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RE: Yellow Leaf Veins? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: rhizo_1 on 01.08.2010 at 03:11 pm in Citrus Forum

Yellow Vein Chlorosis isn't unusual in citrus. Unfortunately, it can be caused by many factors. It may be as simple as cold weather making nitrogen less available for uptake by the plant. Or it might be caused by any number of things causing problems for the vascular system of the plant.

These might include root or soil-borne diseases, damage to the trunk (as in girdling), compaction to root/soil system, etc. Even ants can be a causal agent for YVC.

Truthfully, there are so many factors that can create a problem for the root and vascular systems of our plants that it might be hard to narrow it down for you. But the symptoms surely look like Yellow Vein Chlorosis.


clipped on: 11.06.2011 at 03:25 pm    last updated on: 11.06.2011 at 03:25 pm

RE: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV (Follow-Up #14)

posted by: tapla on 06.12.2011 at 08:56 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Hi, guys. Sorry I haven't been around much. I've been very busy in my own gardens & getting containers established, as well as taking care of a ton of chores associated with my bonsai endeavors. There has also been a lot of illness in my extended family that has required a lot of my attention.

I thought I offered a heartfelt thank you to all who offered such kind words ..... at least I know I wrote a thank you, but I see in never made it to the thread, which means I prolly messed up while trying to post it. Everyone has been so kind, ant the forum has really been a great place to hang lately, so thank you all very much for the support & the nice compliments. I really appreciate it.

GT - as a substitute for granite, you'll need to make some adjustments if you use:
1) lava sand (make sure the size is appropriate - if you want about the same water retention as the 1:1:1 gritty mix, use about 4 parts lava sand, 3 parts bark, and 2 parts of screened Turface).
2) expanded shale (same as above)
3) "horticultural" charcoal (same as above)

When you post pictures that are too wide to fit the column, column width is automatically adjusted to fit your pictures, which means that everyone else reading the thread subsequent to the picture posting will have to scroll sideways to read the offerings, so please keep that in mind when you post and consider resizing.

Jay - it sort of depends on how much fertilizer you added. If you watch leaf color, your plants will tell you when they want to be fertilized, as they'll start turning a little lighter green. I pretty much fertilize everything but veggies on a schedule that's tempered by ambient temperatures, but for veggies I keep a close eye on foliage color and rely on that as my guide.

Thanks again everyone!



clipped on: 10.31.2011 at 08:52 pm    last updated on: 10.31.2011 at 08:52 pm

RE: Sap has to be flowing when grafting... (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: malcolm_manners on 10.27.2011 at 07:28 am in Citrus Forum

There may be some misunderstanding of what is actually going on here. In a citrus tree, xylem sap flows throughout the day, but stops (or nearly stops) at night, year-round. Xylem sap is the water supply coming up from the roots, carrying fertilizer nutrients with it. Phloem sap, on the other hand, moves more or less continuously in the tree, carrying sugars, amino acids, hormones, and other plant metabolic products around. There is nothing that happens at any time of year in a citrus tree that would be analogous to the "sap flow" in something like a sugar maple tree, in which massive amounts of stored starch in the roots are converted to sugars and transported upward for use by the spring growth flush.

Some methods of grafting work about as well on any day of the year -- chip budding and cleft grafting, for example.

However, there are grafting methods that rely on the bark of the rootstock plant "slipping," meaning that it peels cleanly away from the wood (T-budding especially, the most popular of all methods of propagating citrus). In this case, there are definite "good" and "not so good" times to do the operation, and in that case, it generally happens when the tree is in a major flush of new growth. It's not really related to "sap;" rather, it is the fact that the vascular cambium, which is a very thin layer of cells between the bark (phloem) and wood (xylem) is actively dividing new cells, in the process of making new wood and bark, as the stem thickens during the growth flush. Those new cells are softer and not as tightly "glued" to their neighbors, and so when you cut into the bark and pry it back, the bark "slips" as the cambium layer tears. Growth of the vascular cambium is stimulated by auxin hormone (3-indoleacetic acid) flowing downward from the new growth, through particular cells in the phloem tissue. So it occurs in a wave, somewhat later than the beginning of the top flush, and ending just after the end of the top flush. It's easy to test for -- you simply try to cut and peel a bit of bark. Either it will peel as easily as a ripe banana, or it will hang on tightly and you'll just be scraping splinters.


Malcolm M. Manners, Ph.D.
John and Ruth Tyndall Professor of Citrus Science
Florida Southern College


clipped on: 10.30.2011 at 06:37 pm    last updated on: 10.30.2011 at 06:37 pm

RE: When will they turn red already?! (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: chile_freak on 07.18.2011 at 07:09 pm in Hot Pepper Forum

Why sho.
one of two ways to accomplishing this the easy way(which is more expensive)
or the slightly more involved way(which is much cheaper)
the easy way:
4 cayenne peppers (deseeded and deplacentaed) diced
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup water
2 cups real maple syrup
put the cayennes, blueberries and water into a small saucepot and heat on med heat for 10 mins or so should be getting pretty pasty about now. then add maple syrup and reduce heat cook for an additional 10 mins blend and strain
the other way to do this:
4 cayennes (deseeded deplacentaed)diced
i cup blue berries
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsps real maple extract
put all ingredients in a small saucepot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 mins or until sugar starts to caramelize a bit, then blend strain and enjoy, while the syrup is cooling a bit make some buttermilk panckes and a good breakfast sausage, youre gonna wanna try some of this when its done cuz it smells heavenly ;)


clipped on: 07.21.2011 at 02:39 am    last updated on: 07.21.2011 at 02:39 am

RE: Picking Bhut Jolokias (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: mbellot on 07.13.2011 at 09:36 pm in Hot Pepper Forum

esox - I started growing Bhuts because of a sauce at one of the local Mexican restaurants. The owner actually makes three varieties:

Jalapeno - mild, almost mustard flavor.
Habanero - good heat, some fruity flavor.
Ghost pepper - extreme heat, smokey flavor, although that could be your tongue burning in your mouth. :)

I've re-created the sauce using Habaneros (they are all essentially the same, Habs were cheap and prolific at the local grocery). My version had less heat and more fruity flavor because I removed the seeds and veins, but otherwise it was spot on.

If you like hot sauce they are all really good on tacos, burritos, etc. If you really like hot sauce they are also quite tasty just on tortilla chips.

The basic recipe is:

Habanero Sauce Recipe (prototype, not final)

2 Tbsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp Habanero pepper, minced (about 3 peppers) - more if preferred
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/2 c Canola oil (approximate)
Water (as needed to get desired consistency)

Mix all ingredients except oil and water in food processor or blender, pulse to blend.

Slowly add oil (very slowly at first) while continuously running food processor on high. If the oil is added too quickly the sauce will not emulsify properly.

After all the oil has been added check consistency. If too thick adjust with water a little at a time. Only add water while food processor is running on high speed and be sure to blend for a full minute before re-checking.


clipped on: 07.14.2011 at 12:19 am    last updated on: 07.14.2011 at 12:19 am

RE: Eating chocolate habanero's (Follow-Up #14)

posted by: chile_freak on 07.10.2011 at 05:21 pm in Hot Pepper Forum

No worries, simplest thing in the world:
8 scotch bonnets( deseed and deplacenta unless u like it HOT
2 cups cane vinegar(rice if u don't have access to cane)
1 medium onion (rough chopped)
1 medium carrot (rough chopped)
6 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp corriander
2 tblsp olive oil
salt to taste
pinch of xantham gum(optional)
preheat oven to 400. place peppers(whole w/o calyx, or deseeded and deplacentaed) garlic, onion and carrot on cookis sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them, roast until, garlic softens and onions are translucent( about 8-10 mins roughly) add all ingredients to blender or food processor, and mix thouroughly, til u have a smooth texture.
strain and enjoy.good luck! Let me know how it turns out for you. This is one of the simplest hot sauces I make, other than the pepper mash of course: roast garlic and chiles puree in vinegar til desired consistency and add salt, I use thai chile mash on all kinds of stuff and, smoked habaneros make a wicked good pepper mash too( not to mention one hell of a bbq sauce!


clipped on: 07.11.2011 at 03:31 am    last updated on: 07.11.2011 at 03:31 am

RE: Eating chocolate habanero's (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: chile_freak on 07.08.2011 at 05:53 pm in Hot Pepper Forum

Amen brother! scotch bonnets I know for a fact have incredible flavor, the yellows are a bit above habaneros if I recall correctly, they make delicious jerk and carribean curries, and also make a fabulous hot sauce w/ cane vinegar,(if you cant find cane vinegar,rice will work in a pinch) onions, garlic and a carrot, roast your peppers whole, along w/ whole garlic cloves, rough chop carrot and onion roast all together in oven @ 400 til garlic is soft and onions translucent, add all to blender or food processor, blend and strain then add a dash of cumin and corriander and salt to taste. now u have a hot sauce that is good on anything. ps if u are picky about ur sauce seperating a pinch of xantham gum will stabilize it and make it pretty,
Sorry, did I mention I'm a chef?


clipped on: 07.11.2011 at 03:29 am    last updated on: 07.11.2011 at 03:29 am

RE: Please...How does one prepare CHC's? (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: windy3sheets on 07.08.2011 at 09:55 am in Citrus Forum

My mix is simple. 4 parts CHC to 1 part Sphagnum peat. This will eventually yield a pH of around 5.8-6.0. (Sphagnum is 4.5-5.0 and CHC is 6.5, on the button) In my latest batch I've also mixed in a handful of coffee grounds per cubic foot as a supplemental organic microfert. But I have no idea how good, bad, or useless this will be. The last leaf I had analyzed showed no major deficiencies in micro nutrients, but let's be honest... it's kind of hard to go anywhere on this planet and NOT be surrounded by Boron and Iron.

You should be able to get the calcium nitrate in 1-5lb bags from a good greenhouse or garden supply. I get mine from Robert's Flower Supply. He's an Orchid guy who sells all over, especially his CHC, but his website isn't exactly 'web 2.0.' He does handle internet orders over the phone and via e-mail, but there isn't any kind of web-form for it. Anyway, I live 5 minutes down the road so I just buy direct and have no experience with them when it comes to mail order, but I think He's reliable when it comes to it. For what it's worth, he ships a ton of CHC and orchid stuff all over. Some guy orders 7 bales once a month for his Snake Collection...yikes!

I'm sure you've got a similar place in your area, try a place that specializes in Orchids or Hydroponics for small bags.. If not, you can buy Calcium Nitrate online from a variety of other places too. Make sure to get the small grain powder, usually in a green bag, and not the large BB sized pellets as you want the more soluble stuff. The big-box stores may carry it, but probably only in 50lb bags. Keep in mind, you only need a couple ounces per 3-4 cubic feet of CHC. All you are trying to do is get the CHC to exchange its locked up Sodium for Magnesium and Calcium before you put plants in it. If you don't, theoretically the CHC will happily exchange its monotonic Sodium for diatomic Calcium, Magnesium, and even Potassium, from your fertilizer and, worse case, your tree roots causing Sodium burn... theoretically. In essence, you're just using CHC as a water softener for water you've deliberately made hard.

As far as CHC quality goes, if I'm able to get time I'd like have a lab my business uses analyze my CHC for me. They'll look at material composition and structure to find out exactly how much salt is in the stuff to begin with, whether dunking it in an ion exchange bath has any effect at all, and how the structure holds up over time. This isn't useful for your 'Sis, but I'm curious to learn what the actual salt levels of CHC are.

My first batch of CHC wasn't prepared in any kind of ion exchange solution. I simply rinsed and combined with spare peat moss and watered using a tsp of Epsom Salt and White Vinegar. My trees were nearly dead in the potting soil, but after a couple of weeks in the CHC they had experienced a significant greening and flush. I eventually had to repot them as their planter was way to shallow. The biggest problem with CHC is that the top inch or so will dry up very quick due to the large voume of air they hold. In pot that's only 4 inches tall to begin with, having 1/4 of it dry can be a problem if you forget to water.

They were in the unprepared CHC for about four months before I repotted into prepared CHC, and their roots were not only clinging to the CHC, they were actually growing into the CHC as if to use them as little mini water reservoirs. I repotted again, after another nine months, a couple days ago and the roots were doing the same. So in both cases, one prepared and the other not, the roots were happy to meld into the CHC. Thus the reason why I'd like to study CHC a little bit more. It seems like CHC has a love hate relationship, but other than anecdotal comparisons I can't find any technical papers on the stuff. I don't know if I've been successful, but I've been happy with it compared to Miracle-Gro Citrus and Plam Soil. Anyway, probably more than you wanted to know, but that's my story with CHC.


clipped on: 07.08.2011 at 05:26 pm    last updated on: 07.08.2011 at 05:26 pm

RE: Substitutes for ingredients in Al's gritty mix (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: tapla on 12.10.2009 at 07:41 pm in Container Gardening Forum

I rarely use vermiculite for anything. It's very water-retentive and collapses in ......... ohh ..... say about 10 minutes (thanks, Dori).

I use some variation of the gritty mix for all my bonsai soils. I would also expect any significant fraction of vermiculite in any of my own soils to be a detraction from the way I intended them to perform, but YMMV.



clipped on: 07.07.2011 at 05:15 pm    last updated on: 07.07.2011 at 05:15 pm

RE: Please...How does one prepare CHC's? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: windy3sheets on 07.06.2011 at 09:37 pm in Citrus Forum

I think it will depend on the type and packaging of the CHC she has. In my case, I get them down the road from an Orchid supply who imports CHC direct from Myanmar in compressed bails which 'spring' open when you pull them out. I use CHC because I can get a 7 cubic foot bale for $30, as opposed to 2 cubic feet of pine fines for $40. My first trees are on their second potting of CHC, and my second set of trees are on their third. I'm not saying this to espouse CHC or anything, but to let you know my experience is not vast. Everything here is based on some technical papers I've collected a year or so ago.

------CAVEAT EMPTOR-------

I fill a 5 gallon pail with drainage holes on the bottom 4/5 of the way full with CHC and place it on a couple of cinder blocks. I then run the CHC under a garden hose until the water is crystal clear (15-20 minutes). After that I dump the CHC into a wide/flat 'Walmart' storage bin, and pour a gallon of warm water mixed with a heavy tablespoon each of epsom salts and calcium nitrate, and heavily agitate the CHC solution with a broom handle. The reason you do this is because of the CHC's strong CEC -is it really that funny?. Anyway, if you don't add Ca and Mg to your CHC, as soon as you fertilize the CHC will exchange Ca and Mg for K and Na. The Sodium can be overcome fairly easily with container plants (tap water usually has plenty), but the loss of Potassium can be detrimental. (

My standard mix is 4 parts prepared CHC to one part Sphagnum peat. This yields a pH of about 6.2-6.3. It will rise slowly as the CHC starts exchanging ions, which it does, until it stabilizes at 6.5 pH. If you do not use properly prepared CHC, the plant will stunt because of a slowdown in photosynthesis. Even worse, you can cause a backlog of protein that could kill your citrus.(


clipped on: 07.06.2011 at 10:03 pm    last updated on: 07.06.2011 at 10:03 pm

Trees in Containers III

posted by: tapla on 04.06.2011 at 05:33 pm in Container Gardening Forum

This is a continuation of the second thread on the same topic, both having topped out at 150 posts. You can find a link to the previous thread and the helpful information/conversations it contains at the bottom of this post.

Trees in Containers
A discussion about maintaining trees in containers over the long term

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
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
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 so far makes sense. Thank you so much for your interest.


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

If interested, follow the embedded link to the previous discussion about trees in containers.


clipped on: 07.01.2011 at 03:44 am    last updated on: 07.01.2011 at 03:44 am

RE: pH over time (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: tapla on 08.03.2010 at 05:10 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Carbon dioxide is combined with ammonia to make urea. It's very soluble in water, and I think that urea will totally dissolve in an equal weight of water. I'm not sure what the person you were listening to was trying to say, but this is how it works: Once (dry) urea is applied, it quickly hydrolyzes. That is to say its elements break down and combine with the elements of water in the presence of an enzyme called urease. Urease is a protein that acts as a catalyst. You'll remember that a catalyst is something that causes a reaction w/o actually entering into the reaction. Urease is abundant in soils, but is especially abundant in soils that have significant fractions of plant residues (OM), so once hydrolyzed I can't imagine why someone would think the N fraction of urea would be unavailable. Because of the high % of OM in most container media, and the accompanying increased level of the catalyst urease, it would actually be more readily available in container media than in most mineral soils.

Ammonium ions attach to the negatively charged soil
particles and the nitrogen becomes available to
the plant, either in its ammonium form or in nitrate form following oxidation by soil microbes. In that respect, urea doesn't behave any differently than any of the other fertilizer compounds with ammonia at their base.

People have been using urea-based soluble fertilizers on containerized plants (MG, Peters, Schultz, .......) with wonderful results (as long as they pay attention to other cultural conditions as well) for years and years, so even if someone chose to ignore or doubt the science I outlined, the practical experience of millions should probably be sufficient to dispel the 'admonition not to use urea-based fertilizers for containerized plants'. Actually, in all the reading & research I've done for my own personal enlightenment, I've never once come across that particular bit of advice.



clipped on: 06.27.2011 at 08:12 am    last updated on: 06.27.2011 at 08:12 am

RE: pH over time (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: tapla on 08.02.2010 at 09:01 pm in Container Gardening Forum

In container culture, the pH of the soil solution is much more important than the pH of the medium. What happens to container media pH is too complicated to draw generalities, but more often than not, media pH tends to rise as they age due to an accumulation of bicarbonates, but we can impact that affect by the pH of our irrigation water and by the fertilizers we use. Fertilizers deriving their N from urea and ammonium salts tend to acidify, while fertilizers deriving their N from nitrate sources tend to move the medium pH toward basic.

Dolomitic lime's solubility varies with soil/soil solution pH, temperature, moisture content, and very importantly, the size of the limestone particles. Particles that won't fit through insect screen should be considered useless as a liming agent because of their reduced surface area:bulk density makes then essentially insoluble for container culture. The lime you often buy that is in round pellets of varying size is actually prilled. A slurry of pulverized lime and a binding agent is shot from tall 'prilling' towers. It forms small spheres on the way down and hardens. This is done to make the pulverized lime easier to broadcast. When the lime gets wet, the prills quickly break down into pulverized form, so the 'prills' are much more soluble than unpulverized limestone of the same size would be.

The lime fraction of the limestone doesn't leach from the medium very quickly at all. I have (slow-growing) plants that I've kept in the same medium for 5 years or more that showed no signs of Ca deficiency with no lime applications subsequent to the original incorporation into the medium. Part of that is due to the tendency for bicarbonates to accumulate in the soil, which also supply a source of Ca. The Mg fraction of dolomite is much more soluble, up to 125x more soluble than the Ca fraction. I usually try to include a source of Mg (Epsom salts) in my fertilizer solutions for plants in the same medium for growth cycles subsequent to the first annual cycle.



clipped on: 06.27.2011 at 08:09 am    last updated on: 06.27.2011 at 08:09 am

RE: Commercial fertilizers & calcium (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: tapla on 04.11.2008 at 09:08 pm in House Plants Forum

Hmmmm. The guaranteed analysis of the primary macronutrients (NPK) in Eleanor's is Analysis: 0.15 - 0.85 - 0.55 This is less than 1% of ANY of the majors. 1/8 of 1% N, 7/8 of 1% P, 1/2 of 1% K. This is EXTREMELY low in fertility. Since I cannot find the rest of the analysis, I'm going to guess the rest of the nutrients are probably nonexistent or nearly so. Did you find anything to show the % of Ca, Mg, and the minor elements. I'm interested in just how much of these elements it contains. Would you share your source of information, please?

Joel - your answer is pretty complicated, but I'll try to explain it in as easy to understand terms as I can. I have to start with where the N comes from in fertilizers, because of its effect on what can be used as a Ca source.

There are plenty of sources of water-soluble nitrogen, some of which only supply nitrogen - like either urea or ammonium nitrate. For the rest of the nutrients, though, there are far fewer choices. In fact, the only source of Ca for water-soluble fertilizers is calcium nitrate. There is also typically only one source of potassium, potassium nitrate. Magnesium is supplied either as magnesium nitrate or sulfate. Because there are such limitations in the number of fertilizer salts that can be used to blend various fertilizers, the ratio of the 5 macronutrients has a direct affect on the percent ammoniacal nitrogen in the fertilizer.

To give an example, fertilizers that have good amounts of calcium tend to also be high in nitrate, because (noted above) calcium nitrate is the only water-soluble source of calcium. Fertilizers that are high in phosphorus are often also high in ammonium because phosphorus is usually supplied as monoammonium phosphate.

Certain fertilizers generally cannot be mixed at high concentrations. Fertilizer compounds containing sulfate, (for example magnesium sulfate), are not compatible in solution with calcium nitrate because a reaction occurs where insoluble calcium sulfate (gypsum) will form as a precipitate (solid). If a blended fertilizer contains both calcium and magnesium, then the sources have to be calcium nitrate and magnesium nitrate. Similarly, calcium nitrate and monoammonium phosphate cannot be mixed in the same concentrated solution because insoluble calcium phosphate will form as a precipitate.

Sorry, but you asked. ;o)

The short version is that the chemicals used in soluble fertilizers tend to cause Ca to precipitate (fall out) of solution as an insoluble solid where is if no value to the plant, so why include it?

A few fertilizers, like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 DO contain good amounts of Ca and Mg in the proper proportions. It should be an excellent fertilizer for houseplants.



clipped on: 06.24.2011 at 05:30 pm    last updated on: 06.24.2011 at 05:30 pm

RE: Commercial fertilizers & calcium (Follow-Up #11)

posted by: tapla on 04.15.2008 at 08:58 am in House Plants Forum

Joel - if you're using a packaged potting soil, it's likely it's already been treated (pH adjusted) with dolomitic lime, which is a source of both Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg). If you are making your own soils, you can provide Ca by including either a tbsp of dolomitic (garden) lime or gypsum for each gallon of soil.

Dolomitic lime raises soil pH - gypsum does not. I use both, with soil composition and pH the determining factors. If you use gypsum as a Ca source, since it lacks Mg, you'll need to include a very minimal amount (1/8 tsp) of Epsom salts in the water, each time you fertilize.



clipped on: 06.24.2011 at 05:30 pm    last updated on: 06.24.2011 at 05:30 pm

RE: Al's 5:1:1 mix pH questions (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: tapla on 08.08.2010 at 09:52 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Yup - it applies to peppers & mater, too.

I put the word 'ideal' in between the apostrophes (above) because it's something that's often said, and I'm guilty of repeating it as well, but lots of people with lots of letters after their name have said what I'm about to try to explain.

"Why would containers need different pH requirements than in the ground."

First, they don't NEED a different media pH, which is much less important in container culture than it is in the garden. I've puzzled over how to answer the question in a way that's easy to understand, because it's a complicated question. First, pH affects mostly the solubility of essential micro-nutrients and other nonessential elements that can become toxic, once certain pH levels are reached.

Basically, in mineral (garden) soils, the micro-nutrients are already IN the soil, and the ideal pH is a happy medium where all the elements are in a favorable part of their availability range. Too much deviation either upward or downward in the pH level can have a significant impact on availability and toxicities.

In container media, the organic components contain only very small amounts of micro-nutrients, locked securely in the hydrocarbon chains of the medium. So, raising or lowering the pH of the medium or the soil solution has little impact on the availability of these nutrients.

If you point to a pH induced Fe deficiency and say Hey, look here - a pH induced deficiency", I'll point to the fact that technically it's not a function of the pH, but of the presence of high concentrations of Ca, Mg, Na, or bicarbonates, with the increase in pH being only the symptom.

If you could use a medium that is devoid of potential toxicities, and has all the essential nutrients in the right ratio, you can grow most plants very well (in container media) at pH ranges from 3.0 to about 8.5.

Here, you'll see the standard pH chart for mineral soils, depicting availability throughout the pH range. You can see that 6.5 to 7.0 is pretty favorable:

This is a pH chart, also pretty standard, showing a different picture for container media:



clipped on: 06.24.2011 at 02:58 pm    last updated on: 06.24.2011 at 02:58 pm

Bloom Boosters - How Much P is Enough?

posted by: tapla on 04.22.2008 at 11:03 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Lets first look at the role of fertilizers in general. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air, water, light, temperature, soil or media, and nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing most deficient factor will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination of the factors and increasing them, individually or in various combinations, can lead to toxicity for the plant.

From the above, we can say that when any nutritional element is deficient in the soil, plant growth slows. We have a term for this occurrence: environmental dormancy. When the deficient element is restored to adequacy levels the environmental constraint caused by the deficient element is eliminated and plant growth can resumes at a normal rate, as long as there are not additional limiting factors. Continuing to increase the element beyond the adequacy range offers no benefits and can deleteriously affect the plant - often in several ways, depending on the element.

Somewhere along the way, we curiously began to look at fertilizers as miraculous assemblages of growth drugs, and started interpreting the restorative (of normal growth) effect of fertilizer as stimulation beyond what a normal growth rate would be if all nutrients were adequately present in soils. Its no small wonder that we come away with the idea that there are miracle concoctions out there and often end up placing more hope than is reasonable in them. In couplet with the hope for the miracle tonic is more must be better. Ill use the latter idea as the lead-in for my thoughts on high-phosphorous fertilizer blends.

Among container growers you often find common belief that high-phosphorus (P) content fertilizers are a requirement for promotion of root growth and/or flowering. Fertilizer blends like 15-30-15, and even 10-52-10 are sold under names that imply that you actually NEED these formulas for plants to bloom well and to produce strong roots. Lets examine that idea in a little more depth.
While anecdotal evidence abounds, there is very little scientific evidence to show any need for such products. Ive mentioned in other posts that high-P fertilizers are a historical carry-over from when it was most common for plants to be started in outdoor soil beds, the soil in which was usually still quite cold at sowing time. Both the solubility of P and plants ability to take it up are reduced in cold soils, so it was reasoned that fertilizing with high levels of P insured that at least some would be available during periods of growth in chilled soils.

We know that tissue analysis of leaves, roots, flowers - any of the live tissues of healthy plants will reveal that P is present in tissues at an average of 1/6 that of nitrogen (N) and about 1/4 that of potassium (K). Many plants even contain as much calcium as P. If we know that we cannot expect P to be found in higher concentrations in the roots and blooms than we find in foliage, how can we justify the belief that massive doses of P are important to their formation?

It is well known among experienced growers that withholding N when all other nutrients are available at adequate levels induces bloom production, even on smaller and younger plants. Though plants USE nutrients at approximately a 3:.5:2 ratio (note that N is 6 times the level of P, and K is 4 times the level of P), most greenhouse operations purposely fertilize with something very near a 2:1:2 ratio to limit vegetative growth so they can sell a compact plant sporting pretty blooms to tempt you.

Simply limiting N limits vegetative growth, but it does nothing to limit photosynthesis. The plant keeps making food, but it cannot use it to grow leaves and extend stems because of the lack of N. To where should we imagine the energy goes? It goes into producing blooms and fruit.

What harm might there be in a little extra P in our soils? First consider that the popular 10-52-10 has almost 32 times more P than a huge percentage of plants could ever use. Even 1:1:1 fertilizer formulas like the popular 20-20-20 are already high P formulas because they have 6.25 times more P (in relation to N) than plants require to grow robustly and normally.

Evidence of phosphate overfertilizing usually always includes some degree of leaf chlorosis. P competes with iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) ions for attachment sites and causes antagonistic deficiencies of these micronutrients. Unfortunately, the deficiency of these elements causes interveinal chlorosis (yellowing), and the first thing we normally consider as a fix for yellow leaves is more fertilizer, so we give the plants a good dose of our favorite bloom-bomb which causes, no surprise - worsening of the condition.

Ill close with an anecdote of how I used to fertilize plants with showy blooms before I had a better understanding of the overall picture. I would fertilize with a "bloom-boosting" fertilizer as long as foliage was bright green. As foliage inevitably yellowed, I would then switch to a high N formula until the color returned and start the cycle over again. I THOUGHT that the P was helping produce blooms and the yellowing was caused by a lack of N, which I quickly jumped to correct at the first evidence of yellow. I now understand that the high levels of P were what were causing the yellowing and it wasnt my returning to a high N formula that greened the plant up again, it was the reduction in the level of P in the soil when I stopped using the high-P formulation.

Al Fassezke


clipped on: 03.10.2011 at 11:36 pm    last updated on: 03.10.2011 at 11:36 pm

Dealing with Water-Retentive Soils

posted by: tapla on 09.11.2010 at 02:02 pm in Container Gardening Forum

Dealing with Water-Retentive Soils

A good friend recently asked me if putting a brick in the bottom of a container interferes with drainage? After reading the question, it occurred to me that there are aspects to the question that Ive discussed very little here at GW. It also occurred to me that I could use her question to help those who grow in heavy (water-retentive) soils. Im going to define those soils, but this isnt about disparaging soil types - its about helping you try to squeeze the most plant vitality (and the water) out of them. Heavy soils are based on fine ingredients. If the soil contains more than 30-40% of any combination of peat, coir, compost, or other fine ingredients like builders sand or topsoil, it will retain appreciable amounts of 'perched water' and remain soggy after its saturated - and this is about dealing with soggy soils.

Perched water is water that remains in the soil after the soil stops draining. If you wet a sponge & hold it by a corner until it stops draining, the water that is forced out of the sponge when you squeeze it is perched water. From the plants perspective, perched water is unhealthy because it occupies air spaces that are needed for normal root function and metabolism. The gasses produced under anoxic (airless) conditions (CO2, sulfurous compounds, methane) are also an issue. The main issue though, is that roots deprived of sufficient oxygen begin to die within hours. You dont actually see this, but the finest, most important roots die first. The plant then has to spend stored energy or current photosynthetic (food production) to regenerate lost roots - an expensive energy outlay that would otherwise have been spent on blooms, fruit, branch extension, increasing biomass, systems maintenance .. Perhaps the plant would have stored the energy for a winters rest and the spring flush of growth instead of expending it on root regeneration.

You can see that perched water, from the plants perspective, is not a good thing. From our own perspective, we think its rather convenient when we only need to water our plantings every 4-5 days, but because we cant see it, there is a sacrifice in potential growth/vitality for our convenience - like driving on low tires reduces fuel economy. How we choose to resolve this issue is of no concern to me - we all arrange our priorities & few of us are willing to water plants every hour to squeeze the last wee bit of vitality from them. Growing is about compromise in more cases than not. There is no judgment passed here on soil choice.

If you dont agree that perched water is generally a bad thing in containers, theres no need to read on. If youre still interested, Ill lay a little groundwork here before I outline some things remedial you can do to combat excess water retention. Almost all out-of-the-bag soils retain a considerable amount of perched water after they have been saturated. Each individual soil formulation will retain a specific height of perched water unique to THAT soil. No matter what the shape or size of the container - height, width, round, square the height of the PWT (perched water table) will be the same. You can fill a 1" diameter pipe with a particular soil or a 55 gallon S-shaped drum with the same soil, and both will have exactly the same PWT height.

Lets do some imagining for the purpose of illustration. Most peat or compost based soils retain in excess of 3 inches of perched water, so lets imagine a soil that retains 3 inches of perched water. Also, imagine a funnel that is 10 inches between the exit hole & the mouth and is filled with soil. Because we are imagining, the mouth is enclosed & has a drain hole in it. In your minds eye, picture the funnel filled with a soil that holds 3 inches of perched water, and the soil is saturated. If the funnel is placed so the large opening, the mouth, is down, you can see the largest possible volume of soil possible when using this container is saturated, the first 3 inches; but, turn the funnel over and what happens? We KNOW that the PWT level is constant at 3 inches, but there is a very large difference in the volume of soil in the lower 3 inches of the funnel after it is placed small end down. This means there is only a small fraction of the volume of perched water in the small-end-down application vs. the large-end-down. When you tip the funnel so the small end is down, all but a small fraction of the perched water runs out the bottom hole as the large water column seeks its 3 inch level in the small volume of soil. In a way, you have employed gravity to help you push the extra water out of the soil.

You havent affected the DRAINAGE characteristics of the soil or its level of aeration, but you HAVE affected the o/a water retention of the container. This allows air to return to the soil much faster and greatly reduces any issues associated with excess water retention. OK - we can see that tapered containers will hold a reduced VOLUME of perched water, even when drainage characteristics, aeration, and the actual height of the PWT remain unchanged, but we dont and wont all grow in funnels, so lets see how we can apply this information PRACTICALLY to other containers.

Drainage layers dont work. The soil rests on top of drainage layers, then the water perches in the soil above - just as it would if the soil was resting on the container bottom. Drainage layers simply raises the LOCATION where the PWT resides. But what if we put a brick or several bricks on the bottom of the container? Lets look at that idea, using the soil with the 3inch PWT again. Lets say the brick is 4x8x3 inches tall, and the container is a rectangle 10x12x12 inches high. The volume of soil occupied by perched water is going to be 10x12x3, or 360 cubic inches. If we add the brick to the bottom of the container so the height of the brick is 3 inches, it reduces the volume of soil that can hold perched water, so for every brick you add (4x8x3=96) you reduce the volume of soil that can hold perched water by 96 cubic inches. If you add 3 bricks, the volume of soil that holds perched water would be 360-288, or only 72 cubic inches, so you have reduced the amount of perched water in the container by 80% .. quite a feat for a brick.

Your job though, is to be sure that what you add to the bottom of the container to reduce the volume of soil that can hold perched water doesnt create stress later on when the planting has matured. Be sure the container has a large enough volume of soil to produce plants free from the stress of excessive root constriction. You dont want to trade one stress for another.

How else might we trick the water in the container into leaving? Lets think about the following in 2 dimensions, because its easier to visualize. If you look at the side view of a cylindrical or rectangular container, you see a rectangle, so imagine a cylinder or rectangle 10 inches wide or 10 inches in diameter and 8" deep. Both side views are rectangles. Now, draw a horizontal line 3 inches above the bottom to represent the level of the PWT. Remember, this line will always remain horizontal and 3 inches above the bottom. Now tip the container at a 45 degree angle and notice what happens. The profile is now a triangle with an apex pointing downward and the base is of course the line of the PWT 3 inches above the bottom. Can you see there is a much lower volume of soil in the bottom 3 inches of the triangle than in the bottom 3 inches of the rectangle? The PWT line is level at 3 inches above the apex, so by simply tilting your containers after you water, you can trick a large fraction of the unwanted perched water to exit the container. Sometimes it helps to have a drain hole on the bottom outside edge of the pot, but not always. Only when the location of the hole is above the natural level of the PWT when the pot has been tilted does it affect how much additional water might have been removed.

On the forums, Ive often talked about wicks, so Ill just touch on them lightly. If you push a wick through the drain hole and allow it to dangle several inches below the bottom of your container immediately after watering, the wick will fool the perched water into behaving as though the container was deeper than it actually is. The water will move down the wick, seeking the bottom of the container and will then be pushed off the end of the wick by the additional water moving down behind it.

A variation of the wick, is the pot-in-pot technique, in which you place/nest one container inside another container with several inches of the same soil in the bottom and fill in around the sides. Leaving the drain hole of the top container open allows an unobstructed soil bridge between containers. Water will move downward through the soil bridge from the top container into the bottom container seeking its natural level; so all of the perched water the soil is capable of holding ends up in the bottom container, leaving you with much better aeration in your growing container.

The immediately above example employs the soil in the lower container as a wick, but you can achieve the same results by partially burying containers in the yard or garden, essentially employing the earth as a giant wick. These techniques change the physical dynamics of water movement and retention from the way water normally behaves in containers to the way water behaves in the earth. Essentially, you have turned your containers into mini raised beds, from the perspective of hydrology.

What I shared doesnt mean its a good thing to use water retentive soils, simply because you have tricks to help you deal with them. For years, Ive been using highly aerated soils and biting the water more often bullet because Ive seen the considerable difference these durable and highly aerated soils make when it comes to plant growth and vitality. Many others have come to the same realization and are freely sharing their thoughts and encouragement all across the forums, so I wont go into detail about soils here.

It should also be noted that roots are the heart of the plant, and it is impossible to maximize the health and vitality of above-ground parts without first maximizing the health and vitality of roots. Healthy roots also reduce the incidence of disease and insect predation by keeping metabolisms and vitality high so the plant can maximize the production of bio-compounds essential to defense.

The soil/medium is the foundation of every conventional container planting, and plantings are not unlike buildings in that you cannot build much on a weak foundation. A good soil is much easier to grow in, and offers a much wider margin for error for growers across the board, no matter their level of experience. But regardless of what soils you choose, I hope the outline here provides you with some useful strategies if you DO find yourself having to deal with a heavy soil.



clipped on: 03.10.2011 at 02:13 pm    last updated on: 03.10.2011 at 02:14 pm