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Advice about Trees

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I want a lemon tree -- need advice

June 2010

I want to plant a lemon tree. That's all I know. We have a sunny spot. I want a tree, but a guarantee that it won't get too big (2nd story is too big). No invasive roots (there's sidewalks not too far away).

Any advice about lemon trees? Which type is easy and fruitful? Are meyer lemons flavorless when home-grown? Should I get a miniature (my inclination is for a regular-sized one, but do some varieties grow too big)?

One of the possible locations has water pipes buried below. If necessary, there's a second spot without that problem.

I am so jealous of everyone with messages about too many lemons! Oooh, and where to buy? Can I plant it now, or is there an optimal time of year? Any special care tips? thank you, BPN community anne


You can get a lemon on dwarf stock. It will grow to a maximum of 15' tall, usually much smaller. Lemons can also be pruned to keep the tree smaller and fruit within reach. Meyer lemons are my favorite, fragrant and juicy. Lemon trees like heat, a good hot full sun spot is best. Lemons trees can be damaged in winter freezes, so a spot near your home can work well because the ambiant heat from your home will keep it a degree or two warmer than if it were further out. Roots on dwarf lemon trees are not invasive, I've seen them planted very close to paving, although its not ideal. Dwarf lemons can also grow in a large pot and can look attractive on a patio grouped with smaller flower filled pots. Sue
We have a Meyer lemon tree that was already there when we bought the house. I love it! It has very fragrant flowers and lots of fruit almost year round. I keep it smallish (about 5-6ft) by occasional pruning. It is up against the house and close to the french drain which is probably not ideal but the drain still works! I water it a couple of times a week in the summer and feed with a citrus fertilizer in the spring. Many nurseries carry Meyer lemons - Berkeley Hort is my favorite. Spring or fall are the best times for planting. Laura

What kind of tree? Evergreen, in shade

June 2010

We are planting 2 new trees in our relatively small backyard as 2 diseased trees are being removed (a pittosporum and a stone pine). Our house is north facing and in the South Bay. Does anyone have recommendations of 2 different trees that we could plant? We are looking for trees that are evergreen to provide privacy/screening. We'd also like the trees to not grow too big as they would be under and close to the PG&E power lines. Are there trees that are evergreen that also have lovely seasonal blossoms? That would be great. Any suggestions are appreciated. Tree Lover


Hello, I'm a landscape designer, and I use Camellia sasanqua or Camellia japonica when I have a shady condition with space constraints. You said your house is north facing, so I'm assuming your yard is in the shade. You can purchase them as a 15 gallon standard (versus multi-stem), so they will grow like a small tree. They are evergreen and in the early spring produce beautiful blooms. Plus you can make tea! Good luck, Carmen

Where to buy an avocado tree

Dec 2009

I'd like to plant an avocado tree and have heard there are quick-fruiting (two years) trees. Does anyone know a good place to buy avocado trees, either online or at a store locally? I like Trees of Antiquity (online) for other fruits but they don't have avocado. tree fan


Spiral Gardens on Sacramento at Oregon in Berkeley sells avocado trees. They often sell things close to their cost since it is also a community food project site. Melanie
I've had good luck with trees from Berkeley Horticulture, and ESPECIALLY good experience (and better prices) from Adachi in El Sobrante. Marilyn
I was just at the Berkeley Horticultural Nursery near Monterey Market, (Hopkins St.) in N. Berkeley, and they had some avocado trees. S. Carter
Try Yabusaki's Dwight Way Nursery on Dwight between 9th and 10th in Berkeley. They've got lots of fruit trees and seem to know just about everything about them. They're also very friendly and it's a family-owned business. C

Moving an Olive Tree

Dec 2009

We planted an Olive tree in our backyard 2 years ago but now think it would look better in a different location. Does anyone know if it's easy to move an olive tree or how to do it? I've looked at various websites but they all refer to old (100 yrs.,etc.) Olive trees and the need to hire a professional. The tree originally cost us less than $100 but we would hate to kill it by moving it since it is one of the few trees we have. Any advice would be appreciated. Lori


Moving an Olive that's only been in the ground 2 years should not be difficult.

Look to see if it is dormant. No flowering, fruiting or new growth should be occuring.

Measure the caliper (diameter) of the trunk at the ground. For every one inch caliper, dig a ball one foot in diameter. You can make this a little larger if you like.

Replant immediately in new location, making sure to set the top of the root ball slightly high relative to the existing ground. Your hole should be at least 6 inches in radius larger than the ball. Ray


How to measure the height of a redwood tree

Aug 2009

We have a rather tall and very healthy-looking redwood tree in our neighborhood and the topic came up several times among the residents of how to measure its height. I suggested using el-hi math (measure dist to base, and angle to top), but the idea didn't take with the group at large. Anyone been in a similar situation -- did you hire someone to do this? Maybe you used a special tool? Nel


I like your suggestion. This is a simple trigonometric formula. Ht = base times tan of angle.

Another way, which might sit better with your non-mathematical more visual neighbors, is to use proportional triangles. Imagine a small triangle near the corner you are using for your angle. Measure the base and height of your small triangle and the base of the large triangle. The height will be proportional (H/B=h/b).

Of course both ways assume a 90 degree angle from the tree to the base line. Both will be quite accurate if you get a transit from the tool lending library to help. Andus


You could in theory use similar triangles. Put up a 10 foot stick next to the tree. Measure the length of its shadow. Measure the length of the tree's shadow. The ratio of the two shadows lengths is in theory the same as the ratio of the stick and tree heights. anon

What kind of fruit tree for Berkeley Hills?

Feb 2009

Looking for recommendations for fruit trees. We know we need to get dwarf varieties. We live in the Berkeley Hills and have a Meyer Lemon that does well. I'd love to have a cherry tree. Can anyone recommend one suitable to my area? Can anyone recommend any others? Also, where is the best place to buy? Thank you in advance.


Just because you're space limited, you don't need to get dwarf trees, just get standard trees and prune them to the size you want. This is Berkeley Hort's philosophy, and it seems a good one (and you ought to check them out, as they run free classes, e.g., on pruning fruit trees)... when trees are bred to be dwarfs, they're selected for size, not taste, etc. Trees that seem to do well around here would include figs and apricots... peach leaf curl dissuaded us from nectarines. If you want a deciduous tree, you might try persimmon (or fig), though the squirrels do a number on ours almost every year... when we can wrest a crop out of their nasty little paws, they're quite tasty. But do talk to Berkeley Hort re dwarf vs. standard varieties. Albany Gardener
There are lots of wonderful local nurseries, but I think the best one for help choosing edible plants and trees that will thrive and produce in your location is Spiral Gardens at 2830 Sacramento in Berkeley. They have good inventory, too. I also got good ideas on the Bay Friendly Garden Tour last April. Heidi
We live near the campus in Berkeley and we adore our Santa Rosa plum. I think it might be a semi-dwarf, which is a great size for a patio area. Just don't go away at the end of June, beginning of July or you'll miss the plums! anon

City of Berkeley Tree Planting Program

March 2005

Our neighborhood in N. Berkeley is in the process of using the tree planting program to replace several trees lost in the 80's drought. If you are a Berkeley resident who took advantage of this program, I would be interested to learn which tree species you chose and the plusus and minuese of that choice. Would you choose the same species again? If not, why not? There are so many to chose from, and although I have gotten the list of trees as well as read up on them, it is difficult to decide what will work best. I would welcome any feedback! sarah


My former block in Berkeley had chosen the Liquid Amber trees. I'm not sure if they are still on the list, but the block regretted the choice because they drop a thick sap that is very hard to get off of cars. anne

Tree is dripping sticky stuff (aphids)

Sept 2006

I've seen the archives about people who will trim or move your trees, but I'm looking for someone who can tell me if my tree is sick. I'm not sure if those are the same people or not. The tree next to the street in front of my house in North Oakland drips this stuff off it that gets on your car if you park under it. And now the tree has black spots on its leaves and what look like white spots on its branches. I need someone to tell me if there is something wrong with the tree, and if so, what to do about it and if I need to get it trimmed or doctored

What's Wrong With My Tree?


I am not a tree expert BUT it sounds to me like there are aphids in the tree - which is pretty normal. Ants like to farm aphids so if you see ants going up and down the tree trunk, there are probably aphids. The ants are aphid ranchers and feed on the sweet ''honey dew'' that the aphids give off. The honey dew also falls out of the tree onto leaves and cars. Its stickyness makes it gather dust and leave dark specks. Since you say you see white spots on the tree, it may be scale bugs, too, which i think can also be associated with ants. On small trees if folks want to get rid of the aphids or scale, they put sticky ''tangle foot'' in a ring around the trunk so the ants can' get to their herd. I recommend that you take a leaf with the white stuff on it to a good local independant plant store and ask them. In my neighorhood we go to Berkeley Horticulture for advice. Up at the UC Botanical Garden, a retired professor (Rabbe?) used to do a fabulous plant clinic once amonth or so. Folks would bring in their bits of sick or infected plants and he would tell you what was wrong with them ...for free!. He is an amazing font of knowledge and others would hag out just to soak up some of his expertise. Call the UC BOt Garden (google for the number) and see if they still do the clinics Garden Mom
Sept 2008

As an arborist, I think you can take care of aphids by yourself. First, if the tree is in a bad location or is getting too much/little water, light or fertilizer (most often too much fertilizer), correct this problem first. Mulch under the dripline if that's not already done. Second, get a strong pressure nozzle for your hose and knock off as many aphids as you can. They won't climb up again. If there are ants managing the aphid colony then put tanglefoot or another sticky substance around the base of tree and check every few days to make sure they haven't bridged it. If none of this works after a week or so, my last resort is to get neem spray, and while using COMPLETE PROTECTION (eyes, mouth, skin) apply this to the affected parts of the tree. Never taken me more than two applications to do them in. Neem is an organic, but obviously still potent enough to do the job, so treat it like any chemical. You can get it at Berkeley Hort. It's used in toothpaste as an antimicrobial, so it's safe in small amounts, but I wouldn't push it. And of course, this is a general recommendation, as I haven't seen the tree. Good Luck! molly


Green figs, not purple

Sept 2006

Does anyone know where I can buy a green fig tree? (We don't like the purple ones as much.) Thanks! Figless-on-CurtisSt


We bought a green fig (Conadria) at Berkeley Hort a while back and it's been great. It was just a bare stick (!) but it's totally leafed out and is going crazy with delicious figs. The nice thing about green figs is apparently the birds don't go after them as much (they think green means un-ripe) Fig Happy

Elm trees sprouting up all over our yard

August 2006

We have a big backyard and there are tons of elm trees sprouting up all over it and there is one big old stump. Is there any non-toxic way to get the elm to stop sprouting up and trying to create an elm forest in our backyard?
working like heck in the backyard


I am no tree expert, but I heard that pounding some copper nails in a tree stump will kill the ability of the tree to sprout. So you can try this, or have a tree contractor grind out the stump. dr

Birch Tree Shedding Seeds EVERYWHERE

March 2005

We are having a problem with our birch trees shedding small, brown, paper-like seeds EVERYWHERE. These little things are invading our house. We recently had work done to our home and I am wondering if there was damage to the trees during this process as I don't remember this ever being a problem prior to the work. I am not sure exactly what type of birch trees they are and have looked on the internet but didn't find an absolute answer. Any information would be greatly appreciated. I am absolutely fed up with having these things take over the exterior and interior of our home. looking for a solution!


The only reason that your tree would be producing more seeds now is if it was damaged in some way and is trying to make sure that it leaves progeny behind if it dies. Some plants will almost always do this, others only sometimes.

By next year's 'seeding season' you should have some evidence as to whether it is either dying or recovering by whether the heavy production is still occuring.

This is an educated guess from a horticulturist! Get an opinion from a licensed and experienced arborist as to the tree's health. I would recommend calling Brende and Lamb for this sort of thing (510-486-8733). They are good at evaluation whereas many tree companies are really only good for basic pruning and removal. Unless you want to just go ahead and take it out? There are tree companies for this purpose in the archives. Cecelia


Spraying Oak Trees

March 2004

We received a flyer in the mail from Gring Pest Control asking if we wanted our Oak Tree sprayed to prevent sudden oak death from ''Spring Oak Catepillars.'' We're wondering if anyone has any experience dealing with Gring and if they do this Oak spraying on a yearly basis. Any advice is helpful, as we have a large oak in our backyard that we'd love to keep, but don't know anything about this particular service. Thank you


We discussed this company in my Arboriculture class! According to my teacher, this is a scam!!

First off, there are many different Oak species and only some have gotten Sudden Oak Death (the Tanbark Oak), -and- this disease isn't a problem in the east bay (yet).

You don't need to spray your tree if it isn't sick, and the one and only spray that has been approved in treating sudden oak death isn't the one that this company sprays. Your best bet is to call the Alameda County Master Gardener volunteers for more information! 510-670-2200

The most important thing is that there is no reason to spray and treat a healthy tree. Especially with a chemical that is not approved by the International Society of Arborists (ISA). - Candace


Oak Moth Caterpillers do not have anything to do with Sudden Oak Death, and I can't believe that any responsible company would promote such an idea!

Oak Moths cause damage to Oak leaves for a fairly brief period in the Spring when the larvae (caterpillars) are voraciously feeding (the adult moths do not cause any damage). If less than about 1/4 of the leaves are affected and the tree is otherwise in good health, don't worry about it- the tree can handle that. But if the damage is extensive, &/or the tree is not in great shape to begin with, action is recommended. (If the tree's not in great shape, get a consultation from an experienced certified arborist to determine the larger problem).

There is a very effective biological control for Oak Moth larvae called BT- lethal for them, innocuous to us and other critters. But it is only effective if it is sprayed on the larvae when they are actively feeding, so you must watch your tree closely for their appearance, and then spray right away. A spray too early or too late does no good.

I use Vern McQueen for landscape spraying, 841-2782. He has a Pest Control License, is reasonable, and is a very nice fellow. Cecelia


do NOT do it at this point in time. For information about Sudden Oak Death call the Master Gardener office (Alameda Cooperative Extension) at 510-639-1371. Leave a voicemail if the phone is not answered and someone will get back to you in a day or two. MG
Sudden Oak Death and Oak Caterpillars are two entirely different problems. Try the UC Davis website for more info. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7498.html http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7422.html sunsol
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