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.

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.