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Turn over a new leaf – if you still have one!

sun scald hit fruit that had already colored up

August 22, 2021

Our June heat wave hit just after the summer solstice, precisely when the days are the longest of the year. Double whammy! Record high temperatures in June beat our plants to the max. Ouch! We all witnessed the most obvious punishment, sun scald.

What’s a plant to do? The stomata pores of plant leaves open to welcome carbon dioxide, the start of photosynthesis. At the same time, when those pores are open, water vapor exits the plant (leaf transpiration). When it’s hot, dry and breezy, that loss of water can be deadly for the plant.

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During the three-day period June 26-28, 2021, daytime high temperature averaged 102.5F (normal is 71), daytime low humidity was 26% (normal is 50), and average wind speed was 5.6 mph (normal is 3.3).

The plants strategized by opening those stomatal pores during the cooler mornings, and then button up in the afternoon!

mosquito netting shade cloth

What’s a gardener to do? I am sure you watered like mad. I chose to drape my veggies with shade cloth, to reduce temperature and, to some extent, reduce wind. If plants could walk, I think they would hightail it to shade during those June afternoons.

Well, here we are in August. Due to zero precipitation and additional periods of high temperatures, the soil around all our garden beds and tree guilds is dry. I looked at 2019 and 2020 August photos of the orchard; some green grass is evident. Today I noted, brown, brown, brown, except for plants with long tap roots. In fact, you can slide on the grass!

This lingering hot dry situation this summer brings us back to leaf transpiration and plant water loss. Water has to move up from the soil, to the root hairs, and up the xylem (tiny vertical pipe) to get to the leaf. Leaf transpiration is the main force that pulls the water up this path.

Water loss, through transpiration, has to be balanced by water pulled from the soil. But the soil is so dry! Twist a soil sampler tool into the ground and see for yourself.

So, what’s a gardener to do now? Remember 2015 when we had a drought? Many City trees died, but not until 2016. Prepare for next year!

beer mash, GroCo and chips for lunch…er…for mulch

Now is the time to take good care of your perennial plants, especially those that are still forming fruit. Ideas are extra watering, providing shade, and heavy mulching. You might also avoid heavy pruning.

Come Take a tour of the orchard to see all the different water conservation techniques we use.



Water Plant and Soil Relation under Stress Situations
Filipović , Adrijana
September 16th 2020
DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.93528

Transport of Water and Solutes in Plants
Botany Professor blog, Water Potential Explained, 05/07/2015

From mountain forests to city parks, trees are stressed and dying
Mapes , Lynda V. August 6, 2016 Seattle Times

Average weather by city
Compare weather on two different dates, by area

Pruning Points

July 25, 2021

Last week Ann saw a T-shirt with printed words, “I’m pretty sure I am not going to figure it out.”  Sounds like me and pruning!

I have been watching Ingela masterfully craft the orchard fruit trees for 10 years but, this week, it was I who grasped the pole pruner and reverently approached the William’s Pride apple tree.

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I am grateful for my education from all of the pruning class instructors, pruning book authors and WSU extension pruning experts. However, most of the notes in my notebook are from Ingela. I hope she doesn’t choke if she reads this blog post.


A few rules for pruning fools that I applied this past week:

Apical dominance has critical significance. Each branch is wired to send some growth skyward. Leave some of those antennas on the tree, especially on a vigorous tree.

It’s seducing to practice reducing. Heading a branch back to a lateral, one at least one third to one half the size of the headed branch, opens up space and allows growth energy to be redirected.

Heading is a mode where you cut near a node. The result is a stub and you often can flub. The resulting new growth can push out in all directions, making next year’s pruning challenging. Buds become stimulated for shoot growth, rather than flower (fruit) production.

Thinning is winning. Complete removal of a branch, just to the edge of the collar of the supporting branch or trunk, creates space and air flow. Thinning can also remedy twisting and/or over-loading a branch, causing it to break.

West of the Cascade Mounts, it’s air flow that counts. All pathogens fungal can really keep us humble. The late professor Bob Norton said it best, “Make sure you can throw a softball through the apple tree!”

Local classes on fruit tree pruning: Plant Amnesty, Sky Nursery, Seattle Tree Fruit Society, City Fruit, Lee Harrison-Smith, Seattle Tilth, and the UW Botanical Center


Good tree fruit pruning articles:

The 1-2-3 rule of pruning – Turn wood into fruit on apple and pear trees.
Bas Van Den Ende
Good Fruit Grower. January 15th 2010 Issue

Spur pruning ‘delicious’ apple for improved spur quality and yield
Curt R. Rom, ActaHortic.1992.322.6

William’s Pride before






William’s Pride after

Tried-and-True Tomato Trellising Technique

June 23, 2021

The Florida weave! Is it a type of shawl? A new hair style? Some kind of line dance? No. The Florida weave is used widely and is well thought of as a tomato-trellising technique. Rutgers has a fine explanation online.

Sue’s tomato plants get big and weigh a ton. In the past few years, we have used bamboo and added several extra supports so the mass from 16 vines doesn’t topple over and kill someone.

This year she is trying out the Florida weave, on recycled galvanized pipe. Nancy found a few pieces of seven-foot pipe but we just couldn’t come up with the 10 more pieces needed. Then Ruth decided to donate the plumbing pipes from her home. (Well, that old galvanized had to come out sometime.)

Sue says, “The Weave will be easier to use for me, a near-to-five-foot gardener. Once the poles are in, the twinning work will be easier. I will add another horizontal weave with every ten inches of plant growth.”

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Sue is training to just one central leader this year. She hopes for good air circulation and this system will make her keep up with her fastidious thinning and pruning. She’s hoping for less bulk but more productive flowering.

This year’s indeterminate cherry tomato varieties are: Jasper, AAS award-winning, Cherry Bomb and a few Sun Peach – all late-blight resistant.

“We always have green tomatoes left on the plants because we have a short season in western Washington. I like to take them home and ripen them up. If they rot, instead of ripen, I know that variety could get late-blight and I tend to stay away from it.”

Next season, Sue will plant tomatoes in a different bed. She will have the poles ready to pound in, without having to make a new trellis out of bamboo.

This new method fosters recycling, will be labor-saving, and is portable. The proof, of course, will be in the tomatoes!