Plant Healthcare - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Plant Healthcare

Trees in the forest are fertilized naturally through nutrient recycling. Trees loose their leaves each fall. Those leaves fall to the forest floor and are decomposed by microorganisms, which transform the leaves back to their basic nutrient components. These nutrients are then recycled back into the tree for growth and maintenance. Obviously, we do not live in the forest. Moreover, most of our trees are living in an environment with turf competition. Turf grass usurps most of the nutrients in the fertile topsoil and disallows natural nutrient recycling. A young tree may do well for a while, but will eventually use most of the nutrients present in the topsoil. Trees in the Panhandle need extra nutrients to reach their full potential and offset the lack of natural nutrient recycling. Our soils have a very heavy clay component which makes certain nutrients, namely iron, unavailable for tree growth. Our Panhandle soils also have a very high salt content, which leads to a high pH and poor nutrient absorption. Regular fall and spring fertilizations lead to healthy and vigorously growing trees. Our spring cycle feeding usually consists of an inorganic/organic mix that gives trees a good boost for the growing season. Our fall cycle consists of organic humates that aid in root repair and soil organic content. Chelated iron is added to both spring and fall cycles in areas where the clay content is high. Healthy trees are more able to fight off insect and disease problems, produce stronger wood to ward off ice or wind damage, and live for more than one generation. One of our arborists can prescribe a fertilization program that will maximize your trees' potential.

Insect and Disease Control
Many pathogens prey on trees in our area. Insects and fungal diseases are prevalent in most landscapes. Some of the common insect pests include; elm leaf beetles, spider mites, various scale insects, thrips, leaf miners, aphids, various borers, and pine tip moth. Some of the fungal pathogens include ganoderma, armillaria, and nectarine canker. Insect and disease problems are very tough to properly diagnose, even for a trained arborist. Many insects can be controlled by a general spray, but most of the time this is unnecessary. New technologies such as the Arborjet and Mauget have arrived that lessen the need for harmful sprays and actual control insect and disease problems better. These technologies are injected straight into the cambium layer of the tree which allows for better and safer chemical delivery. Another alternative to sprays is a systemic injection into the soil rooting zone. We can mix insecticides and fungicides with our fertilizer and control disease problems very effectively. Injections and systemic chemical delivery are more effective, safer for the technician, safer for the homeowner, and keeps your neighbors happy as well. Another benefit to injections is that you only have to do it once a year, ideally in the early spring, saving you money in the long run. We still offer spraying as a means of control, but only as an immediate action for serious infestations. Call us for free a diagnosis and estimate.

Soil Level and Root Crown Excavation
Most of the trees in this area are not planted correctly. The old idea of planting was to plant the tree as deep as possible so the tree would not blow over in our Panhandle winds. This was a good idea but lacked any scientific backbone. Trees should be planted with the root flare or buttress at or slightly above grade. This allows for proper air to soil gas exchange and nutrient transport. We always like to explain this concept with a human example. A tree buried in six inches of soil is the same as someone wrapping a tunicate around your arm. No blood is allowed to your hand and you will eventually lose it if the tunicate is not removed. The same is true with a tree. The soil acts as the tunicate and disallows nutrient and water transport from the roots to the canopy. A tree too deep in the soil will usually not die, but rather be severely stunted in growth or exhibit atypical leaf color. Even two inches too deep is enough to stunt a young tree. Attaining the proper root flare height can be as simple as removing the surrounding turf or as difficult as hand digging two feet and changing the surrounding grade level. We also have an air spade that we primarily use for root crown excavation of mature trees. The air spade is very effective in blasting away tough clay without harming established buttress roots. We can definitely assess the need for soil lowering and perform this service with minimal damage to your trees.

Vertical Mulching and Radial Trenching
As discussed in the fertilization section, our soils are not by any means ideal for tree growth. Most Panhandle soils are composed mainly of clay making root expansion very tough. Have you ever held a kiln-fired clay brick? That is pretty much the same makeup of our soils, especially in drought conditions. Roots need some help to grow, expand, and absorb nutrients. Vertical mulching is the least invasive option to alleviate soil compaction, improve the rooting medium, and increase water infiltration. Vertical mulching consists of drilling 2 inch holes in rings around the tree. We start close to the trunk and extend the rings to the drip line or beyond if necessary. The holes are drilled from 12 to 16 inches down and spaced about two feet apart. All of the soil is removed and replaced with a proprietary mix of four different soil conditioners. The effects on the turf are undetectable after a couple of months. Vertical mulching could be more aptly termed as vertical soil replacement and augmentation. This service greatly increases tree vigor and should be considered as a long term investment for the health of your tree. Radial trenching is somewhat the same idea but much more invasive on your landscape. Trenching is ideal for areas with caliche or very rocky soil types.  For newly planted trees, an irrigation trencher is used to create spokes, like a wheel, from the base of a tree outwards. The trenches are then filled with fertile topsoil to give roots a place to grow. For more mature specimens, we prefer to use our air spade. The air spade does not cut any of the roots and thus does not stress older trees. Trenching is ideal for trees in areas such as Westcliff and the Woodlands. Most tree problems can be alleviated with these effective soil amendments.
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