Honey Locust Signals Gardener’s Fall To-Do List


MYSTERIOUS? A Honey Locust tree, seen 11 years after purchase at a nearby discount nursery chain store and subsequent planting, apparently is root-bound, needing help. It’s staying alive but doesn’t grow in size from one year to the next. (Desert Mts Times Photos)


By Dan Bodine

I don’t know what else you’d call a “years-old, not-growing” tree problem like this but a root-bound case of some sorts. And not being a tree surgeon, I’m befuddled on what I need to do to help it? If, indeed, that should even be on list of worries now that fall has begun.

This Honey Locust — aptly named Sweetie Pie — was a good-size tree when purchased at a local chain nursery. It’s the thornless variety (var. inermis), and had been on the lot most of the year, yes.

And, too, I failed to fluff the tiny roots free of each other as I was setting the ball out. Two strikes against it! Planted maybe 11 years ago. Been same size for the past 5-6 years though.

Could a short rock-wall fence on two sides three years ago be impeding it that much?! No, has been my thinking. Wall’s not that deep and the soil all around it everywhere else is excellent!

Hijole, I even thought at one time when setting it out, the sand was so rich-looking there, I could set one of my bare feet down in the hole and it’d sprout roots, too! Hee, hee! In probably no more than 30 days, it looked so good!

Yet 10 years down the road and Sweetie Pie ain’t cut-the-mustard yet! As a dutiful gardener, what do I do? Ask a priest to come out this winter for a farewell blessing, and then dig it up and replant it? After a root straightening!

I’ve known idiots like that in my life. Come from a good hillbilly family over in the southern, rural part of North Central Texas. (TV Beverly Hillbilly’s Jethro Bodeen‘s sister is one my distant kissin’-cousins, i.e.!)

But whoever inherited that oil didn’t spread the money around. And the name sure doesn’t rub off for wise movers in the home garden, either.

But Sweetie Pie’s reputation — as a new urban utility shade tree for many types of soil — is well established.

I’d researched this tree before. Maybe a little Jethro Bodeen in me, yes, but I was up-to-snuff then! Here’s a blurb, i.e., of what the fabled Morton Arboretum in Chicago says of the tree on its website:

The light, dappled shade cast by the lacy foliage of thornless honey-locust is only one of its virtues. It also is durable and adaptable, tolerating a wide range of soil conditions as well as drought … and has a lovely yellow fall color.

This was my baby, I knew!

And I set it in what I believe is a good location, too — e.g., southwest corner of the lot facing the street, gets good sun most of the day.

Seedpods on this tree can be 12″ long, I’ve seen them. But I’ve never smashed ’em up, roasted ’em, and drank the results as coffee — supposedly what the American Indians use to do! A breed apart? Yep, they sure were!

Can’t say it’s a bad place ’cause every year she produces seedpods 8-10″ or longer. Native Americans use to eat these pods and, hell, used them as a substitute brew for coffee, too. So, no, I love this tree! Loved it ‘fore I bought it!

And like my other plants, I fertilize it twice a year with good fish fertilizer. Sure there’re more expensive fertilizers specifically for trees, but hey, hillbillies have grown these trees in the Southwest for generations on a lot less. 

Possible other problems? I have lots of little ants in my yard — from too many plants to water, yes — and every couple of months I’m always taking a spray can out and doing the warpath dance with ’em! Down low around on the ground and as high as I can reach up the limbs, too!

Probably hasn’t come anywhere near eradicating the little boogers yet but surely they couldn’t be stunting a tree, no?! These Honey Locusts on average are known for growing 80-140 ft. high! Nothin’ to sneeze at, right!

And my other plants not only have managed to live with the ant problems, but with the same TLC from their gardener, to grow also! So I just can’t figure this one out!

Or maybe this is just normal for us ol’ gardeners! Being a little down this time of year. And it’s jaundiced my view some.

After all, summer’s ended. And fall’s start means winter maintenance preparations. The Big Freeze is just a couple months away now. Maybe gardeners everywhere in this northern hemisphere are tightening their belts some!

Cleaning out the little greenhouse to store all the plants you’ve got setting outside — because there’s not enough space in your little house with good enough light to put ’em. It’s all staring straight at you.

And then there’s also getting those seedbeds in it ready for another season of planting. Finding your checklist of seeds, i.e. — where ever you put it — and adding or subtracting, depending on your inventory.

And what you think might sell best next spring — if’n you ever, really, get up to that level of thinking, where you might want to enter the Gardeners’ Holy Grail of Prayer for income seekers!

And all that means attention to the greenhouse roof, also, caulking or filling all the holes and replacing plastic roof pieces already shredded by past years’ suns and wind.

Hijole, do I really want to be a gardener?! one easily asks during times like this. When you simply paused to ask what’s gone wrong with Sweetie Pie? And it trips the floodgate on the dam of worries you’ve tried hard not to look at!

Which usually (or always, for a lot of us fools) is followed by a good shake of the head. And then this:

Well, let’s see what it looks like tomorrow. Tomorrow’s another day, after all. It might look different.

Hee, hee!

And the Beat Goes On!!!

And on and one…


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