Sunday, September 16, 2018

Footings and Mortar


Weather: Morning temperatures fell to new lows. While this may be expected this time of the year, I suspect Florence and all the other tropical disturbances were drawing the moisture away from this area. That upper atmosphere water acts as a shield that keeps heat from rising. With it gone, temperatures fell to 43 on Thursday and to 38 on Friday when Florence was close to the North Carolina coast. Humidity levels fell to 10% in Los Alamos and Santa Fé on Thursday afternoon. This morning the air is moist and warm again.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 38 degrees F. Week’s high: 87 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, zinnias, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Garlic chives peaked, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock nearly gone, calamintha, scarlet flax, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, white cosmos, Maximilian sunflowers, African marigolds

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles; purple, heath, and golden hairy asters; quack grass; seven-week, black, and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: For reasons still unknown, the ground squirrel left piles of dirt around the iris growing in front of a retaining wall. The soil it brings up hardens and absorbs no water. I wonder how it can support roots a few inches underground, but perhaps the grasses and other cover keep it from drying out.

I suspect this is what is uncovered when that vegetation is removed, and the wind takes away the veneer of top soil. None of the seeds I planted in barren areas this summer grew more than a few inches. Some were in the path of a leak that kept them very wet.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, sidewalk ants; heard crickets


Weekly update: About six weeks ago, one area in Santa Fé got a lot of rain in a short time. My friend who lived there said water reached his retaining wall that edged the sidewalk on the house side.

His street sloped down into a T intersection. The pavement, curbs, and sidewalls channeled the water, while the crown directed it toward the wall of a woman who lived at the corner. It eroded the mortar and the wall came down in a single piece. The flood waters then crashed into a wall on the other street and took out another wall.

They probably were built by the same mason. Both walls used half-high, hollow, cinder blocks with a solid layer at the top.

When I investigated local walls a few years ago, I noticed many of the earlier ones had rough textured grout. I assumed it was used before Portland-cement mortars became available in town. I assumed Santa Fé didn’t have the same problems. But, this neighborhood was developed in the middle-1950s for middle-class families, and the mortar resembled putty.

My friend also told me people had advised the woman to apply to FEMA for assistance in rebuilding the wall. I thought, but didn’t say, FEMA? I know it was a bad storm, but isn’t that money better spent in Puerto Rico? Or saved for real disasters, like the ongoing one in the Carolinas?

The last time I saw him he said she had decided a FEMA loan wasn’t worth the paperwork, since it only covered 30% of the cost. Her greater problem was finding someone to do the repairs.

I always thought my problems with finding people to build fences arose from the fact I lived in the Española valley, and tradesmen simply refused to travel north.

I did also know a hierarchy of skills existed in Santa Fé before the economic crash of 2008. Contractors who worked at Las Campanas struggled to keep their crews together when the work stopped. Many who were immigrants simply left. With Trump’s war on Spanish-speaking immigrants, more may have returned home.

Newspapers proclaimed the economy was near full employment this week. They believed that was the result of the Republican tax cut, but in some occupations it may simply have been the elimination of skilled competition.

The woman discovered the result was the few men who were willing to bid on her job had highly inflated ideas of their worth, based on what better skilled men had earned in Las Campanas. One told her she had to supply both the stone and the grout, a demand that suggested he didn’t believe his skills were up to the task and wanted to have something to blame if the wall failed again.

Every tradesman I ever talked with wanted to supply everything so he knew the quality and could add the markup to his profits.


After I saw her wall, I thought again about the ones I built around my garden. Her wall had footings, and I simply had laid bricks on top of the soil. I wondered why mine hadn’t failed like hers. When I looked closely I saw her footings, like many I’ve seen here, were level with the surface of the ground, rather than raised like the slab under a house.

I don’t know anything about the relative strengths of currents in layers of water, so I don’t know if they’re stronger at the very bottom were her footings met the wall. The bricks in my low walls footed themselves when they sank partly into the ground, so they didn’t have weak areas exposed to running water.

When I was removing the bad dirt around the iris this week, I noticed the bricks had sunk so low the top layer of soil washed away. Before I could recover the exposed rhizomes, I had to add another layer of bricks to hold the soil. At least, I didn’t have to hire someone to do the work.

Notes on photographs: All taken in Santa Fé 21 August 2018, at least two weeks after the storm.
1. The wall came down in a piece.
2. Close up of the grout between blocks that failed.
3. Close up of the footing after the grout was gone.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Locally Grown


Weather: I suppose it was inevitable that with the summer temperatures so high the natural change to fall would be abrupt, but it was still a surprise. Leaves on some cherries and peaches have started to turn color and drop.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 48 degrees F. Week’s high: 84 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Hosta, garlic chives, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, scarlet flax, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, zinnias, white cosmos, Maximilian sunflowers, African marigolds

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, crane bill, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, purple and golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, quack grass, seven-week and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: The market garden fields that were abandoned have been colonized by áñil del muerto and native sunflowers. While áñil is dense in many places in Santa Fé, these fields are the only ones with many plants locally.

I’ve got hoses that are beginning to fail. I don’t know if its age or an animal has attacked them. I do know I can’t replace them; Amazon no longer has them available. I’ve installed a couple 50' hoses where I need 25' just to save some plants. Manufacturers and merchants who’d rather have one short than one left over at the end of the season don’t know the true cost of their calculations of unused inventory.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, sidewalk ants; heard crickets


Weekly update: Genetic diversity is one of the keys to species survival. When a flower produces a number of seeds with minute differences, chances increase that at least one will be able to survive the unknowns of the next season.

Thus, the datura that came up from seed did much better this summer than the purchased plant, though both had parents from the same grower.

My seedling produced a few flowers in July then went out of bloom. Area plants that have been around for years began blooming in May and never stopped.

Then, on 28 August my seedling was covered with buds and the purchased plant had one. Most, but not all those buds have opened. Yesterday, I discovered the small bees, which had disappeared in mid-summer, were back. One was a datura flower.

Perhaps the tryst of a local bee with the local seedling will mean I’ll finally get some plants as durable as my neighbors.

Notes on photographs: Small bee on Datura wrightii flower in my yard taken 8 September 2018. I’m not sure about the species of these bees.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

City Sidewalks


Weather: We have tropical storm Gordon headed for Louisiana and hurricane Olivia moving to the west. I often wonder how storms on both sides of México interact.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 43 degrees F. Week’s high: 89 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, desert willow, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, purple phlox, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, hosta, garlic chives, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias, Maximilian sunflowers

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, yellow evening primrose, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, seven-week grama, quack grass,

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: Most of they hay fields were cut over Labor Day weekend.

The change from summer to fall is marked by the weeds. During the summer heat it was possible to weed an area and see the results a week later. With the rain, all the weeded areas have regrown. The only solace when I removed garlic chives for the third time from one bed is most were new seedlings, and not ones I’d missed earlier.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, harvester and sidewalk ants, earth worms; heard crickets

The ant hills are multiplying as quickly as the weeds. I know the experts say a new queen is required to start a new hill, but I swear they’ve taken lessons from crack houses. I no longer shut down one hill than two new ones appear, one next to the old and another a bit away.

As the summer progresses the hills become less obvious. Instead of piles of sand or gravel, all they do is make holes as invisible as possible, usually between some stones. When that’s not possible, they create an opening under a tahoka daisy or a small stick. 


Weekly update: Country song writers lament the attraction of bright lights and city streets that lure their true loves away. As I weed, I’ve decided the appeal transcends humans. The rabbit and the ground squirrel much prefer to walk down my block walks and gravel drive to getting their paws dirty in the grass lands beyond the cultivated beds.

So-called native wild flowers have shown a similar proclivity for my tile drainage areas. The coral beard’s tongues died when I planted them in beds in different locations. Instead, they went to seed in the tiles in front of the house. They were soon joined by the chocolate flowers.

I had said to myself, nothing in the tiles. They gave me an ultimatum: leave them alone or they would leave.

Now the blue flax as taken up residence in the tiles on the west side of the house. It tended to die out in winters and come back from seed. This year the seed just chose a domesticated area, rather than a wild one.

Beyond perversity, there are two reasons they move. The tiles trap moisture in the way rocks do in nature, and so I unwittingly recreated a necessary part of their environment. Second, the chocolate flowers and domestic coreopsis were escaping the more aggressive golden spur columbine in front, while ladybells recently had taken over most of the real estate reserved for the flax.


Notes on photographs: All were taken 3 September 2018.
1. Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) growing in cracks between tiles that it enlarges.

2. Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) growing between tiles.

3. Blue flax (Linum perenne) in a crack, with Queen Anne’s lace on the left and ladybells on the right. Only the flax will be left alone.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Survivors


Weather: We’ve settled into a typical monsoon season with thunder every afternoon, and actual rain some days. Biennials especially are growing. I’ve removed some kind of grass several times from the same place. The annuals, however, are taking their signals from the lower temperatures and not taking advantage of the moisture.

Last useful rain: 8/25. Week’s low: 53 degrees F. Week’s high: 91 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, desert willow, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, purple phlox, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, corn, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, hosta, garlic chives, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, sea lavender, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, white yarrow, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, trees of heaven, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, yellow evening primrose, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, quack grass

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: Began working in an area where some kind of wild rose has naturalized. It has a large pink flower and is fragrant. However, it produces way more thorns than flowers, and is unwelcome in most places.

Animal sightings: Hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, harvester and sidewalk ants; heard crickets


Weekly update: One benefit of getting some rain is I’m not tied to the yard every morning running water. After last Saturday’s rain, I was able to go into town Sunday with my camera. It’s the only time traffic is light enough to be safe.

I wanted to see what had survived the demolition crew at the old Cybercafé.

The lot was surrounded on three sides by dirt-lined ditches that fed water to others. I think there’s also a ditch on the fourth side that may be inactive. Farmer’s square-mesh wire fence went along the outside of the ditch on three sides. On the fourth, it was inside, and chain link had been erected outside. At the corner, a pipe fence was protecting the ditch diversion was wayward vehicles.

The crew was professional. They left a barren, level lot with gravel on one side and dirt on the other. The sweet peas, daylilies, Russian sage, trees, and grasses were all gone.

They got as close to the fences and ditches as they could, but the heavy machinery couldn’t get to the edge of the eastern ditch facing the main road. There some sweet peas were blooming. Some of the trumpet creeper also survived in the fence.

The north side bordered another property. The apricot was still standing in a line of vegetation that suggested that inactive ditch.

On the other sides the crew topped off the Siberian elms and trees of heaven living in the fences. They’ll come back, and new ones will sprout as they did when the previous tenants neglected the back of the property.

What survived for the moment was a group of piñon that grew between the chain link and wire fences. They were near the diversion point in the ditch that sent water in two directions and had water whenever the ditches ran. It probably kept water as deep as the roots had sunk.

The main ditches were protected by law and the fences by convention. People here do not remove fences or walls unless they plan to erect better ones. The exceptions are land that is developed for retail use, or adobe walls.

People seem to have no compunction about smashing the last. One person did so recently to move in a double wide. Another was damaged a few years ago, and the hole filled with steel farm gates. Recently, someone expanded that opening to bring in a double wide, but refilled the hole with another gate.

The piñon were only protected by the inner fence. Since they’re on the property, there’s nothing to stop a developer from cutting them down. The two that were inside the fences had orange crosses on their trunks


Notes on photographs: All were taken 19 August 2018.
1. Piñon (Pinus cembroides edulus) growing at the ditch diversion with trees of heaven and Siberian elms. The ditch diversion is near the traffic light.

2. Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) blooming in the north property line on the ditch at the sidewalk.

3. Sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolia) blooming in the farm fence. The darkness at the back indicated the location of the ditch.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Dull Edges


Weather: Some smoke pollution, with more clouds than rain. Daylily leaves are recovering, but some cherry leaves are turning yellow early.

Last useful rain: 8/18. Week’s low: 50 degrees F. Week’s high: 88 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, desert willow, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, purple phlox, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, corn

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, hosta, garlic chives, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, sea lavender, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, white yarrow, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, trees of heaven, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, yellow evening primrose, Hopi tea, fleabane, horseweed, wild lettuce, common and native dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, quack grass

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; pansies and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: Spent part of week digging away a mound left by the ground squirrel when it tunneled under the retaining wall in the winter.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees around purple and pink flowers, hornets around garlic chives, other small flying insects, grasshoppers; heard crickets; new ant hills every day.

Weekly update: When I bought the sharper tools I mentioned in last week’s post, I didn’t throw out my old ones. I had used or abused them when I needed to cut stems at or below the soil. Dirt doesn’t hone.

I have learned the blades have their own hierarchy, that is only partly related to the advertized differences in diameter capabilities. I can use the nippers on anything, grass or stem, so long as it isn’t woody. For that, I need the pruners, but they absolutely won’t cut the needle grass that volunteers around my beds.

The old loppers don’t like to cut green stems, but I can force them to rip off white sweet clover and Maximilian sunflower stems. They act more like a pair of pliers than anything. Since I don’t trust the new ones to keep their edge, I’m not wasting them on such tasks.

One of the tricks one learns when tools are dull is which stems really need cutting, and which will break off. Stems of plants like columbine with fat roots break off. Ones that are shallow have to be cut, else the roots come out with the stems. However, once some of the stems are cut, they can be broken down by hand or, for thicker ones, over the knee.

I did buy a pair of electric clippers last fall to try on things like the mass of columbine stems, but it was so cold I didn’t go out. I did test them this spring, and they worked on alfalfa. The one required pruners, the other loppers.

My biggest problem was weight. The ones that were battery operated were lighter than the ones with cords because electric motors were attached to the handles rather than to base stations. Then, because I have a post office box, I was limited to what the local store carried. Lithium batteries can’t be shipped through the mail.

Notes on photographs: Potentilla fruticosa ‘Goldfinger’ is the one plant that has bloomed profusely all summer, despite the vagaries of the weather; 18 August 2018.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sharp Edges


Weather: We had rain Thursday and Friday. Before that we had smoke. It didn’t arrive with an obvious odor, but the effects were the same: burning or sticky eyes and a sore stomach that came when I started breathing through my mouth.

When I looked at the government’s forecast for vertical smoke, whatever that is, I saw this part of the state engulfed several times. The surface smoke chart showed the nearest hot spots were still the Durango area. When I changed the display from New Mexico to California, it was obvious the smoke from those fires was drifting east, and then south to us.

Last useful rain: 8/10. Week’s low: 48 degrees F. Week’s high: 91 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, purple phlox, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, corn

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, white-flowered spurge, sea lavender, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, white and Coronation Gold yarrow, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, trees of heaven, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, leather leaf globemallow, yellow mullein, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, Hopi tea, fleabane, horseweed, wild lettuce, common and native dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum. One person replaced his pansies with marigolds, probably dwarf Africans since they were all the same shade of orange.

Tasks: One man cut his hay. Another market garden has been abandoned. Three are left with corn and peppers.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbird, other small brown birds, geckos, sidewalk and large black ants, hummingbird moths, bumble and small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers; heard crickets


Weekly update: When I injured my thumb, it became obvious I needed to find sharper knives. It takes more physical effort to use a dull blade. I had found decent scissors a few years ago made from a titanium steel alloy, and thought it would be simple to find other manufacturers using better materials. I was wrong.

Two reasons came to mind. A dull knife was less likely to cut someone seriously, and thus less likely to lead to a lawsuit against the seller and manufacturer. The second was many buyers used price as their main purchasing criteria, and good steel cost money.

But, even when I looked for tools for professionals I found the same assumption that anyone working in gardens was strong.  When I used my loppers they would tear rather than cut small branches. When a guy I hired to cut some big branches used them, they worked fine.

I went to one garden center and asked if its loppers would stay sharp. The salesman showed me the honing tool the store sold. It had a thin handle that required a thumb to manage. When I rejected that idea, he told me I could bring it back and have them sharpen it. I didn’t ask what they charged.

I’d already tried sharpening my old loppers by using a whet stone. Since I hadn’t acquired the knack it took half an hour to figure out how to hold the stone and blade without using my thumb and what angles to use to get an edge. When I was done, the edge was dull after about a dozen cuts. The quality of the steel mattered.

The underlying economic assumption was no one invests in improving tools if cheap labor existed. As long as there were slaves and then Jim Crow laws to guarantee a servile labor force, no company created a cotton picker because no farm owner would buy one. The fact credit was tight in the South after the Civil War didn’t help.

International Harvester finally introduced a mechanical picker in 1942. By then, the war had increased demand while decreasing the amount of available labor. African Americans had begun leaving the South after World War I, and more moved north and west for jobs in war industries in World War II. No doubt there also was more credit available for defense suppliers.

When white, middle-class men did want less labor intensive tools, the answer wasn’t improved steel, but the application of motors. Chain saws, weed whackers, and brush cutters were introduced. The problem was they were all heavier than the tools they replaced, and so still required strength.

Besides, you don’t use a chain saw on a rose cane.


Notes on photographs: You know it’s August when the late summer flowers come into bloom. All pictures taken in my yard on 11 August 2018.

1. Zinnia coming through the protective mesh.
2. Crab apple beginning to change color.
3. Goldenrod.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Grafts That Fail



Weather: We’re into the monsoon phase when there’s enough moisture on high to create thunder and clouds in the afternoon, but rarely enough to actually reach the ground. Probably the changing sun angles have as much to do with the high afternoon temperatures coming down to 91 as the clouds.

Last useful rain: 8/2. Week’s low: 53 degrees F. Week’s high: 91 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Yellow potentilla, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, bouncing Bess, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, corn

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, catmints, lady bells, sidalcea, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, white-flowered spurge, sea lavender, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, white and Coronation Gold yarrow, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, trees of heaven, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, leather leaf globemallow, yellow mullein, scurf pea, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, Hopi tea, fleabane, horseweed, wild lettuce, common and native dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy; cattails in town ditches

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; local petunias

Tasks: More than two weeks ago I sprayed some Siberian elms, dandelions, and Tahoka daisies with a herbicide. A week later, they showed some brown on their leaves. I resprayed the elms and dandelions this week, and all the leaves finally are brown.

It didn’t matter that it took a while to work on the elms. After all, they’re trees. My plan is to bend the tops into gravel or dirt and weight them with bricks so I can spray the leaves safely. After they’re dead, I’ll cut the stems. I’ve learned it’s futile to just cut the sprouts. They return, usually in smaller clusters that are harder to see and control.

Still, it would be nice if the herbicide acted as quickly as it claims on its label. While the dandelions were slowly dying, they were still putting out flowers, which meant I got re-exposed to the herbicide when I pick them before they turn to seeds. The Tahokas remain tall in the crown of the driveway, and are still a hazard even when they turn brown.

Animal sightings: Cat, small brown birds, small and large geckos, sidewalk and large black ants, hummingbird moths of all sizes, cabbage butterfly, bumble and small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers; heard crickets


Weekly update: The term failure usually is used by nurserymen to describe grafts that don’t take when they’re made. The assumption seems to be that once the graft is formed, it survives unless a winter is particularly severe. This overlooks the fact that trees create new growth rings every year, and the graft has to be recreated every season.

Presumably, the professionals pick root stocks that aren’t just compatible the first year, but produce new growth the same way as the scions. I’m not sure they pay as much attention to the inherent greediness of the base, since the roots’ ability to grow in many conditions is why they’re chosen in the first place. If the scions don’t provide enough food, the roots become proactive.

All of which means I have constant problems with suckers and sprouts. I wasn’t aware of the problems when I planted my first trees, and in every case the root stock took over. I’m not sure if it was simply a desire to get more nutrition, or if the unions failed in some places.

Usually, they just sprouted from the base, or started to put up suckers a few feet away. The Lapins was more cleaver. It simply kept growing, shouldering the scion aside.

I had the apples cut down because the root stock rarely bloomed, and never produced any fruit. I had the sour cherry removed because it got taller than the house, and the suckers were coming up everywhere. I’ll probably have the Lapins taken down this winter because I suspect the pollen is sterile or incompatible with everything else, and so prevents the other trees from producing.

The replacement cherries have been in the ground for several years and are producing new growth from the joints. So far, they haven’t started to sucker as well.

The weeping cherry is a different problem. As I mentioned in the post for 19 June 2016, it was created with two grafts, one from the roots to the trunk, and one from the trunk to the horizontal top. It has suckers from the base I know are a problem, and new growth from the upper joint that looks like the desirable Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula.’ I’m not quite sure how it’s supposed to grow, so am learning by watching. Besides, it’s been such a difficult year, I’ve left the unwanted growth to make sure the roots stay alive. I can always cut them in the winter when they are dormant.


Notes on photographs:
All taken in my yard on 3 August 2018.

1. Upper graft on weeping cherry with growth from the middle of the joint.

2. Trunk of Lapins sweet cherry (Prunus avium) with Geissin 148-2 root stock the large trunk, and the Lapins scion the part at the right.

3. Growth from the graft on a supposed Bing sweet cherry coming from a sprout that has been cut before.