mwmourer
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Soil/Plant Question

I recently got a bonsai tree as a gift, kind of an ugly bugger...anyway I got the glue on rock off it, and besides being completely dry is has potting soil for a soil...so i went looking for some soil after spending some time reading...

with luck i wasn't really able to find much yet...but i did find a "Orchid Mix", i have not opened yet in case someone post "your a monkey take it back" but its a combination of western fir bark, horticultural charcoal, and ceramic nugget. It says it has good drainage, aeration, and moisture retention which if i remember correctly were the goals of the bonsai soil....So basically i am wondering if it will work...I will try to get a picture of it up shortly so maybe someone could say what exactly it is.

Far as climate I live east river South Dakota, and I try to put it out on the roof flat for sunlight,

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mwmourer,
Welcome to the site :)
I got the glue on rock off it

Very good I'm glad you've done your reading.

First question, what kind of tree is it, species that is?

This is very important to give you any type of advice.

The orchid mix may be suitable but its hard to tell without a pic. The particle size might actualy be too big for a bonsai because orchid mixes usualy come in very large sizes, because they are for orchids, but it still may work. THe mix is interesting, I don't think anyone has used a mix like that for a bonsai so I'd be interested to see if it works.

Get back with some answers and a pic or two.


Tom

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Re: Soil/Plant Question

mwmourer,

Welcome to HG :).


mwmourer wrote:I recently got a bonsai tree as a gift, kind of an ugly bugger...anyway I got the glue on rock off it, and besides being completely dry is has potting soil for a soil...so I went looking for some soil after spending some time reading...
I too am happy to see you doing some research :D.
with luck I wasn't really able to find much yet...but I did find a "Orchid Mix", I have not opened yet in case someone post "your a monkey take it back" but its a combination of western fir bark, horticultural charcoal, and ceramic nugget. It says it has good drainage, aeration, and moisture retention which if I remember correctly were the goals of the bonsai soil....So basically I am wondering if it will work...I will try to get a picture of it up shortly so maybe someone could say what exactly it is.
Correct you are. 8)
constantstaticx3 wrote:First question, what kind of tree is it, species that is?
A key point indeed.

As Tom mentioned I think the bark may possibly be too large a particle size to be helpful [This is easily fixed with a little elbow grease if need be though ;)]
The charcoal is most likely far far too small of a particle size to be effective but could easily be washed out of the mix [Personally, I don't use it anyway.]

This mix [Minus the charcoal] sound like it has potential to me provided the particle size is acceptable.

Pictures will be helpful indeed :D, Please do include something as a size reference in the picture [Like a quarter or dime etc].

Check out [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3343]this thread[/url] to see some more inspiring bonsai.

Good luck,
ynot

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[img]https://img168.imageshack.us/img168/7931/tree001zs3.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img339.imageshack.us/img339/6641/tree002xp1.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img262.imageshack.us/img262/5978/tree003ly9.jpg[/img]

Here is the plant, hope it works.

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species is unknown the wonderful tag said bonsai, water it, filtered sun light, good luck basically.

from the top edge of the pot to the top of the tree is approximately 12 inches,

i will maybe pop open the soil mix in the morning and take a picture of some of it with a piece of change or something to give an idea of what it is i have here...

looking for 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch pieces?

Also, what size pieces would i be looking for when doing younger plants, we pull out a fair number of trees from our yard , some of the small ones we have growing randomly are elm, maple, and walnut.

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mwmourer,
species is unknown the wonderful tag said bonsai, water it, filtered sun light, good luck basically.
I believe that this is Ficus microcarpa 'Ginseng'. Look [url=https://bonsaihunk.8m.com/cultural.html]here[/url] and [url=https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ficus.html]here[/url] for information.
some of the small ones we have growing randomly are elm, maple, and walnut.
Of these three I feel the Elms would be the best bet, followed by Maples. Forget the Walnuts for now, they have some inherent flaws. You can always try one later.

Norm

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Hmm, I thought I had allready posted this..oops

mwmourer wrote:species is unknown the wonderful tag said bonsai, water it, filtered sun light, good luck basically.
Thank you for the picture.

It is a Ficus Retusa, They are commonly called Ginger root ficus also.

Here is a list of threads about this variety of tree [Or similar - It was a quick search 8)] on this site.

You will commonly find the same several links referenced within all of them - This is because they are usefull :D. https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/search.php?mode=results
I will maybe pop open the soil mix in the morning and take a picture of some of it with a piece of change or something to give an idea of what it is I have here...
Excellent.
looking for 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch pieces?
Sounds like a fair start, You could go a bit smaller but I would try not to go too much larger.

Take a look at the pictures in the soil sticky at the top of the forum.

I agree with Gnome about the Elms and Maples...

ynot
Last edited by ynot on Fri Jun 01, 2007 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

mwmourer
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Here is some pictures of the soil, and the charcoal turned out to be pretty large pieces, minus the dust

Thanks for the help also, when it comes to growing plants/trees i know little to nothing. About the only thing i have done with a tree in the past was to send it through a saw a couple times and build a trebuchet out of it ;).

[img]https://img453.imageshack.us/img453/874/tree004pl6.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img158.imageshack.us/img158/685/tree005lz2.jpg[/img]

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And let me add this, would the above soil be better for it then the potting soil it is it?

ynot
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mwmourer wrote:And let me add this, would the above soil be better for it then the potting soil it is it?
No, That is not bonsai 'soil' in the picture.
First of all ditch the charcoal, Secondly the size is massive and a soil composed of only bark is 100% organic which is not the way to go IMO....

With some work you could have a component of bonsai soil there.

Reread the soil sticky [and the links].

ynot

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So charcoal to the garbage, use only a small portion of the bark, mainly the smaller pieces, and then go with clay, filtering/breaking it down to 1/16? in to 1/4 inch pieces.

at that rate would have I something near bonsai soil, or is there something the bark/clay is lacking that needs to be picked up in another material?

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Other materials I have found access to are:
Miracle-Gro® 8 Qt. Sphagnum Peat Moss
Aquarium gravel
Miracle Gro® Perlite

Have:
Bark - from above mix
Fired clay - from above mix

Given the above materials, would a setup of say
60% perlite
20-30% fired clay
10-20% bark

Be an acceptable soil or some variance of this?

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mwmourer,
First of all ditch the charcoal,
So charcoal to the garbage,

I have not used charcoal in the past either but others do, at least as a small part of their mix.
[url]https://www.bonsaikc.com/bonsai_soil.htm[/url]

I honestly do not know the pros and cons of using charcoal but I doubt that a bit if it in your soil will cause problems.

When Ynot wrote this:
a soil composed of only bark is 100% organic which is not the way to go IMO....
This leads me to believe that he understands this to be the case.

Then you wrote:
use only a small portion of the bark, mainly the smaller pieces, and then go with clay,
So there is some portion of inorganic components in this mix, correct? If so about how much? It is difficult to tell from the picture which particles are bark and which are clay (fired?).
Secondly the size is massive
To my mind this is the biggest problem with this mix. If you removed, or reduced, the largest pieces of bark and removed most/all of the charcoal this seems to be a decent mix especially for a ficus which can take a bit more organics than some others. You can also alter the ratio by including more of the clay than the general mix. In other words, if you have enough of this and don't mind sorting and sieving you can use this. I have used Perlite as a component before but be careful sometimes it 'settles' in the bag and large portions of it can become too small to be useful.

If you have some 1/4 hardware cloth it is easy to remove the large particles. Then 1/8 hardware cloth to remove the fines.

Norm

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its kiln fired clay - so basically ceramic nuggets?

Any suggestions on the ratios of these materials?
Perlite, bark, peat, clay/ceramic nuggets[/quote]

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mwmourer,
Any suggestions on the ratios of these materials?
Ah, therein lies the rub. There is no correct mix. You have to consider the species, in your case Ficus can manage with more organics than say a Pine or Juniper. Also consider your location, a hot location might indicate a bit more organics than a cooler climate. How often can you water it, are you able to monitor it closely or are you away for extended periods of time? Less supervision again equals more organics.

Take all of this into account when you make these decisions. I can tell you this though whatever you come up with will be an improvement over the current mix. Perhaps [url=https://www.memobug.com/csn/csn.cgi?database=ronmartin%2edb&command=viewone&id=9&rnd=960.5995123805917]this[/url] will help.

Norm

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Well in hindsight I didn't really ask the right question;

will this combo in what ever ratio i do, cover the basic needs of my plant

a peat moss/bark - organic
Perlite/ceramic - non organic.



Two other questions:

How bad is it to just use straight up pruning shears? I was looking at the different bonsai tools and they add up in price far to quick...

Would it be ill advised to take my ficus and do away with two of the four root masses to give it a arched shape for roots instead of legs everywhere?

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60% perlite
20-30% fired clay
10-20% bark
I would use a higher % of organics than is listed here for your ficus. Personally, I am not a huge fan of perlite [Too small and VERY floaty]
Gnome wrote: So there is some portion of inorganic components in this mix, correct? If so about how much? It is difficult to tell from the picture which particles are bark and which are clay (fired?).
Please address this as I am curious about it also. Sorry but it is difficult to tell if there are clay bits included in the bark photos we can see. I was glad to hear the clay is fired
will this combo in what ever ratio I do, cover the basic needs of my plant

a peat moss/bark - organic
Perlite/ceramic - non organic.
The ingredients are fine yes, The ratio of O to IO will determine how much water retention it has. The more O the more retention.

By the way the reason I said to ditch the charcoal earlier [Even though people due use horticultural charcoal] is that I feel the simpler the soil composition-- The better.
Charcoal is [not bad, but] by no means a requirement.
How bad is it to just use straight up pruning shears? I was looking at the different bonsai tools and they add up in price far to quick...
All fine, Use scissors if you like, They will get sticky though.
Would it be ill advised to take my ficus and do away with two of the four root masses to give it a arched shape for roots instead of legs everywhere?
IMO from a styling perspective I think that is a mistake and would make it look far LESS tree-like. From a practical perspective you have no idea what percentage of the tree is utilizing the pathways involved there. It IS your tree though.

ynot

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mwmourer wrote:So charcoal to the garbage, use only a small portion of the bark, mainly the smaller pieces, and then go with clay, filtering/breaking it down to 1/16? in to 1/4 inch pieces.

at that rate would have I something near bonsai soil,
The bark breaking plan sounds good.
or is there something the bark/clay is lacking that needs to be picked up in another material?
No, What do you mean? Something such as nutrients?

[If I understand your question correctly] This is a misunderstanding about bonsai soil. Nutrients are provided by you via a fert regimen.

Many people use a combo of [Essentially] bark and high fired clay particles [properly sized] as bonsai soil, It is the basis of a large variety of mixes.

{This is from the soil sticky}
Take a look at the soil used by some of the members here, These are not top dressings, What you see are the actual contents of the pot for it's entire depth:
https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/rjj/bonsai%20stuff/atcfb.jpg
https://img120.imageshack.us/my.php?image=ficusbpandoraforestplan2iv.jpg
https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/rjj/trident%20maple/a6.jpg
https://img183.imageshack.us/my.php?image=1025xf0.jpg
https://img176.imageshack.us/my.php?image=dsc01401zz6.jpg
https://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y200/cobra198/IMG_7178.jpg
https://img87.imageshack.us/img87/3356/aug2006hy2.jpg

ynot

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In the picture the tan and very light red is the fired clay, and the deeper red is the bark. there is a fair amount of clay but i am unsure of the volume ratio.

While doing more researched i fell upon this and if kinda left me lost.
Article suggested three types of material in your soil;

Inorganic - lava rock, perlite, baked clays, granite
Organic - bark
water holding element - peat moss, vermiculite

I guess my confusion comes in the fact i thought things like perlite & baked clays held water, or is it simply that what he refers to as water holding elements hold more water than the organics?

Right now i was looking at picking up some perlite, and mixing it with my bark and fired clay and by this article i would seem to be missing something.

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mwmourer,
I guess my confusion comes in the fact I thought things like perlite & baked clays held water, or is it simply that what he refers to as water holding elements hold more water than the organics?
Firstly peat moss is organic. If you decide to use any do not use the finely textured product but instead use the coarse fibered type. I avoid Vermiculite, feeling that it is too small and retains too much water.

And yes, the inorganics you mention do hold some water but not as much as peat moss. This all gets back to the idea that everyone has a mix they use for certain things and no one mix is correct. You need to come to a decision, observe the results and adjust accordingly next time around.

I think you will find that this seems much more confusing than it really is. The texture and 'open-ness' of your soil is just as important, if not more so, than the actual components.

Norm

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with perlite, fired clay, bark, would there be any ill effects from the plant not being watered for 48 hours? Not something that occurs often, but i ask cause i am looking to try to make a soil i can water every day with good drain off so i do not have to rack my mind to much in the begining, to water or not to water...


I have also been looking at fertilizer for it, and have come to the conclusion i will most likely use a chemical with its water, and on repot add a little slow release fertilizer to the soil. but i am wondering if with a high inorganic soil with good air flow will cause the slow release to just run out the bottom?

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Gnomes last post was right on IMO. 8)
with perlite, fired clay, bark, would there be any ill effects from the plant not being watered for 48 hours?
I suspect not, BUT... understand that this is an unanswerable question.
Essentially your asking: 'Will dry out?' That is the only criteria for determining if it will suffer...And we cannot possibly know this.
Not something that occurs often, but I ask cause I am looking to try to make a soil I can water every day with good drain off so I do not have to rack my mind to much in the begining, to water or not to water...
Your unnecessarily over-thinking this, There is no need for the mental stress of "Do I? or Don't I?". You simply check it every day and water as needed, It is no more complicated than that. :D
I have also been looking at fertilizer for it, and have come to the conclusion I will most likely use a chemical with its water, and on repot add a little slow release fertilizer to the soil.
Ok. Personally, I am not a fan of slow release ferts but some use it with great success.
but I am wondering if with a high inorganic soil with good air flow will cause the slow release to just run out the bottom?
With properly sized soil I doubt this would be a problem but I don't use it so I have no experience to base that on.

ynot

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So is Sphagnum moss as good as peat moss?

I have seen peat moss and sphagnum peat moss, but they are both in fine cut, i was able to find a course cut but it is just sphagnum moss

Any comments?

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mwmourer wrote:So is Sphagnum moss as good as peat moss?

I have seen peat moss and sphagnum peat moss, but they are both in fine cut, I was able to find a course cut but it is just sphagnum moss

Any comments?
They are literally the exact same thing. Hit google/wiki for details.

Sphagnum is the genus of the moss that grows in peat bogs.

[Aside from the cut-It is still all the same product inside ~ Sometimes the fine is mixed with other stuff but since we won't be using that kind there's no need to go into it..]

The only difference in what your seeing is what they spell differently on the bag for marketing purposes. [This is a commonly confused point on bonsai boards when there is not enough emphasis on the size of the component and only on it's name...Sometimes due to this people often do end up with the atrocious dusty stuff [Which has it's place in horticulture - Just not in bonsai IMO.] instead of rough cut.]

For your purposes you want the rough cut stuff [Usually marketed as 'Sphagnum peat moss' - See the orchid example below.

People usually suggest 'sphagnum' moss because If for no other reason than it is more easily available [Read: Marketed] in the larger course form.
[I cannot recall seeing 'peat moss' for sale in a rougher cut at all at a 'regular' nursery.]

Please DO NOT use the fine cut stuff [The type that looks like dust] It compacts easily [which limits aeration within your soil], Is extremely difficult to wet once dry and stays [soaking] wet for an extended period of time.

All of these are negative attributes in your soil.

I would not use the 'fine dusty variety' in a bonsai pot [or training] under any circumstances...

One common source that is easy to find is the sphagnum moss [An extremely course cut that you can simply chop up with scissors] that is commonly used for orchids. It is usually in a flattish bag or also a cube about the half the size of a loaf of bread.

I hope this helps.

ynot

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Thanks, its all helpful

Here is what I have for materials in the end, other then comments on size, curious about application of the moss, do you try to mix it into the clay, bark, perlite or layer it in there?

[img]https://img76.imageshack.us/img76/4082/dirt001ix3.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img391.imageshack.us/img391/1779/dirt002ul3.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img76.imageshack.us/img76/4784/dirt003qf1.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img120.imageshack.us/img120/3778/dirt004ce5.jpg[/img]

Thanks for any insight...

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mwmourer wrote:Thanks, its all helpful

Here is what I have for materials in the end, other then comments on size, curious about application of the moss, do you try to mix it into the clay, bark, perlite or layer it in there?

Thanks for any insight...
um... The word 'focus' is the first thing that comes to mind...lol. Please read this:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3557

[I had a fairly large post about the size of the components but upon rereading I see you specifically addressed that you didn't want those {I think}] So instead:

Just chop it up [sized roughly equivalent to the clay] and mix it in.

Layers would be both impractical [if possible] to do and not be too great for a tree from a horticultural aspect either as then you would end up with [In whatever order] a wet layer, a not so wet layer, a barely wet layer... Etc...

ynot

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For fun going to post a couple pictures of my tree and its short life. It under went heavy trimming in both top and roots, picture of the roots is after the trimming it went from the orange plastic pot to the larger ceramic.

[img]https://img484.imageshack.us/img484/3729/mfudoriginalkf1.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img484.imageshack.us/img484/88/trimri6.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img391.imageshack.us/img391/2558/mfudtransplant2bu0.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img391.imageshack.us/img391/8339/mfudtransplant1qa2.jpg[/img]


And a picture of my tree and the $3.50 walmart tree (where mine probably came from) but the small plant was more so bought for the ceramic pot it was in.


[img]https://img245.imageshack.us/img245/2974/sammfud1fu9.jpg[/img]

Thanks for the help and welcome any comments on them...

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mwmourer,

Well now that you have this out of the way you can look forward to your next victim. I think you'll find the plants will be much happier in the new soil mix. Make sure that any water that may accumulate in the drip trays can never wick back up into the pots. I don't recall if you intend to keep them outside of not, but I suggest you do so. Do you have some sort of plan for either one of these or are you going to just play it by ear for now?

Norm

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they go outside each day, but living in an apartment, they have no real place to stay outside, so in the morning they get sat on the east roof, open screen place outside...afternoon repeat to the other side of the apartment..

Plans for them...well the little one might have more promise than mine...i like that fact that it has a branch directly out the top and the roots have formed a solid mass of of 3 roots abreast....i think this one just needs to grow a little, going to pop off the large leaves in support of smaller leaves, if possible...

I tried chopping the trunk on the bigger one to the point that i can at least get growth out of it...i may have to cut lower for this if it doesn't take to later

other than that, going to find some information on wiring and find some...specially the bigger the branches need to be sorted.

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mwmourer,
they have no real place to stay outside, so in the morning they get sat on the east roof, open screen place outside...afternoon repeat to the other side of the apartment..
Unless you fear for their safety I think I would be inclined to pick a spot and leave them alone. This sounds like a lot of trouble and I wonder if you won't get sick of it soon.

[url]https://www.bonsaihunk.us/ficusforum/FicusTechniques/FigTechnique6.html[/url]

Good luck and give us an update later.

Norm

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I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how to get a branch out the top,

after some reading i see that many people do a trunk chop at an angle, which then seems to sprout a branch that they direct upward giving the trunk character...
but i think to do a cut like that, i would lose all but 1 maybe 2 branches...so i was wondering if there was any other way...ikinda like a transplant of a live branch to center top?

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mwmourer,
I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how to get a branch out the top,
Usually a branch is wired up to form a new leader. The trunk can be cut first or a somewhat safer approach would be to leave it long and carve it out later after the new leader thickens. This is S.O.P.

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4218

Norm

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Along with the fine example from rjj that he posted, The link Gnome posted in the post just previous to your last post is also full of info relating to your species.

It is well worth diving into.

ynot

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Yes, that previous site on ficus has a ton of information on it and thanks for it, i just wasn't finding my particular question, though thanks Gnome for answering it.

I have a couple trees coming up from home here shortly, elm, maple, crab apple and i am looking to improve on my soil sieves...the home made tubs with drilled holes aren't great, though they did get the first round finished...

After looking at some for awhile, i noticed there is a hand full of ways to reference the size of mesh...

Size # --> ?
# m/m --> millimeter?
# mm --> size of hole in millimeter
# per inch --> inch/# is size of hole


Also I have noticed there is a lot of online bonsai stores, finding some bad reviews for some, good reviews for a few, and none for others, i was wondering what stores you guys deal with or have had good luck with.

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Location: USDA Z:5a Sunset Z. 41 IL

mwmourer wrote: I have a couple trees coming up from home here shortly, elm, maple, crab apple and I am looking to improve on my soil sieves...the home made tubs with drilled holes aren't great, though they did get the first round finished...

After looking at some for awhile, I noticed there is a hand full of ways to reference the size of mesh...

Size # --> ?
# m/m --> millimeter?
# mm --> size of hole in millimeter
# per inch --> inch/# is size of hole
You may find it cheaper to simply buy sieves, They are not expensive by any means...See below. :D

mwmourer wrote:Also I have noticed there is a lot of online bonsai stores, finding some bad reviews for some, good reviews for a few, and none for others, I was wondering what stores you guys deal with or have had good luck with.
Please read [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4694&highlight=]this[/url].

Thanks go to the search feature at the top of the page :P ;).

ynot

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

mwmourer,

You may find it cheaper to simply buy sieves, They are not expensive by any means...
This may be true for most people but if like myself you are a "tool person" and constant pack-rat then the reverse may be true. Besides it pains me to buy something that I can make. Not everyone is afflicted with this malady though. I Always have scrap lumber and fasteners around so a few square feet of hardware cloth is all that I purchased for mine. One other advantage to making them is that you can size them as you see fit.

Norm

ynot
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Location: USDA Z:5a Sunset Z. 41 IL

Gnomes point is entirely valid, I was approaching it from the aspect of [The easiest route to] improving the level of effectiveness that you have wrt sieving though this is entirely achievable via the elbow grease route as well.

Version 2.0 will most likely be a vast improvement :D.

ynot

mwmourer
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Location: Brookings, SD

i will try to get a picture of in up after a bit, but i am noticed black lines on a couple leaves...to me they almost look like burns, i guess i would expect insects to start towards the outside of the leaf...

i am wondering if maybe from being a indoor plant if i am not giving it to much direct light when i put it out side.

mwmourer
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Posts: 25
Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 7:29 pm
Location: Brookings, SD

[img]https://img47.imageshack.us/img47/7794/plants003pe5.jpg[/img]
[img]https://img47.imageshack.us/img47/4373/plants004zv5.jpg[/img]

Cannot see them great, but not bad.

ynot
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Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 12:49 pm
Location: USDA Z:5a Sunset Z. 41 IL

mwmourer wrote:I will try to get a picture of in up after a bit, but I am noticed black lines on a couple leaves...to me they almost look like burns, I guess I would expect insects to start towards the outside of the leaf...

I am wondering if maybe from being a indoor plant if I am not giving it to much direct light when I put it out side.
Did you give it a transitional period over which you gradually increased the amount of light it was exposed to? { Or are they roasting in the mid-day sun? }
This concept is key to any change in a trees environment.

Ficus are tropical trees that are native to places such as Australia India, and Thailand so they can certainly handle some sun. :)

While your attention to detail and concern is admirable, I think it is possible that you are micro-managing your tree a bit.

Personally, Seeing this on a 'couple of leaves' would not be a matter of concern for me. Having said that do keep an eye on it for a decline in health [As always..;)]

ynot

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