Many of us are still dealing with snow on the ground while other areas have already accumulated 1 growing degree day; growing degree days are a heuristic (an efficient problem solving approach employed to find faster, imperfect, yet sufficient solutions) tool for assessing phenology (the study of plant life cycle events and how they are affected by climate, habitat and other factors). Growing degree days are basically a measure of the accumulation of heat used by horticulturalists, farmers, growers and arborists to predict plant development rates and life cycle stages such as blooming or maturity. The singular growing degree day has not had much effect on plant development, some witch hazel species have begun to bloom in southern portions of New England and willow varieties are becoming highly visible. And although no pests have yet to emerge, damage from harsh winter conditions is becoming apparent.
Evergreen species growing near sidewalks, roadways and driveways may be exhibiting stress from salt used for deicing, deciduous plants will show signs of salt damage later in the season. Excessive salt absorbed into soil will eventually cause root damage. Treatments can be applied to help mitigate stress from salt damage, make sure to have your arborist evaluate your property early in the season so any damage present can be treated quickly.
The extended extreme cold temperatures experienced over the winter were different than the fluctuations normally seen. Bright sunlight and wind in addition to the cold allowed for winter desiccation to take hold. Specially formulated fertilizer, kelp and soil enhancers may give your plants the boost they need to recover from any desiccation experienced quickly.
The weight of snow and ice on shrubs and ornamentals for the duration of the winter could have caused physical injury to plants. Do not discount small cracks or fissures, as the season dries out and becomes warmer broken branches could wilt due to receiving insufficient water and nutrients. Should any of your plants suddenly wilt in the spring carefully inspect them for damage and contact your arborist.
Unbeknownst to most, underneath the thick layer of snow small rodents, voles, have a wonderful, paradise habitat. Unfortunately, those adorable critters have been happily munching the snow covered stems and bases of your plants and shrubs. If you find browning, wilting or dying branches on any of your landscape plants, inspect the stems at ground level for missing bark or even teeth marks. While there are not currently effective repellents for voles and other rodents, damaged plants can be recovered with adequate irrigation and nutrient applications.
Sometimes after a long, damp, cold winter trees and plants may experience die back in the spring, this could be due to stem cankers caused by fungi. If you see sunken, raised or discolored areas on stems and boles contact your arborist as soon as possible, so they can determine if cankers are presence and help plan treatment. There is little that can be done preventatively for these cankers, but the healthier your plants are the more resistant they will be to disease; ensure they are adequately irrigated, treat for pests and ensure proper fertilization.
Contact your arborist to schedule your spring property evaluation and visit www.savatree.com to find more information on keeping your property healthy and treating for pests and disease.