Wednesday, September 16, 2015

California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) growth explosion with Mycorrhizal Fungi

A California Fan Palm planted into a front yard landscape from a one gallon container out performs 3  five gallon Mexican Fan Palms which not only had a more massive root system, but also three times the height. So what happened ??? - "Mycorrhizal Fungi"
(image: Mine July 2014)

Image taken on July 2014
It all began last year at the start of July 2014, I purchased four more Palms for my mothers front yard to create the appearance of an Oasis among plants of the Pea family like Red Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica) & Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens). There was already an existing Mexican Fan Palm which had volunteered on my mother's property and my brother had moved it back in 2005 to where you see it in the photograph above. I'm still blown away by the fact that since 2006, that palm has grown very slowly from from a foot tall plant to what you see here above in last year's photograph. You may want to take special note of the size of not only the one gallon Washingtonia filifera, but also the height of the Washingtonia mexicana in the background which you'll seed more than doubled in height in the September 2015 photograph. But what blew me away on this year's (2015) return is to see what has happened with the one gallon California Fan Palm I purchased from Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in relation to 3 other purchased five gallon Mexican Fan Palms I purchased from Lowes on the last week of July 2014 when I planted them. This native Southern California palm is just normally slower growth than it's cousin the Mexican Fan Palm.
The major difference maker was inoculating the California Fan Palm heavily within the soil at planting time with the as opposed to simply planting the Mexican Fan Palms without the beneficial fungi. The reason is I thought the Mexican Fan Palms would explode with fast growth on their own because as a natural rule they are much faster growing than Washingtonia filifera. Wow was I ever wrong. The California Fan Palm grew another three feet, while 2 of the five gallon Mexican Fan Palms put on only a foot of growth. The third Mexican Fan Palm actually died. I seriously should have inoculated everything. But after all these years of successes and positives which have greatly exceeded all expectations, I'm still excited by amazing changes almost before my very eyes. We're talking just exactly a year and two months. This is why documenting such things is so important, because those who are behind the Industrial Agriculture business model are not at all in favour of such practices and their successes. But take a look at last year's (2014) W. filifera to this year's (2015) results below.
Over four foot of growth between the period of July 2014 to August 2015. So why is it again that home owners and professional landscapers have preferred using the faster growing Washingtonia robusta over the so-called slower growing native Southern California - Washingtonia filifera ???
(image: Mine Sept 2015)

(image: Mine July 3, 2014)
The photograph above of the California Fan Palm is little over four foot tall as I did measure it at the frond tips. At the time of planting, this one gallon tree was barely one foot tall at the tips of it's small fronds. The big difference maker was inoculation with Mycorrhizal Applications Inc's product called MycoApply. I should also note however that I also bored holes in the ground around the base of the large 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm (why I don't know) and again with the Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) on the opposite side of that largest and oldest Mexican Fan Palm as well. In any event, you can also notice the drastic difference in growth with that 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm in the same landscape Oasis photo at the very bottom of this post if you scroll on down. But also take a look at the 2013 one gallon Engelmann Oak (again purchased from Las Pilitas) which was planted in the front yard Oasis on April 2013 and the contrast of where it is today 2015. 

(image: Mine September 2015)

(image: Mine June 2013)
This one gallon Engelmann Oak was purchased and planted in late May of 2013. The first photo on the right side here  was actually taken on June 30th 2013 where you can see how that year's Spring branch buds which sprouted after planting grew another few more inches. So technically this small tree was less than a foot of growth from the Nursery. The top photograph above shows the tree actually well over six foot tall. I'm 6.3 foot tall, so it was a nice surprise also to see the growth of this tree slightly towering over me. I also imagine that the mycorrhizal fungi from the Oak has  moved underground towards that largest Mexican Fan Palm you see to the left in the Oak photograph above. Once again, compare the height of that Palm today (2015) compared to last year (2014). Big difference. Still the slow growth of the five gallon planted Mexican Fan Palms was a surprise to me, but I'll inoculate them this year before I go back to Sweden. During yesterday's monsoonal rainstorm, the curb on the opposite side of my mother's street rain had flood water reaching 5 foot out from the curb towards the center of the street. I grabbed a five gallon orange Home Depot bucket and placing it in the deepest part of the runoff against the curb, the bucket filled up in a matter of seconds. I then proceeded to walk back to my Mother's front yard and dump the contents under various shrubs. It just kills me to see such as waste of city storm runoff which ends up downstream into the ocean. This runoff develops from all the concrete and asphalt surfaces of a housing development called Sky Ranch built on top of Rattlesnake Mountain above Pepper Drive Elementary School. I made more than 50+ trips right about the time School let out at 3:00 pm. I got soaking wet, but it felt wonderful. The kids parents were parked up and down the street. Some snickered, others complimented me.  Some day these municipal flood control infrastructures within city limits are going to be designed or redesigned to be better at rainwater harvesting and infusing such water into the city park landscapes and road medians. It just makes logical sense. Anyway, the rainfall totals over my mother's landscape artificially increased by a couple more inches, especially around the Manzanitas. 

(image: Mine September 2015)
 Basically 4 years old landscape from 2011

(image: Mine Sept 2015)

Mexican Red Bird of Paradise 
seeds germinatinng after one rainstorm
This is a contrasting view of the same photo at the top of this post which was taken last year. Notice in this year's photo above how much growth and taller the largest 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm has gotten when you look at it's height as seen behind the Baja Fairyduster ? And to me there is not a whole lot of noticeable difference in the smaller Mexican Fan Palm here than the photo at top. The California Fan Palm is hidden behind this largest Palm and out of view. Also take special note of the photo here at the right. We had a wonderful long soaking monsoonal rain on our visit in September which lasted most of the day and tapering off during the night with mist through this morning. These seeds on the concrete driveway are from the Mexican Red Bird of Paradise and they are some of the easiest things I have ever germinated and grown. We have no weeds, but the seedlings would almost qualify as they are very prolific in germinating. Seriously, I don't know why anyone would ever purchase one of these plants at a retail nursery. One of the greatest compliments I've gotten over the last few days working out in the yard and trimming is people walking past the house wondering what I feed the landscape to make everything so lush and intense as far as flowering. My response of course is nothing. I have never once used either synthetic nor organic fertilizers to accomplish anything. All plants are inoculated generally at time of planting and the only other addition is mulch. As a side point here before I continue, take note of the photo from four years ago in 2011. Take note how tall the largest Mexican Fan Palm was back then and it was already 4 years old and barely hanging on, before I started inoculating with MycoApply. 

Same exact location, but photo is from 2011

(image: Mine 2015)

Can you find the Spider ?
Sometimes in the beginning after the original installation and inoculation, I'll inoculate further the next year and perhaps a couple years after that to build up soil microbial community and build up the soil carbon. My only yearly addition into the landscape is a thin layer of decorative pine or cedar mulch which will break down slowly by the mycorrhizae and other beneficial bacteria which will release nutrients back into the system ever so slowly. Under the the synthetic industrial science-based method, most of the fertilizer is lost to percolation and runoff. The point is once you create a natural healthy ecosystem within your own urban landscape, the health of the entire plant community increases negating the need for all the other industrial science-based synthetic chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides. The use of insecticides destroys every single beneficial predator insects such as the Spider shown above left. She was a surprise to find. I only noticed her because of the long trail of dired flower petals caught or woven into her foot long nest. Interesting I wondered what exactly she was catching, possibly bees. However my mother has a motion censor nightlight on the corner of the garage and when walking out the front door at night it is triggered to come on. Several nights I walked out and notice in the Red Bird of Paradise bush the blooms were being visited by numerous little white Moths with black speckles on their  wings. That was interesting since many types of garden and farm pest moths fly at night in desert agricultural areas. Hence such checks & balances critters are imperative. But the synthetic chemicals target them as well as pests and in their absence, the pest populations rise despite the chemicals. Once this type of industrial scenario is created, then you become shackled and prisoner into following the industrial maintenance program. And the sad fact is you cannot win. The only winner is the industrial agro-chemical company. Much of the synthetic fertilizers cause excessive growth which attracts insect pests and many pathogenic diseases in the form of powdery mildew etc. This is the same program or system used to grow your food found at the local grocery store produce aisles. The need for synthetic chemical herbicides also radically decreases as the mycorrhizal networks outcompete the weeds (ruderals) for available soil phosphorus. Weeds thrive in a bacterial soil system, not a mycorrhizal one. Any weeds that do make the occasional appearance are greatly stunted. Generally my mother's landscape has 4 or 5 anual weeds within the mycorrhizal soils in her landscape's sphere of influence and generally stunted with no effect on the trees, shrubs and other plants. 
(image: Mine 2014)
BTW, last year when planting the other palms, this palm root from the largest tree was 14 foot away from the Mexican Fan Palm. It reveals just how far palms will go in search of water. It's extremely imperative that people reading here do not simply take my word for all this, but make practical application within their own landscape or gardening projects. By all means challenge my methods, please.  This is what burns knowledge of such methods into your mind's personal experience. The majority of people have been indoctrinated into the industrial conventional business model through millions of dollars of annual advertising and also the infusing of massive amounts of funding within this world's Academia to maintain the industrial status quo. The earth simply cannot afford this type of irresponsible behaviour any longer. This isn't about pseudoscience or anti-science, this is about horrible irresponsible science versus good healthy holistic biomimetic science.

(Caesalpinia pulcherrima and caesalpinia mexicana)

The plant above on the right in the photo is Mexican Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). It would make a nice contrast in the landscape. While I love the Red Bird of Paradise, it can be overwhelming with too much of the same colour. I already have several of the native South American native Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii - native to Argentina & Bolivia) planted throughout, but they flower very early in Spring season where the others are mainly in full summer blooming. These of course naturalize very easily and we also have to pull up seedlings as they appear, but not hard to keep a handle on. Below I'll post some links of previous articles on planting members of the Pea family (Legume) and I'll also provide the post of where the Oasis landscape was planted in the dead heat of summer during 100+ Fahrenheit (40 celsius) intense heat. It really can be done and while mycorrhizal fungi inoculum is a must, the timing of the day is everything. I'm not sure how many will read this post or take it seriously, but at the very least I've been further able to document something I should have recorded years ago. People are going to have to start viewing nature as a sophisticated biological machines with various fascinating complex components. By far the most amazing thing about this subject was something that I didn't expect from the California Fan Palm and that was extremely rapid growth. Even with the mycorrhizae colonized on the root system, I fully expected little change from when I planted that little one gallon Fan Palm. I never cease to be amazed by these successes.
Next Year's (2016) Experiment Watch: Mexican Blue Fan Palm (Brahea armata)
Image: My Sister Aimee (November 2015)
Two Mexican Blue Fan Palms from 5 Gallon Containers

 Next year in in Spring I hope I am able to come back over and check on the progress of to entirely different palms which are even more challenging when it comes to slow growth. These are the two Mexican Blue Fan Palms (Brahea armata) that I planted just the last week of my visit in El Cajon. The growth on these are extremely slow compared to most and they are extremely root sensitive, so what difference with the MycoApply Soluble Maxx have on their growth is anyone's guess. I'd love to see a dramatic change because these are so rarely messed with by most landscapers and homeowners for the simple reason people want instant landscape and for the fact that many still are not all that attracted to plants with a gray/blue green foliage. One thing that helps in decision making in my personal experience is being capable of visualizing what any tree or shrub will look like in the landscape. It is imperative to understand the plant's height, width, it's silhouette especially for a background tree as both of these. In my mind, I picture the example in the photo at right. In my opinion they are one of the more handsome palms when in flower as you can see in the photo. On the wait and see challenge side of things when it comes to root sensitivity, ever see those large semi tractor trailer flatbed trucks hauling large several meters high palms being transported from Tree Farms to landscape location in the desert resort areas ? It is almost impossible to do that with a Mexican Blue Fan Palm. When the machinery in the orchard cuts the roots and pulls the tree from the ground, most palms are fine, but not the Blue Fan Palm. They require the movers to first use a propane blow torch and burn the root system. This cauterizes the wounded root cuts, because otherwise being normally planted in the ground like other palms, it would bleed to death. Now growth will emerge from the burned area, but this method is imperative. This is why when search for these specific palms I looked for a one gallon container. Impossible to find, mostly because the palms are slow growing and most people wouldn't have the patience to wait for larger landscape specimen to develop. So the MycoApply's ability to prevent transplant shock and stimulate faster than normal growth will be extremely important, not only for these palm's health, but also possibly prove to the industry what can be accomplished for future successes.

Some of my recent posts on Mexican and California Fan Palms, this year and last year in 2014.  The first follows the incredible lengths Washingtonia filifera roots will go to in search of water. The second is about the invasive nature of Washingtonia robusta in the coastal canyons around urban areas of San Diego California and the further wildfire spreading threat potential they create
 Getting to the Root of why Natives rule & Exotics struggle or outright fail
"Day of the Triffids" or "Monolith Monsters" ? (Mexican Fan Palm - Washingtonia robusta)
Further Important Reading References
Is it safe to plant & water California Natives Plants in Summer ?
Water provides a Hydropatterning Blueprint for Rooting Architecture & "Infrastructure" 
Creating Chaparral Alcoves in your Landscape for personal regeneration & meditation retreats
Using Nature's Mycorrhizal Tool-Kit to compete with Weeds vrs killing them with Glyphosate
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
Utilizing Ornamentals of the Legume Family in Southwest Landscapes

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Customizing Gardens for Native Bees (Pollinators & Predators)

image: Mine

Predatory small wasp on my apartment balcony inside a large pot container with my Avocado tree digging a hole and burying what looked like a wood lice grub for it's young.

This past year there is a young 12 year old boy of African descent from parents who immigrated from Uganda who I've been spending time with discussing particular things about how nature really works. Here is Sweden because of this cool wet climate, there is not a whole lot of opportune days for being outdoors and exploring out in the wild. Especially when you live in an industrial city like Gothenburg. The Parks are not exactly representative of wild things, but once in a while there are some surprising exceptions. Other than school and the rare occasion where his dad will take him for a walk, he spends most of his time at home in a concrete social housing high-rise Project. However, there are many Saturdays we spend time out in volunteer work and as we walk through some gardens, one in particular stood out as unique from the rest over in an area on Hissingen called Baron Rogers. What I noticed immediately is that there were many different plants were  flowering plants. But also the area was loaded with all sorts of pollinators, not just bees and wasps, but also butterflies. On a picnic table was a wasp exactly like the one in the photo above. It was stalking a wood lice on the table and I pointed it out to the young man and explained that this is how things work in nature as a balance to keep pests in check. I also explained that when people carelessly use chemical pesticides to do the job, these chemicals which may be manufactured for killing certain specific pest are also toxic to the good predators which should be doing that job if the garden was managed properly. Rarely do you see such a garden in healthy holistic shape as this one was and we actually met the groundskeeper who had specifically designed this landscape with those reasons in mind. But this brings me to an excellent recent article which encourages citizen participation in creating a landscape environment which is managed as a natural native habitat for all the beneficial critters through eco-friendly practices. Here is the article below and it concludes with an extremely irresponsible negative quote from a Biotech Scientist who says nature is dangerous and should not be encouraged within urban areas. Seriously, she said this.
(Image: Jim Cane ARS)
A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar
 and pollen from a pear flower
"Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat."

"Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)  Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah."

"In a three-year outdoor experiment conducted on the campus of Utah State University, Cane found that the common, widespread social bee species Halictus rubicundus (H. rubicundus) prefers digging its subterranean burrows next to small surface stones rather than in areas of bare soil. The next generation of queens, who mature in the fall and hibernate away from the cluster, return in the spring to use those same sites to establish nests of their own. Indeed, when Cane created a thin mulch of flat stream pebbles along the edges of a landscaped sidewalk area, he observed 66 to 78 percent more burrows there the following spring than in adjacent areas of bare soil."

(Image: Jim Cane ARS)

Burrow dug by female Halictus rubicundus bee amid pebbles and cobblestones

"Together with Utah State University Extension, Cane turned his research findings into practical guidelines the findings into practical guidelines that gardeners and landscapers can follow to create habitat areas that will serve other ground-nesting bees, which comprise about three-fourths of the 4,000 described native species in North America."

"“Bees have two primary needs in life: pollen and nectar to feed themselves and their offspring, and a suitable place to nest,” writes Cane in his guide, Gardening and Landscaping Practices for Nesting Native Bees. While lists of bee-friendly plants are available, most practical advice focuses on practices to avoid, like using buried landscaping fabric or sprinkler-irrigation systems during daytime, which can disrupt a female bee’s orientation to familiar landmarks.

"For ground-nesters, like H. rubicundus, Cane suggests creating a single surface layer of small, streambed-type pebbles along the perimeter of a flower garden or landscape area. It’s important that these pebbles remain undisturbed by foot traffic, because female bees will burrow into the ground near them and rely on the pebbles’ positions as landmarks to return to their nests after foraging for nectar and pollen. When pruning plants with woody stems that have pithy or hollow cores, Cane advises, leaving a few foot-long dead sprigs in place. This will attract species that prefer to nest above ground, like small orchard bees."

"Urbanization, loss of habitat, and other events have taken a toll on managed and wild bees. But they’re resilient insects, and even a few simple steps to help these important pollinators can go a long ways."

“Watching them forage and nest can be great fun as well as educational for curious homeowners—they’ll quickly appreciate the truth in that old saw, ‘busy as a bee!’” says Jim Cane.
(Source: USDA Blogs)

(Image: Jim Cane ARS)

Two female Peponapis squash bees pollinating a zucchini flower. These bees are key pollinators of squashes across much of the United States.
I loved this rare article from of all sources the USDA which normally is promoting and supporting the agro-chemical business model, but here actually encourages the average citizen to participate in helping native bees/wasps thrive into the urban landscape setting. Of course the focus was on pollinators, but don't forget many of them have a major play in keeping plant pests in check. The role of flowering plants of course is to attract the pollinators and in so doing your garden plants are pollinated. However, though they all dine on pollen and nectar, their developing young for whom they dig those burrows in the soil or carve out holes in dead wood do not feed on pollen. They need more protein diet to develop and the adult native bees and wasps provide this food by finding an insect plant pest, paralyze it with a sting and shove it down the nesting cavity which they have previously created. They lay their egg on the victim and as it grows it feeds on the insect pest their parent have provided for them. This is what the little wasp was in my plant container on the balcony and at the garden landscape within the apartment complex of Barron Rogers in Hissingen were doing. They play such major roles in balance in nature and provide an opportunity for all of us to never again use chemical pesticides ever again. Same with the chemical fertilizers which are often so rich and potent, they attract the very pests to the plants that feed on the synthetic chemical diet. Yesterday I had a neighbour down the street ask me what I fed my mothers shrubs and trees because everything looked so green and healthy and they've noticed the plants appear to flower all year long. She said she hasn't been able to get her Mexican Red Bird of Paradise shrubs to flower at all the way my mother's shrubs do and when they have flowered, there were very few blooms and their appearance was momentary. She was blown away when I revealed to her that I have never ever fertilized them with any chemicals. Mycorrhizal inoculation the first couple of years to build initial plants health and long term soil benefits are all I've done aside from adding just a thin layer once a year of decorative mulch on the surface which will gradually get broken down by the natural fungi and  bacterial elements. All of this is really fun for me, but this is also the kind of basic things never taught in schools where it should be at a very early age. Wait till High School and most youth are lost into the virtual world of electronics and turned off to anything regarding outdoor activity. The Biotech and Agro-chemical Industrial world have the say and influence on what is taught in academia from the conventional textbooks. Take for example this negative sewery comment below by a well know Biotech proponent demonizing the USDA article because in her worldview, it was sending a dangerous message because Nature is so unsafe.

"As an agricultural scientist I fully appreciate the importance of our pollinators to the farming community, but encouraging bees in urban areas places a higher concentration of people in contact with insects than in the coutryside, insects which can sting and even occasionally, cause anaphalactic shock. Yet urban bee keepers are on the rise, and while people are exhorted to change their gardening practices and use of pesticides to protect the bees, little consideration is being given to harm this can cause – Up to 100 people a year die from insect bites, not including mosquito and tick borne disease such as West Nile Virus or Lyme Disease. I wish there was more balance to the “save the bees” call to action, and some recognition that people don’t only have pollinators to protect but also themselves, their children and pets."
Source: Dr Clare Thorp PhD, Croplife America, Managing Director at Biotechnology Industries Organisation (BIO), Washington DC

So what is there really here for me to critique about the  irresponsible comment above ? Absolutely nothing since I believe they speak for themselves. This woman is shackled to promoting a business model and nothing more. If people all got together and actually got on board with what the USDA article was encouraging, can you imagine the dollar value big business losses in retail sales of all their chemical cocktails sold at numerous home improvement stores ? This is a multi-billion dollar a year business for these people and their investors. Count on more negative publicity in the years to come as these people will go down to their grave fighting these issues. Walk up and down any aisle with countless agro-chemicals for fertilization, insecticide and herbicide solutions and it's quite literally all about death and keeping your garden and landscape on permanent life-support for a cost. And with that I'll simply close and post a few beneficial links for improving your garden and landscape for your personal health and benefit. I'll also post some links of organizations for furthering your education on how native plant ecosystems actually work and how and why they should be replicated. The Agro-Chemical giants have had this "Us against Nature" mentality for decades, so Clare Thorp's comment was nothing new or isn't something that hasn't been pimped before.

"But if we want to protect ourselves from the rampages of Nature (such as fire, famine and disease) we'll have to use chemicals"

Monsanto advertisement 1977 ) 
 News Update (November 4, 2015)   
Urban environments boost pathogen pressure on honey bees 
USGS: Native Bees Foraging in Fields Are Exposed to Neonicotinoid Insecticides and other Pesticides 
Past Articles from my blogs on this very subject of Pollinators and Predators
Diversity of Flowering Plants Imperative to Pollinator & Predator Health
How to Construct the best Insurance Policy for your Agricultural Business Venture
Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy
Sources of Native Plant Ecosystem Education and the practical applications into the Landscape
California's Own: Native Landscape Design by Greg Rubin