Planting a Tree

Improper staking_LAH_5226How do you plant a new tree? Most people know to dig a hole “twice as wide and deep as the root ball” (according to the label I found hanging from the branches), then stick in the tree, making sure the roots are well buried. Amend the backfill with plenty of compost, pile it over the roots and tamp it down firmly. Finally, securely stake the thin trunk so it won’t wiggle in the wind. Right?

Wrong!

This advice was being questioned as far back as 1980, but it is still widely practiced, much to the detriment of the poor plants.

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What Made These Holes?

Leaf-cutter Bee damage on rose_DBG_LAH_7311Do your lilacs look like someone took a giant hole punch to their leaves? How about your rosebushes (left), green ash, or Virginia creeper? The first time I saw the precise circle of leaf missing from a leaf, I thought someone was playing a trick on me. It didn’t look at all like insect damage.

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Tiny Black, Jumping Leaf-chompers

Flea beetle damage on bok choy_BlkForest-CO_LAH_3411 Our family loves bok choy, so I always plant at least one block of the baby variety. And every year I harvest bok choy that looks as if it’s been peppered with buckshot. I can explain that I washed the leaves and they’re perfectly safe to eat, but really—who wants to eat leaves that were eaten by something else first? Ewww.

The culprit behind all those holes is an aggravating insect called a Flea Beetle. No, they aren’t really fleas, and they only bite plants, not people. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re shaped like beetles (fleas are vertically flattened). Still, they are very small, dark brown to black, and they can jump—just like fleas. And just like fleas, they can drive you crazy.

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Planting Done Right: Part 2

Trees

tilia-x-europaea-linden-cc-2003jul06-lah-003Today is Arbor Day, the traditional day for planting trees. Most of us treasure trees. Planting one is an act of faith, something we do for our children, and perhaps our grandchildren. Sadly, thousands of our nation’s trees now reaching maturity are destined to an early death. They were doomed the day they were planted.

Gardening practices have changed over the years. The days of digging a huge hole for a new tree are over. Research has shown that planting a tree too deeply is a sure recipe for trouble.

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Planting Done Right: Part 1

Shrubs, Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

plants-for-sale-lowes-cs_2008aug02_lah_5106-1It’s spring. I’ve been digging in the garden—at least between snow storms. My back muscles (and knees and shoulders) ache, there’s dirt under my broken fingernails, and a huge smile on my face. In fact, there’s dirt in my teeth—I’ve been pulling weeds and shaking the soil off their roots before piling them into the compost bucket, and I keep forgetting to close my lips.

One of the joys of spring is adding new plants to our garden. What gardener can resist the dazzling displays at the garden center? Forgetting about budgets and the size of our yards, we load up the cart. Then we get home and the work begins. It’s time to start digging holes.

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What’s that bird that’s driving me crazy?

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. I was awakened early this morning by insistently loud hammering on the metal chimney guard on our roof. Yup, it’s that time again. Our resident Northern Flicker is announcing his ownership of our property. This year we’re ready. But last year we had a major issue with these woodpeckers. They drove my husband crazy, and inspired me to write the following story:

Not even the cat is awake before 5 am. Soft snoring comes from the bedroom, darkened by shades against the early appearance of the sun this time of year. It’s a lazy Saturday morning in mid-March. Nothing important is scheduled for hours. Later there will be errands to run, chores to catch up on, phones ringing and dishes. Right now, all is peaceful, all is calm.

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

Like a staccato burst of machine gun fire, the noise reverberates off the metal gutters directly outside our bedroom window.

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