1. What is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is an infectious disease Caused by the fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum which invades And disables the water-conducting system in susceptible trees…. The disease has killed more than 1 million trees in 76 Central Texas counties. Oak wilt is a serious disease that can infect many oak species. Red and pin oaks are very susceptible to the oak wilt fungus and can die within 4 to 6 weeks. White and bur oaks are susceptible, but the symptoms develop slowly. Trees can be infected by the fungus through root grafts or by sap-feeding beetles that carry spores to newly wounded trees. When a tree is infected, it tries to protect itself by producing a gummy material called tyloses which clog the water conducting vessels. Water is prevented from moving to the canopy and leaves begin to wilt. Leaves of infected oaks wilt, turn brown at the edges and fall off. The outermost ring of sapwood turns brown and appears as streaks when the bark is peeled or as a ring when the branch is cut in cross-section.
Note: Other information can be found on the internet. As of now North Texas is not a hot spot for the Oak Wilt fungus but any cuts have to be treated with a special compound.
2. What should we do with our freeze damaged shrubs and trees?
Shrubs that are damaged, mainly Indian hawthorn, wax ligustrum, pittosporum, etc. should be removed if they are dead and replaced with a hardier plant. For other plants remove the dead section (see picture) and let it grow from the roots or replace the shrub with same variety. Many palms were damaged and they should be evaluated by an arborist to see if they are to be replaced or retained. The viability of the existing crown determines this. Greg is available to do this work and can provide an estimate.
3. What inputs should not be used for lawn maintenance?
It is best not to use chemical products because they damage or kill the living organisms in the soil preventing them from feeding the plants. They also cause the ground to become hard causing erosion, low penetration of water and high nutrient pollution of waterways (by water collected by street drains). The book Lawn People, 2016, by Paul Robbins states the following:
Outdoor household fertilizer usage more than doubled just between 1994 and 1999, from 21 million households to 49 million. Between 1988 and 1989, use of outdoor insect chemicals (most of which were applied to lawns) grew by 44%. U.S. homeowners spent a total of 1.2 billion dollars just on outdoor insecticides in 1999. Lawn pesticides are applied on a scale to rival agricultural toxins, such as 22% of glyphosate and 38% of dicamba. Have you noticed a reduction of pollinators and an increase in some illnesses? From Deep Roots: Nearly 80 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients and 90 million pounds of chemical fertilizers are used on lawns annually. (2020) Americans also spread over 90 million tons of toxic pesticides and fertilizers on our lawns each year.
4. What pollution problems are caused by lawn care activities?
(From Deep Roots). Traditional lawn care is toxic and wasteful.
Nationwide, turf grass is estimated to cover over 40 million acres, an area three times larger than the amount dedicated to corn. Lawn and landscape care practices take up many resources as they rely on large amounts of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and water for landscape maintenance uses. These practices negatively affect the quality of life in our communities by degrading local waterways, polluting the air, harming pets and wildlife, contributing to climate change, and threatening human health. For these reasons, many people, municipalities, and countries are transforming their lawns, parks, and public spaces by eliminating pesticides and using other sustainable lawn and landscape care practices.
5. What are the myths about Organic and Non-Chemical Products being used?
In order to understand the value of using organics, the information noted below is from MicroLife, a firm that manufactures a line of products that has shown excellent results. In order to achieve an expanded organic program other natural products will be used in conjunction with this product. Also new methods of growing and production will be utilized in order to achieve the best regenerative results.
Destroying the Organic Myths.
Common Statement – Organics are more expensive than chemicals. False – Organic programs costs less than the chemical approach. That’s because quality Organic fertilizers are a superior food source compared to chemicals. With quality Organic fertilizers your plants are getting much more nutrition than with chemical fertilizers. That will translate into healthier plants, easier maintenance and less resources used.
Common Statement – Organics take too long to work. False – Right away quality Organics start healing and strengthening plants and soils. The longer a property stays Organic the easier it gets. If a property is converting from chemical use or is in poor health it can take additional time. We recommend that you make an agreement with your client or yourself to give an existing chemical property 3 years to de-toxicify in order to restore proper health. It’s like you deciding to run a marathon, each training day gets you stronger and stronger and by the time the race starts you will be in superior health.
Common Statement – Chemical programs produce better results than Organics. False – The scientific data compiled with three decades of extensive Organic history documents that a well put together Organic program out produces chemical programs and costs less. A word about costs. It’s not just about the immediate costs of Organic fertilizers vs chemical fertilizers but also all the other costs associated with chemical programs. The chemical approach carries many costs for which we all pay for. Just a few examples; Contamination of our fresh water supplies, destruction of our critical fisheries, direct links to major human diseases such as cancer and metal illnesses. The maintenance requirements needs to be thoughtfully put together with the future in mind. It is not just how it looks after the install but the subsequent maintenance that follows. Many projects become areas of frustration and expense instead of areas of joy because of poor design and plant selection. The goal is for our landscaped areas to be places of beauty, tranquility and low maintenance. This means using the correct plants for the site, good drainage, an efficient irrigation system and buying good quality Organic and non-chemical fertilizers, amendments and soils.
6. What book would recommend reading to learn more about microorganisms in the soil and the importance of what is happening in our soils?
There are many excellent books on the subject and one of the best is written by a farmer and soil scientist is Dirt to Soil – One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, ” by Gabe Brown, 2018. The same processes that are described in Regenerative Agriculture apply to Regenerative Landscaping.
To gain biologically access to a needed nutrient, a plant must attract specific microbes that are genetically hard wired to solubilize that particular mineral. The process is yet not fully understood, but it goes something like this: A plant sends out a chemical signal via its exudate (a substance secreted by a plant or insect) that it needs a particular nutrient, such as phosphorus, ad the microbes attuned to this signal responds accordingly. If a plant has an additional nutritional need, it generates a different signal, catching the attention of still other microbes. As you can imagine, the communication gets complicated quickly. However, the beauty is natural ecosystems have figured this out. One plant can signal for one nutrient and an adjacent plant can signal for another, and the system responds perfectly. If too much nitrogen is added later (by chemical fertilization) it can suppress this association between the microbe and the plants. The plants and microbes will use this nitrogen independent of each other thus delaying the vital association between them (as they had before). Later in the growing season, when the plant needs the microbes in order to supply critical nutrients, the plant will be unable to access them (because of the chemical fertilization). This leads to lower yields (or growth). To add to the complexity, scientists say that there are one trillion microbial species and 90% are yet to be discovered. The microbes need a payback and in natural order some of the sugars and carbohydrates that the plant makes by photosynthesis is extruded thru its roots to feed the microbes. These microbes are then eaten by organisms farther up the food chain (process called the soil web). Another interesting aspect is that the mineral Phosphorus is hard to detach from soil particles by water or plant roots. Christine Jones (Acres USA interview) states that Phosphorus is a highly reactive element. As soon as there’s any free phosphorus floating around in the soil, including whatever we may add as fertilizer, it becomes fixed. In other words, it forms a chemical bond with another element like iron or aluminum or calcium, making it unavailable to plants. But certain bacteria produce an enzyme called phosphatase that can break that bond and release the phosphorus. Once released, the phosphorus still has to be transported back to the plant, which is where mycorrhizal fungi come in. As our analytical techniques have became more sophisticated, we’ve realized that mycorrhizal fungi also transport a wide variety of other nutrients, including nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and essential trace elements such as zinc, boron, manganese, and copper. In dry times they supply water. Mycorrhizal fungi can extend quite a distance from plant roots. They form networks between plants and colonies of soil bacteria. Plants can communicate with each other via messages sent through these networks. Mycorrhizal fungi are both the highway and the Internet of the soil.
7. Why is plant biodiversity important in the natural order of things?
However isolated or independent some diversity may appear – if one takes away any out of the building block of this order – the whole system would get distorted. And it takes time – short or long depending on the nature of disturbance – to adapt to the new situation and establish a new order. When this adaptation time exceeds human scale of doing things then we face a problem. The order is not a one way process – it needs to be balanced to ensure equilibrium – and any unilateral attempt of exploitation destabilizes the system. It only makes sense that we understand them in true perspectives and make coordinated efforts to use resources in a sensible manner. The notion is not anti-development – it was rather coined as sustainable development. (Wide Canvas)
Plant biodiversity is invaluable because it balances ecosystems, protects watersheds, mitigates erosion, moderates climate, and provides shelter for animals. Threats to plant biodiversity include the increasing human population, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction. It has been found that the greater the diversity of plants in an area the healthier the soil becomes because of the added number of microbes available to feed plants and make humus. The soil forms aggregates, has less compaction and greater water holding capacity (more surface area).
8. Can one product resurrect your lawn?
Yes. Call 469-264-4663. It also reduces weed problems. Can you tell why?
We use many different products together at one time or one or two different products in each application or just one as noted above. Each property can be different because of soil conditions or type, exposure, water holding capacity, soil structure, available humates or organic matter content, bacteria/fungal ratio, water availability, weeds, etc. If needed an organic soil test can be taken at cost. There is a difference between tree companies.
9. What is meant by Regenerative Landscaping and Arboriculture?
Arboriculture is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. The science of arboriculture studies how these plants grow and respond to cultural practices and to their environment. What distinguishes one company from another is the natural cultural practices they recommend in order to insure the proper health of plants and associated organisms in your yard.
Any amount of pruning, tree work or measurement is not going to supplant Soil Health as the primary driver of optimum Tree Health. Sensibly investing in this foundation is essential to the growth and long term health of these long lived plants.
The future of Plant Health Care in arboriculture and tree crops cannot continue in the same vein as for the past century. Trees are a long lived plant with an inbuilt inertia to accommodate trauma that require specialized long term holistic management rather than the general agricultural practices usually adapted to their care. Too often the issues related to health and production are buried in the tree’s history and not obvious to the layperson – and even experienced tree specialists not asking the correct questions.
Current practices include:
- Taking soil samples and performing laboratory analyses for NPK and some basic measures such as pH
- Cutting limbs and roots to reduce the immediate impacts of overgrowth on the tree
- Spraying or injecting chemicals* to deal with pest infestations or diseases in foliage, trunk, roots or soils
Illogical cutting of limbs and chemical spraying of foliage is certainly not the long term Plant Health Care Program most people would aspire to. Certainly Greg the Arborist and Ash Tree Service is of the view that removal of plant material is a last resort and that Soil Health is the primary means of supporting these long life trees (and plants) before they die a premature and unproductive end. Greg maintains that a thorough and methodical process is needed to explore every opportunity to retain or rapidly grow these precious plants by:
- Discretely sampling soils to depth to obtain all nutrient, physical and key biological parameters in and around the rhizosphere
- Conducting a detailed history of the site going back as much as fifty years for long established trees
- Applying expert arboricultural assessment of existing trees to determine if any critical issues require immediate attention
- Adapting and modifying current management practices after review of expectations that specimen trees and landscape plants may bring to the landscape. This includes the elimination and use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
- Providing works programs that can be easily taken up by clients as they transition to more holistic and natural tree maintenance and recovery
Regenerative prioritizes soil health while simultaneously encompassing high standards for animal welfare and worker fairness. The idea is to create farm systems that work in harmony with nature to improve quality of life for every creature involved. Soil health is intrinsically linked to the total health of our food system. Soil health affects everything from plant health to human wellbeing and the future of our planet.
Regenerative Organic Arboriculture and Agriculture also offers an effective way to slow down climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. The same natural practices regenerate soil fertility, increase water retention capacity of the soil and produce soil organisms along with beneficial fungi. They do this by storing carbon under-ground in the form of organic matter and root mass which reduces the formation of carbon dioxide in the air. Biosequestration is the capture and storage of the atmospheric greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by continual or enhanced biological processes. This is aided by formation of organic matter.
A 7,000 sq. Ft. Lawn can sequester 130 pounds of carbon a year but using a gas push mower, nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers, and fertilizers manufacturing releases about 125 pounds of CO2 a year (2 applications). The chemicals can enter the body through bare skin and the air (Roundup® court cases) and can be dangerous. Greg Hunt (firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 469-264-4663.
10. What is deep root feeding of trees?
The safest and most environmentally friendly way to combat insect pressure on shrubs and trees is by Deep Root Injection – a systemic insect control. The product used for this purpose should not be harmful to people. The deep root process allows for a very successful control rate. Unlike foliar spraying, root injection dose not affect beneficial insects by direct contact in the air. One application a season is all that is required for insect control. The best way to add nutrients is to have slow release fertilizer that can be released for plant use by microorganisms living in the soil. This does not cause problems with harming the natural processes in the soil like a regular injection of chemical fertilizer would do.
11. Why is the topping of trees a harmful practice?
Topping wounds expose a tree to decay and invasion from insects and disease. Also, the loss of foliage starves the tree, which weakens the roots, reducing the tree’s structural strength. While a tree may survive topping, its life span will be significantly reduced. Topping can remove 50 to 100 percent of a tree’s leaf-bearing crown. … If a tree does not have the stored energy reserves to do so, it will be seriously weakened and may die. A stressed tree with large, open pruning wounds is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations. Proper pruning or thinning is the best way to shorten a tree. Consult an arborist.
12. What problems are there when changing from chemical use to organic/non-chemical treatments?
The best answer is to have your property inspected by an arborist that uses these types of treatments, such as Greg the Arborist. Of course it will take longer to establish proper natural soil web associations in your soil. There are products available that can begin this transformation from chemical use. There would be a faster transformation if you were not using any chemical fertilizing at all.
Please send in other questions and we will answer directly to you, in this section or in a blog.
Now let’s go to the woods and see what is happening.