Q: We have our fingers crossed that the green ash tree pictured along a boulevard in south Fargo will survive. It has been girdled completely around the trunk except for a small strip, likely by rabbits. We walk by each day and marvel at how it has begun to leaf out. — Gerald Larsen.
A: Thanks for the great photos. This is going to be very interesting to watch, as the tree is beginning to grow after severe injury to the lower trunk.
When a tree is girdled like this, the life-supporting flow of water and nutrients is potentially disrupted, often permanently. After rabbits or voles damage a tree, it's advised to wait and see what happens, as there isn’t much other alternative. Bridge grafting can be tried earlier, when dormant scionwood twigs are still available. Trees that were girdled sometimes have enough existing sap in the branches for the tree to bud out, but leaves might collapse in a month or so, when the injured trunk can't conduct water and nutrients up into the branches to supply the growth.
One of two things will likely happen. The tree may continue normal growth as though nothing happened and the trunk will heal over; or, the new growth will soon wilt, turn brown and die. Let's hope it's the first case. If you continue to walk past the tree, I would appreciate occasional updates. Thanks.
Q: I was wondering if rhubarb will do okay in a raised bed garden. I have such a difficult time keeping the grass out of mine. — Angela Holm Rohde, Valley City, N.D.
A: It’s generally not advised to plant perennial items in raised beds because winter’s cold penetrates more deeply, as cold enters not only through the surface but also the sides of raised beds. Rhubarb, though, is very cold-hardy, and chances are it will survive fine. The higher the raised bed, the greater the risk.
If grass is the main reason for the move, there are herbicides that will kill grass without harming “broadleaf” plants like rhubarb, and so can be sprayed onto grass that’s intermingled with the rhubarb plants. Bonide’s Grass Beater is labeled for use on rhubarb. The waiting period is listed as 30 days between application and harvest of rhubarb, so it might be best to wait until rhubarb harvest is finished before applying. The main rhubarb harvest generally should stop July 4 to allow plants to rebuild their strength after their leaves and stems have been plucked during summer’s first half.
Q: We recently moved and inherited four rhubarb plants with the house we bought. I’ve picked rhubarb twice this spring and noticed each of the plants has a large bulb-like growth in the center with seeds and is growing higher and higher. I see new leaves and stalks continuing to grow but am wondering if the seed stalk will make the plants stop producing? — Amy H., Moorhead.
A: The rhubarb plants are producing flower stalks, which will eventually produce seed. The flower stalks are a drain on the plant’s energy, which is better directed at producing more edible stalks. As soon as you notice flower stalks developing, cut or pull them out.
Older, established plants are more prone to flowering than younger plants. The plants will continue to send up more flower stalks, but continue to remove them throughout the season, never letting them develop fully.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.