Vegetable Planting for Fall and Winter Harvest

Vegetables planted early this spring, such as kale, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish, beets, peas, beans, and carrots have likely reached their mature stage by now and may be starting to go to seed. Broccoli is one cabbage family vegetable which will continue to produce harvestable flower buds if picked regularly before the flowers open. Even cabbage plants will produce additional heads after harvest if only one or two sprouts are allowed to regrow.

Rapidly maturing vegetables such as beans, green onions, spinach, lettuce, radish, beets, kale and collards can be planted now for harvest in September and October. All of these except beans are hardy to winter temperatures (although growth slows to a stop in December), and can be planted in September for harvest early next spring. Cauliflower, turnip, and carrot seed can be planted now for late fall or winter harvest.

I have found it helpful to cover seed with vermiculite, peat moss, or bark dust when planting during hot weather. Seed should be watered every day for the first 2 weeks. The mulch keeps the soil from crusting and also holds additional moisture near the germinating seeds.

Territorial Seed Company has a catalog especially for fall and winter vegetables. You can view the catalog or have a printed copy sent to you from territorialseed.com. There is also a winter planting chart showing which vegetables to plant when.

 

How to Prune (and Not Prune) Large Trees

Large trees growing near homes and other structures can be dangerous during windy weather, especially if they have wounds, rot or weak branch connections. However, far too many healthy large trees are damaged by incorrect pruning. Simply reducing the height of a large tree does not necessarily make it safer. In fact, improper pruning can make a large tree even more dangerous.

Large trees such as fir, pine, maple, oak, and ash grow naturally to heights of 70 feet or more. With the exception of older poplar or cottonwood trees, they are not dangerous just because they have reached their normal mature size.

If you are concerned about wind damage to trees, the best way to prune them is to open them up by removing some of the inner branches so that wind can blow through the trees more readily. This practice is called “wind sailing” because it allows the wind to sail through with less resistance. Wind sailing is not recommended for large spruce and cypress trees, but it is for firs, pines and most deciduous trees. If there is good reason for reducing the height of large trees, they can usually be reduced up to 25% with proper pruning. A large branch can be shortened back to a side branch which is at least one third the size of the branch being shortened. This is sometimes called “drop crotch” pruning. The crotch is the point where two branches connect. If major branches are simply stubbed off at an arbitrary length without regard to side branches, severe damage can occur. If a weak or damaged branch does not have appropriate side branches, it is better to remove it completely back to its origin.

Needle evergreen trees should never have the center trunk topped or shortened. Stubbing or “topping” large branches of broad leaf trees causes them to produce many weak “water sprout” branches which grow straight up. These water sprouts grow very rapidly, quickly reaching the tree’s previous height in a year or two. Because of their weak connections to the larger branches, they are very subject to breakage. The wounds created by stubbing large branches are more subject to insect and disease infection. Some branches will die back, creating an even larger target for infection. The multitude of small branches growing like a witch’s broom on the end of bare larger branches destroys the natural shape and beauty of the tree.

Large poplars and/or cottonwood trees (including the new hybrid poplars) should not be planted close to structures. Their wood is more subject to wind damage than slower growing trees. Large branches are more likely to break regardless of how they are pruned.

If you are concerned about the health or danger of large trees, I can inspect them for you free of charge. I can advise you about what pruning or other actions may be appropriate.

 

Should I Require My Lawn Care Service to Use My Mower?

There is a strong trend for home owners to require their lawn care services to use the home owner’s lawn mower. The main reason is that weed seeds and weed stems are easily transferred from one lawn to another. If your lawn is relatively weed free, the mower used by your lawn care service may be transferring unwanted weed seeds and weed stems from a less well cared for lawn. Dandelion and other weed seeds stick to the surface of mower blades and decks. Bent grass stems can also be transferred and will root in a new location. Of course weed seeds are naturally blown in without the help of a lawn mower. But why not reduce contamination as much as possible.

Mowers can be cleaned between lawns but very few lawn care services clean mowers. It is not reasonable to expect a lawn care service to use an older less efficient mower. So you will probably need to purchase a new mower equivalent in size to the one used by your lawn care service.

Trees Need Extra DeepWatering

A lot of trees are suffering from the hot dry summer we experienced last year. Especially in unirrigated areas, soil became so dry that roots were lost. This has caused excessive browning and loss of needles on evergreen conifers. Typical lawn irrigation practices do not get enough water down deep enough for tree roots. Grass roots are very fibrous and intercept most of the water before it reaches tree roots. An extra deep irrigation every two weeks during August and September will improve tree health. Doubling or tripling the length of irrigation time twice a month will help get the water deeper into the soil. If you get excessive runoff when you run automatic sprinklers that long, run them through a cycle 2 or 3 times on the same day.

Sprinkler and drip tube hoses can be an effective way to get extra water to trees. Most of the water absorbing tree roots are in the area just inside and just outside of the outer branches. A drip or sprinkler hose can be placed in a circle around a tree and allowed to run several hours until the water reaches a foot deep.

Remodeling the Landscape

The main problem with most mature landscapes is overgrown shrubs which no longer enhance your home. They may have been sheared so they are all round balls or boxy hedges. They may have lost their leaves at the bottom because of overgrown top growth. In many cases, shrubs have grown together so they no longer have their individual shape or character.

Take a critical look at your landscape and make plans for some remodeling. Even if your landscape is relatively young, you may be able to see shrubs that will soon be overcrowded. You may be able to remove some of the extra ones before they have completely grown together. This will allow the remaining ones to retain their natural shape. Will some light pruning on remaining shrubs help before they become overgrown?

Perhaps your family needs have changed and remodeling would make your landscape more useful. If you would like some ideas on how to remodel your landscape, give me a call. There is no charge for a half hour consultation. I do a lot of landscape remodeling.