WATERING – With October’s shorter days and possibly cooler temperatures, plants will not be needing as much water. As a result, keep a close eye on the plant’s water requirements making sure they are not over watered in order to prevent root rot. Additionally, when plants need to be watered it is a good idea to water them early in the day so the leaves will be dry when going into the night hours, thus decreasing the chance of any leave fungus.
FEEDING– The growth and activity of plants will begin to slow down this month because of shorter days and possibly cooler temperatures. Therefore, fertilizing requirements will need to change as well. Try to use a fertilizer with little or no nitrogen because a high nitrogen fertilizer encourages new tender growth. Fertilizers with higher levels of Phosphorus and Potassium will prepare the tree for the colder months ahead.
Always read the application rate carefully and then cut the rate in half in order to avoid “burning” the roots of the plants with too much fertilizer.
WIRING – Even though it is fall with shorter days and possibly cooler temperatures, Florida has a longer growing season then other states. As a result, the cambium layer will continue to thicken but probably at a slower rate. Thus, continue to inspect the wire on all the trees in the collection to see when it’s time to remove it. Leaving the wire on the plant for too long will disfigure the branches; therefore, remove the wire if the branch remains in the desired position or if the wire is cutting into the cambium.
PESTS AND DISEASES– Hopefully, the presence of harmful insects is beginning to decline. However, continue to keep a close eye on the plant collection and look for anything unusual such as curly, stunted new growth; blotchy or spotted, white or pale yellow areas on the leaves; white, cottony patches; spots of brown on the leaves; and insect excrement. Use environmentally friendly treatments such as the encouragement of beneficial insects, spraying the plants with a hard stream of water, hand picking larger harmful insects, and/or the use of soaps and oils. Always remember to test spray a small branch with any chemical in order to make sure there will be no phytotoxic* reaction to the plant from the soap and oil spray. An example of a plant that will drop all of its leaves if sprayed with soaps and oils is Funkien Tea.
*Phytotoxicity is an adverse response in plants due to chemicals applied to the leaves or soil.
TRIMMING– Keep trimming your plants if they are still growing. When the branches get too long and lanky, they may shade out the lower or inner branches, thus leading to their decline. Always have a pair of scissors in your hand when inspecting your plants. After allowing the new growth to produce about four to six leaves cut it back to about two or three leaves. The result of continually trimming your tree will be twiggy branches, thus producing a more refined bonsai.
PRUNING– With cooler temperatures around the corner major pruning should be discontinued. The removal of large branches may encourage new, tender growth that will not be able to withstand freezing temperatures. In addition, plants probably have begun to slow down in growth or are no longer growing. Consequently, the cambium will not heal over the wound because of lack of growth, thus exposing the cut to insects and diseases for a longer time period.
LIGHT – Sunlight is not as intense as during the summer months. For that reason, gradually move the more sun sensitive plants such as maples, azalea plants and shohin (small bonsai) back into a full sun location. Additionally maintain rotating your trees on a weekly basis, thus preventing them from becoming one sided.
TEMPERATURES – With any luck, the temperatures with begin to cool off this month, but there should be no need to bring any tropical plants to a protected location
REPOTTING – Just like with major pruning, repotting should be discontinued. This will allow the plants to become well established in order to better withstand the stress of cooler/cold temperatures.
Collecting native or established landscape material is just around the corner. Therefore, keep eyes wide open for any potential plants that may be good bonsai material. Always ask permission from the owner before digging up a plant. About a month or two before actually digging it out of the ground, cut a circle around the plant by using a shovel to encourage more fibrous roots closer to the trunk. Wait until the end of January or February before actually digging it out of the ground in order to make sure the material is dormant.