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Planting landscape for wildlife

By Staff
Dear Amelia,
I enjoy reading the potting bench. I have 12 acres of open land. I am planting everything I can for wildlife.
I've been pulling up cedar trees that grow on flat rocks (so I can get all the roots) and planting them on my land. I have about 250 so far started around the perimeter. I have been putting newspapers and leaves around the base to keep the grass down and for worms. I have a lot of clay soil. I use Miracle Grow in the summer and fertilize according to the soil test.
Why do some cedar trees turn a dark purplish color and some stay green? Some also have growths on the limbs. I know the female has the berries. Can I start seeds in a bed? What kind of stratification do the seeds need?
I have also been starting persimmon seeds in the house. I only have four started now. I have about 300 seeds in the refrigerator. When should I soak them in water to soften the shell? I read to knick the seed with a knife, if so, which end? I made a bed out of railroad ties, two-thirds sand and one-third peat moss with a lid covered with greenhouse material. When should I plant the seeds? How big should the plants get before I give them ventilation or take them out of the bed to transplant?
I also have some hickory nuts in the refrigerator that I picked up in the woods. Can I get them to grow?
Do you have suggestions for keeping deer away from the new trees, blueberry bushes, etc.?
Any information on anything that will help me will be much appreciated.
Monty Uptain
Dear Monty,
Your property sounds great. Apparently you have been very busy with your cedar trees. I assume the cedar you are talking about is the American red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). To propagate from seed, gather seeds in the fall and remove from the fruits. If you are planting in the spring, the seeds need stratification. Soak seed in a 1-% solution of citric acid for four days. Rinse well, and then layer in moist sand or peat moss in a clean plastic bag for one to four months at 35F to 40F. Plant promptly after stratification. Be sure to keep the seed bed moist. If you plant the seeds in August, no stratification is necessary.
The growth on your trees is most likely cedar apple rust. Look for orange, jelly-like horns sprouting from the growths in spring. These will positively identify the disease. Prune the galls at least eight inches behind the infected area. Burn the debris and disinfect your pruners. The growths could also be bagworms. For a definitive diagnosis, take a sample into the local extension center office. Be sure to seal the sample in a plastic bag.
Ideally persimmon seeds should be planted in the fall because they need two to three months of cold stratification. That is two to three months of temperatures of about 50F. Place a small, mesh wire screen over the seedbed to deter rodents. I would mainly leave the lid on the cold frame up. On very cold days with below freezing temperatures you can put the lid down. Cold frames are mainly used to start plants that need warm temperatures to germinate. They help warm the soil. You actually need to keep the soil cool for stratification. You can also simulate this cold period in the refrigerator as detailed above.
If your seeds have dried out, soak them in water for two days prior to stratification. If you want to mechanically stratify the seeds, rub a file over their sides being careful not to rub too deeply. This will help with water absorption.
Keep your hickory nuts in a cool, moist place. Plant them in the spring. Stratification is not necessary. Plant them in the spot that will be their permanent site. They are very difficult to transplant.
Deer can be pretty pesky critters. A large dog and an eight-foot fence around the perimeter of your property are probably the best insurance against deer damage. Fences can be expensive and unsightly though. I have heard of sprinkling soap shavings, hair, or blood meal around the area. Pepper spray and predator urine are also deterrents.
Amelia O'Brian, a native of Meridian, holds a bachelor of science degree in horticulture from Mississippi State University. To submit questions, write From the Potting Bench, c/o The Meridian Star, P.O. Box 1591, Meridian, MS 39302. Or, visit her Web site at www.thepottingbench.webprovider.com.