Tag: nature

Help With Volutella Blight on Pachysandra

pachysandra ground cover with blight diseasePachysandra terminalis is a beautiful, lush, evergreen ground cover for a semi-shady spot. One of the most common problems with pachysandra is a fungal infection called, Volutella Blight. Generally, pachysandra has very few issues when well cared for. However, when other situations stress the plant out, opportunistic pests can take over.

Volutella Blight has a fungal ring associated with the damaged lesions. Winter damage has an even-toned brown to the damage.

How to not stress out your pachysandra:

    • Plant it in a partial shade or shade area. Not in the sun.
    • Do not overwater, water in the morning and use drip irrigation, not overhead.
    • Be sure to do a fall cleanup to remove any fallen leaves or plant debris from the bed to improve air circulation and reduce moisture levels. Blow lightly with blower.
    • It is also helpful to periodically thin the planting to prevent dense growth and increase air circulation. Use leaf mulch, not woody chips.

blight on pachysandrapachysandra with winter injury

Blight on the left / Winter damage on the right

Fungicides such as mancozeb and maneb can be used to protect remaining plants and the new growth of any pachysandra that have been cut back. These treatments can help deter infection but will not cure infected plants. You would need to spray at 7 to 14 day intervals from spring until early summer. Generally this time would coincide with the blooming of serviceberries (Amelancheir) and Redbuds (Cercis canadensis).

© The Naturarian

Summer Annual Containers 2019

Summer annual container time!!! Please contact me if you’d like your containers planted.

 

If you’re looking for sensational summer color, look no further! Summer pots are the way to go. Not only are they full of pizzazz, the color is often right in your face, literally, especially if your favorite container is on a pedestal.

Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season with. A good, stiff brush dipped in a 10% bleach solution will do the trick. This will kill off any of the nasties waiting to infect your flowers. This cleaning should take you through the season also. No need to disinfect after each season change. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter)

You don’t need to remember a bunch of annual names. The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller! The Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest. Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature. Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

Here’s where your imagination needs to run free through the flowers. In many of the containers below, the photos are of the plants after there has been a bit of growth put on them. You can also get instant height from a trellised plant such as a mandevilla, jasmine or other vine.

Another tip ~ Flowering can be increased if the plants are kept on the drier side. This takes a bit of skill, as you don’t want them to dry-out, but keep them on the brink of drying. Why?!? Because. Think of it this way. If you’re kept all fat and happy without doing anything, why not just enjoy the hand-outs? (can you say ‘vegetative growth’? Haha!) However, if you need to work for everything you’re getting, you fight to survive and multiplying is surviving in a plants eyes. Thus, more blooms = more seeds.

©The Naturarian

Ring Around the Lawn – Fairy Rings

fairy ring fungus in lawn a ring of darker colored grassFairy Ring fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Fairy ring with mushrooms bloomingApproximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. If a soil profile is pulled from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. It’s been said that fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are ineffective and a waste of money.

It is best to just be proactive in how you maintain the lawn. Do not over-water or over-fertilize, and be sure to aerate in the spring.

dancing fairiesThere’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…

Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. This must be done under a full moon and in the direction the sun travels.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. European folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms.

© 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

Why Native Plants Rock – 4 of 4

Street side bioswale full of colorful flowers
Street bioswale

BIOSWALES AND RAIN GARDENS

The fundamental basis for encouraging use of native plant species are for improved soil erosion control in waterways, and the slowing of storm water run off. Many homeowners have a problem with seasonal, storm water accumulating on their property. Again, the solution lies with the installation of native plants in bioswales or a rain gardens. The difference between the two are: A bioswale is generally sloped to facilitate the movement of water, and a rain garden holds the water to be infiltrated into the local soil. Both are great for the environment and also promote and provide wildlife habitats.

Bioswales (also known as infiltration swales, biofilters, or grassed swales) are vegetated open canals purposely designed to reduce and treat storm water runoff. Like open ditches, they convey storm water from one source to a discharge point, but unlike ditches, they deliberately promote slowing, cleansing, and infiltration of the water along the way.

There are some design variations of the bioswale, including grassed channels, wet swales and dry swales. Grassed channels are primarily grass, and are the easiest to install, but it lacks in the slowing of storm water and removal of pollutants. A wet swale involves standing water at times, and is not usually wanted by homeowners. The dry swales are the most beautiful and functional of the three. These generally include many different types of plants, and the best method for the slowing and pollutant removal in storm water. Because they are made to move higher volumes of water, they may include an underlying rock reservoir, and / or a perforated drain-tile.

One of the biggest benefits of a bioswale is its pollution filtering properties. Above ground plant parts (stems, leaves, and stolons), retard flow and thereby support particulates and their associated pollutants to settle. The pollutants are then leeched into the soil where they may become immobilized and/or decomposed by beneficial bacteria.  A well-constructed bioswale installed along a roadway could reduce the amount of carbon-based pollutants like motor oil in the environment. Among the many benefits of vegetative swales, they also provide stabilization and prevent erosion, cost less to install than traditional curbs, and again, are much nicer to look at compared to concrete and asphalt.

cross section of a rain garden

Rain Gardens are landscape features designed to treat storm water runoff from hard surface areas such as roofs, roads and parking lots. They consist of depressed garden areas, where runoff can pool and infiltrate into the native soils below. Storm water enters the rain garden via an inlet pipe, such as the downspout of a residence. Small storm events can usually be temporarily stored until they infiltrate into the ground. Most rain gardens are designed to pond no more than 2-3 inches above the soil bed. Where native sub-soils have low infiltration rates, rain gardens often have a drain rock reservoir and perforated drain system to take excess water to another point. The constructed soils of the rain garden, and the overlying mulch layer, are designed to replicate many of the pollutant removal mechanisms that operate in wetland ecosystems. Though rain gardens do remove pollutants from runoff water much like a bioswale, if the pollutants are of a higher concentration, a bioswale may be a wiser choice.

There are many native plants adapted to having “their feet wet”. Some wildflower, fern, grass, and sedge options for the Lake County area are:

  • Aster puniceus, Purple-stemmed aster
  • Caltha palustris, Marsh marigold
  • Eupatorium maculatum, Joe-pye weed
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum, Boneset
  • Geum rivale, Bog avens
  • Helianthus grosseratus, Big-toothed sunflower
  • Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie blazing star
  • Lobelia spicata, Pale-spiked lobelia
  • Mimulus ringens, Monkey flower
  • Solidago spp., including S. gigantea, S. ohioensis, and S. riddellii, Goldenrods
  • Verbena hasta, Blue vervain
  • Vernonia gigantea, ssp. gigantea, Tall ironweed
  • Thelypteris palustris, Marsh fern
  • Calamagrostis canadensis, Canada bluejoint
  • Carex comosa, Bottlebrush sedge
  • Carex muskingumensis, Palm sedge

Population growth of Lake County will cause stress on the native environment unless residents are informed of mitigation efforts and encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. By using native plants, a community can reduce water use, pesticide/herbicide use, and maintenance cost/time. The extended root systems of natives help stop erosion and promotes soil health.  Native plants restore the surroundings, and encourage native insects and animals to inhabit the area.

Here’s a great link to the Wisconsin Extension Natural Resources Departments “How To_Build_RainGardens”, one of the best I’ve scoped out. It has ‘recipes’ for rain gardens that supply all the names of plants that do well in different types of soils and light requirements.

© The Naturarian

 

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 3 of 4

far side comic of a dog mwing the lawn badly
Credit: The Far Side – If my husband could teach our dogs to mow the lawn, he’d be a happy man!

America’s fascination with green lawns has brought the total crop area to 40.5 million acres, and cost Americans a total of about $30 billion last year. Kentucky Bluegrass – Poa pratensis, the most common lawn grass used in this area has a root system of approximately 1” – 2” at best. Because of the shorter root zone, and non-native status, a Bluegrass lawn requires more water, nutrients, and maintenance. Some of the statistics reported by The National Wildlife Association regarding typical lawns in the United States are:

  • 30% of water used on the East Coast goes to watering lawns; 60% on the West Coast.
  • 18% of municipal solid waste is composed of yard waste.
  • The average suburban lawn received 10 times as much chemical pesticide per acre as farmland.
  • Over 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied to residential lawns and gardens annually.
  • Per hour of operation, a gas lawn mower emits 10-12 times as much hydrocarbon as a typical auto. A weed-whip emits 21 times more and a leaf blower 34 times more.
  • Where pesticides are used, 60 – 90% of native earthworms are killed. Earthworms are important for soil health.

These statistics address the environmental argument for lawn alternatives, but there are the time and money factors to figure in also.

The other problem for most homeowners to wrap their mind around is the difference between cool season grasses and warm season grasses. Warm or cool season refers to when the lawn is growing, i.e. a cool season grass grows when it is cool (spring / fall), a warm when warm (summer). Kentucky Bluegrass (a cool season grass) is green and needs little water or nutrients during the spring or fall months, but needs constant mowing. However, during the hot, summer months, cool season grasses go dormant, often turning yellow and crispy. This is usually a problem for Joe Homeowner that expects the lawn to be green all year. This is also the time of year (June – August) that most water is wasted (and overuse of nutrients) by desperate homeowners thinking their grass is dieing. Educating the public about the seasonal nature of Bluegrass (going dormant) could possibly reduce water waste, but peer pressure and the persona of the “Perfect Green Lawn” will most likely win out, for now…

buffalo grass
Buffalo Grass

Many lawn alternatives arguably look just like a lawn. Buchloe dactyloides, commonly known as Buffalo Grass, is one of the only perennial, native grasses that can be found from Montana to Mexico. It is a stolaniferous, very drought tolerant, varieties can be from 2” – 8”, and if left unmowed, will have attractive seed heads. Choice of variety (and personal preference) will be the factor of how often the lawn will need to be mowed, but 2X a month is about average. It is a warm season grass, opposed to the Bluegrass, so it is slow to start growing in the spring, but will be green during the warmer months without (or very little) added water or nutrients (compost).

white clover instead of lawn
White clover

Another alternative to the standard lawn is Clover, which, from a distance can look like a lawn, but not close up. Though there are many, non-native Clovers to choose from, Trifolium repens, or White Clover is the only native of Illinois. Clovers are in the Bean family (Fabaceae), which have a unique ability to recondition the soil by returning nitrogen to it (called: nitrogen fixation). Farmers often rotate Clover seasonally into their fields to prevent weeds, reduce compaction (because of the deep root system), and to restore nitrogen levels to the soil.

Although Clover does not look like a traditional lawn, it will act much like one without all the hassles. Clover is very low maintenance, and stays green with little water and no mowing (unless wanted). Fertilizers are unnecessary, as Clover provides it’s own nutrients to itself by nitrogen fixation. The real benefit for Lake County residents is that it grows well in the hard, clay soils and will better the soil in the process. Another advantage for dog owners, it does not yellow from urine. The cost of a Clover lawn is inexpensive, at about $4 to cover a 4000 square foot area. Durability is the only downside to clover, as it can handle foot traffic, but not hard-core activities.

creeping thyme groundcover inbetween flgstone steppers
Thymus praecox – Creeping Thyme

A compromise option is a half Clover, half Buffalo Grass (or Bluegrass) lawn that will be able to handle the stresses of an active family. Sadly, society may look down at the combination, as it looks as though weeds are overtaking the lawn, especially in the spring when the Clover flowers (beautifully). A back yard may be a better location for this type of arrangement for someone trying to break the ‘bluegrass lawn mode’.

There are many alternatives to lawns (groundcovers) people can use that have their own special characteristics. Thymus praecox, commonly known as Creeping Thyme is an Illinois native that blooms shortly in the spring with light pink flowers. A solution for those shady, moist, hard to grow areas is Thuidium delicatulum, commonly known as Fern Moss, also a native to our area. Both can take a small amount of foot traffic, and most often are used in between stepping stones or rock type paths.

Come back tomorrow for the last part of the Native Plant series.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 2 of 4

Dutchman's breeches white flower
Dicentra cucullaria – Dutchman’s breeches

OUR NATIVE PLANT SPECIES

Encouraging native plant use in the landscape can help the community save local native species, help with water related issues, and reduce pollution. Using native plants will help correct the problems connected with compaction and soil health.

Native plants can be defined as being indigenous or occurring naturally in a given geographic area and not introduced to that area by humans. When it comes to native plants, the “geographical area” is a 50-mile radius. The distinction between native and non-native species is important because native species have generally adapted and evolved with the competing species, predators, and diseases of an area over many thousands of years. Native species are therefore generally in reasonable ecological balance with their associates and competitors, and have pests, predators, or diseases that limit their abundance.

chart showing how deep our native plant roots goThe Lake County area was part of the tall grass prairie lands, and the soils are the richest of all the soil orders. The reason for this is native plants have extensive root systems which improve the ability of the soil to infiltrate water and withstand wet or erosive conditions. When comparing root systems of non-native to native plants, the differences are obvious. Most native plants roots are 2-3 times longer and more fibrous than non-natives are. The root systems of a native plant are on an average 7′ feet deep, with some reaching up to 15′ feet. Because roots reach these depths, the soil becomes very rich with nutrients at lower levels.

Soil taxonomists have assigned the name “Mollisol” (soil order) to this type of soil, characterized as having a dark-colored organic surface layer of approximately 1”-3” (O horizon), and an extensive next layer of dark loamy soil (A horizon) from 3’ – 18” down.

A homeowner can reduce their time input, money, water use and pollution output by just reducing the lawn size of their property and adding native plant gardens. After a native plant garden establishes itself (1 – 3 years), the maintenance time involved plummets. More garden areas mean less lawn areas, and all the maintenance requirements of it. The cost of a native garden can be very affordable, as seeds can cost as little as $30 covering a 500 square feet area. After removal of the lawn (sod remover rental of $48/day), installation is as easy as a disk tiller (rental for the day $32), some hard work, and the seed. This method is for a patient person, as some flowering, native plants (forbs = flowering plants) can take up to 3 years to bloom. Most homeowners would like to have something to look at quickly, so mature plants would be best, or another possibility is a mix of plugs (immature plants) and seed.

The newly seeded/planted area will need extra water to germinate/get started and throughout the first season. However, after a native garden becomes established, the plants can withstand most droughts, only needing a small amount of water in desperate times. This saves time, money and resources.

Lastly, native plants do not need any commercial fertilizer, which pollutes the environment. Natives are happy to receive compost as a method to get vitamins. Compost application can be as easy as leaving vegetation and leaf residues to over-winter, taking free manure from any of the horse farms nearby (remember to dig deep for the good stuff!!) or from your compost bin. Many natives, mostly of the wetland type, can actually extract toxins from the soil, mitigating damage done from commercial fertilizers.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow we’ll discuss some ‘lawn substitutions’ for those die-hard lawn fans.

© The Naturarian

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

Courtship Dance & Serenade – House Finch Style

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) breed between March and August. Courtship practices can entail some crazy serenading like in the video below. After the female chooses the perfect, bright red suitor, she builds a nest, which is made of any soft material available. A pair can lay as many as three clutches of eggs in one summer, however they usually can only successfully raise two. The female lays 3 to 6 bluish or greenish-white eggs, with each egg weighing approximately 2.4 g that take about 14 or 15 days to hatch. The female incubates the brood and feeds the naked chicks for five days, then both parents take over feeding.

The nestlings leave the nest when they are 13 to 20 days old. The male continues to feed the fledglings for about two more weeks. (It’s actually quite comical to see the ragged-feathered dad with three youngsters in tow, all screaming FEED ME!!!) The female avoids this nonsense and begins to build a new nest so the cycle can continue…


© 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.

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