Japanese maple questions and answers – 3
Japanese maple question: I am about to plant a standard Acer palmatum Dissectum, pot grown until now. It will be next to separate planting areas for green Bamboo and French Lavender – the contrast looks superb near to my Koi pond. It will receive sun from sunrise until 4pm then shade, virtually frost free, and maximum summer temperature around 75F. I intend to plant in a planting area of my natural Indian Stone patio area. The planting area is approximately 2 feet square and 2 feet deep. I intend to cover the compost surface with landscape fabric and a covering of 10mm pure white gravel which contrasts with the dark blue/grey of the Indian Stone. Any tips please as to which compost and any tips for drainage?
Are Japanese maple leaves safe for Koi (i.e. non toxic)? Koi will chew on anything! All leaves are removed by the surface skimmer and bottom drains to avoid ammonia from decaying matter. Any tips for water retention? Should I mix in some water retention gel crystals as used in hanging baskets? Should I mix in bone meal to feed the root system or any other fertilizer?
Japanese maple answer: Dissectum forms look highly effective next to ponds and if they can be trained to cascade over the water, so much the better. It will certainly get sufficient sun to keep the colour in the leaves. You can use the existing soil from your planting area if you intend excavating it. Depending on how heavy your soil is, it can be opened out with the addition of gravel, the best source being the grade used for making concrete as it has a wide range of stone sizes in it (but sieve out anything smaller than ⅛”), plus well rotted organic material such as leaf mould or composted vegetable waste. Two parts soil plus one part each of gravel and compost will provide good drainage as well as a degree of water retention. The organic matter will encourage earthworms that aerate the soil and improve drainage. If your soil is of reasonable quality use as is but a few inches of organic material spread over the surface before laying down the landscape fabric will always be of benefit. The mulch will also help to retain moisture as will the surrounding paving slabs. If it’s close enough to the pond and you’re using a flexible rubber liner or grp moulding, this will also provide a cool, moist root run. Additionally, light coloured gravel will reflect sunlight upwards and increase photosynthesis.
To the best of my knowledge, Japanese maple leaves are not poisonous – deer, although somewhat dissimilar to fish, will strip a tree in one sitting with no ill effect. The mulch, patio slabs and the pond liner will all combine to retain moisture and water retention gel is a waste of money; the water in the crystals is held under considerable tension and not readily available to fine feeding roots. Water the planting hole and again once your Japanese maple has been planted and then leave it – there is no need for any further watering, ever. As for feeding, a few tablespoons of fish, blood and bonemeal sprinkled on the soil surface prior to mulching will suffice and annually every summer thereafter. There is no need to disturb the mulch as rain will gradually wash the nutrients into the soil.
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