Q: I have two live oak trees in my front yard that were planted at the same time, but I have two very different outcomes. In the past five years, one has grown vigorously and one's grown slowly. I feed both trees your tree and shrub fertilizer, and water them occasionally during the summer, although I watered them more carefully the first two years. The only other watering they get is the lawn sprinkler, but the good tree seems to love it - it's four feet wider and looks better than the other one. Any ideas?
A: The first thing I would check for would be the depth of planting, as the usual culprit is being planted too deeply. Trees won't immediately die from this - they may not ever die - but it prevents the tree from getting sufficient air to the root system to perform their best. Think of it as if you were trying to breathe with a forty-pound shirt on, day and night. You can, but it's really not comfortable, and a very bad idea if you get a chest cold.
The thing to look for is the root flare - the point which the tree's trunk begins to noticeably flare out and widen. This should be at ground level, without any soil on top of it at all. If your tree's trunk is like a fire pole (straight up and down) instead of a gradually flaring base, it's too deep. Folks wanting to put a ring of flowers around their trees often build excess soil up around their trees in the same way, and you should avoid doing this.
Remove whatever soil you must until you find the root flare. It's there, just hidden by mulch and soil. Don't worry about cutting small roots on the way, just leave major roots undisturbed unless they're wrapping around the base - at which case, you remove those cleanly, too. Apply a two inch depth of mulch once you're done, and keep every other thing you're doing with your maintenance the same. The tree won't perk up overnight, but should start growing better this fall and much better this next spring.
Area Lawn Service for Fert & Weed Control
GroGreen is a company out of Plano that services several yards here in Stonegate and residents have postivie feedback about their services and the results. The cost comparison for the products to do your own yard yourself properly with 3 to 4 ferts a yr plus the 3 to 4 pre-emergent applications and possible post weed killer products can be in a cost range of $130 to $160. The yearly cost of the minimal 6 application schedule offered by GroGreen of fertilizations and weed control with guaranteed results is around $300/yr for the typical sq footage of a Stonegate yard. Some homeowners find this savings of their time worth it for a healthy lawn with practically no weeds. Company number is listed under our Recommended Vendor list.
Know Before You Grow!
Just because a plant/tree is available at a local nursery or box store doesn't mean it is the proper plant for our area. Do your research before making an investment especially for trees and shrubs. It is not unusual to be sold a certain type of oak tree that is mislabeled. Your better success can be had at smaller independent nurseries but even that can be iffy at times. If you want to try to get the best advice ask to speak to a Master Certified Nurseryman. Go into the nursery on a week day when business is slower.
Remember, any new plantings may be watered every day for a total of 30 days without risk of fines as long as not between the hours of 10am & 6pm. Keep your receipt for proof of purchase date.
Best Broadleaf Weedkiller
The best chemical for getting rid of broadleaf
weeds after they have sprung up is 2,4-D. It is difficult to find in it's pure form at box stores or some nurseries. One place you can find it is at Collin County Feed Store just past downtown at 113 S Chestnut St, ph. (972) 542-5011
. A 32 oz. bottle is $12 and will last for a long time if kept from temperature extremes. The product is diluted with water and used in a hand sprayer if spot treatment is what is needed. Other application methods if trying to get rid of poison ivy or hackberry growth is by painting onto plant with a foam brush (wearing gloves). Apply in warm weather when weeds are actively growing on non-windy days. Other desirable broadleaf plants need to be protected from exposure. You might call ahead to make sure it is in stock, they run out and have to restock this time of year. Unfortunately after taking MSMA off the market, there is not a good post-emergent weedkiller for grassy weeds. Hand pulling or pre-emergents are the best method for these. A glyphosate herbicide (Round Up) can be used for spot treatment but leaves a kill spot since grass is effected as well.
Q: I have a fifteen year old live oak (answer below fits for any type tree) out front and I think the roots of the tree and my weeds are killing my lawn around it - there's roots showing, and it does have some weeds in the muddy area around. It's worse between my tree and the house, as that area's almost completely bare. Should I put fresh Bermuda seed or do I need to sod around the tree to get my grass to look good again?
A: Trees as they mature start to put out a substantial tree canopy, and live oaks put out an especially thick one. Very little light gets down to soil level and this will cause your grass to gradually disappear. Bermuda needs at least five hours of direct sun to thrive, with more being better! This is simply a light issue, and there's only so much you can do to get more light on the ground.
Start by having a good tree service limb up and open up the canopy of your tree to allow better light on the situation - it's not hard to keep up with the tree's pruning yourself later, but have someone who really knows how do it the first time to show you if you don't know how. This will allow better light on the edges of the area, and allow grass to thrive closer to the tree's trunk.
Probably the best answer is to make a change from lawn to an area where you grow shade perennials, shade-loving ground covers, or shade-tolerant shrubs. Extend the flowerbed from the house's bed to include the grass-less area (as your lawn was basically gone all the way to your house's flowerbed edge), and look at it as an opportunity to freshen up the area and do something different. Put a hard border of whatever type you use on the rest of your beds to give the perimeter of the new bed definition and visual separation from the lawn.
Landscapes are never "done". They're a process, one anyone who's reading this probably loves as much as we do, and there's always something changing as your plants mature. Enjoy it!
Garden Tip from Neil Sperry: When I mix my own potting soil to use in my greenhouse, it consists of 50 percent highest quality Canadian sphagnum peat moss, 30 percent finely ground pine bark mulch, 15 percent horticultural grade perlite and 5 percent expanded shale. If it's for my succulents, I'll drop the pine bark mulch to 20 percent and up the expanded shale to 15 percent. Commercial potting soils I see in garden centers are often too "heavy," meaning that they may retain water at the expense of oxygen the roots need so badly.