Yes, we have all gotten some much needed rain over the past 10 days or so…but it is not enough, not even close.  And again the hot temperatures in the 90’s continue.  This newsletter is a follow up to the initial “Severe Drought” article I wrote a couple of weeks ago.  You can find that article posted on our website.

 I will do my best to answer many questions that I Have fielded recently and provide you with information as to what you can expect to see going forward.

 5 common questions and observations concerning the drought:

1.       Q: I have a sprinkler system, isn’t that enough?  A:  NO.  First, there is likely a water ban/restriction in your area so the use of a sprinkler system may not even be allowed.  Additionally, a sprinkler system is only applying a small amount of water to a large area…in some instances this includes pavement or unplanted bed space.  Further—a sprinkler is wetting leafy materials where the water either will evaporate readily and/or cause disease issues.  Sprinkler watering is particularly wasteful during a time such as this.  Manually water—use a hose.  Not necessary to actually hold the hose and spend countless hours applying water, but rather remove any hose end attachment and turn the water to a slow-medium rate and set the hose near the base of the plants needing water and allow the water to run for a deep watering.  For trees, use a root feeder/watering probe to get water down to the root zone where it is most needed.

2.       Q: Some of my lawn is recovering, but other areas are still crunchy, is it dead?  A: At this point, if your area has received enough rain to improve most of your lawn, and your neighbor’s lawns seem to be recovered then yes, your lawn is quite possibly dead in these still ‘crunchy’ areas.  Every site is different and will require a different approach to repair.  We are equipped to handle this repair and have the expert knowledge to do so.  Please contact us…Mike is already making a list of known repairs and anticipates a large number of new calls so please do not delay.  Conversely, lawns naturally go dormant and if you lawn was dormant and is showing signs of greening up, chances are you are in the clear.  Do not mow your lawn until it has recovered.  Walking or taking a mower over “crunchy” grass can cause further injury.

3.       Q: Some of my shrubs have a lot of brown leaves, are they dead?  A: While I cannot say generally for sure in every situation…most of the dried up leaves I have seen on shrubs is a result of heat stress in combination with the drought.  If the majority of the dried leaves that you observe are on the top and outer areas then I believe that most of these shrubs will pull through, but it is vital that they receive water so that root damage is minimized.  Next spring there may be some dieback that can be pruned away and the shrub will continue to grow just fine.  Sadly, there will be some loss of plant material as a result of this prolonged hot and dry summer.

4.       Q: My trees look fine (or have just a few brown leaves), they should be alright….right?  A: Trees may have a delayed response in showing signs of stress as a result of drought for up to 5 years.  What…5 years?!  Yes.  The amount of water stored in a tree is significant…especially a medium to large size tree.  Because of this, the tree may have enough water in the root and wood to sustain itself for a period of time…making it into early fall without showing any signs of stress.  But what we cannot see is what is happening underground.  Roots need water and nutrients to continue to stay alive and grow.  As soon as the root system is denied water they begin to shut down and die back.  This is significant because the tree should begin preparing to take up water and store sugars for surviving the winter months ahead, right now.  If the root systems are stressed they may be unable to do this and the tree could be doomed.  There is a direct balance between the size of a root system and the size of the tree that you can see above ground.  A reduced root system cannot support the size of the tree and in time you may see dieback on branches as a result.  Unfortunately, unlike shrubs where a skilled horticulturist can prune a significant amount of material and still have a decent plant left to enjoy the same is not true with a tree.  Once you start removing branches or limbs often the shape, structure, and sometimes the integrity of the tree is lost.  Even with no dieback, the tree should not be assumed to be healthy.  I can say that certainly the root system of most trees have been stressed…this in turn leads to a tree that is in a state of stress.  During this time of stress it is more susceptible to secondary issues with disease, virus, and insect damage.  To minimize or pamper your trees is critical—deep root watering, fertilization, and protection against the most common diseases and insects.  Beautiful Blooms has relied on the services of M&M Tree Service for their outstanding expertise when it comes to Arbor Care since 2005.  If you are interested in having a tree health assessment done by a certified arborist on your property, please contact me.  There is no charge for this service.  I will coordinate with M&M Tree Service to review your trees and provide you with a quote for all recommended services.   Your trees are the largest investment in your landscape and are often irreplaceable.

5.       Q: During this drought, I’ve heard that The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was found in more local communities.  What should we do?  A: While unrelated to the drought, EAB is a huge threat to all Ash trees and as I mentioned before an [Ash] tree that is already experiencing stress is significantly more likely to succumb to EAB.  EAB, left untreated is lethal.  Ash trees can be protected and if you plan to keep your Ash trees as part of your landscape, then you MUST protect them.  By the time symptoms appear that you have EAB in your Ash trees, it is likely too late to do anything to save the tree.  Protection includes injecting your tree with an insecticide once per year, ideally in the spring.  Again, we call upon M&M Tree Care to provide this service, please contact me if you would like more information/quote.  The cost of this treatment is very reasonable and well worth it.

Earlier this week as part of our continuing education, our team attended a landscape seminar where we listened to Brian Hudelson, a plant pathologist and Extension Agent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He started his lecture by saying that the summer of 2012 will most certainly go down in the history books as record setting for drought and heat stress damage to plants.  I could not agree more!  Last week I also had a long discussion with Bob Miller, Certified Arborist and owner of M&M Tree Service.  Both Brian and Bob said the same things…there will be damage, time will tell how severe the damage is.  At this point, they both recommend taking the approach of pampering all trees and shrubs to minimize continued stress.  As I stated earlier, this primarily includes deep root watering, fertilizing, and protection against known disease and insect issues.

Watering:  Follow the guidelines that I gave for watering in the earlier newsletter.  In addition to those recommendations, I add this recommendation…get a root feeder.  They are available at most garden centers and will run about $30.00.

Fertilizing:  While a tree/shrub is severely stressed, it is NOT a good idea to fertilize it.  Replenish the soil with water completely before fertilizing.  Also, it is generally not a good idea to fertilize plants after September 1st because they are preparing for winter, the plants energy should be directed to root growth rather than leaf/shoot growth.  My general recommendation for responding to this epic drought with regard to fertilizing is to wait until next spring.  IF you have kept up with watering then now would be a good time to apply fertilizer.  Depending on the plant and your soils, different fertilizers are recommended.  If you have questions or would like us to handle this for you, please contact me.  I’m happy to help. 

Protection:  There is still value in protecting your trees this season against insect damage.  I find it unlikely that any significant amount of fungal disease will become a problem this season…or that if it is present that any treatment will be helpful at this point so skip that for now.  Most fungal diseases get started in the very early spring and are active during specific times of the spring.  Treatment now would likely do not good.  If you have plants showing signs of disease on their leaves (spots, raised bumps, etc.) the absolute best thing to do is a very thorough fall cleanup to remove ALL debris from your landscape.  Your effort will be rewarded in the spring by a sharply reduced amount of active spores in the immediate area that could infect your trees/shrubs next season.  Going back to protection against insect damage—insects have unique life cycles depending on the specific insect.  Most are in the adult stage at this time of year—flying or crawling around looking for a new home and a place to lay eggs…if your tree is protected, these insects will not survive and cause damage.  Protection from insects needs to be done annually, in future years, this is normally in the spring to ensure a full season of protection.

This is a mixed bag of recommendations—some items you can surely do yourself and others such as the protection against disease and insects are better left to certified arborists.  I am happy to answer your questions and arrange for a thorough plant health assessment of your property.  Depending on the nature of your concerns, either I will personally review your property and/or I will ask a certified arborist to do so.  Either way, the service is of no charge to you.  I have already started monitoring and making recommendations to the clients whose property we provide regular and ongoing services to throughout the season and will continue to do so.  The health of your plants is of sincere interest to me.  I do not want to do a bunch of replacements next year because something as basic as deep root watering was not done.  If you are interested in a scheduled consultation, please contact me.    

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