Tree and Lawn Care FAQ

When is tree removal necessary?

Removal would likely be required if the tree is a hazard - persons or property would be in danger if it falls or limbs disengage - and it has been determined it is damaged or diseased beyond repair. An inspection should be performed by a professional arborist to determine whether removal is the solution. Pruning, fertilization and watering often improve the health of a tree and reduce the need for removal.

Why should I consider fertilizing my trees?

Using a proper fertilizer supplements the nutrients trees lose with leaf removal in urban settings but otherwise absorb in a natural, forest setting. It also improves the appearance and condition of trees, including their abilities to better withstand pests.

I've had an application done on my lawn. Why do I still have weeds?

The most common broadleaf herbicide used in the green industry is effective on many weeds with a single application. For the most complete control, results appear in about six weeks. Some weeds are more difficult to control and require repeat applications or the addition of other active ingredients, which are more costly but may provide weed control in as soon as three weeks.

I have noticed a lot of crab grass in my yard. What can I do?

  1. Mow high, keeping grass about 3 inches tall. This will shade and cool the soil and reduce weeds. Crabgrass is not found in the shade.
  2. Follow proper mowing intervals and remove no more than 1/3 of the blade height with a single mowing. As cool season grasses attempt summer dormancy, mowing one or two times per month may be sufficient. Additional mowing (particularly at a low height) is unnecessary and may stress the turf.
  3. Watch for and hand pick straggler crabgrass plants when they are small. Do not allow mature plants to produce seed. In particular, check areas near heat sources such as driveways, sidewalks, curbs, and those with southern exposures.
  4. Provide sufficient fertilizer at correct intervals to encourage the densest possible stand of turf to resist weed encroachment.
  5. Water as necessary to relieve drought stress.

Why and when should I prune my tree?

You can help maintain your tree's health by removing dead, diseased and broken branches. It makes it safer for your family and property. Pruning also can be done for aesthetic reasons, including letting more light onto your property or improving a view. Pruning during the dormant season is ideal because it reveals branch structure and less brush is generated.

How do I prune my tree?

Start the first cut on the underside of the limb a foot or so from the parent branch or trunk. Make a complete second cut slightly further out on the top side of the limb. This will allow it to drop smoothly and avoids tearing the bark.

Finally, make a clean cut to remove the remaining stub of the branch. When making this final cut, smoothly do it outside of the branch bark ridge and the evident collar - not flush to the parent branch or trunk. This allows for proper healing.

For help cutting very large limbs or those high in your tree, contact your local arborist. Contact your power company for tree work near power lines.

When and how should I mulch my trees?

Mulching with a good, organic hardwood mulch can be done anytime as it helps keep organic matter in the soil around the tree, conserves soil moisture and provides weed control. Mulch should be applied at a depth of 2 to 4 inches. Use a thinner layer on soils that drain poorly, are high in clay content or have a history of root disease. Use a thicker layer - up to 4 inches - for sandy soils.

Applying too much mulch can retain excessive moisture and lead to root rot, reduced oxygen and fungal growth. Mounding mulch on plant stems - creating a volcano effect - fosters decay fungi and could cause severe damage to the tree.

The best way to apply mulch is to "feather" it up to the base of the plant. Mulch should not directly touch the main stem, and mulch should be no more than ½ inch deep just outside the stem.

I noticed a silky web or tent-like formation on my trees. What is it?

It likely is fall webworm, and it affects more than 100 tree species such as wild cherry, pecan, black walnut, hickory, crabapple, birch and sweetgum. The pest actually emerges from its wintering stage as a moth during late spring and summer, but the caterpillar's webbing is most noticeable in late summer. You can look for developing larvae as the goldenrods begin to bloom.

The young caterpillars stay in the web while feeding but skeletonize the leaves. As they mature, they expand the size of the web as more food is needed.

What can I do about fall webworm?

I) When practical, prune and destroy nests.

2) Healthy trees can better resist future attacks, so follow good cultural practices like proper fertilizing, mulching and appropriate watering.

3) Contact your local arborist, who can recommend a treatment to control the larvae when small.

Why do leaves change color? And what affects the intensity of color?

As day length diminishes, so does the quality of green chlorophyll in leaves, which masks other colors. Carotenoids, or yellow or orange pigment, give golden hues to trees like Norway Maples, Ohio Buckeyes, Sycamores, and Birches. Anthocyanins provide pink, red and purple you see on sassafras, scarlet oaks, and some maples. It often mixes with yellow carotenoids to form brilliant orange coloration, often seen on maple species. Tannins provide brown hues popular on many oaks, as well as the copper coloration of beech leaves, when mixed with yellow carotenoids.

Really striking, intense color happens when warm sunny days are followed by cool nights - temperatures below 45 but not freezing. Rainy and cloudy days limit photosynthesis - and as a result decrease the intensity of fall color. Freezes can kill or severely injure leaves before the pigment in the leaf hits maximum development. Heavy winds and rains can sweep leaves off trees altogether.

I'm on a tight budget. How can I still adequately care for my trees?

By monitoring your trees' health and watering, fertilizing, and pruning them correctly, you can save the potentially greater expense of having them treated or removed later. If there are areas of concern, contact your local professional arborist for a consultation. He or she can inspect your tree and make recommendations. Then, prioritize the work and create a plan. First consider the safety of your family and property, then the health of the tree, and, finally, projects that are for aesthetic reasons.

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