Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tips for Selecting a Healthy Tree

For balled and burlapped trees:
  • Do not purchase a tree with circling roots at the trunk.
  • Pick a tree with a firm ball of soil.
  • The size of the root ball should be adequate for the size of the tree.
For containerized trees:
  • Do not purchase a tree with circling roots at the trunk.
  • If there are pruned roots in the pot, they should be no wider than a finger.
For bare root seedlings:
  • Roots should be fibrous and moist
  • Deciduous seedlings will have roots almost equal to the length of the stem.
All newly purchased trees need to have the following:

  • A healthy central leader.
  • Have wide-angle crotches for strength.
  • Free of disease and pests.
  • Branches well distributed around the trunk.
  • Do not purchase a wilted tree specimen.
  • Do not purchase a tree with open wounds or mechanical injury anywhere on the bark or main trunk. 
Ask the business selling the trees about the history of the tree.  Questions such as where did the tree originate?  How often do you water the trees? 

The picture below shows some of the worst mistakes someone can make when attempting to give your new tree a good start.  The burlap, wire cage and twine are restricting the root system from becoming established in its new home in the soil.  The burlap and wire cage can be cut back by one third and the twine cut once the ball is in place and pulled out.  In the west, especially during periods/seasons of extreme drought the burlap will not rot.  The wire cage and the twine take hundreds of years to disintegrate.
                                          Picture taken by Linda Langelo

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sowing Seed for Spring Transplants

Once you have decided on what you will grow in the garden then you need to start planning on when to start sowing your seed.  Research the average frost dates in your area and start planning the average weeks you will need to grow transplants of the crops you want in time for their appropriate outdoor temperatures.

To get the highest percentage of seed to germinate, here is a list of what crops do the best at an optimal temperature.

Crops that germinate the best at 70 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • New Zealand Spinach
  • Leeks
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Salsify
Crops that germinate the best at 75 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Pea
Crops that germinate the best at 80 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Beans including Snap Beans
  • Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage including Chinese Cabbage and Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • kohlrabi
  • rutabaga 
Crops that germinate the best at 85 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Lima Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Pepper
  • Radish
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
Crops that germinate the best at 90 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Muskmelons
Crops that germinate the best at 95 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Cucumbers
  • Okra
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
With the exception of sweet corn and okra, all the other crops under the 95 Fahrenheit germination temperature do better with a direct sowing out in the garden.

Once the seeds start emerging from the soilless media remove the plastic cover keeping the moisture level high for germination.  If you don't remove the plastic cover (or whatever you use to help keep the moisture in the media) the moisture can cause fungal diseases. 

As you seedlings are growing you need to gradually harden them off or acclimate them to outdoor conditions such as full sunlight and the appropriate temperatures. 


Consider the following factors before planting your windbreak:

  • Height of your windbreak reduces wind speed.
  • Density of your windbreak can reduce the wind speed up to 70% & minimum rows for a windbreak are three.
  • The width of the windbreak gives the windbreak the best density.
  • The a narrow windbreak with great height can equal the density of a wide windbreak unless there is a gap from a dead tree.
  •  Shape of the windbreak could be vertical or stair-step pattern.
If you decide on a vertical windbreak pattern place the tallest trees on the upwind side giving a modest increase in the area protected.

If you decide on a stair-step windbreak pattern with shorter trees on the upwind side and tallest trees on the downwind side provides better efficiency in lifting winds which alleviates less swirling and dumping of wind in the protected area.

What is considered the protected area? Take the height of the tallest tree and measure an area 10 times the height of that tree.  That is the area protected on the downward side of the windbreak.

Here is a great list of information from an article called "Growing Multipurpose Trees on Small Farms." Bangkok, Thailand from a Forestry/Fuelwood Research and Development Project 1992.  Winrock International.  This list seems applicable to the practical side of tree selection:

  1. trees that tolerate harsh environments
  2. have a bushy, deep crown but that still allows some wind protection
  3. keep lower limbs for a long time
  4. have strong roots
  5. grow quickly --this is opposite the next point.  Trees that grow quickly are often short-lived and weak wooded.
  6. live long 
  7. tolerate pests and diseases
  8. not harbour pests that affect nearby crops
  9. not have roots that compete excessively with nearby crops for water and nutrients
I will add trees that are in our native range tolerate the harsh extreme weather conditions than non-natives.  Select natives without creating a monoculture.

Windbreaks do more than just reduce wind speed.  They retain water and gives soil protection.  They can increase crop yields which vary from crop to crop.   They provide shelter for livestock and create a habitat for wildlife.

What trees are recommended in northeast Colorado for windbreaks?

Here are a few recommendations:  Upright Junipers, Eastern Red Cedar, Pinon, Bristlecone, Hackberry, Bur Oak, English Oak, Tatarian Maple, Sumac, Hawthorns and Canyon Maples.    Ponderosa, Colorado Blue Spruce and Austrian Pines are also on the list for tallest evergreens.  However, these three have had the most problems tolerating our extreme drought conditions and are the first effected.