The Hype over 0-10-10
This is one of our grand leaps down the rabbit hole…0-10-10 fertilizer for bonsai. It has very limited uses, and yet it’s often touted as THE fertilizer for all bonsai in the fall.
The 0-10-10 fertilizer is essentially for maximizing blooms, or perhaps, when you plant a perennial, you might get its roots better established without much top growth. For a bonsai garden with many non-blooming species present, the recommendation to use it exclusively in fall is on very shaky ground.
The urge to outthink how a plant works is fairly common to most who grow plants. We all do it. Certainly this is where the mis-use of 0-10-10 for bonsai started.
0-10-10 has no nitrogen in it (nitrogen is the first number of the three).
- And yet every cell process, even those going on in the fall, require nitrogen.
The building blocks of life are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. That’s what makes up your amino acids, which run the ball game. Potassium and phosphorus are necessary too, but they come into the game later.
Fear of tender growth late in the year is at least one of the claims in support of using 0-10-10.
- But if you’ve used a fertilizer with all three macronutrients present consistently throughout the growing season, continuing to do so in the fall will not bring about a flush of growth in the fall that is susceptible to cold.
After all, nitrogen does not disappear in the landscape in the fall. The use of fertilizer cakes or something similar (roughly 5-5-5) throughout the growing season, and in the fall, is the accepted standard of bonsai professionals in Japan, and will never push late growth.
So nitrogen is necessary for your plants in all phases of growth, even during the fall. Bonsai are no different than any other plant. Don’t be lured into thinking, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t SEE growth happening in the fall therefore they must not need nitrogen.’ Everything that goes on in a plant requires it.
‘Everything in moderation’ is a good Greek standard to apply to fertilizing. And ‘everything’ would definitely include nitrogen.
On the other hand even moderate amounts of Twitter would kill me, so maybe the Greeks were daft after all. Oscar Wilde modified the original idea by saying ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation,’ which sort of gives us free reign to live expansively, but this has nothing to do with fertilizer and should be reserved for dancing, ridiculous dinner parties, movies featuring Judi Dench, etc.