The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

May 19, 2016

Remove burlap and twine from balled and burlapped trees

Filed under: Planting,Trees — bob @ 9:49 am

The balled and burlapped method of planting trees is very popular because it allows nurseries to dig, move and sell larger specimens than if the trees were bare-root or potted. It also makes it easier for homeowners and landscapers to plant. In landscaping, like in any other business, time is money which is why it can be tempting for some to cut corners when planting trees.

The most common of these cost-cutting items is dropping a balled and burlappped tree into a hole, replacing the soil, then mulching the new tree. From the outside everything looks wonderful but not taking care of the burlap or twine can prove to be devastating to a tree.

Wire, burlap and twine does not decompose in the soil as readily as some landscapers would like you to believe. To keep roots growing to their full potential, wire must be cut and removed from the root ball. It will not “rust right away” as we are often told.

I had an experience many years ago when someone asked me to move a tree for them that was planted five or more years earlier. It was going to be a big job. When I uncovered the top layer of soil I discovered that the landscaper had left the wire basket on the rootball. It was a simple matter for me to hook a chain onto the wire basket and just lift the entire tree out of the hole with a front end loader on my tractor and carry it to its new location. The tree looked like it just came from the nursery. The wire was still sturdy and the burlap was sound with no roots growing through.

Damage by twine left on root ball.

Damage by twine left on root ball.

 

The twine tree growers use to tie the top of the burlap does not deteriorate very fast either and will eventually cause major damage to or even kill a tree if it is not removed. As the tree grows in diameter, the twine stays in place and acts as tourniquet strangling the tree. It may take many years for symptoms to show.

The tree formed a callus around the twine as it tried to minimize the damage.

The tree formed a callus around the twine as it tried to minimize the damage.

Even the roots were not able to develop properly

Even the roots were not able to develop properly

Finally, the burlap cloth itself should at least be slashed to allow roots a place to grow into the surrounding soil — removing it completely would be even better.

If you landscaper tries to tell you that that leaving twine and burlap on the trees is standard practice, don’t believe it and insist they do it right.

Bob

 

Homemade lawn weed killer using 20 Mule Team Borax

Filed under: Weeds — bob @ 7:46 am

Every year there seems to one species of plant that thrives more than it usually does. I remember a few years back when sweet clover could be seen popping allover in places where it hardly grew at all before.

This year it is the low-growing lawn weed with the purple flowers called creeping charlie that’s making the rounds. It’s all over our area, even in farm fields. It’s so dense in many places that it form a purple mat that’s easy to spot from quite a distance away.

There are chemical herbicides on the market that will control creeping charlie and other broad leaf lawn weeds. But what can you do if you are trying to avoid exposure to chemicals?

The easiest thing to do is just ignore it and accept that it is a part of your lawn’s ecosystem.

Another possible solution to try is a homemade borax-based  broad leaf  weed killer that uses 20 Mule Team Borax as its main ingredient. Researchers in Wisconsin discovered that borax used in the right concentration, killed broad leaf weeds while leaving the grass untouched.

Disolve borax in some hot water first. Then add that solution to the rest of the water.

Dissolve borax in some hot water first. Then add that solution to the rest of the water.

The science behind this concept is the element boron. Boron is an essential micro-nutrient that all plants need. In too high of a concentration, it will kill a plant. Grasses are more tolerant of high levels of boron than are broad leaf weeds like creeping charlie. That means weeds will die of a boron overdose easier than grass.

The problem with this solution is the amount of borax needed to work varies with soil type. Certain soils neutralize boron more efficiently than others.

A good formula to start out with is eight to ten ounces of 20 Mule Team Borax to two and one-half gallons of water (the volume of a standard hand-held pump sprayer). It’s a little difficult to get it to dissolve so mix it in a pail first then fill your sprayer. Spray that amount over 1000 square feet of lawn.

Sometimes the grass will start to turn brown but it eventually will out grow any damage. Like cleaning fabric, try it out in a inconspicuous spot before doing the entire area.

Bob

 

April 28, 2016

Be sure your garden soil is ready to till in the spring

Filed under: Soil — bob @ 9:40 am

We’re fast approaching garden tilling time. It’s not unusual around here to see gardeners preparing their soil by the first week of May. But the calendar is not the best indicator for deciding when to begin working your garden soil.

Tilling a garden at the wrong time can be damaging for certain types of soil. That is why it’s good to know when to till. Tilling too soon in the spring can be disastrous for a garden.

Gardeners make gardens in all types of soil: sand, loam, clay or, more often, a combination of two or more of these types. Short of hauling in new topsoil, there is nothing you can do to change soil type. Adding compost will vastly improve a soil’s ability to sustain plant growth but will not change the soil type.

Soil structure is different than soil type. Soil type refers to the size of the soil particles and the percentage of the different particles. Sandy soils have the largest particles while clay has the smallest, silt falls somewhere in between.

The garden soil in our upper garden is OK to till.

The garden soil in our upper garden is OK to till.

Soil structure refers to the arrangement of the sand, silt and clay particles in the soil. In soils with good structure , the soil particles are clumped together. That gives adequate space between the particles allowing water and air movement into the soil.  That provides the ideal environment for plant growth.

Tilling too soon can destroy soil structure making it difficult for plant roots to grow. In the spring, the limiting factor is soil moisture.

Sandy soils are the most forgiving soil type. In a garden setting, sandy soils can be quite wet and still be tilled without doing much harm to the soil structure. On the other hand, loam or clay type soils are much more susceptible to soil structure damage caused by early tilling.

There’s a simple test you can do right in the garden to help you decide when it’s time to till your individual garden. Scoop up a handful of soil and roll it into a ball. Lightly poke it with your finger. If it falls apart easily, it’s OK to till. If the ball holds together it is too wet to till. Let the garden dry out and try the test again later.

By getting into the garden early you may gain a couple of weeks of growing time but make sure your garden soil is ready to start the same time you are.

Bob

 

Save downtime and money by servicing your hard-starting outdoor power tool

Filed under: Equipment — bob @ 7:18 am

Winter is the time when outdoor gardening stops and gardeners move indoors to get their power equipment ready for spring.

I took care of most of my equipment this winter, but not all. As the weeks went by, some things got pushed to the back of the storage shed. It’s like they went into hibernation and are just now waking up to see the light of day.

This week I dragged all my power tools outside to make sure they would start. All ran fine except one. It is powered by a two-cycle engine — sometimes called a two-stroke engine. You know, one of those that you have to mix oil into the gasoline. String trimmers, chainsaws, leaf blowers are some of the most common tools that use this type of engine.

A two-cycle outdoor tool that has lost its power or won’t start or is hard to start, probably has carbon build up on the exhaust port. And that’s exactly what happened to mine.

Two-cycle engines require unobstructed air flow to run properly. After many hours of use, carbon deposits inevitably  build up on the exhaust portion of the engine –especially if it is run at slow speeds — making it hard or impossible to start.

Fortunately, cleaning those carbon deposits are a doable project for someone with a little mechanical know-how. It’s a good project to try if you want to progress beyond blade sharpening or oil changing.

Here’s one way to do it.

For safety sake it’s always a good idea to get into the habit of disconnecting the spark plug wire whenever working on gasoline powered engines.

Remove the heat shield from the muffler.

Then un-bolt the muffler from the engine which will expose the exhaust port. You’ll be able to see the carbon caked onto the exhaust opening.

 

This is what a typical exhaust port looks like.

This is what a typical exhaust port looks like.

Slowly pull on the starter rope to bring the piston up to cover the port opening. That will keep loose particles from falling into the cylinder. Stray particles inside the cylinder will cause scoring of the piston and cylinder walls, then you’ll have a bigger problem to deal with than just carbon deposits.

Use a small piece of hardwood sharpened to a point– or a screwdriver if the carbon is really tough — to carefully scrape off the carbon. Don’t dig into the underlying metal and be extra careful not to scratch the piston!

Once you have the carbon loose, vacuum it up with your shop vac.

Remove carbon deposits from all muffler parts.

Remove carbon deposits from all muffler parts.

Check the muffler and other parts for carbon build up too before you reassemble everything.

If your exhaust system includes a screen, make sure it is clean.

If your exhaust system includes a screen, make sure it is clean.

The engine should start easily and will have more power. This is the first thing a repair shop will do when they get a two-stroke engine . So it makes sense to try this first before taking it into the repair shop. You’ll save money and be able to use your machine right away instead of waiting weeks for it to get repaired.

Bob

 

 

Let the world know you care about pollinators

Filed under: Bees,Insects — bob @ 7:13 am

While you’re deciding on what plants to add to your garden and landscape this year, think about pollinator friendly plants. By now most gardeners are aware of the steady decline in the number of pollinators over the past several decades. Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinators have all taken a hit.

A large percentage of the foods we eat, over thirty percent, depends on pollinators. Plus, add to that, all of the different wild plants that depend on pollinators and you can see why it is such a problem. Even the federal government has acknowledged it be a matter of national security.

Planting even a few pollinator friendly plants in a garden will help, however more is better in this case.

Even though the situation is serious for pollinators, helping them doesn’t have to be a drag. The National Pollinator Garden Network has come up with a fun way to help us help pollinators. It’s called the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. The organization hopes to register one million gardens, both existing and new,  that are pollinator friendly.

They suggest six simple to understand guidelines to help you with your pollenator garden. And if you want to take it to the next step, their website has loads of information to guide you.

Our own Michigan State University has been scientifically studying the pollinator decline and has a wonderful website tailored to the three general ecosystems in our state: Southern Lower Peninsula; Northern Lower Peninsula; and Upper Peninsula.

When you register with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, your garden site is pinned to a map of North America. It’s fascinating to see all of those pins on that map and where the gardens are.

Our area of southeastern Michigan looks under represented to me. I’m not sure if it’s because of a lack of gardens or if it’s because gardeners are unaware of the program.

Let’s make our gardens pollinator friendly this year, get pinned on the map and show the world how much our region cares about helping pollinators.

Bob

 

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