bert217
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Sand and bark for soil?

Alright guys, I'm new to the whole bonsai thing. and by "new" I mean I haven't planted any yet but I ordered seeds (madagascar baobab, chinese elm, and umbrella tree) which should come in sometime in the next few days. That being said, I'm looking for a good soil mixture so I can plant them when they come in. I live in an apartment and my porch is pretty freakin shady most of the time so my only option really is indoors with fluorescent lights.
In my reading I'm finding that there are three main types of materials to mix to make soil: inorganic porous, inorganic non-porous, and organic. I know there are a lot of fora on this subject but I haven't been able to find an answer to this particular question.
Is there any reason for me to not use just sand (inorganic non-porous) and some sort of bark (organic)?? I feel like the bark will give the water-retention aspects of the soil that the inorganic non-porous material would normally bring and the sang will provide the fast draining ability...
But, like I said, I'm a total noob so please tell me whether or not I'm correct in these assumptions...

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rainbowgardener
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I'm not a bonsai grower, but it seems to me you are confusing a couple things. The kind of inorganic growing medium you are talking about is for bonsai TREES in small bonsai pots. You do not have bonsai trees, what you will soon have is some tree seeds.

What you need now is a soil suitable for germinating seeds and growing out seedlings. I think that needs to be more organic, like a basic potting mix.

Starting trees from seed is a VERY slow way to get to bonsai. All you will be doing for the next five years or more is just growing your tree seedlings out to a reasonable size to do anything with.

I hope your seeds come with detailed instructions for sprouting, because there is an art to getting tree seeds to sprout, it is not as simple as putting a seed in the ground. I don't know about the others, but I think the umbrella tree seed needs to be soaked for awhile and then cold stratified for six weeks or so.

While you are growing your tree seedlings to a decent size (after they are hopefully sprouted and growing well, you will want them in nursery pots or in the ground, they will NEVER get to a decent size grown in little bonsai pots, even if that is what they send with your bonsai "kit"), I would suggest getting yourself an established bonsai, a shaped "pre-bonsai" tree, or a nursery shrub to practice on in the meantime.

And buy a bonsai book!

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bert217
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Ya, I had thought about the fact that maybe seeds need different soil for the first year or so until they're sort of established. Would I just use regular ol' potting soil for that? After that I guess I would go to a bonsai soil mixture but still in a decent sized pot so it can have a big enough root system to grow. Then into a bonsai pot once its the size I want and everything...(all just me thinking aloud so, once again, correct me if I'm wrong)

When I bought the seeds I specifically tried to find ones that people said could grow indoors, but I didn't think about the fact that they may or may not have been talking about growing indoors from seed. So hopefully that won't be a total let-down.

I know its gonna be a super slow process to grow trees from seeds, but I'm 20 years old and in college so I have nothing but time :D. That being said, I don't want to get a year into these seedlings' growth and kill em the first time I try to do a little maintenance prune. I bought a little boxwood to practice the whole "bonsaiing" art. And I know of lots of places I can get cuttings of all sorts of junipers so I probably will try and grow juniper from a cutting one of these days...

tomc
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Bert your 10 to 15 years out ahead of bonsai training (or bonsai soil needs). And thats in pretty large landscape pots (5-15 gallon)

You are also mixing and matching temperate desert and tropical trees together. All three play differently.

Where you live is also crucial to how you care for your trees.

Baobab will not be watered even one single drop during their dormant season. (cold is below 50F)

Umbrella is a tropical, without a winter drouth. (cold is below 50F)

Elms are temperate trees. (cold is probably 10F) And it needs its cold season for dormancy.

The one South African I knew who kept baobab had the hottest set of supplimental light I've ever seen bonsai grown under. If you don't have a spare $ 1000 laying around, I'd pass on it.

For now you can probably get by with one part coarse sand (not masons) and one part pine bark mulch. For soil. I like chicken scratch (crushed granite).
Think like a tree
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tomc
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The ideal of growing bonsai from seed only in shallow trays, got its first press that I know of in Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbook V22, #2 Handbook On Bonsai Special Techniques.

Nobukana Kajiya was a fan of growing trees from seed, solely in shallow pots. Your grandchildren will be grown before your done.

I don't mind taking my time with my tree babies, but This might be too slow for me.

Lots of people do grow trees on shady porches. If you were growing in say Phoenix Saigon or Melborne a shady porch might be really welcome.

If your porch was in Oslo, maybe not so much.
Think like a tree
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imafan26
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If you plant your tree seeds, you probably should treat them the way you would treat any other seeds. Beginners usually start with very young trees that are 1 or 2 years old. Masters will go out and dig up a tree that they like the shape of that is 40 years old and gradually train the top and trim the roots to fit into a shallow dish. If you are a beginner, jade, juniper, or geometry trees are the easiest to train.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

tomc
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You still have not put any claim of geography into your signature line, so no one can advise trees that will work for you without building a whole green house.

I have seen growers who grow trees utterly outside of their biome, an' Cheops built his pyramid too.

If you want to proceed and want some advice, the ball is in your court.
Think like a tree
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