Archive for the ‘trees’ Category

Larch, faux evergreen Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

2009 Larch

Though larch or larix laricina appear to be evergreen, they aren’t. Never mistake the yellowing and loss of needles in late autumn as the death of this specimen. Sure enough, come spring, new tufts of kitten-soft needles will spring forth, ringing the wispy branches.

I planted mine last year and it seem to have doubled in size – then again so has my 4-year-old son Quade. But the 2009 picture (kicking myself for not having one after planting) doesn’t lie, the tree grew leaps and bounds. I paid minimum attention to it this year, don’t think I even watered it but the mild summer helped with that. Nothing like giving a new tree a year of mild weather to help it along. Now its needles have turned yellow but haven’t shed yet. Can’t wait to see how well it does next year.

2010 Larch in autumn

Of course you can see my posts are becoming more sparse – the inevitable for gardening at this time of year. But I’ll chime in here and there throughout fall and winter. I’ve got a few projects I’d like to do – windowsill herbs, forced bulbs, a terrarium and perhaps some posts on houseplants.

Welcome favorite month Friday, October 1st, 2010

October is my favorite month of the year. I love Halloween, the colors, the crisp and crunch of the air and leaves, the slow down before the holiday season, no snow, no mosquitoes, school routine is now that and an anniversary as well.

This has been a pretty good fall. The temps fluctuate from 70s during the day to 40/50s at night. This back and forth over a few weeks combined with the shorter days is what spurs the trees to change their colors. On the years when temp change is gradual we get the best colors and on the years where it cuts from 80 to freezing the leaves simply go brown and shed.  I’m sad thinking that this will be a an October that we won’t get to Sica Hollow for our near-annual trek around the scenic and mythic park. We will have to make do with the colors in our much closer parks. Ms. Nova has no problem with that.

Tomorrow might bring the lightest of frosts to our area. Predictions say just above freezing. How hard a frost is and what damage it will do only not only depends on the temperature but how long it stays at them. A quick dip to 30 might not be as detrimental, or finalizing as a long linger at 32. If you have anything you want to keeps going, it’s best to cover it with a bucket or sheet or plastic during the coldest hours.

Drip, drip boom Friday, July 23rd, 2010

With the frequent rain, I’ve yet to really miss having an outdoor faucet or house. The little supplemental watering I’ve done is with rain barrel and watering can. Glad I got the barrels. They’ve developed a scum, but that’s ok. We’ve kept mosquito dunks in them to keep mosquito larvae at bay and most recently The Hub dumped in some extra minnows . . . larvae feeders and emulsion all in one?

I have a 1/2 dozen Rouge vif d-Etampes pumpkins on the vine – these are one of my volunteers. I did end up with vine borers again but I did my best to catch them somewhat early and cut them out of the vine they were in without cutting completely through it. Then I covered a good portion of the affect vine with dirt and watered it in. Hopefully this will allow the vine to sustain the pumpkins until they get big enough to eat. I plan on making them into baby food and maybe some succotash when the beans gets growing.

Our mystery tree – Is it a plum or apricot? — has been identified and apricot it is. The Hub and The Boy were out early one morning to find that the little fuzz green fruits had ripened to yellow gold and fallen to the ground. About 3 medium mixing bowls full of apricots – we ate some as is and when they started getting even more ripe a couple days later I started making baby food out of them – post to come!

Catalpa and moving trees Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

3 year old catalpa tree

Approximately 3 years ago I planted a few Northern Catalpa seeds. And now I have one little catalpa tree. Right now it is growing in my garden soon to be (hopefully) surrounded by pumpkin and squash vines. I’ll have to make sure they don’t overtake the little fella. I planted in the garden area and left it marked just so it wouldn’t get trampled or mowed and because I really didn’t know where I wanted it’s permanent home to be.

It’s still small and therefore should be fairly easy to transplant but Northern Catalpas do have a taproot which can make for more difficult transplanting if it’s too mature. But, this taproot is also why catalpa are such adaptable and strong trees.

Basic rules for transplanting a tree

  • Dig your new planting hole first (wide with sloping sides)
  • Measure the diameter of the tree’s trunk, for every inch wide start digging 1 foot out from the trunk all the way around.
  • Dig down 1-2 feet to get as many roots as possible.
  • Take as much root and dirt as possible.
  • If the root ball is large and the new hole nearby, try rolling it onto a sturdy rug and dragging it to the new planting hole.
  • Place in new hole at same or higher level.
  • Back fill with dirt and water well, continue with weekly waterings (about 1″ per week)
Tree for Novella Friday, April 9th, 2010

Dad, big sis and big bro plant little sister, Novella's, tree - Tilia cordata 'greenspire'

4-7-2010 was the day our 3rd child was born. Novella Jane Valentine. The Hub set off with the older kids and my mom to pick out a tree later in the day as is tradition with the birth of our children. Menards actually had a few container trees so he picked out a greenspire linden – Tilia cordata ‘greenspire’. I’d been there the day before and scouted out what they had – a couple different lindens, some maples and ton of crabapples and other fruit trees.

The rust-red bark of the greenspire linden (not one of them I’d covered in a previous post but sounds comparative to the other lindens mentioned) had caught my eye and I guess The Hub’s as well. So the tree got planted in our front yard giving space away from our house, the neighbors and a few feet clearance of any sidewalk should any surface roots pose any problems in a couple decades. Having been planted on the West side of the house it will create a much-needed shade during the hot late-summer afternoons and evenings for our house.

Most plants you can read planting instructions and take them at their word. But, when it comes to trees or shrubs and the tag reads to plant the top of the root ball even with the ground I’d encourage you to plant it shallower. Inevitably, once you’ve back-filled and watered a tree or shrub they tend to sink. Keep the top root above ground level and then mound the dirt up just covering the top root. A tree will survive if planted a little too shallow but not necessarily if planted to deep. Roots need the oxygen and this is more important on some species than others.

Tree specs:

  • 60′ tall x 30′ wide
  • pyramidal shape
  • fragrant yellow flowers in the summer
  • good fall color
  • our alkaline soil doesn’t always lend itself to optimum fall color here so I’m not holding my breath but the bark, asymmetrical heart-shaped leaves (most lindens have these) and summer flowers will give 3-seasons of interest.
easter bunny damage Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Rabbit damage through the winter. Note the tell-tale litter of "raisins" underneath.

I’ve heard a bit on area-person’s bunny damage. Nipped branches, chewed bark ringing tree trunks at different levels depending on where the snow height was during that particular snack time, and piles of droppings under the most tasty and gluttonous of rabbit-dining experiences (at least they are leaving a very good fertilizer behind).

Today I took note of one of my own. An old cotoneaster bush at the SW corner of my house – a couple whole branches stripped of bark. This is minimal damage at best. So far I’m happy to report there have been no other casualties to note. My youngest trees/shrubs: a catalpa seedling, larch, forsythia and witch hazel don’t show any damage. I took extra care last fall to protect them. I utilized old circular tomato cages and set inside an additional lining of chicken-wire fencing or green plastic mesh. I made sure to go up to a good height knowing bunnies will skip along the tp of snow drifts and snip off any branches poking out from the protective icy layer.

The most noteworthy damage I’ve heard by a rabbit came from my parents. They’d just gotten back from a trip to find their internet connection down. After assistance from family and a call to the cable company followed by a technicians visit, it was determined that a rabbit had chewed through their cable in the crawl space under the house. Now that’s a hungry bunny.

An afternoon with Prunella Monday, March 29th, 2010

March is the perfect month for pruning and I finally got into my shed and found my tools – though they need a sharpening I set about pruning a couple trees. 1 was my daughter’s maple. I took out a couple competing leaders, some branches that were crossing or bound to rub and took out a few extra branches to allow air movement – much less likely to have severe branch breakage during future windstorms. With the fruit tree, it will also allow for easier picking which won’t be for another 3-5 years (pears don’t bear fruit until about 7 years old).

When pruning you can take up to 1/3 of your branches out – but no more. It’s both easier on you and and your tree if you trim some small branches every year instead of waiting for them to get bigger and then deciding to take them out — you’ll need heavier-duty pruners or a saw and it leaves a much bigger wound on the tree.

An additional school of thought on fruit tree pruning is that you should be able to pick from your knees to as high as you can reach while standing. I debated this but couldn’t bring myself to lop off the top of my tree. Above it the before and after of my pruning of my pear tree – I have another planted at the same time but is double the size. I haven’t tackled that one yet. One thing I didn’t realize about pear trees is that the branches are lined with shorter branch/thorns. These are wicked especially when trying to mow around. I even had one nearly go through my shoe that was on a branch I trimmed – I made sure to pick up all of them and dispose where they couldn’t do any harm.

Sun-scalded maple

My daughter’s maple is showing more wear from sun scald. It’s now going into the main layer of the trunk. This is quite unfortunate – not much can be done I fear. I’ll just have to watch it and we may possibly picking out a new tree in the next 5 years. I’ll do a little more research before writing it off completely.

Pruning her tree I took out two extra competing leaders. These are branches that are surpassing the main lead branch rising straight from the trunk. Competing leaders can put stress on a tree and cause the branches they are on to be too weak to support them. This is how trees end up splitting in a storm. I took off the lowest branch as well. It was getting heavy and a very acute angle. The perfect angle means you can take your finger and run it all the way down to the crook of two branches while still touching both.

Putting down new roots Friday, March 26th, 2010

With our last two children we (The Hub) planted a tree on the day they were born.

Shamrock Linden

Cerelia – Crimson Queen Maple

Quade – Harvest Gold Mongolian Linden

Wanting to continue the tradition I’ve just called a local nursery today to see if they would even have any trees on hand when this child comes. Presumably April 6 (that’s the ‘due’ date but I tend to see due dates come and go). Luckily the nursery said they will be getting bareroot trees on April 5. With our other two summer-born kids we had time to purchase the trees well before planting time, prep the holes, etc. and then once babe

was born, the Hub went home and had to only remove them from the container, back fill and water them. This time I fear he’ll have everything from the purchase to the watering to accomplish in the same day – if I do hang on a while past perhaps we can at least get it purchased, bring it home and keep the root ball soaked until planting.

Now, what to choose . . .

My daughter’s tree is beautiful with its dark purple/burgundy leaves but the bark has shown to be very susceptible to sun scald – a splitting of the outer layers due to cold/warm fluctuations in spring and fall. Not the most Hub City adapted tree.

Swamp White Oak

My son’s tree was touted locally as a very good choice and so far has been lovely and not shown any signs of stress.

I’d like to get something different, pushing for a diverse landscape so I’m leaning towards oaks, (evergreen was the next

choice but those do not come bareroot and container plants won’t be showing up in stores until later), though another linden (basswood) is not out of the question. I asked the woman at the nursery what would be on hand:

  • Shamrock linden – 40-50′ prefers moist well-drained soil, also attracts bees when in bloom, potentially spreading root system
  • Redmond linden – 60-75′ tall, pyramidal growing to oval, drought-tolerant, yellow flowers attract bees
  • Front yard linden – 60′, pyramidal, more vertical and good for smaller settings, very adaptable
  • American linden – 50-70′, aromatic flowers, adaptable, tolerates alkaline soils
  • Swamp White Oak – 60′, lateral branching, leaves have whitish undersides hence the name. Used to shade large areas
  • Burr Oak – 70-80′, large specimen, highly adaptable and native to our area, long-lived.
  • Northern Oak – (red oak) – 65-75′, adapts well tourban settings, fall color – red.

Not sure what we’ll end up with. All of these are tall shade trees, and we definitely need the shade as the oldest tree in our yard is my daughter’s that was planted 5 1/2 years ago. It’s hard to picture what our yard will look like in 15 years. I think another goal this summer will be to take a survey of our

Frontyard Linden

trees and shrubs. I haven’t mentioned the ones I’ve purchased at city surplus sales (apple, cherry, plum), from the Arbor Day society, and some discount stores (American Larch) or

planted from seed (Catalpa). All of which started much smaller than a container or even bareroot tree purchased from a nursery, those can be anywhere from 5 – 12′ tall.

Burr Oak

How many big shade trees can a regular city lot support? When we were looking at buying

our house there were 5 large Elm trees on it – all were taken by Dutch Elm, does this mean there is room for another big shade tree? Will root systems be a problem with sidewalks, foundation or sewer lines? Will my garden area need to be moved as the trees mature and block out more sun? What is the best placement to provide cooling shade to our house in summer or wind protection in winter?

Well, at the least I have until tomorrow or 3 weeks from now to figure this out – Ha!

Spring has sprung Monday, March 22nd, 2010

The 30F changes are a bit off-putting but hopeful. Also, not knowing what sort of clothes and gear to send my child to school in . . . snowpants? galoshes? boots? hoodie? mittens? Ah, spring in South Dakota.

Now’s the time of year to inspect your trees and shrubs for shape and crossing branches — trim them OUT. It’s the perfect time to prune and any discarded branches can be kept as markers or used for pea and bean tipis if long enough. Using a sharp scissors, pruner or saw — depending on branch size — cut as close to the base of the branch as possible, without cutting into the cuff (the slight bulge at the very base of the branch). This cuff will then heal over quickly and become nearly unnoticed within a couple years. Early spring is a great time because there aren’t leaves getting in the way and trees are just starting to break dormancy.

Cut any branches that:

  • Cross
  • Rub
  • Grow back into the center of the tree or shrub
  • Dead or diseased looking
  • Water sprouts (smaller straight-up growing branches)- some species are more prone to a flush of water sprouts than others
  • Are in the path of or hitting — mowing, driveway views, fences, windows, roof/shingles

** If there are any encroaching on powerlines, call a professional

Monday, February 15th, 2010

MARCH 13, 2010

Registration—8:45 A.M. Registration fee- $5


  • 9:00 A.M.:  PRESERVING YOUR HARVEST – Marjorie Zastrow, SDSU Extension Educator—FCS
  • 10:15 A.M. TREE AND SHRUB PRUNING MADE EASY – Aaron Keisz, Aberdeen City Forester
  • 1:00 P.M. TIPS FOR DIVIDING AND MOVING PERENNIAL PLANTS – Glenda Oakley, Extension Master Gardener
  • 2:00 P.M. SMALL COMMERCIAL GARDEN, MAKING/USING COMPOST – George Piper, Extension Master Gardener
  • 3:15 P.M. FLOWER ARRANGING – Cindy Carlson and Renita Kainz, Lily’s Floral Design & Gifts

Angerhofer Concrete Products; Beadles Floral and Nursery; Gary’s Engine and Repair; Harvest Garden Center; Lily’s Floral Design and Gifts; Parkview Nursery; Boston Fern; RDO Equipment; Scentsy; The Happy Gardener; Prairie Partners Master Gardeners

Prairie Partners Master Gardeners
South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service