I know you’re wondering what I’m up to with a title like that 😉 This post is about feeding our trees and I feel comfortable in knowing my trees probably will not demand my head for exclaiming they should eat cake…but, fertilizer cake is the topic and I’ve found a good source of this already mixed, pelletized and bagged, with mycorrhizae thrown in for good measure!

Rose Society Fertilizer

The Rose Society of Portland (OR) has their own organic fertilizer packaged for them and luckily, a couple of their members are also members of the Portland Bonsai Society. They bring several bags to the meetings from March through?? so we can also benefit from this convenient product…

Rose Society Fertilizer

It’s all there on the label…good numbers for promoting steady growth with every watering.

Rose Society Fertilizer

It costs us $16 for a 20# bag. I go through about two bags per growing season for all my bonsai; includes trees that are in pots and stock trees in grow boxes and nursery cans. What I’d like to show next is the extra step I take with this fertilizer for trees that are in pots and trees that are mounded above the rim of their container.

Rose Society Fertilizer

This is what it looks like right out of the bag…it is pelletized and there is some fine dust from all the handling in the process of shipping–never bothered me but really concerns some who are new to this stuff. I use it straight out of the bag for all my stock trees in grow boxes and nursery cans…I just sprinkle the pellets around the base of the trunk and let daily watering do the rest. Flies will lay their eggs in the stuff and birds will go after their maggots and really make a mess of your pots and benches. How can we stop this? Fertilizer cups! Or fertilizer baskets…

fertilizer cups

They come in packages of 10, I think and are a little spendy…

fertilizer cups

Just a simple basket of polyethylene with four little tabs to hold them to the soil

fertilizer cups

I line them up in aluminum cookie trays

fertilizer cups

Then I fill them roughly 1/2 full of the pellets…

fertilizer cups

Then I water them with rainwater…I’m sure you can use tap water, I just collect rainwater as we get a bit of rain here in Portland 😉 I will then put them somewhere critters can’t get to them, in my case, the garage. I like to let them absorb the water and water them again the next day. They swell to fill the cups completely and it makes it easier to place them on your trees that way. I actually let them go long enough you can see the mycorrhizae hyphae…it looks a bit like mold growing. Then I invert the baskets onto the soil surface and mash them down quite firmly. The baskets do a pretty good job of preventing flies from laying their eggs on the fertilizer, thus eliminating all the hassle of organic fertilizer regarding maggots and birds…but the birds do figure it out after a while and sooner or later, they will flip the cups and there will be a nice little mess waiting for you when you come home from a long stressful day at work 😉 That’s when I get out the bird netting…but that’s another post!

As usual, I like to leave you with a little eye candy and here is an oddball–rainbow cactus, in my care from 1996 or so…it really bloomed well this May

Rainbow cactus

That was from above; from the side

Rainbow cactus

I hope this has given you some ideas about working with organic fertilizers…they are the best way to promote slow, steady growth for our bonsai!

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