Ponds and Garden News for March:
Flowering Tree Pruning: Do not prune flowering trees at this time. Flowering trees should be pruned during winter, or after the blooms have dropped. If you prune these trees now you will not get flowers until next year.
Land Slides: This winter all over the State of Washington there has been a large number of slides. Most of us are wondering if we are out of the danger now that the winter storms are almost over? The answer is NO. Slides occur when the weight of trees, shrubs, soggy soil is greater than the frictional force holding the soils on the hill. There is some indication of where these slides may occur next.
1) Look for a bank that has trees that the trunk is “J” or “L” shaped. Trees normally grow up not sideways. Looking at a “J” shaped trunk, we would be lead to think that the little tree first grew horizontal, then as time went by tipped its top up reaching for the sky. This is not true interpretation of the growth of this tree. Rather the tree has always tried to grow vertically or up to the sky, but what has happened is the roots of this tree has slid down hill just a little bit. The soils under the roots of the tree are like a badly fitting hair piece on the head of a bald man. As the toupee slips forward, the man just combs the hair back , the hairs are bent back. If the man is not careful the toupee will slip right off his head. When you see trees with “J” or “L” shaped trunk think of the man with the ill-fitting toupee.
2) Look above a steep bank and see if there is a new lawn or logged off area. Trees keep the rain from collecting in one area on a hill side and the effect is similar to your soaker hose. The leaves and branches diffuse the force of the water and the rain hits the forest floor like sprinkle not like a full force hose. The trees also hold a lot of water in their trucks and leaves and roots, causing the runoff of the water to be slower. After a rain look at a stand of trees and you will see fog rise from the grove. This is called transpiration. The trees breath the water back into the air as water vapor, not stream water.
3) If you observe water dripping out from a cut in the bank with lots of brush or trees over the top. This is a prime indication the soils are saturated with water. Water in this case is the lubricant to reduce the frictional force holding the mud , brush and trees on the hill.
4) If you observe rubble at the base of a bank, or signs of an old slide, remember it slid once it can slide again.
5) My favorite is the obvious cut in the bank sign. Usually made by heavy equipment like bulldozers, back hoes, or naturally by rivers , steams or wave action. Cut banks are a slide waiting to happen.
6) One last slide situation: If the soils are saturated with water, and warm weather begins, the trees break dormancy and start pumping sap up the tree. At a weight of over 7.5 lbs. per gallon the tree acts like a large pry bar getting more and more the additional weight is just enough to bring the tree down. This “it just fell over” can happen on level ground during a wind storm. This is one situation where drastically trimming a tree during late winter or early spring, can save the tree and the hillside. (Please note: Consult with a tree trimming expert and a soils person before you take on trimming trees in a slide area.)
Roses: (not my favorite plant, rates right in there with weed free lawns)
Now is the time to prune the roses back. Get a pair of HEAVY Rubber gloves to protect you from the thorns. You will need hand clippers and possible larger loppers. The goal is to make the rose look like a thorny open bowl. Remove all the heavy canes that are larger than the diameter of your thumb from the center of the rose bush, ideally leaving 3 to 5 smaller canes. The rose canes that are the size of a pencil will be trimmed back to 12 to 18 inches. The canes the size of your finger will be trimmed back to 18 to 24 inches. Your cuts will be above an outward growing growth bud, and will have a slanted cut to run the water down the inner side of the cane. You want the top growth bud to be pointing away from the center of the rose bush and the water running to the center of the rose bush away from the growth bud. Remove all leaf debris from your rose bushes and do NOT compost rose cuttings. (TRUST ME, 4 months from now when you reach into your nice compost, those darn thorns will still cut you.)
Pond News: Now is a great time to plan for your next pond. You can easily turn that problem spot in your yard into a spectacular water feature. Water plants are easy to take care of, and easy to plant ( green side up). To get started on a new pond project all you need is a tape measure and a garden hose. Lay the garden hose in the shape of your new pond. Step back and see how it will fit into your landscape design. Wander into the house and see how it will look from inside your home. Once you have the location of the spot and the general shape of your new pond laid out, measure the length and the width of the overall size of the pond. If you are going to have fish in your pond it needs to be at least 18 inches deep, or 3 feet deep if you are going to raise Koi. Take your time, don’t get in a hurry to start digging. Remember your pond will be larger than what the hose shows. The area inside of the hose represents the “WATER” in your pond. You will have rocks or other things around the “WATER” part of your new pond. Your new pond will be several inches higher than what the hose show. So take time to visualize(or dream) what your new pond will look like!
Planning for streams that look like streams: Very rarely are streams straight in nature. Getting a manmade stream to look like a natural stream takes some planning.( (have your friend video tape this process I’ll tell you later how this could make you money)) Stand where the new stream is going and look up to where the stream is coming from. You will have either a right handed stream or a left handed stream. Raise your right hand or your left hand with your fingers pointing up. Trace in the air the path of your new stream with your hand. Your little finger will be closest to the stream , and your thumb will be pointing at your nose. Make a mental note of where your imaginary stream will be and lay a garden hose along those spots. Go back to the same place as before and with the same hand retrace the path in the air, to see that the hose is now resting in the right places. ((Make a copy of the video and send it to “Americas most funny home videos”)) I have to admit it looks funny, when you do this, and you feel like an idiot hand dancing. The truth is, this works your new steam will look great and everyone will stop laughing, when you receive $100,000 in winnings from the TV show!