How to Save a Dying Evergreen Tree

Evergreen pine tree with browning needles

Trees like all living things have a lifecycle. During that lifecycle, they may experience periods of growth, illness, infestation, severe weather, and a myriad of other factors that may influence their livelihood, including their age.

The team at has researched some of the leading evergreen ailments and their solutions for you to save your tree.

What Causes an Evergreen Tree to Die or Turn Brown

In order to properly treat your tree, you must first identify what is stressing it. When evergreen trees are stressed, they are not shy about showing symptoms.

The most common sign that your evergreen tree is stressed and potentially dying is the browning of a section or the entirety of the tree.

Pine tree dying with chlorosis and browning

The following will help you identify and name the cause of your tree’s decline:

Evergreen Tree Diseases

NEEDLECAST – This disease is extremely common in conifers and causes very obvious symptoms. If not dealt with, needlecast can quickly propagate and spread to other trees on your property.

SYMPTOMS – The following are the three principle signs that your evergreen is infected with needlecast:

  • Browning or chlorosis (loss or abnormal reduction of the green color of needles).
  • Severe needle drop.
  • Dieback.

Pine tree needles from conifer with needlecast

TREATMENT – Keep in mind that most available fungicides are most effective when applied to new foliage or before symptoms appear. The following will help you manage needlecast:

  • Prune away dead branches, twigs, and infected areas of the tree.
  • Remove fallen foliage and destroy it (burn it). Do not add to compost piles.
  • Apply a fungicide to the tree after removing signs of the infection.
  • Deep water the tree once per week to help it recover from the stress.

RUSTS – When the “raised blisters” of this family of fungi break open, the brightly colored orange to rusty brown spores are revealed (the disease is named after this coloration).

SYMPTOMS – Once the following symptoms are detected, immediate action should be taken to control and prevent the spreading of this disease:

  • Rust colored “powder” spread on the foliage.
  • Often brightly colored swellings or galls on twigs and branches.

TREATMENT – As previously mentioned, most available fungicides are most effective when applied to new foliage or before symptoms appear. The following will help you manage rust disease:

  • Prune away dead branches, twigs, and infected areas of the tree.
  • Remove fallen foliage and destroy it (burn it). Do not add to compost piles.
  • Apply a fungicide to the tree after removing signs of the infection.
  • Deep water the tree once per week to help it recover from the stress.

Environmental Factors

DROUGHT – Causes damage and death of the roots. When feeder roots and root hairs die, a water deficit occurs in the tree because these roots can no longer supply sufficient water to the top of the tree.

Drought also creates an environment for secondary infestations or disease.

SYMPTOMS – Drought symptoms may not manifest in a tree for as much as 2 years after it has occurred. But they include:

  • Heavy leaf or needle drop.
  • Drooping, wilting, yellowing.
  • Needles will show browning at the tips.
  • Cracks in the bark.
  • Dieback.
  • Thinning Canopy.

Evergreen conifer with chlorosis and browning

TREATMENT – There is no cure for drought, but it can be managed. By following these preventative steps, you can reduce the effects:

  • Prune back all dead or affected areas of the tree to avoid secondary infestations and disease.
  • Provide the tree with one deep watering per week, allowing water to reach down 12 to 15 inches. Several light waterings will encourage roots to grow near the surface (augmenting the problem), stick to deep watering.
  • In late fall (before the ground freezes) give the tree a final deep watering to help it avoid winter drought.
  • Mulch the area of the root spread to help the soil retain water.

Watch this video for more evergreen watering tips.

WINTER INJURY – Evergreens are particularly susceptible to winter injury. This type of injury occurs when temperatures fluctuate abnormally during the fall, winter, and spring. A warmup in the fall, a freeze in late spring, or abnormally cold winters can all have damaging effects.

SYMPTOMS – In many cases, winter injury will not be evident until mid to late spring. They include:

  • Dieback.
  • Off coloring.
  • Browning.
  • Bark splitting.
  • Heavy loss of foliage/needles.
  • Needle browning at the tip and mid section.

TREATMENT – There is no “cure” once winter injury occurs. The following will help you manage the damage:

  • Prune back all dead or affected areas of the tree to avoid secondary infestations and disease.
  • Make sure that the tree receives one deep watering per week.
  • In late fall before the ground freezes, give the tree a last deep watering to help it through the winter.
  • Provide physical protection from wind and severe winter weather. Burlap wraps function well.

Tips to Save Browning Evergreens

Saving a browning evergreen depends on how quickly the tree was diagnosed and what has caused the browning to occur. As mentioned in the treatments above, the following will help your evergreen recover if it is not already dead:

  1. Prune back all dead or affected areas of the tree to avoid secondary infestations and disease. Some cases may require extensive pruning or the removal of a portion of the tree. In this scenario, a tree professional should be called to evaluate the extent of the damage and offer direction as to which measures to take.
  2. Provide the tree with one deep watering per week in well drained soil, allowing water to reach down 12 to 15 inches. In soil with a high clay content, this interval may be every two weeks.
  3. Avoid multiple light waterings, as this will encourage roots to grow near the surface.
  4. In late fall, provide the tree with a final deep watering before the ground hardens or freezes.
  5. Mulch the area of the root spread to help the soil retain moisture. This will also help the soil retain warmth in the winter months.
  6. Verify the pH of the soil and its content. Make necessary adjustments to suit the needs of the tree species. Raise the pH using compounds with lime or limestone. Lower the pH using organic material, aluminum sulfate or sulfur will do the job as well.
  7. Fertilize only in spring and very early summer. Fertilizing in late summer or in the fall will encourage growth that will not have time to harden before winter. New growth in this manner puts unnecessary stress on the tree.
  8. Use fungicides to prevent reoccurrences of diseases. Apply only after having pruned away affected areas of the tree.
  9. Provide physical protection (especially for younger and recovering trees) during the winter season. Burlap or tree wraps work well.

If you detect that multiple evergreens are stressed and exhibiting similar symptoms, there may be a larger influence at work (including the age of your trees). If this is the case, call on a certified arborist to evaluate your entire yard or landscape.

The following video shows how fall needle drop is often confused with evergreen illness and disease. Fall needle drop is a normal process of evergreens which they will recover from.

Keeping Your Evergreen Trees Healthy

The best measure of treatment for all trees and plant life is to keep them healthy, planted in the right location, and properly watered.

For the trees you are able to recover, keep a close eye on them for secondary infections and infestations. Trees take time to heal and strengthen their defenses.

Once your trees have had problems with disease or drought, schedule an annual inspection by a certified arborist to ensure that any residual or new problems are properly addressed.


For the original version of this article visit:


Tree Health – How Roots Grow

Tree roots growing exposed on eroded hill

With the exception of the first formed roots (which respond to gravity) tree roots can grow in the ground, on the surface of the ground, in water, and in the air. Roots grow when the environment supplies nutrients, oxygen, warmth, and water. Tree roots do not have a predetermined growth pattern, they grow in an opportunistic manner when the environment is right.

A big part of caring for your tree is understanding root growth and providing the means for them to do so. Our team of arborist compiled the following information to help you keep your trees growing strong and healthy.

How Deep Are the Roots of A Tree?

The answer to this question is directly linked to the type of soil the tree is planted in and availability of water (among other factors). However, in most cases, the majority of a tree’s root system can be found within the top 18 inches of soil. When soil conditions are dry, many of those roots will grow along the surface.

Root Compaction – As the majority of roots are growing near the surface, it is vital to a tree’s health that this soil remain aerated and fertile. A common mistake on construction sites or even in landscaping projects is to run or park heavy equipment too close to trees.

This “innocent” act compacts the soil and smothers the roots. If enough roots are damaged, the tree’s health can be compromised, eventually leading to disease and death.

Tree root soil compaction equipment parked under tree

In many municipalities across the nation, tree ordinances and land disturbance ordinances are now in effect to protect the land surrounding trees during construction and landscaping projects.

Root Spread – A common misconception is that “Tree roots only grow to the tree’s drip line.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. In their never ending quest for moisture and nutrients, tree roots can grow well beyond the drip line.

An uninhibited healthy root system is able to grow into an area 5 to 7 times the surface area of the crown. Look at it this way: If the crown of a mature and healthy tree has a surface area of 100 square feet, it is quite possible that the root system is occupying a 500 square foot area. That is well beyond the drip line!

Tree Roots Above Ground – As mentioned above, when soil conditions are dry or compacted (seen often when soil has high clay content), roots will grow along the surface. Note that some trees naturally grow this way regardless of the soil quality.

These roots should be protected. Mowing over them, injuring them, shaving them down, or cutting them out puts the tree at serious risk of fungal infections, pest infestations, disease, compromised health, and potential death.

Tree Root Removal – Don’t do it. Without a deep understanding of how root removal impacts the health and stability of a tree, you are likely to severely harm or kill the tree. Any root pruning or removal should be performed by a certified arborist.

Root Associations – The Underground Neighborhood

When creating a landscape, urban forest, or yard upgrade, it is necessary for the health and longevity of your plants, trees and shrubs that varied species of each are planted into the ecosystem. Just as important is fertilization, watering, and mulching of the soil.

The proper preparation of the soil will allow the tree and plant roots to thrive and (very importantly) permits the growth of mycelia which spread and colonize those roots, eventually creating a mycorrhizal network (read more about this network here –

Mycorrhizae Network Associations – We are indeed talking about fungi. There are thousands of different fungi able to create a symbiotic relationship with the root systems of plant life. By doing so, the “infected” plant, shrub, or tree activates its chemical defense system. This alone strengthens the host’s immune system.

While the fungi receive nutrition from the host, they in turn increase the efficiency of the root system by providing a conduit between them. This conduit can transfer signals from one tree to another and assists those trees in transferring water, chemicals, and nutrients between them.

Watch this video for a further understanding of how tree roots are colonized and communicate with each other.

Shared Root Systems – Trees can naturally share root systems. As a tree’s roots grow and spread, they may come in contact with other tree roots. As they grow alongside each other and increase in size, they can grow or graft together. This act connects the two root systems becoming one larger root system.

Benefits of Grafted Root Systems – When root systems combine forces in this manner, the trees are now working in tandem to collect water and nutrients. The leaves of each tree are also photosynthesizing and sending sugars to the roots in benefit of each other. Thus, the health of the two trees is now supported as one.

Downfall of Grafted Root Systems – While there are tremendous benefits to this association, its largest deficit occurs when one of the trees becomes diseased. If the tree is unable to contain the disease, it is likely that it will spread to its roots and on to the grafted tree roots. Thus compromising the health of the other tree.

Tree Planting and Soil – For Optimized Root Growth

In order for a tree’s roots to grow strong and deep, they need soil that caters to their species. Some prefer more acidic soil while others prefer more sandy soil, and so on. Before planting a tree, find out the optimal soil composition for that species and match your soil to it.

How Much Soil Should Be Prepared – That depends on the amount of initial root growth you want. Instead of digging 1½ feet deep and treating the soil for a 3 foot wide hole (for a sapling overstory), treat the soil within a 6 foot radius of where the tree will be planted. As the tree grows, continue adjusting the soil’s pH levels to optimize root growth.

Types of Soil – Your tree’s roots will be directly impacted by the type of soil they encounter as they grow. When preparing soil for a new tree, try to match the soil to the species’ preference. This will promote healthy (and faster) root growth.

Sandy Soil – Contains loose particles which allow air to penetrate and water to run off. It does not hold moisture very well and is typically poor in nutrients.

Clay Soil – Contains compact particles which do not allow much air retention. This soil holds water very well and is generally high in nutrients.

Sandy, Clay Soil – This soil is a combination of the first two. It is able to retain air, and is dense enough to keep moisture while being nutrient rich.

Watering Your Tree – A fundamental resource for all plant life is water. In the absence of rain, your newly planted tree should receive deep watering twice a week for the first 2 to 3 months. This will naturally help the roots grow deep and strong. As the tree grows, the watering should spread wide, as the roots are extending beyond the trees canopy.

The following video addresses tree watering in dryer climates.

Trees and Their Roots

Often times, we revel at the incredible trunk, branches, and canopies of the trees around us. We forget that under our feet, the roots of those trees are constantly seeking moisture, nutrients, associations, and staving off infection and disease.

Growing healthy trees is more than pruning a branch or two every year. Your attention needs to be given as much to the soil and roots as to the trunk, branches, and leaves.


For the original version of this article visit:

Tree Pruning Purpose, Techniques, and Safety

Tree trimming and tree pruning are relatively easy tasks if you know what to look for, how to make proper cuts, and when you should call a professional tree service.

Tree pruning techniques and safety

The height, shape, and health of your trees can all be determined by the way you trim and prune them. Specifically, your tree’s health is directly affected by this process. A properly trimmed and pruned tree will thrive in its environment, while a poorly trimmed tree becomes more susceptible to disease, infestation, and fungi for the remainder of its life.

We at The Tree Care Guide have compiled a short, easy to understand list of tips to help you get this job done properly and safely.

Have A Good Reason to Prune

When it comes to pruning your trees, you should have a clear and specific objective. Just because it’s pruning season does not mean that you should just go cut your trees.

Watch this video about tree pruning tips:

Most often we prune for these three principle reasons: health, safety, or aesthetics.

Health – When a tree falls victim to an infestation, fungal infection, or dieback, the tree can sometimes be saved by pruning away the infected areas. There is no wrong time for this type of pruning, as the greater stress on the tree would be to ignore and leave it.

Whereas pruning can be a response to danger, when performed proactively it can promote and improve a tree’s health. Tree crown thinning stimulates and benefits a tree’s health by allowing more air and sunlight to reach the inner leaves and branches.

Safety – Crossed branches that rub up against or bump each other in the wind should be trimmed back. This will avoid scaring, or one of them knocking the other to the ground, creating a serious hazard.

Another safety hazard may be caused by dead, brittle, or broken branches haphazardly dropping from the tree.

Another safety concern warranting pruning is when branches obstruct your line of sight of the sidewalk or road ahead. These limbs and branches should be trimmed back, cut off, or have the canopy be raised.

Lastly, trees that have grown too close to power lines are a hazard and major cause of damage in storms or severe weather. These situations should be dealt with only by a professional tree service or the local power company.

Aesthetics – The look of a tree can be greatly enhanced and influenced through regular pruning. Be cautious though, trying to create a topiary could influence you to trim too deep, seriously damaging the tree.

Tree Pruning – Raising the Crown

Crown raising is the pruning and removal of the lowest branches of a tree.

  • Younger trees respond well to this action by developing more growth in the upper branches.
  • For older trees, be cautious. Their crown branches will be much larger, leaving larger wounds and greater potential for infection or infestation.

Raising the crown of a tree is generally performed to provide clearance for pedestrians, vehicles, or improving the line of sight for roadways and sidewalks.

Tree Pruning – Thinning the Crown

Crown thinning is the selective and careful removal of branches within the crown. This option provides great relief to trees that continuously sustain strong wind or have to carry the weight of accumulated snow and ice.

  • Prune away branches that cross or are in contact with other branches.
  • Branches should be evenly spaced, creating both symmetry and balance.
  • Improper or over thinning can leave your tree susceptible to decay and disease.

Note – Extensive crown thinning should be performed over a series of years. Removing more than a quarter of the crown at once may cripple or kill the tree.

Tree Pruning – Cleaning the Crown

Cleaning the crown is the process of removing the dead or dying branches, which is a proactive tree care approach that often produces a healthier and longer lasting tree.

Crown cleaning removes unnecessary weight, stops the spread of decay, and drastically reduces the danger of falling branches.

  • If more than half of the foliage of a branch is to be removed, remove the entire branch.
  • If you are considering removing more than a fourth of the crown due to its damage, contact a tree professional to assess the situation; there may be an underlying issue affecting the tree’s health.

Tree Pruning – Height Reduction

Properly reducing the height of a tree requires precision pruning. Irreparable damage may be done to the tree if performed improperly.

  • Know the species and growth pattern of your tree. Depending on the species, height reduction may lead to serious damage and the death of the tree.
  • Avoid “topping” the tree. Topping or cutting broadly across the top and through the main trunk can lead to the decline of the tree’s health and eventual death. In such a situation, where the height is problematic, consider removing or relocating the tree.
  • When it comes to height reduction, seek the assistance of a trained arborist or tree care professional. More often than not, this procedure (done incorrectly) will cause more problems than solutions.

Tree Pruning – Cutting Techniques

Make sure that your tools are sharp and that you are taking the proper safety precautions when using them.

  • Your cuts should be clean.
  • Avoid using tree wound paint to cover cuts. Typically the tree will react to the cut by closing it’s wound off and healing itself.
  • For larger branches that have formed a “branch bark ridge” and “collar”, cut just outside the bark ridge and collar without leaving a protruding stub.
  • If the limb or branch is smaller and has not formed a collar, cut close to the base.
  • For shortening a small branch, locate a lateral bud or an already developed lateral branch that is growing in an outward direction. Make a clean cut at a slight angle with the base of the cut a quarter of an inch past the bud or branch.

Tree pruning cutting and trimming proper cuts

If the job is questionable, extensive, or the tree is large, it should more than likely be performed by a professional tree service.

Pruning Safety and Common Sense

Now that you have a better idea of the work to be accomplished, have at it and keep these safety points in mind:

  • Always use protective eyewear, gloves, and sturdy clothing.
  • Make sure there is nothing below the crown, even the lightest branches can hurt hey person or a pet.
  • Never make a cut that leaves you in the “drop zone”.
  • Don’t make cuts that you are unsure about.
  • If the job is more extensive than originally planned, or risks compromising the stability and health of the tree, call a tree service for help.

Watch this video to see a large tree being properly and safely pruned.

Tree Pruning

Tree pruning is a technical approach to cutting a tree to shape it, provide clearance, or remove dead, disease, and damaged branches.

Always begin your pruning project with a clear vision of the results you desire, make proper cuts, and know when to stop.

When performed properly, pruning can improve the health and appearance of a tree. Conversely, an improper pruning job can damage or kill an otherwise healthy and thriving tree.

For the original version of this article visit:

Spring Tree Care Begins Before Winter Ends

Winter has arrived and from the looks of it, it is going to be a colder than usual season. While that may seem like bad news, it is a best-case scenario for the spring health of your trees. Longer-harsher winters, with periods of sustained freezes, suppress the tree pest population.

Spring tree care insecticide application

When we experience a mild or a short winter, insect and pest populations explode in numbers. Regardless of the severity of the winter season, it is important to begin tree care efforts before your deciduous trees come out of dormancy.

The end of winter is the best time to begin your pest and disease control efforts. In this article, we will discuss what to watch for, and how to take preventative measures.

Spring Tree Fungal Diseases

Among others, blight and anthracnose are fungi that spread quickly from tree to tree, and to plants if not kept in check. If the trees and plants in your landscape have experienced issues with blight and other invasive fungi, here’s how to detect, treat, and protect them before spring arrives.

Tree leaves infected with fungi

Blight – Also known as fire blight is a fungal infection which blackens the leaves and stems of trees and plants. If left unchecked from season to season, this disease can easily overrun your landscape, killing your trees and plants.

Anthracnose – When the health of deciduous trees weakens, they are susceptible to a group of destructive fungal pathogens more commonly known as anthracnose. These fungi attack the main vein of a leaf causing discoloration, leaf fall, and further decline of the tree’s health.

As winter’s average temperatures begin to rise, you can stop the spread of invasive fungi by spraying the trees and plants in your landscape with fungicides. We cover this more below and provide a link to more in-depth information.

Fungal Treatment Tips – Fungicide & Pruning

Following a thorough treatment with a fungicide, treat the same areas with an insecticide. Insecticides help prevent the spread of fungi by attacking their carriers. Likewise, killing off bugs and their eggs will naturally curb the spread of fungi.

While your trees and plants are in the dormant season, prune any and all affected areas and dispose of everything removed. Do not add them to mulch piles or compost containers, as this will provide a growth environment for the fungi.

Visit this page for more fungus prevention tips and what to lookout for.

Aphid, Scale, Beetle, and Other Insect Infestations

Insect infestations are easily mitigated when trees and plants are cared for, pruned, and inspected on a regular basis. That said, an infestation can still happen, and below are the characteristics of one of the most common culprits:

Aphids – Aphids can appear in different colors ranging from black, green, red, brown or yellow. Their bodies are pear-shaped, and they can easily be identified from other insects by their cornicles (tube-like projections positioned at the rear of the body). Many of the aphid species will secrete a grayish or white substance (known as honeydew), giving them a wooly appearance and or wax-like trait.

Tree infested with aphids colonized by ants

Some species of adult aphids have wings, enabling them to disperse to other locations in search of trees and plants to feed on. This trait, along with their naturally destructive nature makes it even more important to quickly get them under control.

Often found with an aphid infestation will be a colony of ants mingling through the infested areas. It is important to know ants are not competing with the aphids for food or killing them. The ants are in-fact caring for them and cultivating the honeydew that the aphids produce. Due to their symbiotic relationship, part of the process to remove an aphid infestation must include stopping ants from reaching the aphids.

Several aphid species can affect a single region and it is the needs of your specific landscape that will determine the right treatment. Consult an arborist for the best treatment options.

Read this page for more detailed and in-depth information regarding the signs and effects of popular diseases and insect infestations. And this article focuses solely on managing aphid infestations.

Winter Temperatures Benefit Tree Care Efforts

Late fall (as trees enter dormancy) and early winter (before sustained freezing temperatures) are the prime time to get up close with your trees and plants. This is when you should prune your trees and for signs that they were host to fungal or insect invaders.

If indeed your trees fell victim to an infestation or invasion, make sure that you are prepared to either treat your trees, or have them treated in late winter (before your trees exit dormancy).

For the original version of this article visit:

Deciduous Tree Pruning in the Dormant Season

Temperatures are beginning to plunge and winter is setting in. With the change in seasons, deciduous trees have either begun to or have completely shed their leaves, entering into dormancy.

Deciduous leafless trees in the dormant season

Dormancy is one of the most amazing natural processes by which deciduous plants, shrubs and trees shed their leaves, slow their metabolism down, and conserve energy throughout the coldest months of the year.

When is the Dormant Season

Common knowledge is that the winter months are when dormancy occurs for deciduous trees, plants, and shrubs. While there is some truth to this, the dormant season is relative to two types of dormancy:

Predictive Dormancy – This type of dormancy occurs when deciduous trees, plants, and shrubs enter dormancy before the onset of freezing temperatures or the winter season. A common trigger of predictive dormancy is the falling autumn temperatures.

Consequential Dormancy – This type of dormancy occurs when deciduous trees, plants, and shrubs enter dormancy after the onset of adverse weather or winter.

Predictive and consequential dormancy for deciduous trees

In either case, the dormant season ends when the average temperature begins to rise again and the organisms begin to bud. Typically, this occurs in the beginning weeks of spring.

Pruning During Dormancy

The time to prune your trees and shrubs is now (the beginning of dormancy) or in early spring (just before they exit dormancy). Pruning in the beginning or end of the dormant season will save trees and shrubs from unnecessary shock, helping them maintain their form and structure. With less weight to carry and more light reaching the inner branches, they will come out of dormancy flourishing in the spring.

Only emergency cutting or pruning should be performed throughout the depth of the winter months. Once winter has set in, branches and extremities get brittle and pruning will end up doing more damage than good. These are signs you may need to remove your tree

NOTE: Special attention must be given to oak and elm trees. The dormant season is the only time they should be pruned (with exception of emergency situations). Pruning, trimming or cutting during this time will help avoid the spread of Oak Wilt and Dutch Elm disease.

Deciduous tree at end of dormancy in the spring

Tree Emergencies, Severe Weather, and Preventative Tree Care

During untimely snow storms, blizzards or harsh winter weather conditions, trees are more prone to injury. In a deep freeze with heavy snow accumulation, it is not uncommon for branches or limbs to break and fall.

NOTE: Evergreen trees, shrubs and plants do not lose all of their leaves in the winter months. They do in fact lose and replenish their foliage throughout the year and depend on stored water to prevent drying out or burning during the dormant season for deciduous trees.

Scheduling a tree professional to inspect your trees as the dormant season gets under way is an excellent start to preventative maintenance. It will also help you to avoid potentially devastating accidents possibly resulting in severe property damage and even loss of life. In this sense, the importance of proper tree care and maintenance cannot be overstated.

For the original version of this article visit:

Winter Protection for Evergreens, Trees, and Plants

With winter right around the corner, it’s time to take measures to protect some of your greatest garden investments. Ornamental shrubs, young shade trees, deciduous, and evergreens will need some help to make it through harsh winter weather.

Winter yard with evergreens and deciduous trees and shrubs

Heavy snow and accumulated ice can break limbs and branches or even topple a tree all together. Evergreens can suffer bleaching from cold temperatures, winter sun and wind, and further damage can be caused to the roots, bark, and branches can be injured or killed.

As food sources become sparse in the coldest months, deer and rodents will seek out bark, foliage, buds, and twigs. If left unattended, this foraging can severely injure and possibly kill your trees, shrubs, and plants.

Don’t give up! There is hope. The following will help you lend a hand to your garden and landscape occupants throughout the harshest weather this winter may bring.

Protecting and Hydrating Tree, Plant and Shrub Roots

That’s right, it all starts with the roots. In the fall, right up to the first freeze, there are two steps you can take to ensure proper hydration and root protection. Understand that soil temperatures drop much more slowly than air temperature and that roots of most trees will begin to die if the soil reaches temperatures below 10°F.

Fall Watering – Evergreens, newly planted trees and woody plants need to be watered frequently during the fall (especially during a dry fall season). During a deep freeze (when the ground freezes) roots can no longer absorb moisture from the soil and become dependent on what they’ve stored in the fall.

Deciduous and evergreen tree and shrub watering in fall

NOTE: The primary cause of winter damage to evergreens is from dehydration. Evergreens don’t lose their foliage in the winter and will continue to transpire. If they haven’t stored sufficient water, they may suffer burning or browning of the foliage.

Thick Mulching – As previously mentioned, soil temperatures below 10°F can cause severe damage and kill the roots of most trees. While it may seem counterintuitive, moist soil is able to hold more heat than dry soil. In order to maximize root growth in the fall and minimize winter root injury, a 3 to 6 inch layer of wood chips or organic mulch should be used around your trees, plants, and shrubs.

NOTE: If you live in an area where the temperature remains at or below freezing for extended periods of time, you should mulch your trees, shrubs, and plants with 6 to 8 inches.

Visit to understand how trees survive the winter months so you can better aid them.

Severe Cold Weather Damage and Your Hardiness Zone

The health and longevity of your landscape begins with the selection of trees, shrubs, and plants appropriate for your hardiness zone. Unless kept in and protected by a microclimate, plant life that is not hardy in your hardiness zone may be severely damaged or killed during the winter months.

Your plant life sustains the most damage when pronounced temperature fluctuations occur during the fall, winter, and spring. Prolonged low temperatures in early fall and late spring will potentially cause the greatest damage, as well as “tripping up” the dormancy or “awakening periods for deciduous trees, shrubs, and plants. This damage may occur regardless of the hardiness zone location, but plant life that thrives in your zone will have a better chance at recovery.

Visit to find out which hardiness zone you are located inside.

Avoid Tree and Shrub Damage from Snow and Ice Storms

Ice and snow accumulation can get heavy enough to bend and eventually break both deciduous and evergreen branches. Evergreens like junipers and multiple leader (clump trees) like birch are highly susceptible to this type of damage.

Snow and ice accumulation on deciduous tree branches

NOTE: The proper pruning and trimming of your trees and shrubs (to eliminate multiple leaders and weak branches) will help to avoid damage caused by snow and ice accumulation.

Tying leaders together, cabling larger trees, or wrapping smaller trees is an option. Seek assistance from a tree professional, the improper application of these alternatives can cause more harm than good. These ties, wraps, and cablings must be removed in the spring to avoid girdling and return free movement to the stems and branches.

Prevent Deer, Rabbits, and Rodents from Feeding on Your Trees

Deer, rabbits, and rodents will begin to feed on foliage, twigs, and bark as their normal food sources become unattainable in the winter months. The foraging of these animals poses a great threat to the health and life of your trees, shrubs, and plants. Here are some simple solutions like trunk wrapping to keep your landscape safe from these critters and their appetites:

Wrapped deciduous fruit tree trunks in winter

Plastic Tree Guards – Putting plastic tree guards around the bottom of your trees (especially young or newly planted trees) will keep rabbits and mice from feasting on them. If you live in areas which accumulate snow, the guards should be well above the snow line. Otherwise, your efforts will be in vain.

NOTE: Once spring arrives, remove the guards. They can cause the trapping of moisture in the bark, attracting insects and possible infestation issues.

Chicken Wire Barriers – This is the best solution for rabbits. Erecting chicken wire fences/cages around your trees, shrubs, and plants will keep them out of harm’s way.

NOTE: This is a solution which can be employed at any time of the year and kept in place until the rabbit issue is properly dealt with.

Deer and Pest Repellent Spray – Applying a repellant spray to the trunks, branches, and stems of your trees is a great option, especially if you have numerous trees on your property. Repellant sprays are easy to come by at nurseries and home supply stores that have a gardening department.

NOTE: Rain will wash away most repellents. If you are experiencing a wet season in your geographic location, you will need to reapply the repellant after heavy rain storms.

Trunk Wrapping for Deer Prevention – Deer love to rub their antlers on tree trunks. That said, if you live in an area where deer graze, it is a prudent idea to wrap your most vulnerable tree trunks. Take a look at the following video for a smart and inexpensive way to wrap your tree trunks.

Is Tree Wrapping Necessary?

No – If you have chosen evergreens according to your location on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, and they’ve had time to establish their root systems, the answer is no.

Yes – For newly planted evergreens and those that are prone to dehydration and winter-burn, the answer is yes. They should be wrapped for the winter season.

NOTE: As mentioned above, dehydration occurs in evergreens because the never stop transpiring throughout the winter. Thus, if they haven’t stored enough water in the fall (or are unable to attain sufficient water in the winter), your evergreens will most likely suffer winter-burn.

For more on tree wraps, visit

Save Evergreens, Trees, and Shrubs with Preparation and Common Sense

Knowing your location on the hardiness zone map and planting accordingly is the beginning to a successful landscape. Using common sense throughout the year by properly pruning, trimming, protecting, and watering your plants, shrubs, trees, and evergreens will keep them alive and vibrant for many years.

Every winter provides a different set of challenges and every plant responds differently to those stressors. While plants, shrubs, and trees are remarkable in their ability to adapt, they often need your assistance to avoid severe damage, illness, and infestations. Consulting a local tree professional will help you decide which methods to employ to keep your landscape alive and healthy on the other side of the coldest months of the year.

For the original version of this article visit:

Trees Silently Communicate Below the Surface

Until working closely with trees, one might assume that a tree’s root system only draws moisture and nutrients for that tree. Another popular assumption is that root systems compete for space, water, and nutrients. While some of that is partly true, trees are – in fact – communicating with each other, helping each other and collaborating with other species.

Park bench among trees shrubs and grass

Before reading on, consider this: The next time you are sitting on a park bench, look around at the trees, shrubs, and plants. Know that they are not independent entities fighting for survival, space, and nutrients. Underground, they are connected and exchanging nutrients and information. They are helping each other to survive and more incredibly, they are talking to each other.

This may sound like something out of the blockbuster movie “Avatar” but, there is empirical data that fully substantiates the transfer of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, allele chemicals, hormones, and defense signals from one tree to another using a mycorrhizal network.

The Mycorrhizal Network is Made of Roots and Mycelia

Mycelia are defined as the interconnecting fibers from fungi root systems. Mycelium grows and expands, connecting itself and colonizing the root systems of trees, plants and shrubs creating a mycorrhizal network. The growth of mycelium in these networks reaches such a density that it is possible to have hundreds of kilometers of fiber under a single footstep.

This network connects all of the individual trees by their root systems in an ecosystem, trees not only of the same species but between species. Evidence of the presence of mycelia is its reproductive organs – mushrooms rocketing up through the ground.

NOTE: The benefits of this association are plentiful. One noteworthy benefit is that through this association, the roots will feed the mycelia in the form of carbohydrates. In return, the mycelia assist the roots in absorbing phosphorus, nitrates, and more importantly water.

Mycelia Promote Plant, Shrub, and Tree Growth and Health

This living network transmits signals from one tree to another and is able to assist those trees in the transferring of water, chemicals, and nutrients between them.

First Contact – When mycelia contact and colonize a root system, the tree, plant, or shrub first reacts by activating its chemical defense systems. This act alone serves to “prime” (to quicken and make more efficient) its immune system responses. Plants, shrubs, and trees become more resistant to disease by simply connecting to “the network”.

Trees Communicate & Exchange with Each Other – In a biodiverse ecosystem with evergreen and deciduous species, the trees will have very different needs throughout the seasons. Using the mycorrhizal network, trees communicate with each other and help each other obtain sufficient nutrients when they are unable to do it on their own.

A Network Alarm System – Mycorrhizae networks colonize and interconnect not only tree root systems, but those of plants and shrubs. Having such diversity gives this entangled network the ability to signal to all connected organisms when biological intruders (bacteria, aphids, etc.) are attacking. Nearby plants and trees are then able to employ their defense systems and ward off or minimize the effects of the intruder. Read this for more on pest prevention and treatment tips.

The Role of Ancient Trees – Ancient trees, known as mother trees, are repositories of information exchanged and accumulated over hundreds of years using the mycorrhizal network it is attached to. These trees are the ones that provide “an assist” to saplings by sending nutrients and defensive signals while it is at a disadvantage. In a forest, saplings race to grow in order to reach sunlight. With the help of mother trees and the mycorrhizal network, its chances of success are greatly increased.

NOTE: When trees are fatally wounded or are dying, they will “dump” their carbon into the mycorrhizal network. By doing this, the trees are sending their “information” to the community interconnected by the network. Along with this information are defense signals, inherently strengthening the connected community.

In November of 2014, Nic Fleming wrote “Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus” for BBC-Earth. In this article he discusses how mycelia interact with roots and form mycorrhizal associations.

Don’t Confuse These Mushrooms With Signs of a Troubled Tree

Mushrooms on the ground are a signal of mycelia in its reproductive state. Keep in mind that mycelia are contributing to the health of your ecosystem. Plants, shrubs and trees are all communicating and collaborating using this “natural internet”.

Mushroom indicating healthy and connected root systems

However, when mushrooms emerge and flourish on the trunk of a tree or on the base of a tree, it is time to call out a professional to examine that tree. This is one of the many signs of a troubled tree and it is a signal to take immediate action. Visit here to learn how to identify dangerous tree fungus and its warning signs.

Protecting Biodiversity, Mycelia and the Mycorrhizal Network

When planning a landscape, outdoor living space, urban forest, or yard, it is vital to the longevity of the plants, trees and shrubs that different species of each are introduced into the ecosystem. Just as important is the proper fertilization, watering, and mulching of the soil. Proper preparation of the soil allows the roots to thrive and permits the growth of mycelia, eventually creating a mycorrhizal network.

Suzanne Simard, professor of forest ecology, currently teaching at the University of British Columbia has been conducting research on this very subject for over three decades. Her findings are fundamentally changing how we look at trees and the role they play in each other’s existence. In her TED Talk from June of 2016, she presents her research and findings.

Later in September of 2016, Professor Simard sat down with Yale Environment 360 for a Q&A session titled How and Why Trees ‘Talk’ to Each Other.

Simard’s research has opened the door to a new way of thinking. We can no longer substantiate the thought that our trees, shrubs, and plants are independent beings fighting for space and nutrients. The empirical evidence that has been uncovered must be used to usher in a new way of practicing forestry, logging, and even landscaping.

Trees are connected to each other, which are in turn connected to the shrubs that are connected to the plants. Even over long distances, the communication is happening in an effort to keep the biodiverse ecosystem growing and thriving. All thanks to a fungal network.

Learn more about the fungi and biodiversity found in soil by visiting the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Soil Fungi page.

For the original version of this article visit: