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The Science of Planting Trees

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The Science of Planting Trees


The Science of Planting Trees

Tree root systems are shallow and wide-spreading. Based on nursery standards, a field-grown balled and burlapped (B&B) tree or container-grown tree has less than 5-20% of the fine absorbing roots of the same size tree in a landscape setting. This creates stress when the tree moves from the daily care in the nursery setting to the landscape. The goal of the science of planting trees is promoting rapid root growth to reduce the water stress imposed by the limited root system. Post-planting stress (transplant shock) describes the stress factors induced by the limited root system

Steps to Planting Container-Grown or Field-Grown B&B Nursery Stock

Note: Call before you dig. Whether you plan on planting the tree yourself or hiring the work done, the site needs to have underground utilities marked before digging to plant a tree. In Colorado, this is easy to do by calling the Utility Notification Center of Colorado at 1-800-922-1987 or 8-1-1.) It can also be done online at The utilities will be marketed within 72 business hours, so plan ahead.

Step 1. Determine Depth of the Planting Hole

Planting trees too deep has become an epidemic leading to the decline and death of landscape trees. Trunk-girdling roots, caused by planting too deep, leads to more deaths of landscape trees than all other factors combined!

Trunk-girdling roots develop when a tree is planted too deep in the root ball and/or the root ball is planted too deep in the planting hole. Trunk-girdling roots may lead to decline and death some 12 to 20 years after planting. Trunk-girdling roots may be below ground.

To deal with this epidemic an industry-wide working group developed the following standards1 for tree planting depth:

These standards have been adopted industry-wide, including endorsement by the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA), American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

Depth of Root Ball in Planting Hole

In tree planting, the root ball sits on undug soil. This prevents the tree from sinking and tilting as the soil settles. If the hole is dug too deep, backfill and firm the soil on the bottom to the correct depth. (Roots grow out from the root ball, not down.)

To deal with the soil texture interface (actually the differences in soil pore space) between the root-ball soil and backfill soil, it is imperative that the root ball rises slightly above grade with no backfill soil over top of the root ball. For small (one-inch caliper) trees, the top of the root ball rises one inch above grade. For larger (two to four inch caliper) trees, the top of the root ball rises about two inches above grade. Backfill soil should cover the “knees” tapering down to grade.

If backfill covers the root ball, water and air will be slow to cross the texture interface. In this situation, water tends to move around the root ball and is slow to soak into the root ball. Root health will be compromised by lower soil oxygen levels.

Depth of root ball in planting hole – Top of root ball rises 1-2 inches above soil grade. No soil is placed over top of the root ball. Backfill soil covers the “knees” tapering downward to the original soil grade. Rootball sits on un-dug/firmed soil to prevent sinking.

It is imperative that the root ball comes to the surface, with no backfill on top of the root ball. When backfill soil is placed over top of the root ball, the soil texture interface impedes water and air movement into the root ball.

Depth of Tree in the Root Ball

  • Generally, at least two structural roots should be within the top one to three inches of the root ball, measured three to four inches from the trunk.
  • On species prone to trunk-circling roots (crabapples, green ash, hackberry, little leaf linden, poplar, red maple, and other species with aggressive root systems), the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball.

Checking Depth of Tree in Root Ball

Check the depth of the tree in the root ball. Do not assume that it was planted correctly at the nursery.

  • The presence of the root flare is an indication of good planting depth. However, small trees may have minimal root flare development, making it difficult to determine. Be careful not to mistake swelling of the trunk below the graft as the root flare.
  • A good way to evaluate planting depth in the root ball is with a slender implement like a slender screwdriver, knitting needle, or barbeque skewer. Systematically probe the rootball three to four inches out from the trunk to locate structural roots and determine their depth.

Systematically probe the root ball with a slender screwdriver. Generally, at least two structural roots should be found in the top 1-3 inches of soil, 3-4 inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling roots (crabapples, green ash, hackberry, little leaf linden, poplar, red maple, and other species with aggressive root systems), the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball.

If the tree is planted too deep in the root ball, excess soil should be removed from the top in the backfill step of the planting process. Adjust the depth of the planting hole to compensate.

With trees planted too deep in the root ball, a better option is to not purchase the trees. In the root ball, the soil above the root flare generally does not contain roots so the total volume of roots may be too small to maintain tree health. In container-grown stock, trees planted too deep readily develop trunk-circling roots.

Another issue with soil levels above the root flare is rootball size. With roots only in a portion of the root ball area, the root ball may be too small for the tree to thrive following planting.

Summary: Depth of Planting Hole

Depth of the planting hole should be 1-2 inches less than the height of the root ball, adjusted (as needed) to correct the depth of the tree in the root ball.

For example, if a two-inch caliper tree has a root ball height of 16 inches, depth of the planting hole would be 14 inches. However, if the top structural roots are located five inches down in the root ball, between two to four inches of soil needs to be removed from the root ball in the backfill process. Depth of the planting hole would be adjusted to 10-12 inches

In digging, measure the depth of the planting hole with a straight board (like rake handle) and a measuring tape.

Checking depth of root ball in planting hole with a straight board (like a rake handle).

Step 2. Dig Saucer-Shaped Planting Hole Three-Times Root Ball Diameter

Saucer-Shaped Planting Hole

To support rapid root regeneration, research suggests a wide, saucer-shaped planting hole. If the roots have difficulty penetrating compacted site soil (due to low soil oxygen levels), sloped sides direct roots upward and outward toward the higher oxygen soil near the surface rather than being trapped in the planting hole. Roots that do not penetrate the site soil may begin circling in the hole, leading to trunk-girdling roots.

When roots cannot penetrate the site soil (due to low oxygen levels), the saucer-shaped planting hole directs the roots upward and outward into soils with higher oxygen levels.

Water logging concerns – The saucer-shaped planting hole actually gives the tree a larger margin for error in over watering. In the saucer-shaped planting hole, three times the root ball diameter, the upper half contains 85% of the back fill soil, and the upper quarter contains 75% of the back fill soil. Water could saturate the lower 3/4 of the back fill soil and only affect 25% of the root system!

When the planting hole is dug with an auger,  cut down the sides with a shovel to help eliminate the glazing and create the preferred sloping sides. An alternative is to rototill a 12-24″ inch ring of soil around the planting hole after planting.

When dug with an auger, cut down the sides into the saucer shape during backfill process.

Planting Hole Depth

Depth of the planting hole is determined in Step 1. To measure depth of the dug hole, place a straight board or shovel handle across the hole and measure from the board/handle height to the bottom of the hole.

For stability, it is imperative that the root ball sits on undug soil. If the hole is dug too deep, backfill and firmly pack the soil to the correct depth. Remember that the planting hole is shallow and wide. As a point of clarification, primary growth of roots is outward, not downward.

Planting Hole Width

Planting hole width is the key to promoting rapid root growth, reducing post-planting stress. In soils with great tilth (conditions supportive to ideal root growth), width is probably not a minor concern. However, in a compacted clayey soil, typical of much of Colorado, root growth slows when roots reach the undisturbed site soil beyond the backfill area. This is due to lower soil oxygen levels in the undisturbed soil.

Twenty-five percent wider – A planting hole with vertical sides that is only twenty-five percent wider than the root ball hinders root growth. If the soil is compacted and difficult to penetrate, the roots circle inside the hole just as if the root system were in a container. Size of the root system (before growth is slowed by the lower oxygen levels of the site soil) is insufficient to reduce post-planting stress. Narrow planting holes are sometimes used as a labor saving technique. However, on less than idea soils, it will slow root establishment and may predispose the roots to circling.

Two times root ball – A saucer-shaped planting hole twice the diameter of the root ball will allow the root system to grow rapidly to 150% of the root ball size before growth is slowed by the lower oxygen levels of the site soil. This is not enough to avoid post-planting stress under normal conditions. A planting hole two times root ball diameter is common in commercial plantings as a labor savings technique. However, on less than idea soils, it may slow root establishment.

Three times root ball – A saucer-shaped planting hole three times the diameter of the root ball allows the root system to grow rapidly to 400% of the root ball size before being slowed by the lower oxygen levels of the site soil. This is enough to reduce post-planting stress under normal conditions. For example, a two-inch diameter tree with a 24 inch (two foot) wide root ball needs a 72 inch (six foot) wide saucer-shaped planting hole. To promote root growth, the planting hole is wide, shallow, and saucer-shaped!

The shallow but wide planting hole is the primary technique for encouraging rapid root growth, which is the objective in the science of planting trees. This is an important change in the mindset of many folks who have been planting into a narrow, deep hole.

Summary: Planting Hole Specification

Generally, at least two structural roots should be found in the top 1-3 inches of soil, 3-4 inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling roots (such as crab apples, green ash, hack berry, little leaf linden, poplar, and red maple), the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball.

Modification for Wet Soils

On wet soils, raise planting depth so that one-third of the root ball is above grade. Cover root ball “knees” with soil, gradually tapering down to grade. Do not use mulch to cover knees, as roots will readily grow in moist mulch but will be killed when the mulch dries out.

Modification for Compacted Soils

On extremely compacted soils, rototilling a ring around the back fill area to a width of four, five, or more times the root ball diameter may be helpful. This should be done after planting is completed so the soil is not compacted by foot traffic during the planting process.

Planting on a Slope

When planting on a slope, plant “out-of-the-hill” by adjusting the grade around the planting hole as illustrated in .

Labor-Saving Techniques

A labor-saving technique is to dig the hole twice the root ball width with more- vertical sides. Place the tree in the hole, firm a ring of soil around the base of the root ball to stabilize it, remove wrappings, and check for circling roots. Then with a shovel cut the sides of the planting hole to form the saucer-shaped planting hole three times the root ball diameter. With this technique, part of the backfill soil does not have to be removed and shoveled back, but simply allowed to fall into the hole. Soil “peds” (dirt clods) up to the size of a small fist are acceptable. With this technique, it is not practical to mix in soil amendments, as amendments must be thoroughly mixed throughout the back fill soil.

A small tiller or “garden weeder” makes for quick digging. Simply place the tiller where the hole will be and walk around in a circle. Stop periodically to remove the loosened soil from the hole, and continue walking and tilling in a circle.

Step 3. Set Tree in Place, Removing Container/Wrappings

In setting the tree in the planting hole, if the tree has a “dogleg” (a slight curve in the trunk just above the graft) the inside curve must face north to reduce w inter bark injury.

Vertically align the tree with the top centered above the root ball. Due to curves along the trunk, the trunk may not necessarily look straight. It will appear straighter with growth.

In this step, techniques vary for container-grown trees and B&B trees.

Container-Grown Nursery Stock

“Container-grown” nursery stock refers to trees and shrubs grown in containers using a variety of production methods. Spread of the root system is limited to the container size. An advantage of container stock is that it can be planted in spring, summer, or fall. Smaller trees and shrubs are commonly grown in containers.

There are many variations of container production. In many systems, like “pot-in-pot” and “grow-bags,” the container is in the ground. This protects roots from extreme heat and cold and prevents trees from blowing over.

In container-grown nursery stock, circling roots develop over time. These may be on the outside of the root ball (particularly at the bottom of the container) or just inside the root ball and not visible from the surface. Current research finds that the old standard of slitting the root ball on four sides does not adequately deal with circling roots. New standards call for the outer 1-1½ inch of the root ball to be shaved off with a knife, saw, or pruners in the planting process. This encourages  roots to grow outward and does not affect tree growth potential.

Techniques with Container-Grown Stock

Actual planting techniques in this step vary with the type of container and extent of root development. Generic steps include:

a) Lay the tree on its side in or near the planting hole.

b) Wiggle off or cut off the container.

c) Shave off the outer 1-1 ½ inch of the root ball with a knife, saw, or pruners. This step is important to deal with circling roots.

d) Tilt the tree into place. Remember that the inside curve of any dogleg faces north.

e) Check depth of the root ball in the planting hole. If incorrect, remove the tree and correct the depth, firming any soil added back to the hole.

f) Align vertically.

g) Firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottomof the root ball to stabilize it.


  • The ideal container-grown tree has a nice network of roots holding the root ball together. After the container is removed, the tree is gently tilted into place.
  • If some of the soil falls off (often on the bottom), it may be necessary to adjust the depth of the planting hole. Backfill and pack the bottom of the planting hole to the correct depth.
  • If most of the soil falls off the roots, the tree is planted as a bare-root tree (see below).
  • Fabric grow bags must be removed from the sides. They are generally cut away after setting the tree in place.
  • Generally, paper/pulp type containers should be removed. Most are slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues. Pulp containers often need to be cut off, as they may not slide off readily.
  • In handling large trees (3-inch caliper and greater) it may be necessary to set the tree in place before removing the container.
  • If the container is easy to cut, it may help to keep the root ball intact by first cutting off the bottom of the container, carefully setting the tree in place and tilting to align vertically, then cutting a slit down the side to remove the container.

If the container is easy to cut, many planters prefer to first cut off the bottom, then move the tree in place (helps hold root ball together) and then slit the container side to remove it.

Field-Grown, Balled and Burlapped Nursery Stock

Field-grown, balled and burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs are dug from the growing field with the root ball soil intact. In the harvest process, only 5-20% of the feeder roots are retained in the root ball. B&B nursery stock is best transplanted in the cooler spring or fall season.

To prevent the root ball from breaking, the roots are balled and wrapped with burlap (or other fabrics) and twine (hence the name B&B). In nurseries today, there are many variations to B&B techniques. Some are also wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap, placed in a wire basket, or placed in a pot.

Larger plant materials are often sold as B&B stock. In field production, the roots may be routinely cut to encourage a more compact root ball. While this process improves the transplantability of the tree, it adds to production costs.

Depending on how long the tree has been held in the B&B condition, circling roots may begin to develop. If this has occurred, shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball as described previously for container-grown trees.

Field-grown, B&B nursery stock needs to have the wrappings that hold the root ball together taken off AFTER the tree is set in place.

Techniques with Balled and Burlapped Nursery Stock

An advantage of the wider planting hole is that it gives room for the planter to remove root ball wrappings AFTER the tree is situated in the hole.

Based on research, standard procedures are to remove root ball wrapping materials (burlap, fabric, grow bags, twine, ties, wire basket, etc.) from the upper 12 inches or 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater AFTER the tree is set in place. Materials under the root ball are not a concern since roots grow outward, not downward.

Actual planting techniques in this step vary with the type of wrapping on the root ball. Generic steps include:

a) Remove extra root ball wrapping added for convenience in marketing (like shrink-wrap and a container). However, do NOT remove the burlap (or fabric), wire basket and twine that hold the root ball together until the tree is set in place.

b) Set the tree in place. Remember that the inside curve of any graft crook faces north.

c) Check depth of the root ball in the planting hole. If incorrect, remove the tree and correct the depth, firming any soil added back to the hole.

d) Align vertically.

e) For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball.

f) Remove all the wrapping (burlap, fabric, twine, wire basket, etc.) on the upper 12 inches or upper 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater.

g) If circling roots are found in the root ball, shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw and/or pruners.

Consensus from research is clear that leaving burlap, twine, and wire baskets on the sides of the root ball are not acceptable planting techniques.

  • Burlap may be slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues.
  • Burlap that comes to the surface wicks moisture from the root ball, leading to dry soils.
  • Jute twine left around the trunk will be slow to decompose, often girdling the tree.
  • Nylon twine never decomposes in the soil, often girdling trees several years after planting.
  • Wire baskets take 30 plus years to decompose and may interfere with long-term root growth.
  • With tapered wire baskets, some planters find it easier to cut off the bottom of the basket before setting the tree in the hole. The basket can still be used to help move the tree and is then easy to remove by simply cutting the rings on the side.

Optional Step 4. Underground Stabilization

One of the trends in tree planting is to use underground stabilization of the root ball rather than above-ground staking. Underground stabilization is out of the way and will not damage the trunk’s bark. For information on underground stabilization, refer to CMG Garden Notes #634, Tree Staking and Underground Stabilization.

Staking became a routine procedure when trees were planted in deep holes and the trees sank and tilted as the soil settled. In the Science of Planting Trees, where trees are set on undisturbed soil and a ring of soil is firmed around the base before back filling, staking or underground stabilization is not needed in many landscape settings.

Step 5. Backfill

In back filling the planting hole, the best method is to simply return the soil and let water settle it. Avoid compacting the soil by walking or stamping on it. In the back fill process, the planting hole can be widened into the desired sauce shape.

No back  fill soil goes on top of the root ball. Back fill soil covers the root ball “knees” tapering down to the original soil grade.

In preparing any garden for planting, it is standard gardening procedure to modify the soil structure (i.e., loosen the soil) by cultivating. It is also routine to amend the soil by adding organic matter to improve the water-holding capacity of sandy soils or to increase large pore space in clayey soils. Modifying and amending, while related, are not the same process.

Ideally, soils in a tree’s entire potential rooting area would be modified and amended to a 5% organic content.

Modifying the Back fill

When planting trees, soil in the planting hole is modified (loosened up) by digging the hole. The issue around “modifying the soil” is planting-hole width, as discussed previously. Due to lower levels of soil oxygen in the site soil, root growth slows as roots reach the undisturbed site soil beyond the back fill. A saucer-shaped planting hole three times the diameter of the root ball supports rapid root growth, reducing post-planting stress. Amending backfill soil in a narrow planting hole will not substitute for modifying soil in the wider saucer-shaped planting hole.

For backfill, soil “peds” (dirt clods) up to the size of a small fist are acceptable. The soil does not need to be pulverized. In clayey soils, pulverizing the soil will destroy all structure and may lead to excessive re-compaction with minimal large pore space.

A labor-saving technique is to dig the planting hole two times root ball diameter with rather vertical walls. Then in the backfill step, cut the hole to the three times root ball, saucer-shaped hole. In this method, part of the soil does not have to be moved twice. Peds (dirt clods) up to fist size are acceptable in the backfill.

A labor-saving method is to dig the planting hole two times the root ball diameter with more-vertical walls and ease the tree in place. Then cut the planting hole into the three-times-root-ball width and saucer shape during the backfill process. This way much of the soil does not have to be moved twice. Dirt clods up to fist size are acceptable in the planting hole.

Amending the Back fill

Amending the soil just in the planting hole is a complex issue. Too many soil-related variables play into this amended planting pit for a simple directive. In tree planting, it is a common procedure to amend backfill soil with organic matter. It is a good marketing technique for the nursery to recommend soil amendments with the sale of a tree.

Amending the backfill soil to five percent organic matter is standard procedure in garden soil management and may be supportive to root growth in the planting hole during the first two years.

However, amending the backfill to twenty-five to fifty percent is a common mistake! It helps containerize the roots and may also hinder root spread beyond the planting hole. It may hold excessive amounts of water, reducing soil oxygen levels. As the organic matter decomposes, the total volume of soil in the planting hole diminishes, allowing the tree to topple over.

If amending the soil, the organic matter needs to be thoroughly mixed with the backfill soil. Never backfill with organic matter in layers or clumps as this creates additional texture interface lines. Amendments should be well aged. Never use unfinished compost or fresh manure as it may burn tender roots.

Texture Interface

Changes in soil texture (actually changes in soil pore space) create a texture interface that impedes water and air movement across the texture change. There will always be a texture interface between the root ball soil and back fill soil and between the back fill soil and undisturbed site soil. Amending the back fill soil will not diminish the interface.

To deal with the interface, it is imperative that the root ball comes to the soil surface with no back fill soil over top of the root ball. If back fill soil covers the root ball soil, the interface between the root ball and back fill soil will impede water and air movement into the root ball.

Changes in soil texture (actually soil pore space) create a texture interface that impedes water and air movement.

There will always be a texture interface between the root ball and backfill soil.

To minimize the texture interface, the root ball must come to the soil surface with no backfill over top of the root ball.

Summary: Modifying and Amending

For rapid root establishment, the focus needs to be on planting hole width and correct depth. In most situations, amending or not amending the back fill has little significance compared to other planting protocols.

Optional Step 6. Staking

Staking became a routine procedure when trees were planted in deep holes and the trees sank and tilted as the soil settled. In the Science of Planting Trees, where trees are set on undisturbed soil and a ring of soil is firmed around the base before back filling, staking is not needed in many landscape settings.

In areas with extreme winds, “anchor staking” may be needed for improved wind resilience. In some landscapes, new trees may need “protection staking” to protect trees from human activities (like the football game on the lawn). For additional information on staking, refer to CMG GardenNotes #634, Tree Staking and Underground Stabilization.

Step 7. Watering to Settle Soil

Watering is done after staking so the gardener does not compact the wet soil while installing the stakes. Watering is a tool to settle the soil without overly packing it.

Discussion of how to water recently planted trees is covered in CMG GardenNotes #635, Care of Recently Planted Trees.

Step 8. Final Grade

In the wide, shallow planting hole, the backfill soil may settle in watering. Final grading may be needed after watering.

Final grade. Note how the root ball soil is visible on the surface, with no backfill covering the top of the root ball.

Step 9. Mulching

A mulch ring of bark/wood chips is suggested around all trees to help protect the trunks from lawnmower damage. On newly planted trees, organic mulch can increase fine root development by 400% compared to grass competition. This results in 20% faster canopy growth. The increase in growth is due to the lack of competition between the tree and grass and weeds.

Site-specific water needs should be considered regarding the use of mulch. Mulch over the rooting area helps conserve moisture and moderate soil temperatures. However, on wet sites the mulch may hold too much moisture, leading to root/crown rot, and may be undesirable. Wood/bark chips may blow in wind and therefore are not suitable for open, windy areas.

With newly planted trees, do NOT place mulch directly over the root ball. Rather mulch the backfill area and beyond. Never place mulch up against the trunk as this may lead to bark decay. Over the backfill area and beyond, 3-4 inches of wood chip mulch gives better weed control and prevents additional soil compaction from foot traffic.

Do not make mulch volcanoes. Mulch piled up against the tree trunk may lead to bark decay and reduced trunk taper. Excessive mulch can reduce soil oxygen.

Planting Bare-Root Trees

Bare-root nursery stock is sold without an established soil ball and is generally limited to smaller-caliper materials. Some evergreen materials will not transplant well as bare-root stock.

Cost for bare-root stock is significantly lower than the same plant as container-grown or B&B stock. Survivability drops rapidly once the plant leafs out. Some nurseries keep bare-root nursery stock in cold storage to delay leafing.

Roots dehydrate rapidly and must be protected. Bare-root stock is often marketed in individual units with roots bagged in moist sawdust or peat moss to prevent dehydration. Sometimes bare-root stock is temporarily potted to protect roots. Some nurseries maintain bare-root stock in moist piles of sawdust. At the time of sale, plants are pulled from the sawdust and the roots are wrapped with some moist sawdust for transport to the planting site. These need to be planted within 24 hours of purchase.

Techniques for Bare-Root Nursery Stock

Bare-root trees are planted with the same basic standards as container-grown or B&B stock, with the modification that the roots are spread out on a horizontal plane as the backfill soil is added. It is critical to minimize exposure of the roots as feeder roots dehydrate in minutes. Generic steps include the following:

      1. Unpack roots to measure root spread. Cover or repack to protect roots while the hole is dug. Some gardeners like to soak the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours. However, do not leave them in the water for more than a half day.
      2. Dig a shallow, saucer-shaped planting hole three times the diameter of the root spread. Depth of the planting hole should accommodate the planting depth standards mentioned previously.
        • Top of backfill will be one inch above grade.
        • Generally, at least two structural roots should be within the top one to three inches of the soil surface.
        • On species prone to trunk circling roots (such as crabapples, green ash, hackberry, littleleaf linden, poplar, and red maple), the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root-ball soil surface.
        • The bottom root should rest on undug soil.
    1. As backfill is added, spread roots out on a straight, horizontal plane.
    2. Many bare-root trees will need staking.
    3. Water the newly planted tree.
    4. Final grade.
    5. Mulch, as needed

Additional Information

CMG Garden Notes on Tree Selection and Planting

#631  Tree Placement: Right Plant, Right Place

#632   Tree Selection: Right Plant, Right Place

#633    The Science of Planting Trees

#634    Tree Staking and Underground Stabilization

#635     Care of Newly Planted Trees

#636     Tree Planting Steps

o  Books: Watson, Gary W., and Himelick, E.B. Principles and Practice of Planting Trees and Shrubs. International Society of Arboriculture. 1997. ISBN: 1-881956-18-0.

o  Web: Dr. Ed Gilman’s tree planting information at

Authors: David Whiting (CSU Extension, retired) with Joann Jones (CSU Extension, retired) and Alison O’Connor(CSU Extension). Photographs and line drawing by David Whiting; used by permission

  • CMG Garden Notes are available online at
  • Colorado Master Gardener training is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Colorado Garden Show, Inc.
  • Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.
  • Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.
  • Copyright 2007-14. Colorado State University Extension. All Rights Reserved. This CMG GardenNotes may be reproduced, without change or additions, for nonprofit educational use.
Additional Tree Disease Resources (2015) - Tree Service Company Springfield MO

Urban Tree Decline

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Urban Tree Decline

Tree species affected: Deciduous trees

Issues: Thinning crown, progressive die back over several years, vigorous shoots below die back, death

Description: Tree decline is the gradual loss of tree health and vigor over time. The decline isn’t a specific disease but rather a combination of stress factors working together over a few to several years to eventually cause tree death. These stress factors can be living or non-living and can act singly, in concert, or in succession. Determining causes of decline requires careful examination of the tree and grow-ing site as well as knowledge of the tree’s history. Diagnosis can be more difficult when the original stress factor is obscure or no longer present. A tree can be pre-disposed to decline because of its age, the site in which it grows, or competition with other trees. Decline is then triggered by inciting factors such as:

  • mower or string trimmer damage
  • topping & other poor pruning practices
  • ice & wind storm damage
  • drought
  • flooding
  • late-season frost
  • severe winter weather
  • defoliation by insects or diseases
  • improper planting
  • improper mulching
  • stem-girdling roots
  • acute pollution
  • increased pollution levels over time
  • herbicide damage
  • nutrient deficiencies
  • excessive salt accumulation
  • excessive fertilizer
  • soil compaction
  • changes in soil grade
  • changes in soil pH
  • construction damage
  • installing impervious surfaces
  • changes in water availability
  • changes in sunlight availability

Trees survive stress temporarily by using stored energy reserves. When these reserves are depleted, symptoms begin showing. This may take 2-3 years or longer after a stress episode to become noticeable. Declining trees have fewer or weaker defenses against insects and disease. These trees are susceptible to a wide array of secondary stress factors, including Armillaria root rot, Hypoxylon canker, several defoliating diseases, and various insect borers and foliage feeders. It is often these secondary invaders that finally kill the tree.

Symptoms and Signs: Initial symptoms of tree decline may include delayed spring leaf emergence, premature fall coloration, and leaf drop, and a thinning crown as twigs die back and fewer leaves are produced. Leaves may be small and pale with scorched edges during summer. Vigorous shoots are common along the trunk and lower branches. Branch dieback becomes more prominent as the decline progresses, especially high in the tree’s crown. Bark may fall off sections of trunk or branches. Stressed trees may produce heavy seed crops. Wood-boring insect holes, woodpecker damage, or mushrooms are indications of advanced stages of decline.

Recommendation: Trees in severe decline (50% or more of the crown affected) are unlikely to recover and should be removed to reduce hazards to people and property. Increase vigor of less symptomatic trees through the following good tree care practices:

  • Water 2-3 times per month during extended dry periods. Provide water gradually to promote infiltration. To determine the total watering time needed using a hose set at medium pressure (2 gallons per minute), multiply the tree’s diameter (in inches) by 5 minutes.
  • Mulch trees with a 3 inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or wood chips, within the drip line area to encourage growth of the tree’s fine feeder roots and prevent moisture loss.
  • Selectively prune dead or dying branches to improve appearance and reduce attraction of wood-boring insects.
  • Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient levels and fertilize only if necessary ( Do not apply fertilizer from mid-summer through mid-fall as applications at this time can damage stressed trees by promoting growth that is more susceptible to winter injury and more attractive to insects.

Prevention:Keeping your tree healthy is the best way to prevent decline.

  • Water trees during establishment and drought periods.
  • Prevent soil compaction, changes to soil grade, and mechanical injury to the trunk and roots during construction and yard maintenance.
  • Plant the right tree in the right place by carefully considering the planting site as well as a tree species’ biological requirements and growth qualities. Consult tree planting guides to avoid improper planting practices.
  • Grow native! Plant trees native to Missouri as they are more likely to tolerate the soils and climate found here.
  • Prevent repeated insect and fungal defoliations with appropriate management techniques. Be sure to accurately identify what is affecting your tree before treating it.
  • Avoid excessively fertilizing or liming your trees.
Irrigation and Drainage Services - Lawn Irrigation Springfield MO

Troubleshooting for Irrigation

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Troubleshooting for Irrigation

The best way to troubleshoot electrical system problems within an irrigation system is with a step-by-step approach. The method detailed below isolates and checks each of the irrigation components: the controller, zone control valves and the wiring that connects it all together.

Step 1: Check the Obvious

Before launching a thorough system diagnosis, don’t forget to check the obvious. Is the system water supply on? Are there isolation valves at the backflow preventer, pump station or in the mainline that are preventing water from flowing? Has the flow control on the valve been turned all of the way off? Reviewing these factors up front can save time and effort.

Step 2: Make Sure You Don’t Have a Programming Error

If the zone operates fine manually using the controller’s manual mode, but does not operate automatically, this usually indicates a programming error rather than an electrical problem. Review the controller’s programming guide and look for data entry mistakes.

Step 3: Know How to Use a Volt ohm Meter

An inexpensive volt ohm meter will be your most valuable tool and a required component for successful electrical trouble shooting. Volt ohm meters can be purchased in the electrical supplies section of a local hardware store, electronics shop (like Radio Shack) or your local irrigation equipment supplier. Modern digital meters are more reliable and provide an easy to read display that can give precise quantitative feedback of the system symptoms.

Step 4: Is the Controller Operational?

After these preliminary steps, you’re now ready to check the controller itself. A blank LCD display, or failure to respond to keyboard entries, could indicate a lack of power to the unit or other damage. Begin by using your volt ohm meter to take a voltage reading of the primary incoming power, to the controller. It should read somewhere between 110 to 125 volts. If it doesn’t, you’ve found your problem. But, it’s seldom that easy. In some cases, you’ll notice that the display of the controller is scrambled, missing LED segments or the entire unit is “frozen” preventing buttons or dials from entering data. This is a symptom of “micro processor lock up,” where the primary brain of the controller has become confused with bad data from electrical surges or other causes. This can often be cleared by re setting the device. Reset the controller by either disconnecting all electrical and battery power from the unit for several minutes, or by pressing a “reset” button which clears the memory of the processor and reboots the system.

Step 5: Check for a Tripped Breaker or Blown Fuse

If the controller passes these tests, next check the station output of the controller to the valves that control the area that is not being irrigated. Again using the volt ohm meter, you can check to see if the output terminals indicate the 24 volts needed to open a standard solenoid. If you do not get a reading here, you should check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker within the controller. Also check the output of the transformer in the controller to make sure that it is outputting correct voltage. A blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker in most controllers indicates an overload condition in the field not a problem with the controller. If one of these conditions is present, you can certainly replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker, however this will not solve the root cause of the problem with either the field wiring or valve solenoid.

If you are fortunate to have a top of the line controller, you may have the benefit of a more modern feature called “automatic short circuit detection” which is a specialized self diagnostic system within the controller itself. This handy feature allows the controller to identify a zone that has a fault in the field wire or valve and skip over the affected zone, eliminating a blown fuse. The best part of this feature is that the controller will digitally display a message that says: “Station 3 Error” to assist with locating the valve or field wire problem.

Step 6: Check Field Wiring

If the controller, transformer and station outputs all work properly, the next place to check is the field wiring. And this happens to be the most common place where unforeseen problems can occur.

Use the volt ohm meter and perform an “ohm test” on a specific zone circuit (common wire plus station wire), with the controller power turned off. At this point, you will want to be certain the volt ohm meter is set to the correct resistance setting so that the unit provides accurate and measurable feedback. Make sure to disconnect the wires you are testing from the controller terminal block so that your reading is specific to the wires in the field, and not mixed up with feedback through the circuits of the controller. The “ohm test” will send a pulse of current from the battery in the volt meter through the circuit. A normal reading is 20 to 60 ohms.

If the circuit has a “short,” meaning the current is taking a shortcut back to the controller, the reading may be as low as 1 to 10 ohms. If the circuit is completely broken, you will get an infinity reading, meaning there is no clear path for the electricity to flow back through the circuit and to the volt ohm meter.

A reading of a high number, but not infinity, would indicate that there is still an intact circuit, but there is a high amount of resistance in the circuit that is keeping current from flowing efficiently enough to activate a solenoid valve. This is a common symptom of a bad electrical connection, usually an underground splice that was not properly waterproofed.

Test each circuit from the controller and you will notice a pattern. The good circuits will have similar readings and the bad circuit will stand out from the others. This gives you confidence in the process and helps you work specifically to the final step of checking the valve solenoid.

Step 7: Check the Valve Solenoid

The final step in a systematic approach is to decide whether diagnosed problems in the field wiring are related to the wiring and splices, or to the specific solenoid on the valve. At this point, you will move to the actual location of the valve in the field and cut into the wires leading into the solenoid to take an ohm reading of the solenoid’s resistance. Typically, if the solenoid is bad, you will get a reading for a “short” or 1 to 10 ohms. (There is no need to test voltage at the valve since you have already “ohm tested” each circuit at the controller so you know which zones have problems.)

How To Sharpen Your Trouble Shooting Skills

Electrical trouble shooting an irrigation control system using this step by process takes time to learn, and requires a willingness to try multiple approaches before finding the solution to your problem. Many irrigation manufacturers and distributors offer training classes on electrical trouble shooting that will give you an opportunity to get hands on experience with this process.

A few hours in an irrigation trouble shooting course can provide valuable training for that hot summer day when you face stressed turf – and a system that will not operate!




Watering Trees, Plants and Shrubs - Lawn Sprinkler Design Springfield MO

FAQ on Backflow

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Backflow Prevention – Frequently Asked Questions

What is backflow?

Backflow is the undesirable reversal of flow in a potable water distribution system through across-connection. A cross-connection is an actual or potential link connecting a source of pollu-tion or contamination with a potable water supply. Backflow may allow liquids, gases, nonpotablewater and other substances, from any source, to enter a public water system.

How does backflow occur?

Backflow may occur due to high pressure on the customer side, or low pressure in the watersystem. Backflow through a cross-connection can contaminate the potable water in a building,on a block, or throughout an entire water system.

What is backflow prevention?

Backflow prevention protects public water systems from contamination or damage throughcross-connections located in customer facilities. Backflow prevention is typically achieved byplacing a backflow prevention assembly between the customer and the public water system.This is called containment backflow prevention.

Does my water system require backflow prevention?

Missouri’s backflow prevention regulation (10 CSR 60-11.010) applies to all community watersystems. These are water systems that serve at least 15 connections or at least 25 people on ayear-round basis. Missouri has more than 1,400 community water systems. They serve morethan 4.9 million people, almost 90 percent of the state population.

Must my home or business have backflow prevention?

Many businesses must have back flow prevention. Common examples are manufacturing andprocessing plants, medical facilities, laboratories (including school chemistry and biology labs),and buildings that have boilers, fire sprinkler systems and irrigation systems.

Solely residential facilities are exempt from the rule unless a specific cross-connection is identified. For example, single-family residences with a lawn irrigation system require back flow prevention. Multi-family residences with a boiler or fire sprinkler system require back flow prevention.

Call your local water supplier to confirm whether or not back flow prevention is required at your home or business.

What kind of back flow prevention is required at my home or business?

Under the Missouri rule, three types of back flow prevention assemblies are permissible for containment: air gaps, reduced pressure principle assemblies and double check valve assemblies. The type of assembly you need depends on the type of hazard present.

Generally, where you have a back flow hazard that may threaten public health you must havean air gap or a reduced pressure principle assembly. Where there is a lesser hazard that may damage the water system or degrade the aesthetic quality of the water, a double check valve assembly is required.

Only approved back flow prevention assemblies may be used. If you can find the manufacturer and model number on your assembly you can check with your water supplier to find out if it is an approved assembly. Modifications to an assembly invalidate the approval. If your assembly looks like it has been changed, get in touch with your water supplier or a certified back flow prevention assembly tester to see if it is an approved assembly.

Water suppliers may have more strict or specific requirements than the state rule. Contact your local water supplier to make sure you have the appropriate back flow prevention assembly to meet local requirements.

Must I have my back flow prevention assembly inspected?

Yes. To ensure the device is functioning properly, a certified tester must test it at least annually.For new facilities, the assembly must be tested when installed. If the tester finds the assembly is not working, you must arrange to have it repaired and tested again. It is your responsibility to pay for the test and repairs. The tester is required to provide a copy of the test report to you and the water supplier. To obtain a list of certified testers in your area, call your water supplier or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Does the back flow prevention assembly protect my entire facility?

No. The required back flow prevention assembly provides containment and it protects the public water system from hazards in your facility. Cross-connections in your own plumbing may allow contaminants to back flow from hazardous processes to drinking water taps in your building.

Back flow prevention applied within a facility to protect drinking water plumbing from process plumbing is called isolation. Isolation back flow prevention is not covered by departmental rules,but may be required by local plumbing codes. Check with your local code enforcement agencies to see what standards apply to your facility.

Additional Resource:

Cross-Connection Control Manual,

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA 816-R-03-002, February 2003);

For more information

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Water Protection Program, Public Drinking Water Branch

P.O. Box 176

Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176

1-800-361-4827 or (573) 751-5331 office,

(573) 751-3110 fax





Proper Techniques for Lawn Irrigation - Springfield MO

How to set an Irrigation Controller

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How to set an Irrigation Controller

    1. Date & Time – set up the date and time to match the current date and time
    2. Set Seasonal Adjustment to 100% – Turn your dial to Seasonal Adjust and press the up or down arrows as necessary
    3. Program (A, B, or C)
      1. Pick one program and clear out the rest if anything is set in them
      2. Only set up multiple if you have special circumstances and don’t want to have to re-set original program “start-times” and “run-times”
    4. Set start times for each program
        1. Each program runs all zones for their “run time”

      i. 1 zone may run for 7 minutes
      ii. A program with 10 zones running for 7 minutes will run for 70 minutes total
      1.Therefore, start times must be at least 70 minutes apart or system will malfunction and show some kind of error on the screen
      2.We should never need more than 1 start time on a normal yard
      i.BUT, on new plantings, (bed or bushes) we DO use 2-3 start times so we can water 2-3 times in one day
      ii. Spring and Fall typically need 2 waterings a day and Summer can sometimes require 3 waterings to keep new plants or grass healthy
      iii. Often when we set more than one start time, we would save those settings as a second program (program B)
      1.This allows us to leave the original program exactly as it was so it can be returned to after the establishment period of any new plants

    5. Set run times for each zone

1.At 3x per week:
i.18 minutes on rotor zones & mp-rotator zones
ii.7 minutes on spray zones
iii.25-50 minutes on drip zones
iv. Specific adjustments should be made based on plant type, wind flow, and sun/shade of the area each zone waters

  1. Set days to water1.M WF or Tu Th S for a 3-day a week schedule
    1. M W F or Tu Th S for a 3-day a week schedule
  2. Set seasonal % adjustment for the season
    1. Summer: 100%-120%
    2. Spring/Fall: 40%-80%
Yard Drainage Systems Springfield MO

Irrigation Pump Education

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Irrigation Pump Education

The pressure is on.  A customer has requested a pump for their irrigation system and they need it within 24 hours. Your palms start sweating. Your mouth goes dry. And your heart could likely pump blood to two full-grown adults at the rate it’s going.

Pause. Take a deep breath.

Helping a customer assess their pump needs doesn’t need to be an impossible task. By understanding the basic hydraulic formulas, pump varieties, and how to size a pump, you can better assist your customer in finding a pump that fits their needs perfectly.

The Magic Numbers: 0.433 and 2.31

Have you ever wondered how many “pumps” would inflate a basketball to the perfect PSI? 0.433 and 2.31 likely aren’t it, but when it comes to traditional pumps, these numbers are the right and left gates to the kingdom of hydraulics. In order to dive into the world of pumps, an individual needs a solid understanding of the vital function these numbers play. They are used in two ways:

1) Feet of Head to Pounds per Square Inch

To convert feet of head to pressure in PSI, multiply the feet by 0.433. One foot of water equals 0.433 PSI.

2) Pounds per Square Inch to Feet of Head

If you have the pressure but need to figure out the feet of the head, multiply the pressure by 2.31. One PSI equals 2.31 feet of water.

Gas or Diesel: Pump Varieties

Once you understand the importance of 0.433 and 2.31, you can confidently move on to the next step in the process—assessing what kind of pump the system needs. There are several varieties of pumps, but two of the most common are submersible pumps and above-ground centrifugal pumps.

Submersible Pumps

Submersible pumps are submerged underwater and out of sight, making them a great option for a homeowner who doesn’t want a pump to become a part of their landscape.

This pump consists of three parts:

  • The motor, which is located at the bottom
  • The intake screen, which is located at the middle
  • The pump itself, which is located at the top

The pump is placed in a PVC pipe with filter screens at the bottom and a well seal on top. The well seal holds the pump and discharge pipe in place. Water is able to enter through the screens (which filter out debris) and then passes over the motor to keep it cool.

Next, it enters into the pump through the intake screen and becomes pressurized by the impellers before exiting through the discharge pipe.

Above Ground Centrifugal Pump

A centrifugal pump uses an impeller to move water, and can lift water from places like a lake or storage tank.

This pump consists of two parts:

  • The motor end
  • The wet end

When the motor on this style of pump spins the impeller, a vacuum is created allowing atmospheric pressure to push water into the pump.

The water is lifted from the source where an underwater filter foot valve is placed and then goes into the suction line, where it is transferred into the pump to become pressurized.

When an irrigation system doesn’t have enough existing pressure, an inline booster pump (another type of centrifugal pump) will increase the PSI, giving the system the right amount of pressure to operate properly.

This pump consists of two parts:

  • The motor end
  • The wet end (hosts the impeller)

Now that we’ve got our feet wet looking at a couple varieties of pumps and their uses, let’s take a look at some of the basic steps to take when it comes to sizing a pump.

If the Shoe Fits: The Basics of Sizing A Pump

The plot thickens, but after reviewing both sections above, you will be up for the task. It’s time to help your customer size their pump. The six steps listed below will help you size a suction lift centrifugal pump.

Step 1: Determine the Elevation

First, determine the elevation in feet from the surface of the water to the pump. Use the hydraulic formula referenced in section one to determine this. Be careful. If the elevation and friction loss on the suction side exceed 20 feet of head, you need to reconsider your pump choice and/or pump location.

Step 2: Identify Suction Side Friction Loss

Next, identify any sources that may cause friction loss throughout your irrigation system on the suction side. You will need to assess the following:

  • Suction line size and length
  • Check valve size
  • Estimate of fitting loss
  • Any other obstructions unique to your system

Once you have identified the PSI loss for all of the above, plug the total into this formula to determine the needed feet of head:
Total PSI loss _____x 2.31= _____ Feet of Head

Step 3: Find the Greatest Pressure

The next thing you need to account for is the greatest pressure that will be required for the type of sprinkler heads your irrigation system uses. Find your type of sprinkler head below, and plug the greatest pressure required for that head into this formula: PSI ____x 2.31=_____ Feet of Head

  • Rotors: 25-90 PSI
  • Sprays: 15-30 PSI
  • Drip: 20-30 PSI

Step 4: Account for Elevation

For this step, simply figure out the elevation in feet from the pump to the highest outlet.

Step 5: Identify Discharge Side Friction Loss

Above, we determined the friction loss for the suction side of the pump. Now we need to define the friction loss for the systems discharge side (also known as the “worst zone”). You will need to assess the following.

  • Mainline size and length
  • Sprinkler valve size
  • Estimate of fitting loss
  • Backflow/filtration

Once you have identified the PSI loss for all of the above, plug the total PSI loss into this formula to determine the needed feet of head:

Total PSI loss _____x 2.31= _____ Feet of Head

Step 6: Total Out The Dynamic Feet of Head

Finally, to figure out the dynamic feet of head your system needs, add the totals from step one through five together.

_____ = Total Feet of Head

Following the step-by-step process listed above will help assist you in determining what kind of a pump is right for your customer’s project. An irrigation pump sizing worksheet, like the one attached at the end of this paper, will help you account for any other information needed to help your customer make an informed pump selection.

After you have completed the Irrigation Pump Sizing Information Worksheet, you should have two numbers: one for the total feet of head, and one for the gallons per minute (GPM). Follow these steps to chart your pump curve:

Step 1: Plot your GPM. It is advised to add a 10 percent safety margin. (Follow the numbers listed along bottom of the graph).

Step 2: Plot your total feet of head. It is advised to add a 10 percent safety margin. (Follow the numbers listed along the left side of the curve).

Step 3: Use a horizontal and vertical axis to determine what a specific flow would be for your total feet of head.

Step 4: Multiply your total feet of head by .433 to get your PSI.

Step 5: The closer the axis intersect is to the center of the curve, the more efficient the pump will be. Remember that all pumps have their own individual curve

Nice work! After completing all of the sections above, you should be able to better assist your customer with their pump selection. Should you encounter additional questions, always refer to a pump expert before making a formal recommendation. You can do so with Ewing’s pump experts at 1-844-PUMP-PRO.


Avoiding Brown Spots In Your Yard - Lawn Care Services Springfield MO

Japanese Beetles

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Japanese Beetles

Tree species affected: Japanese beetles are known to feed on over 300 plant species. Linden (basswood), elm, crabapple, sycamore (planetree), sassafras, plum, cherry, and bald cypress are commonly damaged, as well as grape and rose.

Concerns: Lacy, skeletonized leaves. Partial or entire defoliation.

Description: Japanese beetles feed on the upper surface of leaves, leaving behind veins. Damage is frequently seen near the top of the tree or plant first. These beetles often feed in groups.

Insecticides are not compatible with trying to maintain a pollinator-friendly yard and should never be used on flower-ing plants or trees that will attract bees and other pollinators.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lifecycle of the Japanese beetle?

Japanese beetles spend most of their one-year lifecycle under-ground as a white, c-shaped grub. These grubs feed on grass roots and can damage turf if populations are high. Grubs pupate in late spring and emerge from the ground as adult beetles around mid-June in Missouri. These beetles congregate on host plants, particularly those in full sun. Japanese beetles congregate through a combination of pheromones released by females and floral scents emitted by the damaged host. After mating, each female beetle lays 40-60 eggs in the soil over the course of her 30-45 day lifespan. These eggs hatch into grubs in July and August. Most adult Japanese beetles are gone for the year by mid-August.

Will Japanese beetles kill my trees?

Healthy, established trees can typically tolerate a heavy amount of feeding damage. However, this damage is a source of stress for trees. You can help your trees by watering them 2-3 times per month during dry times to avoid additional stress from drought. A good rule of thumb is ten gallons of water per inch of a tree’s diameter.

Should I use a Japanese beetle trap?

Be cautious when using Japanese beetle traps as they are very effective at bringing beetles in from areas well outside of your yard. Traps don’t catch all the beetles they attract, so nearby plants may be heavily damaged. If you decide to use a trap, place it at least 100 feet away from plants you want to protect. Dispose of trapped beetles frequently by dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

If I control the Japanese beetle grubs in my lawn, will I have fewer beetles next year?

Controlling Japanese beetle grubs in your lawn won’t significantly reduce the number of beetles you see next year. Japanese beetles are strong fliers and can continue to fly in from neighboring areas over a mile away.Grub control may have more of an impact if you live in a forested area where turf grass is uncommon.

How can I control Japanese beetles?

For light infestations on shrubs and young trees, handpicking is an effective method of control. Beetles are typically sluggish and easy to capture early in the morning. Shake stems and branches with Japanese beetles over a bucket of soapy water.

Several contact insecticides are available for control of Japanese beetle adults (e.g. acephate, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, permethrin); check the label to confirm Japanese beetles and your plant species are listed. These chemicals may need to be reapplied at labeled intervals, especially in hot or rainy weather. Organic products containing azadiractin and spinosad are effective deterrents for a few days. Neem oil may be useful in deterring beetles from feeding if used at the first sign of damage.

Systemic insecticides, such as those containing imidacloprid, can be applied as a soil drench to protect some types of trees from Japanese beetles (follow all label restrictions). However, this product would need to be applied in early June in order to be effective since it can take 4-6 weeks for a tree to translocate the chemical from soil to the leaves.

Due to impacts on pollinators, systemic insecticides should not be applied before or during the bloom period on any plant. In addition, use of many IMIDACLOPRID products (e.g. Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Insect Control) is NOT ALLOWED on LINDEN (BASSWOOD), a common host tree of Japanese beetles.Product labels contain new restrictions due to frequent misuse and impacts on pollinators.

Are there any biological controls for Japanese beetles?

No biological controls are currently available for managing adult Japanese beetles. Two products are available for biological control of Japanese beetle grubs in the soil.Neither product is 100% effective.

  • Milky spore (milky disease bacteria)isa long-term control technique that can help reduce grub populations in 2-3 years. Introduce milky spore into several spots in your yard ina grid pattern.Once in the soil, the spores will be present for many years. Milky spore requires specific temperature and moisture conditions to infect grubs, so effectiveness varies.
  • Nematodes of the Heterorhabditisstrains will attack grubs.Because soil moisture is critical for nematode survival, it can be difficult to maintain proper conditions for nematodes and avoid overwatering plants.Nematodes need to be applied every year up to three times during the grub stage.

What should I do next year to protect my trees?

Keep an eye out in mid-June for Japanese beetles. Handpick beetles off small or newly planted trees. Preventing early feeding damage can protect trees in the following weeks. If populations are too high to remove by hand, spray an insecticide labeled to control Japanese beetles on your particular tree species. Repeat, if needed, at labeled intervals.

For large established trees, help reduce stress caused by Japanese beetle feeding through good tree care practices: water trees 2-3 times per month during drought conditions, avoid wounding by mowers and weed trimmers, and, if used, keep mulch rings no deeper than 3”.

Do weather conditions impact Japanese beetle populations?

Drought conditions in July and August can lead to the death of many newly hatched grubs. During severe droughts, irrigated areas and some low-lying wet locations may be the only places that grubs survive. Harsh winter conditions can also be a limiting factor in Japanese beetle grub survival. Grubs are killed when soil temperatures reach 15°F or when soils remain near 32°F for two months, (snow cover can significantly insulate soils from frigid air). A cold winter without much snow could greatly reduce the following year’s adult beetle population.

Spring Landscape Checklist - Landscaping Services Springfield MO

Jumping Oak Gall

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Jumping Oak Gall

Tree species affected: White oak (Quercus alba) primarily, and some other white oak group species.Concerns:Leaves on entire crowns of white oak trees turning brown in late spring. In some areas, whole hillsides appear brown

Concerns: Leaves on entire crowns of white oak trees turning brown in late spring. In some areas, whole hillsides appear brown.

Description: High populations of a very tiny, native, stingless wasp (Neuroterussp.) cause pinhead-size galls (abnormal plant growths) to form on the undersides of leaves. Each round, button-like gall contains one wasp larva. Starting at the margins, brown, scorch-like areas appear on leaves where many galls are present. In more severe cases, leaves curl up, turn black, and drop early from trees. Effects of the damage become noticeable in late spring or early summer and remain visible until fall.

Most galls drop from leaves in early summer. Brown pockmarks remain where galls had been attached. Fallen galls are sometimes observed to “jump” due to vigorous movements of larvae within, much like moth larvae of “Mexican jumping beans.” This behavior allows galls to fall deeper into grass and leaf litter where they are sheltered throughout the coming winter.

Many species of gall wasps have two generations per year. It is assumed that the jumping oak gall wasp in Missouri has a similar life history with one generation lasting only a few weeks in early spring and rarely being noticed. The second generation extends from spring through the following winter and causes most of the leaf damage. Outbreaks typically last for one or two years and then fade away as natural controls reduce gall wasp numbers again.

Similar Leaf Issues:  In years with cool wet springs, fungal diseases can be abundant on trees and may also cause leaf browning. Anthracnoseis common on white oak foliage in those conditions. Botryosphaeria twig cankercauses leaves on infected small branches to wilt and turn brown, which results in “flagging” in the canopy during the summer. Typically, twig bark shrivels and turns brown where the canker occurs, near the junction with healthy tissue.

Recommendations: Galls and fungi that affect oak leaves rarely have a significant impact on tree health. Nearly all trees will recover, even if all leaves are brown. Controls are not warranted. By the time the damage is observed, any opportunity to treat has already passed for that year, and populations are likely to decline naturally. However, severe leaf damage stresses trees, particularly if most leaves on a tree are killed which results in a second flush of leaves emerging in summer. The best tactic is using good tree care practices that reduce stress (mulching, watering during drought, avoiding wounds due to lawnmowers and trimmers).



Benefits of Landscape Mulch Installation Springfield MO

Juniper Tip Blight

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Juniper Tip Blight


Juniper tip blight, a progressive dying back of twigs and branches, can be caused by one of three fungi, Phomopsis juniperovora, Kabatina juniperi, or Sclerophoma pythiophila. These diseases are devastating to young plants while plants more than five years old are less seriously damaged. In addition to many species of juniper, arborvitae, white cedar, cypress and false-cypress are also susceptible to P. juniperovora. Kabatina juniperi infects juniper species primarily, but S. pythiophila may also infect pines, Douglas-fir, and Eastern

juniperovora and/or K. juniperi infections are involved. Sclerophoma pythiophila usually doesn’t kill whole plants. Drought, freezing, dog urine, and transplant shock can cause similar dieback symptoms. However, if fungi are the cause, they will produce small gray to black fruiting bodies (up to 0.5 mm in diameter) on recently killed leaves and stems and thus aid in diagnosis of juniper tip blights.

Symptoms and Signs

Juniper Tip Blights: Phomopsis juniperovora, Kabatina juniperi, or Sclerophoma pythiophilaJuniper tip blight, a progressive dying back of twigs and branches, can be caused by one of three fungi, Phomopsis juniperovora, Kabatina juniperi, or Sclerophoma pythiophila. These diseases are devastating to young plants while plants more than five years old are less seriously damaged. In addition to many species of juniper, arborvitae, white cedar, cypress and false-cypress are also susceptible to P. juniperovora. Kabatina juniperi infects juniper species primarily, but S. pythiophila may also infect pines, Douglas-fir, and Eastern. Blight symptoms first show up on recent growth of the lower branches. Dieback begins with shoot tips, and progresses back toward the main stem . Death of the entire plant may result where P.

Disease Cycle

All three of these fungi overwinter in killed twigs and bark on the shrub or on the ground. Fruiting bodies of the fungi develop in the spring and, during wet weather, release many spores capable of causing new infections. Phomopsis juniperovora attacks young succulent shoot tips and may also enter the plant through wounds. Infections can occur throughout the summer. Kabatina juniperi attacks one year old growth in the fall, with symptoms showing up in early spring. The fungus may enter the plant throughwounds, as well. If wet weather prevails, these fungi will spread throughout the shrub in the course of a few years or less. Sclerophoma pythiophila attacks shoots weakened by winter injury.

Management Strategies

Infected twigs and branches should be pruned off about two inches back into live wood, and then prunings should be destroyed. Prune only when plants are dry, and sterilize tools between each cut by swabbing them with a solution containing 1 part rubbing alcohol and 3 parts water or use a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

Plants should be spaced so as to provide good ventilation. This will reduce high moisture conditions which favor these diseases. Water in early morning only. Wounding during transplanting and during cultivation should be avoided for similar reasons. Do not over-fertilize. Prune out diseased branch tips during dry weather, but avoid excessive shearing.

In New York State no fungicides are specifically registered for use against Sclerophoma. Kabatina may be listed on some thiophanate-methyl labels, but most of those products are restricted-use and not available for homeowner use. Most products that are available for homeowner use are specifically labeled for treating Phomopsis or more generally labeled to treat “twig blight” on Juniper. These include some products containing the active ingredients potassium bicarbonate or propiconazole. Heritage (EPA Reg. #100-1093) is also labeled for Phomopsis, but treatments should he alternated with a pesticide with a different mode of action. Some products will require the addition of a spreader-sticker and should be applied every 2 weeks throughout the growing season. Follow label directions, and be certain any formulation(s) of pesticide(s) you purchase are registered for the intended use.

Additional products may be available for commercial use. Commercial applicators should refer to the appropriate commercial pest management guidelines, or contact their local Cooperative Extension office for more information on currently registered products.

READ THE LABEL BEFORE APPLYING ANY PESTICIDE!  Changes in pesticide regulations occur constantly. All pesticides distributed, sold, and/or applied in New York State must be registered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Questions concerning the legality and/or registration status for pesticide use in New York State should be directed to the appropriate Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialist or your regional DEC office.



Oak Wilt Disease - Gabris Landscaping Springfield MO

Oak Wilt

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Oak Wilt

Tree species affected: Oaks, especially the red oak group

Concerns:Leaf discoloration and wilt, tree defoliation and death

Description: Oak Wilt is a lethal disease of oaks, especially species in the red oak group. The fungus responsible, Ceratocystis fagacearum, invades the tree, causing it to die. In Missouri, the oak wilt fungus is spread primarily when sap-feeding beetles carry oak wilt spores to fresh wounds during the early part of the growing season. Once established in a tree, oak wilt can move though root grafts connecting nearby oaks.

Symptoms and Signs: The first symptom of oak wilt in red oaks is usually browning and wilting of leaves in the upper crown in early summer (Fig. 1). White oaks often exhibit scattered branches with wilting leaves in the crown (Fig. 2). Wilted leaves display olive drab or light tan to bronze tissue starting at the margins and progressing toward the leaf base (Fig. 3). Brown or black streaking may be seen under the bark of wilted branches in both groups (Fig. 4). Rapid defoliation of red oaks can occur within two to six weeks of initial infection, and death occurs within a year. White oaks may take years to die from the infection. Under ideal conditions, oak wilt fungal mats form under the bark of dead red oaks the spring following tree death (Fig. 5), causing cracks in the bark and emitting a sweet, fermenting odor, attracting sap-feeding insects that spread the fungus. Squirrels may chew through the bark to expose these areas.

Jerral Johnson, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, 1995Fire wood Soil Line Plastic 6April 2013 Recommendation: Once a red oak tree displays extensive crown wilt symptoms, the tree will die. White oaks may survive the disease for several years with careful pruning of infected branches and good tree care. Accurate diagnosis of oak wilt is essential for appropriate treatments as other disorders can look similar. Contact your local MDC forester or see www.npdn.orgfor information on labs that can confirm oak wilt.

Two treatments can be considered to protect healthy, high-value red oak trees near infected trees: a professional arborist can inject fungicide before the trees show symptoms, or grafted roots can be killed through mechanical trenching or chemical applications. Root grafting is less common in Missouri than in some states, and is only likely to occur when oaks of the same species grow in close proximity. Fungicide application is costly, may need to be repeated every 1-3 years, and where root grafting occurs, is most effective when combined with graft disruption.

Counties confirmed with oak wilt in the last decade. The disease could be present in other areas.

Remove diseased trees after they have completely died but before the following spring when fungal mat development is possible. Removal of symptomatic trees prior to death can hasten movement of the fungus to adjacent oaks if root grafts are not first disrupted. Unseasoned firewood from infected trees can spread the disease; however, it is safe to burn, and burning destroys the fungus. Cover potentially infected firewood with 4-mil clear plastic and bury the edges with soil until the end of the following summer (Fig. 6). Landowners with oak wilt in woodlots or forests should consult their local MDC forester for appropriate treatment options.

Prevention: Avoid pruning or damaging oaks from mid-March through June. Oaks become more susceptible to the disease a couple weeks before bud break occurs in the spring. Immediately use commercial tree wound dressings, available from garden centers, on fresh wounds or storm damaged areas during the spring infection period (Fig. 7). Firewood movement should only occur locally to prevent movement of oak wilt and other invasive forest pests to new areas.

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