Monday, November 22, 2010

Tree Trimming Christmas Gift

With the economy the way it is some gifts might need to be on the practical side this year for other people maybe a little more extravagant. The next few weeks I will try to give you some gift ideas for the Lowcountry Gardener.

Look up! Tree trimming is a gift that can keep on giving. Are there any lower branches that are shaded out, dead and need to be removed? Tree trimming can help prevent larger problems from happening in the future. A dead limb falls and nails you, your child, your car or... Gravity does not take a vacation.

Tree limbs that are rubbing on your house can cause several issues. Tree limbs can affect the way water runs off of your roof by damaging gutters and shingles leading to water damage and rotten wood. Tree limbs can also rub off paint that can lead to rotten wood, water damage, and painting. Termites and mold love moist areas in attics that tree damage have contributed to.

Rats, mice, squirrels, ants, termites, raccoons, opossums and other unmentionables use tree limbs to access your house. Proper pruning will take away this bridge to you house. Depending on how long these uninvited guest stay in your house, they can do major dollars’ worth of damage. The expense of removing these varmints will make tree trimming seem like a deal. Some of these rascals, however, if prepared right, would complement the Thanksgiving Turkey nicely!

Trees need good air movement and light penetration in their canopy for the general health of the tree and to lower disease opportunities (dark and moist leads to fungus). Proper pruning to remove rubbing branches, weak crotch angles and dead limbs is necessary in the urban landscape. I often hear, “no one prunes the trees in the woods.” In the forest if a limb falls, it does not have a target like it does around your house.

Pruning for views or to block certain views are another reason to trim your trees. Many Lowcountry Gardeners are blessed with spectacular views. Marshes, rivers, oceans, creeks, pastures and golf courses just to name a few. If you do not trim your trees, your view will disappear. The view usually disappears slowly, then when you have your trees trimmed, ‘wow, there is that view I have been missing!’

Aesthetics are another reason to prune your tree. Many of you get a haircut regularly for this reason (if you know me, you know that I do not have to get a haircut). A properly pruned tree really adds to the landscape and makes a big difference. I have been lucky over the years to see many shaggy trees pruned into wonderful specimens. It is amazing to see the work (art) of a good arborist.

Always hire an arborist with a good reputation. Be sure they have the references, licenses, and insurance. Try to look at some of their work and be sure the work is done properly according to arboriculture standards. A bad tree trimming, like a bad haircut, can ruin a tree for years.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Tree Selection & Care

“Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree”….

I was out this weekend and the Salvation Army Bell was ringing, so I figured I better get the Christmas tree article ready for print. I wanted to get this article out early, so you could make plans to go to a local Christmas Tree Farm, find a local source for a cut tree or use a live tree that you could use in your landscape after the holidays if you were so inclined. Hopefully, I can help make this a fun event, instead of a dreaded football interrupting chore.

After Thanksgiving, many of you will be searching for a Christmas tree. If you are going to buy a cut tree, consider buying it from a local business that is here year-round like a garden center. If you buy it from a tent, or a temporary site, look for one that is run by the Exchange Club, Optimist Club, Rotary Club, a local church, a local school club, a local landscaper or another local organization. Many local organizations that sell trees give a portion of the profits to local charities such as Camp Happy Days.

There are some people from out of state that set up tents in grocery store parking lots. They take their profits out of state when they leave, instead of helping our local economy. This year especially the local economy needs all the help it can get. Support our local businesses and keep our money in our local economy!

Many of the local garden centers offer great Christmas gifts along with trees this time of year. They have purchased many seasonal items that would be a great present for anyone. Gift certificates are usually available for the hard to shop for gardener. Shopping at a garden center is a great way to avoid long lines. The parking is free and plentiful this time of year.

Have you ever considered a live tree? Different Hollies (right now you can tell the females with beautiful berries), Leyland Cypress, Eastern Red Cedar, Little Gem Magnolias, Osmanthus, Deodara Cedar and many more make great trees and after the holidays you can plant them in your yard instead of throwing them to the curb.

Local tree farms are also an option. Noel’s Christmas Tree Farm on Johns Island or Too Goo Doo Tree Farm on the way to Edisto are local tree farms. Picking out your own tree is fun for the whole family and a good way to spend some time in the outdoors while the weather is nice! You know you are getting a fresh tree when you cut it yourself.

If you go with a traditional cut tree, make sure it is in water at the place you buy it (unless it is coming fresh off of the truck), and make sure it stays in water until you take it to the curb. Once you bring it home cut an inch off of the bottom of the tree and place it in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Be sure this is a clean 5 gallon bucket that doesn’t have any bait ball residue left from shrimp season! While the tree is still outside, consider spraying the tree with Transfilm, Cloud Cover or Wilt Proof to keep the water loss through the leaves at a minimum. Let the tree dry before bringing it into the house.

Locate your tree within your house away from heating ducts and the fireplace. A stand that can hold a lot of water is a big plus because a fresh cut Christmas tree can drink 1-2 gallons of water per day. Have one responsible adult in charge of watering the Christmas tree daily to avoid ruining the carpet or floors. If you can, fill (2) one gallon milk jugs each day and let them sit for 24 hours, this will allow the chlorine to evaporate out of the water. Letting the chlorine evaporate from the water you water your plants, is a practice you should use when watering all house plants.

There are many secrets to keeping a tree fresh. Having a fresh cut and keeping water above this cut at all times is the most important thing you can do for the tree. The water conducting vessels quickly close up if the tree does not have constant water. Using a drop of Super Thrive in each gallon of water will help the tree stay fresh. Many people use 7-up and an aspirin in the water. I’d rather save my 7-Up for the punch and save my aspirin for someone who has had too much punch!

Thank you for all of your letters, questions and for reading The Horticulture Hotline.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall Happenings in the Landscape

I’m going to have to interrupt my planting / landscaping columns to cover a few timely issues that are dominating our phone lines at Possum’s. I will try not to go in too much depth, so I can cover more topics. If you want more details, we can help you with your questions at Possum’s.

Moles are doing their fall tunneling, and they are everywhere! The three step method of control still gets the best results. Kill the mole. Traps, mole patrol and talprid seem to work best. Manage the moles food source. Sevin, Aloft, and Grubz Out are very good at killing moles food supply. The third step is to apply a repellent to keep new moles out of the yard. Holy Moley and Mole and Vole repellent do a very good job. With the repellents, you can create a barrier around your property, so you use less repellent and save money.

Large Patch / Brown Patch / Zoysia Patch have been in lawns this fall; however, the lack of rain was keeping it to a minimal. The recent rains made it explode in some yards with those all too familiar circles of disease. In our warm season grasses, these diseases can be in irregular patterns as well as the circles. Map the areas you see the disease, since the disease is in the soil it will tend to reappear in the same areas. Turn off the irrigation. Correct any thatch, compaction or drainage issues. Apply Cleary’s, Prophesy, Dual Action Fungicide, Serenade (organic) or Disarm. Add Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell (organic) product to the area to add beneficial organisms to the soil to combat the bad organisms. We have also seen for ourselves and heard from customers that the use of Cotton Burr Compost really helps with this disease.

Yes, you can still winterize your turf – it is not too late. Look for a product with a 00 for the first number (nitrogen). A 00-00-25 with sulfate of potash and minors would be great. If you do not need the potash, consider SeaHume a wonderful combination of seaweed and humic acid. The seaweed has over 60 minor nutrients, amino acids, and bio stimulants. The humic acid is also full of bio stimulants that help make nutrients that are in the soil available to the plant, help with soil structure, grow roots, and feed the microorganisms in the soil. Both these products can be used together and will help your yard this winter and next spring.

If you have not lowered your mower height to help reduce winter kill, now is the time.The lower cutting height will remove the leaf blades that trap the cold air near the crown of the plant. Most of the winter kill occurs on Centipede grass that has a lot thatch and is tall (over 1.5 inches).

Now is the time to collect soil to get on a program for 2011. If it has been 30 days since you applied a fertilizer, why wait? Beat the spring rush of soil tests at the lab (and my desk if you use Possum’s). If you have any amending to do (lime, etc.), you do it over the winter and be ready for spring. Having a soil test and program is like having a landscape design; it gives you a roadmap to follow, so you are applying the right products at the right time for your soil.

Yes, you still have time to plant bulbs. A little 04-04-04 Bolster, Bio-Tone Starter Plus, M-Roots, and / or SeaHume should get them off to a good start.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Is For Planting 2

Last week I began to write about planting in the fall and some of the situations to consider while planting. As usual I ran out of space. So here are a few more things to consider if you have fall planting on your mind.

Are there any particular plants you like? Do you like certain plants for their fragrance? Do you want plants that attract certain birds or butterflies? Do you live in an area that deer might think you are planting a Thanksgiving buffet for their family? Are you looking for spring color or year round color?

What are your planting site conditions? Is the location always damp and wet or is it sandy and dry? What kind of soil do you have? What kind of drainage does the area have? Is the area exposed to salt from the water via high tides or wind? Is the area windy and exposed like the beach or is shady, and protected like downtown Charleston in a corner behind a brick wall?

Do you like formal or informal gardens? Are there certain textures of plants you like? Some plants grow good in combination with other plants to highlight their different textures and foliage colors. Are there certain foliage colors you like?

Test the soil before you plant. Different plants like different pH levels. If you have a high pH soil, you could choose plants that like a high pH. If you pH is high and you want to grow low pH loving plants, you could amend your soil to accommodate them. Amending the soil is easier before the plants go in the ground; however, you can amend the soil after the plants are planted.

Do you like (and have time) to work in the yard? Some hybrid roses are great, but they do require spraying and regular maintenance. Some plants require more pruning than others. If your time is limited, look for newer varieties of plants and turf that are more insect and disease resistant.

If you are planting a plant or tree for privacy, what is that plant going to look like in the winter? Does it stay green all winter and provide the privacy you want? If you are trying to block a view of a swimming pool, does it matter if the leaves fall off in the winter? Are you going to get leaves in your pool or somewhere else you do not want them?

Remember “plant it high and it will not die, plant it low and it is sure to go!”