Saturday, October 29, 2011

Planting a Tree

I am not a tree expert but even I can tell something is wrong here.
Several years ago I learned about a tree’s root flare – the slightly wider part of the trunk directly above the roots. The root flare should be visible just above the soil surface. It’s the level that allows the tree to grow best. 
If a tree is planted too deeply it can encourage girdling roots (roots that go around the tree instead of out or down). Girdling roots will eventually stop the flow of water and nutrients up the tree.

Tree with girdling root (lower right) at top of mulch volcano.

Currently popular, mulch volcanos (mulch piled in a cone shape around tree) may damage tree bark and are places for insects and disease to enter. Mulch volcanoes cover the root flare.

According to Martha A. Smith, Extension Educator, Horticulture, University of Illinois Extension:
“A mountain of mulch, piled high against a tree trunk will not kill the tree immediately – it results in slow death. Homeowners don't associate their actions with tree decline several years after they over mulched a tree.”
Mulch volcanoes may also cause the roots to surface in search of oxygen as in the top picture.

Tree with bark damage at base on top of mulch volcano.

Mulch is useful to keep moisture in the soil and keep the weeds down. But mulch needs to be 2 to 4 inches thick kept an inch or two away from the tree bark. Trees are expensive to buy and plant. Why not give them the best chance possible.
It is a shame to see such beautiful trees may be doomed. With a lot of luck they may last a while. It would be nice if they would last 100 years.

Information on tree planting from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences “Planting Ornamentals”. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monkeyface Plant

Solanum mammosum
I was introduced to this strange looking plant as Monkeyface plant. It is a tropical plant native to South America. It can be grown as an annual here in zone 6 if started indoors.
The poisonous fruit is solid and about 2 to 3 inches long. The nasty thorns are at least ¼ long. The stem here is about ½ inch thick. It is grown for its ornamental value. Here it is used in a floral arrangement.

(Arrangement by Mary Jane Risch Associate Master of Ichiyo Ikebana School)
Solanum mammosum is also known as Nipple Fruit, Titi Fruit, Apple of Sodom, Cow’s Udder.  
I think I like the Monkeyface name best.

More information from Electronic Flora of South Australia.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who is eating my Hosta?

Where once there were green and white leaves now there are none.
No foot prints. No droppings. No evidence. Just ripped off leaves. I suspect the local deer population.
A deer ran into my car several blocks away from home. A buck was hit by car in downtown Bethlehem and had to be put down.

Be careful out there. The deer are in love and on the move.
A list of deer resistant plants from Cornell University.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Riparian Buffer and Flood Control

(Flood damage from hurricane Irene followed by heavy rain along the Monocacy Creek in Bethlehem’s Colonial Industrial area)
Flooding along the Monocacy Creek made me wonder if a riparian buffer would help abate the effects of heavy rains. The Monacacy Creek runs through the Colonial Industrial Area in downtown Bethlehem. Historic buildings are periodically flooded.

The site was home to Musikfest’s popular Volksplatz stage and food vendors during the August Festival every year. After several years of flooding, I doubt that Volksplatz will be at this site again. The Celtic Classic stopped using the area several years ago.

From what I’ve read about establishing a riparian buffer, it is not as simple as letting the area go wild.

(The 1761 tannery and other historic buildings flood periodically)

The first obstacle in public areas is overcoming the loss of usable lawn. A riparian buffer isn’t the best place to throw a Frisbee or have a game of touch football. There may not be enough acreage on a golf course for a wide expanse of rough. Corporate centers may not like the look of a natural buffer at the edges of their manicured landscape. It may look messy or weedy. Farmers may not want to lose valuable farm acreage.
Runoff upstream affects the entire stream. It may cause flooding downstream when low lying areas go over capacity. Miles of buffer zones may be necessary to have an effect on flooding.

If you find a suitable area and the stakeholders are willing to give up large grassy location in exchange for a more natural and less accessible area, an organized effort can begin.

A municipal or ecological group would have to do the research and organize public discussion, wade through environmental and zoning red tape, develop a plan and find funding.

Then it is time to prepare the area, select plants and gather a crew to do the work. It takes three years for buffer plantings to be established and more to become truly naturalized. Some experts suggest start small with a no mow area.
Maintenance may be difficult, especially during the first three years. Weed control, elimination of invasive plants, watering new plants, seeding, reseeding and mowing need to be included in a maintenance plan.

(Damage along the Monocacy Creek)

So, as we pave over paradise, we may need to give up some of our old standards and install riparian buffers and rain gardens as well as making a concerted effort to preserve open space.

It’s not easy but it can (and is) being done. Check out the brochure by Bushkill Stream Conservancy, "Establishing Streamside Buffer Areas in Your Park or Community".

(Footbridge across the Monocacy Creek in the park)

PA Environment Digest “Flooding and the Value of Riparian Buffers – Conservation Tools for LandownersBy Brian J. Vadino, Wildlands Conservancy

More benefits from Maryland Cooperative Extension