Friday, October 29, 2010

Community Food Preservation

Every growing season do you have 10 bushels of homegrown tomatoes that you will not be able to use? Would you like to get together and can the surplus vegetables that would otherwise go to waste in your garden? Well in the state of Virginia that is what folks did at harvest time.

In an article published by American Profile, since 1942 people have been bringing their produce into the Keezletown Community Cannery in Keezletown, Virginia. People bring beans, beets, peaches, pears, cucumbers and even chickens to the canning kitchen. As a team, these people work to peel, chop and mince among friends and fellow gardeners.

Community canning kitchens started in the 1940’s during the time Americans were doing Victory gardens in the food-rationing days of World War II. Today there is a resurgence of community canneries. Why? People want to know where their food is coming from and know what is in the food according to Elizabeth Andress, director of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia in Athens.

This is a chance to give back to the community for all who grow a vegetble garden. Help supply the local food bank throughout the year without having to dig deeper into your pocketbook for canned goods during the winter. And if you are not a vegetable grower, then help can or contact others you know who grow. This is an opportunity for local farmers who have some surplus to also give.

The vision is to duplicate this effort in Callaway, Virginia in other areas. For over 30 years, members of the Highland United Methodist and Piedmont Presbyterian churches have canned apple butter to raise money for building maintenance and help church members in need. Let’s set a great example here by preserving the food we cannot use from our gardens. Remember the old saying: waste not want not.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Needle Drop of Evergreens

When an evergreen begins to shed needles, most homeowners become alarmed. Evergreens are following a natural cycle. Austrian pines shed their needles every four years while Eastern White pine and Scotch pine shed their needles every two to four years. White pines can shed all but one year old needles and creates a dramatic effect. As late summer approaches the older needles begin to turn yellow, brown or reddish tan. In general, a pine will shed their needles every two to five years, except Junipers and Douglas firs which shed their needles every ten years. And Spruce trees shed their needles in a five to seven year range.
So when do you know if it is natural needle drop or not? Monitor by watching in late summer and early fall to see if the inner most needles, the older needles, begin turning. Sometimes, the change can be very subtle. Environmental stresses such as drought, herbicide damage, insect damage, disease damage or root damage can intensify the fall needle drop. If there is another added stress such as a disease you will want to monitor the tree more often. Acquire knowledge about the disease so that you understand what it is you are monitoring.
Other reasons for unseasonal needle drop might be mites, drought, planting care, nutrition, herbicides, winter damage or wet/poorly drained soils. Mites cause the needles to yellow and there will be evidence of stippling on the needles. If you suspect mites, hold a white sheet of paper under the branch and shake. If you see small moving insects, they may be mites. If you see light webbing on the branches as well as insects on the white paper, then contact your local Extension service to confirm this.
Herbicide damage can cause premature needle drop as will excessive soluble salts or a lack of potassium. With de-icing along roadsides, the salt content is increased. Increased levels of salts affect nutrient and water absorption of plants. The excessive amounts of sodium displace the calcium, magnesium and potassium uptake. Further, excessive sodium causes soil aggregates to breakdown leading to poor aeration and slower water permeability. This means reduced levels of oxygen for the roots as well as less water because the water is drawn to the high salt content.
Drought such as our late summer heat and no-to-low precipitation in the Golden Plains Area will cause an even earlier needle drop and it may even be more severe because of the insufficient moisture.
Proper planting leads to the best start a tree can have along with planting a tree in the proper place and soil. Planting depth, either too deep or too shallow can cause a decline in the health of a tree and in 80% of transplanted trees cause death within 7 to 8 years. For further information about planting and proper placement go to Colorado State University Extension Website and click on fact sheets. Then click on the title: Trees and Shrubs and go to fact sheet 2.926 Healthy Roots and Healthy Trees. At the end of this fact sheet you can also reference at the bottom of the last page another comprehensive piece of literature titled: Colorado Master Gardener Garden Notes #633 The Science of Planting Trees. Having this information and using it will help guide you to keeping your trees healthy.
Other stresses that cause premature needle drop or excessive needle drop in the fall are nutritional deficiencies such as iron. To avoid this problem before planting new trees have your soil tested so that you can place the proper tree with the proper soil pH. Often times, our high alkaline pH causes an iron deficiency here in the Golden Plains Area.
Winter damage is due to winter injury or winter drought. The best practice is to deep root water before the ground freezes in the fall and periodically during the winter. Newly planted trees need light infrequent watering. It is handy to purchase a soil moisture meter to help you determine moisture levels. For further information on proper watering go to and click on CMG Garden Notes on the left side of the page at the bottom and then under classes click on Tree Planting. Garden Notes #635 Care of Newly Planted Trees provides a listing of tree caliper and watering need for our hardiness zone 4-5. This listing provides irrigation requirements for tree vigor. As a rule of thumb with newly planted trees in our hardiness zone 4-5, they have an establishment that takes one season per inch of trunk caliper.
With this knowledge about evergreens and their natural cycle, you won’t panic when needles turn during late summer or early fall. Consider all the other factors in your landscape before accessing the situation or call your local Extension Agent.
Winter Watering

Before the soil freezes and the damaging winds with the cold temperatures of winter take hold, irrigate the top 6 to eighteen inches of the soil surface. Starting the landscape plants out for the winter season out of a drought stressed state helps the plants go into their dormancy in a healthier state. If conditions are excessively dry in the fall, this can interfere with the normal process of their dormancy and predispose them to winter injury.Think of it this way. Have you ever been dehydrated? Do you loose your vigor and physical strength? In a plant without the proper amount of water the metabolic activity slows. Water plays an important role in the survival of a healthy plant by keeping biochemical and chemical processes of plant metabolism functioning. Water transports minerals through the soil to the roots. Within a plant, water is a solvent for minerals and dissolved sugars transported throughout.When a plant does not receive adequate water this slows the process of photosynthesis. Less photosynthesis means less energy and less in the production of sugars and starches for the plant to use.Additionally, water is a cooling mechanism that allows plants to maintain an appropriate temperature for the metabolic process to occur.During the dry periods in January, February and March give the landscape plants some additional moisture especially when the there is no snow. Any trees or shrubs in open, windy sites need additional water to help prevent desiccation. Desiccation occurs during sunny, windy, dry days when the leaves loose their water faster than it can be replaced by the roots when they are in frozen soil.Any plant that is newly established is more susceptible to winter drought whether it is a tree, shrub, herbaceous perennial or turf grass. Desiccation in evergreens shows as reddish-brown color of the needles in late winter. In other plants the winter damage may not show up until early summer.Water when the soil and air temperatures are both above 40 degrees. This will give the roots a chance to utilize the water before the soil freezes again at night. Be sure that water is applied to the root zone area. For trees this is by the tips of the branches and not at trunk of the tree.Mulching around the roots of your plants can help conserve water loss and winter damage. Applying a 2-inch layer of mulch reduces water loss as well as maintains uniform soil moisture. Mulching can mediate the freezing and thawing cycles of the soil. The proper time to apply the mulch is after there have been several killing frosts. Types of mulch can range from pine bark, wood chips, pine needles, evergreen pine boughs, and straw or alfalfa hay. Smaller sizes of wood chips need to be used in more protected sites and not open landscape beds. The high wind velocity on the eastern plains will carry the wood chips to another location.By using these techniques of watering and mulching, all your landscape plants can survive the winter in a healthier state. For additional information or if you have any questions, please feel free to call or visit your local extension office. We will be happy to assist you in keeping your landscape healthy through the winter.