Saying Goodbye to a Tree

Nearly 4 years ago, I planted two bare root apple trees, Beverly Hills and golden delicious, with great hope that they would thrive in my backyard (https://janedata.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/apple-trees-golden-delicious-and-beverly-hills/), as has my 3-in-1 apple tree. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Both fell victim to cedar apple rust and despite years of treatment, the Beverly Hills tree has continued a downward trend, with a weak root system and producing fruit that would not survive to maturity.  The golden delicious has also been struggling, but has been able to produce delicious fruit to that survive to maturity. Although I’ll be keeping my eye on the golden delicious, today was the day I decided to say goodbye to the Beverly Hills apple tree and dug it out.

While it’s a sad event, it’s the nature of gardening – not every plant survives, despite efforts to keep it healthy. I’d probably kept it too long, but really wanted to give it a chance to turn things around, which didn’t happen. Investing in the care of a declining plant may be helpful in the short run if improvement in health is evident shortly after restorative efforts; otherwise, it’s better to put place efforts into the healthy, stronger plants. My 3-in-1 apple tree was also hit by cedar apple rust but has been able to fight back and produce quite a lot of apples. Loving trees as I do, especially fruit trees, I know the decision was right for the health of my entire backyard food garden. Goodbye, Beverly Hills apple tree.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Chinese Flame Trees Stricken with Bacterial Infection

My area has been in drought conditions for a few years. The mandatory water restrictions that followed have stressed out the Chinese flame trees growing along my parkway, so much so that they started oozing sap. It didn’t help that some of the pruning that my city did this year were very close to the trees’ roots. I noticed honey-like sap coming from my trees a few weeks ago. I suspected some type of infection and today, the city’s tree expert called me and said that the trees are not in anyimg_1540 danger of dying (thankfully), but they do have a bacterial infection. He said I am to water the trees every other day for a week and to use a balanced fertilizer along with it. I will also be allowed to water more frequently henceforth. I asked him about the drought playing a role in my trees’ plight, and he said it was likely a factor. I suspect that the trees are infected with something called bacterial wetwood disease (https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP631.pdf).

I am grateful to have caught this infection early and will treat it as recommended, particularly to help heal the vulnerable wounds that may become targeted by insects and/or birds that may worsen the problem, and in fact, these wounds are likely vulnerable to even worse tree infections. I hope that watering and fertilizing the tree will, indeed, be the right medicine for these fine trees.

Succulent: Purple Aeonium Awash in Aerial Roots

The centerpiece of my backyard garden, a bountiful purple aeonium, now has many aerial roots. This wonderful succulent is nearly five feet in height and three feet in width, thriving. This is one of the plants in my garden that I imagine will be with me for my entire life, which is so amazing.  But the comparatively rapid development of these aerial or air roots indicate that it may be time to start reducing the size of this plant, to prevent the weight and underground roots of the large plant from over-stressing it. In other words, it’s time to propagate this aeonium! In the past, I’ve put in a tall metal shepherd’s hook and used plastic garden ties to support some of the rosette-heavy branches, to reduce the stress, but the plant is saying that additional supports are not sufficient to reduce the stress on it.IMG_3332

In June 2014, I’d noticed the aerial roots (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_root)  beginning to form. Now, they’ve developed enough to indicate that it’s time to find a new place in the back yard to “further the dynasty” of the purple aeonium. In the past few months, I’ve planted a few of fallen rosettes and they have taken to their location, just across from the primary parent plant. In the next few weeks, I will begin the process of  additional culling some branches from the parent plant. The parent plant will appreciate this effort and it won’t be long, I’m sure, before this new aeonium location will explode with healthy growth. Although, I must say, the aerial roots are quite lovely.

 

Chinese Flame Tree Maintenance

I’ve enjoyed many fine years of beauty and shade from my two Chinese flame trees planted along the parkway. But keep in mind that these trees require some maintenance, primarily because they are deciduous trees. Once each autumn, there is a one-two day wind event that clears out most leaves, tiny branches, and paper lantern seed pods from my Chinese flame trees. Slow and steady? No way! Essentially, most of my year’s maintenance of these trees happens all at once after this wind event! And the results land mostly on my lawn and a small bit on my neighbor’s lawn. This year’s wind event happened a few days ago.IMG_3327IMG_3328IMG_3329

This tree is a survivor and will make every effort to propagate itself, so you’ll have to be vigilant unless you want your own private forest of Chinese flame trees. It all starts with the paper lantern seed pods. Check out the two dark round seeds in the center of the photo. This is a seed pod that has broken open. If there is enough moisture in your area and a bunch of these seeds make contact with the soil of your lawn, you’ll likely be spending time pulling out seedlings from your lawn, which, if left unchecked, will become their own stand-alone trees. In other words, it can become a weed. My area is generally very dry so it’s not really an issue.

My city maintains the trees and recently trimmed some branches that were growing near the base and elsewhere. As shown, a new sucker has appeared at the cut. If that sucker is left to grow unchecked, it will become a branch. How do I know this? The branch that was cut started as a sucker, just like this one!

In the end, there are trade-offs with this tree, which I love. The tree may be a good choice if you love a beautiful, showy shade tree in the warm months and you live in a relatively dry area.

 

 

Dragon Tree: Branches Cut

Prompted by my recent visit from a termite inspector, I successfully cut a few small branches from my dragon trees. I took 3 branches from the larger tree and 1 branch from the smaller tree. These branches were growing towards my roof. This project was a preventive measure against a costly roof repair. I returned minutes ago from my home improvement store with an electric chain saw that I rented from them (Makita, 16 inch). The person at the store was very kind and gave me brief instructions and I was on my way. The time I spent actually cutting the branches was probably around 5 minutes. The overall integrity and structure of both trees have been preserved. The photos also show before and after the cuts.

IMG_3311IMG_3312IMG_3314IMG_3315IMG_3316

TIP: In the past, I would have called my tree guy to take care of something like this, but thinking about it, I wondered if I could just take care of it myself. Had I gone with the tree guy, it would have cost around $200-$250. With my first-ever effort with a chain saw, it cost the princely sum of $36.89.

It started to rain a bit by the clean-up, so I got a bit dirty and wet, which made it really fun. I’m wearing goggles and a pink hoodie and splattered with ground-up bits of tree branch. Now that’s a fantastic experience! Some folks shy away from the manual labor, but I love it. I came away from this experience with a new skill, which makes it very satisfying. It’s always great to pick up a useful and practical skill!

The branch cuttings: from previous experience, they can lay flat like that for several months and then planted into containers and root successfully. I will do that in the next weekend or even later. Dragon trees (and their cuttings) are quite resilient and strong, inspiring and always beautiful!

The Great Barrier Relief

My battles with weeds and gophers have prompted multiple solutions, but I’m happy to report that a 2-part solution that has had the most staying power for these problems involves barriers, namely chicken wire and landscape fabric. In September 2013, I wanted to re-start a container garden of English roses (since in-ground roses had been destroyed by gophers over several years). After removing weeds in a narrow rectangular garden space, I covered the area with chicken wire (also known as stucco netting, which is made of the same material but is much cheaper and you get more product) – held in place with garden staples – and on top of that, I laid down landscape fabric, also held in place with garden staples.IMG_3297
Now, 1-1/2 years later, I have received great relief from weeds and gophers using this strategy. With regard to weeds, as shown in the photo, the landscape fabric will not block out 100% of weeds – weeds fight hard to poke through anything. But instead of a carpet of weeds to have to mow and then whack with a string trimmer, all I have to do is pull up a few weeds by hand. The fabric will block out nearly all weeds. The savings in time for garden maintenance is significant.

With regard to gophers, in this very area, as I was pulling the weeds, I felt a few mounds underfoot. Indeed, there were attempts by gophers to break through, but they were unsuccessful. The chicken wire – when held down by garden staples – proved effective in blocking them out.

The cost for materials (landscape fabric, chicken wire, and garden staples) has been modest for this garden space. The project is also straightforward and can be done by one person, as I can attest. I’m always happy to report on things that work well!

Sprinkler Head Needs to Be Replaced

Within the hour, I found that one of my sprinkler heads in my front yard lawn blew out, literally. This must have happened a few days ago. The situation is not so difficult: the repair is easy (see my previous post on how to do this repair: https://janedata.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/do-it-yourself-replacing-a-sprinkler-head/). Also, our neighborhood received a good rain yesterday evening, making the soil much easier to dig and remove the surrounding sod. Even better, when I arrived at my neighborhood home store, they had closed for the day for company business, but their kind representatives were in the parking lot and handed out to customers a coupon for their next visit for the inconvenience. I’m loading up on extra sprinkler heads tomorrow, rain or shine!IMG_3276

The soil was nice and soft to dig and the weightiness of the soil felt so good in my hand. My soil is rich and plants thrive in it. I wanted to do the dig now while the soil was much softer than if I had waited until tomorrow.

The repair should not take too much time. It’s been a little over 12 years since I had my sprinkler system installed so I’m anticipating that the sprinkler heads will fail and need replacement in the near future. The sprinkler heads are plastic so that they’ve lasted this long is appreciated. Doing my own garden and yard repairs over the years have increased my feeling of competence in maintaining my home and feel much more connected to it!

Rose Plant: Is It Dead or Alive?

It can happen in any rose garden: A rose plant appears to be dead, with only brown canes. But is it really dead, or is it alive? It’s not always apparent, but it may serve you well (and save you money) if you hold off on digging up and tossing your rose plant that may still be alive. At the minimum, keep this dead-looking plant watered on its usual schedule, just like any other rose plant, and wait for at least a few months. The roses may simply be resting (or recovering), depending on the time of year or its health. At some gardening centers, if you’re lucky, they sometimes sell at great discount rose plants that not only are no longer flowering but are completely brown. These brown plants may not look like much now, but they may be a great opportunity for you to build a garden at a much-reduced cost.IMG_3275

Check out one of my rose plants, growing in a container. All of the canes are brown but if you look at the base of the plant, just above the blue label (right of center), you’ll see a new sprout of leaves. I’ve been monitoring this plant for a few months so I know these sprout of leaves are not the “last gasp” of growth before the plant dies. It’s new growth. If there are no signs of life still, get pruning shears and cut off a small tip of one of the canes. If you see that the perimeter of the cut cane is green, it’s still alive. Especially if the particular variety of rose is hard to find, patience and a snip of the pruning shears can make a big difference!

Autumn Clean-Up of Raised Row Bed Garden

I always feel a great sense of accomplishment and anticipation after doing my seasonal gardening clean-up chores. I had already finished my regular front yard work earlier in the afternoon and had finished off with a clean-up of the raised row bed garden. I was very happy to have enjoyed tomatoes and beans this past summer and now have to prepare my garden for cold-weather crops.IMG_3268

I had to gently pull out most of my expired or expiring plants. For my one large tomato plant, it required pruning shears to get at removing all of the roots. After a vigorous and productive few hours of front and backyard work, I was quite pleased to see the “spoils” of my efforts. The green waste bin was filled to the rim! Wow!

With my raised rows now mostly clear – a few lettuces that did not germinate in spring to early summer are now growing – I have the delightful decision on how many plants to start indoors in the coming weekend and how many plants to directly go into the soil. I will have to replenish the garden soil in some of the rows before doing any planting. I love loading up my mighty sedan with bags of the stuff! I am eager to have my autumn garden come alive!

Killing Weeds With Vinegar, Boiling Water, Lopper, and String Trimmer

A good and winning formula, so far, and comparatively friendly to my pocket-book. For years, I had used Roundup and Roundup Super Concentrate to rid my amply sized back yard of weeds. Citing health concerns about the product and also following the budgetary constraints from the Great Recession, I decided to use a different approach to kill and manage weeds. This is an ongoing maintenance task that has, for me, always required multiple strategies.IMG_3239

How To: First, I sprayed or doused the weed vegetation with a weed-killing liquid, followed a few weeks later with a brief run through with a string trimmer, and a lopper to remove anything still attached to the soil after the first two treatments. I’d read that ordinary vinegar (5% acidity) can kill weeds. For my back yard, it required 5 gallons of the stuff. At $2.64 per gallon, it was a reasonable price. Although the yard smelled of vinegar for just a few days, it was worth it since most weeds browned out and died. I am not striving for perfection regarding weed maintenance – only to get it within reasonable control. Check out the results after the results after the vinegar, string trimmer, and lopper.

The lopper – I usually use it to cut thin tree branches but for stubborn weed vegetation that simply will not go away quietly. Simply slide the blades underneath the weed, as close to the base of the weed as possible and cut – as simple as that, the despised plant is gone in one motion.IMG_3240 For spot treatment of small weeds in the cracks in my sidewalk, I just pour boiling water onto them and they’re killed off quickly.

Taken together, for a larger area of back yard affected by weeds, this multi-strategy approach has been useful and cost-effective.

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