Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Friday is Arbor Day - plant or hug a tree!

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This coming Friday is Arbor Day, a day dedicated to trees. Some will celebrate the day by participating in a community project, such as a commemorative tree planting, while others will demonstrate their commitment by hugging a tree. A few folks, perhaps inhibited by public displays of affection, may plant a tree in their home landscape. Whatever option one chooses, trees should be recognized and appreciated for their role in enhancing our environment. As examples, trees play a significant role in energy conservation and in abating pollution.

Studies have shown that planting trees as windbreaks can result in savings on winter heating costs by reducing heat convection, i.e. heat loss from buildings to the exterior environment. Probably more important, windbreaks prevent infiltration of outside cold air to the interior of buildings. Pines and other conifers are most effective in this regard.

Trees are also very effective in removing particulates and gaseous pollutants from the air. Tree foliage acts as a filter to remove airborne materials, such as dust and heavy metals. Gaseous pollutants are removed from the air by being taken in through leaf stomata (pores on leaf surfaces), bark pores or by microbes on leaf and bark surfaces.

Got noisy neighbors? Noise abatement is another benefit of planting trees. This is accomplished by the physical scattering of sound waves by tree trunks, limbs and foliage. A windbreak or stand of several trees is most effective in reduction of sound.

Perhaps the best summary of Arbor Day is in the words of Julius Sterling Morton, who initiated the first Arbor Day in 1872: "Other holidays repose upon the past. Arbor Day proposes for the future."

AND IN THE GARDEN ...

I propose you engage in these gardening tasks in the immediate future:

- Prune to ground level all dead canes of roses. Also look for black, dark brown and shriveled wood at the tips of rose canes and cut out these portions just back to the green section of each stem.

- Dig and move roses while they are still dormant and as soon as soil is workable. They may be pruned prior to digging and moving. After digging the roses, shake or wash off all the soil leaving the roots bare. Replant as soon as possible to their new location.

- Dig and divide summer and fall blooming herbaceous perennials, such as chrysanthemums and daylilies. A good indication that these perennials need to be divided is the presence of a dead spot (commonly referred to as a donut hole) in the center of the plant clump. Diminishing flowers in recent years is another indicator of the need to divide these plants.

- Rejuvenate woody herbs, including sage, thyme, oregano and lavender, by pruning back leggy and non-leafy shoots to create compact, bushy plants.

- Dig and divide chives, mint, oregano, tarragon and creeping thyme. Replant the divisions immediately and give each a deep watering. Otherwise, plant each division in a pot, water well and protect from wind until ready to plant. Of course, this would be a good opportunity to share some of your herbs with friends.

- Begin mowing when grass reaches a height of 3 to 4 inches. However, set the cutting height of your mower at no less than 2 1/2 inches. Spring is when root development of grasses is greatest, but cutting grass low, that is, at a height of 2 inches or less, will interfere with deep root development. Shallow-rooted grass will be prone to damage or death during the hot, dry weather of summer. While on the subject of mowing, be sure to get mower blades sharpened before embarking on a new mowing season.

- Carefully examine houseplants for presence of pests. With increasing day length and temperatures, houseplants are producing new growth. There's nothing more that sucking houseplant pests, also known as aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and white flies, enjoy than the succulent new growth of plants. Sometimes a simple washing of plant foliage will dislodge some of these pests. The more obstinate ones can be controlled with application of least toxic pesticides, such as insecticidal soap or neem oil.


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