Have you heard? Today is National Arbor Day.
Even if you’re not planting a tree in celebration of Arbor Day, it’s a great time to take a stroll through your yard and evaluate the health of your trees and maybe even do a little yard work. There’s so much going on in the landscape right now.
Hopefully you’ve had time to clean up any of last fall’s leaves that were still around and cut off the ugly dead foliage from last year’s flowers and shrubs. I always like to add some new mulch to brighten up the area and give it a clean fresh look.
April showers have been so appreciated but tend to bring not only spring flowers but the inevitable weeds. Controlling them when they’re young is so much easier that dealing with huge mature plants, especially after they’ve gone to seed.
Dragging a hoe over small weeds makes quick work of hoeing. I often hear someone say they used an herbicide but it didn’t work. That’s usually because the wrong product was used or it was applied at the wrong time. I’ll be covering this in my pesticide talk on May 3. You can contact the Montrose Library if you’re interested in attending.
I’ve seen a few roses that were heavily pruned last fall and I’m sorry to say, that was one of the worse things a person could have done to their poor rose. These roses were pruned to a height of about 1 or 2 inches tall and I really doubt if these rose bushes are going to survive.
It’s best to wait until two weeks before the last average hard frost in the spring to prune roses, which is about the first part of May. At that time, Tea roses should be pruned leaving approximately six of the strongest and healthiest canes. Remove dead canes and the weak, spindly canes at ground level.
Also remove canes growing towards the center of the plant and any that are crossed and rubbing.
Prune living green canes making your cuts at a 30 to 45-degree angle, cutting about one-quarter inch above a live bud with the bud eye pointing outward from the plant.
Place a dab of Elmer’s carpenter’s glue or a rose sealer on the cut to keep stem cane corers from tunneling into the canes.
If you find your rose already has holes and dead canes from the borers, cut the cane off below the darkened hollowed damage leaving green healthy wood and seal the cut.
Arbor Day is a great time to check your trees for broken branches or trunk damage.
The spring winds have been hard on a lot of trees. If you find a branch needs pruned don’t cut into the trunk where the branch is attached.
You should also check the irrigation to the trees when you turn on the water for the season. If you planted new trees within the past few years, the irrigation should be changed as the tree matures. Move the drips away from the trunks of trees that have been planted more than a couple of years. The drips should be placed at the outside of the drip zone, or pointed in a direction away from the trunk. Remove the ties and guides from trees that have been planted for two years or more if the tree has become established.
If you’re planting a tree this year, don’t be afraid to ask questions before you buy your tree. Make sure the mature tree will fit into your location. Look up to see if there are overhead wires above the planting site that will interfere with the branches.
Knowing the tree’s water needs is also wise.
I strongly advise you plant a variety of trees. A monoculture of one species may lead to serious pest or disease problems. And besides, a variety of trees just looks good!
Be sure you don’t plant your new tree too deep! I say this because that’s one of the most common mistakes that I see. A shallow, wide planting hole is the key to success. Dig no deeper than the depth of the root-ball of the tree and add one part organic material, such as compost, to two parts soil to backfill the hole. Adding more “goodies” than this to your soil will make the new hole so desirable that the roots will continue to grow in the circle of the planting hole and not expand outward.This brings me to the second biggest problem that I come across which is, roots that are wrapped around and around instead of going outward like a healthy root system should.
Often times, roots will wrap around the inside of the pot that it grew in at the nursery. As the tree grows, these roots will wrap around the trunk of the tree, actually strangling the tree. Making sure the roots are loosened and not wrapped in the shape of the pot before planting can prevent this.
Also, remove some of the soil from the top of the root ball if it has been planted deep in the pot. The roots should be covered by only an inch or two of soil, not buried.
Water your tree with a slow stream of water after you plant it. Don’t stomp on the roots and pack the soil. Two to 4 inches of mulch could be added around the base of the tree, but keep it from touching the trunk. Guides may be needed to support the tree for the first year or two.
If you haven’t been in a garden center yet this spring you don’t know what you’re missing. They’re stocked and ready to go. But this doesn’t mean you should plant tender vegetables and annuals quite yet. Unless you can provide protection from cold nights or another cold snap it’s best to wait until the soil warms up a bit more and the threat of frost is past.
I hope you’ll enjoy your Arbor Day weekend no matter how you spend it. But I think any day you spend time in the garden or plant a tree for the future is a good day.
Linda Corwine McIntosh is an ISA certified arborist, licensed commercial pesticide applicator and advanced master gardener.