June 24, 2011
Trying to help folks garden better is one of our goals. Unfortunately, diagnosing and solving plant problems sight unseen is really difficult.
This week, guest blogger & Consulting Arborist Katy Bigelow provides insight into why its hard to provide the right answer through the internet. Read on to find out how Katy suggest gardenhelp.org reader Martha from Kelseyville, CA might solve the problem with her tree that she sent our way earlier this week…
Martha: We have an old, large black walnut in our back yard that appears to be dying for some unknown reason. The leaves are falling off (as if it was Fall) at an alarming rate-on some branches. I was wondering if you could give me any helpful information in regard to this dilemma as to how to “treat” this problem. Thank you.
Thanks for writing! We arborists get asked these kind of questions by phone and email all the time, without being able to see the specimen in question. I spend some time with my eyes shut trying to visualize the situation but in all honesty, without getting up close in person to the tree that’s having problems, they can be easily mis-diagnosed.
When you start looking around for a qualified arborist to help diagnose the problem, and I hope you do, I encourage you to think of and tell them as many details as possible. Was the tree healthy before the problem started and, since you’ve known it? Have you had work done on it in the past? Have you been doing any other work in the immediate area that could have affected the roots (including lawn fertilization)? All this information can help your assessor make a better evaluation.
Another thing that always makes me chuckle is clients perceptions of what an “old” or “big” tree is. When you talk to your tree professional, give them an estimate of size that makes sense to you (can you wrap your arms around it?) or height (taller/shorter than my house). This really helps put the age/size question into perspective.
Like the Pacific North West where I’m from, California had some pretty unusual weather this year. Arborists here are diagnosing pests and diseases that are not usually seen in our area. Heck, half the questions I’ve had so far are, my tree doesn’t have leaves and it’s June! Talk about lack of sun issues…
How do you go about finding a qualified consulting arborist? Check the International Society of Arboriculture’s website for consumers. Hopefully there are several in your area so you can get multiple bids for an assessment.
Best of luck Martha!
– Katy, arborist to Bainbridge Island, Seattle and beyond!
June 22, 2011
About the time bean seeds germinate and emerge from the soil, baby birds are learning to fly around the garden. And the two really don’t mix very well — assuming you hope to harvest food from those bean stalks someday.
Baby birds are very cute, but they’re also randomly destructive. They peck away at just about everything, learning what’s okay to eat and what isn’t. Last year, baby robins and sparrows took out quite a few of my emerging bean plants. They didn’t actually eat the bean sprouts. Instead, they pecked at them, pulled them up, spit them out and looked for worms & beetles that scurried by after they’d disturbed the nearby soil. It was REALLY annoying.
This year, I hope to foil them.
Yesterday, we finally had some warm temperatures, following lots of wonderful rain. My edamame responded, pushing up through the soil and preparing to spread out their first leaves. Soon those birds would see them and begin their pecking and foraging. So, to save my crop from those winged, singing little demons, I spread out a light layer of row cover over the crops. This will help add just a tad more heat to the baby beans, allow moisture to reach them and keep out the birds.
June 10, 2011
I write a lot about using floating row cover (aka horticultural fleece) and hoop houses to protect crops. Yesterday, I noticed that some of the floating fleece was getting a bit taut over a rising crop, so I took a couple peeks under the hood to see what was going on.
Turns out, over the past week our beautiful Neon Glow Chard, sent to Garden Mentors courtesy of Renee’s Garden Seeds, is looking fantastic. Actually, it’s time for us to start harvesting the outer leaves to eat &/or to share with the local food bank.
Nearby this well protected crop, I’ve installed another patch of the same chard. This other patch has no fleece protection. When it gets hit with leaf miner later this season — and don’t worry, it’ll happen — I’ll snap shots to show you what a difference a little row cover can make!
And, while I had the camera out, I grabbed a shot under the tomato hoop house to share. This area was planted just a week ago, so everything is still small and young, but so far it’s all doing fantastic. I just wish today’s 50F drizzle would go away so the sun could come out to power these babies up for the season!
Oh, and did I mention? I planted 8 more golden nugget cherry tomatoes yesterday. They aren’t protected or hooped to retain heat. I sure hope they continue to grow happily despite our chilly, soggy summer weather!
**note: Renee’s Seed was sent to us for free. This article has been written without any compensation other than a free packet of seeds to try growing.
May 28, 2010
What a spring in Seattle. It’s almost June and the night temps are still struggling to find their way out of the 40s. And the rain – it just keeps pouring out of the sky. Last year this time, we were well on our way to a record streak of no rain. The mornings were bright and sunshiney, and summery crops were already starting to thrive while cool season ones were on their way out. What a difference a year makes!
Despite how much I would prefer to have warm sunshine, I try to remember the wet and cool isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, I haven’t yet turned on my irrigation and my beds are moist and well drained. And, my broccoli, chard, peas, cauliflower and cabbage are looking fantastic. On the other hand, there are many things that simply won’t thrive in these extended, wet, cool spring days.
Among the weather-weary: my cucumber and squash seeds are struggling to even germinate. The few cool-season-hardy tomatoes I braved setting out in the garden a few weeks ago are doing okay, but I wouldn’t call their growth fantastic. And, sadly, some of my garlic has rotted in the cold, saturated soils. And my butter lettuce, despite loving the weather, are suffering at the hands of an over-abundance of slugs.
Yep, it’s a slug year. So, what to do? When it rains consistently, slug baits don’t do an awful lot of good. They melt in the rain, so it makes for a lot of re-application. And, frankly, I don’t care how “safe” slug bait may be, I’m not really interested in putting it around my food crops. Plus, I have my suspicions that it simply aids in attracting these slimy pests to the exact area I’m trying to protect. Same deal for beer traps. Set up happy hour for them, and they will come.
So, what’s left to do? (more…)
May 25, 2010
Interested in attracting birds as beneficials to your garden?
(Original Post from May 25, 2010)
Earlier this month, I shared the story of growing a gourd, which became a bird house in our garden. I also shared that I had spied, but hadn’t yet photographed, a pair of chickadees nesting in our gourd.
After I published the earlier article, I feared I had scared off the nesting pair while photographing. But, true to their notorious intrepid nature, the happy couple continued to hang out in the gourd, building their nest, laying their eggs and now, feeding their hatchlings. Over the last few days, we’ve watched mom and pop taking turns flitting to and from the nest with all sorts of wormy goodness for their young.
Today, as I watched crows raiding a nearby robin nest from which it appears they’ve plucked at least one bald baby bird, I patiently waited by the well-hidden chickadee nest with my camera posed. The nest was quiet and still. Even as the finches and robins teamed up to battle back the crows, I heard no dee-dee-dee’s – until I started to give up. Then, very quietly, I heard them – as though they were whispering. Following, despite their attempted stealth, the rustling of wings in the rhodie gave away a parent bird flying away – ostensibly to bring home some dinner. So, I waited. I assumed a nearby position, knowing from days past that these tame little birds will enter their home even when I’m weeding or harvesting just below them.
In the distance, the crows continued their destruction and cackle. The robins ruffled their feathers and the finches dove and bobbed at the bigger birds, angry. Then, a flutter, just by my hand. I jumped. I’m skittish that way. But, still, I managed to get off the single shot capturing dinner arriving at the front door for the kids. And, if I’m not mistaken, the dinner item is quite likely a young cabbage worm, snatched from what may very well be my own dinner soon. So, let’s see…grow your own food, build habitat, reduce/recycle/reuse, and the eco-system may very well take care of itself. Sure, it may not be a perfect system. For instance, I have yet to see a great solution emerge organically in the garden to deal with the various other pests coexisting with beneficials in my space — from slugs on the lettuce to the crows in the trees to the Armillaria in the soil — but it’s a start and frankly, I’m okay with a little imperfection here and there. Who knows? – What I now judge as “bad” may quite likely someday be “good”?