Common Tree and Plant Diseases

Your ultimate guide to common tree and plant disease comes to you from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. In this article, you will find practical methods for identifying, preventing, and treating the following: Canker, Leaf Spot, Mildews, Root Rot, Sooty Mold, and Verticillium Wilt.

Knowing the causes for these various diseases can help you prevent tree and plant disease in the future. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

See Related: Common Insect Pests

Canker

Description: Cankers are long, dark, sometimes sunken lesions with defined edges on limbs and trunks of woody plants. The lesions sometimes may ooze tacky, tawny sap. Canker can destroy leaves, twigs, and branches. Trunk cankers can kill your trees. The rim of bark around the canker may turn inside, giving the lesion a rolled edge.

Cause: Canker-causing fungi and bacteria attack weak trees and shrubs, which may have been harmed by environmental stresses such as sunscald, flooding, or frost damage, or human error such as driving a lawn mower into a tree trunk.

Preventive Measures: Mulch around trees and shrubs to avoid damaging them with landscape equipment.

Treatment: Treat your woodies well. Maintain the health of established trees and shrubs by fertilizing when necessary and watering them during prolonged dry spells. Prune off severely damaged limbs.

Leaf Spot

Description: Foliage of numerous trees and shrubs develops spots that vary in shape, size, and color. Sometimes leaf spots grow bigger until they slow the tree’s or shrub’s development. Other kinds of leaf spots may develop holes in
the middle.

Cause: Different fungi and bacteria cause leaf spots. Some infections occur during rainy springs when spattering water carries bacteria from twigs to shoots.

Preventive Measures: After fall leaf drop, rake up and discard diseased leaves and twigs. Weed under evergreens for good air circulation. Plant disease-resistant cultivars.

Treatment: For bacterial leaf spot, which often starts out pale green and becomes brown with clear borders, spray with Bordeaux mix (copper sulfate) as buds begin
to expand in wet weather. If it’s dry when buds expand, although the plant will look bad, it will not be as weakened by the disease.

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Mildews

Description: Mildews are parasitic fungal diseases that affect live trees and shrubs. Downy mildews show up mostly on the foliage of plants, including redbud (Cercis canadensis), hackberry (Celtis species), Viburnum species, brambles (Rubus species), currants (Ribes species), and roses (Rosa species). If your woodies have downy mildew, you’ll see on leaf tops some spotty discoloration that eventually turns brown. Grayish white fuzz appears on the underside of the patches. The diseased spots can spread so much that early leaf drop occurs. If you see splotchy, pale gray areas on leaf and stem surfaces, this is most likely a layer of white, powdery spores known as powdery mildew. A few of the many, many woodies affected by powdery mildew our common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), apples and crab apples (Malus species), roses (Rosa species), ornamental cherries and other stone fruit trees (Prunus species), redtip (Photinia species), hydrangea (Hydrangea species), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), and gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides). Both mildews may warp the buds and developing foliage, though powdery mildew rarely causes permanent harm.

Cause: Downy mildew is a current cool to warm humid weather. Water splashing from dead sick leaves on the ground to the plant’s lower leaves replays the cycle of mildew infection year after year. Powdery mildews come about with warm days and cool nights in dry or humid, but not rainy, weather. Where I live, the warm days, cool nights, and dry conditions of the typical summer frequently lead to powdery mildew on susceptible plants.

Preventative Measures: Pick up infected leaves and dispose of them in the trash. Choose mildew– resistant varieties of susceptible plants when available. Prune trees and shrubs to allow maximum air circulation so foliage can dry out quickly from dew, rain, (downy mildew only; rain actually impedes the spread of powdery mildew), or watering. A sunny breeze site not too closely planted also helps air circulate.

Treatment: Improve air circulation. Remove infected leaves, plant parts, or when necessary, the entire plant. Spray plants with 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in 3 quarts of water for powdery mildew. For downy mildew, spray with fungicide derived from copper.


Phytopthora Root Rot

Description: This soil– born organism causes root rot in many trees and shrubs and eventually kills them. You may notice wilting, yellowing, and the preservation of dried leaves due to the roots’ in ability to take up water. You first notice root rot in summer when plans are more water stressed. Some of the fungal spores stay active even after the plant has died.

Cause: Moist warm soils are necessary for this fungus to thrive and spread from plant the plant. The disease disperses downhill.

Treatment: Fungicide in the affected soil mat keep the disease from spreading to other plants. An increase in the amount of organic matter in the soil my further reduce fungal activity.

Sooty Mold

Description: If you see black mold growing on twigs and foliage your plant may be infected with sooty molds or dark fungi. These develop on honey dew (a sugary juice) produced by sapsucking insects such as scales, aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs.

Cause: A fungus that grows on secretions of sapsucking insects. The presence of sooty molds maybe rising due to global warming and the stress of hotter, drier weather, which can increase the number of certain sapsucking insects.

Preventative Measures: Identify the insect by referring to pictures and descriptions. You can also consult your local Cooperative Extension Service for help identifying and dealing with insect problems.

Treatment: Sooty mold rubs easily of leaves and can rinse off in the rain. By decreasing the number of sapsucking insects on your plant, you can control the spread of sooty mold.

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Verticillium Wilt

Description: A common fungal disease among landscape plants, verticillium wilt clogs the vascular system, depriving the plant of water and nutrients and causing leaves to wilt and branches to die back either one by one or on one side of the plant. Verticillium wilt can kill plants quickly or slowly over many years depending upon how far the disease progresses through the root system. Many wood plants are vulnerable to this disease, including maple (Acer species), weigela, magnolias, viburnums, rhododendrons, and tulip-tree (Liriodendron tulipfera).

Cause: Caused by soil-borne fungi, especially in cool areas of North America, the diseases also spread by contaminated garden tools and by the wind.

Preventative Measures: Plant resistant trees such as Hawthorne (Crataegus species), London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia), holly (Ilex species), katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), oak (Quercus species), and thornless honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos finermis). You can also grow plants with exposed seed, such as conifers and ginko, which are not prone to the disease.

Treatment: None.

Tough Decisions About Saving or Eliminating a Tree

Because your landscape is alive, it constantly changes and grows. You may make an aesthetic decision about saving or eliminating a tree a number of years after you’ve planted them. But sometimes practicality dictates your decision. For example, bit old trees towering over small houses often add charm and character to a landscape. The tree, however, may need branches pruned or cabled to keep them from falling on the house in strong winds or a storm. You may wish to consult a professional arborist to help make that decision.

Another common reason for re-evaluation is when a fast-growing shade tree that was tiny when planted now dwarfs shrubs and other trees in teh landscape, creating deep shade where none was before. This often happens to foundation plantings, where big shade trees were planted at a distance and now block all sun from reaching the house. A small sun loving tree or shrub that thrived for years may decline and even die in too much shade.

If you see shrubs and small trees with few leaves and long spindly stems, consider that too much shade may be the problem. When plants are in this condition, it’s usually not worth saving them. Remove them and plant new shade-tolerant varieties.

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Soil Compression

Take down trees near the houes, where construction equipment will be rolling over the root zones. Even if you fence off the tree to protect the bark from damage, soil compression may still destroy the tree.

Aesthetics

Remove trees that block desirable views. You may also want to cut down trees that lack character or beauty. Straight healthy trees are usually worth saving. Likewise, save gnarly old trees with striking form if they’re healthy and pose no hazard.

Damage

Tilting or damaged trees may ruin views from your home and be risky to keep. Take them out and replace them with straight and healthy new specimens. If you want to plant lawn in the area, have stumps on the round out about 1 foot deep.

These are all important things to note when you need to make tough decisions about whether or not to keep a tree. Of course, aesthetics always play an important role when making that decision.

This information was provided by an interesting book called “The Homeowners Complete Guide to Tree and Shrubs”.

When Storms Come Your Way

Snow and Ice

Snow and ice can look magical on trees, but they can also destroy then. The weight of snow can crush evergreens by breaking them apart. It can also weigh down deciduous tree limbs until they also break. Sometimes it weighs so heavily on a treetop that it can lift the root mass right out of the soil.

Ice-coated trunks and branches bend low and sometimes snap. You can help avoid permanent damage by gently brushing snow off the branches you can reach.

  • An arborist may need to stake or cable trees vulnerable to folding under the weight of ice.
  • Whether cabled or not, let the ice melt naturally.
  • Prune any damage so the tree will not create a hazard. Well-pruned trees and shrubs stand up better to snow and ice than trees with weak branch crotches or more than one leader.
  • Trying up boxwood or erect evergreens like red cedar and arborvitae may help prevent injury.
  • Crisscross the entire crows with nylon cord or fishing line and remove promptly in the Spring.
  • Protect smaller shrubs with teepee made from leaning two boards.
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Wind

Healthy trunks and branches ben to some extent with the wind. The branches most susceptible to breaking are heavy ones that join with the trunk at an acute angle. Choosing healthy, well formed trees can prevent this damage. If it’s too late for that, you can have an arborist help you shape the tree for added strength. Wind protection is particularly important for evergreens, which keep losing water through their leaves during the winter. Making sure these trees and shrubs are well watered before the ground freezes helps prevent the foliage from turning brown. Although you should cut back the volume of water you give your trees in early fall so they can harden off for winter, keep watering them until the ground freezes.

You can also avoid damage to evergreens through proper planting. Never plant evergreens susceptible to wind damage, like arborvitae and yew, on the south sides of your home. In most of the US, the westerlies or prevailing winds move from the west or southwest towards the east or northeast. Local geography, including large bodies of water and tall buildings, may affect wind speed and direction in a particular place. West-to-east airflow snakes in ridges or crests throughs or depressions going north and south. Winds on the west side of a ridge are from the south-west (warm) and those on the east side travel from the northwest (cold). If you must, build a two or three-sided wind fence out of stakes and burlap to block the prevailing winter wind and the southern and southwestern exposure of the evergreens.

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Lightning

If a lightning strike hits a tree on your property, you may not see the injuries, but they can range from burnt roots to systematic damage inside the tree. External damage takes many forms. Long strips of bark may hang loosely from the tree, a branch may explode or pests may overwhelm the injured tree. Popular landscape trees are month the more susceptible trees to lightning damage. Although you can’t prevent a calamity, you can planet trees less vulnerable to strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes a tree without doing too much damage, you can help it bounce back by first cutting off hanging bark, then fertilizing the plant, keeping its root zone mulched, and watering it during dry spells.

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Drought

A lack of water in the soil affects trees and shrubs by decreasing their vigor and even killing them. Drought destroys feeder roots and root hairs, which provide the avenue for most water absorption. Because they are are mostly in the top foot of the soil, they are quickly affected by moisture loss. The tree suffers stress, and leaves may wilt, scorch, or drop. Spider mites, leaf eating insects or wood borers are active in hot dry weather and invade the drought stressed tree.

If you live in an area known for dry soils and lack access to irrigation water, plant only drought tolerant species. If you live where drought is infrequent, keep trees and shrubs well watered during dry spells and remember that it’s better to water deeply and less frequently instead of briefly watering the soil surface every few days. During a drought, water newly panted trees weekly and more established trees every four to six weeks.

To water a tree deeply, set up a trickling hose around the drip line and leave it in place for 30 minutes. Move the hose to one third the way around the tree and water again for the same amount of time. Repeat more more time. If the tree is very big, you’ll need to move the hose to more spots around the drop line. Recently transplanted material needs special care and plenty of water to help it become established.

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*This information was provided by the Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer


Fertilizer is NOT plant food. Trees, like all green plants, make their own food. Fertilizers contain elements essential for tree growth that may be missing from depleted soils.

For the first year after planting, trees and shrubs need no additional fertilizers, and those treated can probably fend for themselves. Likewise, mature established trees need no extra nutrients when grown in healthy undisturbed soil. Most gardens, however, contain trees and shrubs planted for the gardener’s pleasure and not because that’s where they would naturally grow. That’s why they need the occasional nutrient boost that a fertilizer gives.

Fertilizers vary in their mix of the basic nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen promotes leaf an stem growth, phosphorous and potassium support flowering and root development.

Whenever you read a fertilizer label, the numbers representing the percentages of each nutrient always appear on the label in that order. This is true whether the fertilizer is granular, liquid or soluble powder.

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Organic Approach to Fertilizing

Instead of using fertilizers, organic gardeners keep their soils healthy with compost, a jumble of decaying organic matter such as leaves, clipped grass, and worm casings, that enhances soil structure and supplies nutrients to plants.

An excellent nitrogen-rich organic soil additive is rotted manure of bats, cows, chickens, and horses. Sometimes you can find dehydrated, pelletized, composted manure packaged as an easy-to-use organic fertilizer.

Other organic fertilizers range from liquids made from fish and seaweed to bonemeal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, and alfalfa meal. Organic fertilizers not only supply necessary nutrients, they usually condition the soil, adding organic matter and improving the soil’s moisture an nutrient retention. Follow the package directions to establish the necessary amount for your plants and trees.

Synthetic Fertilizers

If you prefer using synthetic fertilizer blends, then it’s even more important to understand how much of each nutrient you need. You can discover that information form a soil test.

Dry granular synthetic fertilizers are cheap and easy to apply but they must be watered in to release their nutrients. The idea ratio of NPK for trees is about 3:1:1. Thus, if you see a product labeled 27-9-9 or 30-10-7, it would fall into this range.

If you broadcast fertilizer, keep it off your driveway, patio, and walkways, because rain or sprinklers can wash it from your property and into drains and culverts, eventually spilling into nearby bodies of water.

Also make sure you apply fertilizer at the correct rate and in the right location, because a tree’s root zone may expand in any direction two to three times the radius of the crown. For instance, if the crown of the tree is 15′ wide, keep the area closest to the trunk and apply the granules under the canopy starting 5 feet from the edge of the crown to about 15 feet beyond it.

You may want a tree service to inject a liquid product into the root zones. Most tree roots that take up nutrients exist in the top 6-8 inches of soil, so deeper injections are unnecessary and not as useful to the plant. if a tree grown in lawn, an arborist will feed it just below the turf roots.

*This information was provided by the Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook.

Big Pests That Can Damage Your Trees

Where we live in Denver, CO, there’s a lot of wildlife. You might see deer, birds, squirrels and maybe even wild turkeys strolling down roads. Unfortunately, sometimes their presence can also cause problems for your trees and landscaping. 

Here’s a few interesting tips and tricks from The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants or The Homeowner’s Handbook

Related Post: Common Insect Pests

Big Pests That Can Damage Your Trees
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Deer

Antlers on deer start growing in March or April and this is when much antler damage to trees occur. Bucks use trees as rubbing posts for their developing antlers. They also feed on the trowing tips of woody ornamentals, leaving in their wake bare jagged stubs. No tree or shrub is safe from deer, though some plans are less appealing than others. Just by landscaping our homes and turning old farmer’s fields into tree filled subdivisions we create a habitat for them.  As we destroy their native woods, they seek new sources of food and shelter and destroy or human landscape. 

The surest way to keep deer off your land is to build a 9-foot fence around it. Deer jump high and can leap fences up to that height. Less physical barriers include wrapping commercial tree guards around trunks and staking 5-foot-high wire mesh cages around the plants you’re protecting. Set the caging stakes around the plant’s circumferences at the distance of about 2 feet. 

Don’t invite deer to visit by leaving food for them. Deer repellents may work for a while, and so may automatic motion detectors that flood an area with light or sound when creatures walk by. After a while, however, deer adapt and you’ll need something new to surprise them. 

Deer have a preferred menu, from the most to the least favorite plans. If you plant their least favorites, they may visit the neighbors first, but chances are that they’ll return to your house in deepest winter when the good stuff next door is gone. 

Other Wild Visitors

Deer aren’t the only garden pests. Flocks of wild turkeys strut through yards at different seasons devouring nuts, insects, fern fronds, and berries from shrubs, planted for winter interest. 

Even domesticated animals destroy gardens. Dogs often relieve themselves on newly planted trees or shrubs, which can kill them later in the season.  Rabbits, mice and voles also gnaw on trees. Repellents sometimes work to keep rabbits away, but you may need to use a mesh tree guard on a young tree until its bark is sturdy enough to keep it safe from harm. 

Voles injure not only tree bark, but also roots and lower twigs. They girdle or chew a ring around the bark at the base of young trees, which disrupts the flow of water and nutrients. The tree weakens and ultimately dies. Some vole species eat little tree roots and girdle big ones, as well as girdling the trunk. This damage happens more in winter when they’ve exhausted other sources of food. They also nest at the base of trees and breed at an alarming rate. 

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Prevention Is the Best Cure

Besides having predators kill of the tiny rodents, you can save your trees by keeping your grass short and mulch shallow and away from the tree trunk. Those cone-shaped mulch mountains you see around trees create terrific nesting spots for voles. 

Clean your garden after leaf drop in fall, since autumn leaves also create habitat. When you remove the fallen leaves, voles won’t have a place to nest. 

Deer Resistant Trees:

  • Maple
  • Chokeberry
  • Barberry
  • Birch
  • Boxwood
  • Smoketree
  • Juniper
  • Magnolia
  • Spruce
  • Pine

When and How to Stake a Tree

In this article, we introduce another fantastic passage from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. This time we take a look at the proper procedures for sound tree staking, and explore the unique circumstances behind when and why you should and shouldn’t stake a tree. The takeaway version of the story is that staking should only be performed under specific circumstances and for limited durations of time. To borrow a term from Nassim Taleb, trees may actually be considered anti-fragile – meaning that trees don’t necessarily require lots of human intervention, and actually thrive under certain unstable conditions!

Read on:

Only Stake When Necessary

“Buy healthy plants and don’t stake a tree unless absolutely necessary. Unstaked tree trunks grow fatter more quickly than staked ones, and unstabilized trees produce farther-reaching root systems. You may occasionally need to steady a newly planted tree in the ground, however, if you discover that the rootball is not as sturdy as it looked at the nursery. When you unwrap the burlap, for instance, you may find a crumbly or damaged rootball that cannot support the tree. Another tree may be sturdy, but the planting site slopes or is exposed to strong winds that affect the tree’s early stability and establishment. Trees with small diameter trunks (less than 2 inches) typically need no staking. When proper planting and mulching are not enough to keep a tree upright, you’ll need to stake it to the ground.

Staking Practices

Sink metal or wooden stakes about 24 inches into the soil, several inches beyond the circumference of the rootball but still within the mulched bed or groundcover area. Small trees need one stake, while larger ones need two or three. For a tree up to 12 feet tall to stay upright in strong winds, set two stakes at 90-degree angles to the wind.

The best materials for bracing are wide, flat, and stretchy. Bike tubes, webbed straps, and canvas bands all work. Wire or hose-wrapped wire can grind and injure the bark when the tree sways in the wind.

Trees need wiggle room. It’s natural for a healthy tree to sway in the wind. Trunks held rigid may break when staked or perhaps after you remove the stakes. When you stake a trunk, make sure the top of the tree can sway and keep braces as low as practical on the trunk. Make sure you keep the cord or cable attaching the brace to the stake loose enough so that the tree can sway in the wind. Trunks grow weak above a too-tight brace.

When to Remove a Brace

Be sure to remove the brace once the tree is established. Trees may establish in a few months or a couple of years, depending upon the climate and growing conditions. In warm moist conditions, establishment may be fast, whereas in cold dry prairie conditions, it can take considerably longer. Failure to remove the brace may result in wood growing around the support, which then girdles or strangles and the trunk. If you forget to remove the support and the trunk starts to envelop it, remove only the bracing material that is exposed and leave the rest of the support alone.”

How Construction Work Can Damage Your Tree

If you’re recently purchased a piece of property with large mature trees on it, you might want to preserve the existing trees instead of planting new ones. As you may have learned from other posts, having mature trees on your property can greatly increase the value of your home. There are several things to be aware of when building your new home in hopes of preserving the surrounding trees and making sure that they don’t become a hazard in the future.
 
This is some of the information I found from a helpful book called The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook.

While you can’t control the weather, you might be able to manage other environmental risk factors to trees and shrubs on your property. Construction damage to trees are the most destructive trauma that a tree can endure. Soil compaction on residential lots, trenching in root zones, grade changes, and band pruning are ways that people can harm their trees. 

The good news is that you can preserve trees from most construction damage and find trees that remain healthy and beautiful in stressful environments. In this blog post, you’ll learn about some of the challenges that trees face and learn how to keep them from harm. 

Building a house maybe be thrilling for yourself, but traumatic for the trees on our surrounding your property. Construction equipment will roll over root zones, squeezing air from the soil and slowing down root drainage. Rainfall on the bare soil also increases compaction as well as human footfalls across root zones. Because compacted soil is denser than well-aerated soil. it’s harder for toots to penetrate. 

Root growth and spread is hindered, making it harder for trees and shrubs  to absorb water and nutrients. Drought stunts tree growing in compacted soils, while flooding lessens the amount of air that gets to their roots. Disturbed, compacted, urban and suburban soils may lack mycorrhizae and essential elements, making it hard for trees to establish. 

In neighborhoods with underground utilities, laying electrical cable from electrical box to the house often cuts through precious top foot of sill where most tree roots lie, wrecking the network of roots the trench encounters. There also may be trenches for gas, telephone, sewer, water, and cable television. Remember, even if a trench seems far from the tree, the root zone may be double or triple the diameter of the crown. 

New construction may necessitate grade changes to improve drainage on the property. Roots that were formerly in the top few inches of soil may be buried alive under loads of sand and topsoil to ultimately suffocate and die. To preserve existing trees, avoid raising or lowering the soil level under the canopy of the tree. 

Building a tee will is one way to maintain air circulation and drainage in the root zone. Tree wells are walled shafts to the original soil grade in landscapes where soil levels have been artificially increased. Digging old fashioned tree wells dug near a trunk doesn’t work. If you’re trying to save a tree with a tree will, you must build it beyond the tree’s drip-line, then grade the soil outside the well to keep runoff from flowing into the well. There’s not guarantee that the tree will survive construction, but you improve the chances. by leaving undisturbed the trunk and as wide an area as possible around it. 


Making a Landscape Plan

In skimming through the book, The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook, we stumbled upon this concise explanation of how to properly create a landscaping plan for the home, and we just had to share it with our readers. Clearly, landscaping doesn’t have to be a chore or a headache, especially with the right planning. The following passage takes you step by step. Enjoy!

“A garden plan shows you the ups and downs of your property. It puts your ideas on paper, so you can see if they work. Planning clarifies what to highlight and what you should improve. You don’t need to make a professional-quality plan. Even a series of simple sketches can help you realize the garden of your dreams.

  1. Start with a base plan, showing some fundamental data about your lot and your home. Outline the lot on graph paper. Label known dimensions. Using a compass, mark North, South, East, and West. If you can copy the information from a boundary survey or construction plan of your property, it will save you measuring and drawing time.
  2. If there’s no survey, measure the lot’s perimeter with a distance roller, landscaper’s tape measure, or laser-measuring device all available at a hardware store. Note measurements on your sketch. Write distances to the nearest whole number.
  3. Mark location of utility lines, well, and septic system, since these affect the placement of landscape features.
  4. Observe the views from key rooms inside the house and mark their range on the plan.
  5. Indicate with arrows the direction of prevailing winds and the angle of the sun at different times of year.
Making a Landscape Plan
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Make several copies of your plan so you can test different ideas later in the process. On one plan, show existing gardens, trees, large shrubs, outdoor spigots, swing sets, and the like. As you study your site, note on the sketch anything that concerns you or that you may want to change. For instance, if the view of your neighbor’s garage bothers you, write that down on the site survey, so you can improve that when making your final plan.

As you progress on your garden-making journey, jot ideas on fresh copies of the basic plan. For example, do you need privacy? A windbreak? Summer shade? Outline areas where these conditions are desirable, noting what you need. Would you like to let more light onto your property? You may want to move small trees and shrubs, limb some up, take out others, and set out new plants where necessary. Keep in mind the principles of design as you begin to plan.

Dividing the Landscape

The public area is the façade that you show to the world. It includes the house, the entry path, the front door or area visible from the street, the driveway, lampposts, lawn, and foundation or other plantings. Your house is the key element, and any landscaping should enhance it. To show off your house to advantage, look at the house as a series of geometrical shapes (probably squares and rectangles) and balance those masses with trees and shrubs in your plan.

Depending upon the style and shape of your house, the balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. In symmetrical balance, objects on one side of a centerline mirror those on the other. Symmetry, used extensively in historical landscapes, gives your property a formal look. Asymmetrical balance looks informal and is harder to achieve. When done successfully, however, it can produce a pleasing, naturalistic effect.

Plan to make the hardscape (the non-plant landscape) elements big enough for comfort. Instead of building a skinny 3-foot-wide entry path, make a 5-foot-wide walkway that accommodates two average-size people walking shoulder to shoulder to the front door. A 3-foot-wide path meandering through a woodland garden behind the house is fine.

In the public area, devise plantings that will blend your house into its surroundings, keeping plants in proportion to the size of the house. In general, trees and shrubs off the corner of the house should stay below two-thirds of the height from the eaves to the ground; while plants near the entrance maintain a lower profile, with a mature height no more than one-quarter of the height from the eaves to the ground. Plants with rounded shapes make a more effective transition from house to surrounding environment than plants with columnar or pyramidal shapes. That’s not to say you can’t use a tall skinny accent shrub in an entry garden, but rounded plants should predominate.

The private area is where you live when you’re outdoors. It’s usually, but not always, in the backyard and includes decks, patios, swimming pools, gazebos, swing sets, sand-boxes, and whatever else suits the leisure needs of your family. Your private area extends the inside of your house outdoors and may incorporate hedges, fences, walls, and shrub borders that make your living space more private. A privacy planting doesn’t have to be tall. It just needs to distract your attention from the space beyond it and give a psychological feeling of enclosure.

The service area contains the utilitarian aspects of your landscape. Items like sheds, garbage cans, and compost bins belong there. Shrubs with edible fruit not integrated into the ornamental landscape belong in the service area, where you can plant them in rows for easy harvesting.”


5 Ways Trees Benefit Humans

Trees play a very important role in our environment. As the largest plants on the planet, they serve a vital role in keeping our planet healthy. Not only do they give us oxygen, store carbon, and stabilize; they also provide sanctuaries for our planet’s wildlife. In addition, humans need trees to provide us with materials that give us shelter against the elements. 

As you can see, trees are essential for the survival of the planet and the humans and wildlife that occupy it. Not only are trees essential for forests, they are also needed in urban settings such as parks and forest preserves within cities. Here are a few other essential ways that trees play an important role in our lives!

Trees Keep Us Healthy

Trees act as a filter that can trap dust and absorb pollutants from the air. Trees can absorb toxic chemicals through their ‘pores’, effectively filtering chemicals from the air. Essentially, trees keep us from breathing in toxic chemicals in the air and keep us healthier.

Some trees offer medicinal properties. Trees such as Ginko Biloba can offer medicinal benefits and contain healing properties. For example, Ginko Biloba extract is collected from dried leaves of this plant is known to help reduce the risk of cancer. 
Trees are also good for your mental health. Research shows being surrounded by trees lowers your blood pressure. Your heart rate also slows and your stress levels drop.

Trees Protect Our Environment

As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide in the air. They then store that carbon in their trunks, which can help to slow the rate of global warming. 

Trees like evergreens can reduce wind speed, which can limit the loss of heat from your home in the winter by 10-50%.

Trees help prevent flooding and soil erosion through their ability to absorb stormwater. 

The canopies of trees act as a filter that can trap dust and absorb pollutants from the air.

Trees also provide shade from solar radiation. A tree can actually block 90% of solar radiation, which can help also help reduce your cooling expenses. 

Trees can shade surface areas like driveways, patios, sidewalks and buildings. This can minimize the heat load on these surfaces, which is a build up of heat during the day that gets radiated at night. This can result in warmer temperatures. Ideally, you want 50% of the total paved surface should be shaded.

Trees Provide Habitat for Wildlife

Trees host many different types of microhabitats. When trees are young, they offer not only habitation, but also are a food source for  birds, insects, lichen and fungi. As trees age, their trunks also provide homes for species such as bats, beetles, tawny owls, woodpeckers and other critters. 

Trees Increase Communities

Parks that often have several trees, provide a place for communities to gather. These parks or urban forests can be used as an educational resource. They bring in large groups for activities like bird watching or even hiking. Trees are also invaluable for children to play near or climb trees. 

Trees Help the Economy

People are attracted to live and work near green spaces. Research shows that average house prices increase when homes have mature trees on their properties. 

Why Do Trees Drop Their Leaves In The Fall?

There’s nothing more beautiful than driving through Colorado to see the leaves start to change in the early Fall. For a short window of time you’ll see colors on deciduous trees quickly change from green to gold and red; right before the trees shed their leaves and the temperatures start to dip. While admiring the changing leaf colors, have you ever wondered why the colors change at a specific time of year? 

Basically, it’s science and the environmental cues that make leaves change their color, but let’s take a deeper dive into the reasons why. 

The Purpose of Leaves

First, we need to take a look at the purpose of tree leaves to truly understand why leaves change color throughout the year. 

There are several purposes for leaves, but primarily they are there to provide food for the tree Through a process called photosynthesis, they turn sunlight into energy, which creates food and nutrients. The tree will store this food during the winter months, when there is less sunlight available. 

Leaves also allow the tree to “breathe”. Leaves have pores that can take in carbon dioxide and turn it back into oxygen. As you can see, leaves have several important functions to maintain its health and vitality. 

Why Leaves are Green

Beginning in the Spring, you’ll start to see tree leaves bud and then in mid-Summer trees become full and lush with a vibrant array of green colored leaves. Tree leaves are green because they are filled with chlorophyll which is needed to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into glucose. Chlorophyll also provides the leaves with their pigment.

When Chlorophyll Start to Break Down

The longest day of the year occurs towards the end of June in Colorado. After that day, the days slowly get shorter and shorter as we get closer to Fall. The shortening of daylight means that the trees have less and less access to their food source produced by the sun. 

With no food source, the chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down along with the color green. With this change, the leaves will start to change to yellows, reds, or purple which provides the vivid colors you see during the Fall season. 

Different Colors Mean Different Things

Yellow to orange pigments are actually carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color. These are the same pigments that give carrots their vibrant orange color. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring.

Anthocyanins are pigments that add the color red to tree leaves. You can also find these same pigments in including red apples, cherries, and strawberries.

Additional Changes During the Fall

The changing colors of tree’s leaves aren’t the only thing that changes during Autumn. Leaves and their stems also deliberately become detached from the branches of the tree. The area where the branch is attached to the leaf’s stem will gradually sever itself so that the leaf will eventually be blown off by the wind or fall due to its own weight. 

Trees by Leaf Colors:

  • Oak Trees: Red or Brown
  • Hickory Trees: Gold
  • Dogwood: Purple-Red
  • Birch: Yellow
  • Poplar: Golden yellow
  • Maple Trees:
    • Sugar Maple: Orange-Red
    • Black Maple: Yellow
    • Red Maple: Scarlet

If you’re curious to learn more about how trees change during different seasons, you can read one of our articles here on preparing your trees for stormy weather.