Big trees and gusty winds -- 3-24-14

As I watched the gusty March winds blow through the tops of my bare trees recently, I realized something important -- some of those trees need the tips of their branches trimmed. I know it’s against recommended practice for many trees, but when those trees leaf out, their leaves will catch the wind like a kite, or series of small kites. When the branch twists with the wind, it may be too much for it to take and could will be torn away, sometime stripping the bark down the trunk as it falls.

I don’t recommend trying to do this job yourself. Climbing big trees is a job best left to professionals, but when you hire someone, be clear about what you want. Some companies will look at a large old trees and their first recommendation will be to take it down. Resist that, unless there are real signs the tree is dying -- bark falling off branches, especially the trunk; large, dead branches dropping off and an abundance of carpenter ants in the area. These guys like moist wood and rotting tree branches have plenty of that.

Once you make it clear that you want the tree saved, if at all possible, you can have an intelligent conversation with your tree surgeon about which course to take. Another tip: Make sure your chosen company is going to take away the debris, unless you burn wood. Then you can remove the burnable logs before everything else gets chipped up.



If you want to grow tomatoes from seed, now is the time to start them indoors. Whether you’re growing them in peat pots, or plastic trays that give them a block of soil about as big as an ice cube, use potting soil, as opposed to something dug out of the yard. That way you know you won’t be introducing any fungi to your plants.

Plant the seeds to about twice their diameter and water with a mister, so that they’ll get the moisture they need, as opposed to being drowned. Until their first true leaves appear, place them on top of the refrigerator or use a root-heat device. Tomatoes love heat, so this should bring them up in one time.

Caution: After those first true leaves appear, take your transplants off the heater. The first time I used one, I didn’t and ended up with plants that were a foot high with stems about as thick as a piece of yarn.

After that, they’ll need 12 to 14 hours of light a day. I recommend buying a so-called fluorescent “shop light” which has two tubes and can be hung from a chain. The chain allows you to raise the light as the plants grow. The lights themselves should be mixed, with one “warm” tube and one “cool” one, so that the plants get a full spectrum of lights. I’ve paid extra for the so-called “grow lights,” but aside from encouraging better-looking plants, there wasn’t much difference.

As for watering, there is an ongoing debate, in my house, anyway, about whether water-conditioning systems produce water that inhibits plant growth. I don’t know whether it does or not, but I have one outside spigot that does not go through the ater softener, so I use that for my transplants.

Is there a “best pot” for transplants? Peat pots are good, but before planting, you should slit them down each side to prevent them from becoming a barrier to root development. Also, when you plant, make sure the lip of the pot is below ground, or it might wick water away from plant roots.

I’ve used plastic trays in which transplants are popped out of their small containers to go right into the soil. Their small size limits root growth and thereby transplant size.

One thing I’m considering for this year is the Ladbrooke Soil Blocking system. It’s made in England, but is available form a variety of U.S. dealers. It basically squeezes soil mix into block that can be used for transplant growth. The claim is made that because it doesn’t involve removing a plant from a container, there is no transplant or root shock.

To see this item, you can go to different Web sites, including Amazon. com. One plus: If you’re going to grow some transplants as giveaways, you won’t have to give away your pot with the plants.

(Did you enjoy this column? For suggestions or constructive criticism please e-mail


Recent Posts
2015 Big Tomato Contest
A baby and bright leaves -- 10-15-14
A baby who loves leaves -- 10-14-15
Building a compost pile -- 9-29-14
The lowdown on crickets -- 9-15-14
Monday 15th September 2014
Fall planting how-to's --9-8-14
Garden roundup and recipes -- 9-3-14
Rain, autumn and amaranth -- 8-25-14
Saving seeds -- 8-18-14
Tomato contest winners - 8-11-14
Big Tomato Contest Aug. 9 -- 8-4-14
Progress Report- Friday 25th July 2014
A basket of garden tips -- 7-15-14
How to plant a tree -- 7-7-14
Trees to like and hate -- 6-30-14
Time to give up? -- 6-24-14
Tomato growing tips -- 6-18-14
Tomato tips -- 6-17-14
Big Tomato Contest in August -- 6-11-14
Bees, bush cuts and baby weeds -- 6-10-14
Winterburned evergreens -- 6-2-14
After a slow start... -- 5-26-14
First report on the garden -- 5-20-14
The last frost date -- 5-5-14
Baby birds and a baby -- 4-28-14
Reading a soil test -- 4-15-14
Seeds of a family -- 4-7-14
Scent of a bug -- 4-2-14
Big trees and gusty winds -- 3-24-14
Spring lawn care -- 3-17-14
Stink bugs killed by Jack Frost? -- 3-10-14
Family Tree -- 3/2/14
Taking Residence -- 2-24-14
Prudent Pruning -- 2-17-14
Damaged tree care -- 2-14-13
Winter turf care -- 2-4-14
Cool-weather crops -- 1-28-14
Garden soil testing -- 1-20-14
Garden partners -- 1-13-14