Q. Now that we have had some icy weather, I want to make sure the de-icer I use will be safe for my plants near my walks and driveway. What types are best?
A. Most de-icing compounds contain salts and melt ice by lowering the freezing point of water. Sodium chloride (plain old salt), calcium chloride, magnesium and potassium chloride are all salts that are corrosive and can damage surfaces and harm plants, especially sodium or calcium chloride. Calcium magnesium acetate is a salt-free de-icer that is less corrosive and less damaging to plants, but is much more expensive.
Whatever de-icer you choose, apply it judiciously, and follow the label directions to minimize damage to surfaces and nearby turf or plants. Consider also applying an abrasive material like sand to icy walkways to improve traction.
Q. What are some techniques to save irrigation water while producing forages?
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A. The way you save irrigation water is primarily by placing the water where you need it and when you need it. At a recent meeting, a lot of emphasis was placed on decreasing the evaporation from the soil when irrigating with center pivots. Most farmers have their sprinklers several feet off the ground. The farther the water moves in the air, the greater = wind will catch droplets and evaporate or displace the water from where it is needed.
One idea was to place sprinkler nozzles just 1 foot above the ground and put the nozzles closer together. Once the nozzle is in the crop canopy, evaporation levels decrease substantially.
Another novel idea was to drag a drip tape from the pivot. The design shown had a valve at the sprinkler head so it could still be used for fertigation/chemigation or through the drip tape for water savings. The disadvantage with both techniques is that more sprinkler nozzles and other equipment would have to be bought.
Q. What is an espalier fruit tree? Do they bear fruit?
A. Espalier fruit trees are trained and grown on a single flat plane. They are often seen growing against fences or walls. They are productive as can be seen by the “fruiting walls” grown in the commercial tree fruit industries. But remember that you must control insect pests if you get fruit.