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Spring Brings Out The Emerald Ash Borer

Soon, tiny green insects may begin flying around your ash tree(s). That could mean the beginning of the end for the tree(s). Or their decline may already have begun.

These tiny insects are the dreaded emerald ash borers (EAB) in their adult stage. It’s flight is a mating flight to begin the next generation of destruction to stately ash trees. After mating, the adults will die, but not before laying eggs on the nearest ash tree.

Photo: Howard Russell, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

The adult females will carve small indentations in the tree bark and lay an egg in each indentation. This will continue until she has laid her 60-100 eggs. When the larvae hatch, they immediately begin boring into the tree and start feasting on the phloem (food made through photosynthesis and the vessels that distribute it throughout the tree). The feast continues all through the year and, sometimes into a second year. After pupating inside the tree, they emerge as adults and begin the reproductive process.

The infestation begins high up in the tree and progresses down with successive generations. As a result, it’s difficult for the untrained eye to detect an infestation until dieback begins. Our arborists can climb to the top of the tree and look for the adults’ small “D” shaped exit holes.

If your ash tree(s) are infested, annual treatment may help them survive. If your trees are still healthy, we should apply a preventive treatment immediately and reapply it every two years. Treatment for this small but extremely damaging pest is not a do-it-yourself project. The most effective treatment/preventive is injected directly into the trunk of the tree at a concentration available only to certified pesticide applicators. Trees that have lost no more than a quarter of their crown to the emerald ash borer can be treated with a good prognosis. Those with more damage should be removed.

The cost and the need to repeat the application every year or two may seem like a substantial investment. However, a number of treatment or preventive applications can be made for the cost of removing a large, dead ash tree and replacing it with a new tree. And, this doesn’t even include the aesthetic loss, the loss of value to your property, and possible loss of understory landscaping because of their loss of shade.

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Clean & Prepare Your Water Feature

Fountains and water features are designed into landscapes to provide soothing calmness and tranquility during the spring, summer and fall seasons. In winter, however, they have to be winterized to protect them. I have some helpful advice for transitioning your water feature from winter hibernation to summer pleasure.

Water features are different in each landscape. They range from simple, self-contained fountains to elaborate creations, from simple waterfalls to sizeable koi ponds. Some people choose to hire professionals to winterize and summarize their water features, while others prefer to do it themselves.

For the DIYer, I suggest that you…

• Wait until the chance of a frost or freeze has passed.

• Inspect the pump, clean it and apply any necessary lubrication. Check the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions.

• Clean filters, spillways, vinyl liners and any man made surfaces.

• Reconnect the plumbing.

• Add water to the fountain or pond as needed.

• Make sure everything is primed that has to be primed.

• Turn on the water.

• Check for leaks.

• Add any necessary chemicals.

• Return any plants or animals that spent the winter elsewhere.

A water feature can be a landscape’s crowning touch. It complements the plants by adding an auditory dimension to the landscape’s visual appeal. I hope you’re able to dedicate no more than a day to preparing your water feature for the forthcoming season so you can enjoy it with little or no stress.

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Spring Lawn Care

Our lawns are planted with cool weather grasses but even these grasses have their breaking point. Extended cold, wet periods can be especially bad for turfgrass. Rejuvenating winter damaged lawns is relatively easy, though.

The first thing to do is check to be sure the grass is dry enough to support your weight and that you don’t leave footprints. When that day comes, rake the lawn with an iron rake to remove any dead grass. Dead grass may be the result of winter fungal diseases, leaves left on the grass that matted and retained too much moisture under them, or just some genetically weak grass.

While raking, replace snow plow divots (if your contractor hasn’t done it yet) just as you would lay sod. Rough up the bare spots and lay the divots in place, walk on them to press them into the roughed up soil and water them.

If your raking revealed small bare spots, they will probably fill in as the grass greens up and begins growing. Large spots will have to be reseeded. If raking thinned out the turf, you may want to overseed just to thicken the whole lawn. As you raked, you roughened up the soil. To overseed, spread fertilizer, compost or other organic matter. Then spread grass seed, rake it into the soil and water.

If you don’t have to overseed or seed bare spots, this would be a good time for pre-emergent crasbgrass killer. This prevents crabgrass seeds from germinating. But it can also prevent grass seeds from germinating. The time between applying pre-emergent and a safe time to plant grass is 6 to 8 weeks. This means holding off the grass seeding until after Memorial Day.

Do you typically have a bad crabgrass problem? If so, it might be better to apply the pre-emergent now and seed after Memorial Day. If crabgrass isn’t a pressing issue, consider seeding now and hoping that the grass comes in thick enough to act as nature’s crabgrass preventer.

As soon as broadleaf weeds like dandelions begin appearing, they should be treated with a post emergent weed treatment or pulled before they get a good foothold. These weeds are best treated after they emerge rather than before.

You can eliminate all the work and worry associated with lawn care all season long with a lawn care program. Our lawn care professionals will take care of all these chores at just the right time.

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Celebrate Arbor Day

Banks won’t close; government offices and schools won’t close. But Friday, April 26, is a holiday. Most school children will learn about Arbor Day. Many will even bring home a seedling in a paper cup to be planted in your yard.

Arbor day was first observed in 1885. In the 104 years between when Arbor Day was first observed and when it became a national holiday in 1989, each state declared its own Arbor Day. It was usually on a day that was best to start planting trees in their specific climate.

The first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska when J. Sterling Morton used his influence as a newspaperman, Nebraska Territory official and Secretary of Agriculture to President Grover Cleveland to have a day set aside to plant trees on Nebraska’s nearly treeless prairie. Morton was born in the town of Adams in New York’s North Country where there are plenty of trees.

Arbor Day and J. Sterling Morton present you with a great teaching moment. There’s plenty of material online about Morton and Arbor Day. After learning about the founder of Arbor Day, make a family activity out of doing something about trees and the environment. If there are places on your property where a new tree would look nice, take the family to your local garden center, buy a new tree and plant it as a family. Don’t forget the mantra: Right Tree, Right Place. Do your homework so you’re sure to select a tree that will grow well in the place you’ve selected.

For those of you who have plenty of trees on your property, consider a tree maintenance project. For this you will probably need help from our arborists. We don’t want you or your family getting hurt. Start this adventure by taking a family walk around your property, stopping to examine each tree. Jot down any care needs that you or a family member identifies. Then schedule a professional inspection. Compare your list with the arborist’s.

Following both inspections, sit down with the arborist, discuss your needs and prioritize. You may have trees that need pruning. You may have an ash tree that hasn’t received an emerald ash borer preventive treatment. This would be an excellent Arbor Day present.

We haven’t forgotten that tree in a cup that your child brought home. Planting a little seedling directly into the soil out in the yard, though, can be dangerous to the tree. Due to its small size and immaturity, it can be hit by the mower, stepped on or suffer many other injuries. Unless you’re prepared to give it plenty of space and put a fence around it, consider planting it in a container and setting it out on your deck or patio for a few years until it’s large enough to survive in the yard. You may have to transplant it into larger containers a few times before it grows to sapling size and can be safely planted on its own.

These are just a few ways that you can make Arbor Day a fun holiday that results in some great family bonding. Your community may also have family friendly events planned. Check with your town hall or your community’s website.

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Spring Cleanup

At long last, spring has sprung! It seems as though it’s been a long time coming. As anxious as you’ve been waiting for winter end, your yard probably fared much worse than you. After all, you could retreat inside away from the wind cold, snow and ice. Your yard didn’t have that choice. It had to just endure what Mother Nature dished out.

Your yard could now use some tender, loving care from you in the form of spring cleanup. Many tasks will be obvious but I offer these as a reminder and a check list:

• Start by testing the soil. If it feels soggy or you leave footprints in the lawn, you might want to give it another week or so to dry out before beginning your spring cleanup.

• Pick up any litter that blew into your yard and was covered up by snow.

• Rake up any leaves left from last fall or that blew into your yard over the winter.

• After April showers taper off and the chance of frost is behind us, rake the mulch to the edges of your planting beds to let the soil dry out.

• When the soil has dried out sufficiently, re-spread the mulch to its warm weather depth of 2 – 3 inches.

• Clean out dead annuals, trim back dead branches on perennials and cut ornamental grasses back to a level just above the ground.

• Stand up any toppled plants. Some may need to be dug up and replanted.

• Repair any hardscape that suffered winter damage. This includes walks and patios, fences and furniture.

• Buy or rent a pressure washer to get rid of any grime that has accumulated over the winter.

As the weather warms, the soil dries out and the possibility of frost subsides, watch for blogs on such subjects as spring lawn care, cleaning and preparing water features for the season, and planting annuals.

Photo Caption: After the grass is frost-free, leaves need raking here, one of the patio lights needs to be stood upright and the yucca plants need attention.

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After Bulbs Bloom

Bulb plants are the first flowers to bloom each spring. First the crocus, followed by the daffodils and then the tulips. These plants are best planted en masse so you can enjoy vast vistas of color. But then, you are faced with the dilemma of what to do when they are finished blooming.

The first inclination is to pull them out or cut the foliage off and throw it on the compost heap. However, that’s not a sustainable approach if you want them to bloom again next spring. The plants have to replenish the food in the bulb that was consumed to produce the blooms that just faded. This is done through photosynthesis.

When the flowers die, they will fall off the stem naturally. If they don’t fall quickly, it’s OK to cut them off so that energy can be used by the leaves, stems and bulbs. But don’t cut the stem or the leaves. Now that the flowers have done what nature put them on earth to do, it’s the leaves’ turn to do their thing.

When the leaves and stems die back and turn brown, you can then safely cut them off at the base, confident that they have served their purpose. If you want an extra level of protection, you can apply fertilizer around the base of your plants. Fertilize daffodils in early spring just as the plants are starting to poke up. Tulips should be fertilized in the fall. Check with your garden store horticulturists to see what formulation is best for your area. Don’t fertilize when you first plant the bulbs. They have plenty of food stored in the bulbs that will be used to grow that first year.

To keep your spring bulb beds from looking like a desert for most of the summer, you can plant later blooming companion plants among the bulbs. Companion plants are those that are planted in a bed to complement the other plants. Plants like hosta, coneflowers and black-eyed susans don’t come up until the bulb plants are at the end of their season. They fill in the bare spots and bloom in the summer or early fall so you have color all season.

Spring bulbs are such a welcome sight after a long winter. Yet, they are very low maintenance plants. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy early spring color in your landscape year after year.

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Spring Tree & Shrub Pruning

The calendar says spring is here and leaf buds are starting to swell. To prune or not to prune. That is the question. And, a question for which there is no pat answer.

A number of factors enter into the decision of whether to prune or not. The most basic is the species of tree or shrub you’re thinking about pruning. Trees and shrubs can always be pruned for safety (i.e. the removal of weak, broken, crossing or rubbing branches that could break loose and fall, causing injury and damage to people or property).

Species like maple, walnut and birch can be pruned in the spring. Yes, they are “bleeders” but their sap is through flowing so profusely by now. Apple and cherry are OK to prune now, as are stone fruit trees like peaches and plums. Wait for summer for evergreens. They will soon be putting on new growth that will change their shape. Pruning after the new growth is finished means it’ll only have to be done once.

Spring flowering trees and shrubs like dogwoods and lilacs shouldn’t be pruned until after they flower. These plants set their flower buds last fall, so they are on the branches all ready to break forth in a sea of color. There will be plenty of time to prune after the flowers have presented us with their spectacular show.

Every season’s the wrong season to prune your own trees, especially if you have to leave the ground. I can’t emphasize that point enough. Of all your ongoing tree maintenance, pruning is a task that should always be left to our professional arborists who have the experience, training and equipment to do the job as safely as humanly possible.

Shrubs aren’t as dangerous as trees, so you can prune most without putting yourself in harm’s way. While shrubs are easier to prune than trees, the same rules apply. Wait until after spring flowering shrubs bloom. Wait for evergreens to finish setting their new growth. Don’t leave stubs.

Unlike many landscape tasks, pruning has a wide window of opportunity, regardless of the season in which it should be done. Just take your time and be safe. Or better yet, be wise and turn the whole job over to our arborists. Then you don’t have to be concerned about which plants should be pruned in which season.