Saturday, October 8, 2011

Help! My Tree Is Dying!

It is normal for western red cedars
and other conifers to lose some
leaves in autumn.
I have received frantic calls from clients at this time of year because they fear they are losing their favorite evergreen trees. They look into the canopy of a pine, a Hinoki cypress, Douglas fir or western red cedar and see brown needles or leaves - sometimes a lot of them. And they are sure the tree is dying.

But nearly always, the tree is just fine. It is normal for conifers to shed old leaves and needles in the fall. A tree is called an "evergreen" because it has green foliage year around. People often take that to mean that the tree never sheds a leaf, which isn't the case. Older leaves on the inside of the plant, close to the trunk, turn brown and fall in autumn. The rest of the tree, of course, remains "green."

The time when brown foliage on a conifer is a sign of trouble is when the growing tip (the outer end of the branch) turns brown. If you have concerns about the health of your trees, consult with a certified arborist.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

3 Things You Should NOT Do in the Garden in Fall

If you are not overly fond of gardening chores, you may be relieved to know that there are things you simply shouldn't do right now. You're off the hook, at least for the time being. 

Here's what you should NOT be doing in fall:
1. Pruning. Pruning stimulates growth. If you prune trees and shrubs now, they will react by sending out new shoots. That new growth is very tender and susceptible to frost damage. If we have an early freeze, which has been the pattern the past two or three years, that new growth will be damaged. This weakens the plant and makes it less hardy overall. This goes for roses, too. They might look leggy and ragged right now, and you're tempted to go over there and clean them up, but wait until February. For more information, read this post on when to prune

2. Fertilizing. It's time for your garden to slow down and rest. Lawn and general purpose fertilizers stimulate growth, and this is not the season for that. If you are planting bulbs, a top dressing of bone meal is fine, but otherwise, fertilizing is like drinking an energy drink just before bedtime. 

3. Watering. OK, this seems obvious, especially since we've had some rain in the past couple of weeks. But some people with automatic sprinkling systems get so used to not having to think about watering (or not watering) that they forget to turn them off until late in the season. Established gardens need little or no supplemental watering after September 1. (New gardens, ones planted this year or last, may need more water if we haven't had rain.) If you water by hand, water less frequently as fall approaches. Dry conditions, along with cooler night temperatures and shorter days, are a signal to plants that it is time to start slowing down, hardening off and preparing for winter.