alisios
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Location: Sedona, Arizona

Soil for an arid climate

Hello:

This is a quote from ynot:
There are other more suitable organic components which will effectively retain moisture without the problems inherent in peat moss.
I would really like to know what people might think are alternatives to peat moss in an arid climate such as the high Sonoran Desert where I live?

I found that even with the soil at 33-50% peat moss, I was still watering 2 times a day(completely by immersion) Until the monsoon season, we had 90 days or so of 105+ degree weather. My plants have survived and thrived and over watering is almost an impossibility here with plants that are outside...

We are now going into our second grow season so I'm looking forward to more growth in the plants I've made so far - and the 100+ degree days have returned.

So, I'd like to hear what might be an alternative to peat moss if it's so bad for bonsai?

Thanks again for all the great info...

Cory

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Gnome
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Cory,

Since Ynot has not been active lately I have a few thoughts. As has been noted numerous times, here and elsewhere, there is no perfect mix. Where I live I cannot use Peat at all. We are currently going through a wet period and I have not had to water my trees for days. If I were using a very water retentive mix I would be having problems.

Also consider the species of tree in question. Even in your climate I would think twice about using Peat with Pines. There is also your personal situation to consider. How often are you able to water? If you can only manage to water once a day due to your works schedule you will have to make the appropriate adjustments to your soil, as you have.

To answer your question, I use only Pine bark. This is because it is what I can locate easily. Where it is readily available Fir bark is also popular. I once tried long fibered moss with some Azaleas but found it to be too water retentive.

I don't know what mixes you have tried in the past but there are always ways to adjust your soil. You could use a greater percentage of organics, sort your components to a smaller size or even try using different barks. I'm not trying to change your mind just throwing out possibilities.

Also it must be noted that not all Peat is created equal. Ynot is against the finely textured Peat that is often sold at nurseries or home centers. There is also Sphagnum moss that is much coarser that can be chopped a bit, this will retain moisture for you but not impede drainage as much as the fine material.

Finally don't overlook that many of the members of this forum are relatively new to bonsai and that one of the biggest issues is over-watering.

Have you considered the possibility of setting up an area with shade cloth to lessen the stress on your trees?

Norm

alisios
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Location: Sedona, Arizona

Gnome -

Thank you for a very informative answer.

I realize what the potential risks are for using peat - at this point (and this is my first summer with bonsai) Peat seems to be fine and my plants are doing well(read as "none have died"). They don't sit in full sun, but get direct sun in the morning and shade for the rest of the day. Actually, my Ligustrum Tree is going nuts and he's sitting in potting soil and 50% peat!

I will experiment with different components. I like the idea of the long fiber peat and start looking for different types of bark. The air here sucks the water out of everything - it's kind of hostile to a poor little tree in a two inch pot - One of the advantages of being here are: two growing seasons and bugs bite the dust.

I have started to experiment with some native, drought tolerant trees so we'll see what happens and I'll keep you posted. I've started a few trees that I've never seen in a bonsai (ie, Velvet Mesquite, Fairy Duster, Hopseed, and a Paradise Tree) One of the interesting things about being here in this climate is you can be a bit unconventional - Bonsai people would think I'm nuts - for instance, I mist about 6-8 times a day.

Thanks again,
C

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Gnome
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Cory,
The air here sucks the water out of everything - it's kind of hostile to a poor little tree in a two inch pot
I did not realize that you were growing in such small pots. This probably has a lot to do with the difficulty you are having keeping up with watering. A trick that you can try if you want is to locate, or make, a shallow tray with drainage holes.

The tray should be deep enough to accommodate your tallest pots and a little more. The tray is filled with coarse sand or fine gravel. Your pots are buried in the sand up to the rim and everything is watered in well. The damp sand moderates the temperature and helps keep moisture levels up.

Norm

alisios
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Location: Sedona, Arizona

Gnome -

I want to thank you for all your help and the work you do here at the forum.

As far as the sand/tray, this is a great idea! I'll try this...

Maybe one day I'll post some pictures of them - but they certainly aren't up to the levels of what I've seen here... I'm just trying to keep them alive, really...

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Gnome
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Cory,
I want to thank you for all your help and the work you do here at the forum.
You are welcome and thanks for the kind words.
Maybe one day I'll post some pictures of them
I'll be keeping an eye out.
but they certainly aren't up to the levels of what I've seen here.
If you are referring to Ynot's "Bonsai Inspiration" thread, I too am humbled. My trees are really still in development as well.

Norm

alisios
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Location: Sedona, Arizona

Okay then...Here's one - the Ligustrum made about a month ago from nursery stock - exposed the roots and lifted it - new growth has already happened as you can see in the picture - it obviously needs a lot of time to develop - but the potential is there - I'm amazed at the hardiness of these...

it looks green outside because the monsoon just ended...

[img]https://www.robertcory.com/webdata/ligustrum.jpg[/img]

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Gnome
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Cory,

Thanks for the picture. Do you know what species it is, and do you have any plans for it?

Here is one of mine. It's a Privet as well (Ligustrum) It's common hedging material but beyond that I'm unsure. It still has a way to go.

[url=https://img101.imageshack.us/my.php?image=privitps6.jpg][img]https://img101.imageshack.us/img101/5491/privitps6.th.jpg[/img][/url]

Norm

alisios
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Location: Sedona, Arizona

Gnome -

I'm not sure what species it is... and I'm not sure what plans I have for it. Styling isn't one of my strong points - I guess right now my plan is just to keep it alive!

I know it's probably better to have a plan, but right now I don't know... I'll most likely chop it back after winter...

btw, to get the thread back a little, I ran into a Bonsai person in Phoenix at a nursery, and he also uses peat in the mix - the air here is just too harsh - I'm going to experiment more with some of my own mixes with some of that long fiber peat... the only place I've seen long fiber peat is at Dallas Bonsai - is this a good source?

Growing bonsai in the desert is challenging - and it's only my first summer.

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Gnome
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Cory,
Styling isn't one of my strong points - I guess right now my plan is just to keep it alive!
I can sympathize, I'm still struggling with the artistic aspects as well.
I ran into a Bonsai person in Phoenix at a nursery, and he also uses peat in the mix - the air here is just too harsh
One of the things that is usually suggested is to find other local growers and find out what works for them. You are dealing with extremes that most of us don't have to.
the only place I've seen long fiber peat is at Dallas Bonsai - is this a good source?
I don't recall ever purchasing soil components from them but I have purchased other items from them with no problems.

Norm

ynot
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[Sorry for my absence I have been working 84 hours a week the last few weeks...]

I [like Gnome] use pine bark for an organic component [what little organics I use ;)] as it is easily available to me.
As has been noted you have a special set of environmental circumstances to deal with. Bigger pots would be helpful to you IMO
alisios wrote: the only place I've seen long fiber peat is at Dallas Bonsai - is this a good source?
I love DBG! You need not go there for this though.

Long fiber sphagnum moss is commonly sold at any of the larger gardening centers/big box stores as 'orchid moss'.

You can often find it sold in bags, blocks [About half the size of a loaf of bread] or in much larger bales.

[img]https://www.orchidaccessories.co.uk/catalog/images/500g-NZ-Moss.jpg[/img][img]https://www.losvolcanes.com/images/12.jpg[/img]
[img]https://www.beautifulorchids.com/orchids/Accessories/moss/sphagnum.jpg[/img][img]https://www.orchid-sphagnum-moss.com/images/holding10kg.jpg[/img]



You can chop it up a bit with scissors and you are good to go. :D
Growing bonsai in the desert is challenging - and it's only my first summer.
No doubt, Welcome to bonsai :!: 8)

ynot

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