Fall Pruning of Raspberries

I love raspberries. And lucky for me we can grow great raspberries in east Idaho. But one of the problems we sometimes encounter is from heavy snow. A row or two of raspberries acts like a snow fence and captures all the snow the wind brings in. Then in the spring when things begin to thaw the drifted snow settles and can break down the canes of the berries laying them flat.

One way to help prevent this is to prune your raspberries in the fall. For July bearers like Canby that can be done any time now. Some wait until the leaves have fallen, but there is no need to. Sometimes I don’t get it done until spring, but then I run the risk of having them get laid down with the snow.

My Canby raspberry canes after final pruning.

You’ll want to remove all the canes that bore fruit this year. Leave most of the new canes that came up this year for next year.’s crop. But you will want to remove any that are coming up “out of bounds”. Then I prune what remains down to about 4 feet in height. Some people prune them lower, but that height seems to work well for me.

If you have everbearing raspberries like Caroline or Heritage your pruning regimen is altered drastically. Everbearers bear twice a year. The new canes that come up each year bear that fall. Then they will bear again the following July. But for convenience most people wait until the harvest is done in October and then they cut them completely to the ground. By doing this you sacrifice the summer crop, but it takes all the headache out of pruning. You just cut them all off at the ground every year.

The T-Trellis is a popular way to keep raspberries upright in areas of heavy winter snows.

You can also support your raspberries with tall stakes or, ideally, with a two wire trellis. The wires of the trellis are usually placed about one foot below the height at which the canes have been pruned. The wires are placed on each side of the post with large staples or nails. Sometimes crosspieces are nailed to the posts so that the two wires are 1 to 3 feet apart. A second set of wires is sometimes placed a few feet below the top wires. The canes can be tied to the top set of wires if needed. Certain varieties may need no support at all. You will know from experience if yours need this support. I find with my Canby and Caroline in Idaho Falls I don’t need to support them with wires if I get them pruned in the fall.

Think Spring this Fall

Spring blooming bulbs are some of the most prized flowers in the garden for a number of reasons. First of all they are the first to bloom in the spring. Secondly they require very little care. And thirdly they come at a time of year when we are yearning for something to color up the drab grays of winter. Their colors are so spectacularly vivid they brighten the winter weary soul.

The down side is that they have to be planted six months before you get to enjoy the blooms, so you have to plan ahead. The most popular bulbs are tulips and daffodils, followed by crocus and hyacinths. But there are a host of other less well known bulbs that can be planted in the fall as well. September and October are the best months to plant fall bulbs, but they can be planted any time until the ground freezes, usually in November sometime.

A good general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth three times their heights. For example, daffodil bulbs that are 2 to 2 1/2 inches high should be planted about 6 to 8 inches deep. And remember, if you add mulch on top that is included into your planting depth. Be sure to plant them where the soil is well drained and feed them with Dutch Bulb Food at time of planting.

If you can’t plant your bulbs right away keep them in a cool, dry place, such as a garage or basement. Warmth and moisture will signal the bulbs to start growing, so keep them cool. Check on them occasionally to be sure they aren’t getting moldy or soft and plant them as soon as you can.

If you have problems with deer eating your spring flowering bulbs try daffodils, allium, crocus, chinodoxa, scilla, grape hyacinths and snow drops. They are all fairly deer resistant. But if deer get hungry enough, they’ll eat anything.

Fall Care for the Backyard Pond

It’s time to begin preparing your pond for the change in seasons. Fall is an important time of the year for keeping your backyard pond healthy and attractive not only for the fall but for next spring as well. By taking a few important steps now, you will not only save yourself a whole lot of clean-up in the spring, but your overall pond health will be so much better. Here are a few helpful tips to keep your pond and waterfall looking great.

  1. Use a pond net. The biggest headache for pond owners in the fall is the accumulation of leaves in the skimmer, filter, or on the bottom of the pond. If you have a skimmer your job will be fairly easy. Just empty the skimmer basket every few days to dispose of the leaves and keep the water flowing. But whereas you might have only had to empty the basket every week or two during the summer, you might have to do it several times a week when the leaves start to fall. A big time saver is to simply place a net over the entire surface of the pond. This keeps the leaves from falling to the bottom of the pond and creating a problem next spring. When the leaves have mostly fallen, simply remove the netting along with all the leaves. Special pond nets are available or you can just use bird netting.
  2. Reduce feeding of fish. Being a cold blooded animal, fish metabolism slows as the water temperature decreases. So ease up on the feeding. Make sure you don’t give them any more than they will eat in a few minutes. You might also consider switching to a spring/fall fish food that is formulated specifically for the colder times of year. Quit feeding entirely when the water temperature drops to 50 degrees.
  3. Remove excess algae. If you have a lot of string or blanket algae now would be a good time to physically remove it while the weather is still warm enough that you don’t mind playing in the water. When we redid our pond recently we had a huge bloom of string algae after we got the pond running again. When I tried to remove it, it literally came out in one piece. Well, actually three pieces. I would just grab some and start reeling it in and and created a pile on the side of the pond that looked like giant folds of green fabric. I let it sit on the side of the pond to drain a little so I could haul it off and my wife said, “What is that green fabric you have piled next to the pond?” It really did look amazingly like green felt fabric.
  4. Remove non-hardy plants. If you have tropical plants in your pond they will need to be moved inside for the winter, or discarded. This would include such plants as water lettuce, water hyacinths, umbrella palms, and tropical water lilies.
    Floating plants killed by frost should be immediately removed so that they do not add to the plant debris in your pond. Tropical plants should not be placed back into the garden in the spring until water temperature reaches 65-70 degrees (usually mid June).
  5. Trim your perennial aquatic plants. They will begin going dormant as the weather cools. I took this picture of a water lilly in my pond today. As you can see many leaves are now turning yellow. If I don’t get them removed they will eventually fall to the bottom of the pond. So trim back the yellowing leaves.  This simple trick will make your pond cleaning infinitely easier.

Rocks in the Garden (on purpose)

We’ve lived in seven different homes since we were married 35 years ago, and most of them, including our current home, had plenty of cobblestone size rocks in the soil that made gardening difficult. And we have spent many an hour over the years removing rocks from our yards. So you might think I had rocks in my head if I told you I wanted to haul more rocks into my yard, but that’s exactly what we did this week. However, these were rocks you couldn’t miss. These were boulders- the kind you can only move with a crane.

We have spent much of the summer refurbishing our landscape- removing plants that were overgrown or that we decided we just didn’t want anymore, repairing the sprinkler system, and adding additional plants. We also refurbished our pond and waterfall to repair a leak and correct some mistakes we made the first time around about eight years ago. Now we needed to tie the rest of the yard into the pond and waterfall and thought that some boulders of the same type as the waterfall would help us do that. Properly placed boulders in the landscape can add a wonderful depth and dimension to the landscape.

Here are a few helpful hints if you are considering adding boulders to your landscape.

  1. Size- It is important that the rocks be the right size to fit the scale of your home and property. Rocks that seem quite large at the rock yard, can seem pretty puny in the landscape. On the other hand rocks that are too large can seem out of place and out of scale as well. You don’t want your yard to look like monuments in a cemetery. You want them to appear to have been placed by nature.
  2. Type- It is important that all the rocks you choose are the same type. For instance it doesn’t look natural to mix granite boulders with lava boulders in the same area. If your home has rock facing on the exterior walls you will want to match with similar colored boulders.
  3. Placement- The number one rule in placement is to partially bury the rocks. It’s tempting to place the boulder on the surface so you aren’t “wasting” the rock by burying it. After all, boulders are not cheap. But in nature boulders are nearly always half submerged in the soil and yours should, too, or at least they should appear to be half buried. They should also be placed in a balanced manner through the landscape, but not symmetrical. You will probably want to group them and not just spread them evenly throughout the yard.
  4. Safety- When handling boulders you are dealing with something with the potential for injury. Whether its a “one-man” rock, a “two man” rock, or one that requires a crane, be cautious and safe at all times.
  5. Plan ahead- Large boulders placed with a crane are there for life. You won’t be moving them again without hiring a crane again. And even then they might not be movable because a crane can place a boulder in a places where they can’t extract them from. So make sure that you know where you want it the first time.

Our goal in placing these boulders was to add some dimension to the landscape and tie the rest of the landscape to the pond and waterfall that we had created near our patio. So we found rocks that matched the waterfall and placed them strategically around the yard, sometimes singly, and sometimes in pairs or groupings.

We were able to set most of the boulders with the crane by moving the crane to various spots including our neighbor’s driveway, our own driveway, and the street. But the crane couldn’t reach some of the places, so we came up with a variation on the way we are told the ancient Egyptians moved stones to build the pyramids, only we used roller track rather than logs.

We had to get the rocks across our lawn without ruining the lawn. So we couldn’t just drive over the lawn with a front-end loader or backhoe. What we ended up doing was to place two layers of plywood across the lawn, then laying roller track on the plywood. On the roller track we set multiple layers of plywood and short 2x4s. Being careful to position the rock right side up and facing the right direction, we used a front-end loader with a fork attachment to gently set the boulder on the plywood atop the roller track. We then pushed the boulder to the end of the track. (We had 4 sections of track). When we reached the end of the track we would take the first track and move it and the plywood to the front and continue leapfrogging that way until we reached the hole we had prepared for placement.

These boulders weighed up to two tons and we had no problem rolling them on the track with three men pushing. Once we got the rock in the hole we could rotate it slightly with heavy duty pry bars (and heavy duty men) to turn it the the perfect angle. Then soil was filled in around the rock and mulch added to finish it off. We were able to set 12 boulders in about 6 hours.

I’m very pleased with the way it has turned out, and now I get to do some fall planting of bulbs and perennials as well as a few shrubs to complete the landscape. I love planting this time of year. It’s so pleasant outside, and the plants do so well when planted in early fall.

 

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

Zucchini is so easy to grow, and so prolific, that it has become the butt of many jokes. Some say there should be a law against growing more than one plant per household. Others say the only way to give it away is to sneak out at midnight and leave it on the porch of unsuspecting neighbors.

But since we didn’t grow any zucchini this year we were delighted when a neighbor offered to give us some. Maren just grated much of it up and froze it, and we gave some to our son and his wife. I was even more delighted when I came home that night to the wonderful aroma of freshly baked zucchini bread. Oh, did it smell good! I just can’t resist good zucchini bread. And it’s easy to rationalize overindulgence because it is, after all, a vegetable, right?

So I had zucchini bread as an appetizer before dinner… and as dessert after dinner… and for breakfast the next morning. As you can imagine, zucchini bread doesn’t last long at our house. Maren says the recipe was given to her by a friend at church a few years ago. Anyway, it is so good I thought I would share the recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does.

Prep Time
Total Time: 1 h.r 10 min.
Prep: 10 min.
Cook: 1 hr.
Yield: 2 loaves
Level: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Add zucchini and dry ingredients.
  4. Place in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

I found this little tip from Dennis Weaver author of How to Bake- The Art and Science of Baking, and proprietor of the Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho.

“Zucchini makes your cookies, cakes, and breads moist and healthier.  You can add zucchini to most of your favorite recipes. Zucchini adds a ton of water unless you extract water from your grated zucchini.  Grated fresh or frozen zucchini, without being pressed or drained, is about 50% water.  So you have to cut back on the water in the recipes.  If you add two cups of zucchini, you need to cut one cup of liquid from your recipe.”

So enjoy those zucchini. And if you find yourself needing to give some away to your neighbors, just be sure to give them some recipes to go along with them. It might help keep peace in the neighborhood.

 

Is this a good time to plant, or should I wait until spring?

If you are asking yourself that question you are not alone. We hear it every day at our garden center this time of year. Now, as a garden center owner I suppose you might expect me to say that fall is a great time of year to plant. After all, it’s in my best interest to try to sell you a plant, right? Well, not exactly. You see, we offer up to a 2 year guarantee on nearly all of our trees and shrubs. So if we sell you a tree in the fall only to have it die, we have to give you another one for free in the spring. That doesn’t make much business sense. No, the reason we say fall is a good time to plant is simply because it is true.

Actually fall is when Mother Nature does her planting. Seeds for most plants mature over the summer, are planted (drop to the ground) in the fall, and come to life in the spring. There are several reasons that make fall such a great time to plant.

  1. Warm soil-  The soil is much warmer now than in the spring so the plant roots out and becomes established much more quickly.
  2. Cool air- The weather this time of year is ideal for planting, not only is it pleasant for the person doing the planting, but the daytime temperatures are mild, so the plant doesn’t wilt down as readily while it’s roots are getting established in their new home, and you don’t have to water so often.
  3. Fewer weeds- I love planting lawns this time of year, not only for the previous reasons, but also because weeds are far less of an issue in the fall compared to the spring. Weeds can be a real problem when planting lawns in the spring, but from my own experience I would venture to say that fall weed germination is less than half what it is in the spring.
  4. Better prices- Although the selection might not be as good in the fall, you can often find some real steals at the garden center this time of year. Garden centers need to reduce their inventory in the fall to free up their cash, so you will often find some great discounts. But even if it’s not discounted it’s still a great time to plant.

So get out there and do some planting this fall. your plants will love you for it. (And so will your local garden center owner.)

September- the best time to kill lawn weeds

Probably 90% of all attempts to kill lawn weeds are made in the spring. I can understand why, after all that’s when we see the oceans of sunny yellow flowers spreading across the lawns in the neighborhood. But Spring is not the best time to spray for dandelions and other lawn weeds. It’s just the most popular time. If you spray while they are blooming in the spring they likely will go to seed before dieing, leaving you with an even bigger problem the next year.

In addition, herbicides are more effective this time of year, for two other reasons. First, in September the dandelions begin preparing for winter by storing massive amounts of “food” in their big carrot-like roots as an energy reserve to draw on when they start growing again in the spring. So when you spray this time of year the plant will pull the absorbed weed killer deep into the root, killing root and all. Second, if you spray now, not only will you kill the older established weeds that you can see, you will also get the young little seedlings that sprouted this summer that you can’t see.

That’s why, contrary to most lawn programs, I recommend applying weed & feed in the fall. So now is the time to apply your weed & feed or, if you prefer, spray for lawn weeds. And that’s exactly what I will be doing this week. I will apply Fertilome Weed-Out plus Lawn Food to my lawn. I always apply it early in the morning when the dew is heavy so the granules will stick to the leaves better. Then I don’t mow or water for at least 24 hours to allow the chemical time to be fully absorbed by the leaf.

That’s not to say I don’t do some minor spot spraying in the spring, because I do. And I always use Fertilome Weed Free Zone. It is super fast-acting, usually killing dandelions within two days, and it works well in cooler temperatures so I can spray before they begin to bloom. But that’s just to get those few that I miss in the fall.

 

Keeping hobos out of your house

No, the recession isn’t that bad. We don’t have desperate people sneaking into our homes to find a place to live. But there is another critter that does sneak into our homes this time of year, Hobo spiders. And Hobo spiders have a very venomous and dangerous bite, so that’s why my wife reminded me to spray around the foundation of the house today and change out our spider traps. I find that if I do that each year, our basement stays pretty free of hobos and the few that get through we catch in the traps.

Here’s some more detailed information for those of you that want more.

The Hobo spider (Tegenaria Agrestis) is a European spider that was introduced into the Pacific Northwest in fairly recent times. The Hobo Spider was confirmed in southeastern Idaho in 1983 and the established population and range has been increasing steadily.

Hobo Spiders are most commonly encountered from July through October. During this time the mature males are wandering looking for mates. Cooler fall temperatures cause them to seek shelter inside of garages and homes. Hobo Spiders prefer outdoor habitats that include holes, cracks or recesses to support their funnel-like webs. Some common outdoor habitats include window wells, holes in concrete or soil, around foundations (especially those with adjacent tall grasses), under large rocks, boards (decks) and other debris.

While the Hobo Spider is an outdoor spider, it does wander and can enter houses, garages, etc. and be found in spaces between boxes or other items in storage, under baseboard heaters, behind furniture, and in closets. Indoors the hobo is normally found in the basement or ground floor of dwellings. The primary reason for this is that they are poor climbers. However, they can climb well enough on bedding and other rough surfaces to be a problem.

Control methods for the Hobo Spider include:

  1. Habitat elimination
  2. Eliminating visible spiders with a fly swatter or vacuum
  3. Avoidance of risk
  4. Chemical pesticides
  5. Trapping

Measures to eliminate habitat indoors include frequent cleaning behind furniture, in closets, and in undisturbed areas to remove spiders and their webs. Keeping window screens in good repair and in place and keeping all doors to the outside closed when not in use will help keep the spiders from getting inside. Outdoor controls include repairing any cracks or crevices in the home foundation, removing tall grasses from around the home foundation, garage or storage sheds and removing yard debris such as old boards and wood piles.

Avoidance of risk requires an awareness of the situation and using protective clothing while working in potential habitats. Keep beds and bedding 6 inches from the wall and floor. Store clothing, bedding and other items above the floor level and keep clothing and towels off the floor. Control measures such as these may keep hobo spiders from being trapped in them and reduces the risk of being bitten. (Maybe that will convince your teenagers to keep their clothes picked up.)

Chemical control with pesticides can be used in addition to the above methods. Effective applications of Cyfluthrin or Permethrin insecticides on foundations of the house or other buildings can be made and should be used in accordance with label instruction.

Trapping the spiders can also be a very effective method of control. Simply place sticky spider traps in the areas where the hobo spiders are seen. Traps should also be placed near doorways leading outside.

Symptoms of a Hobo spider bite
Most bites from Hobo Spiders are reported to be painless, somewhat like a pinprick. Within 15 minutes after being bitten a burning sensation may occur at the bite site and an immediate reddening around the bite begins as the bite area enlarges. Within 15-36 hours blisters may form around the bite. These blisters break within a day leaving an open ulceration that usually scabs over and heals in one to several months. About 50% of those persons bitten and envenomed by a Hobo Spider will develop systemic symptoms in addition to the local effects that include severe headaches, visual disturbances and disorientation, and joint pain within 36 hours of the bite. In these cases immediate medical attention should be sought. However, it is recommended in any case where a Hobo Spider has bitten you, that you save the spider if possible and seek medical attention.