New to JM and gardening in general...Need help!

indybrad317June 29, 2010

Greetings. I'm new to all aspects of gardening and trees - not just japanese maples, so I'll start off by saying any input is welcome - my base assumption is that I know nothing more than I've read here and a few other places online!

I've purchased a few trees recently (3 from Lowes and 2 from Costco believe it or not). My intent was to purchase some trees and get them growing in containers this spring/summer so that they grow into larger specimens and eventually planting them in-ground once I've built a patio and know the landscaping layout. I figure this to be end of this summer or next spring...

I started out by first picking up 2 Garnets from Lowes once I decided that I really liked the JM species and wanted to incorporate them. As a side note, I also picked up a Contorted Filbert and a Snow Blossom Weeping Cherry...

Following that, I was at a nursery to get other landscaping plants and saw the Tamukeyama species and noted that they grew to be slightly larger. I also noted the price on these which was nearly $299 for that particular size. On the way home we stopped through Costco and to our surprise they had a bunch of Tamukeyama's in the store - they all looked to be in good shape and nearly the same size... but for only $99 each. I grabbed two.. Later on, I did see similar at Lowes for about $159 each so I didn't get quite the "deal" I thought I was getting but all the same...

And my final acquisition - even after saying "no more trees!" - I saw an Orangeola and "had to have it"...

Now - keep in mind I need to container grow these young-un's for at least this season and possibly into the next and after reading all over the web and this forum I need to clarify several things...

[1] - Container Soil

I read around and determined the JM's need a well-drained soil and saw references to a few "recipes". What I did was this... I took a bag of Miracle Grow "Tree & Shrub" potting mix as a base and then mixed in a small amount of spagnum moss, some hardwood fines, a small amount of composted manure and some perlite. I also went ahead and put a small amount of pumice in the bottom though it seems to be "optional" and not the big help in drainage as is often preached...

I think there were a couple mistakes... the MG soil for one is "designed to retain moisture". Was that an oops? Or did I compensate otherwise? Another potential mistake was adding composted manure - I believe somewhere on here I read to not use any animal by-product based compost... It was a very small amount spread across several containers so percentage-wise it should be trivial...

I also question the Acid/Neutral/Alk aspect of my soil. From what I've been reading JM's like a slightly acidic soil? If I read correctly they like the same as Rhodendrons/Azaleas? I bought some Rhod/Azal food to try and use but have held off on using that as of yet...

Also - I spoke with someone from a popular nursery here in town and he told me to just use "plain old dirt" and that JM's dont like acidic soil at all... So now I'm really confused!

[2] - Drainage

As for drainage, I am worried... I am using 22/25 gallon plastic containers from a Menards with holes drilled in the bottom (several small). I believe I started off over-watering and here in Indiana we've had an incredible amount of rainfall for the past several weeks. I'm worried because one morning I looked at the pots and they were covered with mushrooms... The sun would dry them out and they'd re-appear the next day... I've not watered as much and the rain has let up a little and the mushrooms subsided for the most part, but we got a few days of back to back rainstorms followed by a bright & sunny morning and sure enough they were back...

Do I have an issue here? If so, is there a way to correct it without re-potting them entirely? If repotting is required is there something I can use to amend the soil or do I need to replace the soil entirely? If replacing, what recommended "recipe" should I follow? I find many on the container forum but I'd like to know specifically for JM's...

[3] - Sun

It seems the Tamukeyama and Garnet's need partial shade but the Orangeola can take all day Sun... I'm Zone 5 (Indianapolis, IN)... Am I correct in my findings? Anyone successfully using the Garnet or Tama in full sun?

[4] - Winter/Cold Hardiness

If container growing these trees, will I need to bring them indoors to winter them? I'd really prefer to not have to fill my garage with container trees... If I do, what do I need to think about in regards to watering and lighting? Is there a way to winter them outdoors but perhaps take steps to protect them (i.e. wrap pots in blankets, etc)...

Thanks for any help/clarification you can provide... I also welcome input on the Contored Filbert/Weeping Cherry... they're both in a simpler "plain old dirt" mixture for the time being but using the same containers until I get a patio and final landscape design layed out... If you've got thoughts on those or Weeping Purple Beech... I'm all ears!

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You're over-thinking this. Keep the plants in the same containers they're in now and plant in the fall.
Keep them in the shade and water them twice daily.
Do not add fertilizer or miracle die products.

Do not try to overwinter them. not indoors, not outdoors. If you cant plant them in the fall see if you can return them.

JMs do best with dappled shade. Some tougher ones tolerate full sun but dont prefer it.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 6:34PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

Hi Indybrad, jms are very forgiving, but it's to be commended that you're trying to get things right.

Here's my opinion, based on growing jms in pots for about four years:

1&2) It's okay to have MG in a mix. I wouldn't plant a jm in straight MG but your recipe should be okay. Mushrooms probably do indicate a bit too much water. It's better to error on the side of not enough water than too much. If you want, you can repot and replace a fourth to a third of the soil with a small, sharp gravel like that found in VoleBlock aka Soil Perfecter. (Do not use pea gravel, which is rounded.) This makes for a very fast draining soil, the plus side of which being that you wouldn't have to worry about over-watering. The downside is that you would need to water frequently, especially in high temps. Even with this type of mix, though, I personally only water once a day in the summer, and frequently every other day. If you do repot, also add more holes to the bottom of the containers.

Do not fertilize, especially with MG in the mix. No need to worry about the acidity of the soil in the pots, nor (probably) when you plant in the ground. You can get a second opinion at another nursery, but I think you'd only need to do something if the soil in your area was alkaline.

3) Here, full sun all day would be too much. All my jms are all in shade to mostly sunny. Also the more sun, the more watering you'll need to do.

4) Definitely don't bring indoors. Someone in your zone would have better advice as to how to get them through the winter in pots. I don't do anything special with mine, but they are in a small yard with a high fence, so somewhat sheltered. Don't let too much snow accumulate on the branches (but snow in and on the pots is fine, it's an insulator).

Re gardening in general, there's a book called 'The Perennial Gardener's Design Guide' that I found to be a fun read and very helpful re plant choices as well as landscape design. I wish I'd had it when I was starting out.

Also here's a recent post in the Landscape Design forum re contorted filberts.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Perennial Gardeners Design Guide

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 11:52PM
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So I think what my immediate plan will be is to simply drill more holes in the bottoms and make sure the containers are set up on some small blocks so the bottom isn't in direct contact (thereby blocking the drain holes). Perhaps I should even drill maybe 4 modest size holes (1/4 or 3/8 inch or so?) in the sides right at the bottom edge (like some of the really thin plastic containers at the nursery have)...

If that doesn't do the trick I'll re-pot and add some gravel (not pea) to the mixture to aid drainage.

I'm still not quite sure what to do about over-wintering them though... returning isn't a plan for me... that defeats the whole purpose of trying to container grow them before use in the final landscaping...

It sounds like insulating the roots/container itself is key? Perhaps I could purchase insulation rolls and make a simple "wrap" around the containers to protect the roots? Then I'd just need to do as suggested and ensure there isn't too buch build-up of snow on the branches/leaves themselves...

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:11AM
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If you're potting and repotting in the summer and monkeying with the soil and additives you may not have anything left to plant before long.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:33AM
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I think in zone 5 your only realistic option for overwintering your Japanese maples in containers is in an unheated garage or outbuilding etc. Plenty of people use this method successfully. Even for in ground planting you are in the coldest zone they will tolerate. The threshold for root death in these plants is -10C or so. I don't know the amount of bubblewrap needed to insulate a container to -10°C when it is -25°C outside, but I don't see it as being a practical solution.

See the link below for some advice from a Japanese maple nursery located in a cold zone.

Also Tamukeyama is one of the better dissectums for handling direct sun.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 12:00PM
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Thanks for the link to - it was quite helpfull.

So perhaps a better option would be to go ahead with in-ground planting even if I have to relocate them at a later time? Say within 1 to 2 years...

Also - I'm assuming the problems with wintering them in containers would apply to the other tree types as well... not just the JM's... depending on their relative ability to withstand cold (i.e. they have same hardniess zone rating)?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 3:59PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

Good plan, holes along the bottom edge are probably easiest and should work fine. It's not ideal to repot in the summer. However I've done it a number of times. I keep the roots wet throughout and make sure they get plenty of water afterwards. So far the worst I've had happen is a little leaf scorch.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:13PM
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What it boils down to is you will have to make it part of your daily routine to water these every day in summer. More than once a day too if you made the soil very fast draining. And that's if they survive the transplant.
If you stick it in your garage in the winter, it won't leaf out in the spring. If you keep it outdoors in the winter, it probably won't take the cold in an exposed container. What you might try doing is burying the container in the ground or in mulch.

If you don't mind the headache of doing this for a couple of years or whenever you plan to plant your trees, then go right ahead but you will have a much healthier plant at planting time if you just not buy things until you're ready to plant them. Not only that, if you received a warranty with your plants it will not be valid at time of planting if you wait too long to plant them.

You are going to spend far more on time fighting to keep these barely alive for two years that it's worth to buy a j maple 10 times the size of the one you started out with that was freshly field dug from a proper nursery. Not one sitting in a costco.

If they still have leaves, I'd return them now. I know this isn't what you want to hear. You want me to tell you they'll do fine and it will be a breeze and they'll grow into magnificent specimens living in a container for 2 years but that isn't reality. You'll thank me later.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 10:44AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Use a large container, or a container within a container, and insulate well with bark.
Burying the container in a bed, and mulching, is also a good idea.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 11:29AM
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The containers are giant plastic 23/25 gallon containers... the 2 Garnets came in fairly small pots and the 2 Tamuks came in fairly small pots as well but slightly wider...

From further reading, if I do re-pot - it sounds like I should remove the small pumice layer. Previously I read that it doesn't really help all that much - but I believe I've read more now and that it can actually be detrimental in that it can raise the "PWT" - I won't profess to fully understand the PWT concept but I think I get it at a basic level...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 1:20PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

I dont know much of anything about pumice. My guess is as long as it allows drainage, then if the pots are big and the pumice layer is thin, I wouldnt think itd raise the PWT (believe that stands for perched water table) to the point of being a problem. I would skip it if you repot.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 10:42AM
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bernd ny zone5

I live in zone 5a, probably a little too cold for JMs. I never had luck with JMs. I notice that people in my town are successful with 'Bloodgood', but here is no older disectum in site. In respect to 'Bloodgood', there are several strains and not all are cold hardy for zone 5, one I had once did not make it. I would be very careful with JMs in zone 5. I try to stay away from gardening problems.

I am always upset seeing JMs being sold in big box stores in a town north from here, zone 4, though the label says zone 5, and zone 6 for disectum. Here in zone 5 big box stores have no problems selling JMs which are good for -10F only.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 5:30PM
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