October 7, 2008

Thinning Pines Enables Ground Covers to Grow

By Linn Mills

Here are issues that were brought up to me this past week at the Springs Preserve.

Thinning pines: Pines are beautiful when they are properly thinned. This exposes their inner structure, allowing light through so you can grow ground covers and, more importantly, it cuts down on falling needles. Resist the temptation to use unskilled labor to perform the job. Instead, demand a licensed, certified, insured arborist who knows how to thin them out. These credentials also protect you in case of injuries and shoddy work.

Fertilize lawns: Feeding fescue lawns now and around Thanksgiving will do wonders for your turf because it is still actively growing. Fertilizer keeps lawns green through the winter and stores nitrogen for next spring's growth; in fact, you'll skip next spring's feeding. Surprisingly, turf releases its stored nitrogen slowly so your lawn will not put on a great flush of growth.

Globe willow frothing: This disease, called slim flux, is a bacterium that is common to globe willows. The bacterium ferments, releasing a liquid that builds pressure within the tree. Eventually the liquid oozes out pruning wounds or other damaged areas effervescing down the trunk. The tree and disease live together, but other diseases eventually take willows down. This tree struggles in our valley because it doesn't get enough chilling and requires lots of water to keep it happy.

Flopping Italian cypress: By nature, the tall stately Italian cypress does best when grown slowly. Overfertilizing and/or watering too much pushes new growth, which doesn't have time to stiffen. The branches then flop away from the plant, leaving it unsightly. Do not remove the flopping branches or you'll leave a visible gap in the shrub. Tuck it back in the shrub and wrap it with fishing line to hold it in place.

Brown palm frond tips: This is expected, but also may be a sign of underwatering, because palms demand lots of water. They can withstand drought, but do better with deep, infrequent waterings.

Freckled palm fronds: Palms are part of the grass family and therefore require fertilizer. Because of our alkaline soils, supplement feedings with potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese. Nurseries sell palm fertilizer with all these nutrients in it.

Pruning oleanders: Enjoy the blooms and then prune next spring as new growth emerges. Prune according to the principle of thirds: Remove one-third of the older stems to ground level. The following spring, remove the older third and allow new canes to grow. Two years following, remove the other third. This keeps oleanders lush and full with blooms covering the entire plant.

Brown-leafed houseplants: In most cases, we trace browned edges or scorched leaves back to poor watering habits. The summer heat is another factor. Give plants a good soaking. If you find the soil bone-dry, put 2 inches of water in your kitchen sink or bathtub and place the plants in it to let the water move up through the container through capillary action; afterward, drench from the top to flush away salts.

Sticky pear leaves: Aphids are causing the stickiness. They love cool weather, so be on the lookout for them. You'll also find sticky leaves on many other plants. Use insecticidal soap or spray oils for best control. A close examination of rosebuds will probably reveal aphids.


Join master gardener Don Fabbi for a free seminar about fall vegetable gardening at 11 a.m. Saturday at Plant World Nursery, 5331 W. Charleston Blvd. Fabbi will note the advantages of why you'll want to plant such veggies as cabbage, root and leafy plants, as well as other tasty crops.

Let Leslie Doyle show you how easy it is to do organic gardening. The bonuses are many: a healthier garden, fewer pests and vegetables that taste great. That's at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Register for classes at 822- 7786.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at [email protected] or call him at 822-7754.

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