Friday, July 29, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 29, 2016

The Cicada damage to trees is quite evident with branch tips of several species of trees dying as a result of the female of the species slicing the tender branch with her ovipositor in order to deposit eggs that will hatch into larvae for the next generation. The spottiness of the cicada presence was amazing as many areas had some to none of the critters while others had a quite heavy presence.

While the media reported and somewhat sensationalized this 17 year phenomenon, it is unfortunate that the same attention was not given to the ash tree killing, non-native Emerald Ash Borer that now has just about completed its spread throughout the eastern United States. Fortunately, the woods surrounding the nursery mainly consists of the wild black cherry and maple with only a small percentage of ash that are now dead or nearly dead from the larvae of this borer feeding on the  phloem tissue of the tree. Another native tree susceptible to this borer is the White Fringe tree that is a native of southern Ohio. This tree was first noticed as being attacked in Yellow Springs, Ohio as fringe trees planted along the road were dying and were found to have this borer. Other replacement shade trees for the ash would include maples, oaks Tulip popular, American Elm (disease resistant strains), Gingkos and many others. The health of forests with life giving trees is not a common topic of concern of the general public. The loss of any species of trees is a natural disaster as it is well known that trees produce oxygen, provide food for wild animals (American Chestnut) store water by preventing excess runoff and resulting floods and provide shade and oxygen for us.

A more efficient and quick reporting system of governmental action must be developed (with adequate funding) to combat future infestation of non-native pests as the present government bureaucracies are too slow to attack a problem in its early stages. In the presence of the constant din of other threats to the national interest, any meaningful change most likely will come very slowly unless billions more of our trees are attacked. As Theodore Roosevelt stated in his 1907 address to the school children of the United States on Arbor day which is partially reproduced here below:

For the Nation as for the man or woman and the boy or girl, the road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity. If you neglect to prepare yourselves now for the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon you later, if you do not learn the things which you will need to know when your school days are over, you will suffer the consequences. So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal, whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life. A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they cannot renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves,  therefore, to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 22, 2016

Again, the dog days of summer have arrived with high humidity and oppressive heat. In the afternoon on Thursday and today, clematis vines for next year’s sales are being potted which is a good way to limit exposure to the hot sun. The clematis will grow this summer and early fall and then overwintered until they begin to grow in late February when a hard trimming to the surface of the pot is accomplished. After the hard trimming, shoots will even emerge from below the surface as on set of growth nodes has been planted below the surface which also is the proper way to plant them at home.

Next week plants (plugs as they are called) of creeping phlox arrive that are so small that 128 plants will fit into a 10" x 20" tray. Growth is rapid in late summer and fall until the phlox shuts down for winter only to explode into growth in early April to be followed by their legendary spectacular color of magenta, white, purple, pink and blue. Only rabbits are the plants enemy when they are young as the rodents will eat the tender foliage if the phlox are not placed in an open structure with sides to keep out the critters.

Rainfall for everyone is needed badly especially with the heat. Surprisingly, in the shade garden of the Wolf Creek Botanical Garden the soil that is sandy and gravely is not dry! Decomposing pine wood chips and rotting fallen leaves of the past few years serve to keep in the precious moisture while providing an ideal environment for root growth for the rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas which once were far apart when planted in 2006 but now are massing together.

Saturday too brings the arrival of Seiberling sweet corn to the market. The Owl barn will offer the same price for the corn as the farm and the same freshness for those that don’t wish to travel to the farm even though it is only 2 miles west of Norton center. How strange it is the Europeans think that corn is only fit for hog food!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 15, 2016

Unfortunately, last Saturday’s rain was only ¼ inch as reported by Chuck Seiberling of Seiberling Farm in Norton. The dry weather has made it difficult for gardeners as much extra watering is needed for newly planted flowers, trees and shrubs. Farm crops too are being irrigated for those fortunate to have an irrigation set up and the source of water with which to irrigate! The crops at Seiberling’s seems to be doing well as almost everything is irrigated with tomato and pepper plants  under water-saving drip irrigation and the sweet corn under overhead sprinklers. Most likely about July 20th week, the sweet corn will be ready.

At the nursery, the seemingly endless chore of potting plants goes on and on as well as the never ending maintenance of the grounds and facilities. Next week too will be propagation time for azaleas and many other shrubs grown here at the nursery. Intermittent mist of 6 seconds of mist every six seconds keeps the unrooted cuttings alive until roots form in 3-6 weeks depending on the plant. The warm days of summer ensures the rooting media is warm to foster rooting.

Let’s all hope for some relief from the abnormally dry summer. Two or three inches of rain would be nice even if it spoils the weather for some of those giving the forecast on television.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 8, 2016

The dog days of summer have certainly arrived this week with steamy July days. It’s surprising that humidity levels are high while the lawns, gardens and farm fields are parched for lack of water. The benefits from the two inches of rainfall from June 23rd and 24th have literally evaporated. Hopefully today and tonight, some relief will come in the form of thunderstorms with a slower, somewhat sustained rainfall.

Tomorrow is our fifth annual Blueberry Festival as the berries become ripe with the early variety, Duke, the first to be ready followed by the most popular variety ever called Bluecrop and finishing the season with Elliot. Food, music and hayrides will be the norm tomorrow and even better yet, it’s all free, well all except for the food.

The native blueberry was never a cultivated crop until about 1900 when Elizabeth White of New Jersey read a government article about the cultivation of blueberries. Soon, research followed on the White farm in New Jersey and the rest is history with thousands of acres of blueberries in New Jersy, Michigan, Oregon and other states across the country. Southwest Michigan with its sandy, naturally acidic soils and plenty of water makes for prime blueberry country. Mike DeGrandchamp of Southhaven, Michigan has stated that birds are not a problem as they cannot even make a dent in production due to the almost endless acres of blueberries.

Be sure to listen too to ‘Ready, Set, Grow’ tomorrow at 8 a.m. on 1590 WAKR as Chuck Seiberling from the famous Seiberling Farms in Norton talks about sweet corn production and other things grown on the farm just two miles west of Norton center. Seiberling sweet corn is a staple of the Owl Barn Market when it is available about mid-July through mis-September. I’m sure Chuck along with other farmers and gardeners is hoping for some relief from the dry weather.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 1, 2016

This 4th of July conjures up images of parades, fireworks and other celebrations to do with the founding of the United States. Although our founding fathers were wise politicians, many were farmers and gardeners.  Most notably, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, planted over 1,000 fruit trees on his farm in Virginia.  In addition, when he was President he would spread the plant samples sent by the Lewis and Clark Expedition all over the floor of the White House to view and study them.  Then, in the last year’s of his life, Jefferson sat in  a chair to read as he overlooked and enjoyed his perennial flower garden.  His love of gardening is evident in the letter he wrote in 1811 to his friend Charles Wilson Peale that is reprinted below.

“I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden! Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest, a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden.  But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

Thomas Jefferson to Charles Wilson Peale
August 20, 1811