Another short excerpt from the book called “Northen California Gardening” by “Katherine Grace Endocott”. This post covers tree care and measures needed for a healthy tree.
Trees are the backbone of the garden and should be treated with extra care and respect. Give trees a helping hand by removing the grass and the weeds that have responded quickly to spring rain. Research indicates that young trees grow considerably faster when vegetation(particularly grass)is removed from the ground within a radius of between two and four feet around the trunk
Remember that a tree’s active feeding roots grow beneath the drip line of the outer leaves and even beyond the drip line.A large tree is helped by the removal of weeds that are growing a considerable distance from its trunk.Contrary to the popular notion,a tree’s roots grow out much further than they grow down.
Tree biology changes with age.When desiring to help a mature tree,remember that it lacks a young tree’s ability to respond quickly to change. Avoid big changes. Evidently mature trees, like mature humans, get set in their ways.It is best not to alter the environment of a large tree.
Sunscald can seriously harm or even kill young trees. Protect the trunks of young trees from the unrelenting gaze of the sun by coating them with diluted white latex tree paint or by covering them with a tree tape or brown burlap. As the tree grows, it will develop enough leafy branches to shade the trunk. One of the problems of sunscald is that the damaged tree bark allows easy entry for borers. If you see the tunnels of tree borers,poke a wire into the tunnels to kill the larvae.
Somewhat amazing,particularly to beginning gardeners,is the discovery that a real troublemaker for trees is the common ant.The tiny ant is something of a dairy farmer who industriously herds insect “cows” such as aphids, mealybugs, woolly whiteflies, and scales, and milks these sucking insects for their honeydew.The ants are fierce protectors of their cows, even carrying them from tree to tree and protecting them from predators.It is the sucking insects that damage trees, but because they are protected by the ants,the way to get rid of the insect is often to get rid of the ants.
Do not apply an insecticide when you encounter the ants.That is rather like bombing a village to get rid of a houseguest.True,both the ants and the aphids are done in by an insecticide but so are all the beneficial bugs(some of which eat the bad bugs)and even worse, with certain insecticides, so are the bees whose job it is to fly from flower to flower carrying the pollen that results in fruit.
The first line of attack on ants is to wash the tree.Use a soap made for this purpose, such as the one by Safer, or use two tablespoons of dish soap(not dishwasher detergent)in a gallon of water. Spray the tree or sponge off the leaves.This soapy bath discourages aphids as well as ants. It also gets rid of the dust that hides the bad bugs from raids by beneficial bugs.
After the bath,trim off all branches that dip down to the ground to eliminate the ladder that enables ants to climb into the trees.Last,apply a sticky barrier substance, such as Tanglefoot, to the trunk of the tree. The best way to apply the sticky stuff is to spread it onto a piece of loosely woven cloth or an old nylon stocking and wrap that around the tree trunk.Wrap low so that birds, particularly hummingbirds, will not be attracted to it.
Again, I want to caution you against rushing out and spraying chemicals on the tree. It takes several years to get a garden in balance so that there are enough beneficial bugs around to control problem bugs. A hasty chemical spraying of something as large as a tree can massacre a lot of your insect allies in the garden.