Summer is here, and with it comes the beginning of the second of our three New England growing seasons (we divide the growing season up into thirds: April-June; July-August; September–October). It’s time to make sure that we are on target for certain growing goals and making the most of our short summer.
July is a beautiful growing month with its long days and cool evenings. Trees are still continuing to grow. Because of this they are drinking water more than ever and everyone should be on the alert to avoid a dry-out. Some of our root-bound trees need to be dunked in a wheelbarrow full of water to insure that their roots get saturated.
All the tropicals are vigorously growing and we are pruning them back hard, even defoliating many of them. The advantage to heavy leaf pruning this time of year is that they are growing so fast that they bud back almost immediately. The new leaves come in smaller and more compact and replace the older, often blemished, leaves that had increased in size because of being indoors all winter. Remember leaves increase in size when they are not getting enough light so with the intense summer sun trees create tiny leaves perfect for bonsai.
At the same time that tropicals are exploding with new growth many of our cold-hardy trees will begin to shut down toward the end of July. I like to think of this as a mini dormant period for deciduous trees and many conifers such as pines. It’s important to move maples out of the direct sun, and to be careful not to over-water trees that seem to be drinking slowly. We check our trees everyday for water however we only water when needed. And skip over trees that are not drinking as much—if you wind up with a couple of sick or weak trees in your collection it is very important to move them to another spot, a sick bay if you will, so you can monitor them separately.
Somehow we think of the lazy days of August as a slow time for bonsai activity. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are rushing around the nursery trying to finish up some of the important summer chores, including transplanting our root bound tropical bonsai.
When deciding whether or not to transplant your tree look at its health. Remember: if you don’t re-pot during the next month you should wait until next summer. Our general rule of thumb is: if the pot looks too small, or if the foliage is not vibrant, if the tree seems to have stopped growing, or if it has been hard to keep up on the watering even with daily watering—then it is probably due for a root pruning, otherwise wait another year.
At the same time, pruning all of your tropicals is very important now so that they won’t be spindly during the winter. A good pruning now will promote vigorous new healthy leaves.
The end of summer is always a sad time for me, and it always feels like it went by too fast.The crickets are louder at night, the purple fireweed is in full bloom, hay fever sufferers begin to notice the pollen and our bonsai trees prepare for the last third of our short but very productive New England growing season.