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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

8-19-04 Soil amendments; overgrown perennials
9-1-04 Wasps; dead & dying evergreens; early fall color; tomato plants
9-7-04 Giant Hogweed;  Yellow Jackets
9-15-04 Tent caterpillars; cats, bats and rabies
9-22-04 Dogwood Sawfly; Moss in lawns and patios
9-30-04 Harvesting Gourds; Peat vs Peat
10-7-04 Planning vegetable gardens; Caring for Orchids
10-12-04 Spiders; Begonias as houseplants
10-20-04 Bulbs: to buy or not to buy? And - Burlap for winter shrub protection
10-28-04 Autum leaf cleanup; Why oaks aren't pruned in warm weather
11-04-04 Asian Ladybird Beetles; This year's giant weed plants
11-12-04 Winter storage for Cannas; Wet soil killing new shrubs
11-19-04 Preparing roses for winter; Insect pests on siding
01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection for trees

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












We have a couple of acres and have some dead or dying trees. Some are ash that have emerald ash borer, some are elm that have Dutch elm disease and there is at least one dying pine tree. My husband wants to either leave them up or just cut and drop them. I want the trees gone. Is there some good reason that one way is better than the other?

There are several good reasons for making a choice. Take your paper and make two columns. One side is "go" and the other is "stay." On the stay side, these trees can be nice for various birds to peck at or hang out in. If the tree was hollow, a couple of bats might move in. On the go side, the list gets longer. Ash trees can continue to host emerald ash beetles for most of another season, spewing more little green devils into the air. For the elm trees, Dutch elm disease is carried by elm bark beetles. They will continue to feed and prosper until the bark falls off the trees. It is also passed by root graft, which is under ground. Some pine trees act as hosts for various diseases and insects that go out to find fresh killing fields. You have more opportunities of getting more insect and disease because these are reservoirs. Eventually, things get dead and dried out enough that they fall down. If they fall on their own, they can damage buildings or other landscaping material. If they fall on your car in the driveway, someone in your home will not be pleased. If they fall on your neighbors or their house, are you ready for a lawsuit? So how soon do they collapse? Look for falling twigs, small branches and bark. This signals that they are drying out and getting brittle. If the trees are cut down, coarse chipping doesn't usually do much to eliminate insects or disease. It would be better to have chips under an inch in size. You could cut them and burn them as fireplace treats or hotdog roasting kindling. Be very careful about the pine. A small amount can create a towering inferno, causing chimney fires or scary out-of-control fires.

I just got some of my vegetable catalogs and I have decided to grow my own tomatoes this year. The seeds are ordered and I need to start them soon. How do I do this? I have some available windowsill space in breezeway. It warms up during the day to close to 60 degrees. How soon do I start?

From what you've told me, the answer is never. Disaster is only a mail delivery away. Seeds need to be started six to eight weeks before they move into the garden. That would be in mid to late May. This makes the starting date in March sometime. To grow into a decent plant, the seedlings need more light that the pathetic January and February Michigan sun can exude. That's more in intensity and more in duration. You need to purchase plant lights and have a timer set to give you 16 hours of light daily. There needs to be eight hours of dark to go with that.

You need a much warmer temperature than the breezeway will give for seeds to sprout and plants to grow. These are lovely tropical cuties that grow in Mexico and South America. The potting mix needs to about 70 degrees for seeds to germinate. With an air temperature that never even gets to 60 degrees, the seeds will not germinate and will eventually just rot in the pots. Cold air coming off the windows will make this a better place to grow snowmen. Buy a book on starting seeds and read before growing. As they say, "read it, believe it, live it." There are so many ways to go wrong and just a few ways of going right. Don't kill your investment before it ever gets born.
Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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