REAL ESTATE- GIMME SHELTER- Hello, Blossoms! Treat your trees as they start to wake

Dave Rosene
Certified Arborist & General Manager, Van Yahres Tree Company


Q: After a long winter slumber, our trees are finally starting to wake up. Is there anything we should be doing to care for them as the begin to blossom?

A: Now is a good time to look for deadwood in your trees and clear that away, as it's easier to spot and remove deadwood when there are no leaves on the trees. It's also a good time to look for diseases or insect problems, which start as soon as the weather warms up. In fact, tent caterpillars are already starting show up, forming their nest in the fork of the branches, and bag worms will begin showing up in evergreens in about a month. If you think your tree might have a disease, it's a good idea to call in a pro for a diagnosis, as alot of people tend to misdiagnose a problem and treat it the wrong way. You can still treat it yourself, but you have to know what the problem is before you can control it. 

It's best to kill tent caterpillars when they are small, as they can defoliate an entire tree when they reach full size. It's also a good idea to knock their nests down early in the day before they starting traveling out on the branches to munch. Same goes for bag worms. If you eliminate them this way, you also won't have to use any kind of chemical pesticide. 

You'll also want to check your mulch levels and clear out winter weeds, which tend to flower early and can create a real mess later if they're not controlled. But don't replace the mulch, just replenish it, as the old mulch is good for the health of the tree. Typically, you should have two to three inches of mulch around trees. 

Of course, a sudden April cold snap can cause problems, but only if it stays below freezing for a few days. If the moisture inside blooms freezes, it can die. This can be particularly bad for flowering trees that bear fruit, as killed blossoms now can mean lower fruit production later. 

Spring is also a good time to plant new trees, as nurseries have all loaded up on the materials you'll need, but make sure you can commit to watering them throughout the season. Given the climate we've had here in the last several years, it's crucial that new trees be watered well, especially in the summer, to get them through the first year. If you're not planning on being around much this summer, you might want to think twice about planting new trees this spring.