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David Brogan Horticultural Services 

Serving Southeastern MA, 508-444-0079, [email protected]

Large Tree Rejuvenation

Diagnosis and remediation


Diagnosing pathogens

After the winter, it is usually obvious which areas of the garden need attention, which plants are struggling. Often the problem is the soil, but sometimes it is the wind exposure which is a dynamic of how the wind is funneled around and through the property. Most of our plants will take much wind if the soil is good and deep, allowing deep root penetration. Plants need to stay hydrated even in the winter. Since the surface is often frozen it is the deep roots that need to sustain them. There is much that can be said here but suffice it to say there are cures to just about every problem.

Diagnosing the soil

Once a visual inspection has been made and soil tests done, if necessary, then comes the process of working the necessary amendments into the soil and removing any large rocks. This process is key to a successful garden. The loss of a few lateral roots on any problem plants will spur them on to new growth. The new roots find the amended fertile soil and usually begin to grow with renewed vigor. Depending on the garden and the plant density, meaning how much is demanded of the soil, this process is repeated as necessary.

Mulching

Once the areas are worked, they are carefully graded, with consideration given to how much the soil will settle over time. Plants are then fertilized and mulched with two inches of bark mulch or whatever is decided is appropriate for the site. This mulch then is usually not disturbed the second year but is given a light top dressing.

Fertilization

Proper fertilization is very important. Our native soils are not especially fertile and the amount of rain we get tends to wash the nutrients through the soil too quickly. The answer I have found to this problem is the use of Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer. This brand of fertilizer is made from seaweed and hydrolyzed fish entrails and carcasses left over from fish processing plants in Gloucester. The process they use here is extremely important. The oils are maintained and not lost and are available for plants to take up. It is these oils that make all the difference. The oils stick to the soil and are not washed away. The oils contain many more nutrients and amino acids then organic fertilizers made from composted manure. Also, this fertilizer is not made from rotted fish but from fresh fish so it does not have a rotted fish smell. By injecting it into the soil it is immediately placed in the root zone and is taken up by the subject plant. There is less opportunity for non-subject plants to steal the nutrients intended for the garden.


The tissues that plants are then able to grow are very high quality and naturally resist insects and disease. Just like humans whose immune systems' are bolstered by eating whole fruits and vegetables, the plant's immune system is maximized by this fertilizer which uses whole organisms.

Tree & Shrub Root Inspections

Suspect shrubs and trees should have a root crown inspection. Several inches of soil is removed from around the trunk or stem and a visual inspection is made to ensure the roots are growing properly and that no roots are encircling or girdling that trunk. a girdling root will severely restrict the circulation within the tree, causing decline.

Mulch should not be placed against the trunks of trees or the stems of shrubs and perennials. One way to avoid this common problem is to plant them an inch or so higher than the recommended depth, and then water carefully because they will tend to dry out faster. Another common reason plants end up too deep is from the soil settling beneath the root ball. In my experience, most new plantings have problems related to plant depth.  

Above, a

Chinese (Kousa) Dogwood that was originally planted at the proper depth. However, their gardener has a habit of spreading composted cow manure, a fine product, over the top every fall in order to help the ground cover, Vinca Minor. The Vinca is doing beautifully but the Dogwoods they are planted under all have developed die back and cankers in the branches. When I was called in, a quick root crown inspection revealed girdling roots choking the trunks. Girdling roots are often a problem in trees planted too deeply and trees and shrubs growing in ground cover. Once these are carefully removed plants often recover quickly.

New Planting

A few well placed perennials can really brighten a property and by mid to late May the garden centers have the new perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees in. This is the time to plant them according to the plans that have been drawn over the Winter. Planting is a more delicate operation than many understand. Preparations for soil and water must be made in advance to avoid surprises. Soil tests are invaluable in this respect. The grade around each plant, especially the small ones, is important to ensure proper root growth and water distribution.

Plantings should be completed by early to . Our Cape Cod summers are generally rather mild and in truth, many throughout the summer with no problem. It is just that water can be a bit tricky so more attention has to be paid to the planting. Too much water can be as much of a problem as too little.

Trimming and Pruning

We are expert at the pruning and trimming of trees and shrubs of every kind. This is done the old fashioned way, with hand pruners and saw. Consideration is given to each species as to how it is cut. It is important to trim each species in a manner consistent with it's growth habits. Gardens can quickly loose their individuality when all plants are trimmed identically. Hedges I generally sheer and then go over a second time with hand pruners to remove the stubs that sheers create. Because I know the problems associated with each species, I am able to avoid pitfalls and protect your valuable plants.

Late Summer Fertilization

By late Summer plants have grown to their potential and have used their nutrient reserves. Now they need to harden off the new growth with quality tissue that will withstand our cold windy Winter. Deep Root Injection of Neptune's Harvest organic fertilizer provides for a plant's needs without the excess nitrogen that will cause new growth. commercial fertilizers do not provide a complete food and the tissue built from them is prone to disease and Winter damage.  

Fall Clean-up

Fall clean-up is to an extent. Because the leaves fall over an extended period it is usually necessary to make more than one visit to maintain a neat appearance. This is determined based on each needs. In natural areas, where appropriate, I like to mulch down the leaves so they do not blow and compost faster. It is important to provide organic matter to the soil on a continual basis.

All photos are the property of David Brogan and Second Nature.