Thursday, May 24, 2018

How NOT to Kill a Tree!

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now."

Whether providing cool shade in the heat of summer, beautiful blossoms or fruit, trees are truly one of the wonders of nature.  With spring upon us it's a great time to plant a few trees in your landscape or add a few to your orchard. 

There are basically three options when choosing a tree:  bare root, balled & burlap, or container trees. 

Bare Root:

  •  Come with no soil around the roots and are to be planted when dormant
  • More economical
  • No girdling or circling roots
  • Easy to handling and work with
  • I believe they surpass the growth of others trees and are the best option especially for fruit trees
  • Not as many landscape species are available bare root

Balled & Burlap:

  • Dug with ball of soil around the roots and are wrapped in burlap and a wire basket
  • 2" to 3" caliber trees (trunk width) are best for landscape
  • Allows you to plant a more mature tree
  • Be sure to cut off the wire and remove the burlap
  • Be sure the root collar is above the soil level
  • Heavier and more difficult to plant

 Container Trees

  • These are the most common type found at nurseries
  • Be sure to pull tree out of the container and look for circling or girdling root.  They will kill the tree down the road.
  • These have a limited root system
  • Be sure they are not planted to deep.  You should be able to see the root flare or grafting union above the soil

Fall in the orchard absolutely gorgeous!

General Rules on Growth

1st year they sleep  (all the energy is devoted to root system)
2nd year thy creep (you will notice slow growth)
3rd year they leap (you will notice lots of growth)

General Planting Principles

  • Make planting hole for container and balled and burlap 2-3 times WIDER than the root ball with sloping side
  • Do NOT dig the hole too deep.  You want the root flair above ground level.
  • The bottom of the hole should be firm undisturbed soil
  • Do not amend the soil more than 25 % with compost it is best to  plant in native soil so roots do not decide to stay in the amended soil area begin growing in a circular pattern. 
  • Roots tend to grow outward not downward
  • Back fill with soil dug from the hole 
  • Do not fertilize the first year and then only on an as needed basis

Trees are beautiful in any season.  Winter in the orchard.


Mulching is very important and often overlooked.  Mulch conserves moisture, moderates soil temperature, and reduces weeds.  
  • Do NOT put down a plastic before applying the mulch.  
  • It will not allow for drainage and air movement. 
  •  Apply 2-3 inches of a decorative mulch or compost.  
  • Do not put mulch right up next to the trunk.  



  • Regular water is necessary and important the first 2 years while your tree is establishing a healthy roots system.
  • Water new trees every 5-7 days
  • Established trees can tolerate a wider rage of conditions
  • Fruiting trees need regular watering to size and sweeten fruit and avoid stress

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid planting landscape trees in the middle of the lawn
  • Avoid damaging trunk with a weed whacker or mowing equipment
  • Avoid stacking objects where roots are
  • Never top a tree when pruning

Things to keep in mind when choosing the site and tree

  • Know your zone and plant species appropriate for your area
  • Know the height and width of the mature tree before choosing a site
  • Do not plant too close to the house, other structures or power lines


Never prune without a reason!!!!!!!

Reasons To Prune

  • Remove dead or damaged wood
  •  Eliminate rubbing or crowded branches
  • Eliminate hazards
  • Develop a strong structure
  • In fruit trees, to increase light and air flow

Go out on a limb and plant some trees this season!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Organic Lawn Care

Probably the most commercialized aspect of gardening is lawn care.  I believe its based more on profits than plant biology. Look at the number of commercials and amount of advertising devote to having a green lawn. Maintaining a lawn organically is easier and less expensive.  An organic lawn also allows you to use your clippings in your compost pile and as a mulch around fruit trees. It is perfectly safe at all times for kids, grandkids, pets, and yourself to play on, lay on, and enjoy.

Here's my routine:

Early Spring (when forsythia blooms)  apply an organic fertilizer which usually is composed of various meals with bone meal the most abundant.  Look for one that has corn gluten which is a pre-emergent weed control.  (Prevents weeds from sprouting)  I use Gardens Alive Wow Supreme. 

If you lawn has an extreme weed problem apply again one month later. 

To get rid of existing weeds use any organic herbicide that has d-limenol and/or clove.  These are essential oils.  The d-limenol is a citrus oil.  They burn what ever plant it is sprayed on including morning glory so only spot spray your dandelions and weeds.  Spray any weed that pops up.  Be diligent in early spring.  By summer very few weeds appear, and you are just enjoying your lawn.

Early fall, September, I fertilize again with a dry organic lawn fertilizer.  I use WOW supreme but you can use one without a pre-emergent weed control.

You can reseed bare areas and add compost if needed.  Fish emulsion will always help spots that are struggling.

I have never aerated my lawn.  You only need to aerate if thatch is a problem.

 Keep the lawn mowed regularly.

 Watering depends on your soil type and the type of lawn you have as well as your watering system.  There are also conditions created by your house and the sun that may effect how often and long you water.  I have west facing second story windows that reflect sunlight and almost burn the grass. The type of sprinklers and their output will also effect watering. I have Kentucky Bluegrass and a sandy loam soil.  In spring I water as needed.  In summer the sprinklers come on everyday for 15 minutes. You can always cut back the water, and if you lawn complains increase the time.

Be sure to choose the right type of lawn for your purposes and concerns.  We have a green zone all around our house because we have frequent wildfires and this acts as a buffer zone.  Different varieties feel different, grow different, have different water requirements, different hardiness and green up at different times and rates.  So do some research so you are happy with your choice.

Confession! I have always followed the routine I shared with you.  There is no need for an expensive 4 step program.  The lawn has been the pride and joy of my two youngest sons, Blake and Tyler, that have faithful cared for it for while growing up.  They are both in college but when they come home they make sure the lawn looks great!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler

This is absolutely yummy!  My favorite rhubarb dessert to date!   It's a family favorite I found on Taste of Home.  The recipe comes from Susan Emery Everett.

1 1/3 cups sugar 
1/3 cup flour
4 cups 1/2 diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
2 cups halved strawberries
2 Tbs of butter

In a bowl, combine the sugar and flour.  Stir in the rhubarb and strawberries.  Transfer to a 11x7 baking dish and dot with butter.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup of warm water
1 Tbs of milk
1 Tbs of sugar

Combine the sugar and flour.  Add the oil and water.  Using a fork stir until the mixture forms a ball.  Roll out between two pieces of wax paper into a rectangle that will fit over the rhubarb mixture.

Discard the top piece of wax paper and invert the dough over the filling and peel off the remaining sheet of wax paper.

Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with sugar

Bake at 425 for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.  Delicious served warm with ice cream!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Orchard Chores and Spray Scheduale

 "You've got to go out on a limb sometimes,
because that is where the fruit is."
Will Rogers

Nothing compares to eating tree ripened fruit from your orchard.  So go out on a limb and plant an orchard.  Each year you will learn more and each year your harvests will increase.  Don't be afraid to try. Rarely are a growers' mistakes fatal to either the gardener or your trees. 

If it is a high priority to eat organic, it is possible to grow beautiful fruit organically in the home orchard.  Apples and other fruit trees have been grown organically for many centuries.  Modern day chemical methods are new.  Most orchard consultants will tell you it's impossible to grow fruit organically but don't let that discourage you. It is not any more work or effort than using chemicals in the orchard, but the results are  healthier and safer fruit as well as avoiding the risk of spraying with chemicals to yourself and family.

I've done a lot of research on effective organic care of the orchard and my go-to resource is Michael Philips.  His books The Apple Grower and The Holistic Orchard are a must read for the serious grower.  Half the battle is understanding what is going on underground as well as above ground.  The schedule below is taken from his books.  I have used it and have had good results.  Beautiful fruit without chemical sprays.  This schedule also needs to be adapted to local timing of egg hatch and seasonal conditions such as rain.  I will be posting a more detailed spray calendar for my area based on info from my local extension office and their IPM publications and targeted pests. 

How Do I Know What To Do?

Bud development is your cue as to what to do in the orchard.