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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Moving 20 Year Old Roses to a New Location

Q. I have some beautiful rose bushes that are about 20 years old which have lovely big blooms and smell lovely. I would like to move them to different place in the garden as some have died and the locations are not very attractive.  What and when and how should I do this? 

A. If the roses have been in the ground for that long, your chances of moving them successfully will be slim. However, if you want to try to do so then actually your best time to move them is in the fall, from the end of September to about the middle of October. Spring is the second best time.
Moving them in the fall gives them two seasons of mild growth, fall and spring, to recover rather than just one, spring. Spring can be a very temperamental month here with it going into some high temperatures early on.
If you were to move them in the spring then I would move roses in early to mid-January since they produce new growth so early. Be sure to predig the new hole to accommodate the new plant and not much deeper.
Amend the soil coming from the hole with good quality compost in about a 50% by volume of soil. In other words, equal volumes of soil and compost.
Add a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus such as triple superphosphate or bone meal. You can also use a good quality fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Peters. Use their formulation that is high in phosphorus, higher than the other numbers. Mix all of the ingredients together and plant in this amended soil.
Triple Super Phosphate, 17 to 23% phosphorus depending on the source.
Prune the roses back no less than about 12 inches above the graft (dogleg). You can prune them back leaving more wood than this but they should be cut back substantially to compensate for excavating through a well-established root system.
Sever the root system of the established roses with a very sharp shovel; hopefully in one cut if possible. Go all the around the plant twice about 12 inches (radius) from the trunk.
When cutting with the shovel the second time around, begin to lift the rose gently while undercutting the rose.
If at all possible move as much of the roots WITH soil as possible. Lift the rose with the shovel on to some old carpet or thick cloth. Move the rose by lifting the plant by the ends of the carpet/cloth.
Place the rose into the new hole and begin filling the hole without delay. Use the amended soil and remove air pockets by adding water to the hole as you add amended soil. Settle the soil in the hole with water, not your feet.
Lift the plant in the hole so that it is planted at the same depth it was in the old hole. Construct a basin around the hole to serve as a source of water retention and water with a hose twice a week for the first two weeks.
Cover the basin with wood mulch two to four inches deep. Stake the rose to keep the roots from moving and leave it in place for one growing season. I use 3/8 rebar that is 24 inches long pounded into the soil immediately next to the plant and tie the plant to it with green nursery tape. If you are in an area prone to rabbit damage, encircle the plant with a cylinder of chicken wire.

Reshaping Crapemyrtle After Bad Pruning

Q. There are 3 crepe myrtle in the back yard. One is very nicely shaped the other two were beside a patio overhang and side limbs were apparently removed to the height of the patio cover.  So we have 2 very TALL 20 ft  skinny trees with some green leaves at the top. I would love to prune the trees so they would grow out as opposed to up, thereby creating an umbrella shape to provide shade. Can I bend over the top branches and wire them to a more curved shape? 

A. That is very unfortunate that these trees were pruned in this way.  I can understand your disappointment. Once that these lower limbs were removed you are correct, the form was destroyed. I doubt very much that any new growth would occur in the lower canopy area from larger diameter limbs. So you are right, you would be able to pull some of these larger diameter limbs into position to form a more rounded canopy. Let’s talk a little bit about how to do this.
What you will try to do is to train the trees rather than prune them. Training is a different concept from pruning.  Pruning is the physical removal of plant parts. What you want to accomplish here is encouraging the plant to grow into a different form by manipulation that does not involve pruning or removal of plant parts in the beginning. You will be bending the branches into a different position that is more eye-appealing. This involves pulling or pushing existing growth into areas where it does not want to grow. When you pull or push plant parts into different positions, this will cause the tree to respond to this change in its shape. After this response occurs over the next couple of years , you will then begin pruning to maintain and encourage this change in its form.
Timing when you pull  these branches into place will be somewhat critical. You will pull them into place when they are supple and can bend easily without snapping the wood. You are lucky. Crape myrtle bends well. The wood is sometimes used for bow-making. Bending the branches is best when the sap is flowing in the spring. Your visual cue for this is when you begin to see new growth this spring beginning in February. Do not wait too long or you’ll miss this window. I would gauge this opportunity from early February to about mid-March.
The easiest would be to use non-abrasive cord, such as cotton clothesline, loop it around the branch you want to pull into place, pull it to the position you want and stake it to the ground. This position can be at any angle you want and in any direction you would prefer. Leave it tied in place for one growing season. That is enough.
Once the branches are pulled and tied in place you will see a change in how the plant grows. You will see more growth coming from the upper sides of the bent limbs. This is a response of growth to new sources of light. We call this type of growth phototropic. Roots grow away from light and called negatively phototropic. Less growth will occur from the bottom sides of the limbs because there is less light there than before.
As this new growth occurs from the upper sides of bent limbs is when you can begin pruning the tree --- if you want. The branches that grow will “fight it out” for light and grow accordingly. You can remove wood if it is objectionable to your sense of proportion and balance. In most cases your pruning cuts will be “thinning cuts” rather than “heading cuts”. Thinning cuts remove entire stems or branches back to a crotch and do not leave any stubs or partial stems or limbs. Leave the strongest and healthiest growth if it is in a place that you like.

Acacia Damaged by Low Temperatures and How to Remove Limbs

Q. Any advice on Acacia trees would be great.  These trees took a hit when the temps dropped to the 20's in December.  I see new growth, but mostly on the suckers.  Should I leave the suckers there or remove them? What is the best thing to do to help these trees recover?

A. This is more complicated. First you will remove any wood you know is dead. By now (June), any part of the tree which is still alive should have thrown out some growth. Remove any limbs that are dead (no growth coming from them) by cutting at point of attachment to another limb or the trunk.  You should not leave any stubs when you are done.
            If the limb is large and heavy, you should remove it by either removing sections of the limb at a time that are manageable or use a technique that we sometimes call the 1-2-3 method. This is demonstrated pretty good on removing a limb on wikihow. Here is our sequence of cuts at the Orchard.

Cut number 1 is made upward about a foot from where the final cut will be made.
The second cut is made downward a few inches away and to the outside of the first upward cut.

The weight of the large limb causes the limb to begin splitting when it falls. The split occurs from the outside second cut to the upward first cut. The prevents the limb from splitting down the side of the branch and into the trunk.

This is a look at the limb that has split from the branch and now lies on the ground.

The third and final cut in the 1-2-3 limb removal sequence is made at the proper distance from the trunk. This leaves the trunk/limb "shoulder" in place and finds the balance between the smallest cut possible and not leaving a stub. The cut is left to heal on its own and no coating or sealer is used.

This is a different tree but gives you an idea of what the "shoulder" looks like and where it might be located on a much smaller limb.

 Next, remove any broken branches. They will not repair themselves. Remove any wild or “sucker” growth. This type of growth usually has weak attachment to the trunk and not support itself in years to come. Remove any growth coming from the trunk that is not high enough in the future.
            This growth will not get any higher and as it gets bigger will “sag” or bend downward perhaps into places where you can bang your head. Remove these by making a “flesh cut” in other words remove it all and don’t leave a stub.
            Finally thin out the remaining branches so that any dead wood is removed (again by making “thinning cut” which is the same as in the third sentence, removing it at a point of attachment without leaving a stub.) Try to have the remaining branches going in different directions to help balance the crown visually.
            I hope this helps. By the way, I would do any major limb removal next early spring after the worst temperatures have passed. Minor cuts (with a hand shears) can be done any time.

Suckering of Citrus Due to Cold Damage

Q. The low temperatures affected our citrus trees from last year.  Most of my new growth is on the suckers.  Should I remove them?  Or just let the tree be?

A. If you look at the trunk of the tree you should see a bend in the trunk or “dogleg” where the top was budded or grafted on to the rootstock. I doubt if it is on its own roots which would mean you would see no bend or dogleg.
Example of a "dogleg" where a fruit tree (in this case not citrus) was budded previously.
            Anything coming from or below this bend should be removed and kept off. Whenever you see any type of growth at all from these spots it should be removed. If you let this growth develop it will rob growth from the part of the tree you want to keep and eventually dwarf or kill the good part of the tree.
            Next you want to allow the lowest branches to develop from the trunk at a height you want these branches to remain. The distance these lowest branches are now will be the height they will be in ten years from now.
I did not have a pic from the reader and this is not citrus but this will give you an idea of what suckers that are coming from the rootstock might look like. The suckers are dark brown. The trunk is whitish due to painting the trunk two years prior. These suckers need to be removed by digging the soil away from the trunk and removing them as close to the trunk as possible. Replace the soil after the wound from cutting has begun healing, normally at least 48 hours.
            If these are too low then move up the trunk to a place where you want the lowest limbs to develop. Remove any of these unwanted lower limbs completely from the trunk by cutting them as close to the trunk as possible.
            You can do this now if you want or you can wait until next January or February if there is fruit on them. I am not sure which citrus you have but if it is lemon they should probably be harvested in December.
            Try to find limbs to keep which are coming from the trunk going in different directions. Hopefully you will find one limb going north, one south, one east and one west (I think you get what I mean by going in different directions as this will give the tree “balance” and reduce shading of itself).
            On the limbs coming from the trunk, remove shoots going straight up or straight down. This leaves shoots that spread out in a fan (horizontally or laterally) but remove shoots that are growing up or down. This allows for better light penetration inside the tree and helps distribute fruit production throughout the canopy rather than just on the perimeter. I hope this helps.

Nematodes Permanent Garden Problem

Q. Are these nematodes on my tomato roots in the picture I sent to you?
Picture sent from reader
A. Yes, you have them. Once you have nematodes they are a permanent pest in your vegetable garden. Your future with them is in managing their new home but you will never be rid of them.
            In the past, soil fumigants were available that would dramatically reduce their numbers and easily make them manageable. These soil fumigants are no longer available to homeowners and highly restricted even for commercial applicators due to their potential in damaging the environment.
Root knot nematode on tomato
            There are multiple approaches in managing nematodes. One way is to exclude them. You can do this by growing vegetables that are highly susceptible in pots or containers. If the pots or containers are in direct contact with the soil containing nematodes, the nematodes will move into the container eventually.
            You can impede this by putting down a layer of coarse gravel on top of the soil and putting the containers on top of the gravel.
            If you want to grow in the ground with nematodes then heavily enriching the soil with organic material such as high-quality compost will help to deter them. Keeping the soil as healthy as possible is a great deterrent. Nematodes do not seem to like heavily enriched soils.
            Another deterrent is to select plants that nematodes do not seem to like very much. There are some vegetables somewhat resistant to nematodes but it is quite lengthy. I will post this list on my blog but a few of them include broccoli, cauliflower, chives, and many mustards.
            There are other plants which nematodes really like a lot but plant breeding has produced some varieties which are resistant to nematodes and a few plant diseases. These varieties have capital letters such as V,F,T,N after their names which designate their resistance. The capital N in this case designates nematodes.
            Another method is growing marigolds in the vegetable plot. The most effective way is to grow a solid stand of marigolds for at least 2 to 3 months in the planting bed. Turn these marigolds under the soil so that they decompose. Then plant your vegetables.
            Some people grow them on the borders of the vegetable plot but it is not as effective as growing a solid stand and turning them under.
            There are some products available such as Clandosan which gives some benefit and could also be incorporated into the soil.

Large Boxed Tree Needs Extra Help

Q. Should a newly planted 36" boxed purple robe black locust tree have it's nursery stake removed? I sent you a picture of it.
Readers Purple Robe Black Locust staked.
A. Larger trees need their roots stabilized for one to two growing seasons and then the stakes removed. In your case the tree has poor trunk strength since the trunk has no taper to it and the trunk will snap in high winds.
            Immobilize the roots by re-staking the tree. Let side branches develop along the trunk to improve trunk taper and strengthen it. Normally, a tree with good trunk taper can have its stakes removed after one to two growing seasons. A tree with poor trunk taper will require a longer period of staking to strengthen the trunk AND give it solid rooting into the surrounding soil.
            Allowing side branches to grow along the trunk helps promote taper in the trunk reducing its need for staking after one season.
            Ideally, the tree should have small stems growing from the trunk covered in leaves, removing them only when they reach about pencil diameter. This increases stem taper, reduces the possibility of shear or snapping in high winds. 
            Trees also need to “sway” in the wind. This swaying or movement of the trunk from side to side also helps to develop taper in the trunk. But the roots of the tree need to hold the trunk in place at the bottom.
            This tree will need to be staked for awhile to keep the trunk from snapping. Probably at least one season. I would probably restake the tree with either two or three stakes to support the trunk and keep it from bending to the point where it could snap and immobilize the roots.
Large trees usually need stakes to support the trunk. The stakes should be driven deep enough so that they are in solid soil. The support from the stakes should be low enough to allow the top of the tree to move but keep the rootball from moving.
            Two methods used for re-staking include a two to three stake method with the stakes driven into the solid soil beneath the rootball. The other way is to use guy wires to stabilize the tree. I supplied pictures that I will also post on my blog.
            This next year let small branches grow from the trunk if they develop. These will increase the strength of the trunk and help reduce sun damage to it as well. Remove older branches from the trunk when they get larger than a pencil in diameter. Cut them off flush with the trunk. Do not use pruning paint.