We live in a world where information is at our fingertips. Endless rabbit trails of useful information are sometimes only a google click or informative YouTube video away. I find that when dealing with problems there is often an easy source to track most symptoms down to. When it comes to things like tree and lawn health one can get lost in the endless sea online information and never end up discovering the answers they are looking for. Hopefully there will be some foundational knowledge here that can help you trace symptoms you might be observing in your yards this time of the year.
This time of the year I get questions like this: Why are trees in my neighborhood dying? There must be a bug killing them since so many are dying. Turns out that trees are not usually killed by pests. They are weakened by drought, soil compaction, construction around the tree or other poor growing conditions. Then the tree slowly declines until it dies. The tree can die suddenly or slowly. Usually there are many symptoms, lets go over a few.
Evidence of tree decline includes smaller leaves, dying twigs and branches, lichens (light green moss like flakes) growing on limbs and sudden death of leaves. Although pests usually do not kill trees, some pests can serve to finish off weakened trees.
One of the biggest causes of tree decline is dry soils. We might have forgotten the droughts of the previous 5 years because of all the rain we’ve been getting lately. Our trees have not. The damage caused by these droughts may finally be showing up in our trees. Trees can take 1 to 5 years to show the full effects of some stresses. Sure the rains we get help the matter but sometimes we are just seeing the delayed impacts of severe droughts from years ago.
To improve tree health, give the trees proper care and remove any stresses that you can. Proper watering is critical. Water with one inch of water whenever the soil dries out. Even in drought this should not be any more often than once every five to seven days. Do not dig under the drip line of trees or pile dirt or park on their roots.
Replace grass around trees with mulch. Be very careful when doing this not to damage the tree’s roots which are under the surface of the turf.
Over-fertilization with nitrogen can make this decline problem worse since this increases the size of the top, sometimes at the expense of the roots. Use light applications of a balanced fertilizer only if needed to increase the tree’s growth rate after other problems are fixed. Take a soil sample to see if you need to add lime to increase the soil pH.
Trees may take years to recover or they may not recover at all. For more information on shade tree decline, see our brochure online https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201031_3.PDF or get a copy at the extension office.
What pest is killing my lawn now? Lawns are coming out of winter dormancy. Unfortunately some lawns are not greening up. Since most lawns have been dormant since last fall, very few pests have been affecting them. Then why are some lawns in poor shape?
Lawns can be weakened by many factors – drought, improper mowing height and over fertilization of centipede lawns. Once the lawn is weakened, cold, dry winter weather can kill it. We call this winterkill. Another possibility is that the lawn began to die last summer and we did not notice it.
If your lawn looks dead or weak, wait until late April or early May to evaluate it. The lawn may just be slow to green up. If it is dead, find out what has caused the problem. We may be seeing some delayed effects from the drought followed by a wet year in 2020. We cannot come and look at everyone’s lawn but we do have a checklist you can use to evaluate your lawn care program.
If you are dealing with lawn or tree trouble, I hope this helps a little. Feel free to give me a call/email at firstname.lastname@example.org (Bryan County) or email@example.com (Liberty County). Enjoy your spring weather!