Maintenance Information

If you are searching for particular maintenance information, please see the blogs for the months that correspond to the time frame that you are searching. Also check the labels of the blogs (at the base of the blog page) for blog subjects that might be helpful.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Merry Christmas!
The girls and I have been busy getting ready for the holiday and catching up on all the news. We also have been working on Christine's wedding dress for the upcoming event -very exciting. She is a great organizer and has it all well in hand.
I hope that all of you have a lovely holiday and wonderful New Year- 2010!
In the New Year, I will continue to add to the file of posts with gardening tasks, plant info. and other various topics related to the green world.
See you on the blog in the coming months...........................Lois

Friday, November 27, 2009

Garden Spots- Southern California

Have had a small hiatus from blogging this month due to the need to do a bit of family visiting.
Many of you have heard me speak of my daughters, Christine and Carolyn who are now well on their way into adult adventures. I was reminded as I drove down to L.A., to visit Christine, that there is a superb Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara. I wanted to pass along a plug for this lovely
location to all of you if you are down that way. This public garden is broken up into sections displaying different flora from the various regions of California. Needless to say that this is a great place to see native plants. Its also a peaceful location to walk with shaded creek areas and woodlands. There are enough trails to get a good walk in. The garden is up at the top of Mission Canyon and is easy to find following the signs for the Historic Mission Site (also an interesting stop). Nestled at the top of the canyon, the garden has great views and is set out of the city sounds.
When the girls were little we really enjoyed the Santa Barbara Zoo too. Caroyln is now studying Biology up at Chico State and has always had an interest in the big cats i.e. lions, tigers and cheetas. Hence, we spent part of many vacations visiting various zoos. This was not so bad because it turns out that zoos have a lot of interesting plants too! I guess they do call them Zoologic Gardens.
Christine is down in Glendale teaching now. She took a break from the whiny 8th graders to give me a tour of the L.A. Arboretum. Like most Arboretums the garden is broken out into regions of the world and has acres of astounding flora with a definite feel of tropical environs. Christine and her fiance, Carlos, found a lovely inner hidden garden filled with fragrant roses and citrus trees to have their wedding in next April. Guess she is a chip off the old block. It is a beautiful place and was lovely this month with less heat and clear skies. Good views to the mountains after a short rain the day before I arrived. This garden also has some interesting sculptures, water features and masonary areas. This is a vast place so if you visit bring comfortable shoes. There is a tram for tours also.
I hope you liked this mini travel log. I love to explore and spend lots of time finding hiking spots, public gardens and cool old stuff so will incorporate some of these areas in the blog from time to time.
Happy travels!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Windy Surprise

We were caught by surprise a few weeks ago with gusty winds that blew down branches and even whole trees. It was a reminder to clean out the gutters, check the roof and put in all the stuff that could blow away.

In the garden its also a good idea to give your trees a critical eye and see if there are any heavy
branches that have elongated over the growing season and now have too much weight out at the ends. I also look at the density of evergreens in the garden that could get heavy with rain water and then blow over. These trees and shrubs should be thinned to allow the wind to blow through and balanced so the branches don't crack. For large trees I call in my arborist buddy- Dan Hoskins and the shrubs and small trees I work on myself over the fall months. If you use a gardener ask them to thin rather than shear the shrubs and small trees so that they are more open and allow the air to move through. This is probably easier said than done but its worth a try.

Garden Arches with vines on can be at risk also from strong winds. Our heavy 'Mermaid' Rose really catches the wind and tries to blow over every year. I think I am on my 3rd arch for that one. Vines need to thinned and cut back to the arch every year anyway so before the winter is a good time to start this.

Its starting to be cool enough now to start the winter pruning for the perennials (that are not blooming), shrubs and vines. For Deciduous Trees wait until they lose their leaves. I note this because it is helpful to do the pruning over a long period to be able to fit the trimmings in those green waste bins and for starting compost if you have the space. I get fairly sore and crickety these days so breaking up the garden work into shorter periods is easier on my body too.

Let me know if you have any questions on maintenance tasks and enjoy the fall coolness!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Perennial Color

With the cooler weather comes some amazing color. With the leaves turning and
less heat to wilt the flowers I thought I would expound on the virtues of some fall favorites.
Above are pictured the quintessential fall bloomer: the mum- chrysanthemums to be exact.
They are often used as potted plants but are great in the garden and bloom for a long period of time. They are great cut flowers and last well even with dry stems.
Other favorites in fall include Salvias or Sages which come in lots of colors and are great summer and fall blooming small shrubs or flowering perennials. Also a big favorite with hummingbirds!Asters which are not that common here but are wonderful for late summer and fall. They are medium to tall daisies.
Coleus which is largely a foliage plant and have amazing colored leaves all summer and fall.
These are used as annuals in pots mostly but will sometimes over-winter and last for more than one year. I actually miss these when I don't plant them for the summer because they are so lovely. Black-eyed Daisies and Blanket Flowers are really good fall colors. They last from summer to fall. Echinacea or Cone Flower is a tall purple daisy with a cone in the center. It blooms summer and fall with the added benefit of being medicinal.
So add some fall flowers to your pumpkin grouping and cheer up the front entry or patio area.
And enjoy the autumn weather after all the summer heat!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Trouble with Cobbles

In this case we are discussing the river washed stones or "cobbles" that are often used below trees and over exposed roots. An easy solution to a decorative solution for an area that plants cannot root due to tree roots and compacted soil. The problem arises as the cobbles get filled in with leaves and debris which breaks down and forms soil over time. This traps moisture at the crown (where the trunk stops and the roots begin) of the tree. The crown actually needs to breath and the trapped moisture encourages the growth of fungus and a place for insects to lay eggs.

This problem became apparent after a few years of installing these stones and enough accumulation of leaves and soil had filled in the crevices of the stones. Please pull the stones away from the tree crown by about 4-6". Use a blower to clean out the stones around the crown and over the exposed tree roots, which also have bark on them. I do this aobut once per month. It does not hurt to remove stones every 5 years or so and rake off excess soil that has been formed, and then replace the stones.

In general avoid building soil up over the crowns of trees and root masses as this can cause crown rot and kill the trees.

Just a heads up to protect our trees!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Please pick all the Fruit.

Whether you eat it, compost it or donate it to Second Harvest, please pick all the fruit from your fruit trees each year. Old fruit left hanging on the tree can become a home for diseases and pests to over winter and cause harm to the tree in the following years. The tree also puts energy into supporting the fruit until you pick it, so give the tree a break and harvest as soon as the fruit is ripe. We are also having quite a hard time with rats around here, so removing excess fruit will eliminate a food source for those varmits. Fallen fruit is also a source of nutrition for molds and bacterias so rake that up as well. The same goes for ornamental fruits and berries.

In early spring/late winter just before the flower buds begin to open spray deciduous fruit trees (not Citrus) with dormant oil spray to ward off leaf curls and pests. I usually remove any curled leaves from the Peach Tree by hand as it is a small tree. This seems to help a lot and is in addition to the oil spray. Our little Peach tree is my favorite and my daughters and I eagerly await the lovely and delicious fruit each year. It gets very heavy with fruit and so I thin out the fruit by more than half and prop it up as best as I can. Even then it has had some broken branches. Thanks to Dan Hoskins, my trusted tree trimming buddy, it has been successfully re-trained several times. To me the Peaches are the equivalent of garden gold.

Deciduous fruit trees are usually pruned back by 1/3 each year in January and the Sunset pruning book is a good guide. Citrus are just shaped to have a nice round canopy and any dead branches are removed. Do not open up Citrus canopies and expose the branches as they can get sun scald which makes the bark peel back. Deeply water all friut trees in the summer for good fruit production and the health of the trees. After all, fruit is full of water!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spring Flowering Bulbs!

You may see spring flowering bulbs for sale now in the grocery or nursery outlets and think its time to plant them now but wait! Before you dig down into our heavy clay soil in 90 degree weather, give your bulbs a little chill in the fridge. It is too hot to plant them now anyway.

Because we live in a temperate climate it benefits those bulbs from Holland to have more chill.

Refrigerate bulbs in a paper bag for 6-8 weeks and plant them in the early part of November
when the heat has passed. Just don't forget they are in there!

Use a bit of bonemeal or bulb food in the holes or trenches when you plant them and mix in food with the soil. Be sure and put them pointy end up. Bulbs should come with instructions for planting depth.
Spring Flowering Bulbs are watered by the rain so do not need irrigation and the Deer don't eat a lot of them. I don't think Gophers like them that much either. I love bulbs because they are a great surprise in the spring. I may have forgotten all about planting them and then they pop-up.
If you already have bulbs in the ground dont worry about digging them up for chilling in the fridge- that is too much work! In our clay soil some may rot out over time but they usually last very well except for Tulips which don't come back very well. I have had good luck with species tulips which can be found through a bulb grower i.e. Van Engelen (great prices too!).
In the spring leave the leaves on until they wither to replenish the bulbs for the next year.The best repeat bloomers for our area are: Grape Hyacinth, Daffodils, Freesias, Ipheon, Leucojum and regular Hyacinths. Hyacinths and some Daffodils are fragrant too. Don't be afraid to use lots. Plant in groups between low plants and enjoy winter and spring color for many years.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Clean-Up

The heat of the summer has been doing a job on our gardens and now it is time for the end of the summer-beginning of fall clean-up. It is a good job to do in the cool evenings. And you get to enjoy the sunset at the same time!
Prune back withered foliage and dead leaves, catch up on the weeding, gather up hiding snails and add a nice layer of mulch to finish up. Please remember to pull mulch away from plant crowns. A 2-3" layer is good and I like a fine shred fir bark mulch. In big open areas use a coarse gorilla hair mulch (shredded redwood bark) in a very deep layer of 6-8" to help control weeds and erosion. This makes a roughish path too.
Check sprinkler heads as you clean-up and prune away plants that are blocking the heads. I just dug up a sprinkler that had been cracked off its riser by a giant root! Quite the chore to fix but feel that I have accomplished something by doing it. I noticed a few weeks ago that the pressure in the whole circuit (groups of sprinkler heads) was very low and that some of the heads were hardly popping up. Normally breaks are at the base of the heads so I started looking for pooling water or very wet areas and sure enough
water was percolating up like a little geyser near one of the heads. With a bit of digging and a few trips to Ace I now have a working circuit again. At least the tree got a lot of water!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More about sticky stuff

To continue from the last entry I wanted to add a bit more information about the sticky excretions found below plants on paving, cars, patio furniture etc..... This sticky residue is honeydew that actually is excreted from tiny insects i.e. spider mites, scale, aphids and thrips. This honeydew is often collected by ants and you may see a trail of ants going up tree or shrub trunks looking for honeydew and also for the insects that produce it. The ants are known to "farm" the insects protecting them and bringing them into sheltered areas.

These insects are piercing-sucking insects (yuk) and literally suck the life out of plants. They are most often found on the backs of the leaves and look like specs of dust. If you want to be horrified get out a magnifier and look at them up close. They reproduce rapidly in the warm season on stressed plants (many of which have been planted in the wrong location). When not given enough light, water or air circulation plants become stressed and the bugs move in.

It helps to give your plants a bath regularly to discourage colonies from forming and to wash dust from the leaves allowing the pores or stomata to breathe. For more serious infestations use a mild soapy solution in a hose end sprayer to wash the plant or tree then apply the appropriate pesticide (take sample to nursery and check with nurseryperson for products). Some of these pesticides are fairly non-toxic i.e. 'Safer Insecticidal Soap'. I try to avoid using pesticides in our garden but will use insecticidal soap from time to time to avoid longterm damage from these posts.
Aphids usually show up in spring on tender shoots and can be treated with soapy solution alone. They are very easy to control normally. Of all the above pests, scale, is the hardest to control because it has a little shell over the actual bug. With scale the plant must be sprayed when the insects are in their crawling stage so the help of a good nursery person is important or a tree spraying company for large trees. Scale is severly affecting Liriodendron and the Deciduous Magnolias (Saucer Magnolia), so keep an eye out if you have these trees.

Signs to look for in the garden are wilting, silvered leaves, specs on the backs of the leaves, that sticky stuff we spoke of, black residue on the trunks and loss of leaves (more than usual). Inspect your plants occasionally in order to get ahead of any pest problems and the garden will thrive.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stressed out trees.

We have some very stressed out trees around here! The drought is taking its toll on the biggest members of the garden and the tiny insects are sucking all their energy too. Time to get the hose out and do some deep watering pronto. A "Ross Root Feeder" is good too but you might need to drive in some stakes (then remove them) to put the probe down into. You know how hard our soil is!
Water seeking trees, fruit trees and trees from climates where it rains in the summer are most in need. Large shrubs may also be in peril if your watering system does not water deeply.
Signs of stress are wilting, dull looking leaves, lots of leaf dropage, dead branches in the tops of the trees and sticky stuff dropping on cars and paving. The sticky stuff is honeydew from the insects that are feeding on your trees.
Please water trees at the drip line (edge of the canopy- not at the trunk) in 5-6 locations around the tree for 30 minutes per location setting the hose to percolate slowly. Regular irrigation does not water this deeply. Deep water trees twice a month in the summer and early fall.
If you do notice sticky stuff on the leaves or dripping from the trees, it is not a bad idea to give the tree a bath. Shower with the hose where the spray will reach and this will help to wash some of those insects off and clean the dust off the trees for better health. If the tree has lots of stick ooze and looks very bad consult a nursery professional for the correct pesticide to be applied. The larger tree companies i.e. Bartlett also apply these sprays.
In a few months the rain will come and do the job for us!