Fall Maintenance Reminder
We experienced severe winter kill on evergreens last winter primarily because plants went into the winter followed by drought conditions late last summer and into the fall. Evergreens need lots of water at the end of the summer and through the fall to make it through the winter because they never go completely dormant. When sunlight is cast on the foliage the roots cannot draw moisture from the ground when it is frozen solid, winter kill is caused by desiccation.
The best advice I can give now is water, water, water and water some more right up until the ground freezes, as we are experiencing a very dry fall much the same as last year. Evergreens can store moisture to make it through the winter but if they start the winter dry followed by hard frost we will see just as much winter kill this winter as we did last.
Anti-desiccant sprays are liquefied wax that close up the pores of evergreens and help prevent transpiration of stored moisture. The wax on the foliage of evergreens actually puts them into an artificial dormancy, it is best to spray one time early in the winter and another when the temperature goes above freezing mid to late winter.
Most winter kill occurs in the late winter or very early spring when there is a large variation in temperature in a short period of time when the sap starts to flow again. We can all remember daytime temperatures in late February or early March that go as high as 80° and evenings well below the freezing mark. 60 to 70° variation in temperature within a 24-hour period is even harsher on plants that it is on us because plants can’t turn the thermostat up!
Extra mulch on the roots of evergreens in the fall will also help retain moisture and insulate the ground so that frost cannot penetrate as deeply. If you do put on extra mulch in the fall always remember to remove it in the spring because too much mulch on the roots can suffocate a plant.
Spider mites are another side effect of dry conditions. When plants become stressed due to lack of moisture they become susceptible to being attacked by spider mites. Mites are opportunistic little creatures that suck the chlorophyll out of leaves and needles further reducing plant vigor.
Winter moth and canker worm continued to be serious defoliators this year and every indication suggests that they will be here for several years to come.
Another harmful insect that has come on the scene is viburnum leaf beetle. I have been warned about its arrival for several years and now it is quite prevalent. Viburnums can be treated systemically with a soil drench insecticide in the fall to prevent next year’s outbreak or sprayed with insecticidal soap in early to mid-June.
Always consult a trained and licensed professional when you have questions regarding recognition, diagnosis and control of both insects and plant diseases. Call our office today for a free consultation and estimate.
Autumn is also a good time for tree evaluations to help prevent downed power lines and potentially hazardous trees during winter months.
Matthew R. Foti is the owner of Foti Landscape and Tree Service. Matt is a 1977 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds degrees in social science and general business. Matt became a Massachusetts Certified Arborist in 1979 and served as president of the Massachusetts Arborists Association from 1993 to 1995. Matt currently employs six Massachusetts Certified Arborists.