I was asked to write a very small article about watering and feeding Pine trees. It was for an internet Facebook Group. I thought it might come in handy here too. Not for the intermediate or experienced; it is aimed at beginners to help them understand a little about watering Pines and feeding them.
Pines. Watering & Feeding For Health & Needle Reduction.
I’ve always enjoyed the pleasure from Pines. Ever since I started my Bonsai journey thirty five years ago, I found I was always drawn to Pines. There are many myths surrounding Pines, I cannot possibly go into them all here now, but wanted for the benefit of those new to Bonsai to mention two succinct areas I see enthusiasts get wrong time after time. So as a seasoned pro I would suggest there is probably nothing here for you.
The first is watering. I’ve seen so many dead Pines over the years; people would say they were told to keep them dry. In the growing seasons a Pine will need watering every day, and in many instances more than once a day. In the hot weather it is not unusual for me to water Pines in free draining soil three times a day. The temperature that can be read on the inside of a pot is huge. Those roots need cooling; they do not have the benefit of protection from rocks general stone and the soil. Keep it watered. BUT; out of the growing season they do not like sitting in water. Scots will stand a lot more water abuse that Black Pines or White grown on BP stock. This is why having a free draining soil is so important. Repotting takes care of that issue. Having so said in the Western World I personally think we repot far to frequently. Pines I will repot when I really have to. Clearly frequency is not one cap fits all. Elms will fill a pot in a year and Maples won’t be far behind. Pines however are fickle about repotting. I will cover detailed repotting of Pines at a later date. Brown needles all over the tree in the growing season means just one thing.
The other area to take note of on this occasion is the ‘dreaded’ needle reduction. You have nothing to fear. It is not hard. Correct candle pruning and pinching is a good start. (Loads of internet info on that area). Plenty of sunlight, yep full sun, get that Pine in the sun, with no shade. You may need to water more frequently in very hot Summers. Consider an automated drip feed if you work for a living. So here goes the next big mistake many make. Not feeding that Pine!! If you want a healthy Pine with short healthy needles feed it. I use Rape cakes and or Bio gold, liquid fish emulsion and liquid seaweed with minerals. What frequency then to get those nice tidy needles? Every week, sometimes twice or three times weekly. Shock horror I hear you mumble. Think about it for a moment. You will pop chicken waste pellets, Bio gold, or Rape cakes and or Naruko in the soil surface and you water. What do you think is happening when you water? Yep, feed is released through every single watering! So frankly those that use this method of feeding and say they only feed once a month is absolute twaddle. With permanent organic feed on the soil surface I supplement with FE or SW a couple of times minimum a week. JUST BE MINDFUL though when using seaweed, it can darken the needles if you over do it. Ease back on dilution.
I have created this very short notation to help those just starting off, and in particular if you happen to like Pines. Like a backside of course, everyone has one, just like an opinion; I’m saying this is what worked for me and many others that I helped over a three and a half decade period of time. As always, if you want to ask a question just fire away. You will see I have included a Scots Pine that I worked for many years. I have included two images. One prior to needle reduction techniques and the second some three years later.