If you are not already acquainted with the art of Bonsai - now is the time to give it a try! Growing Bonsai successfully involves no magic, just love and care for your tree, and a little bit of work too. Feeding and watering a Bonsai correctly are usually the two main worries for people who own these very attractive and interesting little trees.
Feeding your Bonsai
Whatever proprietary brand of feed you use there will be a listing on the pack. The initials N(nitrogen) P(phosphorous) K(potassium) followed by 3 numbers. The higher the number, the stronger the concentration of the nutrient. Nitrogen is for the production of foliage and shoot development - too much will cause large leaves and shoots which are easy to snap, whereas none at all will cause the plant to die. Phosphorous is for the development of roots and helps the resistance of the plant to stress and disease. Potassium is for the development of flowers and fruit, it also hardens late growth in preparation for winter.
Trace elements such as boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, molybdenum, calcium and sulphur are all necessary for the well being of the tree and are included in the feed you use. It is always important to follow the instructions on the pack and it is better to use less feed than too much.
Slow release fertiliser should be applied twice during the growing season. In autumn, a feed of low or zero nitrogen content will help to harden off the current years growth. A tomato feeed is good to use at this time.
Watering your Bonsai
One very important thing to remember about the care of Bonsai trees is that they need to be moist, not dried out nor swimming in water. Check on your Bonsai each morning and evening and you will soon get to know the requirements of your tree.
Some bonsai 'newbies' find it easier to water their tree by immersing the pot in a bowl of water, waiting until the bubbles stop, leaving it to drain, then replacing the tree in its original position. If you are using this method it is probably alright to do so every 2nd or 3rd day, making sure that the compost is moist every day. However, the main problem with this method, is that the trees from the far east are usually grown in clay based soil; if the soil contains a lot of clay it will start to disintegrate, eventually forming a solid mass which will cause the roots to become water logged and then they will rot.
In reality the best way to water your Bonsai is to use a fine rose in your watering can, then water the tree from above. The water will run off the top of compacted soil, so watering may need to be done a few times. Always check the pot is heavier after watering than it was before you started, if it isn't then the water has not penetrated the soil. All trees should be potted into a coarse fine draining soil, allowing the roots to 'breathe'.