Fertilizer question

When watching several videos, Ryan says to use a 1:1:1 fertilizer. When I went to my local garden center, I couldn’t find that. The closest thing I found was 4:4:4. Which then made me wonder, is Ryan saying equal parts in a ratio, or more specifically the concentration and ratio of the fertilizer?

Does 1:1:1 = 4:4:4 or no?


Pic of my first bonsai for attention…

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Are you sure it’s not soil size he’s talking about of pumice:lava:akadama?

1:1:1, 2:1:1 or 3:1:1 he is referring to is the ratio of Akadama, Lava & Pumice
Think of it like baking… 2 parts akadama: 1 part Lava: 1 part Pumice

Fertilizing bonsai gets complicated… I try to keep it simple… I am chemistry trained, and I have problems…
(It is not my intention to be preachy…)
Preferentially, I use solid organic fertilizer. Supplimented with fish emulsions in spring, and seaweed emulsions twice a month. Organic is SOFT and safe. Inorganic is harsh and OK if used carefully. I DO use inorganic fertilizers; carefully, in low dilutions.
The N-P-K fertilizer elements are (usuall) listed in % concentrations on the labels. 1-1-1 , 4-4-4, or 12-12-12, etc. Biogold in about 4-5-4, Miracle Grow solid is 24-8-16.
I dilute in water down to about 1-1-1 RELATIVE % concentratios range for dispensing.
Liquids are easy. Dilute. Solids are a crapshoot. Too much at a time kills the plant. A tablespoon per gallon of solid 1-1-1 is enough. (About 1/4 T of 4% and about 1/12 T for the 12 %) Dispense in relative volumes per pot size once a week. Small (6 inch) pot 1/2 pint. Etc.
Organic fertilizer N P K labels are % digested concetration. Bacteria and fungus in the pot eat the organic solids and dispense the elements as available organic molecules. The solid organic matter is NOT in a soluble ionic form. I is NOT intended to be put in water and dispensed… Spread the chunks in small piles, wet, and wait… over 3-5 weeks, the pile will fall apart and be digested…
There are nuances to all the above information. Seasonal variations and what stage your tree is in developement! Re: Ponderosa in refinement do NOT get fertilizer untill September.
Spend some time watching / listen to Mirai 's developement videos and nutrition podcasts. They are VERY informative!
Bonsai On!


So I think what you’re saying is that I need to dilute the 4-4-4 to a 1% concentration, but that diluting a solid is not feasible?

Maybe I’m not following your question…
I would NEVER sprinkle dry inorganic fertilizer on a bonsai in a pot. (Extended release inorganic is an exception… I have used it on in-developinment young plants.) It would fry. Dissolve and dilute down to a happy range.
Dry Organic fertilizer, yes. Direct application to bonsai pot soil. Soft fertilizer application, slow release (digestion) of organic material over 2 to 5 weeks.
I would NEVER just pour a concentrated ( ie: 4-4-4) liquid organic fertilizer directly onto a bonsai… It would fry. Dilute it ~1/4 teaspoon per gallon… This also includes seaweed emulsion and fish emulsion. Dilute.
Follow manufacturers directions. At least untill you get a feel for how much fertilizer YOUR trees can deal with.
I once applied a shovel of VERY well aged chicken coop dietress (wood shavings, straw, poop…) onto a in-the-ground 3 foot pine. GREW like crazy. For one summer. Next spring, it was dead… Lesson? More is not better.
High level bonsai IS hard.
Keep it simple.
I focus on keeping my trees alive, and healthy.
Maybe the rest IS rocket science…
Bonsai On.

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Kurt - Do you really mean diluting at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon for an organic 4-4-4? That works out to 13 ppm (parts per million) based upon 0.04 / 4 / 768 t/gal. I looked at the labels of different fertilizers and the recommendations ranged from 35 to 260 ppm as shown in the attached image. For the solids I weighed the suggested amount and assumed watering for 60 days to dilute.
Biogold - 26 g, 0.5 liter per day for a 5" pot
Dr. Earth - 30 g, 0.4 lilter per day for a 4" pot
The value for the solids is an average over the 60 days and will go through some sort of peak as it is decomposed and then decline.

Based upon this I would recommend 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of a 4-4-4 (or similar) organic per gallon. For those who have advanced to the SI system, 1 teaspoon = 5 ml, a Tablespoon = 15 mil, 1 gallon = 3.8 liter so my recommendation is 1.3 to 4 ml per liter.

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Yes. You are right Marty…
For Solid dry inorganic fertilizer. Raw ionic N-P-K.
More is not better…
1/4 teaspoon 4-4-4 dry inorganic in a gallon of water, dispensed to 4 bonsai… is safe.
The first point was to explain the question of fertilIzer labeling in %. The second was to explain to disolve inorganic dry fertilizer and apply with watering -in, and NOT place it ON the bonsai soil… as advised for solid organic… (I was working under the assumption the DM had maybe 6 bonsai… Not the 200 you and I have to deal with…)
The citations you use are for organic are good. Soft fertilizer. Those volumes are safe and correct.
Subjectivly, the solid organic Biogold 4% is digested over ~4 weeks… watering every day… leaching ~ppb of complex organic molecules of N-P-K per day…
For dry inorganic fertilizer I erred on the low side on purpose. If someone grabs dry Miracle Grow and mixes a tablespoon into a cup of water for one bonsai every week… it will grow like crazy, for a month, and then die.
I use low dilution inorganic more often, mixed with liquid organic. I rely on constant digestable organic solids, leaching low ppm of Organic soft N-P-K.
Inorganic. Tablespoon 4-4-4 per gallon is fine. Dispensed onto maybe twenty medium pots. Watered in. Every other week… The sterile inorganic ~1:1:1 bonsai mix (akadame, pumice, lava) we use retains little of the liquid fertilizer IONS on a weekly basis. Gets washed through. There is an assumption some gets bound to the soil particles temporarily.
Constant organic fertilizer digestion release, with the microbiom, is the current philosophy…
Most lawn fertilizer bags labels call for pounds per acre, not 1/4 teaspoones per square foot of bonsai pot… You and I can calculate that. Most people struggle with it.
As I stated… follow the container label.
Indoor house plant fertilizer concentrations would work for bonsai…
Now I feel a little preachy…
Trying to keep it simple…
Bonsai should be a fun and relaxing hoby…
Not knowing why your trees die is stressing… OOOHHHMMM…
Bonsai On…

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I suppose what I’m mostly going off of is the video lecture in Bonsai Basics Horticulture where Ryan says to use a balanced organic fertilizer. See screenshot attached.

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