Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fertilizing Trees in the Fall. 10.18.16

This post is a lot more dry than usual.  I have wondered whether it is beneficial to fertilize trees in the fall.  For the past few years I have done so, and do not see harm occuring from that practice.  In addition, the fertilized trees do seem to have a good burst of growth in the Spring, more than trees that I have not fall-fertilized. 

Different websites give different advice about fall-fertilizing of trees.  For the most part, these sites refer to deciduous shade trees.  Much of the research that has been done, relates to conifer forestry.  "many experts now consider late fall, or about a month after the first killing frost, to be the ideal time for applying fertilizers. We now know plants utilize nutrients throughout the year in different ways."  The site further states, that when trees are dormant, their roots absorb nutrients and apply them to root growth, disease resistance, and storage of nutrients for Spring.  I don't know if those claims are supported by science, but they make sense.

According to the University of Minnesota extension, early Spring is the best time.

Gregory Forrest Lester (Ohio) states that Fall fertilization is essential.  Again, the rationale is to prepare for Spring.  There aren't a lot of sources regarding fall fertilization of trees.  Via google scholar, there has been some specific research, that may or may not apply to yard shade trees.

Annals of Forest Science.  Related to seedlings of red pine,  "Results suggest that fall fertilization of red pine seedlings can help render desired target height in the nursery, while maintaining or increasing cold hardiness levels."  Benefits were seen for number of needles. concentration of nitrogen in shoots and roots, and cold hardiness parameters.

Western Journal of Applied Forestry.   Related to Douglas fir seedlings, fall fertilization increased nitrogen concentrations in the seedlings.  There was no difference in root growth or cold hardiness.  It did not appear in this project that fall fertilization had much effect.

Annals of Forest Science.   Regarding a species of oak,  "early fall fertilization promotes nutrient loading of P(hosphate) in Holm oak, with significant effects on root growth potential and field growth by means of a phenologically earlier development and a higher aboveground biomass."  and in the discussion it was noted that "six months after planting, fall fertilized plants showed higher shoot biomass, higher proportion of new leaves, and faster development, producing leaves earlier compared with unfertilized plants."

 Southern Journal of Applied Forestry.  Regarding fall fertilization of one year old longleaf pine, there was "substantial overwinter dry weight gains and increases in nutrient content and concentrations" especially for nitrogen.  Based on their research, they conclude that fall fertilization "offers a means of increasing seedling size and nutrient reserves prior to out-planting on the relatively infertile sites where seedlings are normally established."

 Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science.  Regarding field-grown peach trees, there was not a benefit for fall fertilization vs. spring fertilization, for peach production or tree growth.

Journal of Agriculture.   Regarding shade tree fertilization researchm up to 2002.  The authors state that nitrogen usually appears to be the most important nutrient, and note that "studies conducted with (labeled) nitrogen
showed low N(itrogen) uptake during the dormant (leafless) season, bringing into question the practice of dormant-season N applications."  However, they also note the inadequacies and limitations of the research that had been done.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research.   Regarding more Douglas fir seedling research, one month after fall fertilization,  "Total nitrogen concentrations increased 1 month after fertilization, remained stable throughout winter, and tended to decrease or remain stable just before budbreak."

My conclusions:  A lot more work is needed to determine whether fall feeding benefits, doesn't benefit, or harms trees, and in what situations.   There does appear be benefit in some situations.  Nitrogen sources are more likely to be beneficial, and unless a deficiency is seen, fertilizers that contain signicant amounts of other major nutrients are usually probably not useful.  If one is interested in pee-cycling,  that seems like a reasonable approach as long as it is not overdone.  A liter of "liquid gold", diluted to 4 liters, could be applied over an area of about 10 feet by 10 feet, to a tree with a drip line about 8 feet in diameter.  It's not rocket science, and I would not do so if the soil salts are high. 

(All images are public domain, via

Update. Ginkgo #2. 10.17.16

Ginkgo Tree Planted Summer, 2012.  Now 10.18.16
Above Ginkgo Tree after planting in 2012.
It's obvious by now that I have a Ginkgo biloba tree obsession. 

This was the smallest of the trees that I grew from seeds that my late father collected qround 1995 in Illinois.  I kept it in a flower pot, then planted in poor soil at the place in Vancouver, then when we bought the Battleground place, moved the tree there. That was 2012.  It's done nicely, and was given minimal water this summer.  It's turning into a handsome tree that my Dad would have been proud of.  I miss him.

The parent tree was grown by a neighbor in that small Illinois town.  That neighbor was a WWI veteran, a German man who was in a British POW camp for part of the war.  He later emigrated to Illinois.  I remember his telling me that Gingko biloba trees had a shape like pine trees, and were around in the time of dinosaurs.  He grew his tree from a seed as well.  That tree was the source of the seeds that my dad collected.  It has since been cut down. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Update. Transplanting a large Ginkgo tree. 10.18.16

Transplanted Gingko Tree, 9 months later.  10.18.16
Here is the ginkgo tree that I transplanted in January.  It looks good.  I've noticed that, during the first year after transplanting, ginkgos don't grow much.  I imagine they are putting their photosynthetic energy into growing roots, and storing carbohydrates for a burst of growth next year.  I kept it watered, but only a little fertilizer.

Each bud grew a tuft of leaves.  Only a few stems elongated, and that only 6 inches at most.

Now that it's more established, I think it's ready for a boost for next year, so I gave it a moderate fall dose of nitrogen.  I also took off the support ropes, which are not considered beneficial after the first season of growth.  The trunk has a mild bend, which I will just have to accept.

Ginkgo tree being dug in January 2016, for transplanting.

Kitchen Garden Harvest. 10.18.16

Turnip.  10.18.16

Root Crops.  Chinese Radishes, Daikon, Turnips.  10.18.16
 It's been raining every day, and heavily, so I have not been out in the kitchen garden as much.  Today was a reprive.

The July-planted turnips are great, as is the Daikon and a few of the Chinese radishes.  Many of the radishes have exploded, I imagine from the rains.  Still, this is a lesson that there are some that can be planted successfully from seeds, in July.  The broccoli and kohlrabi don't look like much, so I'm leaving those in place.  Ditto for carrots, more an issue of deer eating the tops, than because they didn't grow.

The red-centered Chinese radishes have a mild crispy flavor, nice raw.  Daikon is similar, a bit more peppery, and very good shredded and eaten raw as a slaw, or as a dumpling filling.

Lettuce did very well.  I don't know why deer and rabbits didn't eat it.

The scallions that I rescued mid summer, staged a come back and we have been eating them.
Red-centered Chinese Radish.  10.18.16

Now we are getting a lot more peppers than we can eat.  I planted them too early.  The raised beds with low fencing was perfect, no herbivore predation and yield is amazing.

Still harvesting corn from seeds that were planted in June.  This variety is "Bodaceous".  The ear is more full than it looks, I didn't pull the husk back far enough.  Bodaceous is a high-yielding, really good "corn-tasting" sweet corn, unlike Mirai which was watery and sugary and no much corn flavor.
Leaf Lettuce Mix.  10.18.16

Scallions.  10.18.16

Peppers.  10.18.16

"Bodaceous" Sweet Corn.  10.18.16

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Saving Chinese Bean Seeds. 10.4.16

Shelled Bean Seeds.  10.4.16

Red Variegated Beans.  10.4.16
 This year I decided to resurrect the Chinese pole beans (ChangChun Beans) that Ning grew around 10 years ago, and the seeds were older than that.  The actual green beans are pictured
Chinese Green Bean Pole Beans from 8.28.16
below.  I know the seed packets were at least 10 years old.  I located a post from when we grew these in 2008, and as I recall, the seeds were not fresh even then.  I have never seen beans like these anywhere, so I am interested in preserving the seeds and possibly, passing them on to other gardeners.

There won't be more seeds where these came from, so the goal was to see if I could grow some from the ancient packets, and if they grow, save the seeds for next year.

I do also have an envelope with about 25 seeds from last year, that I can combine with these if I find them.

The beans were fairly diverse.  There were 5 distinct, types, with 4 pictured here.  There was a pale green wide pod, with red speckles and stripes, a dark green wide pod with black speckles and stripes, a green wide pod, and a green narrow pod.

Shelling these, the pale/red speckled pod corresponded to a white bean seed with red speckles; the dark/black speckeled pod corresponded to white beans with black speckles, and some that were solid black.  The all green pods had all-red beans, and the narrow / round green beans had white seeds.

I think the two red types in the photo are just variations of the same type.

It's been raining, and some of the pods are mildewed, while some remain green.  I've harvested about 2/3 of the remaining pods.  These are allowing to dry more, inside the house.  Then they will go into envelopes and possibly other container, and saved.  We can see next year if they are viable, and if they reproduce true to type.  It's possible some will hybridize because different types were near one another, in some cases intertwined.  They may require a few years of isolation to purify the strains.
Dried Bean Pods.  10.4.16
Now that these have grown through an entire cycle, from seed to plant to seed, I'm optimistic that the ChangChun beans will be with us for some time.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Bare-rooting and Planting a Containerized Apple Tree. 10.3.16

Gravenstein Apple Tree in Container.  10.2.16
 This is a containerized Gravenstein apple tree that I bought on Fall sale at a local nursery.  I wanted a Gravenstein after tasting some neighborhood apples identifed as that cultivar.

A few of my orchard trees have been killed in their first year, by gnawing rodents that remove virtually all of the roots up to the graft.  I strongly suspect voles, which are gnawing herbivores that do eat roots and bark.  I have read that voles use mole tunnels to travel around and access roots.  Often, my small trees have been surrounded by mole hills and therefore mole tunnels, from shortly after planting.  I suspect the voles have used those mole tunnels to do their dastardly deeds, murdering my baby fruit trees.

What is the attraction for moles, to the roots of these trees?  Moles are predatory carnivores.  They eat bugs and worms.  Again, I don't know for certain, but my guess is that the rich planting compost in the tree containers, is a boon for worms and bugs.  Which then attracts moles, who eat the bugs, leaving tunnels for moles who eat the roots and bark.

For entirely different reasons, horticulturalist Linda Chalker Scott strongly recommends bare-rooting new containerized trees prior to planting.  She also recommends bare-rooting balled-and-burlapped trees.  Doing so, allows correction of time-bomb flaws that can kill a tree several years down the road.
Apple Tree Roots in Conntainer Medium.  10.2.16
 Those flaws include girdling roots, deep within the root mass, not visible when the tree is pulled from the container.  That's in addition to winding roots that grow around and around against the plastic of the pot.  Bare-rooting also removes a transition between the container medium and the native soil, which can adversely affect tree root growth.  When replanted, the tree's roots are now in full contact with native soil, no artificial transition between clay (balled and burlap trees) or planting compost (most container trees) or worse, both (often box box stores have trees which are balled and burlap, placed into compost in containers to sell - 2 bad transitions for the roots to deal with). 

I've always cut off winding roots, and often make incisions deep into the container soil, but almost never bare-rooted a tree.  What's more, this tree is in full leaf.

This being fall, today was rainy and overcast, temperature in the 60s.  I thought, not bad for a brief period of naked tree roots.
Roots After About 5 Minutes of Hosing Off.  10.2.16

Roots After About 10 Minutes of Hosing Off.  10.2.16
Bare-Rooted Apple Tree.  10.2.16
 Roots had not wound too much around the pot.  The tree was not root bound.  I set the hose on "jet" - not a bark-removing strength, I hope, but strong enough to wash most of the medium from the roots.  I did not use garden tools to unwind roots, just water and my fingers.

The washing process required about 10 minutes, wash, turn, wash, turn, wash, etc.  I don't think the roots need every last scrap of soil removed, just the best that I can do.

After some minor root pruning, I planted the tree in it's selected spot.  The level is the same as in the container, with the graft a bit about 3 inches or so above soil level.  I watered the soil in around the roots, with the hole about 1/3 full, 2/3 full, and finally when fully filled.  The goal was to get the roots all well blanketed with native soil, as best as I could.

Vole guard (1/4 inch hardwar cloth) and deer cage (larger mesh fencing) are all in place.  I've learned not to delay those protective measures.
Tree Planted with Graft a Few Inches Above Soil Line.  10.2.16

Mulch will follow.  I'm thinking it will be grass clipping mulch, which packs down significantly during the winter and does not seem to provide warm dry fluffy homes for rodents.

Not a single leaf fell from the tree.  I'll continue checking, but I think it won't miss a beat.
Tree Planted, Vole Guard in Place, Deer Cage in Place.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Kitchen Garden Harvest. Sweet Corn, Figs, Tomatoes. 9.30.16

Tomatoes and Brunswick Figs.  9.30.16

Bodaceous Sweet Corn.  9.30.16
It's been a spectacular year for me in the kitchen garden.  Not everything works out, but the things that do are great.

Now is the end of September, and still harvesting tomatoes, sweet corn, and figs.

There are lots of other veggies out there too - peppers, radishes, collards, and others.

This corn variety was Bodaceous.  It's great, nice thick juice in the kernels.   Tastes like sweet corn.  Mirai was overly sweet and not very corn-like, watery juice.  Bodaceous is so much better.

Planting Garlic. 9.30.16

Mostly Inchelium Red Garlic for planting.  9.30.16

Garlic, placed and ready to conver.  9.30.16
This is a good time to plant garlic.  I've planted earlier and later, and it all seems to work out OK.  Earlier seems to give bigger bulbs next year.

This is mostly Inchelium Red.  I try to find the biggest heads with the biggest heads. 

The location was sweet corn this summer.  Last year it was sweet corn and squash.  The year before it was squash.  Before that it was grass.

After this rotation, beans would be a good choice to build soil and as a different species.

In my experience, garlic does not need protection from herbivores.  Deer, rabbits, and voles avoid it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Pumpkins & Squashes. Persimmons. 9.28.16

Pumpkins and Squashes.  9.28.16
If there's a famine this winter and we have to live on pumpkins and squashes, here we are.  Here are some more that I harvested this week.   The big pumpkin is Golias Pumpkin, and the squash on my knee is a Pink Banana squash.  The flatter pumpkins are Rouge Vif D' Etampes Pumpkins, and the smaller squashes are Butternut and Spaghetti squashes.

Nikita's Gift persimmon is looking great.   Waiting for the rest to ripen.  Beautiful tree and beautiful fruit.

Saijo is not as attractive and doesn't have as many, but it looks like there will be a taste of that persimmon too.

Ripening Saijo Persimmons.  9.28.54

Nikita's Gift Persimmon.  9.28.16

Using Tomato Surplus - Skinning for Freezing. 9.28.16

Skinned Tomatoes, Ready to Use or Freeze.  9.28.16
Yet another way to use surplus tomatoes.  Preparing Romas to freeze as whole tomatoes is easy - just wash them off, cut off any bad spots.  Bring pot of water to boil.  Boil one minute - I timed it.  Then plunge them into ice water.  The ice water stops the cooking and prevents the inside from turning into tomato paste.  The skins slide off easily.  Some need a nick with a knife to get started, but other than that the process couldn't be easier.

I froze two freezer bags for future soups or tamales or other use.  I also sliced a bunch for tamales today.