Planting bare root apple trees

Planting bare root apple trees

I can’t believe its been almost a year since I planted our bare root apple trees!  Where has the time gone?  And, why haven’t I written about it on here yet? Its been a very busy year but I am glad that I took the time last spring to order and plant three bare root apple trees. Growing up I remember having two apple trees alongside our driveway and I knew that one way of embracing our new zone 5 growing zone was to plant something that I couldn’t grow in Florida. Apple trees fit that requirement! I started this process by checking out the Iowa State Extension website for variety recommendations. I love looking through plant catalogs and I knew I would be easily distracted by beautiful photos of bright red apples. This publication on Fruit Cultivars for Iowa is my favorite for selecting fruit trees. I decided to go with three different cultivars grown on semi-dwarf root stock. I bought my trees from Stark Brothers online. They had the varieties I wanted and… I was impatient. I knew we were moving to Iowa and I wanted to get these babies planted!   I am sure our local nurseries have these varieties too. Selecting Tree Size Buying grafted trees allows you to chose the mature size of your fruit trees. Since mine are grafted, there were several choices available. Decide which is right for you based on the amount of room that you have available and also being considerate of picking. Columnar Apple Trees mature to be about 8-10′ tall, but only 18-24″ wide. This makes them perfect for growing in containers on balconies and patios. Dwarf Apple Trees mature to be about 8-10′ tall and wide. Even though they are smaller, they produce an abundance of full-size apples. Semi-Dwarf Apple Trees mature to be about 12-15′ tall and wide. They offer maximum apple yield per square foot. Standard Apple Trees mature to be about 15-25′ tall and 20′ wide. They are perfect if you have a large space or want a multi-purpose apple & shade tree. Planting bare root apple trees I began by marking the location of my trees. I wanted them equally spaced and even though they don’t look like much now, I think this row of trees will be beautiful in the future. Since this area was in grass, I started by removing about an 18″ circle of sod and soil to create a large hole. Once I had the tree setting in there I could adjust to make sure the roots were spread out and also that the depth was correct. The beauty of planting bare root apple trees is that they are very easy to work with and this task can easily be done alone. I did add some flags and small stakes to my trees to keep them upright while they established. Just yesterday I took the photo below and removed the small stakes. Its amazing, but the process of bending and moving in the wind will actually make these apple trees stronger in the long run. I like to think of stakes as being similar to an ankle brace; you need the brace to start feeling better, but if you continue to wear it all of the time your ankle will not get stronger because the brace is doing the work. I think one year is a good rule of thumb for the amount of time to leave a stake on a tree. You can see that I did increase the ring of grass-free space around each tree. The buckets that are shown are my “slow release” watering system. I have small holes drilled in the bottom of each so that when I am watering I can just fill them and move on to the next and yet it will water the tree slowly and deeply. I am so excited to see the second year of growth on these bare root apple trees!  Do you have any fruit trees ordered to plant this spring?  I will confess, I’ve already placed the order for my peach trees…...
Colorblind gardening

Colorblind gardening

Is it possible that we spend too much time thinking about color schemes and designs for our gardens?  Could colorblind gardening be the next trend for gardeners? Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Garden Writers conference in Buffalo, New York. Have you been to Buffalo recently? It is wonderful! Garden Walk Buffalo is America’s largest garden tour and gives you the opportunity to snoop, I mean explore, private gardens across the city. The photos on this post share one of the most memorable gardens I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. A small sign reads: Colorblind people make the best gardeners. Joe, the gardener here has a major color deficiency. Hope you can’t tell! I would say that Joe’s colorblind gardening should give us all inspiration. Pulling together the brightest, happiest plants you can find into a single space can only exude one feeling: happiness. I loved experiencing this garden. I found myself walking around with a huge grin on my face and realized the other folks visiting might think I was a little crazy. That’s the emotion this garden makes you feel. Another sign reads: This garden has over 150 pots. Each is planted with annuals every year.   What?!  By the time of my visit in early August you couldn’t even see the pots under all of the foliage. If you decide to attend Garden Walk Buffalo, and I highly recommend you do, this garden is part of the Block Alliance of 16th Street.  Oh how nice it must be to sit out here in the evenings! Many times I’ve looked through my hundreds of photos from Buffalo and I inevitably stop to look at the images from this “colorblind garden”. Oh what fun he must have!...
Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Sometimes I feel like if I put out to the universe what I am looking for then these things tend to show up. Okay, universe, you’ve been alerted, on the top of my “plant wish list” is Rhodochiton atrosanguineum, “Purple Bell Vine”.  Are you familiar with this plant? The first time I saw Rhodochiton atrosanguineum was during a garden visit as part of the Garden Writers Association conference in Buffalo, New York last summer. As I toured this homeowner’s garden taking photos I literally stopped when I saw this plant. It doesn’t happen too often that I see an entirely new plant. Well, new to me, that is. What could this be?  Where do I get one? The Purple Bells Vine was being grown on a small obelisk structure and had completely engulfed the metal frame.  The deep purple flowers were hanging from top to bottom. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I couldn’t help but to start researching this plant as soon as I sat down on the bus. Here’s what I’ve discovered: From Annie’s Annuals and Perennials: Introduced from Mexico way back in 1833, Rhodochiton atrosanguineum is a funky fast growing option for baskets or a shady trellis. Vines stay a compact 10’ and produce masses of bell-shaped, maroon-purple, pendant flowers that dangle like flowery ornaments on fine threadlike stems. Inspiring! Lovely 2”, heart-shaped leaves edged in purple adorn its tendrils. Best blooms occur in bright shade throughout Summer and Fall. Protect from frost in Winter or bring indoors. Rich soil and a good feedings will make for a happy vine. Part shade to full shade. From Select Seeds: This refined beauty of a vine was introduced from Mexico in 1833. The small heart-shaped toothed leaves are dark green with burgundy edges. The violet bell-shaped flowers have a maroon “clapper”, and the 2″ flowers sway from the ends of thread-like stems. Try it in containers or twining up string trellises where it will bloom until late fall freezes. Lifecycle: Annual Hardiness: Tender Annual Color: Violet Size: 6-10 ft Season: Summer to fall Sun: Full sun Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained So I think the real question at this point is: Am I ordering plants or...
Using Pinterest for easy garden design

Using Pinterest for easy garden design

Today I am writing a short article on how I use Pinterest for easy garden design tools. Yes, Pinterest can become a black hole of time spent looking endlessly at home decor, gardens, plants, pets and everything else I never even knew I wanted.  But, it can also be inspirational, insightful and help you organize your thoughts. I swear, Pinterest really can help with easy garden design and especially plant selection. Plant Selection Okay, I admit that some direction is needed. Do you have an idea in mind? One of my projects last summer was adding a new mixed perennial and shrub bed outside of our kitchen window and near our back deck. One new bed a year has been my self imposed limit!  I really appreciate gardens that are well planned and have color combinations that compliment the plants. Lyndale Park Gardens always comes to mind for me when I think of very thoughtful color design. I decided that I wanted this new bed to have a combination of purple, orange and chartreuse. Bright and vibrant, this bed will not have room for reds, pinks or yellows. One of the reasons I started my Pinterest board was to help me see the plants I was considering together and this easy garden design tool also helped me eliminate plants where the colors were just not compatible (sorry, lupines).   Below shows a screenshot of my board for this flower bed. You can see the actual Pinterest board HERE and explore the full potential plant palette. I don’t think this bed will ever include all of these plants, but it is a great visual to see what looks good together and what doesn’t. It also helps me to make sure I am only purchasing, and pinning, zone appropriate plants.   Plant Records In addition to helping me decide what I wanted to buy throughout the season, or start from seed, this board also serves as a way to record what I buy. For instance, PowWow Echinacea was on sale one afternoon so I picked up several of these. While this cultivar was not specified on my “New Flower Bed” board, I searched for an image of this to add. This will help me remember the varieties of plants far longer than I am able to keep track of the tags.   I should mention that the label for this board, “New Flower Bed,” was far from inspirational. I’ve since changed it to “Backyard Deck Bed” to help specify where these are at, and because I know there will be another new flower bed in my future! Curious what this actually looks like?  Stay tuned for an update to come....
Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Imagine my surprise when I came across a major mealybug infestation on my succulents. Mealybugs on succulents are not rare, however I was surprised to see just how many I (or rather my aeoniums) had to deal with!  I was cleaning up some plants and as I turned this container a half turn, bam! There they were.  How did I get mealybugs on my succulents? That’s a good question. Quite honestly, they’ve probably always been there, but just not in these numbers. Stressed plants are going to be more favorable to mealybugs, so that may be an indicator which plants need some care. Mealybugs on succulents is common and since I did bring in a lot of plants from outside this fall, I may have accidentally brought these pests indoors too. When we lived in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to have an outbreak in the landscape occasionally. Hibiscus are especially prone to this and you can see how I dealt with those HERE. What do mealybugs look like? Mealybugs look like little pieces of cotton stuck to the plant. They are often found along the stem and where leaves attach to the stem is a really good place to look. The mealybugs shown here have found a nice protected place under the canopy of the leaves on this aeonium. Outdoors it would provide them protection from the elements, in my house it provides them a place to hide where I am not likely to see them! According to California Extension, “Mealybugs suck sap from plant phloem, reducing plant vigor, and they excrete sticky honeydew and wax, which reduces plant and fruit quality, especially when black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. Large accumulations of mealybugs, their egg sacs, and wax can be unattractive. High populations feeding on foliage or stems can slow plant growth and cause leaf drop; however, healthy plants can tolerate low populations without significant damage. ”   How do I get rid of mealybugs on succulents? The supplies for this are simple: Rubbing alcohol and Q-tips. I like to pour some of the rubbing alcohol into the cap and then use the Q-tip to soak up as much as possible. Then, simply touch the wet tip to the mealybugs. Sometimes they will turn black instantly (my favorite!) and if there are a lot you can kind of wipe them up with this. This is also a good time to look for any dead or yellowing leaves that might have collections of these mealybugs on them. I just remove these and throw them in the trash in combination with the alcohol rub down. Once cleaned the plant looks great again. I will keep my eye on it for a few weeks to come back and treat any mealybugs that were missed. What a simple and easy way to treat mealybugs on succulents without introducing unwanted chemicals or pesticides into your...
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