Helpful Tips and Hints


Warm, late winter days are great to be outside.

  • Look at your trees with the leaves off to check for broken, bent, or rubbing branches.
  • Check the trunk and major limbs for any splits.
  • Early sap flow from wounds will be wet on the bark.
  • Spot a problem, call an expert that can diagnose and treat.
  • Trees are happier with mulch beneath their canopy.
  • Now is the time to plan mulching and bed work. Be careful as tree roots are close to the surface.

Mulch has many benefits.

  • Mulches are an osmotic barrier to help slow soil water evaporation.
  • Organic matter is added except for stone mulches.
  • Mulches are a weed barrier.
  • Mulches are a thermal buffer to cold and heat.
  • Organic mulches can hold moisture.
  • Mulches have an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Mulches are a buffer zone to mowers for trees that want to branch low.
  • String trimmers can be kept away from the base of trees by mulch beds.



  • · Apply 2 to 4" thick.
  • Cover to the dripline of tree if reasonable.
  • Check pH of mulch for added benefit to the plants.
  • Apply loosely for best performance.
  • Use well composted material.


  • Mound up the mulch around the trunk.
  • Smother shrubs in mulch.
  • Use materials that mat down, for example grass clippings.
  • Use hot or green material that draws nitrogen out to decompose the mulch.

    Drought Harms Your Trees

    The lack of rain showers and high temperatures is sure to create more hardships for trees. Water is required for all biological processes of plants, trees, and even people. When there is an adequate supply, water seeps down through the soil, gradually saturating each layer. Trees depend on water and moisture in the upper layers of soil - usually the top 6 to 12 inches where the root system is located. Water that seeps beneath the upper layers eventually becomes available for use by people as well water. In severe drought conditions, more water is required to keep the upper layers of soil moist.

    The first signs of water stress in large shade trees is a flagging, or wilting of foliage. It can be difficult to notice. Next the leaves become "scorched" as they gradually curl, become dry at the edges, and begin to die. Eventually, trees will drop their leaves in an attempt to "save" themselves. It is important to remember that defoliated trees are weakened, but not dead. Many of these trees will survive.

    What can we do?

    Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around trees. This conserves soil moisture and keeps soil temperature cool. Lower temperatures result in less evaporation and better conservation of water.

    Do a home soil moisture test. Remove a small amount of soil near the roots of a tree and squeeze it. If you can form a sticky ball, the soil is too wet. If it breaks like chalk, it is too dry. If your trees do need watering we are able to inject the water directly to the tree root zone 5 to 6" down. This helps the water to be below competitive grass roots.

    A light sprinkle of water may only settle the dust. In fact, if you water in too shallow a manner, the tree's roots could turn upward in a search for the lightly sprinkled water. When the soil dries, the new shallow roots will be killed more readily.

    Over-watering can be just as bad as under-watering. Do not water if there has been adequate rainfall. Let the soil get somewhat dry between watering to avoid "drowning" your trees.

    Stressed trees produce and store less carbohydrates. This "bank account" is what the tree has available for next year's growth. Feed your trees this fall. Our liquid fertilizer provides nutrients to help sustain tree growth, and water to help reduce moisture stress, water pressure helps aerate compacted soils (micropores hold water, macropores allow percolation and air penetration to the roots) and a biostimulant to help the growth of beneficial soil organisms.

    The drought has resulted in foliage, twig and root loss. A health check for your trees will enable us to recommend required pruning. Pruning removes dead wood allowing the trees to callus over the area with protective bark tissue. Dead wood that remains can be points of entry for insect and disease.

    Reprinted in part from the National Arborist Association.

    Winter is an excellent time to prune the orchard trees. There are a myriad of production pruning programs. Some can be done nicely for ornamental fruit trees. Take time now to get the soil tests done. Order your plants for spring and enjoy the winter silhouettes of your trees and shrubs.

    We will be happy to inspect your garden and advise you on the condition of your trees and shrubs and propose a program of care.


    WINTER combines extremes of temperature with severe weather that can damage your trees or shrubs. Water turned to ice and expands just as a wedge splits a piece of firewood.

    Inspect trees for cracked forks or tight "V" forks that can hold water. Internal cavities holding water can freeze solid and cause splits.

    Ice covering branches not only adds weight to the limbs but the trees also loose flexibility. Flexibility allows the tree to lessen the impact of those winter wind gusts. Over extended branches burdened with ice and hit by wind can break like glass hit with a baseball bat. Proper pruning helps to lessen the risk of breakage.

    Don't go out with a broom and beat the ice off your plants! The mechanical damage of hitting the trees or shrubs can be worse than the ice. Winter burn occurs when an excess amount of water is lost from plant tissue. A leaf or bud encased in frozen water certainly isn't going to be injured by water loss of winter burn.

    Wrapping some shrubs can be of benefit if the species or an individual plant has brittle wood. It can help avoid breakage or the small injuries that break bark and allow opportunistic fungi to invade the plant. An example is Boxwood and the fungi ovulinia. Look close, some plants "wrap" themselves. Rhododendrons curl their leaves tighter as the temperature drops. This action decreases the surface area exposed to winter winds and the inside tube of air has a higher humidity.

    White Pines can droop their needles down like closing an umbrella. The result conserves moisture and reduces needle surface exposure.

    Freeze damage is a winter problem when water in plant tissue turns to ice and cells rupture. Tender tissue that didn't harden off easily burns back. Aucuba can have even mature foliage blacken (zone 6).

    Frost splits occur in the late winter as the tree allows sap to rise too soon and a sudden cold night causes the water to turn to ice. The trunk of the younger tree looks like someone peeled the bark back. Stone fruit such as cherries are prone to this problem.

    Winter is an excellent time to prune the orchard trees. There are a myriad of production pruning programs. Some can be done nicely for ornamental fruit trees. Take time now to get the soil tests done. Order your plants for spring and enjoy the winter silhouettes of your trees and shrubs.

    Winter Stresses on Trees & Shrubs

    Winter's heavy snow and ice, as well as frozen soil conditions, can damage cherished trees and shrubs in suburban landscapes. Even areas without major snowfall experience high winds and huge fluctuations in temperatures during winter. But homeowners can lessen the adverse effects of winter weather with preventative maintenance.

    What can happen in winter, and how you can avoid it Branches of trees can break due to the excessive weight of ice or snow. Proper pruning encourages the formation of the strongest possible branches and branch attachments. When pruning along isn't enough, properly installed cables and rigid braces can add support to a weakened part of the tree.

    Winter winds cause evergreens to lose moisture from their needles. Even some deciduous trees suffer from winter drying. If water is not available as moisture is drawn from living cells, permanent damage will result. The best prevention consists of planting only hardly species in areas of prolonged exposure, watering plants adequately in the fall, and mulching to insulate the soil and roots from severe cold.

    On sunny days in winter, the tree's trunk and main limbs can warm to 15 degrees higher than the air temperature. As soon as the sun's rays stop reaching the stem, its temperature plummets, causing injury or permanent damage to the bark. The two main types of injury are known as sun scald and frost cracking. The effects of sun scald and frost cracking can be reduced by sound arboricultural practices to maintain overall health, and also by covering the trunks of young, susceptible trees with a suitable tree wrap.

    Winter is a good time to prune...

    Most skilled arborists prefer pruning when trees are dormant. With no leaves on the tree, the arborist is better able to evaluate its architecture and spot dead or diseased branches. In addition, since the ground is frozen damage to the turf underneath the tree due to falling limbs and tire tracks in negligible. This is also a good time to check trees for diseases and other damage.

    Here are some other ways to improve the health of you living landscape:
    • Aeration around trees helps improve water and air movement in the soil. This strengthens the tree's root system and reduces soil compaction.

    • When planting, choose hardy trees available in your area as they have better chances for survival in severe weather conditions. Choosing the best location and following proper planting procedures should be your highest priorities.

    • Stop fertilizing trees in early fall to allow them to prepare for winter.

    • In case of moderate storm damage, fully restoring the tree to its former health and beauty may take some time, but it generally can make a full recovery. Broken, hazardous limbs should be removed immediately. Pruning to remove broken stubs and restore the balance of the crown can be put off a little while, but shouldn't be delayed more than one growing season.

    Trees Reduce Heating Bills

    Heat is needed in homes in most parts of the country during winter. The severity of the winter increases heating bills to high amounts. Dropping oil prices are a comfort for people using oil, but electric and gas heat still produce high bills. Irrespective of the market price for fuel, homeowners can reduce their heating maintenance and usage costs by controlling the temperature around their houses.

    Good, healthy trees strategically placed around houses can create a windbreak design which will reduce the effect of wind chill. Even if the temperatures are not low, wind chill can take them way below the freezing point. Homeowners can plant trees around their houses to act as a wind barrier, thereby decreasing the use of heating appliances in the house. Optimum windbreak achieved by using trees provides both wind and snow protection.

    According to the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, the standard windbreak design should have windward rows of dense conifer trees or shrubs, interior rows of tall broadleaf trees, and leeward rows of shrubs or conifers. A very important consideration is to maximize the diversity of species. This reduces the risk of insect, disease or environmental problems and provides excellent wildlife habitat. Trees must be spaced properly, as the health of the windbreak depends on it. The wider the initial spacing, the longer will be the benefit of the windbreak. Generally a windbreak protects an area 10-15 times the size of the trees.

    In warm weather mature shade trees can block up to 90% of solar radiation, also reducing your cooling bills. Trees have value other than aesthetics. Taking care of your trees will reap numerous long term intangible benefits for you and generations to come.

    Reprinted from NAA

  • Garden State Tree & Lawn
    P.O. Box 284, Pittstown, NJ 08867
    Fax: (908) 735-8786