New England

April, 2011
Regional Report

Stake New Trees Only When Necessary

Only stake your newly planted tree if necessary. Most trees with trunks smaller than two inches in diameter don't need staking unless their rootball is crumbling, or they are planted on a slope or where they'll get whipped by the wind. The natural movement of an unstaked tree helps it to develop a sturdier trunk and a more robust root system. Remove the stakes once the tree is established, usually by the second season in the ground.

Consult an Arborist for Large Tree Issues

If you have a large tree on your property that needs pruning or that has insect or disease issues, protect your investment by consulting with a certified arborist for the the best course of treatment. Certified arborists have the knowledge, training, and tools to safely and effectively care for the large trees that make such an important contribution to our landscapes.

Test Your Soil

If you didn't do it last fall, now is a good time to do a soil test. Add any needed amendments, such as lime to adjust the pH, as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Test soil when making a new garden bed. While some gardeners choose to retest yearly for the most precise soil care, you can generally wait to retest established beds and lawn areas every three to five years unless plant growth indicates a problem.

Prune Winter Damaged Evergreens

The heavy snows in our region this past winter caused broken branches on many evergreens like arborvitae, boxwood, rhododendrons, and yews. Evergreens are especially vulnerable because their winter foliage catches the snow, and branches become weighed down more easily than the bare ones of deciduous plants. When pruning out broken or winter-killed branches, try to cut back to the next lower branch junction within the plant to avoid leaving an unsightly stub. And remember that junipers, arborvitae, false cypress (Chamaecyparis), hemlocks, pines, spruces, and firs don't have live buds on old wood, meaning cuts made back into leafless portions of a stem won't resprout. If a branch of one of these evergreens is broken back into a leafless section, it's best to remove the entire branch.

Leave Grass Clippings on Lawns

Recent research at the University of Connecticut has shown that leaving grass clippings on the lawn when you mow reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizer by 50 percent. Mowing frequently enough so that you are removing no more than one-third the height of the grass blades at each mowing is best for the health of the grass, and the short clippings will decompose rapidly; they do not contribute to thatch formation. The nutrient contribution from the grass clippings lets you reduce the application rate listed on the lawn fertilizer bag label by one-half. Make one application in late May, a second in the fall before October 15. To prevent phosphorus in run-off from polluting rivers and streams, do not use a fertilizer containing phosphorus (the second number of the fertilizer analysis) unless a soil test indicates a deficiency. If phosphorus is not needed, look for a product with zero as the middle number in the fertilizer analysis. For similar reasons, be sure to sweep up any fertilizer that lands on paved surfaces like driveways and sidewalks.

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