Try to reach the end of the frost period for your area before applying excess water to deciduous woody plants (trees, shrubs, and ground covers). This will minimize any late season freeze damage on tender new growth in the Spring. The average last freeze for the Billings / Laurel area is around May 15th.
It is recommended to have pruning completed on all fireblight susceptible plants before bud swelling in the Spring (ie : apple, cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash, plum, etc.). To minimize the spread of this aggressive bacteria, we should try to limit pruning of these plants to their dormant period which is around late November through early April in the Billings area depending on the weather. Other factors exist which facilitate the spread of fireblight that are more difficult to control.
Spring is a wonderful time to consider possible improvements in your outdoor living space to benefit the health of your plants and appearance of your yard. Improving air circulation within and around your trees is one step in maintaining a healthy landscape. Sometimes we discover our plants have overgrown their space and need correction or removal to benefit the overall landscape. Other concerns may be assessing irrigation coverage, wildlife damage, soil aeration, and tree condition (ie : proper structure & thinning, storm damage & deadwood removal, presence of insects / disease, trunk flare / root crown status, girdling activity on limbs or trunk, incorrect pruning cuts, etc.)
It is helpful in the Spring to check the status of tree trunks for tightly wrapped guards or material which can restrict tissue expansion and impede proper vascular function. While guards & wraps do serve in the protection of our trees, they can also create unforeseen problems. As dormancy breaks in the Spring, new insect populations can develop underneath trunk coverings which may lead to other issues. When guards and wraps are necessary, periodic inspection can benefit the health and proper growth of your trees.
If a Spring project involves the addition of soil to lower areas in your landscape, try to maintain the existing grade around the immediate area of your trees. A small retaining wall / barrier can be installed to assist in this. Trees and shrubs are sensitive to significant soil grade changes around their trunk and over their root zone.
If your trees appear healthy and demonstrate new growth each year, they probably do not need supplemental nutrition and are satisfied with what the soil offers. Remember that trees utilize some of the nutrients provided from lawn applications. Excess fertilization can have negative consequences on plants along with the added expense. A soil analysis can help determine whether additional nutrition is needed to sustain your tree. When a supplemental fertilization program is necessary, the first application can be made in the Spring around the time of the last average freeze for your area, with one or two subsequent applications during the growing season. Please refer to my "Reflections" page for more information.
Spring is a wonderful time to add more beauty to your landscape while increasing the value of your property. Using the right combination and location of trees and shrubs will certainly enhance an outdoor living environment. Knowing your plant's requirements, hardiness, and mature height / width will help in it's success. Using a diverse selection of trees around your property will peak one's interest and support longevity should an outbreak of insects or disease occur particularly with one species. It is beneficial to research proper and proven planting techniques before introducing your plant to it's new home. Your investment and time should pay generous dividends for years to come.
If planning any type of ground excavation with the arrival of Spring (ie: utilities, construction, drains, etc.), it's important to avoid or minimize damage to the vital root system of your trees and shrubs. Designating an area around your plants for protection can be helpful for their sustained health, stability, and survival. Some important facts should be considered before undergoing your project. The radius of a tree's root system extending out from the trunk is approximately equal to it's total height. When some root loss is inevitable, excavate as far from the trunk as is practical. Removing no more than 25% of a tree's root system usually will not compromise it's stability, although such a loss may result in the onset of stress or shock. With all of the wonderful benefits we receive from our trees, protective measures always make good sense.
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