Randy Knight Stream Discussion

To my fellow bonsai enthusiasts,

This stream, the interview with Randy Knight, for me is amongst the most influential and enlightening video stream in the archive to date. The information presented during the broadcast… simply speaking is invaluable.

I am not a collector by any means, though I do my share. The majority of my material is developed from seedlings, nursery stock, gifts and “yardadori.”

Several aspects of recovering field grown material and their transition into bonsai is applicable to all states of growth, development and even refinement.

Timing of collection, watering (method, frequency, timing, queues), fertilization, potting materials (container size, shape, material, planting medium), micro environments, sun exposure, and more!!!

This stream is the gold mine, even for non-collectors. Covered is pertinent information on how to nurse your tree back to health after triaging (assessment of the problem) and proactive solutions.

For anyone growing or developing their bonsai, this is worth more than the specimens weight in gold!

Let me begin this discussion with the following ideas… Containers and potting media. Feel free to contribute or inquire add appropriate.

It appears colanders are not highly valued due to their design for straining foods and integrity of materials over time. I personally have used pond baskets for the last decade and they work great! I source them from Home Depot for around $2.50 each which given that usually use them for 5+ years is a good buy. I use 101010 square baskets and generally fill them with haydite and sifted pine bark or mulch.

So now I’m still on container and planting media, colanders do definitely have problems with instability and integrity over time. However, pond baskets, are designed for use in the great outdoors. I would love anderson flats but they are hard to come by. I also feel pond baskets are superior due to increased oxygenation to the roots and substrate. I can also easily adjust the height of container by trimming. Their limitations in my opinion is that I have never found anything larger than 10" and that could be problematic if the specimen is larger and the roots exceed the space available inside pond basket.

My typical pond basket mix is mulch/bark and haydite of varying degrees to prevent overdrying. This works great as the bark/mulch has water retentive properties and a relatively high CEC which if you all are studying is good to retain nutrients that the plants use for growth. The haydite is basically inert and has some minor water retentive capacity.

I have almost all my developmental material placed on the ground over mulch beds for the reasons started in the stream. They simply recover quicker, resist extremes in heat or cold better, when roots escape the growth is superior, and can be grouped together for plants with similar needs. During the heat of summer I also place some of my finished bonsai inn the ground as well.

There is so much more to be discussed, please feel fee to chime in! I’m sure we all love to hear each others insights and grow together. Not just our bonsai but as a community.


Actually I didn’t understand how to build the healing bed.

Anyone can help me?

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I was reviewing the stream last night. The heeled in trees are supported by rebar, wooden supports or old pallets.
Step one- place landscape fabric in the area to be used. The photos showed a wooden wall that stabilized the pile and protected from wind.
Area needs to be protected from harsh heat of the day and desiccating wind.
Step two- make a shallow layer of coarse wood chips.
Randy suggested using bedding for rabbits purchased from a pet store if you cannot source wood chips from a sawmill. Wood shavings may be purchased from coops that sell bedding for horses here in the mid-west.
Step three- place root ball of trees close together and secure so they will not move easily.
Step four- cover the root balls with thick layer of wood chips working the covering into the root balls with your hands.
Step five- use a jet stream from a hose to water in the wood and root balls to pack the chips close to the tree root balls.
step six- use sustained release fertilizer over the roots and fertilize with miracle grow through a hose end sprayer spraying the foliage, branches and trunks and root balls.
step seven and the most important step… observe the results and watch for foliar growth from the trees. :smiley:


This is great. Adding on, put the rootball as close to the ground as possible with maybe a very small layer (1 inch?) of wood chips between the root ball and ground.


Hi Bob,

Do I have to place the beds on the ground with soilcontact, or do you think I will achieve same results with placing the bed on top concrete tiles with landscapefabric on the bottom?

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I do not know. Why not do a population of both methods and see if there is a difference?
I learn from doing. Please let us know what happens. Conifers benefit from microorganisms. But the wood bedding alone may supply. Is it enough or is ground contact necessary? I hope someone with more experience knows the answer.

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One of the biggest things I got from this stream was to put stressed trees on the ground.


Randy stated at some point that he only keeps trees in the sawdust bed for a season. Did he mean like Spring or Fall as a season, or one entire growing season (like January - December)?

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@Nate_Andersen By a Season, I believe he meant one year.


Do you have a title name for the stream?

I remember they didn’t have an answer as to why the roots do better when it’s on the ground during recovery, but I’m pretty sure it’s because of gravitropism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitropism.

I have also found trees kept in or on the ground to do much better. Here in Colorado the temperature fluctuates so much it that a lot of times you have to put foil or towels over the pots to keep the temperature consistent if they are up on benches. Larry Jackel a great collector here in Colorado actually keeps all of his trees, freshly collected and show trees in pots buried to the rim of the pot year round in mulch. I started doing this as well and have seen the trees respond positively, the ecosystem around the trees stays much more humid, at least here in Colorado.