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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.

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Plant Health Care – What It Is & What It Can Do For Your Landscape?

Plant Health Care (PHC) is a holistic approach to maintaining your trees, shrubs and even your perennials. PHC begins when you first select a plant and continues throughout its lifetime. Here are some of the ways in which PHC can play a role in your plant’s health and longevity:

• To begin with, it’s important to select the right plant for the location. This will go a long way towards assuring the health of your plant for years to come. It will be happy and grow the way it’s supposed to, reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.

• Provide good cultural care throughout their lifetime. That means having them pruned when they need pruning, providing any protection they need like guarding against animals feeding on them in winter and fertilizing if needed.

• Practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Some people believe IPM is PHC but it is only one aspect of it. IPM is the process of monitoring plants regularly for insect and disease activity and taking the action that’s most effective at controlling the pest with the least impact on the environment. Regular monitoring detects pest activity in its early stages when less aggressive treatment is still possible.

• A key aspect of PHC is preventive care. It’s said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For example, preventive treatment for emerald ash borer (EAB) can save your ash trees from sure destruction. An already infested ash tree must be treated every year. Preventive treatments only have to be made every two years. Saving both time and trauma to the tree. The same is true for Dutch elm disease.

• Changes to the landscape can also affect the surroundings. If, for example, a large tree is removed, it could affect understory plants – those planted in the shade of that tree. Plants that would thrive under a canopy would likely be shade tolerant. Removing the source of their shade exposes them to more sunlight than they are able to tolerate, resulting in very stressed plants.

• If a plant is dead or dying, our Plant Health Care professional will recommend its removal. In addition to safety concerns, they consider such factors as the health of other plants whose roots are intermingled with the affected plant and the overall appearance of the landscape.

PHC is a specialty within the arboriculture profession. Our PHC professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat any tree and shrub problems early before they get a foothold. They employ the most effective, cost efficient and environmentally sensitive practices available. However, you are always in charge of the program. Our PHC pro makes recommendations. You make the final decision on how to proceed.

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Let’s Get Ready For Lawn Season

There’s an old saying that pre-emergent crabgrass control should be applied when forsythia bloom. Although other factors enter the picture, the appearance of these prolific yellow flowers serves as a good reminder. And, they will soon make their appearance for 2019.

Crabgrass is, possibly, the peskiest weed in our lawn, and the only one that can be treated effectively only with a pre-emergent product. Pre-emergent prevents latent seeds from germinating; other weeds are best killed after they appear.

The ubiquitous crabgrass pre-emergent application is just the first step in a season long relationship with your lawn. It’s also going to need several fertilizer applications. The first can be applied at the same time as the pre-emergent to help the grass break dormancy and begin greening up.

When dandelions and other broadleaf weeds appear, they’ll need to be dealt with, possibly two or three times during the season.

There is one bright spot. If you treated for grubs last fall, you probably don’t need to treat again this spring. The best way to be sure is to cut several one square foot pieces of sod in different parts of the lawn. Pull the sod back and check for grubs. They are white and crescent shaped. If there are six or fewer in each square foot, they won’t do enough damage to warrant treatment. Seven or more calls for treatment.

The healthiest thing you can do for your lawn is to mow high. Set your mower deck height to 3.5 to four inches. Mowing high encourages deep, healthy roots and thick turf. Weeds like to grow where there is open space but your lush, thick turf won’t leave them any room.

This may seem like an awful lot of work, and you’ll be right. It’s much easier to hire our lawn care professionals. They’ll make the necessary treatments at the most effective time. You won’t have to keep watching the calendar and the weather conditions and make everything fit into your schedule. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy your nice, green lawn.

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Divide Perennials This Spring

If dividing your perennials is one of the fall landscape tasks that you just didn’t get to before winter descended upon us, fear not. It’s ok to do it in the spring.

However, you don’t want to run right out and begin dividing perennials now. Right now, the soil is either frozen or muddy, neither of which is workable. I suggest you put it on your to-do list for when spring actually arrives. You will have better success when the soil is plantable. You’ll be able to tell its ready when you can take a handful of soil, squeeze it and little or no water drains from your hand.

Dividing or splitting is one of the best methods to propagate perennials. Each perennial you divide yields three new plants, and all it costs you is a few minutes of work. The process also keeps perennials from taking over your whole yard and maintains the original look of your beds. Here’s how it’s done:

• Lay a tarp or piece of plastic on the ground next to your perennial bed.
• Select those perennials that have grown too large and spread out too much for the space.
• With a sharp spade, dig up the whole perennial(s) you plan to split and lay it on the tarp.
• Using your sharp spade, pruners, a saw or any sharp tool that you feel comfortable with, cut the rootball in half. Then cut each half in half so you have four individual plants.
• Return one section to the hole. Backfill, tamping about halfway through the process to remove any air pockets. Finish backfilling, tamp, water and mulch.
• Plant the other three plants elsewhere or find them a new home.

You may have places in your own yard that would make a good home for the remaining perennials from your splitting operation. If not, they make nice gifts for your gardening friends. One or more of your local non-profit organizations that sponsor spring plant sales would also appreciate your donating the split perennials to the sale.

You may find that you prefer splitting perennials in spring, rather than fall. That way you, or the recipients of the extra plants, don’t have to overwinter them. They can plant them, or sell them, as soon as they are received. You may prefer not to split perennials at all, in which case, we have landscape professionals who would be happy to do it for you.