Spring Tree Care

Tree Thoughts: Anticipating Spring

Well, the equinox is on Thursday and they say that spring is actually going to come. So with that in mind, I thought I’d mention a few spring tree care thoughts to keep in mind for the upcoming longer, warmer days.

Planting: The ground has thawed but the trees are mostly dormant. Now is a good time for tree planting. If you want to consult about native options for your landscape, I strongly recommend contacting Virginia Winston of Winston Gardens (winstongardens.com; 304-267-6924). Remember that newly planted trees can suffer drought stress anytime it is over 40 degrees with no precipitation for two weeks. Make sure you have a watering plan before you get those trees in the ground!

Fungi: They are going to get busy out there. If you have trees in your landscape that are particularly susceptible to fungal/bacterial disease (needle cast of blue spruce, cedar-apple rust on serviceberry/other rose family members, anthracnose on dogwood, just a few examples) or if they have shown symptoms over past years, the first thing to remember is to maintain sanitation. Make sure last year’s leaves/needles on the ground or stuck in the tree are removed from the site. Fungal spores can overwinter on this debris and the splashes of spring rain can let them loose to start the disease cycle. Next you might want to consider neem oil or fungicidal sprays over the course of active flowering and leaf out. Timing is key and varies by species and weather conditions.

Pruning: If you maintain clean, sharp tools and make proper pruning cuts, it is ok to prune in early spring. However, it is always wise to avoid pruning during wet weather. Maples and others will ooze sap but that is mostly a cosmetic issue. Certain trees will be more susceptible to certain pests when pruned during the growing season (e.g. elms susceptible to Dutch elm’s disease) and through the summer, so if you are in doubt wait until next winter if you can.

Mulch: If mulch is a part of your spring sprucing up plan, consider working in some leaf compost along with your typical product by spreading a thin layer underneath. This is a great soil conditioner that breaks down faster and contributes that organic matter cycling you want in a tree’s root zone. LeafGro is available in bags at Home Depot, Potomac Farms and other area stores. No matter what you use, make sure your mulch is no more than 3 inches deep and no mulch should be touching the bark of the tree.

Fighting Emerald Ash Borer: The EAB phenomenon is wiping out all ashes in the area that are not treated with insecticides. Small healthy trees can be treated with a preventative product available to homeowners. Trees above 10” diameter, though, will require an industrial product, especially considering the heavy infestation we are experiencing. Treatments are most effective during the ash tree’s active growth period so it is best to address this issue before the end of June. Of course there are always implications to introducing insecticides to an ecosystem, so it is a matter of finding that balance that you are comfortable with. Trees 101 is offering systemically injected treatments that limit the environmental impact and will only need to be repeated every 2-3 years. To learn more about EAB, check out this multi-agency website: www.emeraldashborer.info

Enjoy the vernal gifts from Ma Nature!