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GARDENING TIPS FOR SONOMA COUNTY


September 2017 Gardening Tips

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Dahlias-Darlings of the late summer garden!

SEPTEMBER 2017


THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU WANT TO PLANT A TREE

    To help yourself decide which tree to plant, first ask yourself why you want a tree. Do you want fruit; summer foliage to shade the house; bare branches in winter to let in more sun; a focal point; to add some colorful blooms above your head; to attract birds and other wildlife; or to hide the neighbor’s house?

    Be careful when choosing a tree because it’s your favorite and you simply ‘have to have it.’ Many gardens today are simply too small for the mature size of some trees, such as Sequoia sempervirens (Redwood), Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo), Liquidambar (Sweet gum), or Magnolia grandiflora, as well as many others.

    When the description of a tree says, ‘fast growing’ or something similar, be aware that fast growing trees may fill in quickly but they also tend to have weak branches that can snap in the wind. This does not necessarily mean ‘never’ plant a fast growing tree, it means that formative pruning while the tree is young and keeping the tree in good form when mature will be extra important.

    Formative pruning (shaping) is important for all trees, especially those trees that have narrow crotches (branching that grows more parallel to the trunk or other branches creating a tight angle where the branch begins). Branches with narrow crotches can grow together (known as ‘inclusion’) and lead to problems in the future. Included branches can tear apart and leave a shredded open wound on your tree.

    In years past, when digging the planting hole, gardeners would dig the deepest hole they could in which to plant their tree. Today, horticulture science knows better and we disturb the soil only as deep as the soil level of the tree in the container (or less if the soil is poor draining). We also know today to disturb the soil two to three times as wide as the width of the rootball in the container so that the new roots have an easy time getting established. Also in the past, gardeners added copious amounts of amendment into the planting hole. Now, we know to only add a small amount of amendment (especially if the soil is really poor) or no amendment at all in the planting hole so that the new roots grow into the native soil instead of staying in a highly amended small area. Mulch around your tree keeping the mulch layer thin as it gets closer to the trunk.

    Many trees come from the nursery with a stake that is tied right up on the trunk. When you get your tree home and are ready to plant it, replace that nursery stake with a sturdy stake placed about 6 to 12 inches from the trunk. Use a tree tie and make certain to cross the tie between the tree and the stake (this allows the tree to move a bit in the wind which will strengthen the trunk). In high wind areas you may need a tripod of three stakes and in no wind areas you may be able to plant your tree without any stake at all.

    Remember to consider the mature size of the trunk and canopy of your tree when deciding the placement of your tree next to your house, other buildings or fences.

    If you would like to learn more about planting your trees, shrubs and other plants or more about pruning contact Mary.

    September 2017
    Gardening Checklist*
    What to SHOP for . . .
    Checkbox Trees - Bloom color can be mistakenly mislabeled. If you're looking for a specific color of Lagerstroemia indica (Crape Myrtle) buy now before blooms fade until next year. Start shopping now for trees, such as Chinese pistache, that have beautiful fall color to their leaves.
    Checkbox Winter Vegetables - In Sonoma County, September is the optimal time to get most of your veggie starts in the ground while the soil is still warm from summer. Spinach, Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Peas. May need protection during heatwaves.
    Checkbox Perennials - Frost hardy perennials, such as Lavender, Achillea (Yarrow), Columbine, Rudbeckia, Geum.
    Checkbox Cool-Season Annuals - The last two weeks of September through the first two weeks in October is the optimal time to plant most winter flowering annuals, such as Pansies, Iceland Poppies, and Calendula. May need protection during heatwaves. For best bloom, plan ahead so cool-season annuals are planted where they get good winter sun.
    Checkbox Bulbs - Spring flowering bulbs will be arriving in local nurseries this month, shop early for best selection. Choose bulbs that are heavy for their size and free of blemishes. Here are just a few of the choices for spring bloom: Alliums, Anemone, Crocus, Daffodils, Freesia, and Sparaxis.
    Tasks to do . . .
    Checkbox Prune - Fuchsia flowers off once they fade. Shape Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem Sage) by cutting back to healthy side shoots. Clean up unwanted growth on frost hardy vines.
    Checkbox Soil - Prepare your soil for winter vegetable crops by weeding and adding compost.
    Checkbox Pest Management - Notice which of your frost-hardy plants have powdery mildew and plan to spray when dormant. You can spray them now but depending on the plant the fungicide may just roll off the mildew and not get rid of the problem. Continue to bait for snails, slugs, earwigs and sowbugs (especially where you plan to plant new bloomers or veggies). When digging in the soil you may find immature pests that look like caterpillars (cutworms) or little brown cacoons (pupa), discard these in hot, soapy water.
    Checkbox Fertilize - Unless you are adding a layer of compost or amending soil with compost, fertilizing stops this month (Zone 9) to allow most plants to slow down growth to prepare for winter.
    Checkbox Mulch - Fall is a great time to apply mulch to the garden.
    Checkbox Weeding - Bermuda Grass is hitting its peak now before it starts to go dormant in winter. What an insidious weed! Herbicides only brown the top grass blades and do not kill the plant. It spreads by seed, by underground rhizomes (underground roots) and stolens (above ground roots)! Pulling it out by as many roots as you can is really the best management. Sheet mulching can work somewhat too.
    Free printable . . .
      Looking for a way to stay organized in your garden?
    Download this Free Printable Gardening Checklist* and you’ll be amazed how inspired you’ll feel!
    Let us know how you’re doing. You can do it!
    Remember, this printable was created as a short list of tasks with minimal information. If you would like more in-depth information,
    you can always refer back to the checklist above each month for more details.
     

    The Gardening Tutor September 2017 Printable

    *Colors may vary depending upon your computer screen and printer.


*For More Detailed Gardening Tips
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