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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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