Category: Tools of Horticulture

Time to Look for Oak Wilt Signs

oak wilt cycleIf your in the Midwest and your oak (Quercus) leaves are now looking like the above photo, it more than likely has oak wilt.

Oak wilt is a disease caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum, that is either spread by beetles of the nitidulid family (commonly known as sap bugs) or by roots touching underground. The disease clogs the vascular system of the tree causing wilting.

This disease kills red oaks including; red, black, pin, and scarlet varieties. White oaks including; white, bur, and swamp white oaks tend to pull through, although it takes many injectable fungicide treatments and a lot of care must be given.

signs of oak wilt in oak tree

The symptoms on red and white oaks are different also. Red oaks develop wilting leaves, bronzing, and shedding of the leaves near the top of the tree. Bronzing starts on the edges of the leaves, moving inward to the midrib, along with wilting. Both green and bronzed leaves fall to the ground. Spore mats grow on dead trees in early summer on the sapwood, directly under the bark. There is enough pressure exerted to pop the bark off. The fungus extrudes a fruity odor that attracts the sap beetles for its dispersion.

White oaks develop symptoms within the top of the tree also, but only on a few branches, and not so severe. Streaking of the sapwood is more pronounced on the white oak than the red, and there are no spore mats.

Oak wilt is confused with other problems such as drought, construction stress, borers, and root problems.

These symptoms would include:

  • More noticeable during late summer
  • Regular size leaves, little wilting
  • Leaves browning evenly
  • Leaves remain on the tree after discoloring
  • Dying trees scattered throughout stand
  • More common on stressed sites
  • Signs of borers or root disease

Oak Wilt symptoms:

  • More noticeable during early summer
  • Small leaves, thin crown, wilting
  • Edges and tips of leaves bronzing first
  • Leaves drop soon after discoloring
  • Dying trees found in groups (root grafts)
  • Streaking and discoloration of vascular tissues
Firewood

There is no cure for oak wilt, only management of the disease, which consists of preventing the spread of it.

Other considerations to remember:

  • Avoid pruning oaks from April through August as that is the time the spore mats mature and the beetles can infect recently wounded trees
  • If a red oak is infected with other non-infected trees around it, sever roots via trenching to 3-4 feet deep to prevent root grafts to healthy trees
  • An injectable, systemic fungicide (Alamo) is available from a licensed arborist for white oaks.
  • Unfortunately, there is no cure for red oaks, which should be removed and properly disposed of.

© The Naturarian

Why Bulbs Aren’t Happy Looking Up Annuals Butts…

orange tulipsI was asked by a client the other day if we could plant her annual flowers right over her tulips, with the intent to allow the bulbs to ‘multiply’. I had to pass on bad news. Bulbs and annuals don’t play nicey-nice together. At least not with the selection we have here in the Midwest…

  • Bulbs should be planted at the correct depth for the bulb. If a bulb is planted too deep, to make room for the annual above, it may not grow.
  • Tulip foliage must be allowed to die-back naturally and will make an annual display look a bit messy until the foliage has died back and been removed. If you must prune the leaves back, there’s very little chance you’ll see tulips next Spring.
  • Bulbs, tulips in particular, do not multiply*, rather they disintegrate over time in the ground unless removed after the foliage has died back naturally, are stored properly and replanted in the fall. (Side note: Tulips give 3 years of service, in my opinion.)
  • Annuals planted over bulbs will remove all the nutrients from the surrounding soil leaving the bulb starved.
  • Bulbs need dry conditions, if annuals are planted above bulbs they will rot from the added water annual flowers require.

*Daffodils do multiply, however all the rest of the conditions would not be good for daffodil bulbs either.

 

© The Naturarian

Use Landscaping to Save on Energy Bills

Landscaping can significantly reduce the costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy

When planting trees for energy conservation, try to:

• Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.

• Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.using trees as a windbreak to your houseCommonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.

When a windbreak is planted correctly, a larger area of relatively calm air is formed downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks will made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

winter landscape drawingFor us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

summer landscape drawingDeciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location, it should grow within 20 feet of windows and should grow to a mature size of at least 10 feet higher than the windows they are shading.

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying and death to the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant the shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building wall.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© The Naturarian

Are My Plants on Crack? Powdery Mildew on Plants

mildew grape leaf.JPG
On grape leaf – Credit: David B. Langston

There are many species of fungus that cause powdery mildew on plants. Most only infect the leaf surface or stems and do not attack the leaf tissue of the host plant. Powdery mildew is not usually a serious problem, but to avoid severe damage to plants, quick control methods need to be taken.

Symptoms of powdery mildew:

Powdery mildews are observed in late spring and early summer as a white or gray powdery growth on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit. As the fungus developments, buds fail to open, leaves can become distorted, turn yellow, brown or become chlorotic, or may drop prematurely. Fruits may develop blemishes or abort early.

white mildew on peony leaves
Powdery mildew on peony

Powdery mildew grows predominantly on leaf surfaces and does not require water to infect the plant. Powdery mildew fungi overwinter in tiny black bodies called fungal threads, which can be found in leaf litter, twigs, and dormant buds. In Spring, the fungal threads produce spores that start the cycle, especially during periods of high humidity when days are warm and nights are cool, ideal temperatures range between 60F to 80F. Vulnerable plants are most susceptible while new shoots and leaves are expanding. Fungus is host specific, meaning the powdery mildew on phlox does not infect crabapples.

 

How to manage the mildew!

Cultural

Many powdery mildews, especially those that attack woody plants, are more unsightly than destructive. Good sanitation is highly important to reduce infections the next season. Powdery mildews can hibernate through the winter on dead and living plant tissue.

  • Be proactive and purchase disease resistant plants.
  • Space the plants properly, in-well drained soils where plants receive good air circulation.
  • Dispose of diseased leaves as soon as they drop.
  • Do not compost or use as mulch.
  • Always avoid working among plants with wet foliage. Stay inside on rainy days!

Chemical

Since most powdery mildew symptoms occur late in the growing season, it is usually not considered serious enough to justify chemical control. However, some plants may warrant protection and successful chemical control requires applying a fungicide properly and at the right time. Fungicides are a prophylactic, meaning it has to be sprayed on the plant before the infection occurs. Depending on what species or part of the plant (leaves, flower or fruit) you are trying to protect, spray times may be different.

One of my favorite, efficient fungicides to use is the Bordeaux mixture. In the early 19th century, many of the European grape vines were infected with blight caused by the aphid Phylloxera vastatrix (argued to have come from American grapes), but also mildew and other diseases caused by fungi.

In 1885, botany professor Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet of the University of Bordeaux studied powdery mildew in the vineyards of the Bordeaux region. He noticed the vines sprayed with copper and lime to keep nibblers away along the roads showed no signs of the disease. To this day, his solution is widely used in vineyards.

© The Naturarian

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian

The Hunt for Garlic Mustard is ON!

Now is the time to hunt for garlic mustard!! Otherwise known as Alliaria petiolata, a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

Spring rain has made the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion. It will also start blooming in our area soon, making it easier to find.

Garlic mustard plant witth white blooming flowers

It is native to large areas of Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. It was brought here by early settlers as a garden herb, but has broken free of the gardeners patch and is now considered an invasive species.

During the first year of growth, plants form rosette clumps of heart shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing white flowers, and as the flowering stems bloom they stretch into a spike-like shape. This pain-in-the-butt plant has enough energy in it, that if you pull it while it’s blooming, it can still produce seeds, which are released during the early summer. You’re best bet is to burn it ASAP or bag it. Do not compost, unless you’re very attentive to your pile.

So what can be done about this invasive species? EAT IT!

Garlic mustard can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, however because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like.

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

garlic mustard pesto

2 cups garlic mustard leaves, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup pecorino romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated

Use a food processor to combine the garlic mustard leaves, walnuts and garlic – pulse until very finely minced. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the cheese – pulse to combine.

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

2 eggs, 1 bunch scallions/chopped, 1 pkg flour tortillas, 1 cup garlic mustard/chopped, 2 tsp sesame oil, oil for frying. Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush on side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg mix on another tortilla, then put on top of 1st tortilla with egg side down. (Separate cakes with wax paper, repeat until all tortillas are used. Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown cakes on both sides (~2 minutes total). Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garlic Mustard Tossed Salad

4-6 leaves ruby red leaf lettuce, 4-6 leaves Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 handfuls tender garlic mustard leaves, French sorrel and bronze fennel (one leaf each), 1/3 cup mandarin orange slices, drained 1 slice of smoked salmon, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, croûtons.

Wash and crisp all the leaves and tear the lettuce leaves into a salad bowl. Cut the garlic mustard leaves, the French sorrel and the fennel into narrow strips and add to the salad. Cut the oranges and the smoked salmon into thin strips and place in the salad. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds and croûtons. Dress lightly with Italian dressing. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Garlic Mustard

20 medium garlic mustard leaves + 1/4 cup of chopped leaves, 1 cup of (any type of) sausage, 1 cup of rice, 2 Tbsn. chopped garlic, 1 Tbsn. lemon juice.

Mix rice and sausage and stir well. Add chopped leaves and lemon and toss. Put a teaspoon of this mix on a medium leaf of garlic mustard. Roll & hold leaf together with a toothpick. Serve on a plate.

© 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

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

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