In Autumn, attention seems to be mostly focused on trees and foliage. When you take a step back to look at the larger landscape, it’s ALL the plants that contribute to Autumn’s magic. Shrubs, grasses, and other diminutive plants, should not be overlooked when planning a landscape that captivates in the fall.
change to chestnut brown. When it comes to cutting grasses back we prefer waiting until late winter/early spring to do it, so that we can take full advantage of their texture and interest throughout fall and winter. Some years, heavy snow pack can cause your grasses to deflate, this isn’t a problem, but you can always wait for a ‘warm’ winter day and cut them down if they flop over too much for your liking.
To sum up; don’t miscount the small stuff. In every niche of the garden there lies an opportunity to display the beauty of fall!
We polite Midwesterners like to talk about the weather. It’s an easy, neutral subject that’s usually banal small talk. I do it all the time, but often wonder if I’m being just plain whiney. This month, however, I feel like we have actually earned the right to gripe. June is not supposed to be as hot and dry as it was. My lawn is already going dormant, and my rain barrels were near empty. This June has been particularly brutal on new plantings! The atmospheric forces of strong wind, heat, sun and no rain have taken their toll.
This June 2017 we have seen a ton of these calls. Often, it’s the people who do spring plantings who have the hardest time figuring out what’s going on, they get used to a watering schedule when the weather is much cooler and the rain is more prevalent. However, the first week of hot, sunny weather and their trees stress because they haven’t accounted for the weather and increased watering enough.These calls also come from people who have planted in the previous year. Keep in mind that it takes a long time for a tree’s roots to grow enough to support it. Again, we find that people assume, because the tree looked great in the spring without supplemental watering, that it was good to go. On the contrary folks; keep a close eye on your trees for the first 3 years, and sometimes more. When it’s unseasonably hot and dry your tree will need some help.
If bad enough, drought stress can kill a new tree, but don’t panic at the first sight of brown leaves. Good news is, if caught in time your tree can recover. If you suspect drought stress e.g. sudden browning of leaves or some leaves are outright falling off, increase your watering and be patient. Your tree will look stressed for a while, but in time, they can re-leaf. (Sometimes, they won’t re-leaf right away, but might come back the next year, looking just fine.)
So, get out there and check the moisture levels on your trees and increase the amount of water you are putting on them, and prepare for the heat!
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
On the flip side, when it comes to planting trees and shrubs, your best bet is to plant the right species for the soil that you have, instead of trying to change the soil. The vast majority of Bentley Ridge’s plants can take a fair amount of clay, but some are better than others. See the list of recommended plants that have the best tolerance at the end of the blog.
“Should I add some gravel, or sand when planting a tree to improve drainage?” NO. A tree’s roots spread very far and wide, so it is nearly impossible to amend the entire area where it will grow. Adding lighter materials, such as, peat moss, sand, or fancy ‘tree planting soil’ (sold at other retailers) to the planting hole, is not recommended either. The University of Minnesota has done extensive research on the topic, and have concluded that adding gravel to the soil will only make the problem worse because it creates a perched water table. Imagine digging a hole with hard clay and adding gravel at the bottom. It will pull more water out from the nearby soil, which will collect into the hole making it even wetter than before. Plus, over time, the clay particles will filter into the gaps in the rock allowing even more moisture to sit.
When considering light soil additives, your tree roots might be happy for a while in the light soil, but will not want to spread and break into the clay. Your best option is to dig a wide hole, score the sides of the hole with a shovel and backfill with the existing soil, taking care to break up/loosen the soil as you fill in the hole.
More tips for planting in clay:
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
Christmas Tree Saver, chose a LIVE tree and plant it in the Spring.
My husband and I generally purchase a cut Christmas tree from a local tree farm, but grew tired of throwing away money at the end of the season, and the tree that had grown for several years. After researching and talking to local gardening guru’s, we decided to try a live tree and plant it the following spring.
We chose Bentley Ridge Tree Farm to purchase our “Christmas Tree” in 2015 for the first time. The farm had already closed for the season, by mid-November, but we were welcomed to come out for an appointment to pick something. Our Austrian Pine was a bit wild looking but that suited our needs. My husband is handy in all things, so he fabricated a 22-inch diameter steel container with hand hold slots, to keep our tree in its root bag before being planted a few months later. Other individuals could use a “Multi-Purpose Steel Utility Tub” found at home improvement stores.
After bringing our tree home mid-November, we placed our 6’ pine in our garage until after Thanksgiving. Getting it in our house was a bit interesting, but once in the front door we used a heavy drop cloth to slide it across the floor, instead of picking it up. The tree was decorated with lights and ornaments and watered well to keep it happy. I did need to purchase an extra-large tree skirt to fit the height of the container holding the tree. The tree skirt allowed gifts to be placed on the skirt at the base of the tree. Regular tree skirts fit but wouldn’t allow much fabric on the floor. We watered the tree about every other day, but checked it daily to make sure it wasn’t dry or oversaturated.
Once Christmas was over, and decorations put away, we moved the tree back to the garage until the end of February. When the weather was mid-30’s to 40’s most of the time we transitioned our tree to sit outside the garage. After the ground had thawed in April we planted the Pine and watered it well. The Austrian Pine has done well all Summer and Fall. We recently picked out our Christmas tree at Bentley Ridge for a second year. This time choosing a Colorado Blue Spruce. We will let you know how that one fares as well as an update to the 2015 Austrian Pine.
So, the question of whether or not we sell Christmas trees might have a more complicated answer than we originally thought!
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
As many of you know, Autumn is a great time for planting. The temperatures have cooled which means your trees will benefit from reduced transplanting stress. Plus, you can get by with a little less watering. Here are a few things to know about caring for trees in the fall:
For shrubs, or If you live on an acreage, wooded lot, or the edge of town where there are sure to be ravenous deer, you may just want to fence them completely. Expert tip: make the fence wider and taller than you think, deer are tall and can reach a long way, so 3’ tall chicken wire will not do the trick.
Yes, you can fertilize in the fall! The trick is to wait until the plants start to go dormant around mid-October before applying fertilizer, because you don’t want to flush out tender new shoots and leaves just before the cold hits. Allow the plants to begin dormancy, then apply. The roots will still be actively taking in and storing nutrients even after the leaves have fallen off. The extra nutrients will be available in the following spring which gives your plants head start for the new growing season. If you have already purchased and have been using our Root & Grow fertilizer through early fall, no worries. The formulation is designed for root development, so it is low in nitrogen, and is safe to use this time of year.
It’s official, we are now selling perennials!
We hope that expanding our range of products makes Bentley Ridge Tree Farm & Nursery more of a one-stop-shopping experience. We are starting out with 18 varieties and we will see where they take us!
Still The Quality You Have Come to Expect!
As always, we grow everything we sell on site at our Urbandale Farm! Like all of our trees and shrubs, we grow our perennials in fiber root control bags, not plastic pots. Root formation is ideal in these bags - no circling roots, which means you don’t have to cut up or break up the rootball when you go to plant them. This also means that there is reduced transplanting stress. Our perennial bags are biodegradable and can technically be left on and planted in the ground. We do recommend removing at least part of the bag to accommodate the quickest root growth. (As a reminder, our tree and shrub root bags do need to be completely removed). Most people like to purchase and plant perennials in the spring, however, our stock is fresh, healthy, and beautiful! They can brighten up any landscape immediately.
Try a Trio!
We have put together a few groupings that have complimentary colors and textures with long lasting impact, when planted together.
Pictured here is the Shenandoah Switchgrass/Dark Towers Penstemon/Arizona Sun Gaillardia
For a full list of our selection click here!
The ubiquitous Japanese Beetle is here to stay. It is thought to have been introduced to the US in 1916 in New Jersey and has made its way to the Midwest. As a non-native, it doesn’t have many natural enemies, so it has been able to proliferate, and will continue to do so…at least until predators arrive. In commercial horticulture, we use a pest management method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which principles are to use a variety of techniques to control plant diseases. The point of IPM is to limit the use of pesticides; to not reach for the chemicals at first sight. The focus of Japanese Beetle control is not complete eradication, but minimization of their effects.
With IPM, it is critical to understand the life cycle of a pest to know how to treat the problem. Adult Japanese Beetles emerge from the ground in July, feed on leaves and flowers and mate, until late September when they lay eggs in the ground. The larvae of JBs live and feed on turfgrass roots in late summer-early fall and then move downward in the soil where they overwinter. In spring, the larvae move back up in the soil and feed on turfgrass roots again until July and then pupate and emerge as adults.
Foliar sprays are very effective at killing JBs. You can find a variety of ready to use sprays at your local garden center. Sevin, Spectracide Bug Stop, and Bayer Advanced Lawn & Garden Control sprays will do the job. Since they are broad spectrum they kill honeybees and other beneficial insects. They can also be harmful to birds, aquatic species and humans, so please limit your use.
This type of pesticide is applied as a root drench or injected into the trunks of trees. The pro of systemics is that the plant takes the chemical up internally, which means it won’t wash off when it rains, as with topical sprays. Larger plants take more time to move the chemical up to the top of the plant, so you may notice a delay in effectiveness in those plants. With systemics, the insect must ingest the plant before it is killed, so you will still see beetles browsing. Systemics do also harm honeybees and some other beneficial insects, so do limit your use.
There are some natural remedies and even though they may be less effective than harsh chemicals, they are definitely worth trying. As stated earlier, JBs don’t have major predators in the US but Milky Spore fungus and nematodes are biological agents that can be effective controls.They are used to kill grubs. Other products worth investigating are Neem and Cedar oil, which work to repel JBs.
This is the most environmentally safe method, and can be done pretty easily on smaller shrubs and flowers. Pick off beetles and chuck them into a bucket of soapy water as you go. They will die in the soapy water, and you won’t have to go to the mess of smashing them between your fingers.
Plant species less commonly eaten by JBs
JBs browse hundreds of species but there are a few plants they love and some that we know they don’t go for as much. To have fewer JBs in your yard, avoid planting species they love the most.
Three Common Myths:
Myth 1 If you treat your turfgrass with grub insecticide, you will have fewer adult JBs in your yard. Reality JBs can fly up to 5 miles to find food, so the majority of beetles on your plants may not have come from your own turf. Don’t bother treating your turfgrass unless you know you have a grub problem. To scout for grubs pull up a few 12” x 12” squares of grass and count how many grubs you have. It’s recommended to not spray unless you have 7-15 grubs per square foot. Do this in April- May or September.
Myth 2 You should install a pheromone trap in your yard to lure and kill large amounts of JBs.
Reality Pheromone traps use the scent of roses and a JB sex hormone to attract and trap adult beetles. What usually happens is that you will actually attract more JBs to your yard than what your plants attract on their own, without the traps. Many of these beetles never end up in the traps. Some still argue that traps may be effective on large areas of land like acreages, where you are able to place the traps a far distance from plants you are trying to protect.
Myth 3 JBs are introduced to your landscape from plants purchased at garden centers/nurseries.
Reality JB adults lay eggs in turfgrass, so there are no eggs or larvae in other type of plants. It may be possible for a stray adult beetle to hitch a ride in a plant on the way home, but one beetle is negligible in comparison to the thousands that fly in from nearby turf.
Summary: It is important to know that you will probably never be able to get rid of every Japanese Beetle. One of IPM’s main principles is to accept a certain amount of loss. Yes, it’s annoying and unsightly, but it’s good to know that JB damage is almost always aesthetic and doesn’t kill affected plants.
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
Most trees can live a long time, so long that it almost seems like they will be around forever. Well, as we all know, “stuff” happens. Storms, diseases, and old age inevitably occur. Part of owning and caring for trees is dealing with loss. When a large tree falls, a tremendous void is made, literally and figuratively. It’s like an old friend is gone and now you’re left in the blinding sun. You’ve lost all your energy-saving shade, and now your neighbors have a full view of you in your pajamas. We’ve got some tips to help you make a good re-planting decision.
The good news behind all of this is that we are here to help, if you bring in pictures to us, or email us questions or concerns about your tree or shrub, we will do our best to make sure those issues get resolved, and that you end up with a happy tree!
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
Maples are usually the first thing people ask for when they step inside our gate, especially in autumn when the spotlight shines brightest on them. We see why they are so popular. Depending on the exact species, Maples can be fast growing, provide dense shade, display fabulous fall color and perform well in a variety of soils and landscapes. There’s one problem though, Maples are on the verge of being overplanted. What problems could arise from overplanting? Does Dutch Elm Disease or Emerald Ash Borer ring a bell? It’s not that overplanting causes diseases, but when aggressive diseases occur, they can target and wipe out a single species, or at least severely reduce populations. So by logic, it is wise to plant a wide variety of species to minimize loss. While having a sugar maple, red maple and black maple sounds like diversity, they are all in the same genus. You will have much better insurance the further apart they are on the family tree.
There are instances where it makes sense design-wise to do mass plantings. Uniform rows of the same plant are beautiful. Going back to the history lesson, remember, Elm trees were commonly planted densely along streets to create that beloved covered archway feeling. After Dutch Elm disease swept through, those streets were left completely bare. Yes, it is good to have consistency and order, especially in shrubs and perennials, but when it comes to trees, mixing it up has benefits. You will end up with a more natural, park-like setting. Plus 'branching out' into multiple tree types, you get a wider range of features like spring blooms, form, fall color, bark color, evergreens, etc. You can really get the most out of your space.
What are other fall color options at Bentley Ridge?
Northern Red Oak
Canada Red Chokecherry
Shrubs: Nannyberry Viburnum, American Cranberrybush Viburnum, Blackhaw Viburnum, Arrowwood Viburnum, Burning Bush.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not telling you to not plant maples. We think they are good trees, but consider choosing alternatives. For those of you who don’t have any maples, the next time you look over at your neighbor’s yard in envy, embrace your uniqueness, you may just have a leg-up in the diversity department. The photos below are some of our best fall color selections- none are maples!
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
We get a lot of great questions from our customers. We like inquisitive shoppers. It tells us that they’re open to learning about plants and how to care for them, which makes them good ‘plant parents’. Occasionally we get questions that might make us chuckle, like, “Does a tree need to face the same direction in my yard that it’s currently facing at the farm where it’s grown?’ Short answer, no. Long answer, also no. We also get recurring questions; things that are old wives tales, things they heard from their neighbor next door. Some even stem from miss-information they’ve received from professionals in the arboriculture, horticulture, and landscaping fields. Today’s blog post is to shed light on a couple common false assumptions about the manner in which trees grow and pruning myths.
To preface this topic, trees grow from the top up. Meaning, the branches that you see on a tree will always be located at that height on the trunk where they first originated. The branches don’t magically get higher and higher as the tree gets taller, instead, the tree will sprout new branches from the top (usually) as it grows. For some, this may seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how little some people pay attention to nature. These people get confused when they see our young trees at the farm. They say they want a tree that has branches that that start out higher up the trunk, you know, for ease of mowing. Well how can that be? The tree is only 8 feet tall, so you wouldn’t have hardly any canopy left if you didn’t have those low branches. As the tree grows taller you can prune them out, silly! But don’t get antsy about limbing up your tree too quickly. We encourage waiting a few years before removing lower branches…the next paragraph will explain why.
A false assumption about limbing-up is that if you cut off lower branches, it will stimulate the top of the tree to grow faster. We have also heard that removing branches will reduce competition for nutrients in other parts of the tree. (Insert game show wrong answer buzzer noise) There may be a shred of truth to this but the main point missing here is that branches have leaves, and leaves are where a plant gets its energy from. Remember biology class and photosynthesis? The more leaves you remove, the less potential for gathering energy. By removing too many branches, you can actually stunt growth. This is especially true of young trees. Put the loppers down and let the tree grow! The things you want to focus on early are crossing/rubbing branches or double leaders.
One of the most untrue sayings is, "Tree roots mirror the size and shape of a tree's canopy." This would incur that a tree's roots go as deep as the tree is tall. In actuality, most tree roots grow no deeper than 2 feet below the soil surface and can grow much much wider than the width of the canopy, Some tree species do have deeper tap roots, but the saying is mostly false
We are not trying to belittle our customers here and say they are clueless, just that we are amused by some of things we hear. Hey, if we weren’t tree experts, we would assume the same things too!
Since there so many more myths to debunk, we will most likely re-visit this topic in future blog posts. If you have an old wives tale or a question about plants you’ve been trying to solve, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on our facebook page. We will try to answer them all.
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm