Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Top Reasons to Plant a Tree this Fall!

Here's a shocking recommendation that makes quite an impression on Crabapple's customers: "Plant acorns on 40 foot centers." This graphically contrasts the size of a small seed or seedling plant with the depth and breadth of a mature oak. 

When a shade tree is planted, it is for future generations to enjoy. Most people like trees and relate to them on a personal level, so here are some reasons to plant a tree this fall-- and when you think of some more, go ahead and add them in the comment section!

1. Trees increase property values by softening harsh outlines of buildings, screening unsightly views and providing brilliant fall color. Slow-growing, small ornamental trees are intrinsically valuable. Trees add beauty and grace to any community setting, making life more enjoyable, peaceful, relaxing. Trees offer a rich inheritance for future generations. 

2. Trees reduce air conditioning utility bills for cooling during summer heat an average of 33% percent  through their shade and respiration, providing natural "low-tech" cooling. This reduces the need to build  additional dams, power plants, and nuclear generators.  Deciduous trees provide passive solar temperature regulation, providing shade in summer, but offering light during winter. 

3. Tree shelters and windbreaks reduce heating bills in winter, increase snow entrapment, wind reduction  and wildlife habitat. Living snow fences hold snow away from roads, keeping roads open and reducing  road maintenance costs. Tree shelters for wildlife habitat and livestock reduce weight loss during cold  winter months and provide shade for moderating summer heat, along  with significantly increasing crop yields compared to fields with no windbreaks. Windbreaks create a more favorable micro-climate for cropland by reducing wind and heat stress on the crop, while preventing topsoil loss and reducing soil moisture losses.

4. After leaves drop to the ground in autumn and are raked, they provide excellent mulch for flowerbeds and gardens, as well as exercise for people raking them.

5. Trees help reduce stress in the workplace, increase the speed of recovery of hospital patients and instill community pride.

6. Forests provide summer and winter range for migratory birds. 

7. Trees reduce soil erosion and water pollution, help recharge ground water and sustain stream flow. Forests provide watersheds for lakes and ponds.

8. Trees provide nutmeats (pecans, walnuts, hickory, hazelnuts), fruit (peaches, apples, plums, persimmons), berries for jams and jellies (cherries, chokecherries, buffaloberries), and maple syrup, in addition to pharmaceutical  products (for example, Taxol from Taxus or Yew trees in the Pacific NW has been successful in fighting breast, ovarian and lung cancer). 

9. Fast growing trees provide fuel wood for stoves and fireplaces by establishing a  
continuous supply of energy plantations, while managed forests provide pulpwood, 
lumber, plywood, veneer and other wood products on a sustained yield basis.
10. Trees alleviate the “Greenhouse Effect” by absorbing carbon. A single tree absorbs about 13 pounds of CO2 per year, and one acre of new forest sequesters around  2.5 tons of carbon annually. Planting 100 million trees in the U.S. would reduce the amount of carbon by an estimated 18 million tons per year. 

So why not pick out a tree and have Crabapple LanscapeExperts plant it for you this autumn?

Digging Deeper: 
SOURCES: Kim Coder UGA Extension,  and Glenn Roloff USDA Forest Service;

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Top 10 Landscaping Tips for the Transition to Fall

As Summer draws to a close and Autumn gears up in metro-Atlanta, it's the perfect time to give the landscape some attention. Crabapple LandscapExpert think this list of 10 landscaping tips will help with the transition. 

1. Plant a cool-season veggie garden this fall
Wow Thanksgiving guests with Arugula and radishes from the garden! Plant radish and cilantro seeds now, and starts of lettuce, endive and arugula, along with garlic, onions, broccoli, cabbage, even Brussels sprouts. Be sure to keep them watered as they get established.

2. Keep an eye on rainfall.
Combined rain and watering should equal 1 inch per week. If it doesn’t rain, water new transplants and veggies along with perennials, shrubs and trees for best transplanting success.

3. Compost! Compost! Compost!
Pull out spent tomatoes and ragged zinnias, knock the soil off of the root balls of summer veggies and annuals, and chop them up before putting them in the compost bin. Raked autumn leaves should be added to keep the green to brown ratio (nitrogen : carbohydrate) in balance.  (BTW, diseased plants, nematode-knotted tomato roots and weeds with seeds should be put in a plastic bag and trashed, not composted.)

3. Divide and/or plant perennials
Fall is the perfect time to dig up and replant all kinds of overgrown perennial flowers. Often there’s enough to share with the neighbors. Perennials are lower maintenance than annuals, staying in place and reblooming year after year, so try some new ones at the local independent garden center.

4. Fall is the best time to plant woody ornamentals
Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees because the soil temperature is warm from the summer and that promotes root growth, while the air temperatures are cooling down, decreasing transpiration.  Plus, deciduous trees and shrubs are losing their colorful leaves, making them even less prone to wilting or drying out.

Dig large, generous holes, only as deep as the nursery pot, but three times as wide – think of the size of a hula hoop laid on the ground. Water in thoroughly and mulch with pine bark or pine straw. Then keep them watered until spring if it doesn’t rain instead.  

5. Cool season lawns are revving up
Crabapple fertilizes and waters Fescue lawns that do their best growing during the cool seasons in Hotlanta. We rake off fallen leaves and dead grass, while patching worn areas with fresh hybrid Fescue grass seed covered with straw. Fescues are mowed high to provide good root growth. 

6. Warm season lawns are going dormant
Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine lawns are turning that comforting tan color that shows they are dormant. Warm season lawns can be over-sown with annual rye grass or even sprayed green if desired. Call your Crabapple Rep to discuss. 

7. Eliminate broad leaf weeds in lawns
Spot-treat broad leaf weeds already growing in the lawn with a post-emergent herbicide. The green weeds are particularly unsightly in dormant warm season lawns. 

8. Add spring-flowering bulbs to the landscape
In addition to pansies, add daffodils and tulips to add brilliant color early next spring. You will hardly notice winter if the daffodils start blooming in January! Smaller bulbs like hyacinths, crocus, grape hyacinths and blue star also add interest. If you have critters (chipmunks, squirrels, pine voles, mice) that eat the tulip bulbs, plant cloves of garlic along with the flower bulbs to repel them. Daffodils (Narcissus) are poisonous to critters and reliably perennial, so they are a superb choice for metro-Atlanta.

9. Mulch after planting to provide many benefits
In addition to adding a layer of insulation, mulch maintains the moisture level and much more. Read more on this Crabapple Blog -- all about organicmulch.

Corona By-Pass Pruners
10. Pruning – Don’t even think about it now!
Pruning now will stimulate ‘dormant buds to break’ below the cut and grow into tender little twigs. These are then subject to cold damage by low temperatures in the coming winter season. Sharpen the pruners now, but wait until February to make the cuts.  

These landscaping tips will help your landscape A little gardeningmaintenance or help from Crabpple LandscapExperts will help with the seasonal transition. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Gardening is the Easiest, and Remarks on Controlling Cabbage Worms

Broccoli, photo from BH+G
Bye-bye Warm Season Veggies
Pull up those tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cukes and other hot-weather vegetables that have stopped producing and gotten old and bedraggled. Remove weeds, then fork in rich compost, well-rotted manure and/or Nature’s Helper.

Cool Season Veggies Reign Supreme October to April
Plant seeds or starts of veggies that do well in the cool months. 
These are often separated into five families of plants
Cabbage Family: cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, radishes, winter cress, radishes, beets, turnips, 
Parsley Family: Parsley, carrots, cilantro
Lettuce or Daisy Family: loose-leaf lettuce, mache, corn salad, curly endive, radicchio, arugula
Onion Family: garlic, elephant garlic, shallots, scallions, possibly leeks in ATL
Violet Family: throw in a few (edible) pansies or violas to enliven the garden

Growing Cabbage at the base
of a fence
The temperatures are down, the rains come regularly and gardening is easy with Mother Nature on your side. These cool season crops continue until hard frosts in January, and pick up again at the first sign of warm weather. Or place a floating row cover over your crops to keep temperatures even and cabbage worms away. 

Checkered White Cabbage Moth
photo by Megan McCarty124
OOPS!  What to Do for Cabbage Worms? 
Those white butterflies flitting above the newly planted brassicas may look cute, but (horrors) they may be laying eggs on the cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and radishes in the organic home garden. These eggs hatch into Cabbage Loopers, Imported Cabbage Worms, or Diamondback Moth larvae that are hungry for your tender leaves in the fall garden.

Cabbage Looper
Wikipedia Commons
5 Ways to Foil Cabbage Worms
1. Try setting-up a bird feeding station next to those cole plants and enjoy watching the birds grab dozens of cabbage worms to supplement their seedy diet each day.

2. Handpick the green caterpillars. My grandma used to drop them into a jar of kerosene, but the 2-brick method also works well.

3. Sprinkle plain flour on the young Brassica Family plants. The worms will eat it, bloat and die. Make an effort to coat the undersides of the leaves where the eggs are laid unnoticeably and the smallest caterpillars start eating.

4. Diatomaceous Earth is naturally occurring siliceous, sedimentary rock made of the fossilized remains of diatoms (hard shelled algae). It crumbles to a fine powder with an abrasive feel, like pumice. If you are a caterpillar or a slug crawling over diatomaceous earth, the individual particles slice you up like knives with sharp, micron-sized particles.   

5. Floating Row Covers are reusable, safe, easy, and organic. They are made of a lightweight material such as spunbonded polyester placed directly over the young crops, or draped over low hoops in a row. Floating Row Covers allow sunlight and water to get to the plants, but they form a physical (organic) barrier to protect the plants from insect damage. In addition, they mitigate cold temperatures during those bitter days Atlanta gets in late January and February, and thereby prolong the growing/ harvesting season.  Floating Row Covers come in a long roll that is anchored with landscape staples or bricks to keep them on the plant rows.

Plant a Fall Garden and have home-grown veggies at Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a lull at Valentines, and then coming on strong for St. Patrick's Day and Easter/Passover.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why and Where to Make Compost - Indoors and Out

Compost nourishes plants
Crabapple asks: Are you interested in having great veggies, brilliant flowers and vigorous houseplants? Try adding compost to the potting soil. 
Why compost? 
Composting is known as "making black gold" for the plants in the garden or for houseplants, and is a good idea because it can:
Decrease the carbon footprint
Reduce the amount of solid waste added to landfills
Improve soil quality for veggies on the balcony or for indoor plants
Save money on potting soil
Is an easy and fun science project
Can increase popularity when you use compost as gifts (just joking, it’s too precious to give away)

Where to compost?
Live in an apartment but want to make compost for your houseplants? Does your HOA covenant prohibit traditional compost heaps? Want to compost at the office? Maybe the kids want to compost at school?  Although Crabapple LandscapExperts composts on a grand scale, we can suggest several possibilities for unobtrusive composting tips.

Composting in a bucket
1. Start a compost bucket with a lid under the sink, adding veggie and fruit scraps and maintaining the wet/dry ratio by adding dry shredded paper whenever you add food. Drill some holes in the bucket to allow for good air exchange needed for aerobic decomposition.  If it gets too wet it will begin to smell bad, so keep it barely moist, like a damp sponge. Apartment Therapy blog gives a step-by-step example of easy indoor composting.

2. Use the blender to make juice out of vegetable and fruit scraps and peels, then pour the juice on the garden plants, balcony veggies or houseplants. This is not actually compost yet, but will nourish the soil microorganisms that in turn aid the plants. 

3. How about trying a worm farm at the office, also known as vermicomposting (like vermicelli). Start with a simple, opaque plastic box about 12”W x 24”L x 8”H with a lid and drill air holes near the top. Add a 3 inch layer of soil, then add kitchen scraps, shredded white paper, corrugated cardboard, coffee grounds and tea leaves for the worms to process. Order a package of red wigglers through online and you're ready to start. The liquid "worm tea" that collects at the bottom of the box can be diluted with water and used to revv up office plants that help to purify the air.  

4. Start a school composting project like this real-life biology lesson in California. 

Compost in a pickup truck! 
Decrease your carbon footprint and turn food scraps into a beneficial new product through composting. Learn more about the topic from the Cooperative Extension Service in each county. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Watering Needs of Plants Under Varying Conditions

Crabapple LandscapExperts suggest rule-of-thumb guidelines for watering landscape plants.

Plants will need more water when:
They are in a period of active growth
They are growing in full sun
Temperature is high
Humidity is low
It has not rained in 5 or more days
They are fast-growing varieties
They are planted in poor or sandy soil
They are in flower or bud
They are contained in small pots
Clay pots evaporate water faster than plastic pots

Plants will need less water when:
They are in a period of rest (typically in winter)
They are growing in shade or dense shade
Temperature is low (65 degrees F. or lower)
Humidity is high
Heavy rain recently (in the past 2 or 3 days)
They are slow-growing varieties
They are planted in moisture-holding or heavy soil (such as clay)
They are growing in large tubs
They are planted in non-porous pots (plastic or glazed)