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Summer Pruning

encore date: June 9, 2016

original air date: June 11, 2016

Let’s put those pruning tools back to work!  Get your overgrown plants back in shape with tips from Julie Clark of Stronger Than Dirt. Daphne explains how soil compaction and weed barrier impacted red oak trees. Brighten up your patio containers with tropical bromeliad, our Plant of the Week. John Dromgoole tackles fire ants in the compost pile and garden with organic controls. On tour at Cuts of Color Flower Farm, Rita Anders harvests fresh-from-the-field bundles for locally grown bouquets.

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Episode Segments

On Tour

Cuts of Color Flower Farm

Every day, Rita Anders packages bundles of freshly cut flowers at her Cuts of Color flower farm in Weimar, Texas. From seed to market, she grows joyous bouquets for your vase, just a few hours after picking. She’ll even grow a bride’s color scheme and style, from traditional to succulents. See how she does it, tips for arranging, preserving your flowers, and why slow flowers, locally grown, are your best picks.

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Question of the Week

Why are my red oak trees struggling?

Danielle and Mike Demarest are having some trouble with three well-established red oaks in their backyard. For the past several years, one has struggled, barely has any leaves at all, and is just overall stunted. An arborist ruled out oak wilt, but didn’t have any other real answers.

Danielle and Mike further report that when they bought their home several years ago, the soil around the trees was covered with weed barrier and pea gravel. Since we didn’t see any obvious signs of disease or insect problems, we consulted Paul Johnson, with the Texas Forest Service on this one, who also expressed his expert opinion that there was no evidence in the photos of any particular pest damage.

With the background information regarding the weed barrier and pea gravel around the trees earlier in their history, Paul noted that soil compaction and other soil/root issues, such as girdling roots, are most likely the underlying causes for this tree’s decline.

Although potentially, but less likely, herbicide damage or the last stages of bacterial leaf scorch could also be at play.

Unfortunately, this situation provides an opportunity to point out that our first thought when we notice struggling plants is to assume a disease or insect issue. That’s a natural inclination, since we want to believe that we can potentially address those issues and remedy the situation, thus saving the plant and getting it back on track.

But more often than not, environmental issues that are difficult if not impossible to control, especially when we inherit an older landscape, are at the root of the problem.

Danielle and Mike also say that they’ve removed the pea weed barrier and pea gravel and replaced them with wood mulch to hopefully alleviate the issue, a great first step, and I must commend you for correctly diagnosing the most likely problem and taking the best possible course of action to potentially remedy the situation.

If the tree’s not too far gone, one other step that might help would be to aerate the soil around your trees with an air spade. But you’d need to hire an arborist to perform that service, and it’s not a guarantee of success, so I would suggest that you consult several companies before you go to such an expense.

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Plant of the Week

Tropical Bromeliad

Tropical Bromeliad

Tropical bromeliad makes a lovely, easy-care container plant. You’ll most often find these plants for sale among the house plants, but they most definitely belong outdoors. They prefer very bright light, and many can take our intense summer sunlight, but be careful to acclimate them first, with only a few hours of full-sun exposure per day for the first few weeks. And if placed in full sun, be prepared to water your containers more often. That’s not usually too hard, since most bromeliads are shallow-rooted and very happy in small containers, which you can keep close at hand on porches or patio tables. If your porch is protected, staying fairly warm and bright through the winter, you can potentially leave your bromeliad outdoors year-round. But on cold nights or longer cold spells, a greenhouse would be best, although they can tolerate short periods in the brightest window of your home. Be careful not to overwater or pamper these beautiful tropical species, as they virtually thrive on neglect. Your patience with their slow growth habit will be rewarded with beautiful floral displays unlike any other in your garden. If you’re looking for something a bit different for seasonal interest or outdoor centerpieces, there’s no better species than tropical bromeliads. Viewer pictures this week well illustrate that Texans can figure anything out! In Kerrville, Natalie Vollmar is growing several Hellebores (Lenten roses). And in Austin, Ann Wilson’s peony bloomed this crazy winter.

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