The Root of the Problem

Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

It’s mud season, which means the beginning of all manner of outdoor projects. Soft soil conditions mean that tree roots are more vulnerable to damage that can have long-term effects. As far as trees are concerned, root damage is the root of all problems. Well, most of them, anyway. Whether it’s early fall color (a sign of stress), twig and branch dieback, pale foliage, slow growth, or even some diseases and insect infestations, the problem is usually below ground.

If the next “Google Glass” offers ground-penetrating radar, it’ll be a lot easier to find buried treasure. And, we’d be able see that about 90 percent of tree roots reside in the top ten inches of soil, and that they extend (unless there’s a barrier) two to three times the branch length. In profile, the root system of any tree—even “deep-rooted” ones like oaks—is pretty flat. It’s no coincidence that arborists refer to root systems as root plates.

Because we can’t see into the ground, treasure-hunting is out and we have to keep our day jobs. And also, we’re likely to assume that tree roots are generally deep and that they like it that way. So it’s not surprising we don’t think twice when it’s time for trenching, excavating, adding fill, building, or even driving within a tree’s root zone.

Damage is obvious when an excavator cuts tree roots, but many other events cause compaction, a less visible problem. For roots to survive they need oxygen, which they get from soil pores. (Vessels in wood that transport water, sugars, and nutrients don’t carry oxygen.) When soil gets compacted, pores disappear and roots suffocate. Adding fill has the same effect; it excludes air. Such damage may kill a tree within a few years, but more often there will be a prolonged decline. In these cases, opportunistic diseases and insects may be the proverbial last straw.

Trees have complex and effective defenses, but for them to work well, trees need to be happy, with all systems in good working order. A strong tree can respond to insect feeding by making chemicals known to scientists as “bad-tasting stuff” to repel them (insects, that is, not scientists). It will endure some loss from insects, but will keep the balance in its favor. A crabby tree with damaged roots, though, won’t be able to make sufficient antifungal chemicals at a wound site, or create enough insect-repelling compounds the way a healthy one can.

So the problem you see may not be the real problem. Let’s say you look out the window one day and to your horror, notice a torrent of sawdust raining down from your favorite white pine. Umbrella in hand, you rush outside and find a swarm of Jig Sawflies (cordless, naturally), their carbide blades freshly sharpened, chewing your pine to bits.

As you rifle the phone book for an exterminator, you think how you’ll miss sitting in the tree’s shade, enjoying its yellow foliage. Wait—yellow foliage? How long had it been like that?

Let’s think back on that pine. Wasn’t that the one that you worked so hard not to hit with the backhoe when the septic went in five years ago? The one the gas company trenched near ten years ago? Human activity can compromise a tree’s root system, resulting in its demise much later. An event that damages roots may take 5 to 10 years to show symptoms. Because insects are attracted to a declining/dying tree, they’re often assumed to be the culprits.

Right now you may be wondering, “What’s on TV?” or, “Will this guy get to the point?” or maybe, “How do trees in little concrete tree pits in the sidewalk survive, then?” I can’t answer the first two questions, but sidewalk trees are planted when young, and they adapt to available root space. In technical parlance, they’re “unhappy.” Trees grown in the open that suddenly have their roots cut or damaged to the size of tree pits are considered “dead.”

We all know trees have environmental benefits, but they have social and economic value as well. There’s a positive correlation between access to trees in one’s life and a reduction in stress symptoms. Planting trees in a neighborhood leads to a reduction in crime. Trees add substantially to property values. So let’s help them thrive. Don’t drive, park, or add soil within the root zone. Mulch the area about four inches deep, and water during dry spells. Keep those trees happy, and they’ll keep you healthy.

4-H Spring Break 2014 Specials

Sow What?:   Monday, April 14, 1 pm – 3 pm with Anneke Larrance and Carol Budd Master Gardener Volunteers with Cornell Cooperative Extension.  Eat your way through some fruit and veggies as you learn where plants hide their seeds.  Discover how a peanut has everything needed to start a new plant.  Play the seed game and see how many different seeds you can identify.  Investigate a seed that has already sprouted.  Learn how to plant seeds now that you can grow at home this summer.  Plant your own giant pumpkin seeds to take home. Come and join the fun.  Fee is $3.00.

Pallet Planters: Tuesday, April 15, 10am-12pm with Nicki Hamilton-Honey, 4-H Extended School Day Community Educator and Amy Sands, 4-H Community Educator.  Come to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Farm and learn about a unique idea in growing your food or flowers.  Participants will build and plant pallet containers, for easy gardens or for locations with not a lot of space. This spring break special will involve some use of tools and getting a little dirty; so wear your Gardening clothes and gloves.  Fee of $2.00

Sharing Shoots and Roots:  Thursday, April 17, 10 am-12 pm with Carol Budd, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension and retired Biology teacher.  In this workshop, participants will learn the basics of growing new plants from old ones, a process called vegetative propagation.  Participants will learn how to identify plant parts from old and overgrown plants, take leaf or stem cuttings; divide them to make new specimens to take home.  Fee is $3.00

*All classes are held at the Extension Learning Farm

 

Herbs

Why Are They Are So Special?

Questions and Answers

Julie Hackett Cliff

Master Gardener Volunteer

Question: Why would I ever plant herbs in my garden?

Answer: Once you plant some herbs in your garden-you will always plant them again.  They are very special plants that add a fragrant dimension to a garden.

Question: What makes herbs special?

Answer:  Herbs, because of their particular aromatic or healing properties, are useful for scenting, flavoring, and medicinal purposes.

Question: How many different herbs are there?

Answer: There are many varieties and uses-The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Handbook on Herbs lists 73 different types of herbs.  Herbs are classified into one or more classifications:

Culinary Herbs-are the most popular and useful-because of their strong flavors-have a wide range of uses in cooking.

Aromatic Herbs-have novel uses-most have pleasing smells-and are used to produce perfumes and various scents.

Ornamental Herbs-have flowers ranging from vibrant colors to delicate white and the foliage is not only interesting foliage some are even variegated.

Medicinal Herbs-using herbs for medicinal purposes should be used very carefully and while present medical knowledge acknowledges some healing properties there is some question as to their actual effectiveness.

Question: Do I have to plant herbs every year?

Answer:  Herbs are classified into three groups-annuals, biennials, and perennials.  Annuals bloom one season and complete their life cycle.  Biennials live for two seasons, and only bloom the second season.  Perennials overwinter and bloom each season once they are established.

Question: How do ever decide which herbs to plant?

Answer:  It is really personal preference but since culinary herbs are the most popular-they are a great starting point.  Choosing the appropriate herbs for your garden is also matter of taste.  The following herbs are used in most households for basic cooking and represent the three different classes of herbs:

Annuals

Basil-Ocimum basilicum: one of the most popular annual herbs with a wide range of flavors and colors. Basil is the key ingredient in pesto.

 

Days to Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

5-10 Days

After   last frost

Direct or   Transplant

Sun

Varies

2-8”

Annual

 

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014-Cinnamon, Genovese, Italian Large Leaf, Siam Queen, Thai Sweet

Cilantro-Coriandrum sativum: one of the easiest to grow.  The foliage is called Cilantro, while the edible seed is known as Coriander.  This herb is popular in many cuisines. Cilantro is the key ingredient in salsa.  The flowers are a strong attraction for beneficial insects.

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

7-10 Days

Spring   through Summer

Direct

Sun

12-18”

2-4”

Annual

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014-Delfino

Dill-Anethum graveolens: edible seeds and greens flavor many foods.    Dill is used in many sauces and essential ingredient for making pickles.  Foliage is also known as dill weed.

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

7-21 Days

Spring   through Summer

Direct or   Transplant

Sun

Varies

2-4”

Annual

 

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014-none listed

Biennial

Parsley (Leaf)-P. crispum: curled and flat leaf varieties.  Parsley is used as a garnish and is great for flavoring soups and main and side dishes.  Multiple cuttings per season are possible from one planting.

 

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

14-30   Days

Spring

Direct or   Transplant

Sun

Varies

12-18”

Biennial

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014-none listed

Perennials

Chives-Allium schoenoprasum: mild onion flavor.  Leaves are a key culinary herb.  The attractive glove-shaped blooms are used as an edible garnish.

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

7-14 Days

Spring or   Fall

Direct or   Transplant

Sun/Part   Shade

12-18”

4-8”

Zones 3-9

 

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014 -none listed

Oregano-Origanum vulgare: essential herb for Italian and Greek cooking.

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

7-14 Days

Spring

Transplant

Sun

8-24

12”

Zones 4-9

 

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State for 2014-none listed

Sage-Salvia officinalis: use in dressings, sausage, sauces, and tea.  Sage makes a good base for dried floral wreaths and swags.

 

Days to   Germ.

Sowing   Time

Seeding   Method

Light   Preference

Plant   Height

Plant   Spacing

Hardiness   Zone

7-21 Days

Spring

Direct or   Transplant

Sun/Part   Shade

16-30”

12”

Zones 4-8

 

Cornell University recommended varieties in New York State-none listed

Question: How should I layout my herb garden?

Answer:  Herbs can be planted as part of your vegetable garden or you might prefer to grow herbs in a separate area.  A suggestion for a separate kitchen herb garden layout would be an area 20 by 4 feet.  Individual 12 by 18 inch plots within in the area should be adequate for separate herbs.  It is a good idea to separate the annual, biennial, and perennial plants.

Question: Where should I locate my herb garden?

Answer:  Most herbs require sun and good drainage, so a sunny location with well drained soil.

Question: When can I begin to harvest my herbs?

Answer:  Fresh leaves may be picked when the plant has enough foliage to maintain plant growth.

Question: How can I preserve my herbs?

Answer:  Drying herbs is the most common method.  There are several methods which include natural or air drying, as well as, oven drying and freezing.  Proper handling is very important for the success of drying herbs.

 

If you have any specific questions regarding herbs, please feel free to email me at jcliff1@live.com, as a Master Gardener Volunteer, I would be happy to help.

 Wishing everyone a Happy Spring and a Super Abundant Gardening Season!

 

 

Works Cited

Sources:  “Growing Herbs in The Home Garden” NE 208 by Drs. J. Robert and P.A. Ferretti, Extension Horticulturists, Cooperative Extension North East States, Pennsylvania

Revised Slightly 12/94 by Deborah Kavakaos, Agricultural Program Manager, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County

Selected List of Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners in New York State-2014, Lori Brewer and Sarah Hulick, Report 12(Revised12/13),Cornell Garden-Based Learning, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Johnny’s Selected Seeds- 2014 Catalog, 955 Benton Avenue, Winslow, Maine

CINEMA 10 & GARDENSHARE HOST “A PLACE AT THE TABLE” FILM AND DISCUSSION

The Cinema 10 film series showing of A Place at the Table will take place on Monday, April 7th at 7:15pm at the Roxy Theatre, 20 Main St in Potsdam. A Place at the Table provides a commentary on the overwhelming hunger crisis occurring in the United States. It follows the lives of three families affected by food assistance programs, as well as including statistics and interviews with various stakeholders. Tickets are $4.50 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and students.

“Food insecurity is a seriously relevant topic to the North Country,” says Aviva Gold, GardenShare executive director. “With over 16,000 individuals, just in St. Lawrence County, enrolled in the SNAP program, this film speaks to our community directly.”

The film will be followed by a brief and lively discussion focusing on local hunger and food security issues.

Panelists include Aviva Gold, GardenShare’s executive director; Daisy Cox, director of the Potsdam Neighborhood Center; Cortney Shatraw, Nutrition Outreach Education Program Coordinator of St. Lawrence County at the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County.  More panelist to be confirmed. See gardenshare.org for more updates.

“Hunger in the United States is a solvable problem, says Gold. “This film and discussion can be motivating force.”

Community Gardens

Summary:  Community gardens are gaining in popularity and providing a great opportunity for many who do not have a home garden.

This is a revival of a column I wrote a few years ago about community gardens. I couldn’t resist digging it out of the mothballs because, like other local food and gardening efforts it’s gaining momentum with wide interest.  When I last encouraged folks to look into community gardens there were just a handful in the North Country.  Last summer, when Adirondack Harvest published its annual local food guide, we listed 21 community and school gardens, just in Essex County!

My introduction to community gardens took place 25 years ago when my husband and I, devout gardeners and homesteaders, abruptly moved from rural green of Vermont to Minneapolis and St. Paul (yes, we started out in one city and a year later moved to the other one).  While we adored the Twin Cities, there were no backyard gardens for us.  And so there entered a new concept in my life: community gardens.  We discovered that plots of land had been cordoned off in, among other places, parks and vacant lots.  Each area was divided into many 20’ by 20’ plots with water access.  For a small fee we were able to secure a space, tilled for us at the beginning of the season.

Our first year was a challenge – the garden had been created in the site of an old parking lot.  We spent considerable effort removing hidden chunks of asphalt from the soil and worrying about potential toxins.  In later years we found space in other community gardens, sometimes renting more than one plot to support our craving to work the land.

When we moved to the North Country I promptly forgot about community gardens, dismissing them as purely urban creations.  We had, for us, a crazy abundance of open, fertile land, begging to sprout whatever seeds we sowed.  Wasn’t this everyone’s experience with gardening in this region?  It surprised me when I heard about a community garden being organized in a mostly rural Adirondack town.  Now they’re springing up all over the region and I look at them in a new light.

Why would residents of a town like Keene or Jay need garden space in anything but their own yards?  Yes, I was totally presumptuous to assume everyone had a large yard.  And even if they did have a yard they might not want chop it up with a tiller.  Perhaps they are only renting their accommodations.  Or maybe their property is deep in the woods (lots of shade, but not great for ripening those tomatoes) or the soil would just take too much amending to create a healthy substrate for vegetables.  Turns out, there are lots of reasons for wanting to plant those seeds in a place other than your own yard.

Now add the “community” part of it and you’ll see why this idea can produce such great benefits.  Community gardens are an excellent place for like-minded gardeners to gather.  You can see what everyone else is growing, swap gardening tips, and spend time connecting with your neighbors.  In Minneapolis we often tended plots alongside Hmong and other ethnically diverse families.  They were all friendly folks who grew a fascinating array of vegetables that were very different from ours.  We learned about a whole new array of delicious foods!  Community building, fresh air, education, healthy food – endless benefits.

Is a community garden what you’ve been waiting for so that you can grow and harvest your own local food?  Check with your town – maybe you are the one to get it started.  For more information on how to get the ball rolling you can contact Adirondack Harvest or your local Extension office.

Laurie Davis is an Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the Coordinator for Adirondack Harvest.  Office phone number: 518-962-4810 x404. Email lsd22@cornell.edu

Emerald Ash Borer Training for Municipal and Commercial Tree Managers

When: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 8:00 AM until 3:15 PM

Where: Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, 2043B State Rt. 68, Canton NY

Cost: $10.00 Includes lunch and materials.

Please register by April 23: Call (315) 379-9192. For more information, email ph59@cornell.edu

4.5 DEC Credits approved for Categories 2, 3A, 9 and 10, and 2 DEC Credits for 6A and 25.

(CEU applications pending for ISA CA and Municipal; CTSP; NYSNLA CNLP.)

You must arrive promptly and complete the course to receive credit. Certificates will only be released after 3:00.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Backyard Poultry Clinic

Cornell Cooperative Extension will hold a backyard poultry clinic, on Saturday, April 5, at the Extension Learning Farm from 10:00 am—2:00 pm.  Lee Bowhall and Floyd Rood will present from 10:00 am—12 noon on how to choose breeds, hatching and candling eggs, poultry housing and preparing your bird for showing.  An egg candler and eggs will be available for participants to try candling.  From 12:30 pm—2:00 pm Ashley Jones, DVM from Hilltop Veterinary Clinic will discuss poultry diseases; prevention, detection and cures.  The cost of this clinic is $2.00 per 4-H’er or $4.00 per non 4-H’er.   Please call the Office, (315) 379-9192, by April 3, to register.

chicken

 

Fit as a Fiddle

A Cornell Cooperative Extension Fitness and Nutrition Program for Seniors

Looking for a better tone? We’ll give you the right tools to keep tuned up so you can be fit as a fiddle, no strings attached!

Registration is now open for Fit as a Fiddle, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s senior nutrition and fitness program. This dynamic 10-week class will be held at the Norwood Municipal Building, North Main Street in Norwood, from 10:30am–12:00pm every Thursday from April 3 through June 5.

Classes will include physical fitness activities, group cooking projects and talks on optimal nutrition. Call Cornell Cooperative Extension at (315) 379-9192 to sign up today!