Categories
Backyard Wildlife Gardening

Why Grow Oats?

It will most likely be gone by the time anyone reads this article, but right now my garden is covered with a couple of inches of fresh snow. I haven’t put out any purchased bird seed yet this morning, but in the meantime there are plenty of birds in my yard nibbling on the seed heads of many plants that I have left standing as sources of winter food. Some of the seeds being consumed are from native wildflowers which I grow in order to enhance the utility of our garden as a habitat for beneficial insects and birds. Other seeds are from useful plants that I grow for different purposes, one of which is Oats, Avena sativa.

Cat Grass, aka Common Oat, Wild Oat

At Schnarr’s we sell Botanical Interests brand seeds which packages Oats as “Cat Grass”. In the past I have made extensive use of Oats as a cover crop. I was able to order from Schnarr’s a large sack packaged as “Race Horse Oats”. The Oats contained within were viable seeds and grew very well for me as a cool-season cover crop. As the Oat plants matured and produced seed, I noticed their popularity with wild birds and enjoyed the extra benefit of attracting more winged visitors in my garden.

Oats are often green at times of the year when you need something besides brown in the garden (“Cat Grass…”), so they are useful to keep in mind as an option when planning the seasonal succession of plants in your garden. However, they might not be suited to every garden. In some regions they have been reported as invasive (“Cat Grass…”) and although the dried stalks are very pretty as they arch over the garden with a full head of golden seeds, animals quickly rough up the patch trying to get at them so unfortunately the plants don’t stay pretty for very long once they are ripe.

When Oat plants finish their life cycles, they dry out and produce straw. Straw potentially has many uses in the garden such as mulch, a soil amendment, or if it’s made into bales, a growing medium. The hollow straw Oats produce is also a great material for filling houses designed as nesting sites for pollinating peaceful native bees.

Pollinator houses with straw
Pollinator houses with oat straw. The lower house is being filled with alternating straw and bamboo lengths to provide a variety of nest hole sizes.

Last summer my husband and I installed a small pond. We’re still working on parts of the system, especially the aesthetics, but the filters and waterfall have been functional for many months now. We’ve had a pretty mild winter overall, so on many days when it’s not freezing I’m able to run one of the filters that directs its outflow water to our small waterfall where it is further filtered with lava rock and, in season, plants as the flow trickles back down to the main section of the pond system.

In that short video above, you can see that I have bundles of floating straw in the filter. Many people are familiar with the use of Barley straw in ponds to prevent excess algae growth. I did a little research to find out if I could use Oat straw as a substitute, and although it may not be quite as effective as Barley, Oats can indeed be used as an algae treatment (Poole).

Forming straw bundles for pond filter.
Forming oat straw bundles for pond filter, sized to fit.

The straw algae treatment is more effective as a prevention than as a cure, so adding it before there is a visible algae problem is an advantage. If you have Oat straw or other straw available, try tying it in bundles to add to your pond – right now is a great time, if you’re looking for a winter task you can do for your garden. The straw looses effectiveness after a few months, so you can also use some of your winter gardening “down time” to make extra bundles for use later in the season.

Works Cited and Further Reading

Avena sativa L.” United States Department of Agriculture, 2021, plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=AVSA. Accessed 28 January 2021.

“Cat Grass, Common Oat, Wild Oat.” Dave’s Garden, 2021, davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62227/. Accessed 28 January 2021.

Poole, Terri. “Controlling Pond Algae With Straw.” Turfgrass Matters, May 5, 1996 p. 5. archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/matnl/article/1996may5.pdf. Accessed 28 January 2021.

Rust, Kenneth. “Spring Pond Algae Invasion.” Ogden Publications, Inc., 2014, www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/pond-spring-algae-invasion-zbcz1404. Accessed 28 January 2021.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Help – My Pond is Full of Algae!” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/help-my-pond-is-full-of-algae/. Accessed 28 January 2021.

Categories
Gardening Outdoor Fun

Start Your Garden Now For Health

We are often told that gardening is good for our health both mentally and physically. It is widely believed that spending time with nature, having house plants, access to windows with views of natural scenes, real and facsimile floral arrangements in our living and working spaces and even pictures of plants and flowers have the power to make people feel better. I was gifted five books on horticultural therapy for Christmas, and I now have the proof right in my hands (if I needed it) that all of these assertions are true!

Some of the physical benefits of participating in indoor or outdoor horticultural activities, and in some cases merely viewing plants or landscapes, include improved mobility, coordination, endurance, muscle conditioning, blood pressure, heart rates and respiration (Doherty 21-22, 27-28). The mind and it’s functions also respond positively to horticultural activities and subjects. Clients of horticultural therapy and people exposed to plants and aesthetic representations of plants have been known to show improvements in memory, social development, psychological development, cognitive development, relaxation and positive attitudes (Doherty 21-22, 27-28).

As I work my way through this new mini library I have been fortunate to acquire, I will learn more about why horticulture benefits us in so many ways and how to leverage the effects to the best of my ability in my own gardens, and any others that I may be asked to work on in the future. I’m currently in graduate school for Advertising and Marketing Communications at Webster University while I work part-time for Schnarr’s and don’t know what direction my life will take when the course of study is done. What I do know is that gardening will be part of my life as long as I have sufficient life in me and that any human being can benefit greatly from activities involving horticulture and plants (Doherty 24).

Seed starting display at Schnarr's Hardware.
Seed starting display at Schnarr’s Hardware on January 20, 2021.

In our Lawn and Garden department at Schnarr’s Webster, we’ve endeavored to make it a little easier to start your garden this year by suggesting plants that you can start from seed, and later in the season transplant and harvest, right at the time you visit the store. Each week as I change the display I hope you enjoy the new information.

You can also view the calendar we have provided on this blog that includes St. Louis area based suggestions for seed starting, transplanting outdoors and harvesting dates for various popular plants. In addition, when we hear about educational classes and events that we think sound worthwhile and have the potential to increase the value you get from your garden, we will include those on the calendar also.

 

Works Cited and Bibliography

Doherty, Janice Hoetker. A Calendar Year of Horticultural Therapy. Lilyflower Publishing, Inc., 2009.

Marcus, Clare Cooper and Naomi A. Sachs. Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Wiley, 2014.

Simson, Sharon P, PhD and Marha C. Strauss, HTM, Editors. Horticulture as Therapy: Principles and Practice. CRC Press, 1998.

Wells, Suzanne E. MS, Editor. Horticultural Therapy and the Older Adult Population. The Haworth Press, Inc., 1997.

Winterbottom, Daniel and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Timber Press, 2015.

Categories
DIY Gardening Lawns

Landscape Plan Drawing – Practice Rendering Symbols

Landscape Plan Drawing – Practice Rendering Symbols

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Late last summer I was asked to take a list of plants that had been chosen for a client and to make a plan drawing to show where they should be installed. I’ve made lots of rough drawings over the years that only I have to understand. Since this was for a client, I consulted a landscaping drawing book and attempted to make one that was more professional and readable to other people. Here is the result.

Landscape drawing plan
Landscape plan drawing for a client – August, 2019

It got the job done, but it’s crude and I’d like to improve on my landscaping drawing skills. My art degree didn’t include landscaping drawing and there are certain conventions that make landscaping drawings more understandable for the client and for the installers. For planning my own projects and client projects in the the 2020 season, I’m making more detailed drawings of sections of my own yard first. To prepare for that I’m practicing how to draw the various elements individually before I combine them all together.

I don’t own any computer software that is specific to landscaping design. I frequently use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, which I used to prepare a diagram of my yard to start some basic planning and calculate the amount of dirt I wanted to buy for the new planting beds we have been putting in. Over the last few years I’ve also done a lot of adult coloring and art journaling and it’s been really satisfying to pick up the hand-drawing tools again after so many years of focusing mainly on computer graphics. I’m enlarging a version of my yard diagram to 1/4 inch to 1 foot graph paper, and I’m going to practice hand drawing sections in a more professional manner as I work on our garden plan.

I consulted the book Plan Graphics for the Landscape Designer: 2nd Edition by Tony Bertauski and thought about how to adapt my drawing tools and methods to the techniques shown in the book. I took out my favorite drawing tools and did tests to decide what I would use for my thin line weight, my medium line weight, and my thick line weight. In any kind of art or design, varying the line weight adds a great deal to the liveliness and appeal of a rendering. Then I practiced drawing some generic symbols. Symbols indicate a plant and the dot in the middle shows where the center of the plant will be placed. The outer edge of the symbol represents the mature spread of the plant, so that you can anticipate how the plants will fill in the available space as they grow.

Practicing rendering generic symbols and testing line weights of drawing tools.
Drawing tool tests and generic symbols.

I also practiced drawing textures and non-plant symbols that represent surfaces and features that I anticipate will play a role in our new planting beds, patio and water features. Preliminary markings were made with pencil, then I drew over the pencil lines with two thicknesses of black Sharpie markers and erased the pencil lines. I used a circle template to pencil in accurate circles.

Practice drawing surfaces and landscaping symbols.

I made two black and white drawings of a variety of plant symbols, then colored one of each in with colored pencils. I’ll keep these sheets as a reference to get ideas for how to render types of plants as I work. Now that I’ve scanned these drawings to use in this article, I also have the option of importing them into Photoshop or Illustrator to use in computer based renderings I might make in the future. That will sure save a lot of drawing time later!

Practice coloring symbols and surfaces for landscape design.
Some plant symbol tests, and textures for stone, mulch, and vegetable garden patches.

 

Practice rendering landscaping symbols
More plant symbols, plus turf, concrete, ground cover, brick, wood and a little pond with rocks.

I’m going to practice adhering to many conventions of this style of drawing so that it will be understood by professionals in the industry. It’s also inevitable that some personal style characteristics will be made manifest and I hope at least some of the drawings will become works of art on some level as well as useful guides. These exercises have already had a positive influence on my other art work.

If you are interested in drawing some of your own garden plans, here are some resources I’ve found that might help you out on our Schnarr’s Pinterest site:
Garden and Landscape Planning

Categories
Backyard Wildlife Gardening Good Eating Sustainability

What is Eating My Mustard Greens?

What is Eating My Mustard Greens?

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

At my old garden, I was only allowed to grow vegetables on my small deck – I lived in a condo. My deck was in part shade so between lack of space and lack of sun I could only manage to grow a small amount of cherry tomatoes and a sad number of potatoes. Otherwise I stuck to ornamentals, herbs and wildflowers which I could get away with planting in the ground while enjoying a reasonable selection of plants that would grow in part shade.

When I got married and moved into a house in 2018, I started collecting vegetable seeds at seed swaps for my new garden which has plenty of sun. I had to do a lot of planting in a hurry so I just planted the seeds I had in the hopes that I would get a few vegetables and save a few seeds for the following year.

Lots of cherry tomatoes I’ve been having really good luck again with cherry tomatoes and I’m now addicted to growing leafy green vegetables so I can have fresh tasty salads that I pick myself. A few of the plants have really been chewed on by pests which is not a surprise because I don’t use pesticides. In my haste I made no effort to try companion planting to chase some of the pests away. Most herbs are not bothered much by pests so since I’m pretty new to growing vegetables I’m seeing a lot of creatures that I haven’t seen before.

Fresh picked salad with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens.
Fresh picked salad from the backyard with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens.

I had some Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-striped cabbageworm) on my mustard greens and some Pieris rapae (Imported cabbageworm) on my collards. I’m interested in invertebrate conservation and providing food to wild birds, so in the quest to get some vegetables I can eat I’m not going to apply poisons. I might start an additional bed of these vegetables in my fall garden and protect them with a row cover and some companion planting.

Hornworm caterpillar with parasitic wasp cocoons.I’m familiar with these little white blobs on this tomato or tobacco hornworm – those are the cocoons of tiny parasitic wasps that feed on caterpillars. The lifestyle of some of these tiny wasps is pretty horrific, and I’m saying that as a big fan of invertebrates in general! Some of them use plants as a host and some use other insects. Tiny parasitic wasps lay eggs on the bodies of caterpillars. When the tiny wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the caterpillar while it’s still alive. When they emerge they weave white cocoons where they stay until they hatch into adult wasps. The caterpillar they have been feeding on is eventually doomed though it might not die right away.

Even though their lifestyle kind of turns my stomach, these wasps are beneficial so I’m going to put this caterpillar back out in the garden. When the adults emerge they can continue their work of preying on garden pests. If you are going to destroy any caterpillars, it’s recommended that you leave the parasite-infested ones in the garden to add to nature’s arsenal of natural controls. The adult wasps of this type are not social and they do not sting. Some of the adults are so small I’m not even sure what kind I have in the garden. I have swarms of tiny and medium sized insects all over my masses of herbs that are in flower, such as Dill, Garlic Chives, Peppermint, Bronze Fennel and more. Herbs that get clusters of small flowers are worth growing just to get into your garden all the beneficial insects that are attracted to them.

Categories
Gardening

“Is That a Weed?”

“Is that a weed?”

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

A client asked me that question once while we were looking at a wild spot in her yard that she wanted to convert into a garden. We were brainstorming and I was trying to get an idea of what style of garden the client might want. She asked me if a tall yellow-flowering wildflower prominent in the proposed new garden spot was a weed. A weed is a plant where you don’t want it, not a particular species, so that isn’t always an easy question to answer. In certain styles of garden that plant would have been a weed, in others it would have been appropriate. So I told her in so many words, “You get to decide whether it’s a weed or not. It may or may not look good in your new garden depending on the style”. It would have been lovely for example in a wildflower meadow or bird garden but problematic as part of a garden that depends on a manicured look.

I volunteer at Litzinger Road Ecology Center and even though they specialize in growing native wildflowers, they had too much Fleabane on the patio where they didn’t want it, so in that particular spot it was a weed. I moved some to my new rock garden and I think it looks very appropriate there. It should look even better when this rock garden gets a chance to fill in a little. My husband Tom even complimented me on this plant completely unprompted! As this rock garden expands, I’m planning on planting around the tufts of moss that grow on this slope rather than removing them. I love moss and I want it in my rock garden. When this area was formerly supposed to be turf grass, moss was a problem.


Some plants have “weed” in the name which gives you a clue about how it is sometimes regarded. This Swamp Milkweed that I just planted in part of our new rain garden could get “weedy” because it reproduces like crazy at my condo, which is where I obtained these transplants. There are many more still to bring over! These get to be large plants and when I run out of space they might become “weeds”. For now, they are a critical part of my landscape plan and I’m overjoyed to see lots of seedlings. I can welcome many more before there are too many. I’m going to try to grow multiple milkweed species because they provide critical Monarch caterpillar food.


Pokeweed is another plant with weed in the name that can get “weedy”. In a wildflower garden you might want to leave one or two. It is native to Missouri and provides bird food. It is also quite pretty. I’m used to getting rid of it entirely on client sites but when weeding a wildflower garden at Litzinger Road Ecology Center the other day I asked first about each plant before removing it because I know the purposes of gardens there are much different than on most client sites. I was asked to leave one Poke plant in this case (it’s behind the native Columbine). That’s exactly what I recommended a few years ago for my Dad’s garden which was designed as a wildflower garden that is friendly to birds and pollinators. A few Poke plants are nice in a wildflower garden but too many could be a problem because they really spread a lot.


My mother-in-law has Wild Ginger that she considers weedy because her garden style doesn’t call for continuous ground cover. We associate Boxwood as shown at left of this picture with manicured garden styles so when we see it with something that looks wild or naturalized it just looks overgrown to our eye, not harmonious. My gardens are very informal though, and I’ve been digging some of this up to replace at least some of the Vinca minor at my condo. Wild Ginger is native and Vinca minor is invasive, so I’d much rather have the Wild Ginger. My mother-in-law is finding it hard to believe I want this but I’m really delighted to have it – it’s been on my wish list for years! In the right garden this could be beautiful – in the wrong one, a major maintenance headache. At one time I deliberately planted the Vinca minor because I love the flowers and it took me years to get it established, but now I have too much and it has passed into “weediness” for me.


This reddish seedling came up in the garden at the condo. I like to find out what a volunteer plant is before I pull it if at all possible in case it could be interesting or useful to grow somewhere. I showed the photo to the folks at Litzinger Road Ecology Center and they said it was an invasive Tree of Heaven and to destroy it! I was hoping it was a native Sumac that I could move to our house but sadly not, it has to go.

 

The Importance of Plant Identification

I wrote about the previous examples of how I’m dealing with “weeds” so that you can get ideas for how to treat any volunteer plants that you didn’t expect or are not sure you want to keep. It is necessary to identify the plants so that you can get information to make an informed decision. I need to write more about plant identification but in the meantime this previous article I wrote for Schnarr’s has some identification tips in it that could help: How to Diagnose Plant Problems.

Here is a Pinterest board I started to help identify, treat and prevent weeds: Weeds

Here are some applications that can help you out with identifying plants:

Categories
DIY Gardening

Adventures in Buying Dirt

Adventures in Buying Dirt

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Tom and I need a lot of dirt for the landscape design we’ve been working on. We need to regrade some areas and we need to add dirt to raised beds that I’m making. We’ve been buying a few bags of topsoil and potting soil here and there but to get the job done right we are going to have to order a truckload – or two?

In order to know how many cubic yards of dirt to order, I needed to calculate the area of several spots on the property where we wanted to add dirt. The more conventional way to do this is to use graph paper, tracing paper and special rulers to draw the areas to the right scale. Another way is to purchase a graphics kit such as this Patio and Outdoor Living Room Spacing Kit that I bought to experiment with. There is also landscaping computer software that is designed specifically for making landscape or home plans. I have a graphic design background and a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud so for our project I decided to start out with the tools I know best – my computer, a scanner, Abobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

Last year to begin our landscape plan I went to the St. Louis County real estate lookup web page and did a search for our house. I took a screenshot of the aerial photo and edited the image in Adobe Photoshop to cut out the areas I didn’t need. I imported the image into Adobe Illustrator and drew over the photo to produce the rudimentary diagram shown in this article.

Measuring the whole house and yard by hand to figure out the square footage of areas where we want to add dirt was an option but not a very appealing one! So as a shortcut I took a piece of graph paper from the Patio and Outdoor Living Room Spacing Kit and scanned it. I made that a layer in Photoshop. Then I imported my diagram as another layer and measured a part of the property that was a nice even number. The porch is 8 ft wide. The scale of the graph paper was 1/4 inch (one square) = 1 foot. I shrunk the graph paper image so that 8 squares on the graph paper lined up with the length of the porch. I duplicated the layer enough times for the grid pattern to cover the whole diagram. Now to find out the length and width anywhere on the property all I have to do is count the squares on the graph paper layer.

Still in Photoshop, I drew transparent yellow blocks over the areas for which we need dirt. For each block, I figured the length and width and multiplied them to get the square footage. I made a list of each distinct area and its square footage. Then I used the cubic yardage calculator on the St. Louis Composting web site to convert my numbers into a quantity of cubic yardage for each section. The calculator doesn’t require that you calculate the square footage but I wrote those numbers down just in case I need the information later for some other purpose such as calculating fertilizer or seed.

Here is an example:

Back Ornamental Plant Area:
8 ft x 73 ft = 584 square feet
4″ of soil = 10.81 cubic yards

I added up the cubic yardage for the entire project and came up with 28 cubic yards. St. Louis Composting’s dump truck (although quite large) only holds 13 cubic yards at a time so I ordered one truckload to start off. It was difficult for me to picture what 13 cubic yards of dirt looks like until I saw it – it turned out to be a good thing that they couldn’t haul all 28 yards at one time!

To prepare for the shipment I purchased a couple of 10 x 20 ft tarps from Schnarr’s and laid them on the driveway to receive the dirt. I covered the pile with other tarps I already owned and it was barely enough. It started raining about 10 minutes after the delivery and it’s taking us a couple of weeks to distribute this pile. We didn’t want our new dirt to get heavier than it needed to be or wash away in the rain so it was well worth the effort to cover it!

One of these days I’d like to learn the industry standard method of diagramming landscape plans. My goal is to do some practicing while I work on detail areas of our landscape plan. For now, I’m the only one who needs to understand this diagram but if you are handing off work to someone else you might need to hire a professional landscape designer to draw up a plan in the conventional way. Landscape design services might be included if you are getting work done. You can also hire a designer to draw up the plan for you to use with other firms doing the actual work or in the future.

Additional Resources

Here are some other applications that can help you out with measuring your property:

Categories
Gardening

The Right Plant in the Right Place…

The Right Plant in the Right Place…

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

… is the advice you hear over and over again when you are learning about gardening. To help make both yours and my garden planning easier, I’ve made Pinterest boards on the Schnarr’s Pinterest site that go along with the rudimentary diagram I made for my garden planning last year. I have included plants I need to transplant now, plants that I am possibly interested in growing in the future and many other popular selections. You can use our boards as a starting point to make your own boards or photo galleries that correspond with the garden categories relevant to you.

We have boards with plant suggestions for:

Part Shade Vegetable/Food Garden

Full Sun Vegetable/Food Garden

Part Shade Rain Garden

Full Sun Rain Garden

Part Shade Rock Garden

Full Sun Rock Garden

Part Shade Ornamental Garden

Full Sun Ornamental Garden

Part Shade Herb Garden

Full Sun Herb Garden

Part Shade Water Garden

Full Sun Water Garden

Right now I’m managing two gardens, one at my condo and one at the house I have lived in with my husband since we got married in August. Last year I started transplanting some plants from the condo to the house as I work on the new garden. The process has been a lot slower than I expected but I’m back at work now and I’m overjoyed to be outside!

Decisions about where to put my transplants are much easier now – I just match them up to the correct category on my diagram. Some areas will need more detailed planning later but for now I’m getting the job done by putting the plants in the correct section and working with what I have. Stay tuned as I make slow but steady progress!

Categories
Gardening

How to Diagnose Plant Problems

How to Diagnose Plant Problems

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

If something is wrong with your plant, it could be a pest, a disease or something environmental. I sometimes get asked by Schnarr’s customers to help diagnose plant problems in the store so that they can select the right product to treat it. I can often be helpful, especially if the customer has time to allow me to look things up using my favorite online resources. There are way too many possibilities for any human being to remember them all! It’s extra helpful if the customer brings in a sample of the pest or affected plant part.

One of these is a plant disease and one is not

If you want to do a little research before shopping for products, here is my procedure.

1. First I go to images.google.com and do a descriptive search to see if any pictures come up that look like my problem.

Search tips:

The more you can identify the flora and fauna in your garden the more precise your initial searches will be. I’ve gotten a lot of joy during my whole life from the hobby of nature study and although I still have massive amounts to learn, being able to identify some common plants and animals in the area makes it easier to get started.

There are ways to identify plants and invertebrates that involve knowing the scientific terms for body parts or plant parts, but if you don’t want to get that detailed just describe what the specimen looks like and see what the image search reveals. Once when trying to identify a bug to find out whether it was beneficial or a pest, I did a search on the phrase “true bug wide lower legs” and I was presented with pictures of Leaf Footed bugs. That was my bug all right, and a pest. I learned what a Prometheus Moth that I saw on my deck was by searching for “huge brown moth Missouri” and comparing the pictures. Sometimes you have to add more detail. My first encounter with a Catalpa Worm in a state park was memorable because they are huge and beautiful. A search for “huge larva black and yellow Missouri” was too vague for a quick ID but a search for “huge larva black and yellow Missouri Catalpa” gives instantly good results. It helped that the Catalpa is a distinctive looking tree and I remembered what the larva was feeding on.

The cultivar of the plant is very helpful to know, if applicable. Some cultivars are either more resistant or more susceptible to certain plant maladies.

If you can identify the plant but not the pest or disease, try a search for “——- pest on Name of Plant” or “——- blight on Name of Plant” or “Symptom on Name of Plant.” For example recently I looked up “webs on burning bush” for a customer and narrowed it down to two possibilities. I found one product in the store that would treat both. Depending on the symptoms other common search terms you might try are things like “fungus”, “mildew” “rot”, “rust”, “disease” or “wilt”.

If you don’t know the plant name, describing the plant might help, for example “chew holes in vine” or “yellow spots on leaves small tree”.

2. Consult reference materials.

With a name of a plant or pest or disease in hand, I start to go to my favorite online horticultural resources to refine the identification as much as possible and look for causes and treatments.

Missouri Botanical Garden
http://www.mobot.org

University of Missouri Extension
Horticulture-and-gardening

Missouri Department of Conservation
https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants

Missouri Wildflower Guide
http://missouriwildflowerguide.com/

A Systematic Approach to Diagnosing Plant Damage
http://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/system/files/onn130601.pdf

TurfFiles – help with identifying and diagnosing turf grasses
https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/

Dave’s Garden
https://davesgarden.com/

Mother Earth News
https://www.motherearthnews.com/

What’s That Bug
https://www.whatsthatbug.com/

Tom Volk’s Fungi
http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/

Do It Best Articles, Buying Guides, and DIY How-tos
https://www.doitbest.com/pages/page-index

If I’m at home, my library of gardening books is helpful. Missouri Botanical Garden has a nice library that you can consult in the Kemper Center, along with computers for guest use. This reference area is quiet with soothing fountain sounds in the background and I like to sit there with my laptop and write sometimes.

3. Use as many relevant factors as you can to narrow down a diagnosis. For example, in the “webs on burning bush” search results, there were initially more than two possibilities, but two of the possibilities were listed as being common in hot dry weather. Since that happened to be our conditions at the time I went with those two possibilities over the others. In other words, different growing conditions, seasons or other factors may make one disease or another more likely.

4. Put a piece of white paper underneath the affected area and shake the plant. The white paper makes tiny pests or debris easier to see.

5. Many but not all plant diseases are host specific. If multiple plants of the same species are affected by the same problem but it does not affect other species, that’s a strong indicator to look for a pest or disease. If a problem affects more than one species or only a subset of the plants of one species in the area, look at issues other than pests or diseases first. Don’t forget to investigate cultural or environmental factors such as:

  • Too much or too little water
  • Soil compaction
  • Soil ph or fertility
  • Chemical “burns” from too much fertilizer or contamination from de-icing chemicals
  • Poor drainage
  • Root or bark damage
  • Accidental herbicide application
  • Amount of light getting to the plant
  • Sun scald
  • Improper planting depth
  • Root girdling
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures
  • If you are looking at turf, is the damage regular or irregular in appearance? Rigidly regular marks may indicate damage of human origin.

6. Sometimes you need to consult a specialist. The identification of “shield bug dung beetle gold and brown spots Ozarks Missouri feeds on dung” still eludes me. I should have taken a photo, then I could send it to the What’s That Bug web site or show a ranger the next time I go to a state park. If you can, take a photo or bring in a specimen to the expert you are consulting. Here is a link to the Missouri Botanical Garden Gardening Help options.

When you consult professionals for help, you may get recommendations for products that are not marketed to the home gardener. If you don’t see what you are looking for in our store, please ask us for help because there are many things we can order from the warehouse in addition to what is on the store shelves every day.

Categories
Gardening Sustainability

How Much is a Tree Worth?

How Much is a Tree Worth?

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

On a hot afternoon at our Ladue store a couple of weeks ago, we had a power outage that affected our store and a lot of the surrounding neighborhoods. The next afternoon at my condo my neighborhood had the first power outage I’ve experienced in my 14 years living there. According to updates from an Alderman in my city who was in contact with Ameren Missouri, there was extra load on some stations due to storm damage from a couple of days earlier. The combination of the extra demand with the heat was too much for some of the stations to handle. Someone more technical than me can probably explain it better or understand it better, but what I get from this is that hot temperatures can stress an already stressed system to the point of failure. This is a good time to reflect on a group of living things that often seem so permanent and indestructible that we sometimes don’t give them the respect and care that they deserve – trees!

When we are managing our landscapes or contracting for services, we have to make decisions about how much money to invest in trees. How much do we want to spend to buy the specimens? How much effort do we want to put in selecting, planting, establishing and maintaining the tree? Should we spend the money to get it pruned correctly by an expert or to treat a disease or pest? If we decide we don’t want it, how much will it cost to remove?

Those decisions will become easier to make if you know the actual economic benefit of your tree. According the Treekeepers Comprehensive Introductory Course handbook, “planted in the proper location, trees can reduce energy demand by as much as 50%”. The recent power outages I experienced occurred at approximately 3:15 pm and 5:30 pm respectively. Those are often very hot times of the day so it seems likely that air conditioning was one of the factors contributing to the high demand. You will notice that the air is noticeably cooler in the vicinity of trees – that is because water evaporates from the leaves of trees and the change from water to water vapor uses up heat energy from the air.

Just for fun, I ran a test on an oak tree that is at the corner of my condo to see what the value of it is in hard cash terms. I used a really useful tool called i-Tree Design. Here is a screenshot showing some of the benefits of this tree over a 10 year period.

Monetary value of a large oak tree

You can run tests using your own property as an example with different sizes and species of trees. The tool will even show you spots on your property where trees will have the most and least benefit. It’s lots of fun and very enlightening!

Out of curiosity I ran a calculation on the Rose of Sharon tree I planted near my deck. According to the i-Tree Design tool, the economic value of that tree is $174 over 10 years. Maybe that doesn’t sound impressive at first, but consider that the tree itself was free – it came from a seedling that I transplanted from my parents’ yard. I spent about five minutes planting it and when it was tiny I probably watered it a few extra times during the first couple of weeks. It has required little care since then – the only thing I remember doing with it is mulching it and weeding out it’s extra seedlings that I didn’t want. The tree is small enough that I could remove it myself for no cost if it came to that. Economic benefits are not even the reason I planted the tree in the first place – I wanted to look at the beautiful flowers and enjoy watching the wildlife that I knew would come to feed on the flowers and seeds. It attracts a steady parade of butterflies, hummingbirds, finches, other birds and various bee species for months on end. If I had PAID $174 for the tree I probably would consider it money well spent.

If you plant the right tree in the right place and care for it correctly, you will cut down your energy usage. You also may help reduce the demand on electrical equipment in your neighborhood and prevent power outages. A power outage is often just a minor inconvenience, but under certain circumstances and to vulnerable people an outage can be costly and dangerous. If you plant trees and invest in their establishment and care, it is possible for your tree investment to pay for itself and make life better for your community at the same time. All you need is the right information – I hope the resources I’m sharing will help you to get it.

iTree Design Application
http://design.itreetools.org/

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri
http://moreleaf.org/

Missouri Community Forestry Council Tree Care Blog
http://www.mocommunitytrees.org/blog1/

Missouri Department of Conservation Tree Care Videos and Documents
https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/tree-care

Categories
Backyard Wildlife DIY Gardening Sustainability Upcycling Ways With Wood

Upcoming DIY Class at Schnarr’s: Build a Pollinator House on May 17


Three wood pollinator houses with stenciled decoration


Pollinator houses on display on endcap

As part of the series of DIY Classes at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves, Carolyn Hasenfratz will be teaching you how to make, decorate and fill a Pollinator House for your garden. Such houses are sometimes called Bee Houses or Bug Houses. They provide nesting and hibernating space for beneficial insects that bring life, color, pollinating services and natural pest control for your garden. We’ll have paint and stencils available for you to play with so you can give your house a personal touch.

Space in this class is limited to four people and the cost is only $20 per person including materials. Class time is 5:30 pm on May 17, 2018. Register now at this link:
Build a Pollinator House

If you can’t make it to the class, we have instructions for making two styles of pollinator houses published on the Schnarr’s blog:
Making a Pollinator House – Part 1
Making a Pollinator House – Part 2

Stop by Schnarr’s in Webster to see some of Carolyn’s prototype pollinator houses on display. These samples are for sale in case you’d prefer to buy one rather than make your own.