Creating a Bonsai

My most recent obession – Bonsai! Here’s what I threw together over the weekend.

The first task is to find a proper container. I found this large shallow concrete pot at a local shop in Berkeley for about $17 (super cheap for something of this size!). Next I threw in some volcanic rock to ensure good drainage.


Cover those rocks with a sandy soil mixture. I just used the same mix that I use for all my succulents, but with some rock dust and epsom salt added. Nutrition is key for a healthy bonsai.


Picked up some potting soil from the same shop for $3. Its a porous loamy mixture that I know these plants are gonna love.


Add some rocks for extra drainage.


Add some different colored rocks because it looks cool.


I don’t want my bonsai tree to get lonely, so let’s add in some friends. I picked these up from a local nursery.


Now we’ve got to find a bonsai tree. Lucky for me, I have a dwarf pomegranate that I rescue’d from Lowe’s off the discount rack. It’s also got a few years on it already since I just threw it in the ground 2 years ago and forgot about it.


Doing my best to take a large chunk of the roots with it. Also important to ensure a successful transplant is to take some of the native soil with it, which contains beneficial microbes.


Give the roots a little rinse to keep them moist and help untangle them.


I decided to do a ‘root over rock’ design. This rock was salvaged from an old saltwater aquarium I had. Fun fact about pomegranate trees: they’ve got a higher salinity tolerance compared to other trees. I still gave the rock a good blast with the garden hose to knock off excess salts though.

I packed in some soil around the roots to sort of act like a glue until the tree can fully recover from the transplant. I’ll be slowly rinsing away this soil over time to give the bonsai more of an ‘exposed root’ look that will help make it look even older.


Time to add in the other plants. Look how root bound they are! Let’s fix that.


Gently untangled the bottom of the roots. If you don’t do this, the roots may continue to encircle the plant and eventually suffocate it.


The ‘rough draft’.


Cover with some cool looking pebbles to hold in the soil, give it a good rinse and there we have it! A little bonsai landscape. All that’s left to do now is trim/train the pomegranate tree over the next few years. If you decide to go with an exposed root style for your bonsai, just remember to keep the roots moist until they become more established. Enjoy and good luck with your own bonsai project!



Prepare your garden for battle!

9b Gardens is entering it’s 4th year since inception, thus slowly starting to mature into (what I hope will be) a self-sustaining permaculture food forest. Despite my efforts over the years of establishing a host of beneficial plants such as Yarrow, Wild Carrot, Milkweed, Dill, Nastursium, Marigold and various native wildflowers; I’m having trouble attracting more beneficial insects to join my miniature garden defense army. So in this article, I’ll show you how to prepare to wage war against our gardens most dangerous invaders… the Aphids!

My choice of recruits for this mission: Coccinellidae; more commonly known as the Ladybug. Here’s some quick facts about my little soon-to-be mercenaries:

  • There are over 350 species of Ladybugs in North America alone and over 4,000 worldwide.
  • Both the adults and larvae are predators of aphids.
  • Adults consume roughly 300 aphids before it lays eggs and will consume upwards of 5,000 throughout its lifetime.
  • Larvae consume about 400 aphids during its developmental stage.
  • Adults often overwinter under fallen leaves and bark (watch your step!).
  • The larvae look like fierce tiny alligators.

I’ll be releasing ladybugs that I’ve purchased from my local Lowe’s (you can easily find live ladybugs online as well). But before I set them free to wreak havoc on the pests in my garden, I’ve gotta give my warriors a reason to call 9b Gardens their new home. 3 key things here: Food, shelter and timing.

Let’s get started with our “Ladybug Hotel”. You’ve probably already seen more elaborate bug hotels for sale or on pinterest. What I’ve created is a very quick and dirty method for housing beneficial insects.

  1. Choose a proper location and prepare the ground for the foundation if your bug hotel. I’ve chosen a spot that is central to my garden and close to plants that are known to suffer from aphid attacks. Simply lay a concrete block here.20170416_094104

2. Add more concrete blocks. Remember, I’m keeping this simple and quick! You get the idea.20170416_094740

3. Add some rocks because what bug doesn’t like a good rock! These will heat up in the sun, giving ladybugs a place to sunbathe.20170416_095226

4. Add sticks/twigs of various sizes. Throw in a few pine cones. I also added some old Wisteria pod cases to give the ladybugs all sorts of interesting nooks and crevices to hide in. 20170416_100011

5. I was running out of things to fill the concrete blocks with, so I ripped up some Mint from the ground and threw it in there. Mint seems to attract lots of beneficial insects, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.20170416_100338

6. Prepare your Ladybug warriors for battle by putting them to sleep! Store the ladybugs in your refrigerator for 6-8 hours before release. The dark and cool temperature will calm them down (but not kill them) so that they don’t fly away immediately upon release.20170416_194344

7. Spray down your new bug hotel and surrounding area with water before release. This will further encourage them to stay in the area since they’ll be very thirsty after being trapped in their container so long. Protip: throw some raisins in your bug hotel. Ladybugs love raisins. Now you’re ready to release the ladybugs!

IMPORTANT! – The release must be done AT DUSK. Fun fact: Ladybugs don’t fly at night. Releasing them at sunset will give them ample time to settle down and adjust to their new home.


Now you’ve got your natural defenses up and ready for the battle against the dreaded Aphids! Check out the 9b Gardens Instagram page for videos of the morning after release. Spoiler alert: the Ladybugs are here to stay =)