Tree Planting: Happy Arbor Day, April 25th

2013-05-09 10.12.49The last Friday in April is Arbor Day. This year that holiday falls on April 25th. In support of this holiday we should all go out and plant a tree or more than one if you desire, or support an organization that does plant trees if you have no need or space for extra trees in your yard.

When planting trees, utilize diversity. Diversity is planting many different types of trees in an area so that if any new disease or insect comes, it doesn’t wipe out all of our trees. The lack of diversity has been a problem recently with pine wilt in Nebraska. Entire windbreaks are being destroyed in a matter of a couple of years due to pine wilt. Just make sure that whatever tree you choose, is resistant to many of the common diseases we see in Nebraska such as Pine wilt.

Planting a tree correctly initially will ensure its success.  Here are the steps to planting a tree correctly:

  • Pick a good location
    • Plant your tree away from buildings and other plants
    • Allow it to grow into the location
  • Dig a hole that is 2-3 times wider than the root ball and only as deep as the root ball
  • Loosen up the sides of the hole
  • Before planting the tree, remove the burlap and wire basket
  • Be sure to also remove any tags, twine, or wire from the tree
  • Do not amend the soil that covers the root ball after it is placed into the hole
  • Plant the tree so that root flare is at the soil surface
  • Install a mulch ring around the tree
    • At least two to three feet out from the base of the tree
    • Only 2-3 inches deep
  • Staking a tree is not a mandatory practice, if you do have to stake the tree due to high winds, make sure that the tree has plenty of movement within the stakes
    • Also be sure that the staking material is removed after the first year to avoid the tree being damaged by the staking materials.
This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

One problem that you might notice now in your landscape, after the winter, is deer damage to your trees and shrubs. Deer can do a lot of damage to a tree over the fall and winter months, especially to a smaller or younger tree. Many bucks will rub on trees later in the fall to remove the velvet from their antlers, which can leave a canker or open area on the tree. They can also do damage to our trees and shrubs when they feed on the buds, leaves, and stems of many different ornamental plants. These twigs are going to have a jagged or torn appearance to them due to the way the deer feed on the plants. Typically the damage from deer to a tree can heal, but it will be a location in the tree or shrub where diseases and insects can enter the plant.

My beautiful picture

If you notice deer damage to your plants, there is nothing you can do for the tree after the damage has already happened. However, depending on the severity, your tree will probably survive after being damaged by deer. You can help reduce the problem in the future by utilizing an electric fence around your property to keep deer out of your lawn, or by putting up a 4 foot tall fence around each tree in your landscape. Remember to protect any newly planted tree from deer when planting.

Spring Lawncare

2011-10-27 10.05.27Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.

Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.

When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:

  • Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
  • No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species

The best seed choices are either:

  • 100% of turf-type tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass

Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season.  Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.

Mower Collage

As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.

Fertilizer Spreader, Photo from Acreage.unl.edu