Some of my favorite bonsai work is repotting trees for the first time.
I never take for granted that new trees in the garden have healthy roots and perfect root-bases. Sometimes they do, but other times they don’t.
Until I repot a tree, I don’t have a great idea about what condition the soil or roots are in. And when I don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface of the soil, I’m limited in the amount of work I can do on a tree as I don’t have a good idea how it will respond.
Here’s a field-grown trident maple that spent the past 1-2 years in nursery mix.
Trident maple planted in nursery soil – January, 2017
My goal was to bare-root the tree by removing all of the nursery soil, but first I had to get it out of the pot. This wasn’t straightforward as a solid mat of roots had formed below the container.
Mat of roots under the flat
I used a mattock to peel back the roots.
Peeling away the roots
Once the roots were out of the way, the tree came out of the flat easily.
Next, I worked on removing the soil with chopsticks and root hooks. After the rootball was fairly clean, it was time to hose off the remaining soil. Here’s the tree after rinsing off the last of the soil.
After washing away the nursery soil
And here it is from underneath.
The underside of the rootball
The resulting rootball looked great – a perfect starting point for developing the tree as bonsai.
Bare-rooted and ready to go – see “Repotting a trident maple bonsai” for a review of repotting basics
Why talk about repotting in summer? Because it’s important to consider root health before working on trees. Plus, now is a great time to line up repotting projects for next year. Are there new trees in your collection that you’re excited to repot when you get the chance? Feel free to share in the comments below.
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