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Watering Necessary Despite Wet Spring

When you see the results of May’s rain storms still being felt along the shores of Lake Ontario, it’s hard to believe that you’ll have to water your lawn and landscape plants this summer. However, you should be prepared to do so, especially if you have new plants.

Rain water soaks deeply into the soil. Older plants, especially established trees, have no problem reaching down to the water. But younger plants have not yet developed roots that reach down that far. As a result, they have to depend on recent rain for their water. This means that, when Mother Nature turns off the faucet later this summer, it’s up to your to turn it on

Even if you don’t have recently planted trees, shrubs or perennials, you probably have annuals and containerized plants, and they need watering to supplement rain.

The best watering method for all your needs, except containers and grass, is the use of soaker hoses. You just snake as many hoses as needed close to your plants, connect to the faucet and turn it on a quarter-turn. Turn it on any more and it can blow major holes in the porous hose. Soaker hoses are the next best thing to a drip irrigation system.

Plants need at least an inch of water a week, and it’s best to apply it all in one session. The water slowly “oozes” out of the soaker hose’s porous rubber, so it can take an hour or more to apply an inch.

Many people are re-growing grass that was overseeded to repair the damage from last summer’s drought. New seeding has to be moist all the time. This often means daily watering, sometimes even twice daily. Soaker hoses are impractical for turfgrass so you have to rely on sprinklers. I suggest you water early in the morning or in the evening. If you sprinkle in the heat of the day, much of the water will evaporate before it reaches the ground.

Hand holding a hose and nozzle isn’t recommended. It takes some time to thoroughly soak a lawn. You’ll get tired and sunburned before you apply enough water. Limiting your watering to a surface coating will result in grass plants with weak, shallow roots. If you apply enough water to soak into the soil, you’ll encourage roots to grow deeper and stronger.

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Have Your Trees Health Checked After Soggy Spring

Spring hasn’t been kind to trees any more than it has been kind to us. At least we had shelter but your trees had to stand out there enduring high winds, saturated soil and even flooding. This kind of weather also exposed your trees to all kinds of health problems. That’s why they should be inspected by one of our professional arborists. Conditions that may appear hopeless to the untrained eye may be repairable for a professional arborist.

Out arborist will start with the obvious: Did any branches break off? If they did, was it caused by the wind, insects or disease? If the wind caused the breakage, the stubs that were left may have jagged ends that won’t heal. That’s just the opening insects and disease organisms are looking for. We can trim the stub off right at the branch collar to encourage healing. While in the trees, we’ll also check for branches that broke and are still hanging in the canopy. These are especially dangerous because they can fall at any time.

Fungi are major concerns where trees were flooded or subjected to extended periods of “wet feet” from standing in soggy soil. We have specialized equipment and training to check tree roots, trunks and branches for cavities caused by decay. This will allow us to determine the extent of the rot and determine if the tree is still viable and for how long.

The fungi doing damage are microorganisms inside the tree. If you see mushroom-like growths on trees, they are fruiting bodies that indicate that the fungi are well established.

An inspection will also include a check of the root zone to be sure the tree is stable, a check for insect activity and a crown inspection to be sure there are enough leaves left to manufacture the food the tree needs to sustain itself.

When we finish with our inspection, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your tree has come through the storms a survivor or you’ll know what action you have to take to make your property safe for your family.

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Caring For Perennials

Perennials are important elements in almost every landscape design. Unlike annuals that grow for only one season or biennials that grow for two seasons, perennials come back season after season.

Trees and shrubs are, technically, woody perennials that slow their growth or go dormant each winter but their branches and trunks remain intact. The above ground parts of many herbaceous perennials, however, do die in the winter.

One reason often given for planting perennials is that they need no maintenance. This isn’t necessarily true. They may need less maintenance than, say, annuals but they still need maintenance. For example, those herbaceous perennials that die back each winter have to be cut back to ground level and composted. Be sure not to disturb the roots. They continue to grow until the ground freezes.

Some perennials don’t like confinement. They like to spread out, sometimes choking out adjacent plants. The remedy is to split them. Dig up the whole plant. Lay it on a tarp and split the roots into four sections. Replant one of the quarters in the hole from which it came. You can replant the others in planting beds on your property, give them to friends or donate them to a charitable plant sale. Splitting can be done now, in the month of June, but not in July or August. Perennials can also be split in the fall.

Other perennial maintenance tasks aren’t that different from what you will encounter with other types of plants. These tasks include deadheading to encourage more flowers. Then there’s weeding, fertilizing, and watering if you don’t have enough rain. The result will be beauty and enjoyment for many years to come.

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Good Time To Prune Evergreens

June is the best month to prune your evergreen trees and shrubs, especially the conifers. Most have completed their new growth by now so it’s unlikely that you’ll have to repeat the process when more new growth appears.

New growth is lighter green than the normal color. The needles are much softer, even on plants like spruce that normally have very sharp needles. And, new growth is only on the ends of the branches.

If you want to be very sure the tree or shrub is finished adding new growth, wait a week or two before pruning.. Watch for the new growth to darken to the plant’s normal color and harden to the normal feel. The downside is that these branches may require extra effort to cut.

The same pruning rules apply to evergreens as to deciduous plants. Don’t top. Cut branches back to a junction where other branches emerge from the one you’re cutting. Leave the branch collar when you prune a tree limb.

The most important rule is to not prune your own trees, especially if you have to leave the ground. Tree branches can break unexpectedly and fall, injuring you or somebody on the ground. Conifer branches, with their very piercing needles, can also whip around and hit you in the face or another unprotected part of your body. Their springiness also makes conifer branches dangerous to stand on. Leave tree pruning – evergreen and deciduous – to our professional arborists.

I’ve presented recommendations for pruning individual coniferous evergreens shrubs. However, some people plant evergreens like yews (Taxus) as hedges. This is also the time to prune them. Although using hedge clippers isn’t recommended, I know many people do because it’s the easiest way to have an even flat top and sides. I caution you, though, not to cut the sides too far back. Needles grow only in the first few inches of the branches. If you cut too far, you’ll remove all the needles and be left with the woody interior.

This post has concentrated on coniferous evergreens. However, this is also the season to prune broadleaf evergreens like boxwood. Prune them the same way s you would coniferous shrubs.

Prune evergreens now, at the beginning of summer, and you’ll enjoy their beauty all summer long.

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Time To add Seasonal Color

This is the traditional time to plant annuals. Where, when and how many you plant depends on your tastes, time, ambition and, this year, the weather.

Though short lived, annuals are among the most versatile plants. Your garden store has them in all shapes, sizes and colors. Most are small and sold in packages of six (commonly called six packs). Some of the larger annuals like geraniums are sold in individual pots.

Planting options for annuals are endless. You can plant them in traditional flower beds, raised beds, window boxes and even decorative patio containers.

Regardless of whether beds are at ground level or raised, you plant the same way you would a tree, shrub or perennial. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball but only as deep. I usually squeeze the root ball to loosen the roots. Set it in the hole and backfill. Use your hands rather than your feet to tamp down the soil, especially for small annuals from six packs. When you finish planting all of them, water them well.

To plant in window boxes or containers, fill the container with a good quality potting mix. Then dig holes about the size of the plant’s root ball but no deeper, place the plant in the hole, backfill and press down the backfill with your fingers. Repeat for each plant. When finished, water them well. Holes twice as wide as the root ball aren’t necessary for window box or container plants because the soil isn’t compacted as it is when planting in-ground.

Larger annuals like geraniums can be slipped right into a decorative container while in their nursery pots.

Annuals planted in the ground have to be watered only if Mother Nature doesn’t supply them with at least an inch of rain a week. You should also weed your planting beds on a regular basis.

Containers and window boxes require a bit more watering. Water that isn’t absorbed by the plant roots filters right through the potting mix and out the drain hole. So, it has to be replaced more often than it does for plants in the ground.

Deadheading extends the life of annuals. Their reason for existing is to produce seeds. That’s why they flower so profusely. If the dead or limp flowers are not removed, annuals will flower, drop their seeds and die quickly. If, however, you remove the spent flowers before they go to seed, the plant will produce more flowers. They will try a second or third time to reproduce. Purists refer to deadheading as pinching and believe that using your fingers to pinch off the dead flowers is the only way. I use a pair of small pruning shears and it works just fine.

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Caring For Spring Flowering Shrubs & Trees

Spring flowering trees and shrubs are nearing the end of their bloom cycles. Forsythia, one of the earliest bloomers, has completed its cycle and most of the yellow flowers have fallen. Many rhododendrons and azaleas are done, or soon will be. Lilacs are nearing the end of their blooming period, except for a few late blooming varieties.

I recommend removing any limp flowers that remain so the shrubs can direct their energy to foliage growth and next year’s blooms, rather than wasting that energy producing seeds.

Since last fall, I’ve been advising you not to prune spring flowering shrubs and trees until after they’ve bloomed. It’s OK to prune now, as soon as the flowers fall. This will give the plants plenty of time to begin the process of setting next spring’s flower buds.

All the rules for pruning trees and shrubs apply now, just as they did last fall. Don’t top. Prune back to a junction rather than leaving stubs. Leave the swollen branch collar, which contain the chemicals that help pruning cuts heal. Don’t paint cuts. Don’t climb ladders. Call our arborists to prune your trees.

Now is a good time to fertilize your spring blooming shrubs and trees to replenish the soil nutrients. Be sure you buy the right fertilizer for the plant. Rhododendrons and azaleas, for example, are ericaceous (erəˈkāSHəs),  which means they like acid soil. Since most of our soil is neutral, select a fertilizer blend formulated specifically for ericaceous plants.

Hydrangeas bloom later in the season but you can start having some fun with them now by controlling whether they bloom pink or blue. It depends on the soil pH. Hydrangeas bloom blue in acid soil and pink in alkaline soil. You can actually control the color by controlling the pH. If you prefer pink flowers, work lime into the soil around a hydrangea. For blue flowers, work aluminum sulfate into the soil. You can purchase both at garden centers and home stores.

Plant growth is an annual cycle. You’ve enjoyed the spring color your shrubs and trees presented. Now it’s time to provide the care they need to prepare for next spring’s show. If you’d rather enjoy the show but leave the work to someone else, call us.

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Bumper Crop Of Mosquitoes And Other Pests Expected

This year’s April showers left plenty of puddles in their wake. Perhaps puddle is an understatement. Rather, we had extensive flooding, which left a lot of standing water, and standing water is mosquitoes’ favorite breeding grounds. Besides being plentiful, entomologists expect an early hatch of these disease carrying insects. They carry everything from malaria to the zika virus.

As mosquitoes suck human blood, they also transmit to their human hosts diseases they are carrying. You can actively help reduce the number of mosquitoes by getting rid of all standing, stagnant water. Clean and change the water in bird baths frequently. Keep swimming pools treated and circulating. Pump out puddles and stagnant ponds. When outdoors, especially in the evening, be sure everyone’s exposed skin is treated with mosquito repellent.

Ticks also are expected to be bad this year. I urge you to take precautions now to protect you, your family, your pets and your home. Ticks carry serious diseases.

Deer ticks carry lyme disease but they don’t live only on deer. The field mouse is one of its favorite hosts. Lyme disease doesn’t affect the animal hosts, but it does debilitate humans who may receive the disease organism when infected ticks bite them.

Take precautions when outdoors. Protect yourself by wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts. Tuck pants into boots. Check children, pets and yourself frequently. Remove ticks as soon as possible using tweezers.

Fleas can also be of concern, especially if you have pets. Fleas carry animal diseases like tapeworm. Pets can carry fleas into the house and these flightless insects can get into carpeting and furniture and then bite us.

For the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve done everything possible to protect your family, call our Plant Health Care professionals. They’ll inspect your property for signs of these pests and take appropriate action if you have them. We can also take preventive measures like spraying the perimeter of your property for ticks and fleas

Also, be sure your pets are treated for these pests by a vet or with one of the home applied medications.

Your landscape is a sanctuary for you to relax, enjoy the natural surroundings and the fresh air of outdoor living. Don’t let uninvited “guests” ruin your enjoyment and compromise your family’s health. Most of all, don’t let them turn your tranquil retreat into a stressful environment. Take the offensive and get rid of these pests and keep them away.