Be good to your trees in the summer [UPDATED]Published 8:42am Monday, June 25, 2012 Updated 1:44pm Monday, June 25, 2012
It has been an odd spring for our trees. Some apple trees that have always bloomed didn’t this year.
Their buds were frozen during that cold spell in March. Some trees have set exceptionally large crops of fruit or seeds while others are producing none.
Why? Some of them bloomed early or out of their normal sequence. Damage to their flowers depended on how far along they were in their development.
Some, like the silver maple, were already producing seeds when we had the frost.
The trees that did set huge amounts of seeds leafed out more slowly as both those things take energy from the tree.
Now, some trees have had an infestation of tent caterpillars eating their leaves. Unless the tree is totally defoliated three years in a row, it will recover although the leaves will be fewer and smaller. Unfortunately, we are looking for more of those creepy crawlers.
They are building up to a big outbreak in a few years. Last year, they defoliated about 61,000 acres in the arrowhead region.
The caterpillars develop in cycles over the course of decades according to Jana Albers, a DNR forest health specialist. (Bet you didn’t know we were paying for one of those).
The DNR has been tracking forest tent caterpillars and other tree pests for 58 years. Infestations of the caterpillars can cover as much as seven million acres.
They can eat so many leaves that they starve or their pupae are killed by predator flies. Then the cycle starts all over again. Ms. Albers thinks that a major spread northward and a big infestation is likely in the next two years.
To protect your aspen, oak and basswoods, you will need to have them sprayed in the early spring before the critters get very large.
Since the moths lay their eggs in the very tops of trees, this must be done by airplane. If you have been affected by an infestation, you know how icky it is. The frass (poop) falling from the trees like rain is bad enough but the worms crawling all over everything is really disgusting.
Another way to protect your trees is by watering them. We had a dry fall and an “open” winter with little snow.
Spring rains were great but now it is dry again and your trees will be needing water. Unless your rain gauge has had an inch of rain a week, get the hose out.
Don’t just wave it around, either. Soak the area around the drip line until the soil feels soggy. That way you will know the water has penetrated the soil down to the roots, not just the top few inches. If you need to water your garden, you need to water your trees.
Newly planted trees need a drink several times a week. Mature ones at least once, especially if it is hot. If you use a sprinkler, forget the type that shoots three feet in the air. You are not watering air. Get the kind that stays close to the ground.
It gets the water where it needs to go. Just letting the hose flow slowly works, too.
So, love your trees. Keep them as bug free as you can and keep them hydrated. They will reward you with lower electric bills by shading your house and slowing down the cold wind.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener for Otter Tail County.