Cactus and Succulent Blooming at Balboa Park

A blooming hidden garden at Balboa Park

Blooming agave in a less visited area of the park

Blooming agave in a less visited area of the park

Such a gorgeous spring day, had to go for a walk through Morley Field and Balboa Park. I knew it would be a busy day with lots of people seeking the beauty and sunshine at the park, so I decided to walk through some of the less visited areas of the park in search of plants.

When your a horticulturist, arborist, landscape contractor and avid gardener, it is kind of a curse and a blessing. I cannot help but be drawn to looking at trees, shrubs, landscape design and contrasting plant foliage and flower colors.

I took a bunch of pictures, some might seem more obscure or leave you wondering what the heck that plant is! Take a moment and enjoy!
Cactus, succulents and natives at Balboa Park

Removing Your Turf and Sprinklers Due to Drought, Remember the Trees!

As Californians scramble to find a way to reduce water consumption to meet a 25% water reduction mandate, turf removal has become the latest means to accomplish significant water savings. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, with Los Angeles and Orange county in between, turf is being ripped out at a frenzied pace.

Considering the rebates offered by the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles and other municipalities, homeowners and businesses are jumping at the opportunity to be reimbursed for turf and spray irrigation removal.  Succulent gardens, Mediterranean, and California natives and other drought tolerant plant materials are being used to replace water guzzling turf.

The decades long love affair with our green turf lawns is coming to an end.  Unless you can afford to pay extremely onerous penalties for excessive water use, the California drought, climate change and dwindling water resources will change the way we design, plant, irrigate and use our landscaped areas.

As turf and spray irrigation is removed, it is easy to forget about trees in the landscape. Trees planted in the landscape rarely receive irrigation dedicated to just the tree.  Typically, the tree is located in an irrigated turf or planter area.  Tree roots grow where there is moisture.  Trees adjacent to an irrigated turf area will certainly root into the turf zone because that is where the water and nutrients are.

A common misconception is trees develop deep tap roots that grow deeply into the soil to locate water.  In fact, almost all tree roots grow within the top three feet of the soil mass, almost 80% of the roots grow within 12-24 inches from the soil surface!  Initially, a tap root growing downward will encounter rocks, hard pan or other physical impediments causing the tap root to split into a fibrous system growing horizontally through the soil profile.

As roots grow outward from the trunk, the tree crown grows in conjunction with the spreading root system.  The outward edge of the tree crown is referred to as the drip line of the tree.  The structural tree roots grow outward toward the drip line, however they don’t stop there! Outside of the drip line, the structural roots become increasingly smaller in diameter and that is where the fine absorbing root hairs are located, often well outside of the tree drip line.  Many tree species grow roots up to twice the tree crown diameter!

Knowing how tree roots grow is vital to understanding how your trees will react to changes in irrigation caused by converting turf or high water use areas.  If the edge of a tree crown or drip line is near an irrigated turf area, it most certainly will have rooted into the turf soil zone.  When the turf is gone and water is turned off, the tree will have lost it’s primary source of water and nutrients and will begin to decline.  If it does not have or develop other water resources to tap into, the tree will eventually die.

If you notice the crown of your trees declining, not leafing out or new buds dying back, these are symptoms that may be caused by the affects of drought or lack of water. Think back and consider what changes have occurred in the past one to two years? Has there been construction or renovation work nearby?  What about changes in the landscape, was the turf removed and sprinklers turned off?  Was there trenching, rototilling or soil preparation in an area nearby existing trees?

You can still remove your water consuming turf and use drip irrigation, just remember to plan for irrigating the trees.  If using a drip system, consider using higher volume emitters, or other distribution systems that will provide an adequate water supply to the tree. Add a drip valve solely dedicated to tree irrigation separate from the other shrubs or ground covers.  Proper planning, installation and maintenance is required to convert water consuming landscapes into sustainable, water efficient landscapes while preserving existing tree health and aesthetics.

With proper planning, trees can be grown and will flourish using drip or low volume irrigation systems but you must provide enough water distribution to encourage the tree to root into the surrounding site soil.  Unlike spray irrigation, drip systems must be maintained and upgraded as trees grow larger root systems.  Additional drippers or emitters are required as the tree crown increases in diameter.  Drip and low volume distribution systems work great but are more labor intensive than spray systems and require a higher degree of maintenance.

So go ahead and get rid of that old ugly bermuda grass lawn, or grit your teeth and say goodbye to your green lush tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass and say hello to water savings without sacrificing visual aesthetics.  You can keep your trees alive and flourishing while still achieve water savings and a unique, beautiful landscape.  Use a landscape and certified arborist tree professional to help you achieve your sustainable, affordable landscape!

 

 

Red Trees = Dead Trees in California National Forest Lands

I recently read an article in the Los Angeles Times Drought Trees 1 , Drought Trees that addressed the tremendous die-off of trees within California’s national forests.  The aerial pictures in the article depict vast areas of red colored trees dominating the forest land.  As the drought continues, the death toll on our national forest lands is approaching record numbers.

To date, scientists and U.S. Forest Service representatives estimate at least 12.5 million trees in California’s national forest have been killed due to drought. Unfortunately, scientists expect the die-off to continue as the state heads into the summer season, traditionally the driest months of the season and the months with the greatest fire threat. The last time researchers saw such a great die-off was during the drought period of 1975-1979, when an estimated 14 million trees died.

As a professional arborist, horticulturist and outdoor enthusiast, I find it incredibly sad and painful as we helplessly watch millions of trees die in our forest lands.  Since childhood, I have loved camping throughout California, whether in the local San Diego mountains, the Sierras, or coastal California, the common denominator was the presence of trees, sometimes big trees.  Oaks, pines, sycamores, redwoods, cedars, the list goes on, so many beautiful tree species whose survival is now being threatened by drought.

I first became aware of the effect of the drought on client trees two years ago and the problems have only increased in the urban forest and wild land trees.  Oaks, pines and peppers on non-irrigated lands that survived for decades are now finally succumbing to the drought.  The grinding, relentless drought has reached a point where water tables and soil moisture are too depleted for many trees to survive. Clients have called with questions why trees they have in the past ignored are now declining.  Non-irrigated trees located in slopes or non-viewed areas that survived and flourished for decades are now in decline or dead.  As turf irrigation is turned off trees decline and die.

Trees weakened by drought are being infested and killed by wood boring beetles.There has been an uptick in the beetle populations due to the dry drought conditions. A healthy tree exerts internal pressure and pushes sap out of the tree surface, in effect forcing intruders out of the tree.  But when a tree is dried up, it cannot develop the sap flow and other natural defenses to ward off the wood boring insects. Trees weakened by drought become susceptible to invasion and colonization by beetles, killing the host then spreading to other weakened or even healthy trees.

As trees die-off from drought or killed off by beetles, millions of dead trees increase the likelihood of devastating summer wildfires.  San Diego county has suffered some of largest wildfires in the state. Decades ago, I used to take my family to campgrounds in the Cuyumaca and Laguna mountains that were later destroyed in the Cedar and Witch fires back in 2003-2005.  Even now, the standing dead, blackened, trees are a reminder of the terrible results of wild land fires.

In the past, “normal” spring weather resulted in green hillsides and mountains, with wildflowers and snowcapped peaks.  That has not been reality for the past several years. Anyone can easily see the already brown, grey hillsides, it looks like the middle of the summer yet it is only May.  The small amount of rain this past weekend, while a wonderful event, two days later you would never know it rained at all.

I have no recollection of the drought in the late seventies.  I was a college student back then and drought was not something that registered on my horizon at the time.  Now, after decades working in the landscape, arboriculture, horticulture and land development industries, this drought is frighteningly real and showing no signs of relenting.  Mandatory water restrictions are affecting the lives of all Californians.

The real scary question for me, is this our new climate?  I don’t want to see a California devoid of redwoods, oaks, sycamores and so many species I have grown up with and grown to love.  Regardless of how much water we conserve, the trees in our forest lands are at the mercy of mother nature.  The drought of the seventies killed millions of trees but that drought ended and millions of trees recovered and flourished.  Lets hope for a similar scenario with the current drought and tree die back.

Read the full Los Angeles Times article at Drought Trees 1Drought Trees

What is an RCA?

When I tell people I’m a consulting arborist they often ask what is that? Everyone is familiar with tree care companies, but not so much what the role of a consulting arborist. The common conception is when there is a tree problem, call up a tree contractor and have them do the work.

Yet, there are many tree problems that require expertise beyond a tree care company. When a tree has a change in condition or conflicts with infrastructure, a consulting arborist is required to assess the situation and make recommendations.

Consulting arborists have one or more certifications.  The primary designation is a certified arborist.  This designation is administered through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).  The second and more difficult designation to obtain is that of Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA), administered through the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Consulting arborists with the RCA designation are the preeminent authorities on tree related matters.

To receive the RCA designation, an individual must already be a certified arborist.  Once they meet the experience and education requirements, an applicant must enroll in the Consulting Academy.  This rigorous training focuses on technical and report writing. Applicants who receive their RCA designation are trained to produce the highest quality written reports and work product, a terrific benefit for attorneys, insurers and professional consultants.

To learn more about registered consulting arborists, please click on the link below.

What is an RCA

“Arborgeddon” – PTCA Hosts Another Great Seminar and Field Day

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

The Professional Tree Care Association (PTCA) of San Diego hosted their annual seminar and field day, a two day event on Friday, August 22 and Saturday August 23, 2014. This was the 25th annual event and like many of the previous seminars, this was another informative, educational experience bringing together a wide diversity of speakers and audience!

The seminar was on Friday and this years theme centered on the ongoing California drought and ramifications to trees. There were a number of great speakers, starting with Mr. Ron Matranga who provided an overview about trees in times of drought, current and future water restrictions . Dr. Roger Kjelgren, Professor from Utah State University, provided a simplified method for landscape irrigation demand estimation. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, the Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist from Washington State University discussed how to treat and avoid drought stress in landscape trees and Ms. JoEllen Jacoby, the Water Conservation Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego enlightened us about planning for current and future water restrictions (gulp, better get some rain this winter)!

Ms. Mary Matav, Agronomist from Agri-Serve presented information on how to combat pests and drought, followed by Dr. Tracy Ellis, Entomologist with the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, scaring all of us about tree insect interceptions and quarantines in San Diego County.

A great roster of speakers who delivered relevant information in a beautiful setting at Balboa Park in San Diego. On Saturday, the event transferred to the field, where information discussed at the seminar was applied and viewed in the field, an aspect of the field day I find very beneficial.

As usual, Dr. John Kabashima, the Environmental Horticulture Advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension, presented new, current information on the latest insect threat to our ornamental and agronomic trees in California, that being the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, (PSHB). As many of us already know, this destructive ambrosia beetle is now active throughout the Southern California.

The PSHB is an invasive ambrosia beetle that carries the fungus Fusarium euwallaceae.  The female tunnels through the bark and lays galleries of pre-fertilized eggs and grows the fungus, which becomes food the newly hatched beetles.  The fungi infects the tree with a disease called Fusarium Dieback (FD), which interrupts the transport of water and nutrients through the vascular system of the tree.  In essence, this is a vascular clogging disease resulting in dieback and death of a large host of trees.   Unfortunately, there is no cure at the present time and beware of PSHB/FD look-alikes.  Here is very informative attachment Dr. Kabashima provided that really provides current information about this insect.  Handout is published from the University of California and the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.   PSHB Information

Many thanks to all of the hardworking voluntary staff of the PTCA.  What a great local association, I am very proud to be a member of.  The PTCA is an active association promoting the best in tree care and tree knowledge.  An association composted of tree care companies, certified and consulting arborists and tree care  professionals, the PTCA continues to provide current and relevant topics for it’s membership and community at large.  Thanks again PTCA, looking forward to next years Seminar and Field Day!

What to do With Your Xmas Tree?

Fortunately, most municipalities now have recycling programs for green waste, making it easier for homeowners to recycle their used Xmas tree.  Recyclers grind or shred trees into a mulch which is then composted and eventually becomes available as a bulk or bagged mulch product.  This is certainly a preferable option than the “old days” when trees were commingled with regular trash and buried in landfill sites.

If you have a large tree, prune off some branches and reduce the overall size to ensure local curbside pickup.  If you have the room on your property, you can do your own recycling via a compost bin, pile or simply leaving the tree in an area where it will slowly decompose on its own.  Leaving a tree whole may also become home to birds and other animals for shelter or nesting site.  Make sure all tinsel and other decorations have been removed from the tree.

If you  have a live tree, it can be re-planted into the outdoor landscape.  Remember, depending on the variety of pine tree, these are typically large growing trees.  Despite the small size now, ten to twenty years down the road, you may have a forty to sixty foot tall tree.  I have seen this issue while consulting on residential sites where a neighbors Xmas tree planted near the property line grew to fifty-five feet, with limbs and roots encroaching into the clients property, damaging concrete improvements and posing an increased safety  risk.  If you are going to re-plant the tree, make sure you have the space for a large pine tree to grow, avoid planting near property lines, driveways, sidewalks and patios.

For more information about Xmas tree recycling, check out this article at:

Making the most of the Christmas Tree

Can a Tree Capture Particulate Matter from the Air?

For years, certified arborists and urban foresters have learned the many benefits of trees. Energy savings are one of the foremost known benefits of trees as they shade building during the summer reducing the need for air conditioning and deciduous tress allow sunlight to reach structures during winter months, solar radiation decreasing the need for winter heating.

Another known benefit for trees are their ability to reduce storm water runoff and erosion, particularly during the winter months. Tree root systems bind soil particles and slow storm runoff from roofs and other impervious surfaces, trees act as bio filters, slowing storm and irrigation water runoff and allowing the water time to slowly percolate into the soil profile rather than run off into the street or storm drain system.  By forcing water to pass through the soil profile, rather than runoff into storm drain systems, the soil mass filters impurities before the water enters into streams, ponds and aquifers.

Birch Tree planting works as filter

A Birch street tree planting used for testing as a green filter to remove particulate matter from the air we breath

Continue reading “Can a Tree Capture Particulate Matter from the Air?” »

Love the Beauty of Your City? Thank the Landscape Architects who Made it Happen

I recently read a great article by Delle Willett of the North Park News entitled Landscape Architects:  Artists with the Earth as a Canvas.  The article focused on three local women landscape architects who have made significant contributions to enhancing the aesthetics and functionality to the City of San Diego.

While reading about the history of female landscape architects, I couldn’t help be reflect on my own background and education within the fielof landscape architecture and landscape contracting.  As a college student, my path began at UC Santa Barbara and completed with a Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

I wrote and article correlating my own academic history with the three landscape architects discussed in the newspaper article.  For men or women interested in the field of landscape architecture, design, planning, horticulture, arboriculture and landscape contracting, or anyone who struggled to find their own passion and career path in college, I think you’ll enjoy the read.

Landscape Architects Making Significant Contributions to City of San Diego

Landscape Architects: Artists with the Earth as a Canvas.

 

 

Paradise Lost?

Smoke from the Silver fire envelopes above wind turbines in mountains near Palm Springs

Smoke from the Silver fire envelopes above wind turbines in mountains near Palm Springs

The picture above is taken from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. The Silver fire burned over 20,000 acres, injured at least 8 people, some with serious burns and destroyed many structures. It also has left yet another blackened scar over a huge swath of Southern California mountainous wildland area. The article in the Times is about the state’s fire plan and what many critics contend is an outdated model that no longer works. Continue reading “Paradise Lost?” »

PTCA Field Day a Great Success

Wow, just when I thought the PTCA (Professional Tree Care Association) annual seminar was the bomb, the following field day was just as great. While the seminar was an indoor event focusing on a variety of topics presented by outstanding industry professionals and educators, the field day was spent outdoor at beautiful Balboa park in San Diego.

The day consisted of a number of workshops organized into several different tracks that allowed participants to choose from a palette of presentations that provided something for everybody. Tree climbers and field workers loved the tree climbing workshop and training by Mr. Martin Morales. His workshop included climbing and positioning for safe work in trees, also taught about knots, ropes and equipment inspection, while providing new tips and tricks. I am way to old for climbing, but enjoyed watching guys in the trees, had an opportunity to meet Martin during an incredible lunch (carne asada). We were looking at a rigging holding a tree logIMG_0042, he immediately pointed out flaws and worn equipment, I would never have noticed. Fortunately we have educated tree climbers who understand the importance of proper equipment, training and safety.  Another track included Tree Risk Assessment best management practices (BMP’s) workshop taught by Mr. Ron Matranga and Dr. R. Bruce Allison. Since I consult and provide tree risk assessment as part of my practice, it was a great opportunity to learn about  best management practices involved with the new TRAQ (tree risk assessment qualified) versus the previous TRACE (tree risk assessment certification exam) methodology. Dr. Allison demonstrated new sonic tomography techniques for non-destructive testing of the interior of tree trunks, new cutting edge technology that is already an advancement from just two years ago. Using probes and determining the time for sound waves to travel through tree trunks and how the sound wave moves at different velocities around interior trunk decay will assist arborists to use in advanced tree risk assessment. As Dr. Allison noted, hopefully in the next few years, the cost will come down and we will have a pocket sized device and an app to use to help us understand what is happening with interior tree decay.

Sound wave technology, the next big thing?

Sound wave technology, the next big thing?

How serious is the problem

How serious is the problem

We all know about new invasive insects and diseases affecting our trees, new invasive species are being detected at a rate on one every 60 days, Dr. John Kabashiima provided the sobering statistic it is now one every 45 days! The gold spotted oak borer has decimated tens of thousands of Coast Live Oak and Black Oaks throughout California.

Six orange color dots help identify this pest, although the adult is rarely seen

Six orange color dots help identify this pest, although the adult is rarely seen

This pest has been spread throughout the state, particularly San Diego county by people using the dead wood for fire wood, transporting it in their vehicles where they unwitting spread the insect throughout the county. Don’t move infected wood!

Stop using infected wood for fire wood and don't transport the wood, you are spreading the disease

Stop using infected wood for fire wood and don’t transport the wood, you are spreading the disease

Take a look at some of these nasty borers and other insects, yikes!Nasty Borers

For pest control advisors and applicators, there was a pesticide application for trees demonstration and a safety workshop and tree identification workshop and quiz available to test your knowledge. Field guys loved the chainsaw sharpening and troubleshooting workshop presented by Mr. Paul Lasiter and Mr. Joe Garcia. Another great aspect for everyone was presentation of many workshops in Spanish and English, a very inclusive aspect that helped all of us enjoy the day.

I learned a great deal of new information I never would have even considered without this great field day presentation. Have you ever considered how heavy a downed tree trunk is?  Well, there was a workshop on how to calculate the wood weight of felled trees, presented by Mr. Harvey Pedersen. Crane operators have to have a reasonable idea of how much a log or portion of a tree trunk weighs in order to safely lift it. Mr. Pederson presented wood weight calculations of various types of trees and an amazingly accurate method for estimating the weight of a log, which was then lifted by the crane which provided the true weight to compare against our estimated weights. How cool is that!

How much do those logs weight?

How much do those logs weight?

Just want to thank all of those involved in the PTCA Seminar and Field Day for a truly memorable event, a special thanks to our friend Dave Shaw

Dave kept us all entertained, what a great guy!

Dave kept us all entertained, what a great guy!

 

who once again served as the master of ceremony and kept us all entertained. Keep up the great work, looking forward to next years seminar and field day.

Learn more about the PTCA at http://www.ptcasandiego.org