Wow, what a wet year it has been! Although the weather may have made it difficult for you to work on your outdoor projects, our trees and shrubs sure have appreciated the rain. If the soggy conditions prevented you from spring plantings, we want you to know it is not too late. Yes, Spring and Fall are ideal but we plant all summer long. We are able to do so, mainly because we grow our plants in Root Control bags. These specialized grow bags promote a healthy root system, and keep them contained, which means we don’t have to cut many roots when removing from the field. The result is reduced transplanting stress. Other methods of growing and transplanting like “balled & burlapped” or “bare root” are not recommended for summer planting.
While we encourage summer planting, you do need to keep in mind that transporting and planting on a hot summer day will cause some stress. Here are some tips for planting in hot weather:
This is the time of year when we get multiple phone calls from customers who had spring plantings and are now concerned with the progress of their trees. They are saying leaves are turning yellow and falling off. We notice a trend; people get used to a spring watering schedule but don’t increase watering enough as temperatures increase. We have had a lot of nice, cool, wet weather which is great for establishing plants but you will most likely need to bump up watering in July and August. Also, with wet weather, it is common to falsely assume rainfall amounts are adequate. Keep in mind that your new tree’s roots are confined to a very small area so it has limited resources until they grow. Watering can be a complicated issue, so our best advice is to check soil moisture twice a week to know if you need to water or not. Don’t assume things are wet or dry until you feel the soil. The top few inches may appear dry or wet so use a trowel to dig down 4”-6” to know the exact moisture level.
We now have a handy watering guide to help you out. Click the button at the bottom of this blog post.
Japanese Beetle Watch
Tis the season for Japanese Beetles to make an appearance. They usually show up in central Iowa around the first week in July. They are easy to identify; about the size of a large pea with bright, metallic green wing covers and tufts of white hairs on both sides of their abdomen. You may have been noticing False Japanese Beetles in the last few weeks. These are not nearly as bright green and are lacking the white tufts and do relatively small amounts of damage. True Japanese Beetles on the other hand, are invasive, non-natives and are much more problematic. Check our blog again in a few weeks for another post with ways to deal with these pesky pests.
1) Know Your Planting Site
In order to select the appropriate tree for your landscape you need to take stock of your yard from top to bottom. Our nursery staff is happy to talk you through selecting the right plants for you, but it helps when you have a solid understanding of what's going on in your yard. Go through this checklist:
2) Get the Tree Home Safe
We are happy to help load your plants into your vehicle, however, it is ultimately your responsibility to get them home safely. Many of our customers are not equipped with the right materials to do so. Often, they expect to fit our trees inside their van or SUV, but realistically it's just not possible. We highly recommend an open truck bed or trailer. Small trees and shrubs can fit in enclosed trailers or trucks with toppers, however, you do run the risk of breaking lots of branches. If you don't have access to a truck, we recommend renting one for a small fee ($20/hour) from a big box store. If you are not able to transport and plant your tree, ask our staff about delivery and planting services.
3) Prepare the Dig Site
Avoid electrocution or natural gas explosions! Before you dig, call Iowa One Call to locate all utilities on your site. This service is FREE and it's the law. It usually takes 48 hours so plan ahead. Dial 811 or 800 292-8989, or go to www.iowaonecall.com.
One key piece of information to know is that all of our plants are grown in root control bags. These bags promote a robust root structure by discourage circling or girdling roots. They are porous and do dry out quickly so you will need to plant as soon as you can. If you can't get to planting right away, keep your nursery stock in the shade and water frequently. One helpful hint is to place wet burlap over the root balls to slow the rate of evaporation.
One last recommendation: If you are going on an extended vacation in the weeks or months after a planting, line up a neighbor or friend to babysit your tree babies. Don't assume that rain will take care it's needs while you are away.
Bentley Ridge Tree Farm
It's fall, time to hunker down with a hot beverage in front of a warm fire. Before you don your fuzzy slippers and get too cozy, consider a few to-do items to ensure a healthy landscape come spring. Your focus this time of year should be on these 3 P's:
1) Prevention of winter burn, sunscald and frost cracking.
Protection from Winter Burn:
Midwest winter winds are not only frigid but are drying as well and can lead to winter burn. Those dry winds cause moisture loss in the foliage of evergreens but the ground is frozen so roots are not able to take up the necessary water to replace that loss. The result is the browning of needles, starting at the tips and if bad enough it can kill entire branches or even the whole plant. Often you don't notice this problem until it's too late. Remember, you can't water once the ground is frozen. Your best course of action is to make sure your transplants are well watered up until the ground is frozen. Even established plants may need a boost of water before winter if we've had a dry summer or fall. While evergreens are the most susceptible to winter burn, remember to also water your deciduous trees and shrubs as well through the fall. Another method to protect your plants (evergreens in particular), is to wrap them in burlap over the winter or apply and anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf periodically to the foliage. Sometimes if the winter is bad enough, you can't avoid winter burn completely. In the spring if you notice your evergreens are not "greening" up like they should, try a fertilizer that is high in iron to help them recuperate.
Protection from sunscald/frost-cracking:
Young tree trunks are often injured in winter due to fluctuating day-to-night temperatures. During the day the sun quickly warms up the south and west facing sides of trunks, but at night the temperatures drop back down causing expansion and contraction of tissues that lead to cracking of bark and transport tissues of the wood. Thin-barked species like Maples, Oaks, Linden, London Planetree and Willows are most susceptible. An easy solution is to shade the trunks in some manner. There are many ways to do this but for most people, wrapping the trunk is the most feasible. Burlap or opaque white plastic work well or you can find a specially made cardboard-like tree wrap at a local garden center. Porous materials are best to avoid unwanted moisture buildup. Don't use anything solid black as it will only facilitate the build up of heat that you are trying to avoid. Remember to remove any wrapping in the spring and whatever you use to adhere the wrapping material, should not gouge into the trunk.
Late fall and winter is an ideal time to prune most trees and shrubs. Pests and diseases are dormant and therefore there is no threat of infestation through freshly made cuts. Once the leaves fall off, it is much easier to see branching structure and to make decisions on what to cut or keep.
With any newer transplant, avoid doing much pruning at all. You don't want to run the risk of reducing vigor this early in the game. Do go ahead and remove problematic issues like, broken or dead branches, crossing branches that rub together or rub the trunk, and address double leaders. After 2-3 years you can begin structural pruning. Selectively prune out branches that come out of the trunk at odd angles or side branches that grow towards the center of the tree. Be on the look out for water sprouts (fast growing, energy zapping whips that grow straight up from branches or trunks). Don't remove too much material at one time, pruning should be a year to year process.
Critters of all shapes and sizes can do a lot of damage in a little bit of time. As food sources dwindle they will find their way to your trees and shrubs. Protect your investments. Trunk protectors are highly recommended to skirt the effects of antler rubbing or bunny chewing on your trees. In Iowa it's not uncommon for bucks to begin rutting in mid-August, so apply your trunk protectors early. Whatever you choose as your protection, make sure that no materials like straps or ties ever gouge into the tree. We recommend you avoid using black plastic drain tile as you don't want to build up daytime heat that could cause frost cracking. If your trunk wrapping material is not porous, remember to remove it promptly in the spring to prevent moisture buildup so you do not develop problems with fungus, bacteria or insects.
Your small trees and shrubs are a little more difficult. The only way to ensure a deer or rabbit will stay away from them is to fence them in. You can fence shrubs individually or in groups. Deer are quite tall so you either need to construct a high cage or opt for a low cage with an extra piece of fencing draped over the top.
For added insulation, apply an extra thick layer of mulch. We recommend 4"-6" deep layer of hardwood mulch to do the trick.
Remember to periodically check that any staking, fencing or protective materials are not damaging your trees. After a few years your tree's bark should be thick enough to tolerate the occasional deer and sunscald shouldn't be an issue.
About this time, every year, we get lots of calls from concerned pine tree owners thinking their trees are suffering. This yellowing and dropping of needles in the fall is completely normal and expected on Eastern White Pine.
White Pines shed their 2-year-old needles in the fall. It does look quite dramatic but this is normal as long as the outer needles stay green. Don't bother raking up the fallen needles. It's natural and free mulch that helps keep weeds down and will slowly improve the soil in time.
It's mid summer. Time to sit back, relax with a glass of lemonade and enjoy the fruits of your landscaping labors. While the hustle and bustle of spring is over, there are some things you should be doing to keep your yard healthy and looking its best.
Before we get into the dreaded to-do list, keep in mind there a some things you can actually slack-off on for the better.
Generally, most pruning on trees and shrubs should be done during the dormant months from late October through February. You want to avoid making making cuts during the time of year when pests and diseases are active, this is especially true for oaks and birches. If you want to prune your spring flowering shrubs in order to ensure they will put on blooms next year, it is best to prune right after blooming. It is a bit passed the the window of opportunity for those so wait until next year.
Research shows that the best times to fertilize trees and shrubs is in the fall after the first killing frost or in the spring once the leaves have flushed out and are just fully grown. It is not advised to fertilize a drought stressed plant, so during these hot and dry months, it is better to back off. Do not apply slow release fertilizer this time of year. Remember that you want to avoid flushing out new growth in late summer or early fall because those tissues will not be able to properly harden off before the cold temperatures arrive. That being stated we DO recommend applying a root-stimulating fertilizer with a new planting. These fertilizers are low in nitrogen and will not stimulate too much top growth before the roots catch up.
Yes, you may still plant trees and shrubs this time of year, just remember you must be diligent with your watering schedule.
It's hot, sunny and rain showers are few and far between so pour it on. Newly planted trees and shrubs will need water 2 to 3 times a week. Make sure you are soaking not only the root ball but the surrounding soil to encourage roots to grow down and out. Avoid putting small amounts of water on every day. Try to space out your waterings a little, but water deeply when you do. Any trees or shrubs planted within the past few years will also benefit from occasional watering as well, during these dry months.
3) Pest Control
Now is the time to be scouting for things like Japanese beetles, spider mites and scale. We recommend looking for systemic insecticides that you can water-in, instead of a foliar spray that needs heavy reapplication. Also, take stock of how your foliage looks. Seeing spots? It may be a symptom of a fungal or bacterial disease. Depending on the disease, it may be ineffective to apply fungicides or pesticides at this time. Usually you need to apply those in the spring during budbreak and in the following weeks after budbreak. What you can do now is make a note of the symptoms so that in the spring you can be prepared for whatever control method is necessary. What you can do now to prevent further spread of the disease, is remove any dead leaf litter promptly.
Keep up with pulling weeds and add mulch if you haven't already done so. You'll be amazed at how much it will spruce up your yard. Add bedlines or install edging. Make an evaluation of what you like, what you don't like in your yard and what you would like to see for the future.
Finally, stop out to our farm. Our talented staff would love to help you out with your summer planting selections.
This week we are highlighting our columnar varieties. For many, an upright tree may not be an obvious first choice but don't overlook their benefits.
Columnar trees are the exclamation points in the landscape, adding drama and moving the eye upwards. They can be used to line driveways or planted along edges of property to delineate space, and then can serve as a backdrop for your shrubs and perennials. Practically speaking, upright trees will submit the presence of a large tree without actually taking up large amounts of horizontal space. Use in side yards, between buildings or in hell strips.
Currently we have 2 varieties:
'Crimson Pointe' Plum
'Crimson Pointe' Plum is an ornamental plum with dark burgundy-red leaves all season long. In early spring, branches are densely coated with pinkish-white, sweetly scented blooms. It has a manageable size of 20' tall by 10' wide when fully grown.
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Bentley Ridge Tree Farm is now open for the 2014 season. Come on in and let Hayley help you find the right trees or shrubs for your projects or give her a call at 515-554-5292.
Our hours are:
Tuesday - Friday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday - Sunday: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm