Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time to Answer Search Queries...and then more from the CBG

Two questions have come up in search queries for this blog. I thought I would pause and answer those questions just in case the people searching are still looking for answers (as so many of us are!)

Question #1: How far can I plant a willow (or insert any living plant) from my drainage (septic, drain) field?

I wrote an entry about disguising a drain field. Who knew there are so many questions out there about them! I also sit on the village board and we often talk about the sewer system (I'm on the committee...the "s--- committee"!) Some trees, particularly maples, box elders, willows, pines are always scoping out soil for more water. As a semi-pro horticulturalist, I get paid to garden; I know there are a fair amount of root within the drip line of the tree's crown. I also know we see maple root working themselves into clay drain tile in the village sewer system. We actually sent tiny video cameras into the sewer pipes to look! Bleech! I have also seen my huge white pine roots in the soil around the farthest corner of my tiny house-- a distance about 45 feet outside the crown's drip line.

If I were a property owner I would not plant a tree or shrub anywhere near a drain field. I have planted prairie plants, perennials, annuals, and bulbs over drain fields to good effect. All said, if you are absolutely driven to plant that shrub or tree, stay away from willows, pines, maples, box elders; and stay at least the distance of the mature crown's diameter outside the drain field.

Question #2: Is the peeling bark on my grapes normal?

Completely normal! First year bark is smooth and very supple. As the main stem achieves maturity it loses this suppleness (a little like this gardeners knees!) and becomes more tree-like. Remember, some grape vines in France and California are as much as 400 years old and the main trunks look more like trees than vines. The picture above shows a grape vine that is probably ten to twenty years old. I saw it at the Chicago Botanical Garden this last Saturday in the small fruits area.

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