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.
by Steve Castrogiovanni
We have heard for years of the impending doom of the white, green and black ash that are native to the mid-Atlantic area, due to the Emerald Ash Borer. In the last year, this ominous prediction has come true. This can be seen in places like Clara Barton Parkway along the Potomac River, which has always been green and lush. It now has dead tree canopies littered throughout the tree line.
Sadly, ash are being killed in staggering numbers by this pest. What people aren’t taking in to account is how quickly these trees are becoming a threat to the public. Dr. John Ball from South Dakota State University says “Moisture contents go from 80% on a recently infested tree to less than 40% on one standing dead. The girdling by the insect causing the roots to decline, hence water uptake is reduce but there is also some drying of localized sapwood independent from the roots dying. Essentially the trees become brittle and fall sooner than expected. ”
Trees being attacked by Emerald Ash Borer do have distinctive signs.
- D shaped exit holes
- Discoloration of the bark
- Epicormic growth from the base (sucker growth)
Image 1. (Left) D Shaped exit holes (Center) Discolored bark from birds feeding on borers (right) Epicormic growth on canopy interior
It is important to have an arborist inspect your ash trees to determine if they are infested. Mead Tree & Turf Care, Inc. offers preventative treatments if your ash tree is not currently infested. A declining ash does not always mean Emerald Ash Borer. The Banded Ash Clear Wing attacks ash trees that are under stress and will also leave exit holes which are large and circular. The Emerald Ash Borer attack ash trees regardless of their health.
by Tina Graver
The first signs of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar emerged just last week: small, silk webs in the branch unions of their favorite tree, the black cherry. The silk webs provide a safe place for the caterpillars to hide in the night and digest all of the cherry leaves they have consumed during the day. Over the next month, the caterpillars will diligently feed, sometimes to the point that the host tree is completely defoliated. On a usual year, the cherry trees are able to fully recover from an early defoliation. However, every ten years the Eastern Tent Caterpillar has a heavy population outbreak and will move to other trees such as Peach, plum, witch hazel, beech, birch, willow and poplar. During these outbreaks, these other trees may become weakened or killed.
Now is the time to call your certified arborist if you have any of this caterpillars favorite trees. The earlier an arborist can intervene, the sooner leaf loss can be intercepted. Cultural control includes simply pruning out the tent or by ripping out the tent. The market has several organic chemical control options available to licensed commercial applicators. The sooner in the insects’ life-cycle that the application is made, the greater the chance of control and the lesser the chance of needing to return with a stronger pesticide. At Mead Tree & Turf Care, we prioritize early intervention and use the recommendations of the Maryland Extension Service to carefully time our chemical applications.
For clients that are new to the area, and are not used to dealing with this pest, May can be an alarming time. Once the large, mature caterpillars are finished feeding, they migrate downward, out of the trees. At this time, they can swarm yards, porches and even cars as they search for a place to pupate into a light-brown colored moth. Unfortunately, this really isn’t the time to try and control this caterpillar. Calling an Arborist at this time, however, can ensure an early intervention during the next growing season.