The past few days, I get the feeling that this long, dark winter is beginning to fade. Oh, it will go kicking and screaming with a few more snow storms but, the end is definitely in sight. With the melting of the snow, it is now time to get back outdoors and go to work. Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all.
Spring is a great time to prune trees in the orchard or in the landscape. Most of us think of pruning as the removal of branches and twigs. That is true but pruning also stimulates new growth and how we do it will determine the direction of that growth.
We prune landscape trees to improve their shape, remove potentially dangerous growth and to try to limit size. Fruit trees are pruned to improve the yield of fruit. Each type of pruning has its own goals and techniques.
Remember that we do not “feed” plants. The major thing that separates plants from animals is that they feed themselves through a process called photosynthesis. This is where they capture the energy from the sun (or other light source) and, in the chlorophyll (green colored) molecule in leaves, they pull together a variety of chemical elements and water to trap that energy. The resulting sugars and carbohydrates are then the basis of almost all living things on earth.
Animals, including we humans, feed on this plant material and convert that energy into proteins and other tissues. We can gain transfer the energy of the sun into our bodies by eating either plant or animal materials.
The mountain ash (Sorbus species) may come from the mountain but it is not really an ash tree (Fraxinus species). It is actually a close relative the apples (Malus), pears (Pyrus) and roses (Rosa) since it is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). Therefore, it is susceptible to many of the same diseases of its relatives including the fungal leaf disease, apple scab and the more serious bacterial disease, fireblight. The better news is, that since it is not a true ash, it does not get attacked by the Emerald ash borer which is in the process of killing millions and millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest.
If a plant dies within the first year or two after being transplanted, the cause is almost always “transplant shock.” It would be extremely unusual for an insect or disease to cause an otherwise healthy transplant to die that quickly. So, the question becomes, “What is transplant shock and how do I prevent it from killing my plants?”
Roots, of course, are the lifeline of the plant. They transport water and nutrients up to the leaves as part of the photosynthesis process. Without these inputs, the plant cannot produce its own food and energy supply. Plants establish a natural balance between the size of the root system and the size of the above ground part of the plant. This assures the proper flow of water and nutrients up to the leaves. If stems are cut off, part of the root system dies back. If some of the root system is removed, parts stems and leaves will suffer damage or death.
Hydrangeas are beautiful plants for the home landscape. They come in a wide range of types from flowering shrubs to tree types to large sized vines. Although they are perfectly hardy to many northern climate zones, there are times when they do not bloom. New plants often come from the nursery crammed full of blooms. Then, the following spring or summer…nothing. What is the problem?
Well, the first thing to determine is the type of hydrangea being considered. Different hydrangeas have different flowering cycles and requirements. So, you need to know your plant.
When trees grow tall and begin to tower over houses, garages and driveways, people often become concerned about whether they are a potential danger. Actually, there are a lot of situations when they should be concerned but are unaware of the possibilities. We have all seen the damage that a huge tree limb can cause when it comes down in a storm. Occasionally, people are injured or killed in such situations. How can we tell when a tree is going to come down?
Now is a good time to have the soil from gardens, lawns, flowerbeds or fields tested if you haven’t already done so. A standard soil test will tell you the level of major nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium, the pH, soil type, and the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Based on these levels, a computer-generated recommendation will tell you how much fertilizer is needed to grow a good crop of vegetables, grass, trees, shrubs or flowers.
Remember that, except in very rare circumstances, the level of nitrogen in the soil will not be tested. Nitrogen is very water soluble and moves through the soil quickly. Therefore, to test it today would give results that would probably be different tomorrow. So, the ultimate recommendations will be based on the typical needs of the crops being grown and not on the amount existing in the soil.