» Archive for August, 2010

Trees for Summertime Livin’

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer bloomer in our climate. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall in full sun or part shade.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • Trim grapevines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and sweeten the grapes, if they are being shaded heavily by the foliage.

Trees for Summertime Livin’

Trees are never appreciated more than in the summer when their welcome shade provides a cool escape from the brutal sun. Though most of our trees bloom in the spring, there are a few trees that offer both shade and flowers to enjoy throughout the summer.

Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is perhaps the best known of our summer-flowering trees. In Willits they start blooming in August and continue into the fall. It is often chosen for a small tree because of its brilliant blossoms which come in all shades of pink, red, and lavender. The trunks and bark are also attractive and it grows well in small spaces. Easy to grow, the new crape myrtle varieties resist disease, grow faster and give you longer lasting, brighter blooms. The most popular color now is bright red, ‘Dynamite’.

Another beautiful tree is Albizia julibrissin, known by several common names including “Mimosa” and “Silk Tree.” This gracefully spreading tree grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet, spreading to 25 – 35 feet wide. It is fast growing and has a low branching habit that often creates multiple trunks. The delicate, lacy, almost fern-like foliage is very attractive. Fragrant, silky, pink puffy pompom blooms appear in the summer. The litter problem of the blooms, leaves and long seed pods requires consideration when planting this tree. Mimosa is popular for use as a terrace or patio tree for its light, dappled shade and tropical effect. The variety ‘Flame’ has rose-red flowers that are very beautiful.

Another lovely tree, which is not well-known, is the Chitalpa. It is a tough tree that does well in hot, dry areas. It grows 20 to 40 feet tall and as wide with soft leaves and beautiful blooms. Indeed the blossoms are its crowning glory. The fragrant and orchid-like flowers appear at the tips of the branches from early summer to fall, in shades of lavender and pink. The multi-trunked habit makes it well suited for a wide screen. Its light shade allows enough light for flowers to grow beneath.

Evergreen magnolias, Magnolia grandiflora, offer a long season of sweet scented white flowers in the summer. These magnificent trees are slow-growing but provide an excellent backdrop to a large garden, or a tall, spreading shade tree. Their glossy, leathery leaves, 4-8 inches long, are attractive throughout the year. The fruit is a cone-like cluster (to 3-5” long) of rosy-red glossy seeds. Magnolia trees are heat-resistant and tolerate wet soil. There are also smaller forms available with the same deliciously fragrant white flowers.

Flowering trees provide a focal point for the summer garden or patio area and add to your enjoyment of the outdoors.

Summer Fruit Tree Care

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Sow lettuce seeds now for a fall crop. Set out broccoli and cabbage plants too.
    • Wisteria trees need to be trimmed throughout the summer. Keep long tendrils trimmed back to maintain the shape of the tree.
    • Feed fuchsias, begonias, summer annuals, hanging baskets and container plants to keep them green and blooming right up until frost.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.

Summer Fruit Tree Care

Summer is the time when fruit trees grace us with their abundance of sweet, juicy fruit. It is also the time when fruit trees need your care and attention. This year may not be a very good fruit season, but you need to keep your trees healthy and strong so they will produce well for you in years to come.

Young fruit trees need particular attention. The most important cultural practice during the first year is watering. No other single element of plant care causes more problems or failures than over or under-watering. Water supply must be consistent. Drought followed by flooding can cause trees to stop growing due to the shock of these extremes conditions.

Check the soil weekly. A new tree needs approximately 10 gallons a week during the hot summer months. A tree two years old may need 20 gallons a week. A mature fruit tree can use 50 gallons a week or more. Fruit trees need water to size up their fruit properly. It’s best to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently. Water trees on clay soils, water every 2 to 3 weeks. For young trees, make a moat around the base of the tree so the water stays in the root zone. On older trees, water at the drip line of the tree.

Keep the base of your fruit trees weed free. Spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch, such as pine straw or bark mulch, over the root zone but keep it a few inches away from the trunk. Organic mulch also breaks down gradually, providing organic matter to the soil.

Inspect your fruit tree bark, branches, leaves, and developing fruits often. Look for signs of insects and diseases and apply the appropriate organic controls. It’s usually easier to control pests if you act before or just as they are getting established, than to control them after they have caused lots of damage.

Paint trunks of young trees with white latex paint or Tree Trunk White to prevent sunburn which causes the bark to crack. This leaves openings for boring insects to enter. They can cause serious damage and even death in young trees.

While most pruning of fruit trees is done in the late winter, some can be done in the summer as well. Summer pruning can eliminate any dead, diseased, or broken branches. prune off any new branches that are growing from the base of the tree (suckers) or straight up from horizontal branches (water sprouts).

Keep your fruit trees healthy and they will give you many years of abundant harvests.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf to your nursery in a plastic bag for identification and treatment options.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with 0-10-10 fertilizer to encourage flowers for next spring.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.
    • Roses have more flowers all summer long than any other shrub. Plant them in a sunny location and feed monthly for continuous blooms.

Best Vegetables for Fall Growing

When the days grow shorter and the night air has that crisp chill of fall, it’s nice to be able to walk out to the garden and harvest a bunch of fresh broccoli, or a head of cabbage or lettuce. But to make this happen in Willits, you need to start planting the fall garden now, in the middle of summer.

We have a short growing season here, and when fall arrives, it is too late to start planting since cold weather generally comes on rapidly in November. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower take 60 to 90 days to mature from transplant size, so it’s important to set plants out soon. They will grow vigorously in the warm summer weather. Then, when they begin to head up, the weather will be cooling down so that they can develop properly.

Though many of the same crops are planted for the fall as for the spring garden, fall vegetables will hold for harvest much longer without bolting to seed. Many crops, like Oriental greens, radicchio, leeks, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale will actually get sweeter when touched by light frosts.

Transplant seedlings into well-prepared moist soil in the evening, so they have the cool night temperatures to settle in and minimize shock. In hot weather it is best to shelter newly transplanted seedlings for a few days with shade cloth or row covers.

You can start seeds of leaf lettuce, bok choy, spinach, Swiss chard and roquette or arugula now. These are fast-maturing crops that will be ready before frost. Although most seeds will germinate quickly in the warm summer soil, some, such as lettuce and spinach, will not germinate well if the soil temperature is above 85°F. Shading the soil with a board or a light mulch will keep the soil cooler, enhancing germination. Remove the temporary shade when you see sprouts emerging.

There are many kinds of lettuce to choose from on seed racks that will give you color and variety in your salads. Swiss chard comes in green, red or “rainbow”, a mixture of colored stalks.

Root crops, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, can be left in the ground through the fall. Green onions and radishes can also be planted for harvest in the fall.

It is important to rotate your crops from year to year. Do not plant the same crops in the same place that they were planted in the previous year because the soil will be weakened through continual loss of the same nutrients and the plants will also attract the same insects and diseases to that part of the garden.

A major benefit of a fall garden is that it gives you fresh vegetables long after most of your summer crops have been harvested and killed by the frost. So start your fall garden now to extend the productivity of your garden.