Archive for the ‘trees’ Tag

My Water-Use Achilles Heel? Fruit Trees   Leave a comment

A couple weeks ago I finally finished the tallying of my summer 2013 water audit. Unlike my trash and energy audits where I have a good baseline from doing these audits since 2001, I have no baseline and no good methodology for a water audit. Until we moved into this house in 2010 I had never lived (as an adult) in a place where I got a water bill, and from 2010 through late 2012 those bills were bimonthly. It’s nearly impossible to use a bimonthly bill to get any sense of your water usage since you end up with summer watering mixed in with cooler months. In the past for my water audits I’ve timed how long showers last, how long it takes to wash my hands, etc. in an attempt to measure my water use. This time I decided to measure my outdoor water use since it’s all through hoses, and then just do the math for indoor use based on my bill. So I got little flow meters for both hoses, and started recording. Unfortunately I did not do a calibration check on either meter and one of them conked out before the end of the month. When I tallied up the amount I had supposedly used in my outdoor watering during the month, it was more than the total water usage in my bill.

Without having a way to calculate indoor vs. outdoor water usage, I’m still having to do this audit based on a lot of estimated numbers and various assumptions. The final tally gave my top 5 water uses as 1-watering trees, 2-showers, 3-toilets, 4-watering lawn, 5-watering potted plants. Assuming that I can use proportioning between the two water meters that were on the hoses, I was using SEVEN times more water on the trees than the lawn.

Now, I’m stingy when it comes to lawns. I don’t water during the winter (rainy season here in Sacramento), and I only water once per week in the summer. Plus we have a small front lawn and don’t water the little backyard patch-o-grass at all. But we have a couple trees in the front yard that are still young and getting established, and a quasi-orchard in the backyard (established nectarine, new apple, new pomegranate, established persimmon, established pear, established orange, established pumelo). But I was “deep watering” the trees by watering monthly and letting the hose water run slowly at the base of each tree for a while. And sometimes would forget to move the hose in a timely manner. They all started producing fruit only after I started watering them, so it is important to me to water them well, but since trees are on an annual cycle there’s no easy way to be sure that if I reduce water by x amount they will still fruit nicely.

I tried looking for suggestions of how much water to apply to fruit trees online, and didn’t get much help. Most of what I found I’m assuming is for commercial growers since it was talking about daily watering. When I did the math those suggestions weren’t far off from what I was applying monthly. I take that to mean I’m overwatering since you have to account for how much the soil can store so I may be applying as much water as the tree needs in a month but since I was doing it all at once much of that water would have been lost as excess.

For the end of last summer I switched to weekly watering for around 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the tree instead of monthly for 1 hr each. But this year with the drought and push to conserve water I’m wondering how to proceed appropriately with these fruit trees, and don’t yet have a plan that I can really feel comfortable with.

Advertisements

Posted May 18, 2014 by mayakey in gardening, water use

Tagged with , , ,

Slowly Enjoying the Christmas Tree   Leave a comment

I love a good Christmas tree. I love everything about it. In our old house there wasn’t enough room for a full tree so this is our first Christmas tree and we’re loving it! I have to be very grateful to my husband for being willing to enjoy it slowly, though.

For the first week we left the tree completely nude, except for a cowboy-hat “topper”. The tree is in a corner where it does get a little bit of sun since the best sun-protected corner currently houses the loveseat, but that means that in the morning I got to enjoy the beauty of morning rays of sun filtering through a few evergreen branches. Simple beauty. As much I love decorated Christmas trees, I loved the opportunity to really enjoy the nude tree, too, without rushing to obscure its inherent beauty. I think that I’d like to make it a tradition that we leave our tree bare and enjoy a “Yule tree” until the week before Christmas/week of solstice, although I’m not sure Mike will be willing to do it every year.

Tonight we added the lights. Doing this slowly makes it feel like we’re dressing the tree up for a grand occasion. There’s the anticipation of putting on the ornaments, but for now we’ll enjoy just the lights. To me the lights are the most important of the decorations anyway. We’ll probably add the ornaments on the 23rd, just in time for Christmas. This slow process fits very well with my spiritual sense. A Yule tree until shortly before Yule, a lit tree around Yule when I light a candle in every room for blessing, and a decorated tree right before and throughout the Christmas holiday.

I suppose I should probably mention that we do have a natural tree, as artificial is not even an option for me. Something about soul. There’s just something so special about the transience of the natural cut tree that only can last for a short time, as opposed to an artificial tree that is unchanging and almost everlasting. It’s not an equal substitution in my mind. I do have fake branches, though, and a fake garland. I used to decorate with real branches, but they just dry out so fast that I switched to artificial since there was no benefit at all to the real ones except from the resource use standpoint. The real branches were the the bottom trimmings from a Christmas tree lot, so it wasn’t using a “new” resource. The artificial ones are plastic, so made from a non-renewable resource and possibly some toxic chemicals.

Posted December 16, 2011 by mayakey in musings, spiritual practices

Tagged with , , ,

It’s Alive! The Tree Is Alive!   4 comments

(This post is part of the Down-To-Earth “On My Mind” feature.)

That was my exciting thought of this morning. I was making my breakfast smoothie, looking out the kitchen window, when I realized that there were blossoms on one of the mystery trees. We’ve got seven trees in our back yard: one jujube, one nectarine (at least I think so), one dead lemon, one living lemon (maybe), one living unknown-possibly-citrus, and two that we don’t know either what they are or whether they are really alive. Now at least we know that one of them is alive, and hopefully we’ll find out what it is. I raced out with my camera to take these photos. The white blossoms are the mystery tree, and the pink blossoms are what I think is a nectarine tree.

As I took these photos I realized that I need to spend more time looking for beauty in the back yard, it is kind of neglected. My energy has been focused on the front yard because it is easier, ready for me to create the yard I want with no jack hammer rental required. The front yard already had beautiful rose bushes to entice me out as well. And for both positive feng shui and thinking ahead to future resale, the front yard is key. So the back yard still has the old mirrored closet doors we removed from all the bedrooms, and the pile of lumber and metal from the sketchy awning the previous owners had, and the ugly storage shed, and a lot of concrete. While it really makes sense to focus on the front, I need to remember to pay attention to the back yard so that I’m ready when its turn comes.

Posted March 10, 2011 by mayakey in gardening

Tagged with , ,

Our Trees Are Here! Our Trees Are Here!   Leave a comment

Last week we got our free shade trees from our utility company. I was planning to plant them this weekend, but I forgot to call Underground Service Alert (811 Call Before You Dig) on Wednesday so I have to wait until the end of Monday to plant. I am pretty sure that there is a water line and cable beneath our lawn, but since I don’t know exactly where I want the utility to mark the lines. Utility marking is something that I have to do all the time for work, but requesting a dig ticket outside of work is a new experience.

I’m pretty excited about the shade trees. Well, I’m ecstatic about one of them and hopeful about the other. Our local utility company (SMUD) has a program giving free shade trees to customers that request them. It’s a limited list of shade trees (no fruit trees or evergreens, and they have selected a number of species as particularly appropriate for the area), but I really don’t understand why more people don’t participate. I mean, it’s FREE. All you have to do is meet with an urban forester to select the tree(s) and the location, and then dig the hole and care for the tree. In a few years you get shade! We might not see much return on “investment” since the trees might not yet be fully grown before we move again, but since the “investment” was zero I can live with that. We’ll get some shade, and hopefully better resale value.

The tree that I am excited about is a native Valley Oak. It’s a large tree that will be planted out near the street. I am very passionate about native plants, and of all the trees native to the Sacramento area, the oaks are my favorites. I’ve been nervously mapping the location, though, because the location of this tree will be a huge factor in figuring out what area of the new lawn gets removed for xeriscape. Since a valley oak is a low water use tree, I’d like low water use landscaping around it. We’re going for improving resale value, though, and I don’t want to do anything that might have the opposite effect. Sacramento is a seriously water-guzzling town, and I’m afraid that removing all of the lawn will have a negative effect. Plus, I need to leave enough lawn accessible to the driveway for me to drive my car onto the lawn so that I can wash it by hand.

The tree that I am not so excited about is the eastern redbud. We had been planning to get just one tree, but the urban forester took one look at our front yard and said we could easily fit two trees, a large and a small tree. They don’t have the western redbud on the list because for some reason it wasn’t deemed appropriate (size? color? root structure? branching? apparently they look at a number of variables). So she suggested the eastern redbud instead. To be completely honest, I’m kind of regretting that decision. Maybe we should have just gotten one tree and gone looking for a small native tree on our own. Honestly, though, I hope it’ll work because the small tree is the most important one for shading the front window. And I know full well that if we had gone the route of finding (and buying) a different small tree near the house, it wouldn’t have happened this fall.

Posted November 15, 2010 by mayakey in energy use, gardening, home

Tagged with , ,