Post Stream Discussion: Fertilizer 101

I saw that there wasn’t a topic for this, but I had some questions about the stream.

I noticed that only the pelletized form of fertilizer was discussed without mentioning the strength of the balance of NPK was, or how that plays into the “dosage” of fertilization.

My question is how do we compare the usage rates, frequency, and application when we have different brands, dosage suggestions, and textures of fertilizer.

Sample questions would be:

I have an organic fertilizer that is 20-20-20, should I be applying in 1 and 1/2 TBSP for heavy on my shohin in development if (the package) it recommends doing a tablespoon per gallon of soil?

Should I be using a higher dose than 1 TBSP for medium fertilization if I’m using 5-5-5 and biogold is 20-20-20? Does the number matter or is it more the balance?

Do you fertilize with no Nitrogen fertilizer in the Fall to avoid more foliar growth at the wrong time or do you always keep a consistent fertilizer throughout the whole year?

If I have an organic fertilizer that is made of tiny pellets (smaller than airsoft pellets for example) should I just spread them around evenly as opposed to placing 3 large piles evenly spaced? I don’t know if I missed something in the stream, but I didn’t absorb the knowledge that putting them in a specific place rather than distributed evenly gave the tree any advantage.

If I’m using a liquid fertilizer do I need to fertilize more often? I know you don’t recommend chemical and you obviously don’t use a liquid organic (honestly not sure if there is any) but how would that be handled?

To clarify what you said in stream, you basically fertilizer almost all of your trees with a heavy dose in Fall except deciduous trees in heavy refinement?

The stream was great, but I thought it was going to cover a few more topics like the variance in NPK strengths and differing fertilizer brands and types and how to adjust.


Nate, I agree the discussion was very detailed and exacting, if we are all using the same fertilizer in the first place. What is a good fertilizer mix? Around here we have used cottenseed meal, bone meal and blood meal as a standard granular mix suggested for years. How would the NPK strength of that compare to any other pelletized mixes? The organic nursery has a bunch of pellet fertilizers based upon different sources and strengths. Where do we start?

I have used fish emulsion as a liquid feed thinking it is an organic (meaning it needs to be broken down to be effective).

There are other problems we face, like having varmints getting into any tea bags I lay down. I will be trying a composed fertilizer next to see if it will not attract whatever likes to eat the feed bags I put down. Any experience out there? What helps?

Maybe this was touched on in the Q and A, but these details were missing in the feed and need to be further discussed.

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Regarding the concentrated doses:
I remember in one of the previous streams where fertilizer was brought up, the concentrated doses in specific areas are more desirable than evenly spreading the fertilizer around. I wish I could remember which stream it was, because Ryan did make a big deal about it. I think it was one of the BSOP streams.

IIRC it has something to do with the cycle of organics and how they break down. I would believe that if you are doing a chemical or liquid fertilizer that it is less important (or even plausible) to do the concentrated doses.

Aha, here it is. Spring fundamentals at about the 1:30 mark.

I could try to recap it here, but it’s probably best for me to just link it.

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@Nate_Andersen I do strongly agree esp. on your point of autumn fertilizers! Commonly it is recommended to switch from e.g. BioGold to a less nitrogen consistency or even to a nitrogen free type in autumn… how should we handle this according to Mirai? Any ideas or did Ryan mention anything on this aspect in one of the streams?

I just rewatched the post-growth management stream and Ryan said he uses nitrogen based fertilizers with conifers but not other trees in the fall.

1:17 mark or so.

Loved this stream, so much great information.
One question tho.
From the soils stream @ryan talks about CEC and if I remember right pumice don’t have any CEC. So when we fertilize collected trees the new soil won’t be holding any nutrients since we pot them in pure pumice. The fertilizer will probably be taken up by the field soil but the new roots won’t be getting any. Does this have any impact or are we only fertilizing collected trees to astablish the microbes?
Or did I misunderstand it all :blush:

Pumice still has some CEC I believe, just not nearly as much as akadama. That said, I think you are right in surmising that it will get primarily absorbed by the field soil which will help the tree a little bit maybe not a ton. As for the roots, all they really need is water and oxygen and a good balance between the two. I think I heard that somewhere before.

Pumice does have CEC. More than lava, less than akadama, but definitely some.

I did some research on CEC of substrates and I looked up 10 substrates and here were some of the rankings I came up with.

Kanuma - 62/100g. #2
Bark Fines - 150/100g. #1
Akadama - 21/100g #5
Pumice - 15/100g #7
Expanded Shale - 15/100g #6
Turface - 33/100g #3
DE Napa - 27/100g, #4

Sand 0/100g, DG 10/100g, Lava 10/100g, and Perlite 1.5/100g all had a CEC of 10/100g or less.

As mentioned fertilizer is not necessary for root growth.

Blockquote Does this have any impact or are we only fertilizing collected trees to astablish the microbes?

Can’t answer this, but I remember he talked about it in this fertilizer 101 stream. My understanding was basically that it isn’t going to make a huge difference either way, best thing is balance of Oxygen and H2O for root growth.


I definitely agree with you guys, there’s missing information should be discussed in this stream one of them NPK


I didn’t hear a single thing about fertilizer in the two streams you linked. Maybe you gave the wrong video or time stamp. I listened for about 10 minutes past where you listed and didn’t hear anything about fertilizer.

Both work for me, just double checked. Timestamps are in hour:minute

First one says concentrated doses prevent the fertilizer from being completely washed out. If you are watering completely, you run the risk of washing out evenly distributed fertilizer before it can be utilized.

Second one, someone from the audience asks about the nitrogen based fertilizer question during fall, in which he is clear about using it for conifers, but not other types of trees (especially deciduous) based on the fact that it could cause a push of growth if there is a late heat wave or similar.

Heeeeeeeello that’s what it was… haha. Feeling a bit silly now :wink:

Just to better clarify this question, I know that a 20-20-20 means that you divide 100 / 20 and you’ll need 5 pounds of fertilizer to add 1 pound of that nutrient to the soil. I also know that it means the fertilizer contains 20% of each of N-P-K and the rest is some sort of filler.

What I don’t know how we handle the differences. Each different type and “strength” of NPK percentages has a recommended amount to apply. Would applying 1 1/2 TBSP (for heavy) of a 20-20-20 and a 3-3-3 be the same with such a small amount of soil, or do we need to be vigilant in making sure we adjust the application size for differing concentrations of NPK.

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Nate, I completely agree with everything you are saying here. I’m using Green Dream, and I’d love to have some kind system for determining conversion rates between the different fertilizer brands, or to have a supplemental stream that does a deep dive Into the X-X-X system, and how you can make a substitution and know that you re still achieving the desired effects.

Yes, a discussion about NPK values should have been included. And also what the different components do for the tree - the focus seemed to be be solely on nitrogene.

I use a high N feed during spring and switch to a 0-10-10 mix in fall, to focus on hardening the trees before the winter (which is important where I live, in Norway) rather than foilage growth.
However, an article on Bonsai Empire says that many experts are switching to rather using a balanced feed throughout the season. BioGold (original) is 5.5-6.5-3.5, which makes it a balanced feed, right? I.e. I could use this all season instead of having to switch between different mixes?

The same article says that it doesn’t matter if you use a solid or liquid fertilizer (it doesn’t mention «chemical» vs organic though). If this is true, wouldn’t it be easier to use an organic, liquid fertilizer?

A great video, but I still have a lot of questions…

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Does anyone have any specific tea bags they can recommend? I’ve run out and need to re-order. The last ones I got seemed to hold up “too well” and seem to become almost impervious to water after a while. I prefer the type that has a drawstring.