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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 Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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