Scots Pine Needle Size (Watering Difficulties)

No not mine but I have seen two almost dead pines during the last month and wanted to clear up a myth regarding watering of pines.

My own small Scots Pine is building up a nice framework of branching this previous three years.  Come the Autumn I will thin the tree out by around 40-50% to enable me to shape further. Minor pruning can be carried out now, but do ensure you seal cuts. For now the appropriate feeding and watering regime with a position of full sun all day, has given me quality sized needles.

Yes, the tree is rotated, but does indeed sit in sun all day long. Watering is generally twice daily at the moment, as the gorgeous weather we are having .. and owed some; is ensuring most of my trees dry out quite quickly. And it really was this watering I wanted to mention.

I’ve seen two pines during the last fortnight, one a Scots, and the other a Mugo. The latter is still hanging in there, but the Scots seems to be on the last legs. My first question was about watering, and in both cases it had been left to nature to provide water! There seems to be a significant myth about, that suggests Pines are watered very infrequently to ensure small needles and insignificant growth. This is complete ‘Hogwash’ and I’ll gladly argue the point with anyone. Yes, during winter if the pine /s are under cover then watering from mid to late October (Northern Hemisphere) should be kept to an absolute minimum until the first signs of growth the following year are seen; and that in both ends of the season it is weather dependant, so it is not a ‘complete rule of thumb so be careful. Kept outside you could and should be looking to limit rain water, as roots will rot if they sit in water. Just because you have free-draining soil it does not mean water will dissipate quickly; the roots themselves will create a dense rootball with Mycelium and soggy soil you have a wonderful base for potential root rot.

Usually about mid Spring through Summer the Pine will do what it has been waiting to do, and that is grow. By withholding water to keep needles short – is hugely detrimental to the pine, and will quickly see it flounder and probably die in part or full during warm weather. Watering two weekly this time of year is NOT enough. I’m watering my large pine daily and the smaller one at least twice daily. The heat build up inside that pot is hot indeed, and it is not unusual to find that just inside the pot it is at least 40c; clearly it needs cooling so you may prefer to put the pine in dappled shade during very warm bright sunny days. I do try to stand the watering cans full up in a dappled area to gently warm the water through; NOT HOT, just take that cold off. I personally have thought if I find it a shock someone pouring cold water over me right now, then the plants also may find it a shock. Not easy I know when you have many many trees.

So please please please … DO water your pines right now, they WON’T stand being  dry as a chip for anything like as long as you think they will.

My small Scots with a happy look in a John Pitt pot. 70cm in height. Dwarf variety of Scots Pine.

Scotty 15:07:13

John Pitt log 2012

2018 Update. I should have kept all my John Pitt pots. I don’t think John is making many now. Values will rise for sure.

I’ve had the usual play; as you do, with some plants I already had, and armed with some soil and an empty John Pitt ceramic log, I threw a few things together to see what the outcome might be.

I’m actually very pleased.

Changes to John Pitt Log.

After a successful year through 2011 with this wonderful John Pitt ‘pot,’ I decided it was time to dismantle and plant out all the contents that had been good enough to stay healthy all year.

This year I fancied something similar, but without buying anything. I have therefore planted three different varieties of bomb proof Sedum that were growing in my gravel path, four or five differing types of moss; one in particular I thank my great friend Smithy for; these are the small trumpet shapes ones. I managed to cultivate quite a bit from a small gift earlier last year .

I’m initially pleased; as the year progresses it will become more overgrown and will need some cutting back from time to time. Keeping the moss going through summer will be the hard bit. I have however found a mist-spray with Rhizotonic on moss seems to make it thrive. Just shy of five millilitres to a litre of water is what I personally use. All I can say is it works very very well for me, but I will keep it dappled rather than in direct sunlight.

Dwarf Scots Pine

Since re-potting a couple of weeks ago, which is much earlier than I would normally re-pot said variety; response has been fast with candles continuing to elongate perfectly.

Whilst the roots were not overly bad when it came to re-pot I made certain to leave some of the plump cream tipped  roots to ensure ongoing health. Whilst I did indeed take the overall root ball down much further than usual, the leaving of a few good feeder roots will generally ensure the health of Pines.

They can be so finicky at times when re-potted, hence I do like to mist this species a couple of times daily and keep out of wind but in some sunshine. Whilst a percentage of the old soil was introduced, to ensure some Mycorrhizal Fungi was returned, I also included new fungi during the re-pot. When undertaking this procedure it is important to ensure the added fungi is placed as close (touching) the existing root-ball as possible.

The soil mix is hugely free-draining and as such, I must be very careful with watering. Normally I like to let the soil dry slightly between waterings when freshly re-potted. With a 70% grit mix alas I cannot do this.

When freshly re-potted trees are first watered it is vital to ensure that the roots forming do everything to search out nutrients and moisture. Too much at this stage can make them become quite lazy. Once an approximate six-week period has passed, this initial watering reservation becomes virtually irrelevant.

The initial soil addition around the root-ball is nutrient free and completely inorganic; this ensures the roots will do all they can to locate ‘goodies’ that are elsewhere in the pot. The second level of soil does contain a small quantity of organic sustenance/nutrients. In time the roots will locate it and continue to grow happily.

Image taken yesterday. Pot is by John Pitt; not perfect but an improvement on the previous one. I am hoping to find a more primitive pot for the next re-potting session.

Once the tree is settled into the new home, I will be undertaking refining work during late summer when resin flow will be greatly reduced.