Fine Tuned Palm Cultivation - Part One
Another thought provoking and practical article
from Don, this time covering fungus and fencing!
Don Tollefson, 599 California Avenue, Venice, California 90291,
Chamaerops No.30 Spring 1998
Over the years you gradually learn what does and doesnt
work for palm gardening. As time quickly passes you realise that
by the time youre old, you could do it right if you were just
a little younger. Part one of Fine Tuned Palm Cultivation covers
fungus attack and control, fertilisation and the overwhelming benefit
of a solid fence (for wind protection). These tips are designed
to help you move faster than time. After all, moving faster than
time is the real secret to growing palms.
The Fungus Among Us: Fungus is the number one killer
of palms. Most often, fungus gets a foothold in the winter. Fungus
is invasive and when the palms are fending off the evils of cold
and wind, a nick or cut in the plant tissue enables its entry. It
is always present in the air, but it can only attack weak or otherwise
setback palms. Fungus exhibits its presence in two ways (or perhaps
there are two types of fungus). In either event it can attack the
emergent bud or it can attack the stem. Thus the monsters, bud
fungus and stem fungus (aka bud rot and stem rot).
Bud fungus is much more common. Stem fungus is much more serious.
With bud fungus, the bud will emerge, die and can easily be pulled
out from the surrounding sheath. With stem fungus, the fronds die
prematurely from the oldest upward until only the spike remains.
Splits may occur on the trunk about 6" to 10" above the
ground accompanied by open wounds. Then, inexplicably, the palm
falls to the ground with a rotted base a few inches above the soil.
Ironically, the spike and perhaps one or two of the remaining, newest
fronds appear fabulously lush. Thus provided the misleading impression
of pending recovery. The treatment for both conditions is fungicide
(fungicide, pronounced with a jay or soft Gee). Predictably, a bud
fungicide is recommended for bud fungus and a stem fungicide is
recommended for stem fungus. You knew that! Some growers recommend
a cocktail mixture of both. It is wiser to apply the specific fungicide
for the specific fungus problem.
Spraying the bud is the treatment for bud fungus while
drenching the soil and the trunk of the palm is the treatment for
stem fungus. Repeated weakly treatments generally result in recovery.
Successful stem fungus treatment requires many more applications
over a longer duration than bud fungus treatment. If stem fungus
is advanced, the palm will forever bear the scars of the infection.
Typically, the victims of bud rot are first year plant-outs. If
the bud pulls out, but the remaining fronds are healthy, most often
a properly treated palm will recover. Older, established palms are
the ones that most often fall victim to stem fungus. Particularly
in the winter because thats when stem fungus becomes most
active. Remember, it requires a cut or sore for stem fungus to enter
a palm. Most of these opportunities are created by the overly enthusiastic
palm enthusiast This oxymoronic individual, impatient to see an
old, unattractive frond fall off, cuts a frond at a location on
the petiole which is still green. Growers must cut only the part
of the petiole that is dead and completely brown to avoid fungus
entry. Then patiently allow the remaining sheath to fall off by
itself a few weeks later. Therein lies the second error. Pulling
off a dying sheath before it is completely dead and ready for removal.
Everyone loves to remove an old frond for the delight of exposing
a fresh, new leaf scar. This is always accompanied with the overwhelming
sensation that their palm just grew six inches in a few seconds.
But if the sheath is not completely dead the leaf scar is not completely
sealed at the location of petiole attachment. Removing it prematurely
results in plant tissue damage at this point. This provides the
perfect opportunity for fungus attack. Dont be your palms'
own worst nightmare.
Stare and spare: By far the best cure for fungus is
prevention. There is a simple method of decreasing the incidence
of fungus attacks. I call it stare and spare.! As you
periodically tour your garden and observe your palms (stare) make
it a policy to carry a spray bottle along with you. As you observe
each palm, spray its emergent bud with a solution of fungicide
(and spare). Also, spray any noticeable cuts or open wounds on the
bases of the older palms. Make an effort to visually inspect the
entire surround of the trunks. Treatment about once per week is
ideal. Adjust the spray to shoot a bead of solution like a squirt
gun. Its an effortless, mindless regimen that will cut your
fungus problems by 95%. In particular, it will boost your first
year palms survival rate substantially.
Fertilizing: Traditionally, slow release fertilisers
have been recommended almost exclusively for palm cultivation. Fast,
easy to apply and inexpensive, what could possibly be better? Indeed,
most fertiliser discussion has been confined to the ratio of the
nutrients in slow release and the duration of their release period.
But recently, many accomplished growers have concluded that liquid
fertilisers are superior. Being exposed to countless miracle-grow
T.V. commercials, everyone knows the theory. Liquid fertilisers
provide fertiliser to the leaves as well as to the roots. Additionally,
upon reading the label of a container of Miracle Grow fertiliser,
it says, Many expert growers recommend continuous application
of Miracle Grow in dilute solution each time they water.
Quite an outstanding tip. And continuous fertilising
makes continuous sense. The plants roots and leaves receive
nutrients from a dilute solution of liquid fertiliser each and every
time they are watered. This provides the opportunity to supply palms
with the maximum amount of fertiliser possible to enable maximum
growth and appearance. There is no down time. No period when you
fall behind. How well is your current fertilising regimen working?
Examine the leaves of your palms. They should be a deep, lustrous,
lush green. If they arent, they probably arent receiving
adequate amounts of fertiliser. As a practical matter, the palms
of very few growers completely exhibit the look of adequate fertilisation.
Invariably, one frond or another on any particular palm will reveal
that the grower dropped a little behind on the fertilising program
at some point. And behold the consequences if a grower applies too
much fertiliser trying to play catch up. Fertiliser
bum! And no one wants that. Continuous liquid fertilising enables
the grower to duplicate the palm in habitat where it receives a
constant supply of dilute nutrients from the continuous fall of
leaf litter and other organic matter.
It is critical to deliver the solution to the palms
in the proper proportion. Miracle Grow is a rich, dark blue in its
chemical form. When introduced to water it turns the water blue
as well. To ensure that youre applying fertiliser in the correct
proportion, carry along a white, 20 oz., styrofoam, throwaway coffee
cup. Pour a little of the solution into the cup as you water your
palms. With an inch or so of water in the bottom of the cup you
should be able to detect an ever-so faint, bluish hue. If you detect
a darker hue, your mix is probably too strong. Upon adding more
water into the cup, the water will appear a slightly darker blue
with the increased depth of the water. A full cup of water with
fertiliser solution should appear distinctly blue. More fertiliser
than that can be risky with continuous application. Remember, fertiliser
burn can result from liquid fertiliser just as with pellet fertiliser.
Be sure to turn off the water at the spigot if you use a hose end
shutoff so that water is not backfed into your solution. If your
palms were under fertilized they will green up after only three
or four waterings. This greening will continue at a slower pace
for three or four weeks after which time the palms peak. Once the
palms peak, the secret is to keep them at their peak with
continuous fertilising, using a dilute solution, Just like
it says many experts do on the Miracle Grow container label!
The Almighty Fence: Often there are reports of various
microclimates in particular areas that result in exceptional palm
gardens. Inexperienced palm enthusiasts visit such gardens and concede
that the growers really do have some unfair microclimatic advantage.
But sage growers know that these exceptional gardens are generally
just the result of the presence of a solid fence. Why is such a
fence so beneficial. Because it protects the palms from wind. Particularly
the brunt of direct, cold, wet and excessive wind. Next to cold,
wind is the most restrictive factor in successful palm cultivation.
Consider a palm in habitat. Anyone who has been in the jungle will
report that even though the wind may be screeching violently overhead,
it remains relatively calm on the jungle floor. Consequently, palms
are not biologically adapted nor suited to tolerate much wind. And
if that wind is cold, wet, and intense, the problems increase exponentially.
Enter the concept of wind chill. Many botanists insist that there
is no such thing. They said it, I didnt. A strong, cold, wet
wind can easily produce the damaging effect of a temperature 10
to 20 degrees colder. Now ask yourself, is that good or bad for
your palm collection?
When you visit the garden of an enthusiast who is
growing palms that no one else in that area has ever before grown,
invariably, the yard will include a solid fence. If you want the
same advantage, either erect a solid fence or plant vegetative growth
around your palm growing areas. It is similar to the advantage that
a grower receives by growing plants in an open topped cold frame.
Even though the palms receive absolutely no additional heat they
still perform far better than their littermates outdoors. Bottom
line.. decrease the wind, increase the success.
Fine Tuning Palm Cultivation Tips - Part Two Will Cover the Shade
House, Over-ready Versus Under-ready Palms, Inching the Palms from
Shade into Full Sun and Air Circulation for Passive Solar Greenhouses
Provided by a Trombe Wall.
Don Tollefson publishes <The Diamond Lane Guide
to Growing Palms> a 202 page instruction manual on palm cultivation
from The Tropics to Sitka, Alaska. It can be obtained
by sending $29.95 plus $2.95 for shipping and handling to:- 599
California Avenue, Venice, California 90291, USA.
12-11-18 - 20:39GMT
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