dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “dead trees”


Yes, I’m a gypsy. No sooner than I’ve completed the last project on my to-do list (and hubby’s done with his honey-do list),  and I develop an acute itch only cured by priming the ZILLOW app on my iPhone. Hubby recognizes that dazed look on my face. He’s come to hate that look.

Last spring, hubby retired. We decided we’d live at our farm during the week (a 2 1/2-hour drive away) heading back to an apartment on The Waterway for weekends so we don’t miss grandkids or church. Sounds like a perfect retirement plan, right: no-maintenance living on one end, never-ending on the other. After all, I can write from anywhere with an internet connection. Lots of people do that. It’s called tele-pathetic work, I think.

But, God…He not only has a big BUT, He’s got an impeccable sense of comedic timing. The second day out on our retirement road trip to Yosemite, we got a call that could not have come from anywhere except above. So my hubby took the job and I took to ZILLOW. Again. The farm will continue as a weekend hobby for now.

Apparently, my plants have a touch of gypsy, too. Neighbors (of numerous houses) swear they’ve witnessed shrubs and perennials in my yard lift their skirts…uh…er…ROOTS when they see me coming with a shovel. The home we bought THIS time was a rental property for several years. It had good bones; however, a few were brittle, the rest broken. So here I come with my shovel.


Want a happy face on your shrubs? Transplant at the right time!

We straddle the Texas Gulf Coast and the Pineywoods here. Our weather is somewhat temperate. Also somewhat temperamental, but that’s for another post. The best time to re-do a landscape is our version of winter, which actually translates as less-hot-than-other-seasons. People who hate cold come live here in the winter, probably in this house till we rescued it. Heat’s the nemesis rather than cold when it comes to gardening here. And snowbirding, too, come to think of it. I guess plants and people are a lot alike when it comes to weather – we both hate both ends of the spectrum.


So if you’re like me, always itching to move, my hubby recommends a shovel rather than a U-Haul. He also recommends keeping an auxiliary honey-do list in emergencies. Got your shovel and ready to move? Here are some to-dos for the gypsy plants on your list. Also, check out my friend Skip Richter’s YouTube on digging up the root ball.


Root prune plants before moving. I love my sharp shooter shovel because of the no-slip spot for my foot. It’s made by Fiskars. (I received no $ for saying this, or even a discount, by golly!)







Is My Tree Dead, or Just Playin’ Possum?

Several months ago a friend asked if she should cut down her dead tree or wait to see if the leaves come back out in the spring……  When I repeated her question, as any good therapist would do, she recognized what she’d said was not what she’d really meant.  Her real question: IS MY TREE DEAD, or is it just playin’ possum?

While viewing the change in season is enjoyable, seeing a change in LIFE of a favorite shade tree can be devastating.  The most severe drought our area of Texas has possibly ever experienced has pushed plants to their limit with many dead, dying, or distressed.  Record flooding in other areas of the country can be just as detrimental.  So how do you know if a tree is dead?  Can it be resurrected if it’s had a near-death experience?  Here are a few things to look for if you suspect your tree is on its last…um….trunk and the steps to take if you want to keep it from becoming firewood.

green is good! (photo from blog by April Demes at

TEST IT:  Arborists are trained to help keep your tree alive.  But if it is already dead, no reason to pay them to give you the bad news.  Where the problems appear can tell you a lot.  When there’s thinning on top like a middle-aged guy, the problem could be severe.  However, if just a few lower branches show distress, your patient might still make it.  Try to break one or two twigs off.  When the twig gives way easily with a “crack,” it is dead.  You might do this in several spots in the crown, breaking twigs progressing up to branches until you find a live one.  If you don’t have luck after a number of tries, use a sharp implement to scrape away an area on the trunk.  Don’t cut deep, but gouge till you see greenish tissue.  Brown or tan dry pulp, no matter how far you stab, means the tree’s most likely a goner.

TRIM IT:  Trees don’t do comb-overs.  Never seen a man who can sport one effectively either, for that matter…. If you’ve found signs of life somewhere on your tree, prune away the dead weight.  Branches that are not actively helping are hurting the plant, so relieving your stressed tree will allow it to concentrate on getting well.  Insects should not be a problem if the temperatures stay cool, thus pruning paint is unnecessary.

TREAT IT:  Winter is when tree roots are active, not top growth.  Use this time to pamper the roots so they can better support the rest of the tree when the leaves return in spring.  A good drink in autumn – whether from a soaking rain or a soaker hose – is advised if your gauge or weatherman says you’re still behind in rainfall.   As tempting as it might be, do NOT fertilize unless you are using something for the roots only.  That means anything that puts nitrogen (the 1st number in the 3 digit ratio on the bag) into the soil will put additional stress on the tree.  The best thing we can do for a declining plant is give it a warm blanket.  A mulch blanket, that is.

HIT: blanket your tree with love, and nothing shows love like a blanket of mulch for the winter!

MYTH: trees don't need a human touch.

Trees, like mothers, give us benefits we often do not realize until they are gone.  A little TLC to return the favor is not too much to ask, is it?  Take the time to get your trees healthy and generations to come will thank you for your generosity.


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