Daylight Saving Time

Apologies for the lapse of posting articles as typically scheduled at midnight here for this morning and yesterday morning. The article that had been scheduled for yesterday morning posted an hour earlier, at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night. The article that had been scheduled for this morning posted an hour earlier, at 11:00 p.m. last night. I neglected to adjust the schedule on Sunday for Daylight Saving Time.

Seasonal Pruning Is Precisely That

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Some trees get pruned after bloom.

Seasonal pruning is just as the terminology implies, seasonal. It might seem as if it all happens in winter. Most of it begins after cooling autumn weather initiates dormancy. Most of it is completed before warming spring weather stimulates vascular activity and resumption of growth. That is why most seasonal pruning is referred to simply as winter pruning. Winter really is best for most of it.

However, most is not all. Plants that are damaged by frost should not be pruned immediately. Because pruning removes insulating vegetation, and stimulates new growth that is more sensitive to frost, such pruning is delayed until after the threat of subsequent frost. Birches and perhaps maples are popularly pruned in late summer or autumn because they bleed so much if pruned in winter.

Flowering cherry, plum, peach, crabapple and quince do not need the same sort of pruning that their fruiting counterparts rely on. Their exquisite bloom is the priority, rather than fruit. Pruning prior to bloom could diminish their potential. They can instead be pruned immediately after bloom, as new growth is emerging, or later in summer after soft new growth has become a bit more resilient.

Lilac and forsythia should likewise be pruned after spring bloom, but more aggressively than the flowering fruitless ‘fruit’ trees. If not pruned enough, they will produce fewer canes through summer to bloom the following spring. Older and gnarlier canes should be cut to the ground to favor younger and less branched canes. Old Oregon grape and Heavenly bamboo canes can be culled too.

Redtwig dogwood and cultivars of willow that are pollarded or coppiced for their colorful twigs can be pruned later too. There is no need to deprive them of their primary assets prematurely. They should be pruned as winter ends though, before their buds start to pop. Pussy willow is an exception that gets harvested after buds have fuzzily popped, but before new growth begins to develop.

Evergreen plants can be pruned late in winter, just before new growth develops to replace what gets pruned away.

Way Beyond Last Frost Date

90410thumbScheduling of gardening chores is as important now as it ever was. We plant warm season vegetables and annuals in time for spring and summer. We plant cool season vegetables and annuals for autumn and winter. We pick flowers as they bloom. We harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen. We watch the seasons change on our calendars, as well as in the locally specific weather.

Yet, the one scheduling tool that we do not hear as much about as we did when agriculture was more common in the region is the ‘last frost date’. It refers to the average date of the last potentially damaging frost for a specific region. The last of such frosts might actually be earlier or later, but the last frost date remains a standardized time to plan particular procedures and planting around.

There are likely a few reasons why we do not talk about the last frost date much. The most relevant reason is likely the timing. Around here, the last frost date is sometime in January. It is earlier in some spots, and later in others, but it is sometime between January 1 and 30. It is simply too early to limit much of what we do in the garden in early spring, and is irrelevant to most winter chores.

It might seem to be just as irrelevant now, since the last frost was so long ago. Seed for warm season vegetables and annuals is sown as the weather gets warmer only because it would grow too slowly while the weather is too cool in winter, not because of a threat of frost. There really is quite a bit of time between the last frost and warm spring weather, while the weather is still rather cool.

However, pruning of plants that were damaged by frost should have been delayed at least until after the last frost date, and perhaps as late as spring. Although unsightly, damaged growth shelters inner growth from subsequent frost. Besides, premature pruning stimulates new growth that is more sensitive to subsequent frost. Most of such pruning is delayed until just after the last frost date.

If delayed longer, fresh new growth will show how far back damaged stems must get pruned.

Schedule Adjustment

P80624Something that I neglected to consider about the first year anniversary of this blog is that what was new is now old. The articles from my weekly gardening column that were new when posted last year are now a year old. That necessitates an adjustment to scheduling.
Recent articles get posted on Mondays and Tuesdays. Each article gets split into two separate posts. The first part on Monday is the main article, which is about a specified horticultural topic. The second part on Tuesday is about the featured species. Older articles from the same time a year earlier get posted in the same manner on Thursdays and Fridays. That format worked well until now. Articles that were new in the beginning of September of last year are scheduled to be recycled now, for the beginning of September this year.
Obviously, there is no point in posting the same articles twice. ‘Flowers Might Be Getting Scarce’ and ‘Fernleaf Yarrow’ were already recycled earlier, before I noticed that they were two of the first articles posted a year ago. The simple solution would be to back up a year, to recycle articles from 2016 instead of from 2017. However, those articles were already recycled on Thursdays and Fridays. Therefore, the schedule will be backed up even farther, to recycle articles from the same time in 2015. I am trying to keep this simple. Of course, no one should notice. The articles are appropriate to the season regardless of what year they were written in.
What might get noticed is that a few extra articles will be added to the mix. This will only continue between about now and the beginning of November, which was when I started recycling articles last year. Because the blog started in the beginning of September, and I started recycling year-old articles in the beginning of November, there are articles from September and October (between about September 1 and November 1) of 2016 that have not yet been recycled. I want to use them up just to that none get left out.
This is probably way more explanation than anyone needs, particularly since it is mostly in regard to something that should not get noticed; but it will explain the few extra articles between now and November. If I get a bit of time later today, I might add the first of the superfluous articles tonight.

Saint Fiacre Day

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Today, September 1, was the Feastday of Saint Fiacre, the Patron Saint of gardeners. I would not have known if I had not earlier seen this very thorough and informative article written by Doctor David Marsh of the Gardens Trust;

https://thegardenstrustblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/st-fiacre/

In all my writing, I had mentioned Saint Fiacre only once, and only in regard to garden statuary. I described how Saint Francis, who happens to be the patron saint of animals, is popularly believed to be the patron saint of gardeners because his statue is so popular in gardens, often in conjunction with statues of frolicking animals, but that statues of Saint Fiacre are very rare.

Besides the Feastday of Saint Fiacre, this September 1 also happens to be the first year anniversary of my blog. I have now been posting articles from my weekly gardening column, as well as other elaborations, for an entire year. With the exception of September 2, the day after establishing the blog, I have posted an article daily. Since participating with the Six on Saturday meme, I have been posting two articles on Saturday. There were even a few days in which three articles were posted.

Unfortunately, back in February or March, my weekly gardening column was discontinued from the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, which was the first newspaper group that I started writing for nearly twenty years ago. Silicon Valley Community Newspapers still has access to the articles, and can use them if they choose to; but I am no longer employed with them. Because I write for several other newspaper groups, I did not want to stop writing my weekly gardening column just yet. I enjoy it too much. I will have been writing it for twenty years in October, but blogging is still new to me.

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Seasons Are Constantly In Flux

80822thumbGardening requires planning. There is always planning. The vegetables that are getting harvested now are developing mostly on plants that were put out in the garden early last spring. Some of those plants were grown from seed sown even earlier, late last winter. Now that it is more than halfway through summer, it is time to plan for cool season vegetable and annuals for next autumn.

There is still no need to rush cool season vegetables and flowering annuals that will be purchased as small plants in six packs or four inch pots. They are only beginning to become available in nurseries, and get planted a bit later. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are popularly purchased as small plants because not very many are needed, and they are reasonably inexpensive.

However, if varieties of these vegetables that are not expected to be available in nurseries are desired, they must be purchased as seed. If space allows, they can be sown directly into the garden early in September. Otherwise, they can be sown now into flats, six packs or small pots to grow into small plants that will be ready when warm season plants relinquish their space later in autumn.

Root vegetables like beets, turnips and carrots should not be grown or purchased in flats or pots. They get disfigured by transplant. Therefore, they should be sown directly into the garden through September. Carrots should perhaps be delayed until halfway through September. Turnip greens and leafy lettuces should be sown directly as well just because they get distressed from transplant.

Almost all cool season vegetable plants can be grown in phases, or several small groups planted every two week or so, in order to prolong harvest. Those planted first develop and are ready for harvest first. By the time they are depleted, the next phase should be ready. However, because most cool season vegetables develop somewhat slowly, and individual plants within each group develop at variable rates, planting only one early phase, and one late phase, perhaps with another phase in between, might prolong harvest more than adequately.

Gemini

P80617Astrology is an interesting concept. It is amazing how accurate the various zodiacs are. In fact, they are so accurate, that all twelve of the zodiacs can apply to just about anyone, regardless of their respective birthday.

For example, Gemini people are gentle, affectionate, curious and adaptable. Well, who isn’t? If I told you that these traits applied to Leo, Aquarius or Sagittarius, would you believe me? The weaknesses of Gemini are nervousness, inconsistency and indecisiveness. We all of us experience these weaknesses at one time or another. Gemini people like music, books, magazines and strolling about town. What about Aries, Capricorn and Taurus? Don’t they? Are Gemini people unique in their dislike for loneliness, confinement or repetition? Probably not.

June 20 will be the end of Gemini. It will then be time for Cancer, with its set of distinctive traits, strengths and weaknesses.

Gardening according to astrology might seem to be just as ‘accurate’, but there is a bit more science to justify it. Back before calenders were commonly in use, the seasons were identified by the weather. Since weather changes like . . . well, like the weather, astrology provided another level of accuracy based on the time of year rather than on variable weather. For years when warm weather lingered into autumn, astrology dictated when cool season vegetables needed to be planted, even if the weather suggested that it was too early. Astrology was also used to forecast the last frost date, even while winter was still cold. It might have taken decades to compile enough data for the system to work, but it really was, and continues to be effective. After all, the calendars that we use now are based on the position of the Earth within the Solar System, or in other words, astrology.

Gemini

P80617Astrology is an interesting concept. It is amazing how accurate the various zodiacs are. In fact, they are so accurate, that all twelve of the zodiacs can apply to just about anyone, regardless of their respective birthday.

For example, Gemini people are gentle, affectionate, curious and adaptable. Well, who isn’t? If I told you that these traits applied to Leo, Aquarius or Sagittarius, would you believe me? The weaknesses of Gemini are nervousness, inconsistency and indecisiveness. We all of us experience these weaknesses at one time or another. Gemini people like music, books, magazines and strolling about town. What about Aries, Capricorn and Taurus? Don’t they? Are Gemini people unique in their dislike for loneliness, confinement or repetition? Probably not.

June 20 will be the end of Gemini. It will then be time for Cancer, with its set of distinctive traits, strengths and weaknesses.

Gardening according to astrology might seem to be just as ‘accurate’, but there is a bit more science to justify it. Back before calenders were commonly in use, the seasons were identified by the weather. Since weather changes like . . . well, like the weather, astrology provided another level of accuracy based on the time of year rather than on variable weather. For years when warm weather lingered into autumn, astrology dictated when cool season vegetables needed to be planted, even if the weather suggested that it was too early. Astrology was also used to forecast the last frost date, even while winter was still cold. It might have taken decades to compile enough data for the system to work, but it really was, and continues to be effective. After all, the calendars that we use now are based on the position of the Earth within the Solar System, or in other words, astrology.

Serously?!

P71104Gardening is not for everyone. If you are reading this, you probably enjoy gardening. There are many more people who simply are not interested in it. Some tend to their own gardens in a basic manner just to keep their homes looking good. Most hire gardeners to maintain their landscapes for them.

I use the term ‘maintain’ very lightly. What they really do is keep the lawn from getting too deep, and other plants from getting too overgrown. Very few really care how they accomplish these basic requirements.

I could go into the detail about how they brag about saving water while wasting enough to drown trees, or how they shear everything within reach into nondescript . . . whatever they get shorn into, or how most problems that arborists encounter in their work are caused by gardeners. Instead, I am just gong to talk briefly about two examples of the lack of expertise or concern or both exhibited by gardeners who maintain the landscape at a small office building in my neighborhood.

There are a few healthy ‘Prairie Fire’ flowering crabapple trees in this landscape. A few years ago, they bloomed spectacularly! The following year, they were about to do the same thing. They were quite healthy, with plump buds that were swelling nicely as winter became spring. Just as the buds were about to pop, and the bright pink of the flowers within was becoming visible between the bud scales, the gardeners arrived and pollarded all the trees. Yes, they pruned away ALL of the blooming stems, cut them up, and disposed of them, leaving bare trunks and limbs. There was not bloom.

The trees recovered through the year, and produced plenty of stems to bloom the following spring. Again, the buds swelled at the end of winter, only to be completely removed when the trees were pollarded just before bloom. The trees were not even pollarded correctly. It was quite a hack job. This happens every year now. The trees never bloom.

A stone retaining wall below this landscape was well landscaped with rosemary hanging down from the top, and Boston ivy climbing up from below. The two will eventually be redundant to each other as the rosemary grows enough to cover the wall without the help of the Boston ivy, but for now, they work well together.

The Boston ivy was just beginning to show autumn color. It happens to be one of the few plants that colors reliably in our mild climate, with bright yellow, orange, red and burgundy. It would have been spectacular, but, like the budded stems of the flowering crabapples, all the Boston ivy was cut down to the ground. All the foliage that was just about to do what it does best was completely removed and disposed of.

There is certainly nothing wrong with exposing parts of the handsome stone wall. The rosemary still cascades from above to break up the expansiveness of the wall. The problem is the untimely removal of something that should have been an asset for the landscape, rather than just a liability. The Boston Ivy could have been cut back in winter, after displaying its spectacular autumn foliar color. Professionals should know how to accomplish this.

The property manager pays a lot of money for this sort of nonsense. Hey, we all know mistakes happen; but this is inexcusable. Seriously, people who know nothing about gardening could do better than these so called professionals.