A Reminder to Cultivate Healthy Habits
1. Before you water, make sure the tree actually needs it. If the soil is damp, don’t water. If its bone
dry, ensure that it doesn’t dry out again. If it rains for days, tilt the pot at an angle to encourage
2. Check the foliage and shoots for anything unusual, an odd colour, distorted leaves, wilting etc.
Drying winds and/or hot sun causes species like maples and hornbeams to develop dry leaf
margins, if this occurs, move them to a more sheltered spot.
3. Strip disfigured leaves and try to discover the cause. Examine shoots and foliage for aphids, if you
see any signs, treat immediately.
4. Check the inner areas, especially of conifers, for dry or dead leaves. This may be natural wastage,
but could also be caused by spider mites. Remove dead leaves. While you’re at it, clear the inner
areas of debris.
5. If some foliage is sick, while the rest of the plant is in good health, find out why. There may be a
tight wire or a branch might have been damaged at a fork, or where it meets the trunk. Or, the
roots directly below one or other of the branches may have died off.
6. Check trees for the tell-tale white specks left by scale insects and scrape them off.
7. While you’re looking for signs of insect damage, check that wires are not digging into the bark,
cut them away.
8. Clean the soil surface, remove weeds, fallen leaves or debris that might harbour spores or bugs.
This is important in the autumn and winter.
9. Are organic fertilizer cakes breaking down? If not, put some earth or pieces of fresh moss around each cake to introduce microbes. Don’t worry about cakes that seem to be growing hairs or those full of worms, this is part of the natural process and will do no harm.
10. Is your tree vigorous? If not, are you feeding inadequately? Is the soil too wet, or dry? Don’t automatically feed or water again, until you are sure what is causing problems, or you are sure what is causing problems, or you might make things worse.
11. Do any shoots need pinching back? During summer, broadleaved trees grow almost all the time and it’s essential to keep the pinching under control. Junipers, too, grow all the time and it is a good idea to pinch out the new tips daily, right through to mid-autumn.
12. In winter, check all trees at least once a week to make sure the soil is moist and that there is no evidence of pests.
13. Finally, stand back and take pleasure in the admiration of each of the trees in turn, this is what bonsai trees are for! Visualize the possible future development of each of them, and think about the most likely route you will take to achieve that objective, until the final, near-perfect image is firmly fixed in your mind.