dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “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!)







Tree Trimming for Dummies

MYTH: tis the season for tree trimming....

The Christmas season has everyone talking about trimming trees.  Oh.  Not that kind?  What if you have trees than need pruning, though?  Can that be done NOW?  HOW?

Since Edward Scissorhands wasn’t available (his blades were full), here are my quick tips on pruning trees and shrubs.

WHEN? There are several reasons to trim woody plants and a corresponding season to do it.  My memory sucks, so I’ve come up with ways to remember based on those seasons.

Fall’s for the fallen.  Spring’s sprung anew.

If you have dead branches, autumn is a great time to get them off the plant so it doesn’t have to carry that dead weight into winter.  Literally.  Cold weather means most insects that would harm exposed cuts are gone, too.  Take this opportunity to trim away any obviously lifeless limbs.  (If you don’t know how to tell what’s good wood and what’s not, check out my previous post on trees.)  Wait until spring before pruning trees for shape or size.  Cutting can send a signal to the tree that causes new growth, which is not a good thing going into winter since tender new shoots are susceptible to injury in freezing temps.  The addendum to this rule regards blooming trees and shrubs.  They should usually be trimmed just after they finish blooming so you don’t miss out on seeing the flowers.

HOW? The go-to guy for prunology is plant pathologist Dr. Alex Shigo.  Texas A&M’s website goes into big-time detail for you anal type, but for me, a picture is worth a thousand words so here’s his diagram for where to trim branches depending on whether they’re living or deceased.

figure 6, Shigo's method of pruning

HIT: trim your trees for the right reasons in the right seasons by watching a how-to video from The Garden Girl @

So while the ladder is still out, channel your inner Edward and whack away those dead branches.  It’s a  gift to your trees that will come full circle by giving you a healthier landscape.

Trees Need Extra Love in a Drought

We just bought a new house and it was empty for some time.  I use my irrigation system a couple of times a week, but should I water my mature trees more than that this summer? (pecans, oaks)  We haven’t had much rain for the last 6 months.   Anthony S.

Most of the nation seems to be in feast (flood) or famine (drought) mode, doesn’t it?  While hard on people, too little or too much water is devastating for plants that cannot escape their environment.

If you have a rain gauge – which I STRONGLY RECOMMEND – you’ll know exactly how much natural rainfall has occurred and whether or not supplemental water is warranted.  Depending on the tree’s age/size and variety,  you might need to apply more water several times during the growing season to keep it healthy.  If the drought continues, consider a regular schedule for watering your trees.  Texas A&M University offers insight into tree care through their EARTHKIND® website, giving a number of tools to both prevent and curtail damage to your landscape due to lack of rain.  Here are some of their suggestions, along with some of my own.

  1. Look to your trees to tell you they are thirsty.  Premature foliage yellowing and/or leaf loss over the whole tree, leaf margin (outside edge) burns and curling, and eventually loss of canopy beginning with the inner, lower branches.  How do you save a dead tree?  You don’t, so watch for early cries for help.
    Drought-stressed elm tree (from Austin American Statesman)
  2. Remove grass and weeds under trees –  which compete for available water – and replace with mulch.
  3. Do NOT use fertilizer on drought stressed plants.  Encouraging new growth is the last thing they need.  And NEVER use weed ‘n’ feed products near trees.  (I suggest there is no reason to use these products at all!)
  4. Know what kind of trees you have and then treat them according to their needs.  (The Smithsonian released a NEW APP for that – LEAFSNAP. Don’t depend on it, though.  It is still a work in progress….) Just as with people, each variety of tree has specific requirements.  Your mature pecan will require a significant amount of water, but certain oak trees (like bur oak) need less than others (like water oaks).
    HIT: 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering. Measure trunk diameter at knee height. General formula: Tree Diameter x 5 minutes = Total Watering Time. from City of Boulder, CO
  5. A soaker hose set out under the ENTIRE canopy of the your mature trees is the most efficient way to water deeply.  Watering only at the trunk not only doesn’t help, it could HURT your tree, encouraging a fungal infection where the water sits.  (I’d add you might want to see exactly how much water is coming out of the hose. Put a tuna can under a section … long does it take to get an inch of water standing in the can?  For you engineer types, here is a WEBSITE that helps you convert the inches to gallons, the most common measurement.)
    6.  If you are planting a new tree in your landscape, GO NATIVE!  You will save precious resources – including water and YOUR TIME – if you install a variety that already will feel at home at yours.
    Whether a plethora of patio plants in pots, an oversized orchard or a standard suburban site, know what plants you have and what their preferences are in order to help them THRIVE in any weather.  Plants are integral to OUR health, but they depend on YOU to keep them healthy!

    MYTH: SOAK YOUR TREE’S TRUNK – against the trunk only, a soaker hose can cause more harm than good!


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