Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wall of Shame

A drive by a local church a couple of weeks ago proved that bad pruning is always just around the corner.

Plate 1: Workers cut through the branch collar past where the tree keeps it's own chemical protection against fungus and bacteria. While these trees still have some protection, it has been seriously compromised.

Plate 2: This cut goes beyond the branch bark ridge. Now all of the chemicals that protect the limb connection have been cut off. You can see an intact branch bark ridge on the set of limbs behind the cut. 

Plate 3: The 'fuze' at the base of the cut indicates someone doing the work that is not comfortable with the equipment he is using. While all tree trimmers have an occasional bad cut, the scrapes on the right side of the cut proves the trimer had bad control of his saw and did not care about the tree.

Plate 4: Two wrongs do not make a right. Three, four, and five don't either.

Plate 5: Two for the price of one?

Plate 6: This is a classic case of tree topping. If you look closely you will see that the major upper level limbs were cut to create a uniform hight. While the idea has appeal, it has the same logic as cutting off a child's feet to solve the problem of different shoe sizes.

Plate 7: The pruner could have made the cut closer to a side branch to encourage growth on that branch. As is, this stub will either die, or more likely, sprout four or five weakly attached branches.

Plate 7: One of these branches has a good cut , but the redirect branch is not big enough to fully support the larger branch that was trimmed. The rule of thumb is that the redirect branch needs to be at least one third the diameter of the removed branch at the point of the cut.

Plate 8: There are times when a bolt needs to be put in a tree for support. This tree is tied to a stake that is much weaker that it is. Even if that were not the case, the eyelet screw is flimsy enough to be pulled out of the tree.
If you prune trees you must study and train so that you know how to do it right. If you hire people to prune for you, you still need to study so you know who to hire.

One last thought: if your doctor practiced medicine like this landscape company practices pruning, what kind of shape would you be in?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Spring Planting

Looking out my door in January. Maybe not time to plant yet.

Every late winter I get asked, "What can I plant in the spring?" This is a difficult question since planting is best layered over time. This list covers most of the early plantings that go in as soon as the ground thaws. In my area the thaw comes in mid March.

Brussels Sprouts




Swiss Chard

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Permaculture Pruning: Lesson One

Me climbing into the main crotch of a peach tree.

To prune properly, you need to know something about how the plant is structured and how it responds to getting cut. The following is a list and description of some of the important parts of a woody plant for you to know when pruning.

In future posts I will teach how to prune right.

Branch A subordinate shoot coming off of a larger stem.

Branch Bark Ridge This is a pucker of bark that appears on the upper side of the angle where two limbs meet. It is most common on angles where one limb is bigger than the other. Branch bark ridges do not appear on all trees. Lindens, for instance, rarely have them.

Crotch The area where two limbs meet.

Co-dominant Stems Two branches that are about equal in size and vigor.

Collar A swollen ring at the base of a branch where it meets the trunk of a larger branch. This ring contains wood created from the branch itself as well as the larger limb it is attached to. The collar is easily visible on some limbs, but it is usually hard for the beginner to see.

Included Bark When two branches grow close enough together that they are unable to knit together properly. This causes the back to get caught and die between the two branches. Crotches that have included bark are common breaking points when the tree is under stress.

Node The point on a stem where buds and leaves are or were attached.

Scaffold Limb The major branches of a fruit tree.

Spur A short, slow growing stem that is often the area of fruit growth.

Sucker A shoot growing from the base or roots of a plant. Watersprouts are often called suckers.

Trunk The main stem of the tree.

Watersprout A vigorous, fast growing branch. Watersprouts usually grow vertically.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Permaculture vs. Gardening

I think we all know what gardening is, but to many permaculture is a new term. Permaculture is a combination of the two words: permanent and agriculture. It was coined in the 70s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren for a system of farming they were developing. This system mimics processes and patterns in nature in the attempt to create more food and cut down on work in the long term.

Permaculture is mostly interested in the design process, but it also contains a loose group of techniques that is easiest described as, 'Best management practices for sustainable food growth'. 

I don't know when permaculture moved to the quarter acre lot, but it is a natural fit with farming's little sister, the garden. Permaculture matches well with today's interest in organic eating and gardening, preserving natural resources, and self sufficiency.

Here is a list of topics and practices that are common to permaculturists:
  • Sheet mulching
  • Forest gardening
  • Garden animals
  • Nitrogen fixing plantings 
  • Community involvement
  • Aquaculture
  • Resource management
  • Natural design and patterns
  • The influence of structures and gardens on each other

You will notice that 'community involvement' is not an idea you readily relate to farming and gardening. The sustainability Mollison and Holmgren were looking for stretches beyond the farm. For many, permaculture now means 'permanent culture'. For them permaculture is searching for a better way to live in the world.

At its base, permaculture is just a collection of good tools to make my garden better. I will always call myself a gardener first, because it is an old word that everyone understands. It is a way of life that that extends back to the beginning of history. But even with that history, it never hurts to reach out and choose a new tool or two. So I guess I am a permaculturist as well.