Category Archives: DIY

Why Your Yard Needs Mycorrhizal Fungi


A mycorrhizal fungi is a symbiotic relationship between a plant and a fungi. This network of mycorrhiza can span miles and miles within one small cubic foot of soil.

Why Does This Matter?

This symbiotic relationship allows plants to draw nutrients and water that the root system itself would be incapable of. It also allows for the plant to resist disease and toxins. Mycorrhizal fungi can also be a great factor in drought tolerance, yield of fruit or flowers, prevention of soil compaction, ability to withstand the sowing process for seeds or transplantation, and overall microbial activity in the soil.

How Do I Encourage Mycorrhizal Relationships?

Here is a list of things that harm mycorrhizal relationships:

  • Erosion
  • Road and Home Construction
  • Leaving Soil Bare
  • Tillage
  • Fertilization
  • Fumigation
  • Chemical Treatment of Soil
  • Removal of Topsoil

These things can completely eliminate the mycorrhizal relationship in your soil.  This can leave plants in your landscape with a significant need for maintenance and upkeep.

You can add mycorrhizal fungi to your soil by using organic fertilizers that contain the correct fungi, or you can use a mycorrhizal inoculant such as those found at .

Continued practices of not using chemicals, covering the bare ground that you can with mulch or other plants, and not tilling or leaving the soil to erode will keep the mycorrhizal fungi at home and not disturbed.

Having mycorrhizal fungi in your soil is the cure to a problem you didn’t know you had. These little guys will be personal caretakers for your plants so you can direct all your energy somewhere else.


How To Prune Fruit Trees

Some people choose not to prune their fruit trees. If you do choose to do so the main benefit is easier harvesting. There are two main things to address when pruning fruit trees: pruning for structure, and pruning to remove potential problems.

Structural pruning in fruit trees leads to 3 generally accepted systems: Central Leader, Open Center, and Modified Leader. I recommend using both the central leader and open center layouts for almost all fruit. Occasionally the modified leader can be necessary for very heavily branched fruit trees. I’ll focus on the Central Leader and Open Center methods.

Central Leader: This method allows for a strong central trunk and branches that grow horizontally off the trunk. This is great for apples and pears as they have heavy fruit.

Things to look for when pruning: Not having two branches near each other on the same side of the trunk. You’d ideally want a branch on the right, left, then back/front as you progress up the tree. This allows for balance of the tree.

Open Center: This is also known as the vase method. No central trunk is formed here. Instead you have several large branches the shoot out away from the center which allows for and airy center with plenty of space for sunlight to penetrate. This is recommended for: quinces, crabapples, plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots.

Things to look for when pruning: Making sure there is an even distribution so that the tree isn’t too heavy on one side. Keep any vertical growing branches short as they are very vigorous.

Dead and Diseased: The next major reason to prune is to remove dead, diseased, suckers, weak, or overly strong branches. Below I have a series of photos with branches that are either crossing, rubbing each other, growing towards the center, or diseased. Other branches that are growing directly vertical (also known as ‘water sprouts’) or with a very acute angle from the branch it emerges from (less than 45°) need to be removed as well.

If you choose not to prune your fruit trees regularly, dead and diseased branches should still be removed immediately. Suckers as well should be removed from the graft union at the bottom of the tree.

If you have more questions about pruning fruit trees leave a comment below and I’d love to help coach you through the pruning process.

California Juniper Yamadori

Yamadori Post-Dig Care

To see the removal process I went through to get this baby out read my earlier blog post. I got the bagged California Juniper home and began unwrapping so fast that I forgot to take pictures of it happening…
I made sure to make the cuts clean to facilitate root growth once potted up. Make sure to do this on all of the large cuts you make to the roots. 

Here you can see all of the smaller roots coming out of the root ball.

I cut these clean off right at the edge of the soil. This is another place that roots will emerge. Typically these are ripped and not cleanly cut. Leaving them without a clean cut can be a major factor when the tree is trying to recover. 

After that I cut back the long thick roots to better be able to fit this into a container. I made sure to do so without moving the root ball and shaking any more soil loose.

Here is the prepared container. I drilled holes in the bottom, and used several 2×6’s that I’ve “saved” from various burn piles.

Then after I strung wire through and laid the bottom layers of soil, I set the tree in to get it secure.

The purpose for using the wood to decrease the size of the box is so that there aren’t any large gaps of solely pumice. Pumice and the native soil are vastly different, so you would end up with large pockets of dry pumice and the root ball of soil would still be wet. Having a smaller area helps to keep them similar in water and oxygen balance. 
As you can see here, I used the higher branches to secure the tree into the container. I did this because the soil and root ball weren’t held together well enough to use as a sole anchoring point.

After chopsticking the pumice in to fill the gaps I ended up with this. 
I then moved it to a better location in my garage on top of a heating mat to keep the root temperatures favorable for root growth.
To use the new handy update on the iPhone I took these as well:
Hopefully you’ll read the updated post on this tree when it begin pushing new growth. From all I can tell the dig was a success and should yield a healthy tree within the year.

Bare Root Ruckus

My bare root adventures started off very exciting. I had one company give me an estimated date and another company gave me a tracking number. I had planned for 100 Japanese Black Pines to arrive somewhere between 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm. While waiting, I received another 200 trees that I wasn’t expecting for another week. I ended up planting up the 300 trees from 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

These are the different instructions I got from both companies:

Open when ready, and…

Open this right away!

This led to my kitchen being piled up with wet towels, needles, and ginkgo leaves.

I ordered 100 Ginkgo Biloba, 50 Bald Cypress, 100 Japanese Black Pine, and 50 Colorado Blue Spruce.

Ginkgo Biloba and Bald Cypress Seedlings

Japanese Black Pine Seedlings

As you can see, the root systems varied a bit, but this is due to the differences in age, growing locations, and species. The Japanese Black Pine were grown in plugs and transplanted into the field. The Colorado Blue Spruce were grown for 7 years, 3 in the seedling beds and 4 in the field. The Ginkgos and Bald Cypress were both grown in seedling beds for 4 and 2 years respectively.

The Colorado Blue Spruce had pretty solid root systems and size.

Colorado Blue Spruce Trees

Japanese Black Pine Seedlings

I picked a few of each species to grow out in a mound of compost in the backyard. I’ll give an update on survival and how each species transitioned from the bare root process. Overall I was impressed with the size and roots of the trees that I received.

Seed Collection – Lamb's Ear

I went ahead and clipped a bunch of Lamb’s Ear heads off of my parents house before escrow closes. It isn’t the best time to collect seeds, but it is late enough in Summer.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

This is from two flower stalks. Seeds all over the place.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

Wear some gloves and run your hands back and forth on the the stalk and then hit the whole thing against the side of the bin or your hand and seeds will fly.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

Then sift the leftovers out from the mess you’ve created.

Sifting Seeds

Then label the seeds before you forget or misplace them. You’d be surprised how often that happens.

Lamb's Ear Seed Saving

Lamb’s Ear grows like a weed, literally. Sow seeds in the Spring for best results. I’ve put some in my compost and then have had seeds germinate in my beds where I’ve placed my compost in the middle of Summer. Next time I’ll compost better and that shouldn’t happen!

Cheap Bonsai Supplies

For those of you that have recently begun your bonsai journey you’ll notice that this hobby can become expensive quickly. I put out a post about cheap bonsai pot alternatives and here is another post about alternative things to use.

Cut Paste – $19.50 – $14

Duct Seal Bonsai Cut Paste

Now not all bonsai cut paste is that expensive, Duct Seal was $2.98 at Home Depot

This was recommended to me from Rob Pressler, the owner of Kimura’s Bonsai Nursery.

Now we could get into the argument of whether or not to use cut paste, but rather than that I’ll just suggest that if you want to use it and want to save a few dollars (For another tree, lets be real…) try this out.

Glass and Ceramic Drill Bits:

I bought these to be able to convert glass and ceramic bowls I find into viable bonsai pots. I can drill wire holes and large enough holes to keep drainage sufficient.

Pro Tip: Read how many RPMs it can handle, if not you will burn the drill tip and have a useless stick of metal (also water . Pressure = broken bowls. Let the bit do its thing, however slow it may feel.

Here are some of my latest pickups that were either free or from garage sales (Californians can do this all year, not like you in the Midwest and Northeast that have a garage sale “season”)

Cheap Bonsai Tree Material

Lowe’s and Home Depot can have discount racks depending on where you live. These are great choices since both have return policies incase something dies. Great for beginners working on trees for the first time.

What we call “Yardadori” or collected material from yard renovations or seemingly undesirable trees that people want removed is a great way to source material for bonsai.

The last resort would be cuttings from easy to root plants. I have found that Crape Myrtle, Portulacaria Afra, Chinese Elm, Cotoneaster, Olive, Ficus and Pomegranate can all handle pretty large cuttings that can become bonsai quickly.

Drain Screen

Rather than purchasing pre-made screens for your pots, you can buy “Gutter Guard” and cut it to whatever size you like. My favorite part about this is when I use a nursery pot as a temporary training pot I can cut the gutter guard into a circle to cover the entire bottom of the nursery pot. Same goes for my other DIY homemade pots.

These are just a few things that might give you a few more dollars to appease your spouse.

Pyracantha Digs

I noticed a nearby neighbor that I drive by often had removed his fence. These Pyracantha bushes lined the fence and looked a bit out of place without it. I knocked on the door and asked if he planned on keeping them or not and offered to dig them up for free if he were to get rid of them. He told me he’d let me know and I left my phone number.

As you can tell, he decided to get rid of them. I got meself some massive trunked Pyracanthas with plenty of air-layerable branches.

There were a couple of branches that had been ground layered or had grown their own roots that I was able to separate and pot up.

This one turned into…

This windswept one has got me excited. Too bad the branches up top are larger than the lower ones, a bit of correction needed indeed.

Here is the trunk close up from two different angles

This little stick can develop some nebari and become an interesting little shohin or mame.

Here is a close up of one of the trunks. I’ll do a follow up with the progression on the potted plants and the trunks of the main trunks.