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In the Garden with Mr. Bee

Putting in a plug for homemade patch that saved a tree from rotting

hippodromehatter@aol.com

December 6, 2012

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Several years ago, I discovered a huge hole within a specimen tree where a large limb joined the trunk. Since the hole was facing upward, too, it was constantly collecting rainwater that was rotting the tree. However, I plugged the hole and was able to save the limb and the tree with a homemade patch that's still in good shape.

Here's how:

I began rescuing our tree by scraping out as much of the rotten wood as was possible. Then with a paint brush, I disinfected the hole by saturating it with lime sulfur, a powerful, plant fungicide that should only be applied to green growth when woody plants are dormant.

Just in case the tree's wound was also infested with insects, though, I also painted the hole with dormant oil, a natural pesticide that can be used to smother over-wintering insects when plants are dormant.

Finally, and while the hole was still wet with lime sulfur and dormant oil, I filled it with shrink-proof grout, a cement-based product that's used to set posts and repair concrete cracks. Once dry, the grout protected the wound from rain, insects and diseases once and for all.

Similar to lime sulfur, incidentally, cements contain copious amounts of calcium, a terrific plant-disease retardant. The original tree wound was 1 1/2 inches deep and 3 inches across. But because it's nearly invisible today, in case I need to saw in close proximity to the patched area in the future, I've marked the spot with paint.

Timely pruning

I prune trees and shrubs on a regular basis to keep them manageable and healthy. And, except for this one time, I've always permitted pruning wounds to heal naturally, because it's better for plants. If I had let nature take its course and not plugged the tree's hole, though, I'm certain I would have lost the tree by now.

Which reminds me.

I was warned not to upset any elves — by doing a hatchet job — that inhabited the tree, but should instead enlist the help of these shape-shifting, supernatural beings that supposedly help or hinder gardeners. Except how to proceed was never made clear, so I wrote a letter to Santa's elves and asked them for help. In any case, if I ever find another hole — at least 1 inch deep and 1 inch wide — I'll repair it the same way.

This week in the garden

To avoid hard-to-start issues in the spring, don't forget to drain the tanks of your gasoline-powered equipment. There's no substitute for draining gas tanks and also running engines dry until they stall, even if you add a fuel stabilizer (preservative) to the gasoline.