Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Over-Wintering Ideas for Hardy Bonsai

Although pines and other winter hardy trees need their dormant period rest, because bonsai are kept in shallow pots there is a danger of your trees dying out.  Also some protection of the roots is best to keep the tree healthy.

One way used by many of our club members, and that has worked for my own pines over many seasons is to heel the tree into the ground, along with a covering of mulch. Good spots for heeling in your trees include landscapling areas near the house.  Such locations give you the added benefit of wind protection from the house and in between shrubbery.  Plus you may already have plenty of mulch in these areas.  I simply use a rake or garden hoe to pull away the landscaping mulch, then dig a shallow trench about as deep as the pots.  Place the trees in the trench, and rake the dirt back in and around the potted trees.    Then pull the mulch back over the pots as well. For most trees, I've typically heeled them pot and all.

However, it works just as well to slip you bonsai out of the pot, especially if you are unsure whether or not the pot will withstand winter freezing.  It is disappointing in the spring to bring the bonsai out of the ground and find that your pot has burst apart from the frost. 

Another handy spot that I use are the window wells around the house.  In these spots, I put trees that are still in nursery pots.  The sunken well is handy and well out of the wind.

I also like to use the tomato garden for some of my larger plants. It is close to the area where I keep a lot of the larger trees that I work with, so I don't have to carry them as far, and it seems to work real well for the bigger pines.  During a lot of winters, they stay coated with snow.

I keep some of the less hardy trees like my Japanese maples in an unheated garage that is attached to the house.  Because dormant trees will still use a little water, but you must be sure to check these trees occasionally. Watering them is necessary.  Be especially vigilant if your trees are in very shallow pots.  I lost two prized maples a few winters ago that happened to be in shallow pots, and were watered the same as those in deeper ones.  But at some point the moister wasn't adequate and trees had dried out. It was painful to loose two incredible maples. So keep a close eye  on them.

--Mike R.

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