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Food Alert! GE Food Coming to a Grocery Store Near You!!  December 19, 2005

This is a long 'Tip of the Week' but worthy of reading through to the end, your health and family's health are in jeopardy.  Consider printing it up for later review and also sending it unto friends and family.

Since Kellogg announced this past week they will be using genetically engineered oil in their foods this coming year I felt it important to talk about 'Genetically Modified Foods' and their potential health problems.  The following is an excerpt from a rebuttal I wrote that was printed in the Oakland Press disputing a doctor and scientist's claim that GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) or GE (Genetically Engineered) foods will help feed the masses.  "Viruses are used in gene splicing to create GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms.)  Viruses are introduced into food on propose; this aids in the procedure of introducing another organism's DNA into a different type of gene!  Another alarming procedure is where scientists attach an Antibiotic Resistant Marker (ARM) gene to the foreign gene to identify which cells received the foreign gene.  The new cell receives the antibiotic resistant gene, which makes that cell invincible to a dose of antibiotics.  When the batch of genes are exposed to antibiotics the modified genes will not die where as the genes that weren't modified die; this helps identify which genes received the additional new gene.  Biotech companies claim that these new cells cannot withstand the human digestive tract but new evidence is proving that they indeed survive and can cause antibiotic resistance in the person who ingests the food.  We aren't done yet with the atrocities to our food; another alarming procedure is a GM gene splicing method using E-Coli as a vector to introduce the new gene into the host DNA.  The E-Coli remains in the food product and is suspected by some experts to be the source of contamination in 'part soy' beef hamburger."  (Remember the deaths and sickness a few years ago from a fast food chain out West?)

You might be saying, "This can't be!  Our USDA and FDA protect us from this sort of food contamination!"  Quite contraire!  'Big Business' has their hands in the USDA and the FDA whether we believe it or not.  Here is a quote from a high position official in the FDA when challenged by a scientist who was about to testify before Congress in regards to the dangers of Vioxx, "No! Industry is our client", not the public.  This isn't a problem with one political party or another, this sort of political and 'Big Business' control in the FDA and USDA has been going on for at least since the early 1900's.  This is well documented in the book "History of a Crime Against the Food Law" by Dr. Harvey Wiley, M.D.

For further education about GMO or GE food read "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffery Smith.  It will blow you away but educate you how to eat healthy.  Sticking your head in the sand and being oblivious to the problem doesn't make it go away.  Tests, (covered up with some scientists fired for trying to expose this problem) show cancer not unusual in animals fed GE food. None of us want cancer or to pass it unto our children; asthma, food allergies, heart disease, neurological diseases and other serious diseases too numerous to list are also potential problems.  We are talking serious health consequences here, get educated!

If you cook from scratch (using organic or natural foods) and use ingredients you know are GMO free you can avoid these issues.  Bad news folks, "convenience foods" need to be avoided.  And stay away from the new oils they are coming out with, 'Evola' anyone?  See last week's TOTW for guidance on picking healthy oils, they aren't what the 'Diet Dictocrats' claim they are.

Press Release - BATTLE CREEK, Mich. Dec. 13th 2005

Kellogg has announced that it will limit the trans-fatty acids in many popular snack foods, replacing the trans fats with a soybean oil that has been genetically modified to be more heart-healthy.  Kellogg has announced that it will limit the trans-fatty acids in some of its popular snack foods, replacing the trans fats with a soybean oil genetically modified to be more "heart-healthy".

Kellogg's announcement comes just weeks before the Jan. 1 deadline, in which the FDA is mandating that food manufacturers list all trans-fat content on product labels.  Currently, companies volunteer that information.  "Every food company is looking for ways to reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids in their foods," said Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition science at Tufts.  "Kellogg's is not alone."  Dr. Blumberg said he's seen a number of companies shift the nutritional profiles of their products.  The key will be "what they're replacing it (trans fat) with."

Dr. Blumberg said a genetically modified soybean oil is an "interesting choice," because the United States does not require genetically modified ingredients to appear on food labels, whereas Europe does.  Europeans, more so than Americans, have questioned the safety of genetically modified foods, with some critics dubbing them "Frankenfoods."

(Note from Diane--As naïve Americans are sucked into the propaganda and lies put out by 'Big Business', the World needs to be grateful to the Europeans for slowing down the destruction of a healthy food supply by fighting GE food.)

The Press Release Continues...

Kellogg will start using a soybean oil called Vistive, introduced last year and made by Monsanto of St. Louis.  Vistive is low in linolenic acid and reduces the need for partial hydrogenation, a chemical process that gives food longer shelf lives, yet produces trans fat.

Vistive will be in a number of Kellogg's convenience foods, such as Cheez-It crackers and the breakfast pastry Pop-Tarts.  The reformulated products are expected to appear in the market in early 2006, the company said.  "We expect to introduce in 2006 a variety of low-linolenic products that contain zero grams of trans fats in accordance with the FDA regulations," said a spokesperson. "  In quarter one, we'll introduce some crackers, with more varieties later in the year; in quarter two; some of our wholesome snacks; and toward the end of the year -- assuming available supply -- some of our frozen products."

The spokesperson added, "We will not be using Vistive in cereals.  Our cereals are, and will continue to be virtually free of trans fatty acids."

Trans-fatty acids have been in the nutritional spotlight because of their association with elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and heightened risk for cardiovascular disease.  These fats appear in a variety of snack foods, such as cookies and crackers, and are also in margarine and many other foods.

"The ingredients we use to create our foods have been approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities, and our research and manufacturing groups continually monitor our raw ingredients to ensure that only the best quality grains are used," said Kellogg.  Kellogg chose a genetically modified oil because, it said, that's the source of the "the vast majority of soybeans currently used" in the U.S.

(Note from Diane-Bingo!!!  Soybeans are the 'vast majority', they are everywhere; easy and cheap to grow.  GM soybeans are common because Monsanto created them to be "Round-Up Ready"; they can be sprayed often with Round-Up (Monsanto's product) and not die.  Isn't that nice?  Chemicals anyone?)

Kellogg said that in addition to using Vistive, it's also turning to Bunge/DuPont Biotech Alliance, which produces another soybean oil called Nutrium.  Nutrium will appear in Kellogg products beginning in 2007.

(Yum!  Isn't it nice to think of DuPont 'creating' your food?  Like I said last week, if a food wasn't around 200 years ago, stay away from it.)

 

Fats, What is Wrong and Right With Them?   December 12, 2005

For decades the "Diet Dictocrats" have pushed their "rules" of "no-fat/low fat" foods without a dent in our poor health as a nation.  The United States ranks poorly in the world for healthiness, which is a disaster!  Considering our per capita income and the extensive health care industry, it is incredible we have so many sick people.  Many people are starting to blame our food supply as the source of our poor health.  Is this fair?

For years our family followed the "Diet Dictocrats" guidelines: no-fat or low fat foods, skinless chicken breast, fish, hardly ever any red meat, "heart healthy" margarine, canola oil, etc.  This is how I raised my children; I was totally convinced at the time I was doing the right thing.  Three years ago I was introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation and the book 'Nourishing Traditions' by S. Fallon and our health has made a turn around.  We no longer need prescriptions that our doctor said we would be on for the remainder of our lives, we aren't hungry between meals (a huge problem with no-fat/low fats diets), we no longer fall sick to viruses (only one mild cold each in the past three years and no flu!), our bones are stronger and our skin and hair aren't declining, (not bad for 50+ year olds!).

One only has to look through our grocery isles, examine food labels and the revelation that the food industry does not have our best interest at heart becomes apparent.  I remember a lady from Europe exclaim to me, "What is wrong with you people?  You have a whole isle devoted to cake mixes!  You would never find that in England!"  Heart disease, strokes and cancer are on the rise, even though as a society we have decreased the amount of fat in our diets.   (Obviously not all people have made these changes but a great majority has.)  So why do we have more heart disease, strokes and cancer than the early 1900's?  What has changed?

A big change is the types of fats used today.  The very powerful and greedy food industry doesn't really care that they produce risky foods to eat; they produce food that brings in the highest profit.  Vegetable oils are a huge money maker.  Corn, canola and other vegetable oils are cheap; easy to grow and cheap to turn into oil.  But they cause damage to the inside of arteries; plaque build up is the body's way to heal the damage, kind of like a Band-Aid.  Vegetable oils, including canola and the newest fancy 'Evola' oil, are so damaged by excessive heat during processing that if they weren't deodorized before bottling you wouldn't use them when you open the bottle, they would smell putrid, which they truly are.  These oils are highly suspect as carcinogens!  So much for the food industry being your friend!

Coconut and palm oils have been vilified in this country for one reason; we don't grow coconuts on our main land.  But when properly produced the old fashion way they are truly some of the best oils you can consume.  Virgin coconut oil withstands high heat better than any vegetable oil, even olive oil.  High heat can damage even olive oil and cause Trans fatty acids, a proven health saboteur.  (Use virgin olive oil for non-cooking uses, such as salad dressings, etc.)  Virgin coconut oil helps repair damaged thyroids, boost metabolisms by raising core temperatures along with boosting immune systems.

Butter is another 'unfairly' attacked oil; but it too is actually healthy.  Throw away those 'man-made' margarines (it doesn't matter what the package says, they are garbage and can cause damage to arteries and possibly cancer) and use butter; preferably organic butter.  If a food is created in a laboratory, stay away from it; don't put it in your shopping cart!

What should one do?

Ask yourself this simple question when searching for oils.  Was it around 200 years ago?  If not, don't buy it-don't use it.  God placed on this earth healthy foods but man has tinkered with them to the point we now have cancer and heart disease as our number one and number two killers, (in that order).  Ask yourself another question, how common was cancer 25 years ago?  My 'mid-twenty' daughters have seen far more cancer in friends and family than I did at their age.  Other than my old grandfather, I didn't know anyone with cancer.  Most of us now know young and old alike and far too many people with cancer. There is something seriously wrong.  We need to get back to cooking from scratch and using ingredients that were around 200 years ago.

For those who want better health and further information (with scientific research and well footnoted) go to http://www.eatwild.com/nutrition.html

 

Box Elder Bugs Bugging You?  December 5, 2005

More of a nuisance than destructive, box elder bugs are often on people's list of home invaders they would like to see disappear for good.  During warmer months they don't really 'bug' people but come fall or warm sunny winter days they can be a problem in homes where the bugs have found a crevice or crack to crawl into.  Their excrement is particularly difficult to remove from walls, windows, draperies and such; much like the excrement problems from spiders.  Other than that problem and the fact that most people don't like bugs in their homes they really don't do anything terribly wrong, like biting or getting into the food pantry.

I prefer the 'catch and release program' for bugs and spiders but perhaps a killing spray is more your style.  The recipe below is recommended as a natural safe spray for box elder bugs but likely to kill many other invaders as well.

Catch & Release:

Have a plastic clear jar with top and a piece of paper handy for anytime you find an invader.  I keep one in my bedroom closet and kitchen.  The proper size paper is kept inside so as to quickly locate all necessary equipment.

Place jar over top of critter, slide paper between jar and wall or floor with the critter inside.  Either hold paper in place or replace paper with jar top.  Take outside and release.  I haven't figured out yet if this method in the winter time is OK for spiders or is it cruel to send them outside where they freeze to death?  I keep hoping they will quickly crawl into some mulch or other hiding place to hibernate and be around next growing season to benefit my gardens with their predatory habits.

Killing Spray:

12oz. water

5 Tablespoons natural or liquid dish soap

15 drops tea tree essential oil (optional but may make it more effective)

20 drops peppermint essential oil (optional but may make it more effective)

Mix in a spray bottle, shake and spray directly on the bugs.

 

Critter Protection for Young Trees and Shrubs  November 21, 2005

Years ago we built a new house which needed landscaping.  I had never had an opportunity before to buy a bunch of new trees and bushes so I was excited to purchase some of my favorites.  After they were planted in the fall, winter set in along with a heavy snow cover most of the winter.  Guess what the rabbits thought of my new tender trees and bushes?  You got it!  Food!!  Much to my dismay, the following spring I lost some of those new hardwoods to girdling.

Girdling is when the bark of hardwoods is stripped, eaten or damaged all the way around the trunk.  This cuts off the food supply and vital elements that need to travel back and forth in the trunk so the tree or bush dies.

Protect Tender Trees and Bushes

Young trees or bushes have tender bark and rabbits and mice eat this tender bark for food when other food is scarce due to heavy snow fall.  As much as I hate to think of little critters starving, the tender bark must be protected.

Methods:

Wire Cages-Make circle cages from 'critter fencing'.  The bottom portion of this type of metal fencing has small openings in the wire which keep the animals from passing through.  Tent stakes will hold the cages in place when harsh winter winds start blowing.  We have found these cages handy all year round; in the winter they are used as protection for tender bark, in the spring they can protect plants such as tulips or hostas as new growth starts, summertime use can be to protect some new lettuce plants or such.  Metal cages are a long term investment for controlling critter damage in your yard.  They are easy to move around for new uses and last for years.  (Unless of course you run over them with a lawnmower, oops!  Guilty!)

Tree Guards:

Tree Guards come in all types of materials; plastic, rubber, even paper wrap or you can make them from wire mesh.  It is important to remove these guards as the trunk grows so as not to strangle the tree.  Don't apply the tree guards to tight.

 

Winterizing Roses    November 14, 2005

There are many types of roses, some requiring more preparation for winter than other hardier types.  Hybrid tea roses are often most susceptible to winter's cold temperatures and drying winds.  Hybrids of any sort have a graft union that should be protected with adequate mulch; this will be an obvious union of two different woods.

Don't prune or fertilize roses for the last two months before your first expected frost date; this stimulates new growth which won't have enough time to harden before freezing weather.

Remove old leaves and mulch from around the rose base which could harbor diseases, especially black spot.  Just before your first hard frost, spread new mulch around the base extending out as far as the branch tips; unless of course you have a climbing rose which could spread very far.  If rodents are a problem wait until the ground freezes.  Mound mulch, loose soil or shredded leaves to a foot high over the base of the plant.

Rose Styrofoam 'cones' can be used on tender roses.  Or you can encircle the rose bush with a wire cage and fill the cage with loose leaves, straw or similar organic material.

Wait until spring when new growth appears to prune roses.  Dead wood that needs to be removed will be obvious at that time.

Choose Cold-hardy Roses

For climates with very cold winters choose cultivars that tolerate freezing temperatures such as shrub roses, heirlooms, Explorer Series, or miniatures if you desire to avoid winter preparation.  Hybrid teas and grandifloras are lest tolerant of harsh winters; if you have these types be sure to take extra time preparing them for winter.  As in most situations, there are exceptions to this rule, read descriptions.  Sometimes a particular winter will be especially hard, such as we had last winter here in Michigan.  Even my 'Explorer Series' climbing rose had more damage than usual but it did live when many other roses were reported to be killed.  I had many friends telling me they lost their roses.

Bonus Rose Tips

You can encourage production of roses with pruning.  Pruning stimulates new growth and enhances the plant's vigor and disease resistance along with encouraging the shape you desire.  But it is important that you prune at the correct time, otherwise you could possibly be removing 'soon to be' flower buds.  'Once blooming' roses bloom on wood from the previous year.

Early spring pruning should involve only removing dead wood.  After the plant blooms you can prune for health and shape.  Your pruning cuts should be ¼ inch above a bud that is facing in the direction you desire new growth to grow; usually this would be pointing to the outside of the rose.  This cut should be on a 45-degree angle which will help the branch heal.

Cut just above a leaf branch with five leaves.  This is where flower bearing branches will erupt from.  Three-leaf branch buds do not produce flowers.  After your plant does begin to bloom, remember to remove spent blossoms as soon as they fade to promote new blooms.  Remove the faded bloom/stem back to the first five-leaf bundle.

After pruning provide plenty of water; pruning stimulates new growth and water is very important.

Roses will bloom best with the correct nutrients in sandy loam with good drainage and at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.  A fertilizer that is high in phosphorus will feed your rose properly.

 

Nature's Soil Amendment    November 7, 2005

Every autumn one of nature's most valuable amendments for soil is bagged up and sent off to landfills or compost sites or worse yet burned; what a shame.  I am talking about fallen leaves from trees.  If you have ever dug into the soil in a woods or forest you know how dark and rich the soil is.  That is due to all the leaves that have decomposed over the years.  Imagine your garden reaping the same benefits at the end of the growing season as the forest floor receives each autumn.

Trees pull nutrients from deep in the earth, bring it up through their root systems and some of these nutrients end up in the leaves.  This is the natural way the earth replenishes the soil that has worked so hard during the growing season.  It takes a lot out of soil to produce vegetables, flowers, plants and fruit.  So it is important to put back at least what has been taken out; we prefer to put back more than what we used.

To replenish the garden soil we till in leaves and if we have them, lake weeds.  Shredded leaves are better than whole but if you can't shred them use them whole.  An easy way to shred leaves is to put them in the garden and run over them with your lawn mower. We work in leaves every year; this way we don't have to fertilize our crops; the soil all ready has what it needs for growing healthy plants.  (As usual, there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as beets performing better with added boron.)  If you can't till in leaves, then use them for making compost or mulching.

We also save leaves for mulch next spring when the gardens are planted.  Oak trees often don't drop all their leaves in the fall so if you have oak trees you will have a new supply of leaves for mulching the spring / summer garden.  Mulched beds keep weeds under control, retain moisture, keep the soil cool in the hot summer, replenish the soil for next year and make the garden nicer to walk in.  We use newspapers under the leaves for best results, so you might want to save newspapers all winter long also.  (No glossy colored sections)

What if you don't have leaves this fall?  You can do like we did for years; use the bags of leaves set out by neighbors for trash pickup.  Or if you can find a 'yard clean up crew', ask if they could drop the leaves at your house.  Your neighbors might think you are nuts but they won't be laughing when your gardens have some of the healthiest plants in the neighborhood naturally.

There is an old wives tale that oak leaves turn the garden too acidic.  It would take more leaves than you would heap on the garden to change the acidity of your soil, a huge unlikely amount.  We have used mostly oak leaves in our gardens and Ph was not a problem.  But do watch for black walnut leaves, the black walnut tree has an allelopathic effect on most plants so avoid them.

 

Spring Blooming Bulbs-Time to Plant!  October 31, 2005

It is not too late to plant spring blooming bulbs (unless you live REALLY far north) but get them in as soon as possible.  They need time to establish a root system before the ground freezes.

The general rule is to plant the bulb three times the depth of the height of the bulb, from the top of the bulb to the surface.  In my first gardening class I was taught to plant tulip bulbs at least 8 inches deep.  I have followed that advice with good results.  Some instructions for tulips say to plant them only 6 inches deep but that can become a problem when there are early spring thaws that 'wake up' the bulb; they start to grow, then freezing weather returns and kills the new growth.  Play it safe and plant deeper.  If they are right up near the foundation of your house sometimes even 10 inches is better.  The soil temperature near the house is warmer and the bulbs come out of dormancy earlier than they should.  The new top growth can suffer from freezing when rough weather returns; which most of the time happens.

Full sun is best for bulbs but most can perform with part sun.  Don't forget that deciduous trees don't leaf out until later in the spring so often a spot that is normally shady in the summer can be sunnier in early spring.

If your soil is loose fertile soil, plant the bulbs as needed.  But if you have hard clay soil dig a large hole a little deeper than needed for the bulb and mix compost or very fertile soil into the bottom of the hole.  Sprinkle a bulb fertilizer in the hole.  Position the bulbs on top of the amended soil in a pleasing pattern with the tip of the bulb up.  How far apart will depend on the bulb; individual directions will tell you.  Don't line them up in rows, which is an unnatural look.  Fill in the hole half way, water, and fill in remainder of the hole

Be sure to locate the bulbs in an area with good drainage.

You can layer different types of bulbs in the hole if space is limited.  Start with the types that are planted deepest, fill in the hole with soil to the next depth and plant some other type such as crocus or grape hyacinths next.

If you don't like the look of dying foliage in the late spring (you need to allow the bulb foliage to die naturally because it 'feeds' the bulb for the following year) you can plant a shallow rooted perennial over the top or right next to the area.  Choose something that doesn't reach full growth early in the spring.  This way you will have some green camouflage as the leaves are dieing.

Select top quality bulbs, bigger is better when it comes to bulbs.  Be wary of 'super deals' through mail order companies.  Sometimes they sell poor quality or small bulbs that may not produce blooms the first spring.  Bulbs should be disease free and firm.

Be sure to read the descriptions of the bulbs before you purchase. They can bloom early, mid and late spring.  Have a plan as to the look you want to accomplish.  If you want different colors to bloom together then choose them to bloom at the same time.  If you want to lengthen the bloom time then pick some from each category.

Pick out a color scheme; don't just buy everything that appeals to you.  I did that when I first started gardening and was disappointed with the results.  Mixing colors can be lovely but have a plan.  Usually bright clear colors (reds, oranges, bright yellow) don't blend well with pastels.

 

Time to Plant Garlic   October 24, 2005

To get the biggest garlic bulbs next year you need to plant garlic in the fall.  Planting after the first frost but before the ground freezes is advised.  This will establish good root growth without top growth before winter.  Spring planting will result in smaller bulbs.

Garlic is a heavy feeder so amending the garlic bed with compost, fertilizer and all major nutrients is important.  Once the bed is amended, till the area to incorporate the amendments and loosen the soil; rake smooth.  With the soil well prepared it will be easy to just 'push' the cloves into the ground.

Planting Day

Separate garlic bulbs into individual cloves on the day of planting.  Garlic cloves should be planted 6 inches apart.  Push the cloves, root end down, two inches into the soil.  (Clarification: 2 inches of soil on top of the bulb.)  After the ground has frozen, mulch with straw, hay, shredded leaves or pine needles.  We prefer straw.  Tip: often discarded bales of straw put out for trash after Halloween can be located.

In the Spring

Watch for top growth.  Most of the new growth should grow through the mulch but search for green shoots that can't make it through.  For those shoots that can't push through on their own remove mulch as necessary to allow top growth.  Replace the mulch when the tops are tall and strong enough to have the mulch around them.

Mulch is important because garlic does not do well with competition from weeds.  Also consistent soil moisture is important; which the mulch will help regulate.  Don't allow garlic bed to dry out during the bulbing period.

Topping

Stiffneck (Hardneck) garlic varieties should be 'topped' in early summer.  Scapes (hard round curled stem with a pointed seed head at the end) will start to form.  If allowed to grow scapes will steal nutrients away from the bulb and their size will be reduced up to 30 percent.  Cut them off.  Use scapes in sautéing or any dish you wish to impart with a delicate garlic flavor; great in scrambled eggs and stir-fries, etc.

Harvest Time

Here is Michigan (zone 5) our garlic is ready for harvest in July.  Stop watering the last couple weeks before harvest; obviously, rainfall can't be stopped.  Once you see the bottom leaves yellowing (before more than one or two leaves turn brown) you can harvest the garlic.  Dig with a garden fork or if the soil is loose enough you can just pull them up.  Do not injure the bulbs.  Brush or wash off soil.

Cure in warm shady place with good air movement.  Once the neck is dry cut the tops off and store surplus in a cool dry place for longest storage.

Planning for Next Year

Save the biggest and best bulbs for next year's crop.  Once you start growing your own seed crop of garlic it becomes acclimated to your climate, soil conditions and surroundings.  Add to that, saving the best garlic to put back in the ground and you will have the best garlic for your garden.  Plus it is much cheaper than buying garlic again.

Purchase your garlic for growing from a reputable garden source.  Don't use grocery store garlic.  First of all, it might be sprayed with a growth inhibitor plus you wouldn't have available the best garlic choices.  We particularly like German Hardneck garlic.  Our CSA members claim it is the best they have ever tasted.  If you choose to grow several types, be sure to label your crops so you know what garlic you prefer.

 

Beautiful Autumn Colors   October 17, 2005

Autumn is lovely!  Most annuals and some perennials look awesome this time of the year; big, full and colorful. I love to see all the beautiful flowers around people's homes as we drive.  If the correct flowers are chosen, a colorful flowerbed is possible even after frost.  The last two weeks we have discussed chrysanthemums and asters.  How about a couple more beauties that can tolerate frost?

Pansies:

Who can resist a pansy's cute "face" and the jewel like colors?  Look for the cultivars that will go through a cold autumn, lay dormant, (in some warmer climates pansies bloom through winter), and then come back next spring.  Often they will have the word "ice" or "blizzard" or similar words that in their names. 

In areas where freezing weather and snow are common cover the pansies with mulch after the ground is frozen to help protect them from freezing and thawing cycles.  In the spring uncover them and they should come back to life!

As soon as they get leggy, pull them out and replant with your favorite summer annuals.  I have tried to cut pansies back for new regrowth but could never wait long enough to see if they would look good again.  It looked too awful, they had to go.

Flowering Kale:

Flowering Kale doesn't really 'flower', instead it is grown for its beautiful foliage.  They come in purples, pinks and white/greens.  You don't have time now to start with small plants so you will need to find almost full grown plants.  Every spring I grow transplants right in the gardens I want them in precisely for fall color.  We don't really notice them much until the end of summer but it saves me money over buying large plants in the fall.

Next week we will discuss planting garlic.  If you want to grow garlic (it is easy) but don't have your garlic cloves yet, buy some and get ready for next week's instructions.  For the best garlic around you need to plant next year's harvest this fall.  Don't know what to buy? (There are so many choices!)  Our members say German Hardneck is the best they have tasted.  It is the only type we grow.  If you don't have a local source for garlic cloves, search the Internet.  Don't try to grow cloves from the grocery store, next week I will tell you why.

 

Perennial Asters   October 10, 2005

Last week we discussed Hardy Mums; more precisely the lack of hardiness of the newer mums.  A nice alternative for lovely fall color are perennial Asters.  They don't come in the wide variety of colors that you can find in mums but are likely to return year after year.  Asters can be found in purples, lavenders, sometimes pink and white.

Perennial Aster's needs:

Zone 5 to 10

Full sun to very light shade

Average Garden Soil

Height 2 to 3 feet

Asters should be pinched back early in the growing season to create a stockier fuller bloom.  Use the "3 times by the fourth of July" method which means you should pinch off 1/3 of the plant 3 times by July 4th.  If the plant seems sluggish in growth you can just pinch off the tips which will still promote a bushier plant.

Divide every few years in spring.  This will maintain a nice clump and vigor of your aster.  Use this also for propagation.

Cover with pine boughs or other suitable mulch when ground has frozen.

Asters might need support because of their height.

 

Chrysanthemums  (Hardy Mums???)  October 3, 2005 

How many times have you heard, "They just don' make 'em like they used to"?  I am sorry to report "they don't grow 'em like they used to," when it comes to chrysanthemums.  I called a very large nursery yesterday to find out if they had a special "Hardy Mum" I wanted.  Much to my surprise they told me they don't sell those anymore.  Their explanation was "to supply many more colors hardiness has been breed out of them."  Hmmm?  Maybe expanded color selection is correct to a point but my common sense says "planned obsolescence" is operating here.  People love mums in the fall and it is a big money maker for plant sales.  But if you buy them one year and they keep coming back year after year the nurseries have lost money.

It is a well known documented fact that the large seed companies are working to buy up small seed companies, bred plants that don't produce "true seeds" (seeds that can't be saved because the successive plants won't be like the parent) and thereby ensuring sales for the future.  This is one of the reasons GE or GM (genetically engineered or modified) plants are a big problem.  That isn't the biggest problem with GM plants but one of the lesser problems.  So if the seed companies are doing this with seed why not plants?

What do you do?

If you want a hardy mum and know someone who has a mum that comes back year after year write a note to yourself to ask them for a small portion of their mum next spring as they start growing.  I already know who I am going to ask for a portion of her lovely huge mums.

This might help save your mum:

After the ground freezes, layer pine boughs over top of the dormant mum.  This will prevent the freezing/thawing cycle that is inevitable every winter.  This cycle causes heaving (plants coming up out of the ground) which can mean death to a perennial.

 

Cleaning Up Your Vegetable Garden   September 26, 2005

Many years ago, before we knew better, after the growing season was over we would collect all the dead dry plants and vines from our vegetable garden and burn them in the middle of the garden before tilling.  It didn't hurt the garden but it wasn't helpful either.  Now that we know how valuable dead plants are for next year's soil fertility we don't burn them anymore.  There are better choices than turning the plants into ashes.  (Isn't it amazing how as you get older you get wiser?  We give up young bodies for wiser brains!  Thank the Lord we get something in return!)

Four choices to benefit your garden:

Run your lawn mower over the plants, right in the vegetable garden, to reduce the plants and vines to small pieces.  This will make them decompose quicker and you can till them into the soil easier.  Vines from tomatoes and cucurbits (cucumbers, melons and squash) wind around the tiller and create a real headache.  Bigger stalks could still be around next spring if not also chopped up.

Shred the plants into little pieces with a chipper/shredder and place in the garden.

Compost the plants.  You can either leave them whole or shred them.  If left as whole plants they will make it harder to turn your pile although turning the pile is not mandatory.  But if you want compost for next spring, it is best to use small pieces and turn the pile frequently.  If left undisturbed, it could take two years for compost to "finish" and be useable in the garden.

For 'No Till' or layer gardening, use shredded old plants for a new layer of organic material.

Tip:

Don't use diseased plants in the compost or 'tilling in' for next year.  It is best to depose of them through garbage pickup.

 

Raspberry Care   September 19, 2005

Raspberries are easy to grow if you have enough sunshine and room. They grow best in full sun but we have grown them in partial shade.  Partial shade can promote mold and your harvest won't be as great but it can still be worth the effort.  Raspberries are very expensive at the store, don't handle well and become mushy quickly so the best berries will always be those you pick yourself.

There are two types of raspberries: summer bearing (floricane) and everbearing types (primocane). Everbearing really don't "ever bear" but produce two harvests of berries; one in early summer and the second crop in the late summer/fall.  Some people cut the everbearing type down to the ground after the fall crop so this creates what many people think of as 'fall bearing raspberries'. In reality fall bearing and everbearing are the same, only pruned differently.

Some people want just a fall harvest; if this is the case, cut all canes down to the ground when frost turns the berries to mush or in the winter or early spring. All new canes will emerge next spring but they will not produce a summer crop, only a fall crop.

Personally, we prefer to have two crops of berries.  Here in zone 5 the first harvests are in July and second harvests start in late August and go until killing frosts.  It is such a treat to go out in the morning to pick fresh berries for breakfast in the summer.  For two harvest periods from everbearing or primocane berries wait until you see new growth IN THE SPRING, then:

Prune out any dead canes.

Prune off dead ends.

We do not cut canes down in the fall because then we wouldn't get a summer harvest the next year, only fall harvest the following year.  The summer harvest of primocane raspberries grow on the previous year's canes.  The fall harvest grows on new canes formed during spring/summer.

So to reiterate: for two harvests from primocane raspberries, don't prune anything this fall.  Just leave the canes until you see new growth next spring.

For floricane or summer bearing raspberries, last year's canes will produce a summer harvest only.  Old canes will need to be pruned out when harvest is over.  New canes will be growing all summer to produce berries next year.

Weed around your raspberries and if necessary fertilize in the spring. Raspberries require plenty of water (1 inch a week); if rainfall has been in short supply supplement with irrigation. Lack of water will cause poor fruit production and they will be more prone to disease and insect damage. Mulching your raspberry patch will help maintain moisture and control weeds.

 

Moving Perennials   September 12, 2005

Perennials have become a favorite of many gardeners often because they come back year after year.  I am often asked, "When is the best time to move perennials?"  They can be moved anytime the ground can be worked but there are better times than others.  With autumn approaching this is a great time of the year to divide and move perennials.  Hopefully the heat and dryness of summer is behind us with cooler moister days ahead; perfect weather for transplanted perennials.

Perhaps you have found that a certain perennial doesn't look quite right where it is or you would like to multiply your plants.  Get out your shovel or garden fork!  It is time to move!

Prepare the perennial's new home by weeding and amending the soil with compost if necessary.  Dig the new hole before digging up the perennial.  That way when the plant is dug out you can transfer it immediately to its new home, sometimes right from the shovel into to the hole without much root disturbance.  Although not mandatory, trimming the plant back prior to digging will minimize shock; the less foliage the roots have to support the more work it can put into growing new roots.  Be sure to dig up plenty of root ball and surrounding soil to minimize shock to the roots.  Fill in with soil around the root ball and water well.  Keep watered if rainfall is scarce.

To multiply the plant, only take a portion of the original.  If the center has died out, dig out the whole root ball, cut into sections and redistribute as necessary.  Don't dig up perennials that bloom in the late summer or fall unless you are willing to sacrifice the blossoms this year.

 

Keep Those Veggies Coming     September 5, 2005

Many home gardeners don't realize that many crops will keep producing well into the fall if tended to properly.  You might be tired of harvesting and tending to your garden but consider that food is likely to be more costly this winter due to hurricane Katrina: gas hikes, port problems, (the Gulf houses very busy ports), crop damage, etc.  The food you put away this fall might be more valuable than ever.

Rejuvenate Pole Beans

Pole beans will often put out a new flush of beans; take these steps:

Pick off any large, overlooked or misshapen beans.  (If left on the vines the plants will think they have done their job; growing seed and stop producing beans.)
With a garden fork, gently lift one side of the roots, just enough to disturb them a little.  This shocks them back into production.
If the plants look like they need food (yellowing leaves) spray with a foliar feeding or apply liquid fertilizer to the roots.
Water well
If frost threatens cover beans with old bed sheets during the night to extend season.

New Little Cabbages

After you have harvested a head of cabbage leave the stump in the ground; new little cabbages will grow on the stump.
Select one or two and cut off the remaining little cabbages.
Harvest late in the season  (John brought in frozen little red cabbages last year in late November.  They thawed out and were great!)

Protect Tomatoes from First Frosts

Use bed sheets over your tomatoes when frost threatens.  Usually there is one or two nights of frost followed by another month of warm weather.  All you need to do it get them through those first couple frosty nights.  When it gets too cold, harvest largest unblemished green tomatoes and bring them indoors to ripen.  Keep them out on the table or counter in flat containers to keep an eye on them, sometimes they rot and leek.  Although some people think they need a windowsill they don't need sunshine to ripen and cooler temps, such as a basement, slows ripening for extended use.

Keep Picking Broccoli

If you have allowed your broccoli plants to go to seed cut off all the flowering stems and you will get a new flush of side shoots.  Keep them picked every few days.  They are small but just as tasty, even better than the big central head because of less bulky stem and they ready to cook.

Keep harvesting Summer Squash

Yes, I know, you are probably summer squashed out!!  I am too but you might like some zucchini bread this winter or even miss having squash come February.  Eat it now while it is available.  For winter baking, shred squash (any summer squash works in place of zucchini), measure out amount needed for your recipe and put in zipper bags.  Thaw out a bag as need for each recipe.  If you have stopped harvesting summer squash just go out and harvest all the large squash; this will kick the plants, if still alive, back into production.

Help out a Food Bank:

Even if you don't want anymore produce from your garden, local food banks will be happy to take it.  They are likely to be hurting this year due to donations being sent to hurricane devastated areas instead; don't forget them if you have the means to help.

 

To Fertilize or Not Fertilize??  August 29, 2005

For most of us, the growing season is coming to an end and cold weather is only a few months away.  What garden plants can be fertilized now and what can't be fertilized?  You can fertilize annuals but not hardwood plants such as roses, trees and bushes.

Annuals-They only grow one year and then die.  If your annuals look tired and need a boost, go ahead and fertilize.  They might also benefit from deadheading or a trim at the same time.  You just might get a new flush of flowers before frost kills them.

Hardwoods: (bushes, roses, trees)-Hardwoods need to harden off their new growth before winter, which would have grown earlier this year.  Fertilizing them now might encourage more new growth that doesn't have time to harden off before frost.  Wait until spring to fertilize this category of plants.

 

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds   August 22, 2005

Heirloom tomato seeds are easy to save and a good way to secure tomato seeds for next year.  Hybrid tomatoes won't come back true to the plant you grew this year because they have two parents of different varieties and the second generation will likely be inferior.  This is why we don't allow volunteer tomato plants (or squash) to grow the following year.  Space is at a premium and if a tomato isn't great tasting it isn't worth growing.  Since they don't pop out of the ground with labels on them we don't know if they are heirlooms or some other second generation plant.

To save seed from an heirloom or open pollinated tomato place seeds in a labeled glass jar.  Add water and secure cap.  Allow to sit for 3 or so days until a smelly scum starts to form on top.  This fermentation eats the gelatinous substance around the seeds so you can get nice clean seeds without much effort.  Dump the whole mess into a strainer and rinse under running cool water until seeds are totally clean.  You might need to use your finger to rub them while rinsing.  Dry on a labeled paper towel.  Place the clean dry seeds in a labeled envelope or another container for storage.  (Make sure they are completely dry before you put them away.)

Try buying some heirloom tomatoes (find heirlooms at farmer's markets, roadside stands, even health food stores) and save seed from the ones that taste great to you.  Every year we try new heirloom tomatoes and only those that pass the "taste test" are brought back the following year.  If you can taste them before you grow you have saved yourself a whole lot of wasted space on tomatoes you don't care for.  We have at least 3 new tomatoes this year that won't be invited back next year.

 

Picking Ripe Melons   August 15, 2005

Every year all across the world melons are picked too early because they appear 'ready' before they really are ripe.  Unlike red tomatoes or yellow summer squash, which are no-brainers, picking a ripe melon can be difficult and very disappointing if done too early or too late.  Here are a few tips to help pick melons at the right time.

General rules:

Know the maturity date for the type you are growing by counting how many "days to maturity" from the time the plants were placed in the ground or plants started to grow.  This is not a hard and fast rule though because there will be melons ripening weeks apart from each other from the same planting.

Look for a dried tendril closest to the melon (if there are tendrils).  This is a little curly short vine that should turn brown when the melon is ripe.

Watermelons:

The rind will turn from shiny to dull when ripe.

Look for a yellow spot on the underside of the watermelon.  If it is still creamy (for most types) it still is not ready.  This is not a hard and fast rule either.  I had one last year that refused to turn yellow on the underside even though all the other melons did.  I finally picked it and it was ripe.

You can try 'thumping' it to compare it to an unripe melon's 'thump sound'.  Beware that many melons have been picked too early using this method.  I don't trust this method but someone with a good ear might have more success than me.

Cantaloupe:

Get down and smell your cantaloupe.  It should have a strong musky scent or a ripe melon smell.  If it doesn't smell it isn't ripe.  If you are walking through your garden and smell a ripe melon don't ignore it; there is one (or more) out there ripe.

Compare your melon to the pictures on the seed packet or seed catalog.  Is it a type with a heavy web design?  Has it turned the right color?

The melon should 'give' a little from thumb pressure near the stem.

Tropical or Specialty Melons:

These melons often make picking easy because they will "slip" from the vine when ready.  "Slip" means when the melon is picked up or moved the melon will easily come off the vine.  One of our favorite melons is called "Sweetie" and not only does it taste fantastic, (it actually has a hint of butterscotch), but it just slips off the vine when ready.

 

Tomato Hornworms   August 8, 2005

This week John has caught and destroyed over 30 tomato hornworms.  They are very hard to find on the tomato bush because they are identical in the green color of the plants and are well camouflaged.  But their damage is easy to spot; look for leaves stripped right off the branches and tomatoes with large areas missing.  When these conditions are spotted you better start hunting for the culprit or the tomato plant will be totally striped of all leaves and many of the tomatoes will be eaten up too; they are eating machines!

Tomato Hornworms are also called Hornworms or Tobacco Hornworms.  They love tomato, tobacco and potato plants.  They are the larvae for the Sphinx Moth; a lovely moth that is sometimes referred to as the Hummingbird Moth because it hovers while drinking nectar from flowers.  You might see a Sphinx Moth hovering at a butterfly bush, one of its favorites.  But even though the adult is fun to watch, the larvae can wipe out tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and other plants and trees.  In the vegetable garden, they are bad news.  They are big (I mean BIG!) hairless green worms with a 'horn' at their rear, real creepy looking.

Collecting the hornworm in a can or bucket and smashing them on the ground is the preferred method of eradication.  For heavy infestations Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can be sprayed on the plants.  Bt is not harmful to humans, pets or the environment so you can use it without worry.  Organic gardeners have used Bt for decades.  It causes worms to stop eating and they die.

This year has brought more hornworms than normal.  They must like the hot weather this summer has brought.  Thankfully we have 400 tomato plants to harvest from because some of the plants are stripped of vegetation.

 

Planting Trees - Mistakes the "Experts" Make   August 1, 2005

We have all seen them, mounds around newly planted trees, especially in commercial plantings.  The poor trees look like they are placed in miniature volcanoes!  I have three words for this procedure... Wrong, wrong and still wrong!  The only place this type of planting should occur is if the tree is planted in a wet area and needs to be raised.  (But then why would you plant a tree in a wet area if that type of tree wouldn't perform well in heavy moisture; better to select the proper plant for the conditions.)  As far as I am concerned the only reason this is done is so they don't have to dig so deep.  I had to argue with a guy from a well know nursery who was planting a tree for us that I didn't want my tree placed so high.  He tried to tell me it would die if placed at ground level!  In an area that is prone to dryness!  Yea, right!  Well, the tree is fine planted the way I wanted, the way it would grow naturally in nature.

Do trees in nature grow on top of mounds of soil?  The roots prefer to spread out at the base of the tree.  When planted high they first have to grow down and then out, very unnatural.

Another blunder created by the "professionals" is mounding up mulch around the tree trunk.  This constant wetness will cause the bark to rot and could eventually cause death to the tree.  (I know from experience this to be the case.)  Maybe that is why they do it, kind of like insurance that you will need their services again when the trees die!  (Sorry for the sarcasm, I really get irritated with this type of thing!)

Plant trees at the depth they have been growing with the natural 'flare' in the trunk showing; this should be at ground level.  The hole should be dug wider than the root ball but not deeper or the tree could settle deeper into the ground, which isn't good either.

 

Iris Care  July 25, 2005

Irises are a common perennial and well loved by many.  They are fairly easy to care for but eventually they will need to be thinned out.  How do you know when?  When there are few blooms and the bed looks ratty it is time to spend some time with your iris.  Like many perennials overcrowded irises will not perform well.  Iris will multiply so you will have plenty of new plants to start new beds, fill in bare areas or share with friends and family.

Using a garden fork lift the rhizomes of the iris out of the ground, being careful not to damage tender feeding roots.  Shake or rinse off the soil, looking for damage caused by iris-borer or any parts that are rotted or dried out.  Cut off these parts and discard.

Don't compost diseased plants, send them away in your trash pickup.

Separate the rhizomes.  Some will split naturally; others will require you to use a knife.  Quickly dip the rhizomes in a weak solution of bleach and water.  Dry briefly in the shade.

Trim the fans to a third of the height or about 4 inches long.  Cut on an angle for appearances.

Set the rhizomes horizontally on a prepared mound of good soil with the feeder roots spread out away from the rhizome.  The top of the rhizomes should just peek through the soil surface.  Water well.

Your irises are now ready to give beautiful blooms next year.

 

Special Note to Readers:

Seeking gardener's help!  Many of you know how to garden.  Some know a little bit, others have more experience.  Either way, many of you have enough knowledge to help those who have questions.  Maybe you might have regional knowledge we don't have; such as Sego Palms.  I don't even know what they look like let alone how to take care of one.

The farm has kept us extremely busy so many questions posted to our 'Garden Questions and Discussion Forum' have gone unanswered.  We beseech your help.  You don't have to become a registered member on the forum or even be knowledgeable in everything, (although if you are registered there are benefits such as being notified if someone posts to a new posting or answers your new question.)  But maybe you have had an experience with a certain topic and would be willing to give your two cents worth.  Not all gardeners do things alike, so there might be different opinions how to respond to a question, which is OK.

I never intended the Garden Forum to become a 'Dear Diane' forum and have always been excited to see others post responses.  Your opinion counts.  Take a look at the postings, especially to 'Read New' and unanswered questions.  You just might be surprised you know something that will help another gardener.  Take a look and see if there is something you would like to address:  Click Here if you want to take a look.

Thank you for joining in!

 

Powdery Mildew    July 18, 2005

University tests showed that a home formula for powdery mildew actually works better than fungicides designed to fight this fungal disease.  Powdery mildew looks just like the name sounds; plants infected with it will have a white or gray powdery growth.  It may make leaves turn yellow; they may be dwarfed or curled.  At the end stages the plants can die.

If asters and phlox are infected it will actually cause so much damage they might not bloom.  Cucumbers and squash are prone to powdery mildew and if left unattended you can loose the plant.

Excessive moisture (rain or overhead watering) and high humidity will encourage powdery mildew.  At the first sign of powdery mildew you need to take action.

Surprise Weapon--Milk!

Any type of milk will do the job; whole milk to No-fat milk.  It can be store bought or real raw milk.  Dilute as follows:

1-cup milk

9-cups water

Mix together and spray on your plants.

It is that simple!  We use milk with success here at Rocky Gardens.

 

Kale-A Powerhouse of Health!   July 11, 2005

One of the best foods you can eat is kale; underappreciated and misunderstood.  I must admit that until several years ago I was only aware of Ornamental Kale.  It wasn't until we started becoming more aware of truly healthy foods and we started growing it for our CSA, (Community Supported Agriculture) that we ate kale.

Benefits of Kale:

Abundant in lutein which help prevents certain eye diseases
Possibly a better cancer fighter than beta-carotene.
One of the highest sources of antioxidant flavonoids which promote a healthy heart and regulate blood pressure.
Good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A and C, folic acid and dietary fiber.
Helps the body absorb other sources of calcium protecting against osteoporosis.
Helps women regulate estrogen.
For a nursing mother kale will increase her milk supply.

Wow!  Find all that in your average food!

How to Use Kale?

One reason kale is often overlooked is because people don't know how to use it.  I had a drink the other day, compliments of a friend, and it was surprisingly yummy!  Try the recipe at the end called "Creamy Greens Smoothie", you will be surprised!  Today I sautéed diced onion and chopped kale in butter before adding scrambled eggs to the pan.  We also like to tear tender kale leaves into our salads.  You can add at the end of a stir-fry, soup or toss with pasta, minced garlic and olive oil.  Kale can also be braised, steamed, or blanched.  Chop it and add it to anything you might add spinach to, such as lasagna.  Only your imagination will limit what it can be added to.  An Internet search will turn up tons of ideas too.

Soooo Easy to Grow!

It isn't too late to start kale for this growing season because it laughs at frosty nights so it will grow well into fall.  Even an apartment dweller could put out a pot of kale on the porch as long as it has sunshine.  It is easy to grow and keeps producing leaves picking after picking.  We harvest kale by individual leaves, snapping off the larger bottom leaves.  Leave the top leaves intact on the stem and they will keep growing.  By the end of the season your plant will resemble a small palm tree!  For our CSA we harvest from the same plants every other day; that's a very productive plant!  For a family, several plants will supply them with healthy nutrients for months on end.

Sow seeds in good growing medium and keep it moist.  Germination should only take a few days.  Grow in cell packs until large enough to transplant into the garden in a sunny location.

Creamy Greens Smoothie  (Really very good, honest!)

2 medium size kale leaves

½ cup pineapple juice

½ cup milk

1 frozen banana (peel and slice before freezing)

Place ingredients in blender and puree until smooth and kale is in tiny pieces.

*Reference material from "In the Praise of Kale" by Cathe Olson from "Mothering" magazine, August 2005 issue.

 

Planting Trees and Shrubs  July 4, 2005

First you need to select a tree or shrub that fits the site you desire to plant in.  Read the information available on the tree or shrub.  For example: you wouldn't plant a birch tree in an area that is usually dry, (birches prefer a moist soil.)  How tall and wide will the tree be at maturity?  It is very sad to see a beautiful tree cut down only because it has become too big for the site.  Are there overhead wires above?  This is a common problem, which is easy to avoid by choosing trees that don't grow tall.  Does the tree or shrub need a protected site?  You shouldn't plant a dogwood or rhododendron in a windy open area.  If you choose the proper tree for the conditions it will live in you won't have to struggle to keep it alive and healthy.

Experts used to advise you dig the hole deeper and wider than the root ball.  The advice now is to only dig the hole as deep as the root ball but at least two times wider.  This keeps the tree or shrub from sinking as the soil settles while allowing the feeder roots to grow out into the looser soil; this helps 'anchor' the tree.  Soil amendments are also discouraged because if you give the roots this nice wonderful 'bowl' to live in they tend to stay right there, circling around and around, not venturing out into the poorer soil.  Exception to this advice is if your soil is very sandy you will need to add compost or peat moss to help with water retention.  And if your soil is hard clay you will need to dig up a larger area than two times larger than the root ball.  Add some peat moss to the soil you removed from the excavated area to use for refilling, but don't completely change out the soil with new fertile soil.  Your tree needs to get accustomed to the native soil.

It is very helpful to get a wheelbarrow, garden cart or even a tarp to hold the soil you are going to dig up.  After you have dug the hole use your shovel or a fork to loosed the soil around the hole.  This helps open up the compacted soil for the roots to grow into.

Place your tree or shrub into the hole.  Add some soil to support the tree while you check all the way around to make sure it is standing up straight and is facing the direction you desire.  The top of the root ball, (where the trunk widens and roots flare out), should be at or above the soil level.  If the root ball is too low you can possibly add soil to the bottom of the hole with your shovel, moving the root ball from side to side to get soil underneath.  If it is too high you will need to remove the tree and dig deeper.  Now is the time to fix anything not proper, not after the hole is refilled with soil.

If the root ball has burlap or a wire cage remove as much as possible being careful not to cause the ball to fall apart.  Burlap under the ball should rot.  Some "experts" tell you not to worry about the burlap or wire cage.  I can attest from personal experience this is bad advice.  Our property had a former tree farm on it and we can still find trees wrapped in burlap that hasn't rotted yet; these trees are 10 to 15 years old!  We have two trees that are doing poorly because their roots are in balls because of wire cages; again these are not young trees.  "Experts" sometimes give "easy" advice not proper advice!

Fill the hole in with soil halfway.  Make any further adjustments.  Water the soil to fill in any air pockets and help settle the soil.  Fill in the remainder of the hole.  Tamp the soil lightly with your foot.

Water the soil thoroughly with a slow stream of water.  You need a hose for this job; just a watering can or bucket is not sufficient.

Mulch the area around the tree with a few inches of mulch.  Keep the mulch from touching the trunk.  Moist mulch against the truck can encourage rot, pests or disease.

Water your newly planted tree or shrub if rainfall does not provide adequate moisture up until the ground freezes.

Don't fertilize at this time, wait until next spring.  Fertilizing encourages new growth.  New growth is too tender to survive winter; it needs a full season to harden.  Most trees won't even need fertilizing.

Unless you live in an area that is extremely windy or the tree is crooked you don't need to stake it.  If you do stake your tree, make sure the tree is protected with a piece of hose, (run the wire or rope through a short section of hose), or a soft strap around the trunk.  The wire or rope should not be too tight, the tree needs to move and bend slightly with the wind.

Deer and rabbits will eat the bark off young trees and shrubs.  Rabbits are especially hard on tender bark during the winter months.  You need to protect them from these hungry critters by encircling your tree with a suitable cage or fence.

Fall is a great time to plant your trees or shrubs because they will still have time to establish a root system but the top growth isn't actively growing, which helps reduce the stress to the newly planted tree.  Although you will need to water when first planted and possibly occasionally afterwards, watering needs are greatly reduced in the fall.  A 'summer planted' tree or shrub will need watering regularly; don't forget it or it could die.

If you choose the right tree or shrub for your site and plant it properly you can plan on enjoying it for many years to come.

 

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