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Somewhere Below the Soil Line


January 21

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…gnxx! Huh?”
“Move over. You’re taking up all the root space.”
“No need to stick a rhizome in my side.”
“And you’re snoring. Can you keep it down?”
“Hunh? What time is it?”
“Early. Go back to sleep. And stop hogging all of the mulch.”
“How early? I’m cold. You know I like to snuggle down under the mulch.”
“Early early. January early. And save some mulch for me. It’s bad enough being planted this close together without you using up all of the resources.”
“You kidding me? January? I feel like I’ve been dormant forever. Let’s get out of here! I want to sprout! To touch the sky! I want to–ouch!
“What now?”
“Bumped my head on something.”
“It’s called ice, nimroots. The ground is frozen.”
“Oh. Well, I still want to…want to…want…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”
“Will you just give me some of that…that…oh, never mind.”

February 19

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…gnxx! What was that?”
“That was you still snoring.”
“No. Something tickled me.”
“Oh. Fungus. Go back to sleep.”
“Fungus?”
“Probably a fungal hyphae. Go back to sleep.”
“Hyphae? Eeeeww! Stringy! Don’t fungi ever take a day off? Don’t they get cold?”
“Not really.”
“Wrap their icky hyphae around my nodes.”
“It’s nature’s way.”
“Give me bacteria any day.”
“They don’t sleep much either.”
“Yeah, but think about it. Single cell. Gotta admire the simplicity of design.”
“Go back to sleep. And don’t hog the compost.”
“Not much for conversation, though.”
“Who?”
“Bacteria.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Course, I once met an amoeba who wouldn’t shut up.”
“Go. To. Sleep.”
“What a character! A little shifty, though.”
“PLEASE!”
“You sure it isn’t time to sprout? I want to sprout!”
“You do and you’ll hurt yourself. It’s still early.”
“But I want to live! To grow! To reach the sun! To…to…to…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”
“Oh, brother.”

March 20

“...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
“HEY!! WAKE UP! It’s spring!”
“..zzzzzzzzzzzzz…gnxx! Huh?”
“Wakey, wakey! Time to sprout! Time to touch the sky! To reach the sun!”
“...hit the snooze button, okay? Can’t you give me just two more days?...zzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
“Let’s go. Bust a nodule!”
“...I’m exhausted. Come get me in June…zzzzzzzzzz…”
“Are you kidding? We already overslept. I blame the compaction. If we don’t shake a leaf, we’re going to miss out on the best sun.”
“...don’t bother me. It’s dark. I wanna…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
“Of course it’s dark! We’re underground! Ah! Smell those worm castings! Feel the bacterial slime! I can’t wait to run my roots through that exquisite decaying matter!”
“...I can’t wait to…zzzzzzzzzzzz…”
“I feel like singing a chorus of ‘Good Morning, Mr. Nematode.’ In fact, I think I will. ‘Good morning, Mr. Nematode,
Good morning, I will sing my ode.’”
“...nooooo, not that song…please, stop…”
“‘Though some call you a parasite, In my eyes you are quite all right–‘”
“...ahhhhhh…you’re killing me…stop, stop, stop, stop, stop…please…”
“‘Your phylum is Nemata, About that–no debate-a—‘”
“Okay! I’m up! I’m up! Look, I’m sprouting! I’m sprouting! Now stop! You sing that stupid thing every year.”
“It’s what I call a perennial solution to a perennial problem.””

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questions

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

Is there an overall rule about when to pinch back my leggy plants?

What is the best time to plant a tree in northern Illinois?

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