April 8, 2009
I want you to take a walk in the forest. I want you to take a look at the trees. I don’t want you to look at the top of the trees. I want you to look at the trunk of the tree. Specifically, I want you to look at the spot where the trunk of the tree comes out of the ground. What do you see? If it is a pine tree, you may see a few needles around the base of the tree. If it is a maple or an oak tree, you will probably see a few leaves. Over time, those needles or leaves will decompose and a layer of organic matter will form around the base of the tree. What you will never see is a pile of decomposing leaves or needles piled up around the trunk of the tree. If Mother Nature is not piling up leaves or needles around the base of the tree, there must be a reason for this event. Leaves and needles do not pile up against the trunk because a layer of decomposing material against the trunk will cause the bark of the tree to rot. If Mother Nature knows this, then why do homeowners insist on piling up mulch against the trunk of the tree? More to the point, why does any landscaper pile bark mulch against the trunk of a tree. Every year, I see the volcanoes of mulch piled up against the trunks of trees. Let me (hopefully) write about this for the last time. Mulch is never, never, never placed against the trunk or stem of any plant. If you use mulch, it is spread around the root zone of the plant. This helps to hold in moisture, control weeds and temper the fluctuation in soil temperature. Yes, it can be decorative. But mulch is never stacked up on the trunk of trees. The mulch that is stacked up against the trunk will keep that bark constantly wet. This will, over time, lead to the destruction of the bark and the eventual death of the tree. If you have trees in your yard with bark mulch piled up against the trunk of your trees, immediately go out and get that mulch away from the bark of the trees. If you are a landscaper who is piling mulch onto the trunks of your client’s trees, shame on you. I have no idea where this started, but it is not something that should be perpetuated. It is time to stop this practice before we begin a wholesale death of all of the trees in our area.
When you mulch your perennial beds or shrubs, mulch is not placed in such a manner that the mulch is in contact with the stem of the perennial, or the stem of the shrub. It is the correct way to mulch and it should be the only way to mulch. If I have ticked off a few landscapers, so be it. If you don’t know how to do something correctly, you should not be doing it at all.
Well, let’s talk about something fun to do in the garden. Pansies are ready to be planted in your gardens! Pansies are very cold tolerant and can be safely planted in your yard. Take advantage of some early garden color and plant some pansies in your gardens and window boxes. Pansies do need to be dead headed. This means that when a flower starts to die off, you need to pinch off the flower stem at the soil line. This removes the stem and the seed pod that will form at the top of the stem. If seed pods are allowed to form, the pansies will stop producing flowers. Pansies also need to be fertilized on a regular schedule. I have had the best luck using a water-soluble 20 -20 – 20 fertilizer. The fertilizer powder is dissolved in water and the fertilizer solution is applied every 10 days. The newer varieties of pansies flower longer and a regular application of fertilizer will keep those flowers blooming.
As your tulip bulbs begin to poke their heads up through the soil, you may find that the new growth becomes dinner for rabbits and other critters who are not finding a lot of other greens to eat this early in the season. It makes sense to apply an animal repellent to your tulip leaves. As the tulip buds form, you may also find that the buds get chewed off the flower stalk. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once the buds are eaten, you aren’t going to get any flowers till next year. If you can keep the critters away from the tulips, you will get to enjoy the flowers. A regular application of animal repellent is a worthwhile investment to insure that you get some tulip flowers.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.