Leaf Mulch Analysis


Most trees prefer slightly acidic soils, generally around 6.0 to 6.5, with 7.0 being neutral. This slight soil acidity improves the tree roots ability to absorb nutrients. Very acid soils (below 4.5) or alkaline soils (above 7.0) do not allow the tree roots to efficiently absorb essential nutrients, resulting in nutrient deficiencies.

Pines and Azaleas prefer a soil ph of 5 to 6.0, Japanese Maples and Junipers 5.5 to 6.5.

Bonsai soils are porous by design, so we need to water frequently. This means that nutrients flush out quickly and ph tends to neutralize.  To keep the soil ph optimal my uncle Pete applies ½ inch of shredded leaf mulch to the top of his bonsai soil. Leaf mulch is slightly acidic and will release slowly into the soil every time you water. The leaf mulch will eventually become a neutral ph and should be replaced once or twice a year. If you find leaf mulch to be unattractive you can soak the mulch in a bucket of water and use the resulting tea to water your trees. Another advantage to using leaf mulch is that it adds a broad range of micronutrients (trace elements) to the soil.

Testing kits are cheap and easy to use. I just tested my tap water 7.0, rain water also 7.0 and leaf mulch 6.5. Not scientific or exacting but my results should be about average for the Northern Virginia area. Your results may differ.

Have fun!

Greg Logo

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