Welcome to the third article in our seven-part series “Establishing a Mindful Bonsai Practice”. As you may recall, we are focused on six key practices that can be incorporated into daily bonsai tasks to develop your own Mindful Bonsai Practice. The goal of this regular practice is to help you realize the benefits of mindfulness - a reduction in stress and anxiety, and improved sleep and attention. A commitment to mindfulness will also benefit your bonsai trees by improving their health, optimizing their growth, and increasing their beauty. The true beauty of a mindful bonsai practice is that it enables you to more fully appreciate your bonsai trees, and the natural world around you.
Remember: creating a bonsai requires interaction and connection between a person and a tree.
This article is focused on fertilizing bonsai trees. Bonsai are grown in a small container, not in the ground like a regular tree. In the ground, tree roots seek out water and nutrients - sun, water, and air are the food that a tree consumes, just like people consume carbs, protein, and fiber. There are a lot of other things that trees need which they can normally get from soil in the ground. In a small container without human intervention, bonsai often don’t have access to all these necessary elements. They need our careful and loving support in the form of fertilizer.
“Your intuitive powers increase when you are with plants because your mind is silenced and you become more aware in the present moment” ― Sanchita Pandey, Lessons from My Garden
Fertilizer for your bonsai is like a vitamin supplement that you take in addition to eating food. Your diet might give you the macro-nutrients your body needs, but taking vitamins ensures you get everything you need for optimum health. Fertilizer is normally a combination of mineral or plant/animal material that contains what bonsai trees need regularly for their optimum health. However, unlike vitamin supplements for people, plants cannot source the minerals in fertilizer from the air and sun. Water supplies a tiny amount of some minerals, but not enough for good healthy growth.
Follow these six steps to establish habits that will enable you to practice fertilizing mindfully:
Pay Attention – Examine the color of the foliage of your trees. Do you notice differences in the leaves over time? Does the growth look slow or fast? If you add organic fertilizer to the surface, does it decompose?
Find Joy in Simple Acts – Gain enjoyment from the knowledge that a healthy happy bonsai can be a lifelong companion. Connect the act of placing fertilizer on, or watering into, the soil to the feeling of satisfaction you derive from a beautiful plant.
Accept Yourself – Try different methods for fertilizing to find the one that suits your personality and lifestyle. From injection systems to organic powders, there are many methods that can allow you to both satisfy the needs of a plant and your own tendencies.
Sitting Meditation – Relax for a few moments, contemplating your breath. Tree roots breathe in Oxygen (O2) and breathe out Carbon Dioxide (CO2) just like people. Tree foliage does the opposite, taking in CO2 and releasing O2. That’s because photosynthesis consumes CO2 and creates sugar, but then some CO2 is generated when the sugar is converted to starches in the roots.
Walking Meditation – Walk, contemplating the movement of the muscles in your legs. Habits can empower you to complete many tasks while your mind is focused on the feelings you have in your own body.
Focus on your Breath – Close your eyes and breathe. Examine the smells that your tree and surroundings create. Does the fertilizer smell like the ground after a fresh rain?
If you’d like more details on fertilizing bonsai trees, read this post “Why Your Bonsai Needs Fertilizer” Our next article in this series, “How to Mindfully Weed Bonsai and Remove Debris,” will be posted next week!