Monday, September 17, 2018

Poor Pruning practices of trees

I really try to discuss original content within my journals, but I will be borrowing some information from a few professional arborists, to address some bad tree pruning I see everywhere in the valley. Certain trees are getting taller and taller but are shaped like Q-tips. This is a result from a terrible pruning technique called "Lion-tail” pruning, and it’s not pretty. I will also give a couple tips about differences between native versus non-native pants.

Native plants, you see growing in the natural desert, need very little outside care once you get them established in your yard.  No one is running around in the desert fertilizing these plants, so you really don't need to be fertilizing the native plants in your yard either.

On the other hand, non-natives plants such as ash trees, citrus, pines, hibiscus, bananas, eucalypts, orange jubilees, queen palms, plums, ficus, and lantanas need some sort of food!  Unless the land you live on naturally supports the growth of the plant, you typically cannot just plant something in the ground and expect it to thrive in the metropolitan valley. The same goes for other regions too. For example, I would never go to North Dakota and plop a Saguaro cactus in the ground and just expect it to grow! Granted, that is a little extreme since not even fertilizers would help that poor little doomed succulent. 

I have rarely seen landscaping companies that offer fertilizing services. There are a few quality landscapers that do, but in all my years at the nursery work, I didn't sell too many fertilizers to most of them. It is a money maker for them to have plant die and have you pay to replace it. I am sad to say I also liked the replacement fee, when I worked as a landscaper myself.  “Oh no, your lantana died! I will replace it for $30 (I COULD PICK ONE UP FOR UNDER $2)!!”  It seems horrible and I still feel bad about it, but at some point, you must realize, most landscapers don't care that they profit from your plant losses. You have no idea…and they know it too.

Now, back to this poor pruning. When trees are pruned to look like Q-tips or kites on little pieces of string, this is inevitably shortening their lives. It sets the tree up to be more susceptible to diseases and creates homes for damaging insects. Grubs and borers love to kill trees but are easily treated on a healthy tree. You should thin out branches subtly before a monsoon or desert storm to allow wind to pass through, but keeps the tree strong enough to prevent snapping branches.

Leaving the trunk and branches exposed to the hot Arizona sun will just further the susceptibility to other problems. If an ash trees can sun burns, its branches will die. This happens to a lot of desert trees. For example, look at the all of the mesquites that get pruned with the Lion-tail method and a monsoon hits the neighborhood. Their branches twist because of the wind. Palo Verde and Sissoo trees do this too!

As described in December 2016 issues of Arborist Now, Urban Forestry;

“Lion-tailing is a common form of over-pruning. It is very important to maintain well-spaced inner lateral branches when it comes top pruning your trees. Even distribution of foliage along any given branch is absolutely necessary and is very important. Lion-tailing occurs when a tree is essentially stripped of most or all of its interior branches and foliage while only leaving just a minimal amount of growth at the end of the branch.

Lion’s tailing is also hazardous. As all of the weight is concentrated on the ends of the branches, the majority of the new growth is added on these bushy ends. If a tree’s branching structure in does not support evenly distributed weight, much more stress in placed on the branch, allowing more breakage to likely occur.  

Often as much as 50 to 75 percent of tree foliage is removed. This unfortunate practice is becoming as common place. If it looks unnatural, or over-thinned it probably is. The result is unhealthy and structurally weakened trees. Trees need leaves to survive!”

Proper pruning techniques are vital. Therefore, “hat-racked” (topping) and “over-lifting” (removal of too many bottom branches) and “lion's-tailing” (gutting) pruning styles are justifiably considered malpractice in arboriculture.

When you have a tree in your yard, it should just be a beautiful looking tree.  At first glance, the pruning work should go unnoticed, not look like some twisted Q-Tip mess that will die in the next wind or be food for grubs or borers. Good pruning is simply an art with the ending result as subtle. The finished product should be understated and natural looking.

Friday, May 18, 2018

AZ Southwest spring garden

The garden and the orchard are going nuts!  It is the heart of the spring gardening season and it's getting busy out there.  I really can't wait to taste these pears, and since I have never grown a pear before I am very eager to taste how much better they are than the ones I pick up in the grocery store.  After tasting home grown peaches for the first time I find it hard to buy the under ripe versions in the store.  It's just not the same flavor and I have never had the peach juice run down my arm when biting into one from the store like I have my tree or out at Schnepf Farm.
The zucchini crop has been amazing so far this year. I did over plant a bit but have really had no problem getting rid of any of the excess squash.
This year I have been trying to irrigate a little more than I ever have before.  It works best with  the heavy soil I have and really holds the water well and the plants are enjoying it immensely.  Even during the hot spell we had I was able to do the irrigation in the heat and not harm the plants since the leaves didn't get wet and really only had to do it every three days.  Now that we have cooled back down a bit -90's-I can go almost four days if I really get a good soak.

Mother nature and I did cause the tomatoes a little bit of stress this season however.  Tomatoes need a bit more consistent watering or they can split when they get watered after waiting a little too long and of course blossom end rot is such an easy problem to trigger, watering issues, calcium deficiency or even really hot spikes in temps can ruin tomatoes.  I do have to admit I did not use bone meal when I planted the six fill in plants I used to replace the ones that got frozen out and if I were a betting man I would bet the ones that have the few rotted tomatoes are the ones that did not have a good dose of bone meal under their roots.
Kale is still going strong

Ball has a great recipe for pickled Zucchini
Heard about radish seed pods being edible and let the leftovers bloom, flowers brought bees and the pods are great! Like a very mild radish.

My season total for the zucchini harvest is at 131 picked so far!

If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me!  I have been doing a lot of consulting in gardens lately but still have time and love to help people out.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring garden in Queen Creek

Roses are going to town.  Cucumber seeds are sprouting thru the ground and the green beans are going nuts.  Squash are just starting to set fruit, and yes I did have to perform the infamous squash sex on the flowers.  You can read all about this procedure on a previous post because if you do want a good crop you will do this every once in a while in AZ.

I had an odd crop of dill sprout up over the winter, we were pretty warm for the first two thirds of the season, and of course the aphids found the umbels of the dill and went to town.  I stopped in at A&P Nurseries and picked up a tub of lady bugs to sprinkle around the area.  Now I know a lot of people have yelled at me because it seems the little ladies don't stick around for long and they just fly off but...
A few days after the sprinkling, I saw what I had hoped for when hundreds of these little prehistoric looking things started gobbling up aphids like they were Cheetos!  It really took three days of carnage for the baby ladybugs to clear a swath of dill of aphids.  Watching the dainty little bugs crawl out of the shells of the spiny monsters, once they reached maturity, that cleared my dill was a great feeling too.  I just released a horde of bad-bug eating ninjas.  If they don't eat enough of the pests they will lay the eggs that will give you baby bugs that will eat up to 10x what their parents could have.  Not a shabby experience if you think of it on a different level.  Instead of adding more chemicals to the ever more fragile ecosystem I got to help mother nature tip the scales a little more in my favor.  My vegetables will just be a little more safe for me to eat and I will sleep better knowing my little ninjas are flying around the neighborhood just waiting for those aphids to take hold.  Once I had the introduced in my old garden they always seemed to return when needed.

I had to put in my Scorpion and Ghost peppers for a friend that really likes hot pickles.

I had thought I was done with beets but was surprised how the little leftovers matured!

This is the focus of my next few months.  It will be all about cucumbers and tomatoes until the corn goes in!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

February 15, 2018 Seeds are planted for spring garden in AZ

It's time.  Spring has sprung in the desert southwest.  We just got a good rain finally and a brief cool down but the soil is warm enough to get some veggies growing!  At least get their seeds in the ground.

growing vegetables in AZ, greenhouse gardening AZ
The greenhouse has been doing the hard lifting for a while with the squash and herbs but it is time for them to start a new generation out in the garden where they grow the best.  The new squash seeds are in the ground as well as the cukes.  Both are sprouting up and ready to go, as are the green beans and tomato starts.  I lost a tomato plant and found a "Phoenix" variety tomato that I put in as a replacement and have heard good things about this hybrid so I will try it out and see how it fares.  It is supposed to be a good one for the AZ heat but it is a determinate plant meaning it will usually set one big crop and be done. I will keep you posted on the new guy.  I still like my "Early Girls" "Celebrity" and "Champion". 

I have ripped the pea vines out as they have done their duty and produced so many peas this winter.  The vines only go so tall and produce on the new growth so as they get past my fence I put up, the pods get smaller and I get less peas, much to the sadness of the Bassett hound that sits there waiting for the peas he loves to eat.
vegetable seed planting chart AZ Phoenix

Here is a general guide of seed planting times for AZ and a general watering guide.  I really have to emphasize that there is nothing set in stone in the gardening world.  Plants are living things and just because it's a certain day of the year does not mean they need one particular thing.  You have to consider all of the variables that are out there.  Is it warmer than usual, is it wetter than usual, is it windier than usual or do you have a more clay filled soil than someone who has more sand.  No one can give you a perfect schedule.  I used to tell clients all of the time that God gave you ten of the best little soil moisture testers you can have.  Stick one of them in the dirt and see if its still wet, if it's no...water.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Planting tomatoes....anywhere

So in the desert southwest it's a little early for the tomato planting, or at least for me in Queen Creek as it may still get a little cold, but I got my seedlings and am bumping them up into one gallon pots.  The planting/transplanting method is the same.

Dig a hole (use a larger pot)

Set the seedling in

Push the soil in around the seedling and water it in well.  I usually use bone meal when I do the final planting into the garden because it helps with the rooting of the plant.  When I am just bumping it up using potting soil you don't have to add much extra if you are using a good quality potting soil.
I plant tomatoes deep because the little hairs on the stems will actually become roots, and the better root system you have the better off the plant is usually.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pollinating squash and other random plant sex in the Desert Southwest

Pollinating squash and other random plant sex

So, here we go.  A lot of people in the Southwest find that when growing zucchini the plants just don't produce a lot of fruit.  If you are from the Midwest you probably remember locking your car doors so some friendly people wouldn't leave you a bag of great big zucchini.  Down here they just don't produce with the same vigor.  I am not completely sure of the reason for this but I do think it's a pollinator problem.  Down here when the squash blooms are going to town the valley is full of flowers, Lantana, hibiscus, roses, orange jubilees... they are all blooming!  So why bother looking for a single male squash blossom to play in.

Then if you are a pollinator and you have happened to wander into the male flower and got yourself all covered in the wonderful orange pollen, the chances that while you are covered in pollen you decide to by chance find yourself in a female flower moments later and whilst looking for some more sweet nectar you get that wonderful orange pollen on the part that it needs to go on are simply mind boggling!  Lets look at this a little closer.  THE ENTIRE VALLEY IS BLOOMING!  Like EVERYTHING! Its spring in the desert.  Let's face it, there's not an abundance of squash flowers in the Desert Southwest.  It's probably not a go to source of nectar for our bees.  If you have three squash plants here I bet they are probably the only three in a square mile unless you live in a community that has a lot of home gardeners, which I am trying to aid in increasing.  So your three squash plants now have to get that bee and then keep that bee while he is full of pollen to stop inside the lady squash flower.

If you are still with me and your mind isn't twirling around about how all of this just seems to be too much to lay on a single bee, I have a solution that will help you out.  I had to tell many clients about this over the decade + that I helped in a nursery.  Some of the older ladies blushed and it was awesome!  You are going to have to aid in Squash Sex---yup, and it's exactly what it sounds like.
So the first picture is the male flower.  I usually just rip off the pretty petals around the good bit to make it easier to get into multiple female flowers.  Yes one male can be used on lots of females if you have more than one open at that time.
Here's the male flower all stripped off and ready to go.  Now the female flower is going to have a small fruit under the base of it, if its a zucchini it will look like a tiny zucchini.
Then the rest is easy.  Just use the male to transfer some pollen onto the female parts inside the flower.  You can use a q-tip for all of this but its easier if you find yourself outside and have a male and a female flower to just get it done and over with, usually best to do it in the morning and I don't usually have a q-tip on me.

Now a lot of the stuff in our gardens down here don't need this level of  involvement.  Tomatoes and peppers usually just benefit from a quick jiggle in the morning.  Just shake to plants a little and they will release the pollen and get everything done on their own.

Cucumbers are in the same family as squash but as long as you stay with a kind that has been bred to produce they usually take care of themselves, or at the pollinators do, ants even help them.

So hopefully this helps everyone out.  If it does and you find yourselves with a lot of extra squash remember I know people that can use it and would love to take it off your hands but yes, my doors will be locked.