Tomorrow, Saturday 27th July, we have a question and answer session with Dr Maria Del Carmen Montero-Calasanz who is a soil scientist teaching at Newcastle University.











Below is a list of the sorts of questions that we hope to cover in the day as well as anything else that crops up in the discussion.

Root biology
What is the mechanism by which roots take up water and nutrients for the soil.
Is it possible to speculate about the differences that may affect a tree growing in a pot as compared to the same tree growing out in the landscape under more ‘ natural ‘ conditions

Soil bacteria and fungi.

We are aware that our preferred growing mediums may not very conducive to mycorrhizal fungi or micro-organisms. Do you think that this might be the case.
If this is the case then how can we make our growing mediums more conducive to those organisms.
The problem with most organic material, such as loam of peat, is that it breaks down too rapidly into fine particles that may impeded the drainage, we have tried using fine, sifted, pine bark as an organic particle because it breaks down only slowly . In your opinion is it likely to be of benefit.
Is it possible to quantify what would constitute a healthy population [ ie. amount of ] either fungi or bacteria for any given tree and would that vary between tree species.
What factors might affect the time it takes following one of our extensive re-potting exercises , where we might replace most of the growing medium, for bacteria and or fungi to re-colonise the pot.

Does any given tree species have a particular relationship with one species of micorrhizal fungi
How similar is the tree’s relationship to soil bacteria in that sense
Depending on your answer to the above, is it likely to be worth our while trying to inoculate our soils with either fungi or bacteria.
What of these is easily available commercially.
We have thought for a long time that Organic fertilisers are better for our bonsai, can you discuss the pros and cons of fertilisers types
We use a wide variety of feeds both in solid and liquid form. Can we look at the difference in the relative NPK type of imputs and how they affect our trees.
The free draining nature of our soils will effect the retention of nutrients. Can we expect porous soil particles to help redress this.
Can we expect organic fertilisers to help in making our growing mediums better for micro-organisms.
What are humates, humic acid, and do they play a part in all of this.
How is soil temperature a factor in the timing and amounts of fertilisers applications.
Soil aeration
You have had a chance to examine a range of our growing medium component parts. The free draining nature of our soils is in part due to an awareness of the importance of air [ oxygen ] to roots. Does our practice make sense to you. Anecdotal evidence is that compact, waterlogged soils cause roots to die. If this is the case then can you explain in fairly simple terms what happens to the root cells when this happens.
Soil types
A type of clay particle, Akadama, forms an important element in most folks growing medium recipes. What is clay and how do different clays respond in terms of growing plant roots, paying particular attention to the fact that our plants are pot grown.
Different enthusiasts add a range of other products to the akadama, either natural rock or manufactured particles but the common factor with usually be the porous nature. Can we look at the impact on the root growing conditions of this practice.
Can we discuss the importance of Ph to plants and their well being.
In what way might nutrients degrade in our soils.
The interval between re-potting of our bonsai is determined by a number of factors but it only rarely more often than every third year and is often a good deal longer than that. It is widely acknowledged to be a stressful time for our trees. Can you see any value in the products sold to relieve that stress, such as vitamin based chemicals.
Soil based pests
Fortunately we are aware of few pest that live in the soil and actively harm the roots. Root aphids would be one and Vine weevil grubs another. Will proprietary insecticides have any adverse effects on the roots.

If you would like to check out Dr. Carmen’s staff profile then follow this link,  Soil Science, and check out all the day’s details by going to our web page, Question and answer session,

It is not too late to decide to join us for what we expect to be a very useful and informative day here at Willowbog Bonsai. Just gives a call on 01434681217  or drop us an e-mail   and tell us that you are coming.