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Sacramento’s elms need eyes – yours

Take a walk and save a tree in this volunteer program

park elm tree
Sacramento's remaining heritage elms are threatened by disease and development. The Sacramento Tree Foundation is recruiting volunteers to keep an eye on the elms. (Photo courtesy Sacramento Tree

Consider this a neighborhood watch for favorite trees.

The Sacramento Tree Foundation is recruiting volunteers to take part in a census of the city’s tallest residents – century-old elms. Endangered by disease and development, these beloved trees have dwindled, greatly decreasing Sacramento’s tree canopy.

Once home to many thousands of big elms, Sacramento now has just about 1,900 remaining American, English and Siberian elms. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

This is where SacTree’s STEP – Save the Elms Program – steps up. The foundation needs volunteer “community scientists” to visually check on these remaining trees and see if they’re doing OK. Volunteers use a downloadable app to relay their observations to the foundation with the goal of saving our remaining heritage elms.

“Our heritage elm trees are the most historic and iconic of Sacramento’s trees,” says the foundation. “Elms represent a remarkable legacy spanning generations; many of our elms are over 100 years old and climb as high as 130 feet into the city skyline.

“But they’ve been in trouble for a while,” added the foundation. “Dutch elm disease (DED), a fatal and contagious fungal disease with no cure, has plagued our city since the 1990s.”

Protecting the remaining elms is vital to our tree canopy.

“Replacing this elm canopy and the benefits provided to our community is not possible,” says the foundation. “Large mature trees provide the most benefits, but they require a lot of space to thrive. As our city grew up around these elm trees, their planter sizes shrunk to make room for buildings, roads and sidewalks. Because most of today’s planters are no longer large enough to accommodate another large tree, once these heritage elms are lost, the health, economic and environmental benefits of their immense canopies will be lost forever.”

The volunteer effort is coordinated with the City of Sacramento’s Urban Forestry program to monitor the remaining elms and slow the spread of Dutch elm disease. This summer program continues through September while the trees still have their green foliage and before they drop their leaves in fall.

Volunteers (as well as anyone interested) can watch an informative video on the warning signs of Dutch elm disease on SacTree’s website. Download the STEP app, then take a walk around your neighborhood. Your local elms will thank you.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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