» Archive for November, 2011

Chestnut Trees

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Liquidambar and Japanese maple trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Clean up dead foliage on perennials like peonies, daylilies and balloon flower and cut back dead flower stems on Echinacea, blanket flower and penstemon.
    • Persimmons look beautiful hanging on the bare branches of trees. Consider planting one in your orchard.

Spreading Chestnut Trees

The cold, crisp days of fall are the time when spiny chestnut balls pop open to reveal the sweet nuts inside ready to be roasted or cooked and made into delightful stuffings and desserts. The trees which grow these delicious nuts are large and spreading and make fine shade trees, growing 40 to 50 feet tall and wide.

Only a century ago, the American chestnut was one of the most prized of the eastern hardwoods. Because its wood was durable and rot resistant, it was used for home siding and shingles, furniture and fencing, as well as other uses. The chestnut blight, which was introduced in 1904 from Asia, has virtually eliminated the American chestnut tree from its original range. Fortunately, this disease does not occur west of the Rocky Mountains.

Four species of chestnuts have been grown in the West: European, American, Chinese and Japanese chestnuts. There are also hybrids which do very well here. One of them is named ‘Colossal’ for the extra large nuts it bears which average 16 nuts per pound. They are sweet and easy to peel and they dry and store well. It makes a fine, fast-growing tree.

Two varieties of chestnuts, or two seedling trees are needed to insure pollination. Grafted trees will begin bearing in 2 to 3 years, and seedlings in 5 to 7 years. A mature tree will produce hundreds of pounds of nuts each year in October and November.

Chestnuts are beautiful trees. Their long, toothed, green leaves turn golden yellow in the fall. Flowers grow in long, slender clusters that completely cover the tree with sweet-smelling, creamy-pink sprays in June or July. Trees live for hundreds of years.

They grow best in well-drained sandy loam, and require better drainage than apples. They will, however, grow in heavy soil on sloping terrain, and grow wherever pine trees do well.

The nuts are rich in sugar and starch, but unlike other nuts, they are low in fat. They are used for food or for animal feed. When chestnuts drop to the ground, they should be gathered every day wearing gloves to protect your hands from the prickly burrs. (These prickly hulls deter squirrels and rodents from gathering the nuts before you.) You can store nuts in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several months.

Chestnuts can be boiled, roasted over an open fire, baked in the oven, and steamed. They can also be eaten raw after the two skins are removed.

Chestnut trees can be grown for a commercial crop. The value of the nuts is directly related to the size, but is usually at least $5.00 per pound wholesale and up to $8.00 per pound retail. Trees will start to give a significant yield at about 10 years old, and yields range from 14 pounds to 130 pounds per tree.

Chestnuts are a good food source, and a few acres can yield nuts for your own enjoyment, or for sale to your local market.

Colorful Fall Foliage

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Cover vegetable plants with bird netting to keep quail and other birds away.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Plant Paperwhite Narcissus in pots for Christmas gifts.
    • Primroses and pansies will add instant color to pots and flower beds. Combine them with bulbs for an extended season of bloom.

Reds and Yellows Galore

What a beautiful fall we are having and what a fine opportunity to choose shrubs and trees that will decorate your garden each year with their bright, warm colors.

Some unusual shrubs are showing their colors right now. Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’ is a deciduous shrub that grows 4-5’ tall and is prized for its profuse spring flowering of bottlebrush-like spikes of fragrant white flowers, and excellent yellow, orange and red-purple fall color.

Smoketrees, Cotinus coggygria, are multi-stemmed shrubs that grows 10-15’ tall. After the flowers they are covered with fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs. In fall the bluish-green leaves turn bright red. The variety ‘Royal Purple’ has dark purple leaves throughout the summer and fall.

Spiraeas are a large family of shrubs with tiny flowers in clusters. The spring-blooming varieties, like ‘Bridal Wreath’, have long arching branches covered with delicate white flowers. In the fall they are again colorful as the leaves turn a red-orange-yellow fall color.

We have many fine trees to choose from for fall color. Start with the Japanese maples, small trees that are beautiful in every season. Depending on the variety, leaves may turn to bright yellow, soft apricot, or brilliant scarlet. Look for trees now that provide you with just the look that you want.

Ginkgo is commonly called maidenhair tree, which refers to the resemblance of the fan-shaped leaves to maidenhair fern leaflets. In fall the leaves turn bright golden yellow leaves and are spectacular when backlit by early morning or late afternoon sun. The leaves drop all at once forming a golden carpet around the tree.

Some of our edible plants in addition to producing delicious fruit, will also add color to your landscape in the fall. Blueberries are deciduous shrubs that typically grows 5-8′ tall. After you enjoy their nutritious berries in the summer, you can watch their leaves turn attractive shades of red in the fall.

Pomegranates celebrate the end of the season with their bright yellow leaves – a nice contrast to dark green evergreens. Currant bushes, particularly the Crandall black currant, have now turned a soft, orange-red.

Persimmon trees come into their own in the fall. Their spectacular bright red to orange fall color is followed by orange ripening fruit that hangs majestically on bare branches into late fall.

Even the peach trees are attractive right now. Their light green leaves have taken on a soft pinkish hue. Some plum trees, like Satsuma and Burbank, as well as the tasty Pluots, turn shades of red, yellow and orange.

And don’t forget the beautiful grapevines for colors from bright yellows to intense reds.

Dress up your garden with the bright reds and yellows of shrubs, trees and edible plants.

Frost Protection

Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Crocus and daffodils announce the arrival of spring if you plant them now. Choose from a variety of colors and bi-colors available now.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Check houseplants for insects. Spray leaves with insecticidal soap and wipe them off to leave them clean and insect-free.

Protecting Plants from Freezing Weather

Plants vary in the amount of cold that they can take in the winter time. Where zinnias are completely killed by a frost, pansies thrive in the cold and will even bloom underneath the snow. Some evergreen shrubs, like jasmine vines, fuchsias, citrus and fragrant rhododendrons, are damaged by severe winter cold, but there are measures you can take to protect these plants.

Protecting plants from frost damage usually is accomplished by trapping the heat that is rising up from the ground with clear plastic or similar materials, by moving the plant to a sheltered location, or by spraying with an antitranspirant spray, such as ‘Cloud Cover’. Each measure gives a few degrees of protection, so try them all on tender plant you value.

Covering tender plants with plastic or ‘N-Sulate’ (a lightweight fabric) make a big difference. When covering with plastic, it is best to make a light frame and staple the plastic to it. If plastic touches the leaves, each point of contact will freeze. During the day, the covering must be opened, at least a slit, to prevent overheating. With just an hour of sun, temperatures under a closed cover can quickly rise to over 100 degrees!

For additional protection, add Christmas tree lights inside the cold frame. On extra cold nights, placing an aluminum space blanket over the plastic on the frame will significantly add to the frost protection. With the aluminized side placed down (towards the plants), a space blanket retains 99% of the heat.

‘N-Sulate’ is a floating row cover that traps heat and moisture underneath it. Temperatures beneath the fabric can be 6 to 8 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. It is light enough that you can simply drape it over the plant, and porous enough that you don’t need to remove it during the daytime. But it will need to be secured against winds.

‘Cloud Cover’ is a product made from an acrylic polymer. When sprayed on a plant, it forms a clear, colorless, flexible, glossy film that doesn’t interfere with the plant’s growth. ‘Cloud Cover’ forms a protective coating, holding in moisture on plant foliage and stems, substantially reducing water loss in winter when drying winds and frozen ground deprive plants of their natural moisture intake.

For winter kill protection, spray in late fall when the temperature is above 40 degrees. The spray will gradually break down in about four months under cold weather conditions.

Antitranspirants are also effective on cut Christmas trees, wreaths, and greens to retard needle drop by retaining moisture in the foliage.

Keeping plants well-watered is important in freezing weather. Container plants are especially vulnerable to the desiccating (drying out) effects of freezing temperatures.

Apply protection measures this month before the severe cold of winter arrives.