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Fall Is For Planting Shade Trees

How many of us remember growing up, lying under a shade tree with our back against the trunk, chewing on a piece of grass, reading a book or just sleeping?

In addition to great memories, trees bring beauty to all landscapes, and the right tree provides shade to your home, creating a cooling insulation from hot summer days. Evergreen or deciduous, many shade trees also have spectacular flower color, while others are better known for their foliage color or texture interest.

When planting your tree, consider how it might provide the maximum shade effect upon your home. A shade tree planted on the east side of your home will block the heat from the morning sun. Planting on the west and/or southwest side of your home shields the hot afternoon sun. And finally, a tree planted on the south side of your home can provide year-round sunblock protection. All three examples will help to keep your home cooler in the summertime.

If you select a deciduous tree, you will benefit in the winter from the opposite of the sun-shielding effect. Minus the foliage, the sun’s rays can shine through the empty branches and help you warm the inside of your home. You certainly can’t argue with that!

Along with the energy benefits, shade trees provide beauty to your landscape year-round. They offer habitats to birds, squirrels and other backyard urban creatures. Trees increase the value of our homes and the beauty of our neighborhoods. They also give back oxygen to our environment.

If you choose a deciduous tree, pick one with majestic winter form.

When you plant your shade tree, do not plant it too close to your home, patio or walls. Remember, the trees that we have mentioned all grow to heights of 30-50 feet and taller, which means they will also have a good spread and substantial root systems.

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Caring for Azaleas & other Acid Loving Plants

Caring For Azeleas and other Acid-Loving Plants



Understanding Soil pH

Soil pH can be a critical factor in your gardening success. Some plants thrive in neutral soil while other plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons prefer a more acidic environment. The difference lies in the plant’s ability to use nutrients present in the soil. For plants that prefer a more acidic soil, a critical nutrient is iron. Iron is most available in soil with a pH of around 5.5. Without iron these plants will turn yellow and suffer stunted growth.

Lowering soil pH is not difficult. In new plantings, work-in organic matter such as peat moss or compost.

For existing plantings, regular feeding with Holly-tone will keep soil at an optimum pH while providing all the major, minor, and trace nutrients plants require.

A partial list of plants preferring acidic soil includes:

Bleedingheart Blueberry
Dogwood Evergreen
Fern Fir / Gardenia Heath
Oak / Pachysandra

Gardening Interests

Care sheet
By far the most popular acid-loving plants are azalea, holly, and rhododendrons. If planted and cared for properly, these plants will delight the gardener for years. Choose plants from your local garden center that appear robust, with good green color.

When planting, a hole should be made roughly twice as large and twice as deep as the root ball. One third of the soil removed should be replaced with compost, peat moss or other good humus. To this, one cup of Holly-tone per 2-1/2 gallon bucket of soil should be added and thoroughly mixed. There should be enough of this mixture in the hole to allow the new plant to sit at the same depth it was previously growing. The soil mark on the trunk can be used as a guide. The bottom of the hole should be packed firmly to prevent later settling. Once the plant is placed in the hole and filled half full with the soil mixture, it should be packed firmly, soaked with water, and allowed to settle. After the hole is completely filled, the top two inches should be left loose for easy absorption of water. A slight depression around the plant will also help conserve water. Adding mulch will also help conserve water, slow down evaporation, and control weeds.Often, plants will be purchased in plastic containers. When removing the pot, inspect the root mass. It is not unusual for the roots to have grown in a circular pattern around the inside of the container. If this is noticed, the roots should be disturbed SLIGHTLY to encourage new growth. Simply score the outside of the root mass with a knife to break the circular pattern.

Feed azaleas, rhododendrons, and holly in the spring with Holly-tone. In general, the proper rate of application is one cup of Holly-tone per foot of branch spread. This rate should be doubled for plants over three feet wide. Do not work the plant food into the soil as these plants have surface root systems that can be disturbed by such activity. It is best to apply the Holly-tone directly to the soil prior to mulching. If this is not possible, Holly-tone can be applied on top of mulch at double the standard rate. This will compensate for the loss of nutrients in the mulch layer.A second half-strength feeding of Hollytone is recommended in late fall. This will help harden off new growth, aid in root development, and enable the roots to store food for use in early spring.

Azaleas and rhododendrons both begin to form their blooms for the next spring season in the late spring or early summer. Because of this bloom set it is critical that these plants be shaped or pruned immediately after the current year’s bloom.

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Disease Alert: Cedar Apple Rust


Disease Alert: Cedar Apple Rust

With all the rain we have had the last few days many people have come into us with samples of their junipers with a substance on the branches that looks like orange marmalade. Don’t worry, there isn’t a nut going around spreading jam on your bushes. It is a fungus disease called cedar apple rust.

Cedar apple rust got its name is because it only attacks apple trees and certain types of junipers, the most common being the eastern red cedar. It can only attack these two plants when they are in the vicinity of each other so if you have this on your junipers it means either you have a crabapple tree or apple tree in your yard or somebody in your neighborhood does.

The reason this just showed up overnight is because you probably didn’t realize that your juniper had small galls on the branches already from prior infection given to it by the apple tree. When they got soaked in the rain, they expanded to form those orange growths. It won’t do much damage to your junipers other then make them look very ugly. Control is easy. Spray your junipers and any apples in your yard with Bonide Copper Fungicide or Bonide Infuse Systemic Fungicide. Because these two plants give each other the disease, if you can stop the fungus cycle on one of them, it will prevent the other from getting it.

As always when your junipers or any plant in your yard gets a disease, please bring us in a sample for positive identification and we can help you with a remedy. You should also feed any of your shrubs with an insect or disease problem with Espoma Bio-Tone and Espoma Holly Tone. This will help strengthen them and get them back to health.



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Flowering Shrub ‘Bloomerang’ Lilac

Flowering Shrub ‘Bloomerang’ Lilac

For years the Lilac has been a staple of the American home landscape. The main drawback of this beauty was that it teased you with amazing fragrant blooms for only a few short weeks in the spring. Now, thanks to some great horticulturists at Spring Meadow, they have produced a Lilac that stays in bloom not only in the spring but also through the summer and into the fall. It’s called the ‘Bloomerang!’

The ‘Bloomerang’ Lilac has a variety of uses in the landscape. You can plant it in masses to create a hedge, use it as a single specimen plant in a perennial garden, have it in a container on your deck or patio, or just alone in your garden. The ‘Bloomerang’ starts out in heavy bloom in the spring and then resumes all summer through the fall, producing deep purple buds that are super fragrant.

Growing Tips:

Soil: This lilac prefers a well drained nutrient-rich soil. When planting, use plenty of peat moss and Bumper Crop compost.

Light: The ‘Bloomerang’ will perform best in full sun but can also handle part shade.

Bloom Time: Starts blooming in early spring and repeats all summer and through the fall.

Maintenance: The ‘Bloomerang’ is low maintenance, requiring minimal pruning after the first blooms are done. This will promote a fuller plant with better blooms through the summer.

Water: Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet. Do not plant near a downspout of the house as this may waterlog the soil.

Height and Width: The mature height is 4-5 ft. and the width is 4-5 feet, which forms a nice mounding shrub

Fertilizer: When first planting use Espoma Plant-Tone Organic Fertilizer as well as Espoma Bio-Tone soil conditioner. Follow up a few times over the growing season with more Plant-Tone and an occasional shot of Miracle-Gro.

Pests: Not much hits this shrub yet–and it is resistant to powdery mildew. Most of us think of Grandma when we see or smell Lilacs, because you know that flower was her favorite. With the new modern day ‘Bloomerang’ you can keep the nostalgia going all season long with this great flowering shrub.

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Steps to Follow When Planting Trees and Shrubs


Steps to Follow When Planting Trees and Shrubs

Most woody ornamentals are purchased as container-grown or balled-and-burlap (B&B) plants. Container plants are usually grown in a mix containing peat and bark, with either sand, vermiculite, or perlite. B&B stock are grown in a variety of field soil types with some amendments.

Plant Selection
It is important to choose the best plant for a particular site. Landscape design principles, individual plant requirements, and site analysis are all important to insure a successful planting. When evaluating a site, consider soil type, shade or full sun, available planting space, soil pH, and drainage. Plant hardiness and mature size are other important considerations.

Before planting inspect plants and identify potential problems such as root ball size too small for tree trunk diameter or shrub size, loose or broken ball of earth, drought-stressed plants, small or off-color leaves, mechanical damage or evidence of disease or insect damage.

Time of Planting
B&B plants lose 80 to 95 percent of their roots when dug from the field; therefore, it’s best to plant them in early spring before budbreak. This enables the plant to take advantage of a growth regulator that is translocated from the growing shoot tips to the roots, promoting rapid development of the root system.

Container-grown plants are best planted in warm soils during summer and fall to encourage rapid root development. The roots must grow at least one-half inch before the plant begins taking up water and nutrients. Most planting in central New Hampshire should be completed by October 1st to allow time for adequate root establishment to prevent the plant from heaving duringwinter freeze-thaw cycles.

Soil Preparation
Before planting have the soil of the planting site analyzed for pH, nutrients, texture and percentage of organic matter. (For a soil test kit, call UNH Cooperative Extension’s Family Home & Garden Education Center, 1-877-398-4769, weekdays 9 AM – 2 PM.)

The importance of pH
Unless previously amended, most New Hampshire soils are too acidic for most plants to grow well and will need to be amended with lime or wood ashes. Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and other broadleaf evergreens grow best within a pH range of 5.0 – 6.0; some needle evergreens, such as yew and arborvitae have a range of 5.5 – 6.4; and most deciduous trees and shrubs (oak being an exception) do best when the pH is 6.0 – 6.5. Ground limestone or ashes from a wood stove will raise the pH, while ground sulfur will lower it. The rate of application depends on soil test results.

Never place a complete commercial fertilizer, animal manure or fortified compost in the hole at planting time or root injury may result. If soil test indicates low phosphorus, superphosphate (0-20-0) can be used safely at planting time to promote root development. If needed, apply at the rate of one-half pound per bushel of soil removed from the planting hole.

Soil Texture
Soil texture refers to the relative percentages of sand, silt, and clay. The ideal composition is less than 55 percent coarse sand, 10 percent clay, and the remainder silt. Soil should contain no greater than 60-70 percent sand or moisture retention could be a problem. If soil contains greater than 20 percent clay, drainage and aeration could be a problem.

Topsoil buyers beware! Some vendors cut the soil with sand, raising its level to 75 percent. Soils con- taining high levels of sand are usually light in color unless wood ash has been added for a dark “rich” appearance.

Organic Matter
The organic components of the backfill may have a dramatic impact on root establishment. A B&B plant has a root ball comprised mainly of soil, while a container-grown plant is in an artificial mix of varying percentages of peat, bark, and sand or vermiculite.

Adding large amounts of organic matter is no longer recommended when planting trees and shrubs, after researchers have found a negative response when vermiculite, compost, peat, bark or other amendments are placed in the planting hole. This practice creates an abrupt interface between the root ball and the mix, a textural barrier that will inhibit expansion of the root system outside the ball.

During dry periods water will move from a coarse-textured material (peat/compost mixes) to a fine- textured material (mineral soils), resulting in a drying out of the root ball. During periods of excessive rainfall the ball may become too saturated and the roots will suffer from lack of air.

The best solution for handling backfill is to use soil dug from the planting hole. If the soil quality is poor, purchase and use loam similar in texture to the existing soil. If the existing soil is excessively sandy or contains heavy clay, the first choice is to replace the loam. The second choice is to add a small amount of an organic soil amendment to improve the soil structure. It is most common and desirable to have soil organic matter composition near 7 percent.

Planting Procedure (See Figures 1 & 2) Research conducted by a large national tree firm showed improper planting depth as the major cause of tree mortality in maintained landscapes. This is most true with balled and burlapped plants because the trunk flare and soil line are hidden beneath the burlap, making it difficult to determine the height of the ball.

Backfill, if needed, add superphosphate and lime now. 1” x 1” planting stake used for determining planting depth. Water well to drive out air pockets.

Figure 1. Planting Procedure

Remove rope and burlap entirely if root ball is intact. If root ball is loose, cut away only half of burlap. If root ball is in a wire basket, cut away and remove entire basket. Planting hole is 3 times as wide as root ball diameter.

1. Pre-plant tips

  • Do not pick up plants by their tops; the heavy weight of the soil will injure root hairs.
  • Remove plants from containers just prior to planting, so plants will not sit on the ground in the hot sun.
  •  Water plants three hours before planting.
  • Consider inoculating container-grown plants at this time with mycorrhizal fungi.

Products containing both Ecto- and Endo-mycorrhizae (bio-cocktails) help promote rapid plant establishment. The fungi have a symbiotic relationship with the plants, whereby the fungus provides phosphorus to the plant in exchange for a small amount of carbohydrates.

2. Dig a hole 3 times as wide as the root ball and as deep as the height of the ball. If the plant is balled and burlapped, loosen the burlap and feel the top of the ball for an accurate measurement. When planting a tree make sure the trunk flare remains above ground level. If planted too deep, the roots will suffer from lack of oxygen.

3. Place a tree in the planting hole with the trunk flare 1⁄2 – 1 inch above the surrounding grade to allow for some settling. Place a straight 1” x 1” stake across the hole to help determine planting depth.

  • Top of ball 1” above final grade.
  • Place unamended backfill in the hole to a the depth of the hole.
  • Place rootball directly on undisturbed soil.

4. Remove all twine, rope, and as much of the burlap as possible. Synthetic burlap or other non-degradable materials should be completely removed. If the tree ball is in a wire basket, cut away and remove the entire basket.

5. For containerized plants, inspect the planting media for roots growing in a circle. Correct this situation by freeing and spreading out the roots, roughing up the sides or cutting through the roots in several places. If left unattended the roots will continue to grow in a circle and possibly girdle the plant.

6. Stabilize the ball by placing good loam in the hole at 1⁄2 the ball depth. When needed, mix lime and superphosphate (with no additional fertilizer, manure or compost) with the backfill.

7. Stake the plant now, but only on very windy sites. Research has shown that staked trees may develop a smaller root system and decreased trunk taper. Trees should not be staked longer than one year.

8. Water the plant thoroughly until the surrounding soil is saturated to the depth of the root ball. Then allow the soil to settle.

9. Resume backfilling and tap the soil lightly to eliminate air pockets. Do not “pack” the soil too firmly. Compaction will reduce fine air spaces needed for root development.

10. When planting is completed, water the planting area deeply.

11. Place mulch to a depth of 2 to 3 inches (deeper over lighter soils and shallow over heavy soils) tapering inward, so that no mulch touches the trunk. Mulch piled up against the trunk may promote crown rot and create a favorable environment for insects. The most common mulches are pine bark, aged wood chips and pine needles.

  • Tamp soil lightly
  •  Fill hole with remaining backfill.
  •  Trunk flare kept above soil line; mulch does not contact trunk.
  •  Water deeply after planting.
  •  Spread 2” – 3” of organic mulch

Figure 2. Planting Completed

Maintenance Practices

Water is a critical factor in plant establishment. Excess or insufficient water will restrict the formation and growth of new roots. Newly planted trees and shrubs must receive adequate irrigation weekly during the first growing season. Allow water to run slowly, soaking the soil around the plant once or twice a week. Apply water at the edge of the planting site.

A slow-release fertilizer applied four weeks after planting will benefit bud formation in the fall and microorganisms feeding on the cellulose in the mulch. A general recommendation is 2 oz. 18-6-12 Osmocote per 4 sq. ft. area.

Prune only dead or injured branches the first year after planting. Roots are replaced faster when there are more leaves to produce carbohydrates and hormones.

Tree Wrapping
Tree wraps are sometimes used to protect young, thin-barked trees from sun scald and frost cracks during winter. To help prevent moisture from building up and insects from taking shelter under the plastic, remove the wrap before the buds break in early spring.

Appleton, Bonnie Lee, Ph.D., Questioning Tradition, American Nurserymen, Sept. 1, 1993. Harris, Richard W., Ph.D., Arboriculture: Integrated Management of Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Vines, 2nd ed., Regents/Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ; LCC#91-19477. Kujawski, Ronald, Ph.D., Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs, Umass Extension IPM Fact Sheet series, May, 1996.

Shigo, Alex., Ph.D., Modern Arboriculture, National Arbor Day Foundation Bulletin No. 19, 4 Denbow Road, Durham, NH 03824

Whitcomb, Carl E., Ph.D., Establishment and Maintenance of Landscape Plants, Lacebark, Inc., Stillwater, OK: LCC#87-50632.

This fact sheet was modified from “Recommendation for Planting and Maintaining Trees and Shrubs,” by Deborah Swanson, Extension Educator, UMass, Landscape, Nursery, Urban Forestry Program. Adapted by David Seavey, Extension Educator, Agricultural Resources; updated 11/00 Illustrations by Karen Holman, UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener.

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Want a Burst of Spring Color?


After a long, cold winter, a splash of vibrant color is just what your yard needs. Embrace spring time and consider these popular Flowering Cherries. These trees produce a range of colors from bright white to deep pink and crimson leaves. Adding these rich colors to your landscape are the best way to welcome Spring with open arms—or open leaves that is.

3 Popular Flowering Cherry Trees — there’s no wrong choice

Kwanzan Cherry – The Kwanzan cherry has double pink flowers and a vase-shaped form that spreads with age, making the tree wider than it is tall at maturity.

Weeping Cherry – The tree droops towards the ground and has abundant dark pink flowers. When the flowers fall, they look like a blanket of snow.

Yoshino Cherry – Fragrant, white-pink flowers with glossy bark and dark-green leaves. In 1912, the Japanese government gave the U.S three thousand Yoshino cherry trees. This gift was the beginning of the now famous National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

Planning, Planting & Ensuring Success

Flowering Cherries are good for defining property lines, borders and as a focal point in your yard or landscape design. However, you must choose your site carefully. Mature trees can grow to a height of 20 feet. They require full sun and well-drained fertile soils. Be sure to add Espoma Bio-tone Starter Plus at time of planting to improve growth and transplant survival. You can improve heavy clay or sandy soils by adding Bumper Crop Compost. Feed your established trees with Espoma Tree-tone.