Friday, August 24, 2007

Bonsai in a Box: Week 2

Bonsai in a Box: Week 2, originally uploaded by John C Abell.

This is a bonsai seedling from "The Mini Bonsai Kit," one of those point-of-sale gifts you find at most chain bookstores. Nancy gave it to me as a gag on my last birthday because I've tried to cultivate three bonsai plants -- all mature -- in my life, and all three have died. Possibly from neglect. I admit nothing.

This summer I've been lucky with my deck planting. I don't have anything fancy, and my success hasn't been universal (the second crop of scallions have died; I surrender, and the second crop of bib lettuce is too close to call) but I have about 20 viable tomato plants from seed, some parsley and some basil. Yes, I love pasta & tomato sauce.

Bolstered by my new agri-savvy, and determined to make amends for all those fallen bonsai, I unboxed the bonsai and commenced to give it the Green Acres treatment. The variety for these kits is a crapshoot, but I was lucky enough to get a pine (pinus banksiana), which means I can (or perhaps should: note to self, check on that) leave outdoors for the winter. This variety can grow to 100 feet, so it will be amazing to train it to be a miniature tree.

I should have started taking pictures earlier, and "week 2" is deceptive. The germinating process took eight days: the seeds had to be soaked for 24 hours and then refrigerated for a week for cold stratification.

I know very little about growing one of these, and every peek I have taken as literature online is depressing. Typical:
"You may have been the lucky recipient of one of the many 'Bonsai Kits' available, go on try it!, follow the instructions, watch those precious little seeds germinate, poke their heads above the soil, and die. On closer inspection you will probably find the seedling has rotted at about soil level, this is called 'Damping off' and is a fungal attack. You can overcome this by adding a fungicide to the first watering and then as directed by the instructions. Bonsai 'kits' put people off the hobby, convincing them that bonsai are difficult to keep, as such they should be avoided."
We'll see.

Next step, I think about now, is putting the plant outside in "dappled sunlight" for a month, and then into direct sunlight. Next spring it is to be repotted into pure bonsai soil. I have no idea when it will be ready to be pruned and wired.