Singing Gardener: Get to know the ‘Delta’ Hackberry tree

Plus, a reader shares experiences with using sawdust in the garden

Note the attractive golden fall colour of this youthful “Delta” Hackberry tree. Its growth form is similar to our North American elm.

When are those startling and scary news reports about recalled imported fresh food veggies going to end? Maybe never! As I write this column some of the most recent recalls have applied to specific brands of romaine, leafy red and leafy green lettuces and whole heads of cauliflower. Who knows what’s possibly next?

My theme for 2019 and onward is: The best approach for secure and safest food on the table goes to those folks who home garden and grow their own fresh food in season and process the balance via home canning, freezing, drying and storage. Container vegetable gardening and vertical fruit growing plus the tried-and-true open area garden are all on the increase. Also, I encourage setting aside a space for health-promoting herbs. Gardeners are people who take pride in growing plants and as we each move forward at our own pace we are learning together.

Today I’m devoting some space to the “Delta” Hackberry tree with pictures provided courtesy of Philip Ronald. After he graduated from the University of Manitoba in horticulture and plant breeding, Philip moved to complete his PhD, in the native fruit program at the University of Saskatchewan.

Also on the agenda is one gardener’s experience from using sawdust in the garden. Add to that, a reminder about my tomato seed draws to take place in early March. This is a chance for a dozen tomato growers out there to perhaps win a packet of tomato seeds. It’s not so much the value of the seeds but rather the opportunity for communicating and getting to know one another a bit better.

After all that, may I say: welcome with a tip o’ my hat to all gardeners — those who are beginners or seasoned and those somewhere in between. Don’t know what I’d do without you.

Trees can be a healthy investment for human health and the pocketbook

Well-thought-out landscaping can increase the resale value of your home by over 10 per cent when it’s time to sell. Good choices of selected trees and accent plants that are properly placed can also lower home heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 per cent. Not bad at all when we consider that most everyone strives for lower energy consumption. A tree or tall shrub shading an air conditioner can improve its efficiency by as much as 10 per cent. Mature trees have been known to increase appraised resale property value of homes and yards from $1,000 to $10,000 and that’s significant.

One particular tree that comes to mind is “Delta” Hackberry, lesser known as Nettle tree (scientific name Celtis occidentalis). This rare eastern Prairie native tree is sourced from the southern tip of Lake Manitoba in Delta Beach area. “Delta” Hackberry is an underused shade tree in the Prairie region and is distinctive as an excellent choice in any community or region seeking to enhance diversity. Get to know “Delta” Hackberry as a durable species with rough and corky bark that shows tolerance to alkaline soils and urban stresses. Although a relative to the elm family, it’s good to know that “Delta” Hackberry is immune to Dutch elm disease. Many favourable comments have been received.

Distinctive well-veined narrow green leaves appear on “Delta” Hackberry trees during midsummer followed later by tiny brown fruit. photo: Courtesy Philip Ronald

A comprehensive guide with coloured pictures of numerous trees including Hackberry is available in book form for purchase. It is titled: Trees for Northern Landscapes and is written and compiled by Wilbert G. Ronald and Philip S. Ronald. For more information or to order a copy contact Jeffries Nurseries Ltd., PO Box 402, Portage la Prairie, Man. R1N 3B7, email [email protected] or phone 204-857-5288 or fax 204-857-2877.

Rough corky bark is eye attractive on a “Delta” Hackberry tree trunk and adds value to its appearance especially during winter. photo: Courtesy Philip Ronald

Your chance to maybe win tomato seeds: Enter Singing Gardener’s lucky dozen draws!

Have been singing “The Prostate Song” a whole lot and “The Canadian Weather Song” too, both of which I performed during my travels in 2018. “The Weather Song” takes us through the four seasons and changing weather in the fifth verse. “The Prostate Song” tells about a connection between the antioxidant lycopene, plentifully found in tomatoes and its contribution to prostate health and wellness among the menfolk. Lycopene in tomatoes is also recognized as an important contributor to breast health in women. Not much wonder I was “gung-ho” and happy to be the recipient of some tomato seeds to give away to a lucky dozen of my Grainews readers. The draws take place in early March. Winner names will appear in the April 9 issue of Grainews. Include some chit-chat and even a photo or two if you’re so inclined. Mail your entry with your name and address via Canada Post to:

Singing Gardener tomato seed draws

Grainews, PO Box 9800
1666 Dublin Ave.
Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3K7

Finally – today’s wrap

An email from Winnipeg re: sawdust:

(I, Ted, did some editing for clarity but tried to keep content as original as possible. The reader who asked not to mention his name wrote the following:)

Greetings to the Singing Gardener

Have used sawdust in the garden as my soil is quite solid muck. Sawdust was from a lumber yard site and was not chips. It was thinly used during the mid-spring season and roto tilled into the soil. Did not use anything with the sawdust and no fertilizer. Have not noticed a decline in the nitrogen level or any difference of green colouration in the growth of vegetables. However, by the second year using sawdust — the root crops were more straight (carrots and parsnips) and round shape (beets and potatoes) as the soil became looser in fashion. By the 4th year — the sawdust has become very well mixed into the garden soil.

Re: tomato seedlings: With putting out tomato transplants, I have found preparation is *fixing* the problems before they occur. Blossom end rot is an important disease that spoils a lot of the fruits. Here’s a method that I have used to prevent/control this disease.

Transplanting method: Dig a hole for the tomato seedling. — Add powdered milk (use skim milk — no name) reduces the cost. — Cover with some soil, — place transplant into hole — add soil to remaining hole and around the tomato. Suggest experiment in skim powder milk amounts. Have used — various degrees of a teaspoon of powder milk with each tomato transplant — also 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 full teaspoon. Blossom end rot was less of an issue with this calcium source. With higher amount results I found — 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon gave similar results (no disease was visible) — anything more, appeared to have no further effect. I hope that this works for your gardens. Have been gardening many years. Was the family means for produce for the winter. Thank you. (name withheld by request) (Wpg.)

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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