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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

Think again if you think shade trees pretty much care for themselves.     In the forest, where trees care for themselves, fewer than one percent of seedlings grow to become marketable trees.

Now’s the season, so do it right

Mistakes made when planting shade trees grow up to haunt you. Mistake 1: Choosing the wrong tree for the wrong place.     Research the nature and habits of the species you want to plant. Do those qualities match the place you want to plant it and the job you want it to do? Mistake 2: Planting too close to buildings, driveways, sidewalks or driveways.

Straw-Bale Gardening Works

From pot to rooting medium to placement, these plants have ­special needs

Orchids are becoming one of the most popular potted plants. They have the advantage of long-lasting flowers and very attractive leaves. However, after they have flowered, they are often neglected and only watered on inspiration.     Orchids are epiphyte, meaning that they obtain most of their moisture from the air through root-like structures. In nature, they live in tropical forests, growing on trunks and branches of trees. The terrestrial forms of orchids, most commonly offered for sale, are sparsely branched with coarse roots.

Time to repot for life indoors

Fall is the time to repot houseplants. During the short daylight hours of late fall, winter and early spring, most houseplants don’t produce much top growth. This rule is especially true of plants that live outdoors during the summer.

Dry fall following wet summer makes a good show

This year will bring spectacular fall foliage coloration — provided it stays dry.     That’s what I told the Bay Weekly reader asking for my prediction.     More rain means that more of the leaves will remain green for a longer period of time, thus reducing the intensity of the red, orange and yellow. If we have a dry fall, a higher percentage of the leaves will turn color at the same time. But because of drier conditions, the foliage will not last long.

You’ll need them to get rid of ­creeping Charley and clover

Fall is the best time to eradicate clover and creeping Charley from your lawn and garden. Both of these broadleaf weeds can be controlled by spraying with Weed-B-Gone, Trimec or Speedzone. Apply at the rate of two tablespoons per gallon of water as a light spray on the foliage. Apply only enough spray to wet the foliage.      Take care to avoid dripping on the soil. These sprays are phenoxy compounds that can be absorbed through the roots of desirable plants, such as trees and shrubs, causing twisting and curling of leaves next spring. 

Flowers, Vegetables and Grasses for Fall and Winter

Growing plants keeps your soil alive and well all year long.     In the flower garden, plant annuals and perennials close together. The tops of perennials die back to the ground in fall and winter, but perennial roots stay active as long as soil temperatures are above freezing.     Add cold-weather annuals such as pansies, sweet William, ornamental cabbage and kale to fading perennials to give life and color to the winter garden. They will also absorb nutrients already in the soil.

Catch Phytophtora quick and save the plant

A Bay Weekly reader recently complained that her magnificent large rhododendron was dying after it had produced a super abundance of blooms this spring. After examining the plants closely, I knew that the cause of death was Phytophtora cactorum. This disease is often the primary cause for rhododendron dieback. It kills the plants starting at the ends of the branches, and works its way down the stem. If you can prune out the dying branches as soon as you spot it, you can often salvage the plant.

Mountain laurel, blueberries and other acid-lovers, too

September is the best time of the year to transplant azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, andromeda, blueberries and other plants that thrive in acid soils. This is because these species have stopped growing new stems and leaves and are starting to generate and elongate roots.     So take advantage of fall garden center sales. If your existing plantings are too dense or wrongly placed, now is a good time to dig and transplant.     Here’s how to assure success in transplanting plants that prefer acid soils.