Am I doing okay?

Forum for discussion of Deciduous bonsai – Maples, Crabapple, Hornbeam, Elm species etc.

Am I doing okay?

Postby massia » March 13th, 2018, 5:21 pm

Hello good people.
I am now on day 17 on my first ever bonsai seed project and was hoping to get some tips an comments on my doing. :)
The seeds are placed indoor on a windowsill (I cannot put them outside) and the species are therefore chosen so they should be okay living indoors.

Below is a status-photo:
Bonsai.jpg


I have a lot of questions but I’ve "narrowed" it down to these:
- Are my settings okay? Should I add water to the bottom of the tray?
- When should I make my first trim of the leaves/branches/stems? Or put in another way: How big should the seedlings be?
- Leggy seedlings… Is this a problem regarding bonsai? The elm already seems to be quite leggy. How can I avoid it on a windowsill or should I even avoid it? Is there a way to compensate like pruning earlier? Or adding grow light?
- When to fertilize?

Many thanks in advance :)
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Re: Am I doing okay?

Postby Raging Bull » March 13th, 2018, 7:19 pm

Hi Massia,
At this stage .......just let them grow. Water, a little fertilizer and plenty of light. Consider spraying some water mist at least a couple of times a day as the interior of a heated or climate controlled home is often very dry. Don't forget to talk to them to encourage them to grow. ;)
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Re: Am I doing okay?

Postby shibui » March 14th, 2018, 5:42 am

Hi Massia,
Not too much water. Your seedlings need to be watered but also need to get just dry before the next watering. Fungal infection is a real risk at this stage if they say wet for a long time.
There is no right answer to when to trim. Many of us let seedlings grow un pruned for several years so they will get thicker before starting to prune. Some of us start pruning early to maintain good control of the shape and size of the tree. In either case you probably won't do any pruning for at least a year. When the seedlings get to nearly pencil thick I like to wire the trunk and establish some bends while the trunk is still flexible, usually before any pruning. You need to wait until the trunk has hardened before wiring and that will probably be 6 months - 1 year.
Leggy seedlings can create some problems for bonsai, especially if you want smaller trees. Shoots can only grow at leaf nodes so if leaves are a long way apart your only options for branches will be far apart too. Fortunately, distance to lowest branch is usually a bit more than for the other branches on your bonsai so no need to worry yet. Later when the seedlings have several leaves you can use some techniques to reduce growth and limit internode length. Grow light may help but that will depend how much light is already available where you are keeping these.
You can fertilise soon after the seedlings emerge but they will be OK for a couple of weeks. Be gentle with fertiliser at this stage. When we are not watering much excess fert is not flushed away and can build up and harm the seedlings. There is also a risk that fert may promote fungi. Probably wait for another week then give half strength fert for a start.

I think the pot you said has Australian pine is a weed. I don't know any species that could be called Australian pine that looks like that one as it germinates. What species (botanical name) is it supposed to be? Too soon to comment on Chinese elms. Need to wait for proper leaves to grow. Lebbek tree looks right for Albizia so far.

For bonsai I prefer to germinate seeds in community pots and prick out seedlings into individual pots after they germinate so that I can prune the roots early. That gives me a better radial root system when the tree grows bigger. You can still do the root prune later so don't worry about that now. Your seedlings have enough trouble trying to cope with being inside for now.
I pricked out some banksia serrate and some Alocasuarina seedlings yesterday. Here are pictures to show what I do.
seedlings 1.JPG

Seedlings in this tray are all Australian species - Banksia serrata, Alocasuarina sp (not sure which one), Leptospermum laevgatum (just starting to germinate) and Melaleuca lanceolata. Looks like I also have some Sannantha/Babbingtonia/Baekia coming up as well. (This tray is close to a bonsai that has flowers and seed)

I usually start to prick out seedlings as soon as they are large enough to get hold of
Here's a banksia seedling showing the roots.
seedlings 2.JPG


I trim the roots to encourage more lateral roots for bonsai. Trimming the roots at this stage does not harm the plant. They seem to tolerate root pruning even better when they are very young like this.
seedlings 3.JPG


Alocasuarina roots are even longer with fewer laterals at this stage. They still get a root trim.
seedlings 4.JPG

seedlings 5.JPG


Please note that there are many ways to arrive at the same result. I have left a lot of these seedlings in the tray for now. I'll pot them up when I get time and space. Some may not get transferred into a pot for a year, sometimes 2 years or even longer and I can still make bonsai from them.
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Re: Am I doing okay?

Postby massia » March 19th, 2018, 4:36 pm

@Raging Bull: Thank you for your reply. Perhaps not what I wanted but as a controlfreak it was perhaps what I needed. I will try to relax more. :-)
@Shibui: You have put a lot of effort in your respons and it was very helpful. Thank you for that and I now have a pretty good plan for the next year.
Would you buy different fertilizer for each species or just use the same?
The two pots at the right is bought as a Casuarina Equisetifolia. I’ve google “Casuarina equisetifolia seedlings” and it does looks like the other small seedlings I can find on the web, but again – I really only knows what the internet can tell me. 
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Re: Am I doing okay?

Postby shibui » March 19th, 2018, 8:28 pm

I was going by your photo caption which says the middle is Australian pine.
The seedlings at right could be Casuarina - I can't make out the shoot above the colyledons to confirm - but the middle is definitely not Chinese elm. Your casuarina seedlings should end up looking like the ones in my pictures.
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Re: Am I doing okay?

Postby massia » March 19th, 2018, 8:39 pm

Oh snap. SORRY!! The caption is wrong. The one one the right is Casuarina and the middle is (or should be) chinese elm... I'll just have to wait and see. :-)
But thank you so much anyway.
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