You are currently viewing October 2020 – To Fall Fertilize Or Not To Fall Fertilize

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

That is the question. Asking about watering schedules, soil mixes, and fertilizing plans often bring a myriad of suggestions. No doubt if you followed them all you would kill your trees with kindness. This month, though, I did ask a few members whether they fertilize in the fall, how often and what they use. Here are the responses.

Joe Olson: In the past, I have usually used any one of a number of slow-release organic fertilizers. This year, when the lockdown hit right about the start of growing season and I was thinking about starting to fertilize my trees all I had was a big box of Miracle-Gro and I wasn’t about to go out looking for anything else, so I decided to use what I had on hand. I mixed Miracle-Gro at half the recommended strength in a 33 gallon trash can full of rainwater, dipped my watering can it and applied it to all my trees. I’ve continued to fertilize with Miracle-Gro every three or four weeks or so all summer. So far, I’ve gone through two trash cans of the rainwater/Miracle-Gro mixture and should have just enough for a final fall application. I’m happy to say that my trees are as green and healthy as they ever have been.

Allan Hemmy: I wish I could say that I have a scientific and proven method for fertilizing, but I’m still battling nutrient deficiencies resulting from our poor water. But yes, I try to fertilize in the fall. I use the same solid fertilizer as the rest of the year, which are close to balanced or generally low values (4-4-4 or 5-3-1). I don’t apply any liquid acidic chemical fertilizer in the fall or winter. For solids, I use E.B. Stone Organics and Gro Power Plus every 2 months except when I skip pines after decandling. I also withhold fertilizer from the redwoods in the spring and early summer, they grow too fast anyway. The E.B. Stone is a powder and can be tough to wet when applied dry to the surface of the container. I’ve tried it in teabags to avoid clogging the soil, but wasn’t convinced that it actually breaks down well enough in the lack of moisture and bacteria. I use Gro-Power Plus for the humic acid. I’m going to try switching to Dr. Earth LIFE pelletized organics next year. E.B. Stone Organics and Dr. Earth appear to be similar ingredients except that Dr. Earth has a few more types of beneficial mycorrhiza. But I want to try out the pellet version. I think Mirai and Huntington both use some form of Dr. Earth fertilizer.

Wally Kunimoto: When I am diligent, I fertilize monthly from April thru October with some adjustments. Re: holding back fertilizing mature Japanese black pines when candles are forming. I have been using Gro Power Plus for many, many years now. It is small granular pellets and I just spread it on top of the soil mix. The data on the bag is as follows: 5% nitrogen, 3% phosphorous, 1% potassium, and trace elements. 0.05% manganese, 1% iron, and 0.05% zinc. So nitrogen/phosphorous ration is 1.7 to 1. Especially easy to use to apply to bonsai in training in nursery containers. I tried placing organic fertilizer mix in tea bags but it does take more time. I did not stake them into the pots with toothpicks/pins so the birds kept yanking them off. Since I have a lot of tea bags, I will try it again.

Ernie Witham: I use two products: Fish and Guano, which both my trees and the neighborhood cats like. I usually apply it diluted, one tablespoon per gallon of water, monthly. And I use organic pellets called Green Growth several times per year during the growing season.

President’s Message: Help Wanted!

The club needs your help! After four years (two consecutive two-year terms) Vice President Carol Hicks, Treasurer Tina Hammond, and I will all be term-limited out at the end of this year. Anna Baker says she’ll stay on for now as webmaster, but not for the long term. Our constitution has a loophole that says elected officers can serve for two consecutive two-year terms or until their successors are elected. However, Tina’s husband Bob is retiring, and she won’t be around much. I’m too old and have been president for more than my share of terms (either Tom Post or I have been president for 16 of the last 20 years). Carol Hicks says she’s willing, if necessary, to stay on past the end of the year until we can find a new Vice President. Other officers are appointed and don’t have term limits, so I’m assuming that they will stay on in 2021. Unfortunately, I have no idea who would be willing to fill any of the vacancies. If you think you might consider volunteering for one, please let me know. None of the jobs are extraordinarily difficult or take an inordinate amount of time. A smooth and amicable transfer of power is promised. For president we ideally need someone who has fresh ideas about how to generate interest and participation in the club. Tina has done an excellent job as treasurer and I’m sure will help get her replacement up to speed quickly. Anna and Carol also are ready to help someone new take over as webmaster and vice-president, respectively. If my in-box isn’t soon overwhelmed with volunteers I will start searching the club membership list and will contact some of you individually in the hope that I can convince you to “volunteer” for one of the openings. If you do, the club will heave a big sigh of relief and say thank you very much!

Joe’s “oak-standing” Article!

Check out Joe’s “outstanding” article on oaks on pages 47-56 in the new issue of GSBF’s Golden Statements magazine Fall Issue 2020.

Simply click HERE Or visit GSBF’s website to connect at


Member’s Trees: Allan Hemmy

Our family had a nice visit to Ocean View Bamboo this month located in the hills SE of Carpinteria. I picked up some Phyllostachys varieties to try John Naka’s bamboo bonsai method from his Bonsai Techniques II book. I also got some large stalks to make chopsticks and stakes for repotting. It wasn’t until I volunteered at the Huntington Garden/GSBF collection that I realized how much nicer and functional large homemade chopsticks are over the normal restaurant version. Speaking of the Huntington, the volunteers have been working hard to get the trees ready for the upcomingLifelines/Timelines exhibit on display from Oct. 17, 2020 to Jan. 25, 2021. This exhibit places some of the more impressive California Juniper bonsai outside of the library and art galleries that house significant pieces from their collection, benchmarking the creation date of the various pieces with a corresponding year marker along the deadwood of these ancient trees. As an example, I’ve been
helping with this 1,200-1,500 year old California Juniper marked with the date 1770 from the masterpiece The Blue Boy which is displayed onsite.
More information at

Member’s Trees: Al Amorteguy

These are some of the trees that I obtained from Mr. Sumi Arimura last summer. Mr. Arimura was a long standing Camarillo-Oxnard Japanese garden designer and horticulturist and bonsai enthusiast who retired last year and sold off most of his collection. I was fortunate to acquire some of his specimens, and have thus far kept them healthy, although not exactly in display condition Keep in mind that I am still ‘learning the ropes’ and at this point, it’s almost by ‘Braille’- The first is the before of a Chinese elm, with another after ‘pruning’; the two other images of a gingko and  bamboo forest each with only minimal pruning, merely because I don’t know what is ‘next’ in order. I’m certainly open to any suggestions and corrections as to the future of these little ‘critters’.

Member’s Trees: Wally Kunimoto

This tree was started from a seed from one of the pine cones from a niwaki Japanese black pine in my yard. The tap root from the seedling was severed and transplanted into a gallon container with the remaining roots combed out to form a good nebari. About 7 years ago it was planted on the rock shown. The rock was one that I got on a club trip that Susanne Barrymore arranged for us years ago. Maybe Susanne was about 17 years old at that time. The bottom of the rock was cut flat at Santa Barbara Stone. I did gently carve out a few grooves for the major roots to adhere to. Several wires were glued to the rock to hold the roots when the pine was transplanted on the rock. The finer roots were adhered to the rock via Goleta clay soil from Leroy. The rock and plant was planted in a deep container, with the soil mix covering all the rootage. The maintenance for the next few years was done per instructions we learned from our workshops. I transplanted the Japanese black pine with rock into the flat oval bonsai container, the first week of April 2020. The rock rests on three red wood heart disks, 3/8 inch thick. I did it so that the roots would have more soil available to grow in. It is a challenge to keep a root over rock bonsai in our area healthy (let alone keeping it alive) due to sudden hot weather during our summers. Also, growing it in a porous soil mix makes it even more challenging. All the candles were cut at the same time, the first week of this June. Cutting it maybe three weeks earlier would have been better. That is the new sprouts are still not fully mature.