounce back & perform for you.

The thing is, you might sacrifice a little oomph now, but when the plant gets back on its feet, it will probably easily surpasses how it WOULD have performed had you only potted up.

Pulling for you, JJ. ;-)

YPA


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks Al!


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hey Al. What terrific help you have been offering here. I love it and thank you!

Al: I have advice to ask you and hopefully you can help.

Now that the temps are regulary visiting the 40's, 50's, 60's by day, and 30's by night, would you suggest that I can finally bring my fig trees out doors and let them sit in full sun while they awaken?

Thanks so much!

Mike.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 16, 11 at 16:20

I would actually keep them as cool as possible (32-42* if you can manage it) for as long as possible. It's easy to promote a flush of growth by allowing the soil to warm, but that may mean you need to do the fig foxtrot with them, moving them in and out every time frost threatens after they flush. I'm all for delaying the flush in deciduous containerized as long as possible, because they usually break leaf at least a month before their counterparts in the landscape and are then either in a dark garage/shed/basement/other, or outdoors where they're at risk of freezing.

Al


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Hi Al~
Thanks! I appreciate the pull. ;-) I expected her to sulk, just wish it had sooner instead of teasing me for a week. LOL! I did figure out today, it is getting hit by some late afternoon sun, so i'm going to put it on a plant stand with casters so I can move it around the patio.

Questions. :-)

I have several large plastic pots that I got before learning the benefits of terra cotta, that I really can't toss. 14" 16" and 20". Would it help any to drill some holes up the sides? For air and gas exchange? If so what size drill bit? and about how many holes.? I'm planning on using them for the fig, and a few of my fruiting shrubs/evergreen.

Thanks!
YFJJ


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 17, 11 at 23:27

I use a lot of big containers that don't have gas-permeable walls, and I don't have any problems when using the highly aerated soils that get watered more often than their heavier counterparts, and I don't bother drilling any extra holes in the sides & wrecking their appearance. I do think that terra cotta pots are healthier from the plant's perspective, but I still have about half or more of my containerized plants in pots other than terra cotta.

FWIW - if I WAS putting extra holes in the bottoms & sides, I'd use a soldering iron/gun or a nail heated with a propane torch to melt the holes through - stronger & less likely to crack. ;o)

YPA


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RE: Trees in Containers II

I'm with Al... while I prefer to use the unglazed clay, I also have several large plastic and composite (fake clay) planters that I use with no problems.

The cost of clay is kind of prohibitive. Some of the nicer decorator clay pots can go really high in price! I wish, but I can't afford them.

We do have access to a local manufacturer of garden statuary, and since we know the owner, we get a better than fair deal on chipped or discontinued items. Urns and pots in larger sizes are usually grabbed up before we get there, though. We did get a great St. Francis statue, and one of those jockey holding the lantern statues for the barn area!

I agree... heat a nail with a hand held torch and go to it... if you need holes in the pots. In your climate, JoJo, I wouldn't worry about it. :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Yes! Have you seen the cost of clay pots go up this past year???????????%&*%^&$^&$*&%(&*^(**()! All the new stock must be doubled what it was 3 months ago.

I also prefer clay, although many are in plastic for my convenience.
I am always at HD buying them up, and just 3 months agao, a 6inch one coast 1.29, now it's 1.99!!!! The cost of all of them has sky rocketed. It is a crying shame. Makes you think twice about throwing out old used ones now. I am sure I can find a few of those around if I dig hard enough.

Al: Thank you for that suggestion about bringing my figs out. Back into the shed they went this am, even though I saw green numbs starting to show. I hope with cold and dark temps in there, I can stall the forward movement until at least the frosts have mostly past. By the way, remember when the pots froze, YOU WERE RIGHT, they made it.:0)

Thank yous:-))))

MIke


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al and Jodi!
Thanks! :-) I just thought, with as hot as we get here in the summer the tree's may be better off with some extra holes.

I do need to put one in the bottom! The darn pots don't have a drain hole!

Hi Mike!

I know terra cotta isn't cheap, but neither were the plastic I bought that will only last a few years out here! So i'm better off with the terra cotta. I'm slowly getting them here and there for all the outside plants.
The largest I have is 14" high and 16" diameter , $21.00 plain, not decorated.

Went to get 10" for the small citrus, and the only thing on the shelf was marked 9.8"!!! what's with that?

Everything is leafing out like crazy here, so I hope to get them all re potted this week!
Talk to you guys soon!
JJ


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Al~
I've read all I can find on my Evergreen Tree's and am not sure how I should pot them up.

They are Guava's, one of which lost all it's leaves over the winter, and just starting to show signs of life. They are in horrible, compacted soil from the grower. The water just runs right out the sides and the middle is hard to get watered, I have to set them in a dish, to soak some up.

Citurs~ Some in 5 gal. nursery. 3 in very small, tall containers, and I have a feeling they will bare root no matter what.

And a pomegranate, which is semi evergreen around here depending on weather. This one lost it's leaves, but they just started to grow back like crazy this past week.

You wrote in another part of this thread, not to bare root unless you know the tree will tolerate it. Which I don't. :-)

And to bare root or remove the wedges before the spring flush of growth, and I think I missed that window a little. We had and still are, an unusual warm spell, still getting up around the 90*'s.

Oh, and my Fig, I know she's not evergreen, but sneaking it in anyway. ;-) It's leafing out, and has small, pea to marble sized fruit.

Suggestions would be greatly appreciated as to how to tackle these plants. :-)
Thanks!
JoJo


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 19, 11 at 13:47

For the guava & citrus, I would saw the bottom third off the roots, then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. Next spring, I would do the two remaining wedges.

The pom would be treated like a deciduous tree & can be bare-rooted. Cut the bottom 1/3 off the roots, bare root, and cut the top back to shape. Don't be afraid to cut it back and remove branches so it looks like a little tree. When you're intentionally working on roots of potted plants, it's sometimes necessary to cut them back, because the tree might not be able to provide water to the entire top - especially so if the tree is in active bud-break or partially in leaf. Don't delay - work first on the trees that are most advanced in putting on their spring flush.

Treat the fig like the pom. If you decide it's too late to do a full repot, saw the bottom 1/3 off the root ball & cut deep vertical slits in the remaining root mass with a utility knife to help prevent circling roots. remove some of the soil from the perimeter of the root ball & repot in the same container or pot up.

I was out working in the garden this AM. I wondered why my hands were so cold, but as I look at the little WeatherBug temperature indicator on my taskbar, I see it's only 36*. That splains it, I guess. I pruned a bunch of trees and bushes and guess what I did? I have soo many plants, and I'm really trying to reduce their number, but I potted up a several rafts (a VERY dwarf Malus sargentii [crabapple] and Potentilla fruticosa - a Potentilla that grows in shrub form and actually makes a nice fat trunk) and stuck a bunch of cuttings from both the apple and Potentilla - so there's another 12-15 new plantings I'll have to deal with after they strike.

A 'raft' planting is when you take an entire branch and treat it as a cutting. I take the branch and remove all the branchlets from the weak side & leave all or most of the branches on the strong side. The branch is then laid flat, with all the strong side branches sticking up in the air, and some of the bark peeled off the underside to expose the cambium (roots faster). I am also able to wire the branch in a sinewy form so when the new branches start to grow into individual trees that are connected underground, they are nicely spaced and look natural.

Here are 2 different young 'raft' starts of J chinensis 'Shimpaku':

Photobucket

Photobucket

Al


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Hi Al~
Love the little tree's!! Someday i'll get started on bonsai's. Doesn't sound like your doing very well in the cut back on tree's department. LOL! My mom and I are always willing to adopt and take in strays. ;-) lol..
I won't tell you the temps here, you'll end up hating me. ;-)

As far as the Pom goes, I wanted to grow it more as a shrub, part of the screen to block the neighbors. I'll see how it goes with the roots, and maybe prune/shape it up. :)

I don't recall seeing this mentioned anywhere in all the reading i've done.

""then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. "" So, are you saying remove the soil instead of cut out the wedge? for the citrus and guava?

Thanks for your help!
Looks like I have some very busy days ahead of me. Tis the season. :-)

JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Awesome, Al! Bonsai... another thing I'd like to delve into, but really don't have the time or space to keep any... although, I do have a couple of plants that could possibly fit the bill if I got serious.

I love seeing the results of your work, Al... really nice!


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 19, 11 at 18:11

Thanks, Jodi. Those are just the very beginnings of plantings that will be nice in 10 years or so. The first 5-7 years are spent building promise into them and the next several years in refinement. Bonsai is the reason I dug so deeply into soils. After failing at it, I didn't give up - I understood where my failing was - I couldn't keep my trees alive and healthy because of the soils I was using, so ...... the rest is pretty much history. ;o)

Al


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Oh Al!@!!!!

Those are just the cutest and yet most beautiful trees I have ever seen. Way to go!

I am ever so grateful to have you around for more than just learning a great deal of information from you! Your pictures and plants speak VOLUMES! Also thank you for the tip on root pruning on my citrus come this spring.

Thank you

Mike


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hey Al,

Any thoughts on when would be the best time to repot/root prune Camellia's? As a background, I am doing this in San Francisco (Zone 10) and am moving them from traditional (crappy) container soil to gritty (manna from heaven) container media.

Camellia's tend to do their major blooms during the winter season. I'm not really sure if you would do the repot right before they bloomed, or just treat them like any other plant.

Thanks,

Bill


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 20, 11 at 13:46

I would do it following their major bloom period or early spring (Feb in your area?) - as long as there was no chance the roots weren't going to be exposed to freezing temps.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

I hear you, Al... the very same reason I went in search of better information, and consequently found you... I couldn't keep my bulbs alive and healthy! I'm still amazed at how it all clicked once I understood what was happening under the soil surface, and a little mad at myself that it took so long to figure it out! But, all's well that ends well. :-)

It's a little bit strange that this information isn't more widely spread or known... but understandable, if you see the world for what it's become.

The addition of proper sunlight for some of my collection, as I utilize the greenhouse, will really throw everyone into high gear! :-)

And... I still have the Japanese Maples and the Wysteria to work with... I've learned a lot about root pruning and balancing the canopy over winter... and I'll be putting it all into practice very soon. I just may end up with a pseudo bonsai yet! ;-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 20, 11 at 17:19

Bonsai can be very addicting, but it's a major commitment because the trees require so much attention. That's not the biggest hurdle though; you're already beyond that - that being the fact that 95% of the people who initially come to bonsai don't yet have the skills to keep their trees alive and healthy beyond a single season or two, and aren't willing to spend the time/effort it requires to acquire them.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hi Al~
Another question. :)
For the Guava and citrus... you suggested this..

""For the guava & citrus, I would saw the bottom third off the roots, then bare-root half the remaining root ball in two wedges. Next spring, I would do the two remaining wedges.""

Should I pot them with the 5-1-1, due to how much of the remaining soil is the original from the nursery, And would be very different than the gritty...And because I will be redoing them next season ( the opposite sides). And then the 3rd season bare root into the gritty mix?

Now, if any of my tree's sulk like your ficus did for 9 months, I'd be real tempted to toss them. LOL! Your patience is amazing. ;-)

JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 28, 11 at 9:42

You should be ok using the gritty mix & removing the wedges. The gritty mix will absorb water quickly & it will migrate/diffuse into the harder root mass. It's more important not to have differential horizontal strata in the same container than vertical. ;-)

My ficus sulked because it started out as a cutting that was all root tissue, (and it laid in the sun for an hour on the concrete before I got the bright idea to pot it up). ;-) I left the distal part of the root exposed, so root tissues had to DEdifferentiate into meristematic (stem cells) tissue so it could then REdifferentiate into apical growing points (branch buds) which is all I have right now, 9 months later ...... but I have no doubt it will take off soon as more buds are popping.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

I can imagine, Al, that someone truly into bonsai would want to start at the beginning, growing their trees either from seed or from found specimens they located and dug. That's a lot of dedication.

Seeing the amount of trees you care for on a constant basis, knowing what you must invest, in terms of time, and how beautiful they all are... it's mind boggling, really.

The first hurdle to growing any plant type is being able to keep it alive and healthy. And I think learning how container growing differs from garden growing, learning the function of medium, and learning how to properly water... these are the "bones" of growing successfully.

I've already caught the bulb bug... maybe I'll catch the tree bug next! :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Hello, container gardeners!

I wanted to share a tree - Birch - in a container. This was a seedling a couple years ago,
moved into a 1-gallon pot, and re-potted this Spring into a 3-gallon container. Luscious leaves...
and look at that crunchy, delicious mix ;-)

Chinese pistache seedling - same treatment - in the container to the left.

Photobucket


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 2, 11 at 17:13

... a happy looking little guy. ;o) Looks like you've 'got the knack'.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Ugh, this seems to complicated for me :(
Well, i'm a quick learner!
Good thing all my container plants are in 4in pots or smaller xD.
Well, except for a large rosemary (too large) that i cannot bring my self to prune, or get rid of...i did just repot it a week ago.
Al if you aren't going to make a video...can you write a book? You just have so much information to share, and this tiny website can never seem to hold it all. You could put it up for how ever much money (or free, even) on amazon.com without having to worry about getting it published or anything (which it should be)

Sir Andrew of the Lemon, Recalcitrant Teenager, Newb Extraordinaire, Slayer of Gnats, Pruner of Trees, Broke as All-Get-Out, and Stabbed by Thorns


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Thanks, Al, I'm gettin' there ;-)

Welcome, Andrew! Don't get overwhelmed...as you study, it'll all become much clearer.

Well, folks, before this Thread tops out, I thought I'd sneak in a final Tree in a Container -
in this case, it's the wonderful California Buckeye, grown from seed, and re-potted last year at
the beginning of March. This course, free-draining bark-based mix hasn't compacted. Healthy
new foliage - and growing in less than 1-gallon of mix. Bigger container next year for sure ;-)

Photobucket


Josh


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Nice looking tree, Josh.

I'm looking into a few new trees for my collection and could use any advice someone may have.

1. Sweetbay Magnolia
2. Trident Maple
3. Japanese Stewartia

All three are less than 3' tall at present, and I would like to keep them in containers for now.

From what I can gather, all three should do well in gritty mix, and as soon as I find out the best time to repot, I will do so. Does anyone have any experience with either the Stewartia or the Magnolia in a container?


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Al~
Should my shrubs be lifted some, so the trunk is a little higher out of the soil when I re pot them ? like it was suggested for my apricot? The pomegranate, and Guava's.
Thanks... :-)

Josh,
The tree's look great! I love the buckeye!
JoJo


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 5, 11 at 20:57

When you repot, take a look at where the main mass of roots comes off the trunk & pot so those are at the surface. Sometimes that requires that you remove a few stray adventitious roots that emerge above the main root mass. It's ok to sort of mound some soil over these roots temporarily when you repot to help keep them moist, but the top of the main root mass should be at or very slightly below the surface after a couple of weeks.

Al


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RE: Trees in Containers II

Great Al!
Thanks!! Hope to tackle them this weekend. Were due for cooler weather and I have some time on my hands. :-)

JJ


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RE: Trees in Containers II

And... here we have another informative, helpful article by Al about to come to the end of its allotted traffic, 150 responses! Congratulations, Al!

Once again, let it be known that we greatly appreciate the extra efforts you go to in order to make us better growers! Thank you, Al, for your ceaseless work to this end! :-)


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RE: Trees in Containers II

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 6, 11 at 17:36

Thanks, Guys. I really appreciate your constant support & kind comments. I think I'll use up the last two posts so I can be sure I link to the new thread.

Take care.

Al


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Link to the new thread

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 6, 11 at 17:38

As the thread is about to end, I'll leave a link to its continuation below.

Thanks to all who participated and made it so much fun to share!

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: Thread continued here


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