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Branching Out
Spring 2015


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In This Issue
Importance of Early Planting
How to Apply Mulch
Tree Myth
Featured Tree: Eastern Redbud
Tree Quote
ABC's of EAB
Celebrate Arbor Day by Planting a Tree!


The Importance of Early Planting


Our arborists are often asked when is the best time to plant trees. The answer? Right now! Early spring, right after the ground has thawed, is the optimal time to plant all trees. While many trees may be successfully planted at other times of the year, spring is best.



Why very early spring? The act of transplanting a tree causes the removal of as many as 95% of the tree's root system. Late winter and early spring are times of rapid root growth in trees. Root growth slows to a crawl once the tree has produced leaves. By planting early, you provide trees with the optimal amount of time for root recovery prior to experiencing the stresses of summer heat and drought.


How to Apply Mulch 

around a Tree


Mulching is one of the most beneficial practices you can use to care for the health of your trees. It insulates the soil and provides a buffer from harsh temperatures, improves soil fertility, retains water to keep roots moist, eliminates competition with weeds and prevents soil compaction.


However, there are right and wrong ways to spread mulch around a tree. Follow these steps to ensure that you are practicing proper mulching techniques:


  • Always use natural mulches such as wood chips, pine needles, bark, cocoa hulls, leaves or compost mixes. Organic mulches decompose and improve soil quality and fertility.
  • When planting your tree, keep a  5 ft. diameter around the tree clean of grass and weeds to make certain that your tree won't have to compete for water or nutrients. When the base of a tree is surrounded by grass and weeds, it can reduce the rate of tree growth as much as 50%.
  • Limit the depth of the mulch layer. Spread mulch 2-3 in. deep in a circle around the base of the tree. Excessive mulch can result in long-term damage to the tree roots.
  • Make sure the mulch is raked evenly, not poured in piles. Applying mulch in a volcano-shape around the tree is actually very damaging to the tree - it can reduce absorption of water, oxygen and sunlight, attract insects and small rodents and support fungal growth.
  • Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree, as this can encourage insect infestation and fungus growth as well. To be safe, leave several inches between the trunk of the tree and the mulch.
  • We recommend that you spread mulch to a diameter of at least 5-6 ft. Generally speaking, the bigger the ring of mulch, the better it is for the tree.


Tree Myth


Myth: When planting a tree, prune many shoots and branches to compensate for the root loss which occurs during transplanting.



Truth: Root regrowth actually depends upon an abundance of tree branches and leaves, so pruning before/during trans-planting is not recommended, as it will hinder root development.


There is a co-dependent relationship between tree branches and roots - both must share resources to keep the tree alive and healthy, and both are reliant on each other for growth regulation. Leaves are photosynthesizers. They use water and nutrients, which are absorbed by the roots, to convert light energy into chemical energy. Leaves produce carbohydrates and sugars (energy) that are then transported and stored in other areas of the tree. Roots convert this stored energy to stimulate regrowth of the root system.



When carbohydrates are not available due to the lack of leaves and branches on a tree, root growth and transplant recovery will slow. This is why it is imperative to minimize the removal of branches during transplanting. 



Featured Tree: Eastern Redbud



Meet the Eastern Redbud, a deciduous tree found throughout Wisconsin. If any tree is able to epitomize the true essence of springtime, it would be the Eastern Redbud. As one of the very first trees to bloom in the spring, this tree grows a stunning array of pink to reddish-purple flowers on its twigs, branches and even trunk.


As if that wasn't sweet enough, the Eastern Redbud also is sought by hummingbirds and a variety of butterflies for nectar, and by honeybees for pollen. Flowering occurs from April-June, before the leaves grow. After bloom, leaves begin growing and gradually turn dark green. The Eastern Redbud then produces clusters of flat green pods, each containing 4-10 small seeds. Seeds ripen from July-August and are often eaten by birds, squirrels and other small mammals.




A typical Eastern Redbud stands 15-30 ft. tall, spreading 15-25 ft. wide and reaches maturity in about 75 years. This tree prefers rich, moist soil and loves sunlight. You can find the Eastern Redbud throughout the lower Great Plains and eastern United States, and in Mexico and Canada as well. It's frequently used as a landscape ornamental plant, and it's not difficult to see why - this tree's showy display of vibrant springtime colors makes it stand out in any streetscape, park or yard.


Tree Quote



"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."


- Warren Buffet

Spring has Sprung!


Ken Ottman

With the coldest temperatures finally behind us, it's time to celebrate that the rejuvenated spring months and blossoming landscapes are taking form! While spring means new life, blooming flowers and warmer weather, unfortunately spring is also the time that tree-killing diseases and insect infestations are at a peak.


In this issue of Branching Out, we will focus primarily on the biggest threat to your ash trees: Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Learn about the ABC's of EAB - what it is, how to recognize it and what you can do to save your tree. You'll also find information on tree planting, root systems, mulching and Arbor Day in this issue.


We would like to thank all of our customers who took the time to participate in our survey in the last newsletter. Your feedback helps us better serve you. The survey found that what interests you most are tree care tips and seasonal advice - so read on, because this issue is full of both!




Ken Ottman, Owner, First Choice Tree Care 

The ABC's of EAB


By now, you've probably heard the fuss about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and its threat to ash trees. Since it was discovered in the U.S. in 2002, this invasive species has been killing tens of millions of trees with no sign of slowing down. In Wisconsin alone, 37 counties are under quarantine to help stop the spread of EAB. But how much more do you know about EAB? Do you know what an infected ash tree looks like? Do you know what you can do to help prevent the spread of EAB? Read on to learn the ins and outs of EAB.


What is EAB?


Emerald Ash Borer is a small metallic green beetle that feeds on the inner bark of all species of ash trees. The insect is an invasive species native to Northeast Asia and was introduced to the United States in the early 2000's. The insect has rapidly spread throughout the Lake States and is now found in 22 states. The adult insect emerges from the inner bark of ash trees any time between May and September, leaving D-shaped holes as it exists. Female beetles lay eggs underneath crevices in the bark, and as these eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the wood tissue just beneath the bark. The feeding inhibits the tree's ability to transport nutrients and water, killing the tree. Unlike other types of borers (insects that typically only feed on damaged, low vigor or dying plants), EAB attacks healthy trees as well as weakened ones. Left untreated, EAB will cause the tree to die.



How do I know if my tree is infected with EAB?


Emerald Ash Borer only attacks ash trees. Ash 

trees (Fraxinus spp.) are abundant in Wisconsin - there are an estimated 834 million ash trees in the state, making up 7% of the state's woodland trees and up to 25% of urban trees. It is easy to identify an ash tree when looking for these characteristics:


  • Compound leaves composed of 5-11 leaflets
  • Paddle-shaped seeds on female trees
  • Opposite branching (branches in pairs directly across from each other)
  • Diamond-shaped ridges in bark

To identify whether or not your ash tree has EAB, you'll need to look for these symptoms:

  • Branch dieback
  • Canopy thinning
  • Excessive sprouting
  • Woodpecker activity
  • D-shaped holes in the bark (approximately 1/8 in. wide)
  • Winding tunnels under the bark

What should I do to protect my ash tree?

You have a choice. Losing your ash tree to the borer is not your only option. There are effective treatment methods that will save nearly 100% of trees that are treated. However, untreated trees will most certainly be killed. You should make a conscious choice to save your tree or not.

Evaluate the worth of your ash tree or trees. Is your tree healthy, structurally sound and a good landscape specimen? Does the tree add value to your home or property? Does the tree have special meaning to you? Will you miss it when it's gone? If so, you should save it. Treatment, especially for larger trees, is the less expensive and more environmentally sound approach to EAB management.

However, not every ash tree is a good candidate for treatment. Consideration should be made to remove small, decayed or storm-damaged trees, or those that have other serious problems. First Choice would be happy to evaluate your situation and have our arborists give their best professional opinions on any or all of your trees.

Research has shown nearly 100% survival of ash trees when treated with Emmamectin benzoate (TREEage). Protection prior to EAB discovery is most effective; the earlier the treatment, the better chance you have of saving your trees. First Choice's TREEage treatment plan is an industry-leading protective and curative plan, and we guarantee that it will work. Call us today to learn more about your treatment options.



Celebrate Arbor Day by Planting a Tree! 


Arbor Day was started in April of 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a pioneer who had moved from Detroit to Nebraska and was disappointed with the lack of trees in his new home. To increase foliage in Nebraska, Morton proposed an annual tree-planting holiday. The first Arbor Day was a huge success with more than one million trees planted. Since then, the custom has caught on and individuals across the nation celebrate the holiday by planting and caring for trees.


In Wisconsin, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. This year, Arbor Day will take place on April 24! This Friday, tree enthusiasts across the country will celebrate by planting trees. As we approach the holiday, it's important to understand the proper technique for planting trees. Follow these instructions, courtesy of the aborists at First Choice, to ensure that your tree lasts for years and years!



Tree Selection

  • When choosing a tree, be sure to consider both your needs and the needs of the tree. Take into account factors like size, shade, color, fruiting, privacy, climate and soil conditions.
  • One of the biggest mistakes people make when planting is choosing a tree that won't fit the space available. Planting too close to the house, over septic drain fields or beneath electric lines is likely to create problems. Remember, planting a tree is a long-term commitment, so select a tree that won't outgrow the location.
  • It's also key to choose a tree that is suitable for the region and climate you are in - it will be easier to care for a tree that is already native to your area and can withstand the climate conditions.
  • The health of your tree is closely dependent on the acidity or the alkalinity of the soil. Tree species vary in their need for types of soil - some prefer acidic soil and some do better in alkaline soil. If you aren't sure of your soil's pH, have it tested.

Digging the Hole
  • Planting trees too deeply is a common mistake.
  • A tree is planted at the proper depth with the root collar (where the trunk and roots meet) is planted at the soil line or where the highest structural roots are placed just slightly (1-2 in.) below the soil surface.
  • Measure the depth of the root mass. Identify the top structural roots and measure the distance from these roots to the bottom of the root ball or container. Don't assume that these roots are at the top of the root ball.
  • Dig the hole only as deep as necessary to allow the
    transplanted tree to sit at the proper depth on undisturbed soil (to prevent the tree from settling after transplanting).
  • For all trees, dig a hole that is 1-2 ft. wider than the root system. Slope the sides of the hole to form a shallow bowl.

Planting the Tree
  • Handle the tree carefully to 
    minimize damage to the root ball. Using the proper tools (a
    hand truck helps), lift or move the tree by its root ball or container rather than by its trunk.
  • Again check the depth of the hole to make sure it is not too shallow or deep.
  • Carefully place the tree in the hole. Avoid breaking the root ball.
  • Check to make sure the tree is at the proper depth. If not, adjust the depth of the hole. 
  • Do not leave any roots exposed. 
  • Fill the hole halfway, making sure to uniformly cover the roots and eliminate any air pockets. Add water to settle the soil. Fill the remained of the hole to finished grade and again water to settle the soil.
  • Place 3-4 in. of organic mulch over the planting hole.

Water, water, water!
  • Watering the tree after planting is extremely important.
  • Either too little or too much water may kill the tree.
  • The frequency of watering depends on the type of tree, the type of soil and the weather conditions (hot and dry requires more frequent watering).
  • In most situations, watering slowly, once per week, is advised. Water should be applied so that the root area gets the equivalent of 1 in. of rainfall per week. Either very sandy soil or extremely hot/dry conditions may warrant more frequent watering.