Category: Horticulture Info

Need to know when to plant, spray, harvest, display or view? You are in the right place! If you need me to address a situation within your landscape, give me a shout! Otherwise, check out these posts for general information on Horticultural needs of a 5A landscape.

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4

canadian white violet flower
Canadian White Violet

Many native plants, animals and insects have become endangered as the world’s population grows and expands into areas previously untouched by humans. To mitigate these issues, residents should be encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. Not only do natives promote habitats, a community can save water and reduce erosion and flooding problems.

Lake County, Illinois’s 2010 census has the population at 703,462 with projections of 786,000 by 2020. Lake County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and that will mean many, large subdivisions being built here.

dead dirt
The ‘Dirt-Pile-Of-Death’…..

One of the problems is the builders of these new communities strip off a deep, top-layer of earth before building, and pile it up in the corner of the land. This “top-soil” looses nutrients, becomes compacted, and looses it’s air circulation promoting harmful, bacterial growth within it. As the houses are being built, heavy construction equipment collapses and compacts the lower horizon of soil (generally clay here) promoting poor drainage. After building is complete, the piled up, nutrient poor, mediocre topsoil is replaced. Aside from installing a water greedy lawn, the neighborhood is usually left with little other vegetation.

NON-NATIVE AND INVASIVE SPECIES

Another problem is when new people move to a new area, they want to bring or install the plants they remember from home. Most non-native plants are not deleterious, but they will use up more of your time and resources. However, sometimes these non-native plants can become extreme bothers; these species are called invasive species. A fable many, naive people believe is that an area overrun with non-natives will “go back” to native plants if an area is left alone; this is untrue!

There are many non-native plants that are generally no danger to the local environment. Though many of the non-invasive, non-native plants that people use in their gardens are stressed in the different environment, they may acclimate over a few years. Despite the fact that the plant may look healthy, it may be because of all the additional water, fertilizer and care a person must give to it. Because of all these added requirements these plants often become a maintenance issue, pollution concern (fertilizer run-off) and accrue costs accordingly.

burning bush type of plant with red leaves not on fire haha
Euonymus alaus – Burning bush

The real danger to the native landscape is non-native, invasive species. An invasive plant has the ability to thrive and multiply aggressively outside its natural range (everything is native to somewhere). Some invasive plants are worse than others.  Many invasive plants continue to be admired by gardeners, and sold illegally by nurseries that may not be aware of their weedy nature, or just want to make money. Others are recognized as weeds but property owners fail to do their part in preventing their spread.

Examples of some of the plants that were just recently added to the invasive species list for this area were: Acer platanoides – Norway Maple, Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry, Euonymus alata – Burning Bush, Viburnum opulus – European Cranberry Bush, and Lonicera spp. – all exotic honeysuckles, to name a few.

Some of the characteristics used to classify an invasive species are:

  • They produce large numbers of plants seasonally.
  • They tolerate many weather conditions and soil types.
  • They spread proficiently by wind, water, and animals.
  • They grow rapidly, allowing them to displace slower growing plants.
  • They spread rampantly and are free of the checks and balances of their native range.

If people continue to use non-native plants in the landscape, many native species of plants, insects and animals will be lost. Aside from this, the cost of non-invasive plant maintenance and the time needed to care for them are higher, as the non-natives cannot fight out the invasives (increased weeding time and/or herbicide use). However, a native plant garden that is established and has it’s biosphere in check will be able to fend off most non-natives.

Check in tomorrow for the next part of the four day series

© The Naturarian

How to Plant a Tree Like a Licensed Arborist!

Happy Arbor Day!! I hope everyone has plans to get out there and plant a tree! Can I hear a Hell-Yeah?!?

Perfect! Now that you’ve got that burlapped bundle of joy home, you’ll need to know how to plant it properly. Remember, your tree is an investment (at the least) and a part of the family, you should only do what’s best for it. Although the general concept of planting a tree; dig hole, place tree, bury tree, it pretty simple… It can go wrong fairly quickly during planting, yet take years for the mistake to become noticeable, thus causing wasted time and money.

Noooooooo! I won’t let that happen to you!

Let me teach you how to plant your tree correctly, so you can enjoy your newly planted tree for your lifetime and your grandchildren’s lifetimes!

We’ll start with a quick pictorial summary, then delve into the nitty-gritty details afterward!

This was a small, PeeGee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora) on a standard. It had been grown in a container, but is in B&B (Balled & Burlapped) format now as a client did not like them, I had to remove them from their yard and I was the lucky recipient of two free trees! As they were small and the rootball was solid, I chose to remove the burlap first (not recommended for amateurs!!) I felt the top to find the roots, which were right at the top. I dug my hole 3 times larger than the rootball.

I moved the tree into the hole, by holding the rootball, NOT by picking up the tree by the trunk! I back-filled it about halfway with native soil and watered. After that water soaked in, I filled the remainder of the hole and watered again. Notice how I did not put any soil on the rootball? Be sure to water your new trees regularly. One long soak is better than three fleeting waters. I love these type of Gator bags more than the Teepee types as they somewhat settle the soil with their weight and they will fit on bushy shrubs also.

This tree is planted at perfect grade. It is about 1″ – 2″ higher than the soil around it. Next year, I will dig the grass out in between them and add some groundcover. For now, the grass is an insulator.

How to Plant a Tree Like a Licensed Arborist! 

Determine the depth of the top roots in the root ball

find top root of tree by probing with stick

  • Systematically probe the root ball with a slim rod or screwdriver. At least two structural roots should be found in the top 1” to 3” inches of soil, 3” to 4” inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling-roots⊗, the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball. If any circling roosts are found, prune them out.
  • If the tree has too much soil on the root ball, excess soil should be removed from the top in the backfill step of the planting process.

Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole three-times the root ball diameter

how deep to plant tree how to add soil back into tree hole

  • To maximize soil oxygen levels, plant the tree 1” to 2” inches above grade
  • The root ball MUST sit on undug soil, which stabilizes the tree and prevents sinking and tilting. Measure after each shovel-full if you have to!
  • A saucer-shaped planting hole allows the root system to grow rapidly to 400% of the root ball volume before being slowed by the lower oxygen levels in the site soil. This is enough to minimize post-planting stress in normal planting situations.
  • The wide, saucer-shaped planting hole gives the tree more tolerance to over-watering and waterlogged soils. The wide planting hole also allows for root ball wrappings to be removed after the tree is situated in the planting hole.
  • A labor-saving technique is to dig the planting hole about two times the root ball diameter with somewhat vertical sides, then widen the hole into the desired saucer shape with the shovel during the backfill process.

Set the tree into place and remove container/wrappings

crook in tree trunk

  • In setting the tree into the planting hole, if the tree has a “dogleg” (a slight curve in the trunk just above the graft) the inside curve must face north to avoid winter bark injury. This is a good practice to follow, however if you must place it differently because of aesthetics, you may need to wrap the trunk the first couple of winters to prevent sun scald on the trunk.
  • Vertically align the tree, with the top centered above the root ball. Due to curves along the trunk, the trunk may not necessarily look straight.

In this next step, techniques vary for Container-Grown Trees and Balled And Burlapped (B&B) Trees.

Container-Grown Nursery Stock:
Container-grown nursery stock describes a variety of production methods where the trees or shrubs are grown in the containers (limiting root spread to the size of container). In some systems, like pot-in-pot and grow-bags, the container is in the ground. An advantage of container stock is that it can be planted in any season.

  • Lay the tree on its side in or near the planting hole.
  • Wiggle off or cut off the container.
  • Shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners. This is to deal with circling roots.
  • Tilt the tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, remove the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball

tree in hole properly

  • The ideal container-grown tree has a nice network of roots holding the root ball together. After the container is removed, the tree is gently tilted into place.
    If most of the soil falls off the roots, the tree is planted as a bare-root tree.
    If some of the soil falls off (often on the bottom), it may be necessary to adjust the depth of the planting hole. Backfill and pack the bottom of the planting hole to the correct depth.
  • Fabric grow bags must be removed from the sides. They are generally cut away after setting the tree into place.
  • Paper/pulp containers should be removed. Most are slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues. Pulp containers often need to be cut off, as they may not slide off readily.
  • In handling large trees (3-inch caliper and greater) it may be necessary to set the tree into place before removing the container.

Field-Grown, B&B Nursery Stock:
Field-grown, balled and burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs are dug from the growing field with the root ball soil intact. In the harvest process, only 5-20% of the feeder roots are retained in the root ball. B&B nursery stock is best transplanted in the cooler spring or fall season.
To prevent the root ball from breaking, the roots are balled and wrapped with burlap (or other fabrics) and twine (hence the name B&B). In nurseries today, there are many variations to the B&B techniques. Some are also wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap, placed into a wire basket, or placed into a pot.
An advantage of the wider planting hole is that it gives room for the planter to remove root ball wrappings AFTER the tree is situated in the hole.
Based on research by the ISA, standard procedures are to remove root ball wrapping materials (burlap, fabric, grow bags, twine, ties, wire basket, etc.) from the upper 12 inches or 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater, AFTER the tree is set into place. Materials under the root ball are not a concern since roots grow outward, not downward. It is still a good idea to remove as much as possible.

  • Remove extra root ball wrapping added for convenience in marketing (like shrink-wrap and a container). However, do NOT remove the burlap (or fabric), wire basket and twine that hold the root ball together until the tree is set into place.
  • Set tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, removed the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball.
  • Removed all the wrapping (burlap, fabric, twine, wire basket, etc.) on the upper 12 inches or upper 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater.
  • If roots are found circling the root ball, shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners.
  • The consensus from research is clear that leaving burlap, twine, and wire baskets on the sides of the root ball are not acceptable planting techniques.
    • Burlap may be slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues.
    • Burlap that comes to the surface wicks moisture from the root ball, leading to dry soils.
    • Jute twine left around the trunk will be slow to decompose, often girdling the tree.
    • Nylon twine never decomposes in the soil, often girdling the trees several years after planting.
    • Wire baskets take 30-plus years to decompose and may interfere with long-term root growth.
  • With tapered wire baskets, some planters find it easier to cut off the bottom of the basket before setting the tree into the hole. The basket can still be used to help move the tree and is then easy to remove by simply cutting the rings on the side.

Backfill
When backfilling, be careful not to over-pack the soil which reduces large pore space and thus soil oxygen levels. A good method is to simply return soil and allow water to settle it when irrigated.
Soil “peds” (dirt clods) up to the size of a small fist are acceptable in tree planting. In clayey soils, it is undesirable to pulverize the soil, as this destroys large pore space.
Changes in soil texture (actually changes in pore space) between the root ball soil and the backfill soil create a soil texture interface that impedes water and air movement across the interface. To deal with the interface, the top of the root ball must come to the surface (that is, no backfill soil covers the top of the root ball). Backfill soil should cover the root ball knees, gradually tapering down.

Optional Staking
When properly planted, set on undug soil, most trees in the landscape do not require staking or underground stabilization. Staking may be desirable to protect the trees from human activities. Staking or underground stabilization may be needed in windy areas.
Install staking before watering so the planting crew does not pack down the wet soil. After the first year, remove the stakes for two reasons, one to be sure growth is not hindered by any cables and secondly, the tree will need to learn how to deal with the wind (by growing stronger), if left staked, it may blow down after it’s larger.

Water to settle soil
Watering is done after staking so the installer does not compact the wet soil installing the stakes. Watering is a tool to settle the soil without overly packing it. Be sure the new tree gets enough water to settle the soil, then at least 1” of water a week, more if it is hot and dry.

Final grade
With the wide planting hole, the backfill soil may settle in watering. Final grading may be needed after watering.

Mulch
Do not place mulch directly over the root ball on newly planted trees. As a rule of thumb, 3” to 4” inches of wood/bark chips gives better weed control and prevents soil compaction from foot traffic when placed over the backfill area and beyond. Additional amounts of mulch may reduce soil oxygen.
Do not place wood/bark chips up against the trunk. Do not make mulch volcanoes!! On wet soils, mulch may help hold excessive moisture and be undesirable. Wood/bark chips are not suitable in open windy areas.
summary of how to plant a tree

⊗These species are prone to girdling roots.
Austrian pine, Pinus nigra
Black gum tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana
Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa
Cherry, Prunus spp.
Crabapple, Malus spp.
Dogwood, Cornus spp.
Elm, Ulmus spp
Fruitless mulberry. Morus alba
Gingko. Gingko biloba
Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis
Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis
Holly, Ilex spp.
Honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos
Juniper, Juniperus spp.
Littleleaf linden, Tilia cordata
Norway maple, Acer platanoides
Norway spruce, Picea abies
Pin oak, Quercus palustris
Poplar/Cottonwood, Populus spp.
Red maple, Acer rubrum
Red oak, Quercus rubra
Sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima
Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris
Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii
Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila
Silver maple, Acer saccharinum
Spruce, Picea spp.
Sugar maple, Acer saccharum
Sugarberry, Celtis laevigata
Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
White oak, Quercus alba
White pine, Pinus strobes
Zelkova, Zelkova sp.

© The Naturarian

Attack of the Poo Tree

Black knot disease in treeThe first time I witnessed Black Knot, I was conducting a tree survey for a family that was putting their house up for sale. I started in the front and made my way around to the rear yard where the family’s three children where playing. I rounded the corner to see a very large plum tree that had a sever case of black knot. When the children saw me looking at the tree, they asked me, “Are you here to clean the poo off of our poo tree?” Ah, out of the mouths of babes….Black Knot

Black Knot of plums and cherries is a common and serious disease throughout the United States. The disease becomes increasingly worse during each growing season and unless effective control measures are taken, it can stunt or kill the tree. The black knot fungus can infect American, European, and Japanese varieties of cultivated plums and prunus. Sweet and tart cherries are also affected by the fungus, but are generally less susceptible than plum or prune. Sometimes, it may also infect apricots, peaches, and other Prunus species.

The fungus overwinters in the galls. During wet periods in the spring and when the buds of the tree swell, spores are expelled and windblown to infect young green shoots or wounded branches.

Once spores germinate, the fungus grows between the plant cells with no outward signs visible on the plant for several months. During this time, the fungus starts growing within the tree and releases hormones that cause the plant to initiate excessive cell growth that results in swollen black galls. The galls contain both plant and fungal tissue.

It is not uncommon for the gall to completely encircle and girdle the branch of the tree. Usually when this occurs, the leaves beyond the gall wilt and die.

black knot

Sometimes, the branch and the gall die after spores are released in the early spring. If the branch lives, the knot becomes perennial and continues to enlarge, producing new spores every spring. Although the Black Knot fungus will not cause trunk decay itself, the cracks formed by a trunk infection can provide an entry point for other wood rotting fungi.

TREATMENT:

  • Prune out galls during the winter. Cut should be approximately 10” inches away from the gall.
  • Fungicides should be applied when the host plant starts to bud, or when Magnolia x soulangiana is in pink bud to early bloom. Continue to spray every 7 – 10 days until there has been about 1 1/2” inches of growth or when Magnolia x soulangiana is dropping its petals.
  • Chemical treatments effective against black knot include fungicides with one of the following active ingredients:
    • Captan
    • Chlorothalonil
    • Thiophanate- methyl
    • Lime sulfur

© The Naturarian

It’s Zimmerman Pine Moth Time!

Zimmerman pine moth’s pitch tube on pine.

Any time there is a drought the previous summer/fall, Austrian, Scots, and red pines of the Midwest are susceptible to the Zimmerman pine moth (Dioryctria zimmermani). Why? In a nutshell, if a tree has enough water (turgid), any boring insect would get pushed out via the high pressure of fluids in the tree. This is why it it important to be sure your trees are getting enough water in the autumn.

White, tan or rust-colored resin flowing on the trunk could indicate the presence of the moth’s caterpillar-like larva. Finding one or two boring points is usually of no concern. Heavier infestations could cause weakened trees to become susceptible to other pests and diseases, eventually killing the tree. Heavily infested trees should be removed, so they don’t become a nursery for the moths.

It is critical to understand the life cycle of the Zimmerman pine moth [ZPM] for proper management. The tiny caterpillar over-winters in a silken cocoon-like structure just under the bark. Now, in the early spring, the caterpillars feed on the bark for a week or two, then tunnel into the main trunk, usually in a whorl area. Resin is pushed out by the insect causing a ‘pitch tube’. Fresh pitch tubes are white to tan, the consistency of lard and have a shiny appearance. Old tubes are yellow to grey, crystallized and hard, with a dull appearance. It is important not be confused by old tubes and new, which all together, may look like an infestation.

In mid-summer, the caterpillars pupate either inside the external resin or within their tunnels. At this time, it may be possible to kill the pupa by hitting the resin with a rubber mallet. I love organic cures!

The adults emerge as small grey moths in mid to late August. These moths fly at night and are rarely seen. Females lay their eggs on the trunk under the bark, thus beginning the cycle.

Management of ZPM begins with tree care including proper mulching, watering, pruning and fertilization. Healthy trees do not get attacked.

Insecticides should be applied during the two vulnerable times in the ZPM cycle. These times are mid to late April, as the over-wintering caterpillars become active, and in August, when the female moth has just laid her eggs and the caterpillars are searching for over wintering sites. Indicator plants for these spray times are when the saucer magnolia is in pink bud to early bloom, or in mid to late summer when panicle hydrangea is pink. Spraying branches and foliage is not necessary & wasteful.  Permethrin or bifenthrin are preventative sprays that are available for use by homeowners. Spraying at any other time is inefficient, as it has no effect and the insecticide may kill predators of the Zimmerman pine moth.

© The Naturarian

Don’t Let Crabgrass Get You Crabby!

Crabgrass (Digitaria sp.) is one of the most widespread grassy weeds found in Midwestern lawns. Crabgrass flourishes in full sunlight, high temperatures and can easily out compete common cool-season grasses, like our Kentucky Bluegrass. Crabgrass is a summer annual, which germinates in the spring, grows through the summer and dies with the first hard frost. They produce a tremendous amount of seeds in the mid to late summer when the days start to shorten. These seeds not only ensure next year’s crop of weeds, they can also remain dormant in the soil for many years before germinating. Generally, if you have crabgrass in your lawn, it will be there next year, also. Horticulturists say, “One year’s seed equals seven years weeding.” Gasp!!!

forsythia blooming yellow
Forsythia

The easiest way to take care of crabrass is to take care of it during the spring season, rather than take care of it later on in the season. A well-timed application of a ‘pre-emergent’ is what you’ll need. Just as the name states, a pre-emergent prevents seeds from germination. Killing it before it emerges. Be aware that you can’t use this type of herbicide if you are planning to or have just recently seeded your lawn, as it will kill those seeds also. Timing is critical, as the herbicide does not last long and must coincide with the seed wanting to germinate.

Crabgrass seed will not germinate until the soil temperatures are 55F degrees at the one-inch level. The Illinois State Water Survey reports soil temperature at the four-inch depth at St. Charles reporting station was 47.5F degrees on April 16. The soil temperature at one-inch will be slightly higher. This suggests Northern Illinois is approaching the right conditions for application. Next week the weathermen say it will be warm and that will help the soil temperatures progress. North Americans can go to this site for application timing. Or the indicator plant that can be used for application timing is ‘forsythia is in bloom’. Late April (now) into early May will most likely be our target for 2019.

© The Naturarian

A Broken Tree ~ Why Arborist’s Cry

damaged treeAlthough this story doesn’t have a happy ending, it must be told to prevent future devastation.

We were camping at one of our local campgrounds last October and this tree was on our site. I normally love to put supporting links to campgrounds in my blog, however I’m going to be anonymous on this one. For us, this campground is close (under an hour drive) and is on a river we like to kayak on. Sadly though, they don’t care for their campground whatsoever. Almost every tree in the campground is injured in one way or another. Many are ready to fall on campers with a good gust of wind! I cringe when I see these situations, as what am I to do? Tell the family of 6 to move their camper now, before you lose a few of your chitlins from a downed tree? I’d get a “Pffft, we’re fine, you crazy, tree lady!” Yeah, don’t mind the lady with the ‘Risk Assessment Arborist’ badge on her lapel. =-P

I’ve pondered highly about saying something to the owners of such campgrounds. I would think that they would love the free information from a licensed arborist! Of course, I can give constructive criticism without being accusatory. No one wants to be told they don’t know what they’re doing  😉 However, I’ve done this once with nasty repercussions.

I was at a campground that had poison ivy everywhere in spades! Some hung into the paths that people walk on. I mentioned this to the owner, who told me, “What am I supposed to do about it?” I said that there are landscapers that care for these types of situations and his reply was that he didn’t have the money to do it and people will just have to avoid it. I told him he could put up a sign that identifies the area and show folks what poison ivy looks like. He said he didn’t want people to be afraid to camp there and campers should know what PI looks like! This campground was charging $72 a night, without sewer. This is an outrageous fee, for you non-campers. Normal rates are about $30-$40, with sewer, at a private campground.

Sometimes, there’s really no risk involved in the landscape. Many times it’s just a plant health problem or an aesthetic thang.

Take a look at the photos of this tree… From a layman’s perspective, it may not look like there are any issues at all. However, upon further inspection, do you notice how large the trunk is compared to the canopy of the tree? A few years ago, the whole top of this tree broke off. Then the tree sent out a bunch of shoots from the broken trunk to compensate for the loss of its food-making leaves. These branches are not attached to the tree very well and can break with little effort. As you can see, many of the branches are dying already.

The last photo is of the root-crown and how it was planted. This tree had little chance from day one of ever surviving. It was buried too deep and has multiple girdling roots, which are roots that circle the trunk and only get tighter as the tree grows, cutting off its circulation, in layman’s terms.

Can this tree be saved? No. Its structure has been so compromised, there’s really no way to prune it back to a healthy shape.

Just like Prince sang, “This is what is sounds like…. when Arborists cry.”  😉 Or some thing like that!!


© The Naturarian

Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

mulch volcano There are many rumors out there that somehow become common knowledge that are very detrimental to whatever the cause is.

Mulching trees is one of them. I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanoes’. If the truck of your tree looks the same as a telephone pole, there’s too much mulch on it!!! The tree should flare out where it comes out of the ground.tree fell due to too much mulch on trunk

Sadly, homeowners see this and think this is the correct way to go and the vicious cycle continues. Professional landscapers do it all the time just to fill their pockets, telling you it’s horticulturally correct. Don’t fall for it! You DO NOT need to add mulch to your beds yearly. It is a good idea to cultivate what is still there, though. My advice is to apply biannually or where it may have eroded.

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few.. However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo to the right, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. This tree looked completely healthy. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Here are my PeeGee Hydrangea trees, PROPERLY mulched, which looked to have survived my fall planting. You can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. I really only put enough over the rootball to make it the same color/blend well with the mulch doughnut.

tree properly mulched

correct way to mulch

Below is a reality check. Look how high that mulch was! 😯

© The Naturarian

Identifying Diplodia Tip Blight in Pines

Diplodia tip blight is a disease of pines in the Midwest area and the treatment window will soon be upon us. This disease is caused by the fungus Sphaeropsis sapinea and highly effects two-needled pines such as Austrian, scotch, mugo and red, but can infect all evergreens. Here, our Austrian Pines are the most affected and are no longer planted here.

pine with blight on needles

The disease will eventually kill the tree, but can take a long time, without treatment (5 years-ish). Although treatments can slow the process, careful thought is needed in a budgetary sense. The tree will begin to have die-back (larger branch death) and will require regular pruning to be aesthetically pleasing… if that’s even possible. Treatments can be costly, worse-case ineffective, if not applied correctly. The cost of removal will go up as the tree gets larger or becomes more hazardous to fell. In the end, depending where the tree is located, along with the ‘value’ placed on the tree, it may be more cost-effective to remove the tree and replace it as soon as diagnosed.

blight on pine needle

The Diplodia fungus overwinters on infected needles, cones, and within the bark of twigs. Spores are released from spring through late fall. New shoots are infected during the spring from bud break to the end of the growing season. The cones are infected during the spring of the second season, as it takes two years for cones to mature.

Spread of the disease is by the splashing of water, be it rain or over-head irrigation. Because this disease tends to overwinter and spread from infected cones, symptoms are first noticeable on the lower branches, as old cones collect under the tree. Symptoms of infected trees become visible in summer through fall and resemble stunted needle growth and yellowing. Spores can be seen on the needles & old cones as black dots. Because cones are more susceptible to infection, younger, non-cone bearing trees are often symptom-free.

Managing Diplodia tip blight focuses on tree health and sanitation. Providing proper care such as no overhead (and proper) watering, mulching, pest management and fertilization, helps suppress the disease. Removal of diseased cones from the ground helps, but is not practical in large stands of pines. Pruning of infected tips will aesthetically improve the tree, but will do little in the stop of the disease.

Severely infected trees should be removed. A fungicide spray program needs to be implemented in the spring and includes at least three applications. Make the first application just prior to bud break* (which will be soon) and make two additional applications at 10-day intervals. It is important to get the first application on the trees before any bud sheaths have broken (the papery tan cover). If the tree you’re trying to save is of high value, consult a licensed ISA arborist, as the chemicals available to professionals are usually more effective.

* Indicator plants to watch for blooming that coincide with bud break:

  • Spiraea x vanhouttei – Vanhoutti Spirea
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Chaenomeles speciosa – Quince
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac

© The Naturarian

Phenology – “The Timing of Things”

pink magnolia tree bloomingPhenology is a science in the timing of life cycle events in flora and fauna. The word phenology literally translates out to ‘the science of appearance’. Phenologists observe and study the relationship between events that take place with the season, local weather, or climate changes. Subjects in phenology include migration habits of birds, bud break, flowering, insect appearance, reproduction, allergy seasons, fall leaf color and animal hibernation times. Carl Linnaeus was one of the first scientists to record phenological observations. He also is famous for creating the classification system for plants we still use today.

Although more individuals utilized phenology in the past, using these observations/data today can aid land managers and anyone else wanting to lower their landscaping costs. Knowing exactly when to apply an herbicide or pesticide, when to fertilize, or when to plant, can greatly reduce the cost and risk to all landscape caregivers. An example would be that when forsythia blooms, it correlates with the temperature necessary in the germination of crabgrass, and if an herbicide preventing it’s germination is applied in this window, it can be prevented. Missing the window of applying the herbicide can result in the only other way to control this weed, mechanical cultivation, known as backbreaking, weeding work!

One enormous advantage of phenology is that you do not need a degree to participate, just dedication and a central location for records. Many websites collect data and provide databases for different plant and animal cycles. Project Budburst only monitors plants and is a bit more user friendly for the hobby gardener, and The National Phenology Network that monitors more than plants.

Collection of data must be precise for the information to reflect the correct geographic area. When submitting data to a plant database, individuals are required to give positive identification of plant, latitude/longitude and elevation of the plant, and any other notes that could affect these readings. Things that could affect readings are the plant is near a building, on a slope, or surrounded by other plants, any possibility of something creating a microclimate for the observed plant. This is why the same species of a plant can have a different cycle than one nearby. Observations of the subject plant need to be conducted at least three times a week. Information on these six phenological stages are collected: budburst (first leaf), full leaf, first flower, full flower, end flower, and seed or fruit dispersal. After the information has been collected, it can be compared with previous years and associations such as climate changes affecting plants can be made.

In the future, I will be reporting phenological events for Midwestern gardeners in an attempt to help them reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides.

© The Naturarian

How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Happy

My wedding bouquet

First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish. Here in limestone land (alkaline), I use some vinegar to rid the vases of white spots (calcium).

There are other options to using a vase, florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.

The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at it’s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location, or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper or paper towel will help them stay hydrated.

Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:

Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems , then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase. Drink leftover champagne…

Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.

Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.

Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.

Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.

Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.

Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.

Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.

Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.

Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.

Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping.

Clearly, arranging flowers could lead to getting tipsy 😉 Be safe out there!!

© The Naturarian