In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2006
Regional Report

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Shorter, cooler days trigger glorious fall color.

Tree TLC

Now that the days are growing shorter and the nights are getting cool, our beautiful landscape trees are beginning to show fall color. Nothing compared to the autumnal show the trees in the eastern part of the U.S. put on, but enough to let us know that it's time to start winding down for the year.

The California buckeyes are the first to color up in August, dropping their tender foliage before the real heat of September arrives. The liquidambars are just beginning to show color now with a few orange and red leaves appearing in the uppermost branches. The ginkgos, redbuds, and pistache trees are not far behind, putting on a real show once the nights drop below 55 degrees F. I love seeing the sun light up a pistache tree in full fall regalia.

Reading the Trees
Fall is also an excellent time to evaluate the health of your landscape trees. Check around the dripline. Are the roots coming to the surface? This is especially common if a tree is growing in a lawn. If so, plan to change your watering habits next year. Endeavor to drive the water deep into the soil so that the roots will follow. A soaker hose is ideal for watering trees.

Do the trunks show damage from string trimmers? Although weed whackers are excellent tools for maintaining borders and chopping down unwanted field growth, they are absolute murder on trees. The repeated use of string trimmers to keep grass from growing around the trunk will strip away the bark. Once the delicate cambium layer beneath the outer bark has been severed, it's bye-bye, baby. An alternative is to use some kind of mulch around the base of the trunk to prevent weed growth so you don't have to use that whacker.

Please check to see if there is any ivy or wisteria growing in the branches. Vines are devilish things and can escape into the canopy, seemingly overnight. Once established, a vigorous vining plant can actually strangle a tree or, at the very least, grow so heavy that the branches can't support it and break.

The fall season is also an excellent time to examine trees for signs of damage or weakness, especially before the winter storm season sets in. Any broken branches should be removed. Crossing or dead limbs are a good indication that it's time to call in a tree professional. Most tree companies will give a free estimate. Tree care should be in your annual household budget.

Any time between now and mid-November is the ideal time to add a tree to your landscape. The soil is still warm, which will encourage young roots to spread and grow. Just keep in mind when you are watering young trees that roots will only grow where the soil is moist. And do your homework before planting any tree. Just this morning I saw a row of redwood trees planted 20 feet apart, right next to an office building. Redwoods need room to grow, as the business owners will eventually find out.


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