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Get Growing: There's still time to plant some trees 

Amherst Tree Warden Alan Snow, in yellow vest, helps Willam and Jane Taubman of Woodside Avenue plant a tree in their yard.

Amherst Tree Warden Alan Snow, in yellow vest, helps Willam and Jane Taubman of Woodside Avenue plant a tree in their yard. TOM LYNN Purchase photo reprints »

The Public Shade Committee of Amherst has been doing a splendid job planting new trees along town ways. Residents can request a tree but they must pledge to take care of it for two years.

In September Tree Warden Alan Snow and members of the shade tree committee helped residents of Woodside Avenue plant nearly a dozen trees of various species. Last Saturday two more trees were planted on Jeffrey Lane.

Snow gave an excellent demonstration on how to plant a tree at a home on Woodside. First, select the right tree for the right spot. Swamp maples, for instance, can take fairly wet soil. Be sure to plant far enough from a building and also avoid power lines. Second, dig a hole that is wide rather than deep, at least twice the width of the root ball or container but only just as deep.

Set aside the turf squares. Don’t amend the soil. Position the tree carefully; add soil to half the depth and then water well to avoid air pockets. Then complete filling the hole. Place the sod squares around the edge of the hole as a temporary retaining wall to hold water. Finally, provide a wood chip mulch to reduce weeds and hold moisture. Just don’t let the mulch rest against the tree trunk.

Watering is essential during the first two years. Snow said each tree needs the equivalent of 20 gallons a week. That may be provided by rainfall — as it probably has in recent weeks — but if there isn’t an inch of water in a week (use a rain gauge or tuna fish can to measure), you must water by hand. How do you know whether you’ve provided 20 gallons? Time how long it takes to fill a gallon jug from the hose and multiply that by 20. When I timed it at my house (water pressure does differ) it took about a minute per gallon. Ergo, it takes 20 minutes to water a newly-planted tree adequately.

Amherst residents can request trees through the Conservation Department.

Check to see if your town or city has a similar program. However, Oct. 31 is probably the cut-off date for planting this fall.

FROST: Most area gardens by now have experienced a hard frost. It was 24 degrees at my house a week ago today and 30 degrees earlier this week.

I salvaged my mums by covering the ones in the garden with sheets, but erroneously believed the ones on the steps would survive without my help.

Not so. They got a mild frosting and don’t look very happy. However, another problem arose between frosts: critters. My lovely new white daisy mum in the garden was grateful for the cover for the first frost, but a few days later it looked terrible. So did a yellow chrysanthemum beside the side steps that hadn’t appeared to mind the frost despite lack of protection. Was this delayed frost reaction? No. Either rabbits or a woodchuck had nibbled the succulent flowers. Drat them! It couldn’t have been deer right beside the front steps and I seldom have deer anyway. It’s a little too late for the cayenne pepper or garlic concoction treatment. But next year, I’ll be ready for critters as well as frost. Happy Fall.

ASTER UPDATE: Identifying wild asters is a real challenge. I wish I could take a botany course to learn how to use a key to identifying plants. In Valley Gardens last week I wrote that the wild aster along Pomeroy Lane was Aster novae-belgii, the New York aster. That was my conclusion after using various books and the Internet. However, I had a nagging feeling something was wrong: namely the leaves of the plant. They didn’t seem narrow or shiny enough for New York aster but the number of flower petals meant the plant couldn’t be A. novae-angliae or New England aster. I tried to reach the Hitchcock Center and Nasami Farm but didn’t get callbacks until after deadline. Ted Watt at the Hitchcock Center told me about two helpful websites. Now I think my plants are A. prenanthoides or crooked stem aster. They bloom in September and October in swamps and along damp roadsides. Pomeroy Court crosses Plum Brook and the plants are beside a ditch that empties into the stream. Here are the websites: http:// www.nttlphoto.com/botany/asters-goldenrods/a&g_main.htm and http:// gobotany.newenglandwild.org.

GROWING FOOD: An Amherst group will hold two events this week to improve access to locally grown food. Tomorrow at Brookfield Farm volunteers will glean the fields and donate the vegetables to Not Bread Alone and other local organizations that feed the hungry. On Wednesday at 6 p.m. Growing Food in Community will hold a cooking and preserving demonstration at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pre-registration is required for the demonstration. For more information call Stephanie Ciccarello at 259-3149 or email her at ciccarellos@amherstma.gov.

ORCHID SOCIETY: The monthly meeting of the Amherst Orchid Society is Sunday at 2 p.m. at Munson Memorial Library on the South Amherst Common. It’s the annual meeting with election of officers plus dues renewal.

Anyone new or renewing gets a free plant.

GARDEN CALENDARS: Every serious gardener needs two ways to keep track of the garden: a notebook or journal and a calendar. There are many methods of keeping a journal from fancy five-year books to a simple notepad or three-ring binder. And, of course, you can use any pretty wall calendar to jot down first and last frost, first crocus bloom, first tomato or pea harvest, when you planted a new tree, etc. However, UMass Extension publishes an especially good calendar which is not only beautiful but filled with helpful information. It costs $12 and is available online at www.umassgardencalendar.org. The information is compiled by Extension employees Kathleen Carroll, Roberta Clark, Jennifer Kujawski, Randall Prostak, Deborah Swanson and Ellen Weeks. There are all kinds of reminders listed each day, such as sharpen pruning tools in early February, put down row covers in early May, sow sweet corn and bush beans around May 20, pick pears before they are fully ripe in September, apply deer repellents to valuable trees and shrubs.

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