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Mulch around a newly planted tree is it’s best friend with these benefits listed by the Arbor Day Foundation.

  • Insulates the soil, helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold.
  • Retains water to help the roots stay moist.
  • Keeps weeds out to avoid root competition.
  • Prevents soil compaction.
  • Reduces lawn mower damage.

Mulching provides so many benefits -most important of all is a fast growing tree.  Research has proven that by placing a 3-6 foot natural mulch ring around your tree can double the growth rate.  

Remove all grass that will compete for the trees water supply.  The mulch should be 2-4 inches deep and not directly touching the bark.  The ring should be like bagel with a 3-6 inch hole in middle. More is not better, although you can see examples of how not to mulch in your neighborhood.  This results in reduced oxygen to the soil and will slow growth or result in death of the tree. The mulch will slowly be reduced as weather decomposes and wind blows it away so this is a yearly maintenance item in your yard.  The best mulch is organic wood chips so choose the one that fits your taste and budget.

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Native species of plants in Texas provide habitat for 632 of 914 birds found in North America providing cover, nesting sites and food.  One native oak can support 500 species of caterpillars while you will find only 5 varieties can be found on an Asian variety. One pair of chickadees needs 6000-9000 caterpillars to raise a single clutch so you can understand why it is paramount to our ecosystem to plant native and not exotic.  Urban landscapes are filled with exotic plants, buildings, hardscape and exotic plants. Texas A & M Forest lists 15 species of native oak trees that are found in the State so if you have room for this large tree in your landscape it will be bird-friendly and a joy to watch.  

Some species of birds feed on the acorns-scrub jay, magpies, wood ducks, wild turkeys, mountain quail, flickers and woodpeckers.  Many other insects that thrive on oak trees are food for many others including warblers, tanagers, vireos and orioles. The canopy of an oak, between 40 and 80 feet, has very strong branches, large leaves and drops leaves later than most deciduous trees and also this tree is incredibly hardy resistant to disease and insects.  Spanish moss often grows in the branches and can be home to the Northern Parula that seeks this for nesting. Even dead oak trees can be home to barn owls and wood ducks that nest in their cavities. An oak tree is truly and community of living organisms that support many species of birds.

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Summer storm and hurricane season is upon us and it is a time to give some attention to your valuable trees.  Tree root cells need oxygen and after an extended period of time like 7 days the tree may experience root rot and soil around the tree may be washed away further making the tree unstable.  There are some preventative measures you can take to improve the trees health and alleviate some damage. Mulch around the tree and keep the tree trimmed and the canopy pruned to allow more air movement.  Stake or re-stake unstable trees and add nutrients such as slow release nitrogen. Warning signs that a tree has sustained flood damage are wilting or discolored leaves or premature fall colors, structural damage and exposed roots and pest infestation.

Other injuries to your trees can be avoided by paying attention to the trees critical root zone.  This is an area equal to 1 foot radius from the base for each 1 inch of the tree’s diameter at chest height.  If disturbance of this area cannot be avoided like trenching for utilities or irrigation the work should be done under the supervision of a certified arborist.

You should avoid the following situations around your trees:

–Changing soil grade or compacting soil with any heavy objects, vehicles or equipment

–Sounding trunks with weed eaters or mowers

–Attaching anything to the tree using nails

–Causing injury by fire or excessive heat

–Contaminating the soil

–Installing anything cement near the tree

Tree can give you pleasure for decades so they deserve your attention.

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Cladoptosis is the naturally occurring shedding of branches of a tree.  The tree may do this as a reaction to drought, soil compaction or disease.  The branch that comes off will have a rounded ball and socket look. Specialized cells form where a break occurs.  This is a protective layer that minimizes moisture loss. This will tell you that the tree is self pruning and not a large concern but to reduce the amount of limb drop increase watering and fertilization and reduce soil compaction in root area. Larches, pines, poplars, willows, maples, walnut, ashes, bald cypress, and oaks, shedding of branches is normal, often occurring annually in the fall, similar to the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.

If the branch does not have this smooth looking break inspect the tree for visible defects and signs of insects.  You should seek and arborist as soon as possible as other branches may come down. Different species are susceptible to various diseases and insects so professional advise is key in the correct treatment.  Summer branch drop is common in older trees and in species such as oak, elm and ash. Correctly trimming a tree can prevent this hazard. Prune out damaged and low growth branches and those with decay or cavities.  On mature trees have the long horizontal branches lightened and shortened and thin out the canopy.

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If your tree has invasive rotting at the base of the tree it is called “butt rot”.  The trunk of the tree is like the stem on a flower. If the stem gets broken it is not good.  This condition may occur without you even noticing. There might be a shelf of fruiting bodies or mushrooms which you didn’t realize can indicate this problem.  Unfortunately there is nothing you can once this is discovered as it has probably has been harming the tree for years, wood decay works from the inside out. Cutting the rotten wood out leaves the tree more vulnerable to disease because the tree can’t heal damaged tissue they will try seal them off and continue to grow.  Painting the tree with wound dressing does not close wounds. A certified arborist could be called to see how extensive the damage is. If the tree is at risk of falling on a house or on people it may need to be removed.

 

If the tree is stable it would be good properly fertilize,water and prune the tree.  A healthy tree could heal over the wound as it naturally grows new wood.Try to protect the tree from further damage.   Lawn mowers or other vehicles may have damaged the tree. You can put mulch and maybe a rock ring in a large area around the tree and keep out other competing plants and grasses that need to be trimmed or weed-whacked. The tree can be wounded with the mower blade or string and this is where pathogen can invade.

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Do you want to move a tree that is not where you want in your landscape design, or you purchased a new tree and are ready to plant it?

Here are some simple tree transplanting tips aimed at reducing stress on the tree and rapid root growth:

  1. The planting depth should be 1-2 inches less than the size of the root ball so that the the plant flare (where the top root comes off the trunk of the the tree) is 1-2 inches above the ground.  Planting a tree too deep is the number one cause of death of the tree.
  2. The hole should be saucer shaped and width three times the size the diameter of the root ball.
  3. Set the tree in the hole removing the container or wrappings if a new tree.  Turn the tree to the best angle.
  4. Backfill the hole with the soil that was dug with the grade coming down from the root flare. No backfill dirt should be on top of the root ball and the bottom should be sitting on undisturbed soil.
  5. Water to settle the soil.
  6. Mulch with wood chips on top of the hole but not directly against the bark.  This will help contain moisture.
  7. Stake tree if in a windy area.
  8. Water 3-4 times a week for the first season and once a month in winter if there are dry conditions.

It may be prohibitive to plant or move a large tree and will give your landscape an immediate impact or planting several trees can be  time consuming and labor intensive project. Consider hiring a professional to insure the job is done correctly and for the life and health of the tree.  A warranty will protect your investment. Costs to plant your tree generally depend on the caliper of the tree (trunk size measured six inches above the root ball).  

 

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When you’ve planted a new tree, it’s important to protect it from the harsh elements of winter. Before winter comes, it’s a good idea to wrap your trees with a plastic tree guard or burlap, depending on the type of tree.  Evergreens benefit the most from wrapped in burlap, while thin barked trees, like maples and sycamores, do best with plastic tree wrap.

Trees with thin bark should be wrapped to protect them from sunscald.  Sunscald occurs in winter when the sun warms the tree’s bark. When the sun disappears, the temperature drops rapidly, causing the bark to dry and crack.  Evergreen trees can get sunscald, too, when their needles turn brown.

You should wrap your tree in burlap or plastic if:

  • They are a newly planted tree
  • Weak for any reason
  • Fully exposed to harsh winds
  • Dehydrated

Once spring has sprung, it’s time to remove the wrap.  Leaving the tree wrap on too long can be an invitation for pests, disease, and serious damage to your tree.  Typically, it’s best to leave the wrap up from November until April. If the last winter frost has hit, it’s safe to remove the wrap around your tree, even if it’s not April yet.  Use new wraps each season to protect your tree.

While wrapping your trees in the winter is important, it’s also important to make sure to remove the wrap in a timely manner.

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Trees and shrubs that keep their foliage all year round are a great way to give your yard some privacy without the need of a bulky and unsightly fence.  Here are some of the fastest growing evergreens that can turn your yard from ordinary to extraordinary.

  1. Thuja Green Giant.  This mammoth evergreen can grow up to 40 feet tall!  This plant is is drought tolerant and resists insect infestations.  It grows well in practically any type of soil, and likes full sun exposure.  These plants can even be used as a windscreen in some rural areas.
  2. Leyland Cypress.  This cypress loves lots and lots of sunlight. Its bluish green hue makes it a popular evergreen to plant.  These trees can reach up to 70 feet tall. The Leyland Cypress can grow in most soil and is drought tolerant.
  3. Nellie Stevens Holly.  This is a tall shrub, growing up to 25 feet high.  It produces a beautiful red berry in late fall that attracts all kinds of birds and wildlife.  It needs direct sunlight and slightly acidic soil to grow well.
  4. Italian Cypress.  These beauties are perfect for smaller yards.  The Italian Cypress can grow to be anywhere from 40 to 60 feet tall, and 4 to 5 feet wide.  They are tall and straight like a column naturally, so you won’t need to trim it to maintain its shape.  These trees do best in warmer climates, are drought resistant, and grows well in most soils.
  5. Taylor Juniper.  Taylor Junipers are the trees for you if you love the look of the Italian Cypress but live in a colder climate.  It can grow to heights of 30 feet. It can grow in most soil, is drought tolerant, and is perfect for smaller spaces.
  6. Murray Cypress.  This tree grows very quickly and can grow to be 30 to 40 feet tall.  They can handle the harshest of seasons, and thrive in poor soil. Murray Cypress are the perfect tree for the low maintenance gardener.  
  7. Golden Bamboo.  This is a great option for those who want more of an exotic look to their gardens.  This bamboo can grow up to 10 feet tall. They like moist, well drained soil, and partial sunlight.  

 

For your next privacy fence, why not grow one instead of build one?

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One of the wonderful things about having a large tree on your property is all the fun you can have!  Tree climbing, treehouses, and, of course, tree swings. To protect the integrity of your tree it’s a good idea to properly install a tree swing.  

There are several things to consider when deciding where to hang your swing:

  1. Tree type.  Oaks are the prefered tree because of their strength.  Don’t hang your swing on evergreens, fruit trees, or any other tree that is prone to splitting easily.
  2. Branch size.  A large branch is key, and should be at least 8 inches around and no more than 20 feet from the ground.
  3. Branch condition.  Choosing a healthy branch is important for your safety.  Examine the branch from top to bottom for any signs of disease, distress, or infestation, and do not hang your swing on a dead tree branch!
  4. The branch should be large enough that the swing can hang from the tree at least three feet away without the branch bouncing.

To attach the swing, you’ll need an eye bolt and some rope.  There are several different types of rope you can use for your swing, such as polyester rope, nylon rope, polypropylene rope, natural rope fiber, or a metal chain.  

Safety is very important in the installation and enjoyment of your rope swing.  Make sure to:

  • Replace the rope every few years.
  • Check the integrity of the branch to make sure it’s still stable.
  • Replace the eye bolt if the tree grows over it.
  • Use ropes and bolts that are approved for the maximum amount of weight.
  • Check the knots on the rope to prevent unraveling.

Tree swings can greatly increase the enjoyment of your trees for years to come.

 

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Birds are a wonderful addition to any yard or garden.  They eat harmful bugs and insects that eat your plants.  By planting trees that attract birds, you provide food and shelter for these creatures, which is good for the environment.  Here’s a list of some of the best trees to bring birds to your yard.

 

  1. Oak.  Oak trees are great native trees to plant in your yard.  Birds love to make their nests in all of the nooks and crannies found along the tree trunk.  Oak trees provide acorns which make delicious meals for birds. Insects are drawn to oak trees, and birds enjoy eating these bugs.
  2. Dogwood.  Cardinals and bluebirds loves eating the sweet fruit from the dogwood tree.  
  3. Maple.  Maple trees attract lots of bugs who like to eat the foliage in the fall.  It also produces a lot of acorns for the birds to eat.
  4. Elm.  Elm is a flowering tree that attract bugs and hummingbird to it.  It’s a wonderful tree for birds to make their home.
  5. Bald Cypress.  Birds love to make their nest in the bald cypress, and this tree provides lots of seeds for birds to eat.
  6. Mulberry.  Mulberry trees have flowering fruit that shows in the summertime, but it can be a messy tree, so it’s a good idea to plant it away from sidewalks and driveways.
  7. Crabapple.  Crabapple trees produce fruit in the fall and last through the winter.  This tree is perfect for many different birds, but make sure to choose a tree that has smaller fruit, as it will be easier for the birds to eat.
  8. Spruce.  These large trees make nice homes for birds, and the evergreen needles make great food for insects.

 

Having a variety of trees for birds to eat and live can bring a lot of life in your yard or garden.