Tree Care Means Healthy Trees

Some trees can live healthy lives even with some damage to them. Certain species can be more resilient than others, like oak trees for example. Some trees can receive only slight damage and decline very easily.

There are often clear indicators that a tree is unhealthy. This can be evident with obvious damage to the bark, pruning cuts, dead branches, irregular growth, or discolorations on leaves. Other signals of neglect can be weed eater damage, no mulch ring, improper mulching, weeds around the base of the tree, and more.

Trees have to battle a lot. They have to withstand competition from other plants, weather, diseases, pests, and humans. On the human side of things, trees may be planted where they don’t want to be, be planted at the wrong depth, and staked or pruned incorrectly. All of these stressors can show up in different ways.

Trees stand out in our landscapes; when we see a nice tree it can really create a magical sense of place. When we see a tree in bad health, we may start to feel bad, uncomfortable in the space, or we may pass judgement on its caretaker.

Here are some examples of trees that have been neglected. Trees like this are seen all too common in landscapes. This may be due to a lack of resources like funding, knowledge, or intent. However, any tree is better than no tree.

IMG_9735
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

Identifying a tree can start with observing its shape from a distance. This one may be hard to identify this way from its irregular shape. What is the story behind this tree?

IMG_9736
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

This tree is a white oak with many trunks. Oaks should have just one main trunk. The many trunks of this tree is a signal this tree has endured some type of stress.

IMG_9737
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

From this image you can see that the tree has been topped, perhaps even several times. Topping is a practice of pruning that cuts off the top of the tree in a drastic way, stunting its growth.

IMG_9738
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

In response to the topping, this tree is growing suckers. Suckering is a growth response of the tree to try and save itself. Topping reduced the tree’s size. However, the root system stayed the same, which means it still provides the same amount of energy to the tree. This energy has caused new stems sprouting very rapidly.

If you’ve looked closely at the photos, you can also see poison ivy vine on the tree. While poison ivy berries are a great nutrition source for birds, it is a safety hazard to let it grow on trees in public spaces.

Vines growing on trees can easily kill the tree. Allowing vines grow on trees in wooded areas is okay, since that vine (native vines, not invasive ones) offers value to the biodiversity of the area. However, allowing vines to grow on trees we want in the landscape, may not be a good practice since the vine can eventually kill a tree.

IMG_9734
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

This tree looks in bad condition. Many branches have been lost due any type of reason, some which may have been preventable. This tree is also suckering at the base of the tree in response to loosing those branches.

IMG_9733
KY Dept of Revenue Grounds

This tree could have died for a number of reasons, but the pruning cuts are an indication that it has struggled for a while.

While these trees are not in good health, they are better than having no trees at all. They may still offer food for wildlife (oaks are the best!), habitat and shelter, space for nesting birds, shade, wind break, and carbon sequestration. From this perspective, removing them would be worse if no other tree was planted in its place.

However, healthy trees are always the best. Unhealthy looking trees on a property doesn’t create a pleasant or inviting space. As a general rule, for every tree removed in a landscape, three should be planted in its place.

When a tree dies, it’s not all bad. Ones left standing (snags) provide good things to the environment by creating habitats for many animals and insects, like birds. As long as they aren’t a safety hazard, it is better for wildlife to leave them standing. Dead trees on the ground eventually break down into humus, providing good things for the soil.

 

 

Storing Strawberries for Long Shelf Life

I’m not sure how many times I’ve bought strawberries, only to discover they’ve started to mold in a day to two.

Moisture increases mold time. So the key to storing strawberries is to reduce moisture.

Try this method of storing them. It only takes a minute to do after the trip to the market.

#1- Don’t wash the strawberries.

  • First, choose a wide/long container as you have.
  • I’ve really like using the Rubbermaid Freshworks Food Storage line. They have a tray in the bottom which allows moisture to fall to the bottom, preventing contact with the produce. They also have a vent in the lid to help with air flow. I also use them for lettuce, grapes, cherries, green onions, herbs.
  • Line the container with a paper towel.
  • Loosely place a layer of strawberries in the bottom.
  • Place another paper towel over top, then another layer of strawberries.

Having less layers will help reduce the strawberries on the bottom getting too much moisture (why having a wide/long container helps).

The paper towels help absorb moisture.

Using this method sometimes strawberries will keep up to 2 weeks.

IMG_0987

Redbud Lemonade

The redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a native tree to Kentucky and it’s a common flowering tree found in urban landscapes too. Likely you may have one in your own yard!

Bees love the flowers, and did you know the flowers are edible too?

The redbud is in the pea family, which you may recognize a resemblance in the flowers if you’ve seen pea flowers before.

You can eat the flowers outright, put them in baked goods, turn the unopened buds into capers, or make a simple syrup out of the flowers which you can use in drinks.

I love flavored lemonades and they’re quite easy to make. Strawberry lemonade can easily be made with mashed up strawberries blended into the lemonade. I love making lavender lemonade which is easily done by infusing lavender petals into a sugar syrup, which is then used to sweeten the lemonade.

This same simple syrup can also be made with redbud flowers. It adds a subtle floral flavor to the lemonade, which no doubt would make it a hit at a picnic.

IMG_8863

Directions

  • Make simple syrup with redbud flowers
  • Juice lemons. Add water.
  • Blend lemonade with redbud syrup

Redbud Syrup

  • 1 C redbud flowers (gently washed in a mesh strainer)
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 1C Water

 

  • Bring water and sugar to a boil while whisking to blend sugar
  • Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes
  • Allow mixture to cool until it feels warm to the touch (100 degrees)
  • Add redbud flowers
  • Allow to steep for several hours or overnight
  • Strain petals out of syrup
  • Add syrup to lemonade

Lemonade

  • 5 large lemons, juiced to make 1 C lemon juice
  • Add up to half gallon water depending how strong you like the lemonade

Book Review- The Hidden Life of Trees

‘The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate’ by Peter Wohlleben

This book has been a top seller on many book lists, including the New York Times. It’s wonderful this type of book is that popular! The book presents scientific research and observations by Wohlleben himself of trees and forests.

His observations are from his work spent in German forests, where he spent over 20 years working for the forestry commission. Even though his most of his writing in the book is based on these German forests, the research applies to trees and forests across the world.

Topics of the book include the language of trees, how they communicate, how trees live and work together, how trees affect climates, how they reproduce and grow, their relationships with other living things, how fungi live with trees, and much more.

Two of the biggest observations that stood out to me in this book are how trees communicate, and how forests affect weather patterns on a large (continental) and small (microclimate) scale.

Trees communicate with one another through chemicals released in the air and soil. Fungi plays an important communicator role in the soil, although this is not the only role the fungi plays with the trees. Trees simply aren’t healthy without the right soil fungi.

Trees know what species of other trees are near it. If a tree is of its same species, and especially if it is it’s own child or parent, it will go as far as to feed the neighboring tree sugars to ensure its survival.

What can we take away from this? Increase the fungal network of the soil in your own garden. It’s a good start to stop using lawn chemicals and create mulch rings around your trees. The next step, plant some native plants around the bases of your trees and add organic matter.

About the time I was reading this book, the media began covering the potential of redwood forests along the west coast being opened for logging. In the book, Wohlleben writes how forests along coastlines affect weather patterns inland for many many miles. The forests affect the wind, moisture, and temperature.

I imagine if in North America, we lost those forests along the coastlines, the whole country’s weather patterns would be disrupted, especially since weather and the jet stream moves from west to east.

If you love trees, nature, the environment, or science, you’ll probably be blown away by the facts in this book. It’s an easy book to read, but I would recommend reading one or two chapters at a time (of its 36) to be able to digest the information. If you’re at the right type of cocktail party, the book may be a good conversation starter too.

 

 

 

Violet Jelly

I get questions all the time on how to get rid of common blue violets (viola sororia) in the lawn. I know they are very pervasive and disturbing in a lawn, but they do have a variety of purposes for wildlife and humans!

So what I’m saying, maybe violets aren’t so bad if we look at how medicinal and edible they are.

Violets for Fritillary Butterflies

 

IMG_8358

The basic steps to making violet jelly:

  • collect violets and make the liquid
  • add the sugar and pectin
  • process for canning or refrigerate for immediate use

You will need:

  • 2 cups violets, packed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 C white sugar
  • 4tsp pectin
  • canning supplies

Violet Jelly

Makes 3 to 4 (8oz) jars or 5 to 6 (4oz) jars

  1. Collect 2 cups violets, packed (flower tops only, no stems)
  2. Pour 2 cups boiling water over them and allow to steep, covered with a loose lid or towel for 24 hours on the counter
  3. Strain the violets from the juice with a fine mesh strainer. Compost violets.
  4. Add the violet juice and 1/4 C lemon juice to a saucepan and bring to a medium temperature
  5. In a bowl, mix 1.5 C white sugar and 4tsp pectin
  6. Add the sugar/pectin to the saucepan and whisk until dissolved
  7. Bring to a med-high/high boil, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes or until liquid has become a jelly
  8. The whole time the jelly is simmering, skim off the foam. I skimmed off nearly a 1/2 cup.
  9. Jam can be hard to get to the right texture. If you have experience making jelly this is where you inclination kicks in. It will continue to gel and become thicker after processing. Here how to do the gel test.
  10. When it’s done, you can put in sterilized canning jars and process for 12 minutes (using all the proper water-bath canning techniques)
  11. Or put into a jar and refrigerate for immediate use.

I canned 3- 8oz jars and filled 1/4th of a jar, which I will use now. The jelly that went in the fridge set well. The others seems more liquid in the jar, but I hope once it’s opened and put in the fridge it will gel. It can always be used as a pancake or ice cream syrup.

What’s It Taste Like?

It tastes a little bit like grape actually! It’s just sweet, but I don’t get a floral taste.

IMG_8357
While I was collecting violets, I found the smallest 4 leaf clover

 

%d bloggers like this: