January Care - Lee Vanderpool

January - Let’s Start Out Right in the New Year 

by Lee Vanderpool 

So far this year, we have had some chilly temps, some wind, some rain - nothing too extreme yet but the winter is young. If a sudden very cold or very windy surge of weather hits us, there are things you must do to protect your bonsai from the elements. The first and easiest action is to set the pots on the ground, preferably along the southern side of a fence, building or even under bushes. Additionally, extra protection can be provided by raking leaves or pine straw around the pots and over the tops of smaller trees. If Mother Nature really gets nasty, you can dig trenches or holes and bury the pots up to the rims and mound leaves or pine straw around the trees. 

The main things you are trying to do, of course, is to keep the pots and root systems of your trees from freezing and to prevent the foliage, twigs and buds from drying out and being damaged or killed. Two of the critical things to watch is that the soil of your trees does not dry out to the point where roots can be damaged nor should it become water-logged so that fungus can attack the roots. Just as at any other time of the year, you should water when your trees need it; check the soil moisture with your finger periodically. If the soil is crumbly and dry, water. If the soil can be formed into balls between your fin-gers, avoid watering for a few days and let the soil dry out. 

Your tropicals should be in a greenhouse or inside your house where they can be protected from the cold. You need to watch these, too, during the winter since the dry conditions in a house can encourage spider mites, several types of aphids and scale while the lack of air circulation in the typical greenhouse promotes molds and fungi which may attack the leaves or roots of trees. Tropicals in northern Florida normally suffer some damage during the winter but from different causes from that suffered by outside trees. They should be sprayed with fungicide or insecticide as required to maintain their health. This is an excellent time of year to do several of the mundane jobs which everyone procrastinates in doing: clean and sharpen your bonsai tools, mix soil to prepare for the repotting season just ahead, clean up pots which have been stored in the garage for several years. There are other things which need to be done, too, and with the winter weather upon us, now is the right time. 

© Fort Walton Beach Bonsai Society (FWBBS) ELF 2020