Do you really need low N fertilizer?

If you’re interested in using low N fertilizer and want to find out potential products, please visit the other thread here This thread is strictly to discuss if one actually needs low N fertilizer.

My arguments against low N fertilizer:

  1. It is not the NPK of a fertilized that matters in determining how much of any given element is being provided to the plant, it is the ppm, the actual concentration in the product, be it organic or synthetic fertilizer. So for two products with the same ppm for nitrogen for example, if you use 10 times the amount of a fertilizer with 1:X:Y it is the same as using 1 times the 10:P:K. In other words, it depends on the dose.

  2. As far as I know Ryan has thus far used only biogold in quantities and number of locations adequate for what he is trying to accomplish. The same biogold in spring or fall. Nobody can argue the quality of the trees.

  3. Walter Pall who uses ANY synthetic powder fertilizer that is cheaply available also does not differentiate between spring or fall. Nobody can argue with the quality of the trees.

  4. The nursery industry uses in the great majority slow release fertilizers that also are the same throughout the year. If it was detrimental to their trees it would have been already identified as a problem.

  5. All cellular growth needs Nitrogen, be it to produce foliar growth or vascular growth. Any protein produced in the cell needs Nitrogen. Together with Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, these are the four most important essential elements used by any life form. Fall is the season for vascular growth. This is 100% true for conifers. Some deciduous, notably Japanese maples keep growing but the majority of growth in the fall is vascular growth. Using a low nitrogen fertilizer probably doesn’t harm as in any case most nitrogen is washed away and we provide our plants far more than they actually use (see point 1). If you spend more on a low N fertilizer, you’re only wasting additional money. It will not benefit or harm your tree but it may impact your pocket. Although like many other things in bonsai, if it makes you feel better then there’s a value associated to that, so you’re investing the extra money on your wellbeing not that of the plant.

  6. Because of point 5, using a fertilizer with 0:X:Y is in my opinion more dangerous than using any NPK fertilizers with whatever N values.

  7. In nature trees have the same access to nutrients in the fall as they have in the spring.

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I use Biogold and fish emulsion, adjust the concentration of fish emulsion for the fall. Fish emulsion is the king of fertilisers as far as I’m concerned. Rich deep greens and a biologically sound root zone.

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I do the same as @Nicknjh23.This is my first season using Biogold. I have used Alaska fish emulsion throughout my garden for years, I agree it is the “king of fertilizers". Easy application and you know exactly what you are getting. Nothing but success!!!
My last 2 applications of the season spaced at 2 weeks are 0-10-10 Alaska Morbloom.
@rafi I think the reason for zero or low nitrogen ferts are that the tree is no longer photosynthesizing so nitrogen is not needed at this point in the growing season.
I can see where we might be setting the tree up for nutrients being readily available when the spring push happens, other than that I don’t really see any other benefit for the tree.
Yes, in nature trees do have access to all available nutrients, but we are talking about a containerized environment.
Everyone should just do what works best for them and their environment they are working with. :metal:t2::evergreen_tree:

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Sorry @MtBakerBonsai, this is wrong. The tree is photosynthesizing and growing and needs nitrogen for that growth, be it leaf mass or vascular growth, any cell division in the plant at any time needs nitrogen. If you want to make an experiment, I suggest that you put any tree in total darkness during the period you suggest there is no photosynthesis, if that is indeed the case, you should see no difference to a tree in non-total-darkness conditions. I doubt your tree in darkness would survive.

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I think the point is that bio gold and fish emulsion is for us is the way to go. If a deciduous tree has lost all its leaves and you put it into total darkness what would happen???

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I also think that we can all get bogged down with trying to find the ultimate feed solution. If you look around the world at all the wonderful exhibition quality trees in perfect health we can’t be going that far wrong. I have used 0-10-10 in the past but only on deciduous trees, if you have defoliated maples early in the year and use it the autumn colours do tend to be more vivid. Other than that I wouldn’t bother. Trust me a balanced N-P-K. Organic fertiliser and you won’t go far wrong.

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I’m glad I saw this thread. Just ordered my 0-10-10 Alaska Morbloom for next month’s feeding.

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I know a lot of people put their dormant deciduous bonsai in dark garages over the winter. But there have been recent studies that show some small amount of photosynthesis still takes place via the chlorophyll that is reabsorbed into the twigs and branches.

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Ah, yes, once the tree lost all the leaves, then of course there is no problem to have it in total darkness. Although some species apparently can still photosynthesize through the bark a bit while temperatures permit.

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BioGold, fish emulsion and cold pressed seaweed for me. Never had late push problems using that combo.

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@Blown55 Best in show, must be doing something right :grinning::grinning::grinning::grinning:

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Interesting thread. I am surprised no one has mentioned the fact that substrate matters, temperatures (air and soil), moisture , daylight length, microbial activity, concentration and amount applied, species growth habit (active, semi-dormant, dormant). As far as I know N+ is not just for the shoots but also for the roots and everyone dismisses Ca++. Food for thought.

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Sorry Rafi, you are correct that photosynthesizing does occur year round. I get a little hurried in the morning with my answers. 99% of the time I research before I answer.
I read that the tree will Photosynthesize through tiny pinholes in the bark and more when the bark is wet.
Daylight length and regional location definitely play a role in Photosynthesizing, Being that I am in the Upper left corner of the PNW that I use low to zero Nitrogen in my fertilizer regiment.
I know we will all have different applications since we don’t live in a biosphere.
And it comes down to “what are you trying to accomplish?”

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Hey, i think we had a issue of miscommunication. I wasn’t even alluding to the possibility that certain species may photosynthesize after leaf fall. I meant that that as long as you still have green pigment in the leafs, in our case in the period between summer dormancy and winter dormancy, you still have photosynthesis. As long as you have any cellular growth be it in leafs, roots, or any other part of the tree, you need nitrogen. If you have a substrate that is 100% inorganic (and ignoring microorganisms that can fix nitrogen from the air), you will need nitrogen from fertilization. That was to suggest that using a fertilizer with N 0 in the fall is dangerous because it is a period where growth is essential for vascular growth although some foliar growth might still happen if resources are available,

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Using 0 nitrogen ferts being “dangerous” might be a bit extreme. My trees have not suffered from it.
I’m sure everyone on here has had different experiences with fertilization of their trees.
There are so many parameters and environmental factors to consider.
Like I said before, everyone is going to have different ways of doing things that works best for them.
This is a good dialogue to open, hoping more members bring their findings to the table. :+1:t2::metal:t2::evergreen_tree:

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I agree. When I say may be dangerous I am imagining a situation of a deciduous tree (that needs a lot of resources for a full first flush) in 100% inorganic substrate and no nitrogen entering the system since spring assuming a nitronge-free fertilizer in the fall and no fertilization other than in spring. All the nitrogen the tree would have available would be from whatever is recycled intracellularly from catabolism. But maybe it is enough, who knows. I prefer to not use nitrogen-free fertilizer.

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Great discussion! I have more than enough Amur maples started to do research on this next year. I’ll get back to you in 2021!

Now we’re speaking about ferts and soil! I personally use low nitrogen in the fall, not for foliar growth but for vascular and root growth. Like @rafi mentioned, many bonsai practitioners use inorganic substrates with very low CEC, this means much of our fertilizers are being washed out with every watering. I dont think that using a 0-#-# (N-P-K) is dangerous in any way during the fall because we know most deciduous will go dormant. Just prior to dormancy deciduous trees begin the process of dessication and reaccumulate the resources from the leaves prior to shedding them.

This means a healthy tree with lots of foilage has lots of resources that can be accumulated to facilitate winter hardiness and flush out the following spring. Conifers go dormant but dont shed their leaves, they still transpire in the fall and winter and still uptake water and nutrients. A lesser degree perhaps than spring and summer, but nonetheless, they still photosynthesize and transpire through the winter.

Soil and air temps influence metabolic activity in the plant as well as microbial activity in the soil. So if its too cold and the soil is frozen, microbial activity in the soil virtually ceases as does the plant’s metabolism. It’s NOT zero, otherwise, the plant would not be alive and the soil would be sterile.

So here is a personal opinion, I think low dose NPK is more appropriate than 0-P-K.

Plants will uptake what they want, as long as we dont go messing with the soil chemistry and microbiology too much. For instance, we could in theory create an imbalance by applying too much of a given nutrient. Wouldnt matter if is N, Ca, P, K, Mg, Fe, etc… Because if too much of one element is present there could be inhibition or facilitation of the uptake of certain nutrients.

Also, some nutrients are more bioavalable at certain pH levels. Too alkaline and Ca uptake is inhibitied, or perhaps is Magnesium deficiency. Too acidic Iron and copper become unavailable for some plants. The remaining and most commonly known NPK along with many micronutrients are right in the middle.

So for me , I dont use totally inorganic substrate… I use I add decomposed pine bark at 10-15% total soil volume for 2 reasons! 1) helps to acidify a neutral soil and 2) it has awesome CEC 200+ as compared to the marginal 20-40 that is seen in pumice/lava/haydite/diatomaceous eart/akadama realm.

Now before anyone bashes organic substrates stating it decomposes and causes anoxic soil conditions, think hard about what akadama does… It scales and breaks down, creating the same environmental conditions. Thats why watering is so important! Have to learn to water and read your soil. I’ve used zeolite this year but I’ve noticed that it buffers soil ph and its made some of my containers too alkaline for some of my plants. I’ve now had to acidify water and soil more frequently, its just not for me and my bonsai. It does great for my lawn though!

Anyways, my rant is over and I’m sorry for the long post. Cheers to upcoming fall!

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Okay, bought some Morbloom 0-10-10. It says to apply during the growing season. When is that exactly? Spring and fall? Seems like this would be a good addition to bio-gold. Even the Morbloom 5-1-1 formula seems like it could be a good organic bump as bio-gold does its slow release thing.

I am trying Morbloom 0-10-10 as well. I am mixing it with Seaweed Extract, 50/50 this fall for my deciduous trees. Gives a rough NPK of ~ 0.22 - 5 - 5. Hoping the mix gives a strong bump of PK with the organic from the Seaweed Extract.

We have a Japanese Maple in our yard that I dump ash from my BBQ and smoker near by. Noticed the spring growth on the side that the ash is dumped is very strong and no die back from winter. The other side seems to struggle. Pretty sure wood ash is high in Phosphorus and Potassium salts with no Nitrogen.

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