- Author: Susan Flaherty
I recently heard a comment that really surprised me! A home buyer did not want trees in the yard! They thought raking leaves was too much work and the potential of a fallen limb during a storm was dangerous.
If they asked for my opinion I would have told them about some of the benefits of trees.
Trees are produce a healthy environment. They purify the air we breathe by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. A tree's roots help to keep groundwater clean.
Properly planted and cared for shade trees can reduce home energy costs by up to 40%. Trees cool the air by releasing water vapor and cool the earth by giving shade which helps with climate control.
Also, healthy, mature trees can add an average of 10% to a property's value and give neighborhoods an established look.
Trees can be very beneficial.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
This is the time of year that folks get concerned about defoliation of their elm trees. Usually the culprit is a small yellow beetle called, appropriately enough, the Elm Leaf Beetle. It eats elm leaves.
The adults cause small shot holes in the leaves, but the larvae will turn a leaf into skeletons. That's what we're seeing now in late July and early August. The larvae have big appetites!
This is the second generation of the pest this year. The first happened in June. Soon the larvae will crawl down the tree to pupate and repeat the cycle once again. Aberdeen and points south will probably have 3 generations this year. Bishop and Big Pine may also have 3 if the weather stays warm and we have a long autumn, but usually have 2 generations since the growing season is shorter.
There isn't much point in spraying the tree canopy now or using systemic insecticides this late in the season. If you notice the larvae crawling down the tree, it is probably worthwhile to do a band spray on the trunk with an approved insecticide. This is about when that happens on average in Independence and Lone Pine. Big Pine and Bishop are a week or two behind. Since the heat started early, we may be sooner than average this year. The only way to know is to inspect your trees often. Temperature drives development of this pest.
If you notice an accumulation of pupae at the base of the tree, vacuum or sweep them up right away.
Largely this is a pest of humans more than elms if your trees are otherwise healthy. They aren't doing the tree any good, but most of the problem is the mess and lack of foliage in landscapes. Keep that in mind if you decide to treat. There are dozens of elms in Owens Valley that get these every year and never get treated, yet are still alive and well.
You can find a lot more information about these insects on the Elm Leaf Beetle page at the UC IPM program website. It includes information that can help you to decide whether to attempt control of them.
- Author: Dustin Blakey
The real estate market may not have returned to its pre-bubble days, but there are signs of life in the home market. I have noted a few homes in my neighborhood that have changed owners. This usually means activity in the landscape, and not all of it is beneficial.
When new owners move into a house, they are often presented with a landscape that at best isn't what the new owners would have chosen, or at worst has been neglected for a considerable time.
Perhaps it's the pride of ownership, but many times new owners feel compelled to so something in the landscape. For better or worse, work must be done, or so it seems to be thought.
It is very common to see new homeowners hack back their trees and shrubs, scalp their lawns, and put in too many new plants, often of the wrong kind.
A study of tree topping (Fazio and Krumpe, 1999) found that 26% of people who topped their trees had been in their home 4 years or less. The remaining 74% had been there between 5 and 70 years. These numbers strongly suggest that new homeowners are motivated to act on their yard with the best of intentions.
Probably the best advice I can give is to hold on, take a deep breath, and work on something else first. Use this time to research all your options in the yard. Bad choice can reduce property values and create future liabilities.
When you move into a new house and are faced with managing an existing landscape, follow these tips:
- Do not severely prune your trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs may need some care, but topping (arbitrarily cutting back limbs and branches) will disfigure your tree/shrub and may lead to future problems. Consult a Master Gardener or arborist to determine a good course of action. A tree service that suggests topping is not following recommended practices. The best tree companies don't usually knock on doors.
- Rake leaves, remove debris, and prune off limbs and vines interfering with the mechanical operation of your home. Remove plants and debris that are a fire hazard.
- Start a compost pile for yard waste.
- As soon as possible, check sprinklers to ensure they are working as expected. If you are unfamiliar with irrigation, this is probably a job best hired out. A spring set-up of a sprinkler system is not expensive. If you pay for metered water, it usually pays for itself in a season in water savings. They can show you how to set your sprinkler times as well. If, after irrigation, the street is wet or if you see "Old Faithful" erupting in your yard, your system needs attention for sure.
- Do not plant trees and shrubs without researching whether it is appropriate for your location and climate, and whether it will fit into your landscape as a mature specimen. Many trees get surprisingly large with age!
- Do not plant trees under power lines.
- You may need to mow some overly tall turf. If this is the case remove the clippings from the lawn and compost them; however, it is best to mow frequently enough that you never have to bag clippings. Bagging clippings removes nutrients from the lawn that are best left there. If you are leaving globs of grass on the lawn either mow more often or consider raising your mowing height a little to see if that helps.
- Don't over use fertilizers or pesticides. Read labels.
Enjoy your new home, but remember to resist the urge to act now! Most landscape work can wait until you've done a little research. Our Master Gardeners can give you research-based answers.
- Author: Jan Rhoades
After a busy spring filled with garden preparation and early planting, followed by a summer of weed fighting and too many tomatoes, and, finally, an autumn of processing the bountiful harvest, it seems fitting that a backyard gardener should get a long winter’s rest to enjoy the fruits of such labor. Right? Well, somewhat right. Though there is not so much to do in the garden during the winter, there are still some very important maintenance chores and some little tasks that will make for a better garden come spring. So, put on that old jacket and wooly hat…time to put the garden to bed!
Pull up old vines and plants that are not producing. Insect pests that feed on these plants in the summer have probably laid their eggs on them. These eggs will overwinter and hatch in the spring, hungry and ready to eat your new plantings. Other pests, such as squash bugs, use old plant debris to live in over the winter…so, best to do a thorough clean-up. If these old plants are not diseased, they can be worked into the garden soil to add valuable organic matter. Fall is an excellent time to amend garden soil. Well-rotted manure, compost, fertilizer and leaves can all be incorporated before the ground freezes, enhancing beneficial microorganisms and soil insects.
If you still have root crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips, they can be mulched with straw or leaves and dug up as needed. Some say these vegetables turn sweeter after the ground cools. Kale, chard, cabbage and spinach can also withstand winter cold. Be sure to mulch around them to protect their roots and preserve soil moisture. Winter squash and pumpkins should be harvested before heavy frost damages them. If you planted garlic this fall, it will need regular watering and a good layer of mulch.
Annual flowers need to be pulled up and composted. Perennials should be cut back and mulched when the ground has become quite cold. Good mulching materials include straw, pine needles and leaves.
Raspberries and blackberries also need to be cut back. The canes that bore fruit should be pruned to ground level and mulching around the base of these bramble fruits is also good. Berries need water in the winter if there are dry spells. Strawberries also need a thick layer of mulch to protect them.
Trees and shrubs need water during the winter, too. Give them ample water through the fall and then water about once a month during the winter. Watering in the winter is tricky – try to pick a day when temperatures are above freezing, and water early in the day so water can be absorbed before temperatures drop at night. If you have fruit trees, remember that dormant spraying, pruning and other special treatments, such as spraying for leaf curl, are important winter tasks.
So, you can see, no rest for the weary gardener. But, one of the pleasures of these longer nights is hunkering down in front of the fire to spend some quality time with those gorgeous, enticing seed catalogues. Spring is just around the corner!