Selecting A Good Tree To Plant

April 3rd, 2013

No matter what species of tree you decide to plant in your landscape, it is important to select the highest quality specimen you can find at the nursery or garden center. It doesn’t do much good to plant a poorly-developed, or injured tree that has been mistreated at the nursery or during handling at a garden center. Pictured below is an illustration that provides guidance for selecting a good individual specimen.

Now, let’s go out and plant something………………………………..but make it a high quality specimen!

Pruning Season Is Here!

March 8th, 2013

From now through the end of April is the best time of year to prune trees. So, if you have a landscape tree or two (or three, or four, or………..) get out the pruning tools and attack those problem limbs and branches in order to make room for the spring growth flush to reinvigorate the tree and improve the form and strength of your tree(s). Shown below are a few reminders of pruning techniques and methods that should help with the process. Let’s “get ‘er done now” before we get too far into planting season; which is just around the corner. It’s time to start growing!

Pruning young trees properly is the single best thing you can do to assure future health, vigor and strength. Doing these things helps the older tree endure and better prevail through whatever future environmental conditions it might encounter.



Drought Ending?

February 26th, 2013

Close to normal precipitation since the first of the year, has given some hope that the drought conditions experienced across Missouri in 2012 may be lessening. Maybe. At least there are indications that the upper layers of soil might be in better condition for spring planting and growth of newly-planted trees. In fact, two recent snowstorms may add to the optimism for improved upper soil moisture as the very wet snow of both storms melts aand percolates into the ground. Hopefully, the pattern of extended drought is broken, but only normal, and, better yet, some above normal rainfall will help to alleviate the severe deficits in most subsoil horizons across the state. It is the subsoil moisture that helps sustain trees during the height of summer, if there are short dry periods during June through September; which is a normal situation in Missouri.

Thus, I encourage you to keep attuned to the subsoil situation as this season progresses. All indications show a continuing dryness in most soils down about the 24-36″ levels. So, even if normal preceipitation occurs, it will take a while for the available moisture levels to be replenished. This means that your landscape trees may need more deep watering than normal; especially newly planted specimens, and even older (2-10 year old) individuals.

Let’s hope that we get some above normal rain “soakers” that help to bail us out of the droughty pattern without washing us into the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t want to visit Cuba that way myself.

Modern Tunneling To Protect Above-Ground Features

January 24th, 2013

We’ve probably all seen tunneling projects in our communities featuring crews using a funny-looking machine. Phone companies laying new fiber optic cables have been the most active in using the funny looking machines lately, but this modern equipment and the techniques developed for using it have greatly reduced the damage to above ground features; and particularly to urban landscape trees. Depicted below is another wonderful drawing from the National Arbor Day Foundation that illustrates very well how this modern tunneling system works. It does it much better than I can describe, and I certainly couldn’t draw it any better.

Tunnel To Protect Roots

January 9th, 2013

When pipes or cables must be placed – or replaced – within the root zone of a tree, there is no better way to do it than by tunneling. The beauty of tunneling is that modernized and effective equipment and techniques have made this practice much more available and affordable than has previously been the case. In addition, when done properly, it assures that vegetation, fences, and other landscape features remain completely undisturbed. Utility companies also benefit by saving time, reducing restoration expenses, and eliminating customer complaints. Tunneling was once more expensive than open trenching, but not now. In fact, tunneling has been shown to be 15-50 percent less in cost in many cases, and no more costly than trenching in almost all cases where trees and underground work must mix.

Thanks, once again, to the National Arbor Day Foundation, for the next series of illustrations on tunneling to protect root systems of trees.

Preventing Root Damage From Trenching

December 28th, 2012

Trenching and trees don’t mix. Nothing says it better than this illustration from the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Understanding Roots II

December 16th, 2012

The second part of understanding tree roots are depicted in the following illustrations from the National Arbor Day Foundation. The first shows that a tree’s root system is actually pretty complex; ranging from the larger support roots to the tiny , almost invisible absorbing roots. All are important to the health of the tree, and they must be present in the correct proportions if they are to work together for the benefit of the tree. Damage to any part of the root system can throw the whole complex out of whack, at least for a while (until new roots are generated), and thus impair the health and vigor of the tree. A healthy root system means a healthy tree.

The second illustration shows how severe roots can be damaged, depending on where they are severed in relation to the trunk. The further away from the trunk (generally) the less the root system will be affected.

In future entries, I’ll cover general ideas for preventing damage to roots when work must be done around trees.

Understanding Roots

December 7th, 2012

It’s the dormant season, and you’ve settled in to think about tree care for the coming year; e.g. cleaned and fixed tools, making plans for planting and pruning, reading up on various issues that you have identified to be important for your yardscape, etc. So……………I will be offering some information about the root system of trees, over the next several blog entries, which may be helpful in your studies. The subsequent information and illustrations presented have been gleaned from Tree City USA Bulletin No. 35 from the National Arbor Day Foundation. I hope it is helpful.

The ground in which a tree grows is as much a part of its environment as the sky above. Roots are a trees life support system, and the first rule of tree care is to understand and protect (as much as possible) root zones. Roots sometimes get no respect from us above-ground caregivers. Roots quietly go about doing their job. They anchor immense (and heavy) trees firmly against the wind, deliver vital water to the growing parts, and pry loose essential elements from the soil.  Thus, it is critical that roots be protected as much as possible as we go about above-ground activities. Even when we must install underground utility lines, drainage pipes, construction of foundations or sidewalks, or any other activity that requires digging, it is important to minimize damage to the roots of nearby trees.

One of the first things to realize is how roots systems grow. The following illustrations demonstrate typical root systems, and also debunks a myth that seems to persist no matter what:

Next time I’ll talk some more about the underground network of roots and why root damage must be minimized or avoided.

Fall Pruning?

October 30th, 2012

In general, I don’t recommend pruning in the fall, except to remove one or two errant or broken branches, or to remove dead wood. This type of pruning can be done anytime, but remember that individual species can vary quite a bit in what they can tolerate. Because decay fungi spread their spores profusely in the fall, and healing of wounds seems to be slower on fall cuts, this is a good time to leave your pruning tools in storage.

Late winter is the best time for major structural pruning. When spring breaks, the tree is ready to vigorously burst with new healing and growth, so the results sought through the pruning effort are more quickly attained.

Pruning in the summer can also be a better time than fall, especially if you need to correct errant growth, or slow the growth of a part of the tree that you don’t want.

Some general guidelines on when to prune are presented below. Click to enlarge.

Don’t Give Up Just Yet

September 8th, 2012

Recent widespread rain, in fairly decent quantities, indicates that this summers drought may finally be broken. However, it will be several weeks; maybe even through October, before we’ll know if the drought has really killed some of the trees that appear to be dead. So…………………….don’t be too hasty in removing those trees that appear to be dead without first checking them to be sure.

I have an American arborvitae in my yard that seems to have succumbed to the dry weather. The needles are totally brown all the way from the top to the base of the stem. The poor thing looks really sad. However, I checked it just the other day, and I found that some of the twigs were quite limber, and had living cells under the bark when I carefully peeled back a very small section or two. In addition, the brown needles are not falling off as quickly as they might if the twigs and branches were completely dead and dried out. I even stepped back and thought I saw a glimmer of green here and there, especially within the interior of the crown where there was some shading during the very hot times experienced in June and July. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I see a glimmer of hope that my arborvitae might recover once cooler weather sets in for good………….AND we continue to make up some of our water deficits.

Fortunately, there is no need to rush out and “take care” of a tree that might make a “miraculous” recovery. I plan to wait until next spring and see if my arborvitae leafs out. There is no need to remove it and replant this fall. That can always be done in the spring, if the tree doesn’t recover. A tree planted this fall may not survive, nor grow as well (if at all) if the dry weather persists into the winter. We’ll have a much better idea of what the conditions will be by late March, and a removal/replacement decision can be made then, without potentially wasting the cost of planting a tree this fall; which might not survive anyway.

So…………………..don’t give up just yet. If you have a tree that looks dead, but you’re not sure, check it more closely and/or get some professional advice from a local arborist, forester, or nurseryman concerning what and how to check it out.


Good luck.