Trees…After the Storm

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By Katie Himanga, Goodhue County Master Gardener

Does your columnar arborvitae look like this photo as a result of the May 2 snowstorm?

Look closely to see if the stems are broken. Those need to be cut at the break or removed entirely. Arborvitae has some ability to re-sprout from broken stems, but only time will tell how a particular tree will respond. For stems that are bent but not broken, some will stand back up on their own. Others won’t do it on their own but can be supported with a splint for a few seasons until they regain strength. Use a long bamboo pole, wood dowel or flexible fiberglass pole. The latter are used for tents and for supporting netting in the garden. Strap the splint to the bent arborvitae stem at several points along the pole with Velcro tape or soft rags. Check the stems every few weeks throughout the summer and loosen the ties as the stem expands.

For other types of trees with broken limbs… If the tree has just one or two, it may be best to remove each broken branch entirely. Make the final cut just outside the branch collar. If there are many broken branches but the tree is otherwise safe to leave in the landscape, it’s best to cut off just the broken part of each branch. Use sharp tools but leave as much live tissue as possible on the broken stub. Healthy branches will re-sprout from dormant buds and it might be possible to do restorative pruning in future years. Plan to have a Certified Arborist work on the tree during the dormant season beginning in 2-3 years.

Stop Oriental Bittersweet in MN

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Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener Genella Mussell
answering questions about invasive Oriental Bittersweet

by Genella Mussell, Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener

As leaves, trees and undergrowth begin to fill out and eventually paint our world green I want to remind folks to be on the lookout for invasive species. We have heard the awful news about the Emerald Ash Borer for our Ash trees. How many of us as gardeners are aware of Oriental Bittersweet?

Bittersweet? That beautiful berry and vine used to make those fall wreaths often seen at craft fairs and stores? Well, yes and no. The bittersweet that should be used in these wreaths is the American Bittersweet. Unfortunately there may be wreaths made with a variety named Oriental Bittersweet.

The bittersweet causing concern for the Minnesota DNR is the Oriental Bittersweet. Unfortunately it was introduced to the US as an ornamental vine. It is a climbing woody perennial vine. It has proven to be very aggressive. It can grow to heights of 66’. Because of this aggressive growth it can smother trees, shrubs and other vegetation. It had been known to cover entire trees and pull them down due to the heaviness of the growth. The vines can girdle and kill grown trees.

The Oriental Bittersweet looks very similar to the American. Differences that can be noted are in how the fruit and flowers grow and the color of the berries. The Oriental Bittersweet has fruit and flowers located in the leaf axils along the length of the stem. American bittersweet, however, only has fruit and flowers in terminal clusters. The berries of the American Bittersweet are orange and those of the Oriental yellow. These are best seen in the fall.

Why the warning? As stated, this vine is very aggressive. The Oriental Bittersweet has at present a limited distribution in Minnesota, which is why we need to stop it now.  As gardeners we should be on the lookout for it or at least aware of it. Because it is a favorite in ornamental wreaths it may be unintentionally introduced. So as a warning, when attending craft fairs or shows, take a careful look at the wreath and make sure they are not compromised of the Oriental Bittersweet.

Sadly, we have any number of invasive species of which we must be aware. If we take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the plants around us or those with which we may come in contact, we can perhaps slow the spread of some of these species. We should remember the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Online Resources:

The Soil is Alive!

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by Karen O’Rourke, Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener
“A bare plowed field is hungry, thirsty and running a fever.”  That statement sure caught my attention when I read the handout called “Soil Health/Soil Quality”  by Peter Hartman, NRCS Soil Scientist  – Rochester, Minnesota.  A few other things to consider:
  • There are 9 billion living organisms in just a tablespoon of soil.
  • Keep soil covered with living plants or plant residues to avoid erosion.
  • Minimize disturbance of the soil to limit weed seeds.
  • Maximize diversity of plants in rotation, using plants from many different groupings such as flowers, herbs, vegetables, ground covers for visual interest and to limit disease that can spread in monocultures.
  • Keep living roots in the soil to hold the soil in place as much as possible.  Consider cover crops off-season.
“Tillage is bad for the soil, tillage plants weed seeds” notes Hartman.  Community gardeners, lets keep the soil food web working!  Ruth’s Stouts book:  Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent is a great reference for no till gardening and can be found at the Red Wing Public Library.  If you would like to see these methods in action, stop by the demonstration plots at Spring Creek Community Garden or email me at korourke3348@gmail.com .
Do you want to learn more about soil?  Check out the Soil Primer by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Garlic Mustard Videos

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TOO MUCH SNOW TO GARDEN? WATCH THESE VIDEOS :

Perfect timing! An upside of our new snow – it buys us time to get the word out. We have just a few weeks until garlic mustard goes to seed in Goodhue and surrounding counties. It is important for us as  to take action with best practices in our own back yards and through education – watch the video to find out how.

Sorry about the first attempt to post this and the accompanying message that lead to nowhere – something glitched when trying to embed the  first video, but as a result I found a second.  Hence, just the links now. Your humble blogger, nlb