Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring is the Time to Plant Tree Seedlings!

Spring is in the air, and now is the time to prepare for planting new trees. In the spring, making a donation to a favorite charity may result in a thank you gift of tree seedlings, and many civic organizations celebrate Arbor Day by passing out free trees in schools, churches and community businesses. Local Soil & Water conservation offices have tree seedling sales in the spring, and many landowners take advantage of the opportunity to purchase these seedlings to plant on their property. Here are some tips and reminders on how to handle these seedlings before planting to have the best chance of success.

How do I handle bare rootstock?
Bare rootstock is the most economical way to purchase trees and it can be used to meet nearly all your planting objectives. Bare rootstock is obtained as 1-to 3-year-old trees, either as seedlings or transplants. Seedlings grow in the nursery in the same bed they were planted.
Transplants were removed from the seedbed and replanted (transplanting improves root development).
Bare rootstock is susceptible to root drying and physical damage. Stock is packed at the nursery in a bag and wrapped in moss to keep the roots moist. Keep stock at a constant low temperature (33-40 degrees Fahrenheit) and the roots moist but not soggy. They must remain dormant from the time they are removed from the nursery bed until they are planted.
Transportation is an important consideration for orders of all sizes. For orders over 1,000 trees, a refrigerated truck is the preferred method of transportation. If you transport them in a pickup truck, keep bags separated for ventilation, cover with a moist tarp, and protect from the sun with a solar reflective tarp. If seedlings will fit in your car, keep them inside with insulation, ice packs, and air conditioning on maximum. Only a few minutes in a hot trunk can permanently damage seedlings.
After stock arrives at your property, keep the bags in deep shade and protect them from freezing. Separate the bags to prevent overheating. Plant the trees as soon as you can.
If you must store trees for longer than a few days, open the bags and place the trees in a trench. Dig a trench deep and wide enough for the whole root system and part of the stem to be covered with soil. Lay the seedlings next to each other in the trench and fill with soil and water.

How do I prepare seedlings?
Before you plant, grade the seedlings and discard those of poor quality. Poor-quality seedlings will have excessive mortality and poor early growth. They can be identified by these criteria:
• Broken, skinned, or weak stems.
• Fermented odor or mold on needles.
• Slippery bark on root or stem.
• Root systems less than 4 inches long.
• Root systems more than 12 inches long if more than 50 percent of the fine roots must be pruned to reduce the length and width of the root system for planting.
• A dry root system resulting from improper storage, exposure to sun and air for over 10 minutes on a cool humid day, or for 5 minutes on a warm windy or dry day. Bitter cold dry winds can be equally destructive.
If possible, prune roots and grade seedlings at the same time. Long fibrous root systems require pruning to avoid bent or “J” roots in the planting hole. Root pruning should be done in a cool controlled environment where the root system will not dry out. Have water available. The worst place to prune roots is at the planting site. Prune with a sharp knife, machete, ax, or hatchet. Never break or twist roots off by hand.
Broadleaf trees need large vigorous root systems to survive. They can be pruned to 8 to 10 inches long with at least 4-inch long lateral roots. Needled trees can be pruned to 5 to 8 inches long, but never remove more than 50 percent of the lateral roots.
Keep the seedlings in the shade and cool until planted. The seedlings should be carried in a bucket or planting bag with wet burlap or something similar to keep the roots moist at all times. Never carry seedlings with their roots exposed to the air.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Backyard Woods - Pruning tools and techniques

Which pruning tool should I use?
The choice of tool depends largely on the size of branches to be pruned and the amount of pruning to be done. Use hand pruners on small branches (under 1 inch diameter). Cut larger branches (up to 2 inches) with lopping shears. Hand pruners and lopping shears are available in anvil and by-pass cutting styles. The anvil style cuts the branch between a straight blade and an anvil or block. The by-pass style uses a curved cutting blade that slides past a broader blade, much like a scissors. To prevent tearing or crushing of branches, the by-pass style cutting blade is the best.
Use a pruning saw for branches 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Unlike most other saws, pruning saws are designed to cut on the "pull-stroke."
A chain saw is preferred when pruning branches larger than 4 inches. Safety dictates not using a chain saw above shoulder height and using additional safety equipment. To avoid the need to use a chain saw, prune when branches are small. Also, a small branch leaves a small wound and generally heals faster.
To cut branches beyond reach use a pole pruner. Generally, pole pruners have a pruning head (similar to a lopping sheer) and a pruning saw. The pruning head can cut branches up to 1.5 inches; and once again, the by-pass style is preferred.
Sanitizing tools helps prevent the spread of disease from infected to healthy trees. Tools become contaminated when they come into contact with fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that cause disease in trees. Pathogens need some way of entering the tree to cause disease, and fresh wounds are perfect places for infections to begin.
Sanitize your tools by using either 70 percent denatured alcohol or a solution of 1 part liquid household bleach to 9 parts water. Before making each cut, immerse the tool in the solution for 1 to 2 minutes, and wipe wood particles from the cutting surface. Bleach is corrosive to metal surfaces, so when you are finished pruning clean tools thoroughly with soap and water.
Tool sanitation is not needed during the dormant season.

Where and how do I make pruning cuts?
Make pruning cuts at a node, the point at which one branch or twig attaches to another. In spring growth begins at buds, and twigs grow until a new node is formed. Remove only branch tissue and take care not to damage stem tissue so it will not decay, and so the wound will heal more effectively.
To find the proper place to cut a branch, look for the branch collar that grows from the stem tissue at the outside of the branch. On the upper branch surface, there is usually a bark ridge that runs (more or less) parallel to the branch angle, along the stem of the tree. A proper pruning cut leaves both the branch bark ridge and the branch collar intact.
You can evaluate the quality of pruning cuts after one growing season. A concentric ring of woundwood forms from proper pruning cuts. Improper cuts made inside the branch bark ridge or branch collar result in pronounced development of woundwood on the sides of the pruning wounds and very little woundwood on the top or bottom. A cut too far from the stem leaves a branch stub, and wound closure is delayed because the woundwood must grow over the stub.

Branches large enough to require saws should be supported with one hand while the cuts are made. If the branch is too large to support, make a three-step pruning cut to prevent bark ripping.
1. The first cut is a shallow notch on the underside of the branch, outside the branch collar. This cut prevents the falling branch from tearing the stem tissue.
2. Make the second cut outside the first cut, all the way through the branch, leaving a short stub.
3. Cut the stub just outside the branch bark ridge and branch collar, completing the operation.

Prune dead branches the same way you would live branches. Making the correct cut is usually easy because the branch collar and the branch bark ridge continue to grow and can be distinguished from the dead branch. Make the pruning cut just outside the ring of woundwood tissue that has formed, being careful not to cause unnecessary injury. Large dead branches should be supported with one hand or cut with the three-step method.

Can I harm trees by pruning?
Topping and tipping are pruning practices you should not use. Topping is the pruning of large upright branches to reduce the height of a tree. Tipping is the cutting of lateral branches to reduce crown width. Both practices result in the death of the cut branch back to the next lateral branch below and the development of numerous sprouts. These sprouts are weakly attached to the stem and eventually will be supported by a decaying branch.
Improper pruning cuts cause unnecessary injury and bark ripping. Flush cuts injure stem tissues and can result in decay. Stub cuts delay wound closure and can provide entry to canker fungi, delaying or preventing woundwood formation.
Avoid producing "lion’s tails" (tufts of branches and foliage at the ends of branches) caused by removing all inner lateral branches and foliage. Lion’s tails can result in sunscalding (bark damage caused by freezing and thawing), abundant branch sprouting, and weak branch structure and breakage.

Should I treat tree wounds?
With the exceptions noted below, do not apply wound dressing. Tree sap, gums, and resins are the natural means by which trees combat invasion by diseases. Although unsightly, sap flow from pruning wounds generally is not harmful. Wound dressings will not stop decay or cure infectious diseases. They may actually interfere with the protective benefits of tree gums and resins, and trap moisture behind the dressing and promote the growth of wood-decaying fungi.
The only benefit of wound dressing, such as you can buy at farm and garden stores, is to prevent introduction of oak wilt and Dutch elm disease. When oaks and elms are wounded accidentally or by necessary pruning during the critical time of the year (usually spring for oaks, and the entire growing season for elms), apply some type of dressing to the wound immediately after it is created.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Backyard Woods - Which trees should I prune?

Prune trees that pose a safety hazard, threaten to damage property, pose a fire hazard, and will have improved health as a result of pruning. Your objectives for your backyard woods will determine whether you also prune trees that will improve the aesthetic appearance of your woods or that will have increased value for wood products as a result of pruning.
For safety, focus on trees that are in your immediate backyard, and trees that are in high-use areas of your backyard woods, such as near a bench, picnic table, fire pit, or trail. To reduce the risk of property damage, focus on trees that could fall on a vehicle, building, or other structure. Examine trees once a year and after severe storms, being sure to check all parts and sides. Remove any broken branches lodged in the tree crown. Look for and prune branches with the following:
• Dead wood
• A crack that extends through the bark and into the wood
• A weak V-shaped union with the stem or another branch
• Decay—wood that is soft, or crumbly, or a cavity where wood is missing
• A canker—a localized area of sunken or missing bark

Trees that pose a fire hazard
Focus on trees in a safety zone around your home. This zone should be at least 30 feet wide on level or gently sloping ground, and 100 feet or more on slope grades 30 percent or greater down hill from all structures. Outside the safety zone, prune branches near power lines and outbuildings, low hanging limbs, and dead branches.
Trees with health problems
Pruning trees with diseased and insect-infested branches may help alleviate the problem. For example, prune infected lower branches of white pines to reduce damage due to white pine blister rust.
Trees with aesthetic value
If having an aesthetically pleasing woods is one of your objectives, evaluate and prune trees that block your view and thin crowns of broadleaf trees to increase flower production.
Trees with wood products value
If your objectives include producing high-value timber or veneer, prune preferred trees that have good local markets for these products. Pruning is a long-term investment. Even under good conditions, it takes 20 years to add a 5-inch layer of clear wood on a tree.
How big should a tree be when I start?
Begin pruning broadleaf trees, such as oak, maple, and hickory for strong structure shortly after they are planted. Retain branches with strong U-shaped attachments.
Remove branches with narrow V-shaped attachments because they are weak and could fail when the tree matures. As two branches with narrow V-shaped angles of attachment grow, they produce a wedge of inward-rolled bark between them. This included bark prevents strong branch attachment, which often causes a crack at the point below where the branches meet. Removal of one branch will prevent a potential failure of the branch attachment when they are much larger.

Needleleaf trees, such as pine, spruce, and fir that have branches in whorls around the trunk, rarely need structural thinning except to restore a dominant leader. This becomes necessary occasionally, when the leader—branch at the top of the tree—is damaged and multiple branches form at the top of the tree. Select the strongest branch from among them and remove the competing branches to prevent the development of a bushy or forked tree.
Producing strong structure or value or both is the emphasis when pruning young trees. Pruning goals shift to maintaining safety and tree health as trees mature.

Begin pruning for fire protection when trees are 3 to 5 inches in diameter at breast height (d.b.h.). (Breast height is about 4½ feet above the ground.) Through periodic pruning remove all branches to a height of 6 to 10 feet.
Begin pruning needleleaf trees for aesthetics when they are 3 to 5 inches d.b.h. Through periodic pruning remove all branches until the desired view is obtained. Flowering broadleaf trees can be pruned at any age. Crowns should be thinned to increase sunlight penetration and air movement throughout the crown. Avoid unnecessary stress to the tree by removing no more than one-quarter of the living crown.

Begin pruning for value in broadleaf trees such as walnut, oaks, and hickory when they reach 2 to 8 d.b.h. Begin pruning needleleaf trees when they reach 3-5 inches in d.b.h. The sooner you start, the greater the amount of high quality knot-free wood is produced. Usually, it is uneconomical to prune trees larger than 10 inches in diameter. Continue pruning all live and dead lower branches until the trunk is free of branches to a height of 17-18.5 feet. Be sure to leave 50 percent of the total tree height in live branches to maintain healthy tree growth. Following these guidelines and reaching the desired branch-free height will require pruning the tree more than once.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Backyard Woods - Pruning - Why Should I?

Why should I prune?
Safety, tree health, aesthetics, and value are the primary reasons for pruning trees.
A single pruning can accomplish more than one objective and save time.
Pruning for safety removes branches that could fall and cause personal injury or property damage. Removing low branches in fire-prone areas can prevent a ground fire from climbing into the tops (crowns) of the trees.
Tree health
Pruning for tree health removes diseased or insect-infested wood, thins the crown to increase airflow and reduce some pest problems, and removes crossing and rubbing branches. Removing broken or damaged limbs encourages wound closure and prevents diseases from entering the tree. Pruning encourages trees to develop a strong structure and reduces the likelihood of damage during severe weather.
Removing lower limbs to improve visibility in your woods and to stimulate flower production are primary reasons to prune for aesthetics. Pruning also increases the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, stimulating growth of wildflowers and flowering shrubs.
Pruning for value increases the amount of high value wood products produced on individual trees. Pruning preferred trees produces knot-free wood. A knot is the portion of a branch that becomes incorporated within the trunk of the tree. Knots are the primary reason for reduction in lumber value.

Trees are pruned in public and private forests to increase tree value. Pruning is the forester’s "value added" effort, because it produces higher quality boards and veneer. Pruning is time consuming and, therefore, expensive. Foresters select only the highest value tree species on the best growing sites for pruning. They only prune trees selected for harvest. Finally, they keep good records on pruned trees so they can be marketed for the value obtained by pruning.
Although pruning is done primarily to enhance tree value, it can fulfill other objectives. Pruning in large forests increases fire resistance by removing lower branches that spread fire to tops of trees. Pruning improves walking access into dense tree stands. Pruning also lessens the impact of blister rust in young white pine stands.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Backyard Woods - Tree health - treatment options

When you expect that pest epidemics may cause significant damage to your woods (based on your objectives), action to protect your backyard woods is warranted. Once you have identified the causal agent, then you can consider treatment options. Silvicultural (from "silviculture"—the science and art of producing and tending a woods) and biological treatments tend to be longer-term solutions and modify conditions that allowed the pest population to reach outbreak proportions, though the treatments may take months or years to effectively reduce the pest population. Physical and chemical treatments reduce pest numbers quickly, but do not modify the factors that led to the outbreak, thus pest populations are likely to rebound.
Silvicultural treatments
Silviculture is best used in the preventive measures described earlier. In outbreak situations, timely removal and destruction of infested trees can greatly reduce a pest population and keep other trees from being attacked. The remaining trees are more vigorous and less susceptible to further outbreaks.
Biological treatments
Biological treatments use the natural enemies (predators, parasites, and pathogens) that control pest populations. In your backyard woods, it is important to conserve and enhance these natural enemies, so the natural balance is not disrupted. Therefore, limit the use of broad-spectrum pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides), promote a diverse flora (to provide a wide range of natural enemies and nectar sources for parasites), and ensure nesting sites for insect-feeding birds. Introduced species often become pests because they do not have natural enemies in their new environment. Importation and colonization of natural enemies from the native range of the pest has provided effective control, especially for many insect pests. Projects to introduce new biological control agents are conducted by Federal and State regulatory agencies. Once established, these natural enemies reproduce and disperse throughout the range of the introduced pest.
Physical treatments
Physical methods can be effective, particularly on the small scale of your backyard woods. For insects, various traps, barriers, and mass collecting have been successful. Insect traps generally use an attractant (a chemical scent, bait, light, or color) to lure the insect into the trap.
With enough traps, the pest population can be significantly reduced. Barriers on the trunks of trees can be effective for some caterpillars that migrate daily from the ground to the canopy to feed. Removal of insects by hand can be effective. For example when only a few host trees are present, gypsy moth can be controlled by placing a burlap band around the trunk of the host trees, then daily collecting and destroying the caterpillars that congregate under the burlap. For pathogens, removing and destroying the diseased tissue can be successful. For example, pruning the infected lower branches of white pines can reduce damage by white pine blister rust. Also, cutting barriers through root systems between infected and uninfected trees can stop the spread of oak wilt and Dutch elm disease.
Pruning the lower branches of white pines in zones with high incidence of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) can reduce damage from this introduced pathogen.
Chemical treatments
Pesticides can be useful in protecting valued trees from damage during pest outbreaks. There are many ways to apply pesticides—from root injections to aerial sprays. With any pesticide, follow the label directions and apply it only for the pests for which it is registered. Pesticides that specifically target the pest should be favored over broad-spectrum pesticides that may impact nontarget organisms. Also formulations and application methods that have minimal impacts on other organisms should be used. Opportunities to participate in cooperative treatment projects with other backyard woods owners and government agencies should be sought.

Forest pest management on private and public forests protects their economic, ecological, and social values. Through proper forest management practices, many potential pest problems are avoided. Forest health is promoted through practices that allow forests to recover quickly from natural or human-caused stresses and that provide for ecosystem stability. When serious pest problems are discovered, suitable treatments are applied to reduce the pest populations with minimal impacts on nontarget organisms. Through this holistic, ecological approach to forest management, the long-term productivity and health of the forested ecosystem is sustained.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Backyard Woods - ID tree health problems

Often the first visual clues of a tree health problem are symptoms like red needles, yellowing leaves, or wilting foliage. These problems may arise from a multitude of causal agents including insects, pathogens, other organisms, tree disorders, soil factors, weather events, pollution, and herbicide injury. The pattern of these symptoms on individual trees should be noted; for example, only old needles, only top of tree, only one side, or only inside the crown. Also, any pattern throughout your woods is important for identification. Are the affected trees randomly scattered, or in a group that is expanding? Are the affected trees in valleys or on ridge tops, or on the edge of a stand? Is only a certain size or age or species of tree affected?
Closer examination of the affected trees may reveal signs of the causal agent, such as the insect, fruiting body of the pathogen, a characteristic-shaped canker on a stem, insect tunnels under the bark, or a pattern of missing or discolored leaf tissue. Signs of the causal agent may be found on a different part of the tree than where the symptoms appeared. For example, red needles in the crown may be due to bark beetle attack on the lower trunk. Collection of these signs is invaluable in determining the causal agent; however, not all forest health problems will have readily identifiable causal agents; for example, herbicide injury, air pollution, girdling roots, root disease, and soil compaction. Other problems will have multiple signs from secondary insects and pathogens, and the actual causal agent may be missed. Some problems are the result of multiple factors. For example, oak decline is the result of a number of tree stresses (drought, root damage, gypsy moth defoliation, and early frosts) that weaken the tree. Then secondary insects (two-lined chestnut borer), or pathogens (armillaria root rot), or both may invade these weakened trees. Usually the dieback and decline progress slowly over several years.
Once you observe the symptoms and signs, consult reference materials to see if you can identify the causal agent. Forest insect and disease guidebooks and fact sheets may be available from your local library, county extension office, or State forestry office. Also, many web sites provide substantial information on forest pests. You may wish to contact the local Cooperative Extension Office for educational assistance and to inquire if a listing of qualified consulting foresters or arborists is available for your area. Otherwise, consult your phone book under "Arborists" or "Tree Service."
Introduced pests are a major threat to the health of your backyard woods. Introduced pathogens, such as chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, white pine blister rust, and butternut canker, have dramatically and permanently altered forested ecosystems in the United States. Many introduced insects are impacting U.S. forests, including the gypsy moth, beech scale, hemlock woolly adelgid, Asian longhorned beetle, smaller European elm bark beetle, introduced basswood thrips, larch sawfly, and European pine shoot moth.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Backyard Woods -Keep your woods healthy -Part 1

In your backyard woods, insects and microorganisms abound, both in number of individuals and number of species. Native insects and microorganisms are key components in many ecological processes, such as nutrient recycling, decomposition, plant succession, natural pest control, and wildlife habitat. A woods devoid of insects and microorganisms would not be healthy; in fact, it would be nonfunctional!
A healthy woods is a functioning ecosystem with young, mature, and dead trees. Key qualities of a healthy woods are high diversity, resiliency to stresses, and sustainable benefits (for example: recreation, wildlife habitat, clean water, and timber).
Preventive measures
Epidemics of native forest insects and pathogens occur as part of natural fluctuations in ecosystems. During these epidemics, tree mortality and growth reduction may be localized or widespread. Some forest management practices may cause more frequent and more severe outbreaks. Such practices include planting a single species, planting a species beyond its natural range, delaying harvest beyond tree maturity, excluding fire, and harvesting only the biggest and best trees. To promote a healthy woods and to prevent pest outbreaks, take steps to ensure diversity and vigor in your backyard woods.
Increasing species diversity
Woods with a mix of tree species are often less susceptible to pest outbreaks than woods with a single species. As tree diversity increases, the diversity of all the associated organisms also increases, which leads to a more complex and stable environment. Therefore, do not retain just one or two tree species and remove the other species when selecting your preferred trees. If your woods has only a few tree species, you can add diversity by planting appropriate species that are currently lacking or by using harvesting techniques that will encourage more species to establish naturally.
Increasing age diversity
A diversity of tree ages reduces the risk of pest outbreaks. By having trees of various ages—young, juvenile, and mature—along with species diversity, the entire woods is less likely to be favorable to pests. As with species diversity, age diversity also increases the complexity and stability of the ecosystem. A natural balance of organisms is more likely to develop as age diversity increases. For example, potential pests of young trees could be regulated by parasites and predators already well established on older trees. Age diversity can be increased by the timing and location of harvests.
Increasing stand vigor
A healthy woods is less susceptible to pest outbreaks and is more resilient if an outbreak does occur. The vigor of your woods is related directly to tree density. When trees are overcrowded, competition for light, water, and nutrients results in lower growth rates for all the trees. These stressed trees are more likely to be attacked by pests, which can lead to pest outbreaks. A vigorous backyard woods with rapidly growing trees is resilient to stresses (drought, flooding, defoliation, and air pollution) and it can withstand these stresses longer and with less impact than one with less vigorous trees.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flowering Dogwood (cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood, found throughout all of Ohio and the entire eastern half of the United States, is one of the most popular ornamental trees, with four-season appeal. Showy early spring flowers are the yearly highlight, but red fruits and crimson foliage in autumn, large floral buds and checkered bark in winter, and year-round layered branching add to its appeal. Historically, the hard, close-grained wood of Flowering Dogwood was used to make shuttles for weaving in the textile industry. As an understory and woodland edge tree, its early spring blossoms stand out in forests before the leaves take over. It may also be found as a single or multi-trunked tree in open fields, where it may reach 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide.

Planting Requirements - Flowering Dogwood strongly prefers evenly moist, well-drained, fertile, deep soils of acidic pH, in partial sun. It grudgingly adapts to lesser conditions, and in urban environments it often is sited in poor, dry, rocky, clay soils of alkaline pH, in full sun. Under such conditions it may become weak and stunted, and be much more prone to attack by diseases and pests. It is found in zones 5 to 9, in full sun to full shade.

Potential Problems - Flowering Dogwood suffers tremendously from a number of pathogens and pests. The most important diseases are leaf and stem anthracnose (a serious and often fatal problem in the northeastern United States), leaf powdery mildew (mostly a cosmetic concern), and trunk canker (which will sometimes kill individual trunks, or cause large wounds that are slow to heal). The most important pest is the dogwood borer, which can kill trees outright, especially those under stress (as in severe drought to established trees, but more commonly newly transplanted trees that are not adequately watered). Siting new seedlings, saplings, or large balled and burlapped trees in deep, acidic soils with supplemental organic matter that aids in good drainage, and keeping the tree watered for the first two years of its establishment do wonders for tree health.

The Flowering Dogwood is one of 8 tree seedlings which will be offered in the 2012 Tree Sale held by the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District. Other seedlings include white pine, red pine, black walnut, sawtooth oak, American plum, redbud, and sugar maple. The district will also offer 2 varieties of blueberry, a red raspberry, and a gold raspberry. For more information and to print an order blank, please click on the Tree Sale icon above