I am saddened by the death of a tree so I want to share my experiences so others don’t make the mistakes I made in the past.
Most species I recover in early spring, flower and fruit trees after flowering or loosing their fruits. Strawberry trees are curious since they are in constant movement when they still have fruit from the previous year they bloom. I have collected them in early spring and from August to November. Pine trees, in addition from early spring and from December to January. Kermes Oaks, also in early spring and from August to January.
When I collect not only I take into account the seasons, for me there is another important factor the Moon phases. This is a topic that I will come back with further along, but now to summarize that I only collect with Descending moon (I am not sure which is the correct translation, this when the orbit trajectory of the moon moves south), avoiding the squares of the Sun, Mars and Saturn, the Nodes, the apogees and perigees, eclipses, new and full moon.
I also wait for it to rain before collecting, rain has something magical.
In principle the pattern I use serves to transplant established trees and when collecting them. You can not generalize as there are exceptions and variables, but as I detail below these are my guidelines that I only vary months or days according to the moon phases or climatic factors. As examples if it's spring and we find snow it is better to wait a few weeks since the shock of the tree "asleep" may difficult the recovery. Another example is a late spring so it's good to "read" a tree, mainly to see if they changed colour the buds in the case of a Pine or the buds have swollen in an Oak, that's when the tree is ready to collect.
I'll start with what we have prepared for when we return home with our trophy.
a) We need to have several types of soils as each tree has its own pH so we have to have a soil adequate for it. It’s no good to have a neutral soil (pumice) for a pine or who needs Akadama or Kiryu. (My mixture 60% + 40% Akadama Kiryu).
b) The substrate we use has to be like a drainage, particles of 3 to 5mm in diameter. Therefore we do not need a drainage base, on another occasion I will come back on the subject of drainage. c) Have several pots or containers of various sizes to avoid unpleasant surprises.
d) "Superthrive", all my trees are immersed for at least half an hour. The doses recommended by the manufacturer I duplicate.
e) Have endo and ectomycorrhizae prepared depending on the species unless it’s an azalea that will be needed ericoid type.
Before leaving home I fill the car perhaps with more tools than what I need as more than once I came home empty handed, not having the appropriate tools, have been broken or because I do not like taking risks that may hinder our collecting. I have a first-aid kit, fabric bags and plastic film, plastic wrap, string, harnesses, water spray, 2 saw blades, 2 rope saws, 3 spades, a fork, 2 crowbars, a rubber hammer, a chisel, 2 hoes, 2 small pruning shears, a large pruning shears, a hatchet and a backpack that also carry the tools used to transport our Yamadori. The backpack I reinforced with the aluminium tubes to be able to transport our tree. Obviously I don’t’ take all the tools in my backpack some of the tools are left in the car and I take what I think I will need. In a future article we'll talk more about the tools. I carry water to moisten the roots and for using as a lubricant to keep the sawdust from clumping in the teeth of the saw blades while sawing the tap root. Although I usually go on my own it’s better to go accompanied, there is always the possibility of having an accident or getting lost. What I also carry is a GPS, maps of the area and a camera. Regarding clothing I wear comfortable clothing with many pockets, boots, a cap and gloves. As important as the kit is the food, chocolate, fruit, coffee, water and some sandwiches.
Now that we have everything ready at home and in the car, once in the fields my first advice is to visualize, imagine our tree in a Bonsai pot. We must look at the tree at the same height and from all angles. If the result does not satisfy us we must leave it and keep looking. Seek trees with a nice layout of branches, for a branch to get bark can take a minimum of 15 to 20 years depending on the species, so do not cut the branches leaving a bare trunk. Just cut the branches that have no future either because they are very low or because of aesthetics. There is no point in having a stake in a Bonsai pot? When digging our tree we must get the maximum of hairy roots. If we see that this will not be possible since the taproot is going to China or is embedded in a hard rock its better to leave it and re-cover it with soil and find another. I dig the tree out with the earth, moisten the earth and exposed roots, if we can wrap it with moss much better. Then wrap with plastic film really hard so that it will not break the roots during transport, before I will cut the big roots that have no hairy roots. To make easy transportation I tie the branches to reduce its size, spray the leaves and wrap the entire crown with plastic film. With a bag of cloth or plastic wrap the ball root and tie it with ropes. Now I can put it in the rucksack and fasten the harness. I cover the hole where it was earthed depending on the species will reborn another tree.
Once at home with our Yamadori these are the steps I follow:
a) Prepare a container according to the size of the ball root with "Superthrive”, I use twice the amount recommended by the manufacturer.
b) Remove the film from the crown and cut the ropes and if there is another branch that I don’t like I cut it now.
c) Remove the strings and the film and start carefully removing the soil surrounding the roots until its bare rooted.
d) Soak the roots in the container with "Superthrive" at least half an hour.
e) Now I have the size of the container or pot that I need, I put wires to hold the tree and I can put the substrate at the correct height.
f) Put a layer of Mycorrhizae on the earth.
g) Put the tree in a container and tie it with wires.
h) I put mycorrhizae over the roots.
i) Put the substrate and with a stick I press the substrate until it is firmly packed.
j) To the excess of the Superthrive bath I add a tablespoon of sugar per litre. Once the water pours out of the pot I stop watering.
k) Remove all leaves except in Juniperus and Pines.
l) Put the tree in the shade and spray it. It will be in the shade until it begins to sprout.
m) If we have the possibility to put it in a greenhouse or sheltered from the wind and rain better. The reason is that we who have to control the watering, not nature. If a tree just to recover and it rains for three consecutive days, will have washed the Superthrive and mycorrhizae and run the risk of more frequently death in Bonsai, the putrefaction of the roots. In my case as I have no greenhouse I put a plastic over the earth if I see its going to rain. In the case of wind if we have not tied up the tree it can pull it out of its pot or dry out the soil too much.
A) Pulverize every day and if possible several times a day.
B) First three watering 1 litre of water with a soup spoon of sugar. Only water when the earth is dry.
C) No fertilizers and insecticides until you see the tree strong.
D) I begin to form one year later.
E) After the second or third year I transplant it.
Above I have listed a cocktail of my advice based on my experience, in which I group from weather events, botanic, scientists and some may be called folk traditions, one can agree or not but what at the end of the day counts is to avoid the loss of a living being. Collecting Yamadoris is not an exact science and I have tried over the years is to bring together as much information as possible, if someone wants to share theirs is more than welcomed.