Posts tagged dormant

California Dreamin’ – tree style

The following is by James Romer, Extension Horticulturist at Iowa State University:

   This time of the year gives many gardeners an empty feeling. It is hard to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip below zero and it snows every other day. It is reminiscent of those classic song lyrics — “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … California dreamin’ ….” Anyway, this is a great time of the year to do some planning and pruning.

   The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches.              

   Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them and may lead to their premature death.

   It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree’s natural mechanisms that promote healing and slow the “healing” process.

    When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree’s natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.

   Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn’t stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds.

   There is one exception with not applying paint to oak trees. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer and are spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don’t prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If oak trees must be pruned between April 1 and July 1, for example, to correct storm damage, immediately apply a latex paint to all cut surfaces to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

   Use the three-cut procedure when cutting large branches to prevent extensive bark damage. Make the first cut about one to two feet from the main branch or trunk. Cut upward and go about halfway through the branch. Make the second cut a few inches beyond the first. Cut downward completely through the branch. Make the final cut just beyond the branch collar.

   Some trees, such as maple, birch and elm, bleed heavily when pruned in late winter or early spring. However, the heavy bleeding doesn’t harm the trees. (The trees won’t bleed to death.) Eventually the flow of sap will slow and stop. Heavy bleeding of susceptible trees can be avoided by pruning in late June or early July.

   The pruning of deciduous trees by the home gardener should be limited to small trees and the removal of smaller branches that can be reached from the ground in medium to large trees. Branches high up in large trees and those near utility lines should be left to professional arborists. Professional arborists should have the proper training and equipment to safely perform the job.

    If that’s not enough to do, another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

    Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr; “Continuous Bloom” by Pam Duthie; “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” by Allan Armitage, and many others.    

    Remember also that your Iowa State University Extension county office has numerous publications on gardening in Iowa. Most of these publications also are available from the ISU Extension Online Store at www.extension.iastate.edu/store.

So get busy planning, pruning and dreaming about plants for this spring.

 

Leave a comment »

Master lawn care

The following comes from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

                Did you remember to stop the mail and newspapers and let the neighbors know you’d be gone when you went on vacation this summer?  What did you do about your lawn?  If you planned to be gone for more than a week, did you have someone mow it for you?  How about watering it?  Vacationing during hot and dry July and August might mean you will need someone to water for you.

                During these hot days, sustaining your lawn is important. If you choose to continue watering, clay soils should get a good soaking weekly; sandy soils should be watered at least, ½” twice per week and growing lawns need one inch per week.  Watering early in the day saves water lost to evaporation and reduces disease problems.  Actually, you could just let the lawn go dormant for the rest of the season.  It will turn brown during this stressful period, but once the weather cools and fall rains commence, it should green up again.  There is still time to lay sod if you have a new lawn but it will require extra care.  Be certain the soil surface stays moist until the sod roots into the soil below.  Once rooted it will still need thorough although less frequent watering. 

                Do not fertilize dormant or non-irrigated lawns now.  Fertilization can cause damage and may even kill the grass. 

                Crabgrass may be starting to appear.   Now would be a great time to pinpoint its location on your lawn map making it easier to target pesticide application as crabgrass is usually eradiated in early spring.

                Mow grass at 3-3 ½” tall. Taller grass is more drought tolerant and better able to compete with pests.  A plus to warmer dryer weather is that you can mow less often.  Leave grass clippings where they fall.  They impart organic matter, nitrogen and earthworm food.

                Rules of thumb:  mow high, keep pests under control and choose proper watering patterns.

 

Comments (5) »

Mowing tips

   The amount of rainfall we’ve received in Eastern Iowa this weekend alone has been incredible. For homeowners who like a green lawn, it’s a boon. Personally, I don’t mind letting my lawn go dormant to save on the weekly chore of mowing, but it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon.

 

   Richard Jauron, of Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture, offers the following tips for those of us who will once again be getting the mowers out this week:

 

   Sound mowing practices are important during the summer months. Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at a height of 3 to 3.5 inches during the summer months. (During cool weather in spring and fall, bluegrass lawns should be mowed at a height of 2.5 to 3 inches.) The additional leaf area during summer shades and cools the crowns of the turfgrass plants. Extremely high temperatures at crown level can kill the turfgrass.

When mowing the lawn, never remove more than one-third of the total leaf area at any one time. Accordingly, a lawn being mowed at a height of 3 inches should be cut when it reaches a height of 4.5 inches. Removing more than one-third of the leaf area weakens the turfgrass and reduces its ability to withstand additional environmental stresses. Weakened turf is also more likely to be invaded by weeds.

If possible, mow in the cool of the morning or evening. Mowing at midday may place additional stress on the turf. Also, make sure the mower blade is sharp. Dull blades tear and bruise the leaf tips.

Dormant lawns (those that have turned brown) should not be mowed. Pedestrian and mower traffic could damage the turf.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »