Monitoring for insects and disease is an integral part of creating an effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for your trees. However, it is equally if not more important to check your landscape for a number of cultural problems that will cause woody ornamentals to decline. These include soil problems (poor soil, compaction, contamination, etc.), irrigation issues (over and under irrigation, poor drainage, sprinkler heads blowing into plants, etc.), and landscaping problems (planting too deep, nylon netting and burlap left behind, guy wires girdling bark, etc.) Our technicians and arborists look for signs of these problems when they inspect and visit properties throughout Long Island.

Soil Compaction from Backhoe

Soil Compaction from Backhoe

We see a lot of soil compaction at various properties, usually at newly built and landscaped properties. Construction vehicles and equipment driving back and forth are the cause. Sometimes you’ll see construction companies park equipment or place pallets of material directly underneath large existing trees, crushing their feeder roots and compacting the soil. Landscaping equipment such as tractors, payloaders and backhoes also compact soil if not used carefully. We often see areas of soil compacted during lawn installations, sometimes affecting large existing trees and sometimes affecting trees brought in and planted later. There is no easy fix for compaction: it will take soil many years to create air spaces itself via soil insects, natural processes, etc. Usually a complete soil renovation is needed – turning over the soil, adding organic material, etc. Sticking a layer of compost and mulch on top isn’t the answer.
Poor soil conditions can range from construction marl being brought into a landscape to clay layers and bands causing problems. Sometimes we can auger and create “pipes” of organic material which frost heaving will then start to distribute. This may need to be done several times over the course of years to work. Sometimes a more complete renovation is needed. Another problem is soil contamination. Salt incursion from flooding can be remedied by using irrigation and soluble gypsum to drive the salt to lower levels. We also often see pool companies empty swimming pools of chlorinated water into hedges or other plants when they winterize pools in late fall. This is terrible for the soil, wiping out soil microbes and micro-arthropods and also damaging the plants root systems. They often do it when nobody’s around to see it but the signs are unmistakable. (Naturally they hate to see us pull up while they’re doing it.) The only cure is to irrigate thoroughly in the spring and then restore the soil ecology using bio-stimulants and mychorizzal inoculants.

 

Overhead Sprinkler Head

Overhead Sprinkler Head

Poor irrigation is another very common cultural problem. More often than not, the problem is over-watering trees and ornamental plants, especially during the hot days of summer. Homeowners often keep turning up their irrigation if it appears that trees are not doing well, when, in fact, the problem may be something entirely different. Generally speaking, unless they are brand new plantings, woody ornamentals don’t like being watered every day. Over irrigation can cause root rot and soil problems. On the other hand, it is very important to make sure new plantings are well watered until their roots are able to push out and transpose water. Usually soaker hose is the answer. It’s important to check new plantings occasionally to make sure the soaker hose hasn’t been damaged or crimped, or the irrigation zone has accidentally been turned off. Another irrigation issue is to have sprinkler heads blowing water into foliage, which causes leaf and needle disease and other problems. Your irrigation company can usually change or adjust sprinkler heads to avoid this.

 

 

 

Girdling Root

Girdling Root

In landscaping, when planting trees, the number one rule is this: Get it right when you plant it, ‘cuz it’s a lot harder to fix later on. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Landscapers tend to make several mistakes when planting new trees that cause major problems with their health later on, often years later. The most common error is to plant trees too deep, causing their root crowns to be under the soil level. This is sometimes caused by nurseries balling the trees high when they dig them. Burying the root crown will make the tree develop more slowly and poorly, may cause girdling roots, and may lead to butt rot and death. Good landscapers peel back the top of the burlap, find the root crown (and <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>not</span> the graft) and make sure that this is above the soil level when the tree’s hole is dug (often ell above, as trees tend to settle over time.) Another common mistake is to fail to remove burlap, nylon burlap, nylon straps, nylon netting, or “seat belt” material used at nurseries to prepare trees for transport. This usually involves taking off the top third of the wire cage commonly used when digging trees nowadays. This creates an often fatal barrier to roots, meaning the tree will never properly develop support roots or feeder roots. Problems like this are often not seen for years, after the warranty has expired and when they are too late to correct. Another, more easily remedied problem is the practice of staking up new trees with guy wire which will start to girdle the bark as the trunk grows. Whenever possible, guy wires need to be removed after one or two years and if you can get the stakes out of the ground, all the better. At the very least, have an arborist come and adjust the wires on the bark.

Fox Tree will be happy to have an arborist come and inspect your property for any cultural problems throughout the year. If you need recommendations before or after your landscape is being put in, please call us today!