I’ve already done my blog for the day, but am hoping this story might fuel another discussion. There are some very good reasons for buying/eating organic food, but nutritional superiority does not appear to be one of them. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009599887_organicstudy05m.html
So, Bert, you (and others) have done research on Tree Gator-type products and found them useful in providing water to newly planted trees and shrubs. For those of you that haven’t seen supplemental irrigation products, they are heavy-duty plastic bags that zip up to create a sleeve around tree trunks and drip water from their perforated bottoms (Figure 1). The City of Seattle uses them routinely, but I’ve seen a number of trees fail in spite of the additional irrigation. While many of these failures are undoubtedly the result of poor root systems, inadequate root preparation, and/or improper installation (Figure 2), what worries me is the long-term effect of these sleeves on tree trunks. I’ve seen nothing in the scientific or professional literature about this possible problem. So I thought I’d do an informal assessment of Tree-Gatored trees. Given what I’ve found, though, I’m tempted to do a more structured survey.
Figure 1. Tree Gator Figure 2. Poorly planted tree
First, I found a number of Tree Gators that were empty – probably close to half were nearly or completely drained. These devices don’t too much good if they aren’t kept filled. That’s an easy problem to fix compared to what I found when I unzipped the bags to look at the tree trunks. When the bags are full, they press against the trunk, creating a humid, dark environment (Figure 3) that’s only made worse when rainwater seeps into the space. As you can see in Figure 4, over time the bark rots, allowing insects and disease into the living tissues. The insects ran when I opened the bags, but I saw numerous pillbugs and millipedes – which feed on decaying matter – in those trees with rotting trunks.
Figure 3. Unzipped Tree Gator Figure 4. Rotted bark
(note wet bark on lower trunk) (note millipede on left side)
I think there can be fatal problems for young trees when these bags are used long-term. IMO, supplemental irrigators that resemble rubber donuts laid over the root zone are better designed. I would be sure to have a mulch layer protecting the soil from compaction by these water-filled rings, but at least the trunks are left uncovered.
Welcome to the Garden Professors. I am currently an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Horticulture and Department of Forestry at Michigan State University. I am also about the last person I thought would be doing a blog. I have often wondered who has time to read blogs, let alone write one. But I was intrigued when Jeff Gillman invited me to participate in this one. I have a lot of respect for Jeff and for Linda Chalker-Scott. Both have contributed a lot to landscape horticulture by critically examining the various myths that pervade gardening.
My background: I’m originally from the great Pacific Northwest; born and raised in Olympia, Washington. I was fortunate to go to Olympia High School, which offered courses in Botany, Ecology, and Forestry. Mr. Walt Chance, who taught Botany and Ecology, sparked my interest in plants and trees in particular. I got my B.S. in Forest Management from Washington State University and then did graduate work in tree physiology at Oklahoma State University (M.S. Forestry) and at the University of Georgia (Ph.D. Forest Resources). I began working on tree nursery and urban forestry-related issues with the USDA Forest Service and continued to research tree nursery issues as a scientist with Union Camp/International Paper. Since 1999 I have been on the faculty here are MSU developing research and extension programs that deal with landscape, nursery, and Christmas tree issues. I am currently involved in production issues related to container-grown trees and issues related to the Emerald Ash Borer outbreak. I also write and speak on landscape conifers. If you are interested in some of my research and professional publications you can wander over to my faculty web-page http://www.hrt.msu.edu/faculty/cregg.htm I live on a 5-acre farm in Dewitt, Michigan with my wife (Terri, whom I also met in Athens), our daughter (Hannah), two dogs, two horses, and an undetermined number of barn cats.
For my part, the theme of the blog follows Will Rogers’ famous line, “It’s not what we don’t know that causes us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” As Jeff and Linda have documented in their books and articles, there is a lot of science related to landscape horticulture that we choose to ignore. So, if you don’t like the facts getting in the way of a good story then this blog is probably not for you.
As we launch this blog, I’d like to add another quote from Will Rogers, the one he used to end every show. He stated simply, “I never a met a man I didn’t like.” The quote is remarkable because Rogers certainly met a lot of people that didn’t like him as he used his razor-sharp wit to carve up politicians and public figures of every stripe. But Rogers’ too-short life proved that we can disagree without being disagreeable; something sorely lacking in all forms of discourse these days. As we grope our way through the electronic age, many people hide behind the anonymity of the internet to spew all sorts of venom. By intent, this blog will touch on some controversial issues and we don’t expect readers to agree with everything we write. Our goal is to raise the level of dialogue about Horticulture; put some ‘meat’ and some science in the mix. This blog has a ‘comment’ bar and we encourage you will use it, but ask that we keep the focus on content not character.
Just flew in from St. Louis and boy are my arms tired! [Baadum – ch!]
I have very diverse responsibilities and interests, but all in one way or another relate to this thing called Gardening. I recently attended two very different conferences, both in St. Louis but thankfully scheduled back-to-back. The first was the Perennial Plant
Association (PPA): a colorful, enthusiastic, slightly eccentric group of growers, breeders, designers, and geeks of the highest order. Bus tours and talks centered on plants, glorious plants….of which we simply cannot get enough.
Hot plants!!! Paul Westervelt expresses his enthusiasm during the PPA tour of the fabulous Missouri Botanic Garden.
The second was the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) annual conference. Not so colorful. Lots of data…even presented some myself. But very necessary – especially in our realm (publish or perish). “Horticulture” is a ridiculously broad umbrella, under which falls food crops, ornamentals, biotechnology, econom cs, and some social sciences. There were speakers and posters on a mind-boggling array of topics – from horticulture curricula to stress physiology; tropical fruits to public horticulture. Some of this research and information is ready for “technology transfer”, that is, with a bit of tweaking,
the results are directly applicable, whether to a nursery grower or a consumer. Much of it is not; and will exist only in that “researcher to researcher” ether.
My point: there are many outlets for the information shared at PPA, i.e. hot new plants on the Terra Nova website, design articles by the various garden writers in attendance, the newest book from Timber Press, etc. For ASHS, not so much, unless you subscribe to HortScience and receive the 1000+ pages of abstracts from the meeting.
This is where we can help. Jeff Gillman has done a yeoman’s job at translating science to gardeners, and now all of us involved in this blog are going to chip in. Call it “insider
information” or the less-glamorous “stuff that’s technical/boring to read but with
hidden nuggets of usefulness”. The one thing we hope makes this useful to you is that we all consider ourselves gardeners, and though our day jobs certainly inform how we manage our own little piece of heaven, you’ll get a good dose of adventure, frustration, triumph, plant lust, and humor.
My next few blog contributions will be “things I learned in St. Louis”. Not least of which is the hoppy goodness of locally-brewed Schlafly Pale Ale.
Greetings from the southernmost member of this squad! I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech and Director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden, our fabulous 6-acre teaching and display garden on campus. Blacksburg is in the Blue Ridge mountains of southwest Virginia, USDA Zone 6-ish, elevation of 2,080 feet. I teach Herbaceous Landscape Plants, Greenhouse Management, Floriculture, and a Public Gardens course. My research focuses on nursery and greenhouse production of perennials. In both sharing my research and in learning what’s new and improved, I interact extensively with the state and regional green industry – growers, plant breeders, landscapers, and garden centers. I love the business side of things – and am a rabid plant shopper, so this works out well!
I’m originally an Army brat but spent most of my formative years (the 80’s and 90’s) in Athens, Ga. My B.S. (Agricultural Economics) and M.S. (Horticulture) are from the University of Georgia, and my Ph.D (Horticulture) is from North Carolina State University. So lotsa Zone 7 experience under my belt.
Professional credentials aside, I guess I would describe myself as a card-carrying plant dork (actually, I’m just a dork, period). Love, love, LOVE to garden, whether at work or at home. My partner and I have a 19-acre farm stuck on the side of mountain – we have four acres of u-pick blueberries along with Christmas trees, honey bees, chickens, a small greenhouse, veg gardens, and lots and lots of ornamentals, of course. Just in case you were wondering where I was coming from. I’m so pleased to be working with such talented and clever folks on this blog!
I’m an associate professor in the department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University. I’m also an Extension Specialist in Urban Horticulture, meaning that I have a global classroom rather than one physically located on a college campus. I’m trained as a woody plant physiologist and I apply this knowledge to understanding how trees and shrubs function in urban environments. This is a fancy way of saying I enjoy diagnosing landscape failures – sort of a Horticultural CSI thing.
I’m a native Washingtonian, but I spent my academic life at Oregon State University and then moved to Buffalo for my first university position. I moved back to Seattle in 1997 and worked at University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. In 2001 we were fire-bombed by ecoterrorists (and yes, the irony of the greenest center on campus being targeted by ecoterrorists is not lost on me) and I lost my ability to do lab work. During this time I developed a more applied research program and in 2004 I began my Extension position with WSU.
Jeff and I have never actually met, but we’ve been chatting via internet for some time. Apparently he manages his time better than I, since he has the ability to spearhead this blog on top of everything else he does. I know I’m looking forward to this new venue for discussing the science behind America’s favorite outdoor activity (assuming that’s still gardening and not Ultimate Frisbee or frog licking).
I’m an associate professor in the department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. Officially I work mostly with trees and shrubs, but I’ve also been known to test things like egg shells for stopping slugs, beer for its qualities as a fertilizer, and milk for its fungicidal qualities.
I come from a small town in Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia, where I first learned about growing trees in my parents’ small orchard. I attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster PA, then earned a masters degree in entomology and a Ph.D. in horticulture from the University of Georgia (which, incidentally, is also where I met my wife). After Georgia I came north to Minnesota.
I’ve been itching to do a blog for about a year now, one where I could share my “adventures in horticulture,” but I never felt that I had the time to actually put one together. Then, a couple of months ago, Linda Chalker-Scott (who you’ll meet shortly) from Washington State and I had a conversation which resulted in our getting together with Holly Scoggins from Virginia Tech, James Nienhuis from the University of Wisconsin, and Bert Cregg from Michigan State and setting up this blog.
For now, each of us will be posting one day a week starting on August 3rd. Before that each of us will post a short introduction of ourselves so that you can get a sense of who we are. I look forward to blogging soon!