Posted by & filed under Landscape, Plant Health Care, Tree Care .

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by Tina Graver

Most plants growing in Maryland rely on transpiration, or water loss due to evaporation, in order to stay cool. This is why keeping your plants watered in the high heat is so important. However, heat stress and dehydration are not the same thing. This is as true for humans as it is for plants. In a situation of high humidity and low air movement, cooling via transpiration can be very difficult. During this time, you might start to see some of the signs and symptoms of heat stress on your less tolerant plant species.

If a plant is unable to cool off, several of their cellular membranes and proteins may start to become damaged. The cells responsible for photosynthesis, a process by which plants make food, are some of the first to be negatively impacted. This is one way that prolonged periods of heat stress can cause whole plant death.


Figure 1. (Left) River birch dropping leaves in early July due to heat and drought stress.(Right PJM Rhododendron beginning to roll leaves in order to avoid absorbing excess light.

One adaption is for the plant to try and avoid absorbing too much light or radiation.  Some plants may produce little hairs on the leaf, increase the amount of shiny wax, roll their leaves or change leaf orientation. Some plants may produce smaller leaves, or shed leaves all together.  While most clients aren’t alarmed by fuzzy or shiny leaves, they may be alarmed to see their Rhododendron leaves rolling (Figure 1). Similarly, many clients call in late July to report that their River Birch trees are yellowing and dropping leaves (Figure 1.)


Figure 2. Knockout Roses in July. Interior growth is yellowing and dropping. This is an adaption where the plant tries to avoid absorbing excess radiation or heat. Leaf drop also helps increase air movement throughout the plant.

Finally, even if a plant doesn’t start showing symptoms of heat stress, they may be more prone to infection by a pest or disease. During the summer months, pests such as thrips and mites.  At Mead Tree and Turf Care, we help clients manage heat and drought stress through irrigation adjustments, addition of soil amendments, deep root fertilization, and targeted spray programs to address secondary pests.  A Certified Arborist or Professional Landscaper can help choose the right plants and help minimize the impacts of severe heat and drought in the landscape.

Posted by & filed under Landscape, Tree Care .

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by Joanne Mead

Maryland weather can be quite changeable and unpredictable due to a number of factors. Proximity to large bodies of water like the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay; the mountains in the western part of the state; and a location that exposes us to wind and cold from the north, moisture heavy systems coming up the coast, and remnants of mid-western storms, all cause Maryland to experience major extremes in both weekly weather patterns and year to year trends. This situation can sometimes wreak havoc on trees, shrubs and lawns (although the weeds seem to survive through it all). A little knowledge of the way different weather situations can affect your plants may help them survive the ups and downs of our regional climate.

Yearly patterns in the recent past have included severe drought and excessive precipitation. Both situations call for monitoring of existing plant material and caution with installation of new plantings. Temperature trends also have a significant effect on plants. A warm spring and hot summer with little rain is a questionable time for tree digging and planting unless monitored watering is available. Daily weather events can also affect plant health. Maryland often experiences violent storms that include high winds and heavy rain that can tear up or topple trees. Some advance preparation can limit the damage caused in these storms.


Most storm damage is the result of fallen trees and limbs. With a little advanced planning, homeowners can reduce the chances of damage to their home and property by surveying their trees for problems. Signs to look for are:

  • dead wood/limbs with no foliage
  • signs of decay such as hollow areas, animals living in the tree, decay at the tree base, or mushrooms growing in a pattern over roots
  • trees that may be top-heavy and need crown cleaning, such as Bradford pears
  • large limbs over-hanging your house, driveway or sidewalks

Any of these signs may indicate a need for pruning or removal. Although having trees pruned or taken down can be an unwanted expense, the damage caused during a storm can be much more costly.

If you have concerns that your trees may become hazardous during a storm, call Mead Tree & Turf Care for a professional evaluation. Our licensed arborists can help you assess your trees and determine ways to reduce potential property and tree damage that can be caused by storms.

Fallen Tree on House
Fallen Tree on House

Too much of a good thing can often cause problems, as is the case with too much rain or snow. When the winter and spring have been excessively wet, some plants can suffer. Potential issues that may arise include:

  • Loss of nutrients in the soil
  • Browning out of plants that don’t thrive in wet soil (such as yews)
  • Root rot in trees that are already compromised by drought, insect infestations, or disease
  • Fallen trees due to loose soil if there are high winds

Steps can be taken to monitor and replace soil nutrients, and to treat or remove trees that may be a hazard. Dead foliage can be removed to improve appearance, and plants may recover in conditions change. Plants that like drier soil should not be planted in low areas or in areas that direct run-off drainage.



Although shrubs and trees are usually marked for climate zones, even the hardiest of plants can lose vigor or die during very cold, harsh winters. Fall mulching can assist in protecting plants from winter stress. Smaller plants that are sensitive to cold can benefit from being screened from wind with burlap or buried in leaves loosely placed inside wire mesh. Evergreens can be helped by keeping them watered into the fall. Anti-desiccants can also be applied to evergreens to retain moisture, although this is not always successful depending on conditions.

High temperatures can be problematic as well, especially when accompanied by drought. Make sure to water plants in the early morning. This allows moisture on foliage to evaporate before being hit by the suns burning rays. Monitor soil for moisture by digging down a couple of inches and compressing a soil sample in your hand. If there is no moisture the plant requires watering. Over-watering can damage plants as well, so monitoring and moderation are the best course to take.



Maryland periodically experiences drought conditions and when this happens, the effect is noticeable – dormant lawns, trees dropping leaves early, less fall color, and stressed trees and shrubs resulting in insect infestations, disease, and eventual loss. Water restrictions in some areas can limit the ability to water lawns and plantings. What are some strategies for maintaining healthy plants under drought conditions?

  • Fall aeration and fertilization can promote a good spring start up for lawns that have been under drought stress the previous year; over-seeding can also help if there is enough moisture.
  • Treating problems before they get out of control can help prevent tree loss so inspect trees for signs of stress. Deep root fertilization and vertical mulching can help trees thrive by encouraging root development. Pruning dead or diseased limbs can prevent the spread of problems to healthy parts of the tree. Insect infestations can be identified and treated at the appropriate time.
  • Fall mulching can help protect plants and hold moisture in the soil. It can also help prevent weeds in the spring.
  • Consider installing or using systems that conserve water, such as drip irrigation in shrub and flower bed. Younger trees or new plantings can benefit from the use of Gator Bags. These provide slow, steady watering over a number of days.

Posted by & filed under Landscape, Plant Health Care, Tree Care .

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by Joanne Mead

Spring officially started on March 20, but Maryland weather has bounced around between cold and warm days, with plenty of rain as well. This week looks like the spring weather we’ve been waiting for, and is the ideal time to start working on yard projects. To give your landscape the boost it needs for a long season of healthy and attractive plants, now is the time to survey your yard for problems.


Trees – Inspect trees for dead wood as leaves sprout. Notice signs of decay such as fungus or mushrooms growing over root areas or on the base of the tree, cavities, and peeling bark. Check for branches overhanging sidewalks, overly dense branching, and conflicts with overhead wires. Identify trees with poor structure due to multiple lead branches, rubbing branches, or weak crotches. Look for early signs of insect infestation. Trees may require crown cleaning, removal of dead wood, or treatment for disease or insects. Dead trees or those with extensive decay should be removed for safety reasons. Structural problems can be remedied with pruning and cabling. Lightening protection can also be installed in large trees. Fertilization can be used to help trees that have been compromised by past disease or insect damage.


Beds – Shrubs should be checked for dead wood and signs of insects. Leaves and debris should be removed, and beds should be mulched. If old mulch is in poor condition, it should be removed. Beds should be mulched 2-3” in depth, but not on top of years of mulch buildup. Some plants will benefit from feeding at this time of year, to encourage healthy blooms for flowering shrubs. Pruning is very specific to the type of shrub. For instance, pruning azaleas in early spring is the best time to encourage healthy foliage growth, but it will remove the blooms for that year. Pruning shrubs incorrectly for a particular plant can compromise shape, future growth patterns, and flowering.


Turf – Look for signs of insect damage, dead areas, poor color, or areas where weeds are predominant. Weeds and insect infestations on lawns are often viewed as problems, but they are more likely to be symptoms, with the real problem being an unhealthy lawn. A properly maintained and healthy lawn will often withstand invasive insects and out-compete weeds for sunlight, water and soil. Reduction of disease problems in established turf can often be accomplished by changes in cultural practices such as mowing, watering, fertilization, pruning, and core aeration. Check turf for compaction or thatch buildup. Aeration and topdressing can help this problem and give grass “breathing room”. The use of pre and post-emergent herbicides can control weeds until healthy turf is established. Spring and fall fertilization, and application of lime can amend soil with poor nutrient content or improper Ph. However, soil should be tested before nutrients are applied to limit over-application. Grass should be cut to 3” high so it will shade out competing weeds. Grass clippings should be left on the lawn to return nutrients and lessen the need for fertilizers. Keeping turf healthy requires work and constant vigilance and care.


An early start to caring for your lawn and trees can resolve problems before they cause permanent damage. Call Mead Tree & Turf Care now to inspect your property and make recommendations that will allow you to enjoy a beautiful and healthy yard this spring and summer.