September 2016

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Since 1986

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The effects of drought on trees and shrubs

By André Sprague, MCA

The effect of this year's drought and high temperatures on your lawn is apparent. Our shade trees, ornamental trees and shrubs are also suffering from the long term effects from a dry growing season. Knowing how these plants will respond is the key to knowing how to help them recover as we enter the cooler growth period in the fall.

Identifying the signs of drought stress and knowing what to do

It is easy to tell when some deciduous plants are dry because the leaves wilt, if you have Hydrangea you know what wilting leaves look like. Unfortunately, all plants do not respond in such an obvious way to severely dry conditions. In fact, it's almost impossible to know the impact drought is having on shade trees and needled evergreens until it may be too late to do anything about it.
The obvious solution to dry soil conditions within your landscape is to apply water. However, hand watering is challenging if you have an extensive landscape and many trees. Add in the likelihood of watering restrictions imposed by your town and the task becomes quite daunting.
The keys to success are to identify your most valuable plants and focus your efforts on them. Develop a system for getting the water to the plants and decide on a schedule that will allow you to provide deep watering at least once per week for the plants you care about.
It has been another tough year for many trees on Cape Cod

After suffering damage from both Winter Moth and Gypsy Moth caterpillars, many trees have used much of their reserve energy to re-bud as quickly as possible so they can use their new leaves to recover from the defoliation. In some areas the trees have been defoliated two years in a row.
Unfortunately, the dry condition began just as these trees were growing new leaves and has continued into September. The result has been small stunted leaves on many of our common large shade and ornamental trees, both deciduous (such as Red and White Oak, Red and Norway Maple, Cherry, etc.) and evergreen trees (such as White/Pitch Pines, Spruce and Fir). Drought stress in previously defoliated trees will show as die back of the canopy, or complete death of the existing foliage. (as of mid-August we are seeing complete collapse of many White Oaks)
The other bi-products of drought

Extended periods of hot, dry weather can result in more than just wilted or yellow leaves. Several harmful pests have thrived in this year's drought. Along with Gypsy Moth, other less obvious insects such as Lace bugs, 
mites and aphids have had significant outbreaks due to the hot dry weather. These insects cause added stress to plants and can sometimes deliver the fatal blow on an already drought stressed plant.
The damage inflicted on your plants by insects and drought may be significant and have lasting effects for years to come. As we enter fall, the focus must shift from how we fight the drought, to how we help our plants enter the dormant season as healthy as possible and encourage strong growth come spring.
Helping plants recover

Fall fertilization: (soil drench or deep root application) If natural rainfall has returned to some level of normalcy, water stressed trees and shrubs will benefit from a boost of soil enhancing nutrients. For plants to thrive in spring they need  available nutrients and starches to store for the winter. An application of nutrients and soil enhancing products will help your high value trees and shrubs overcome the effects of drought.  
Planning ahead for the spring should include an evaluation to determine the need for foliar sprays to prevent defoliating caterpillars and other injurious insect pests. Decide if you wish to install or expand your watering system or purchase watering bags for trees.


Tree Care

Trees are a part of our landscape. And, just like any other landscape plant they require care and monitoring to ensure they are healthy and pose no risk to people or property. A certified arborist knows how to care for specimen trees and groups of tree growing within the community of plants that makes up your landscape.
Too often the care of trees is defined by one question - should a tree be removed or not. We prefer to define tree care as a broad spectrum of services designed to keep trees healthy and an asset within the landscape.

Pruning provides several benefits for your shade and ornamental trees. Large shade trees may need their canopies "cleaned" of dead limbs and dense areas of foliage. Pruning the canopy allows for better air flow within the tree, which helps mitigate the risk of damage from wind, snow and ice. Removing the dead wood eliminates overhead hazards and will reduce the constant mess around your property. Ornamental trees have the same needs.  Training the structure of the tree creates an aesthetically pleasing appearance that fits the space provided and mimics the tree's natural growth habit. Routine professional pruning will correct poor growth habits, reduce crowding, allow proper sunlight to reach turf and understory plants, and most of all, extending the life span of the tree.
Whether your concern be safety, structural clearance, or the preservation of the trees around your property our staff can help your trees become an asset to your landscape instead of a nuisance or hazard.


Sometimes tree removal is the best course of action. If the tree is compromised in some way or maybe it simply does not fit in the long term plans for your landscape. Though we are tree preservationists at heart, we are also skilled and experienced at large dangerous tree removal. If our 60' bucket truck is unable to reach the tree we will utilize progressive climbing and tree rigging techniques and tools. Trees can be dismantled in a controlled manner allowing for low risk and low impact removals.
Prune or Remove
Is there a tree you're not sure about? Let us help you decide the right course of action.  There is no charge for this consult.

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Hoxie Landscape Services, Inc
25 Jan Sebastian Drive
Sandwich, MA  02563