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

 

June 10, 2015

See blooming satsuki azalea bonsai June 6-14

Filed under: Bonsai,Trees — bob @ 12:02 pm

I think just about everyone enjoys looking at bonsai, the Japanese art of growing miniature trees in containers. Even those who are not particularly interested in plants will stop and take a second look at bonsai.

The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens near Ann Arbor, is offering a rare treat this month, Magnificent Miniatures a showing of satsuki bonsai azaleas in full bloom.

The azaleas on display are the species Rhododendron indicum.

The azaleas on display are the species Rhododendron indicum.

 

The plants are on loan from Dr. Melvyn Goldstein a renowned bonsai collector from Ohio.

azalea bonsai

The bonsai are flowering right now. And like other flowering plants, the flowers only last for a short period of time.

A fantastical shaped bonsai at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

A fantastical shaped bonsai at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

The show is free and runs from June 6 through June 14, 10 am – 8 pm daily. It’s an easy drive to the Gardens from anywhere in southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio. They’re located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor. It might not be a bad idea to call ahead and make sure the bonsai are still blooming. The phone number at Matthaei Botsanical Gardens is 734-647-7600.

Bob

 

 

 

April 29, 2015

Mulching around trees

Filed under: Trees — bob @ 8:59 am

As the days get warmer, more and and more people are out sprucing up their lawns.

After cleaning up winter debris, one of the first tasks people like to do is refresh the mulch around their trees and shrubs. Garden centers and hardware stores know this and stock up on piles and piles of bagged mulch.

Mulch serves many purposes but the two most common reasons for mulching lawn trees are the decorative appeal and protecting trees from mower damage.

One of the most common ailments of yard trees is “lawn mower disease”. This happens most often when someone mowing the lawn gets in a hurry and tries to get too close to a tree. The mowing machine then makes contact with the trunk of a tree and scrapes away part of the bark.

The wound leaves an entry point for insects and disease organisms to enter an otherwise healthy tree. Many times the owner is not even aware that his machine caused the damage.

When a tree is surrounded by mulch, you’re less tempted to mow close to the tree trunk.

Well-place mulch can give your lawn a crisp, manicured look.

Unfortunately, many people see commercial landscapes with trees poorly mulched by unskilled workers and try to copy that look at home.

The look I’m referring to is “volcano mulching”. I think you know what I’m talking about. That’s where mulch is piled up against a tree trunk in a volcano shape. They assume that is the proper way to mulch since professionals are doing the work.

Many homeowners have come to prefer that volcano look. I have had people actually get angry with me when I suggested they change their mulching technique.

Over time, volcano mulching damages the bark and the tree eventually struggles to stay healthy or slowly dies.

The proper way to mulch is to apply and maintain no more than two to four inches of mulch in a four to five foot diameter around the tree.

Do your tree a huge favor and say “no!” to volcano mulching.

Bob

 

April 22, 2015

Pruning apple trees: five cuts you can make even if you’ve never pruned before

Filed under: Fruit,Trees — bob @ 9:26 am

Although you can prune apple trees just about any time of the year, most apple growers agree spring is the best time to do it. You may have seen professional orchardists out pruning trees as early as February but that is only because they have so many trees that they need the extra time to get them all pruned before the growing season starts.

Pruning and shaping apples trees takes some knowledge and experience to get it right but there are a few cuts you can be sure of even if you’ve never pruned an apple tree before.

Before pruning remember to make the cuts near the junction of the twig or branch and the main branch or trunk. Don’t leave a long stub. Conversely, don’t cut into the trunk or main branch, that makes it difficult for the tree to heal. Try to leave just a small “collar” to allow for proper healing.

You’ll need two basic tools. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears for twigs and small branches. Loppers resemble over-sized pruning shears. They are much more sturdy than shears, have longer handles and are used for for cutting larger branches.

 

By-pass type pruners (left) make the cleanest cuts. Anvil type pruners are cheaper to buy but don't cut as well.

By-pass type pruners (left) make the cleanest cuts. Anvil type pruners are cheaper to buy but don’t cut as well.

Here’s five basic cuts to make when pruning apple trees:

1) Cut off all dead twigs and branches. The spot where they attach to the tree provides a entry point for disease and other pests. Once a branch dies, the tree will try to heal around the dead branch. Unless the branch is cut off or falls off naturally, healing will never be complete.

2) Prune away “suckers”. They are those thin shoots that grow up around the base of the tree. They don’t contribute anything to the tree and make their growth at the expense of the rest of the tree.

3) Help increase light penetration and improve air circulation through the tree by removing all “water-sprouts”. Those are thin shoots that grow straight up from the main branches. They don’t produce fruit and will grow larger each year eventually distorting the tree.

4) If two branches are rubbing against one another, remove the weakest one. Rubbing damages bark leaving a wound for disease organisms to enter the tree.

5) This one will take a little more thought. Prune away weak branches that are shaded by more vigorous branches. Even though they may produce fruit, it won’t be the quality and volume produced by stronger branches. If you are fortunate enough to have inherited a mature apple that has been properly pruned through the years, it’s easier to tell which are the weaker branches.

There is much more to proper apple tree pruning but these five cuts will go a long way to improving the health of your tree and building your confidence for more sophisticated pruning.

Bob

January 8, 2015

Lemon tree recovers from freezing in the fall

Filed under: Fruit,Trees,Weather — bob @ 2:20 pm

Sometimes gardeners are given plants that others can’t use or take care of but they just can’t bare to throw out. That happened to me this past summer when someone gave me a four foot tall lemon tree. It was in mediocre condition, a little weak and run down and needed some extra attention.

I re-potted it and applied slow release fertilizer pellets. Once or twice a week it also got a dose of manure tea solution.  It took me the rest of the summer to nurse it back to reasonable health.  And it actually looked pretty good going into the fall.

I always like to keep my citrus trees out as long as possible in the fall. It seems like a bit of a chill tends to make them a little more hardy. I don’t worry about the trees  if it gets down below freezing. They seem to do well even when it briefly dips into the upper twenties at night.

One evening this fall I got caught stretching the season out too much. The overnight temperatures were predicted to be around 28°F so I moved the trees to a sheltered area near the garage, tossed a light frost cloth over the top of them and let them stay out that night.

The actual temperatures were almost ten degrees colder than predicted. The oranges looked a little droopy from the cold but I was pretty sure they would pull through. I’ve seen them handle some pretty cold temperatures after a power outage. The new lemon tree however, lost nearly all of its leaves. A large percentage had already fallen off of the tree and were laying on the frosted ground — it did not look good at all.

That day I moved them all into a semi-heated area in my garage for storage. The temperature stays in the upper 40′s and the trees get a few hours of winter sunlight from south facing windows.

 

Leaf and twig buds grow at the node where the old leaves were.

Leaf and twig buds grow at the node where the old leaves were.

A couple of days after Christmas I noticed some tiny green pointed buds here and there on the lemon tree — it was still alive and wanting to grow leaves! A few days later, buds were emerging from branches all over the tree.

 

This new twig is almost two inches long.

This new twig is almost two inches long.

This week, the buds are still growing and developing into new leaves and twigs.

I’m fairly optimistic that the lemon tree will completely recover but it’s not out of the woods yet, we still have plenty of winter left before spring arrives.

Bob

 

 

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