January Tree Tips

Having lived in the Cary/Apex/Holly Springs area of North Carolina for the past 30 years I always think of 2 things when people talk about tree care. Big trees and small trees! We have some massive trees in this area and we have some trees that are considered Ornamentals which are meant to stay smaller and add a great accent to your landscape.

January is a great time of the year to inspect your trees. It may seem odd to inspect the trees while the leaves are off, but that is the best time to see throughout the tree without leaves blocking your sight. Now, it may be tough to see way up in the big trees and you may need the help of an arborist to identify what is safe and what should be pruned off. A good arborist will be able to identify dead or decayed branches that need to be pruned off because they will not have buds on the ends of the small limbs. You see it is actually the beginning of the new leaves that are coming on the trees in the fall that causes the leaves to drop at that time. As spring gets closer the buds continue to grow. Anytime is a good time to prune out dead or decayed branches. However, you have to be careful of when you prune out the live branches. With the mild winters that we have here in the triangle area of NC January is a great time to prune live branches. It gives the tree a little time to heal over those areas before the spring sap rises. In a way it is like we get a scab after we’ve had a cut. This allows the sap to run right past where that limb was when it starts rising in the spring. If you have ever seen a ton of sap running out of a spot on a tree where a limb was cut off it is because that area wasn’t able to heal over before the sap started running.

A good rule of thumb to consider when pruning is to remove any dead, diseased or crossover branches. Crossover branches are branches that cross over each other and rub. This rubbing will normally lead to a weak area in one of the branches and make it more susceptible to disease, insects or possibly snapping.

The most critical thing to remember when you are pruning trees is to make proper cuts or hire someone that is knowledgeable about pruning, preferably a Certified Arborist. Its hard to explain in a few words how to make a proper cut, but the thing we can tell you not to do with trees is to cut the tops off of them, (this goes for the same with Crape Myrtles!!) Topping of trees is one of the most harmful things that you can do to them. A lot of trees, especially Crape Myrtles can survive, but it weakens them and makes them more susceptible to disease and insect damage each time it is done. Just because your neighbors top their Crape Myrtles doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do!

Leap Frog Landcare is an organic based lawn, tree & shrub care company serving the Triangle area of NC, including Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay Varina, Morrisville and Raleigh. We do have a Certified Arborist on Staff.

It’s Gloomy Scale Time

It’s Gloomy Scale time!!! I have an odd admiration for that little bug that is wreaking havoc on Maple trees. Oh, I know most folks are thinking since we do treatments for Gloomy Scale that I’m excited about it because I make money off of it. No, it’s not that. Although I sure do appreciate the fact that I can make money doing it.

You see, I’ve told a lot of folks that Gloomy Scale is the little bug that put me in business. Well, rolling back the clock to about 8 years ago, what really happened is that one day I was working with a Certified Arborist. We were talking about some ways we could work together. At the time I was the Business Manager for a really good tree company that was great at removals but didn’t really do that much regarding tree health except for proper pruning. We were looking for ways to start helping people protect one of the best assets on the property which is their trees. The Certified Arborist showed me what Gloomy Scale was and at first I thought he was trying to trick me. He found little white and black dots on a tree and said this is a parasite that sucks the sugar out of the sap of Maple trees and when they multiply each female can reproduce up to 500 more!!! He told me that if a tree has only 50 females of this tiny, little bug that when each of them reproduce 500 more then that tree now has 25,000 or more Gloomy Scale that are all drinking from the tree. They keep populating the tree until it is just covered one scale on top of the other and it makes the tree trunk and limbs turn black and eventually as the infestation turns severe the tree can’t force enough sap past them to get all the way out to the ends of the limbs. So, at that point the tree starts dying from the ends of the limbs back causing a slow, ugly death. Once he showed me a few other trees and how bad they looked it was like someone turned on a light switch in my head!! This little parasite was multiplying like crazy all over the area, very few people knew about it and it was attacking one of my favorite trees!!! Wow, it became game on!!! I got really interested in tree & plant health care. I just started devouring all the info I could on the subject and that is what lead me in to starting my own business. So, each year when it becomes the appropriate time to do treatments on trees infected with Gloomy Scale I reflect back on the little bitty dot on a tree that has now led to me being in business for myself and also teaching people about how to make their landscapes healthier.