Why Healthy Trees Are Important

Why are healthy trees important?

  • Spending time in a beautiful, healthy yard can helpProper tree care
    you relax and feel renewed.
  • Plant foliage captures dust and other pollutants,
    cleaning the air we breathe.
  • Trees placed on the south and west sides of your house
    can reduce air conditioning costs by 10-15%.
  • Property values can be 5-20% higher for landscaped homes.
  • Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen,
    renewing our air supply.

Maintaining Tree Health

  • Trees require a strong, healthy root system in order to maintain
    vigor and resistance to stress.
  • A strong root system can be achieved by following proper
    watering guidelines, mulching, and maintaining a healthy,
    balanced soil.
  • Nutrient availability and abundant soil microbes are keys
    to healthy, balanced soil.
  • Nutrients can be applied by injecting organic fertilizer into
    the root zones of trees putting nutrients right where they are
    needed .
  • It is important to avoid synthetic chemical fertilizers as they
    are harmful to soil organisms and can pollute groundwater.

Proper Tree Planting

  • An ideal size for a planing hole is about 3 times the diameter
    of the root mass
  • Measure the distance from the bottom of the root mass to
    the root flare of the tree. This should be the depth of the
    planing hole.
  • Slope the sides of the planting hole to encourage the roots
    to grow out from the base of the tree.
  • Place the tree in the hole and make sure it is straight
    before backfilling and remove any wood, burlap, or wire.
  • Fill in the hole with about 1/3 of the backfill and pack it
    next the the roots to support the tree.
  • Continue filling the hole with soil while wetting with water
    to avoid trapped air pockets.
  • Stake the tree if necessary and remove the stakes after one
    growing season.

  • Follow mulching guidelines for applying mulch.
  • An application of compost tea at this time is extremely beneficial.

Proper Mulching Technique

  • Applying a 2″-4″ layer of organic mulch imitates the soil
    conditions in a natural environment and will improve
    plant health.
  • Organic mulch will conserve moisture, regulate soil
    temperatures, and provide a healthy environment for
    beneficial soil microbes.
  • Recommended mulches include bark, pine needles,
    cocoa shells, wood chips, and compost.
  • Mulch should be kept about 2-6″ away from the trunks of
    trees and should be at least 6 times the diameter of the tree;
    ideally out to the drip line of the tree.
  • It is important that the mulch layer not exceed 4″ thick
    and be kept away from the trunk as this will create conditions
    that favor tree diseases and pests.
  • There is no need to worry about the mulch attracting harmful
    insects. Generally, any insects living in the mulch are beneficial
    or benign.
  • The mulch will have to be replenished at least once a year.
  • All landscape plants will benefit from mulching.
  • This website has a detailed description for how to apply mulch.

Proper Tree Pruning

  • Most trees can be pruned at any time of the year
    although pruning in summer can cause added
  • The three cut method should be used for any cuts
    requiring the use of a saw.
  • Branches should be pruned at the branch collar.
  • Plan your cuts with the shape of the tree in mind.
  • Start by pruning any dead, dying, diseased, dangerous,
    or damaged branches.
  • No more than 25% of the foliage should be removed
    at any time. Older trees and citrus cannot even handle this
    amount of foliage loss.
  • Topping and Lion’s Tailing should be avoided. This
    type of pruning is EXTREMELY damaging to the tree.
  • Wound dressings and trunk paint should NOT be used
    as they actually create ideal conditions for disease and
    interfere with the tree’s natural defenses.
  • Contact a Certified Arborist for any pruning that requires
    leaving the ground or that you do not feel comfortable attempting.
    These professionals have passed rigorous exams and will
    provide the best possible care for your trees. Ask for
    photos of work their company has done.

The Basics on Soil, Roots and Names

The Dirt on Soil

Soil is the stuff our plants grow in. The fact is, it is the substance upon which civilization and life upon earth depends upon. Just a few inches thick, the dirt upon which we depend has evolved over time, and the plants which grow in it have evolved as well.

Soil types vary as to geographic location, but all soils have some things in common. The basic building block of all soils is rock. Bedrock, exposed to the weather, has weathered by being exposed to rain, snow, heat, cold and other forces of nature. The rock breaks down over time, forming soil. The time required for soil to form from bedrock can vary greatly, depending upon the geographic location. In warm areas soils will form more quickly than cold areas.

Most soil is basically composed of various substances. These will be large pebbles, dead twigs, roots, leaves, varying grades of sand, silt, humus and clay. The percentages of these substances will vary based upon location, but if you were to dig a shovel full of soil up and examine it, this is basically what you will find. Soils are classed by the percentages of these components which make it up.

An average garden soil might be composed of forty five percent minerals, five percent organic matter (humus), twenty five percent air and twenty five percent water. You will also find several different types of plants and animals which thrive in dirt. Earthworms, grubs, fungi, bacteria, protozoa and other life forms spend their entire lives living in the soil. Many, if not most, are beneficial. Earthworms and many of the fungi and bacteria feast on fresh organic material and convert it into castings which are rich in minerals and trace elements.

Perennial flowers enjoy a wide range of soil types. Some like wet dirt, some dry. The fact is, most like soil types somewhere in between these two extremes. Each article on flowers which follows will contain information about the type of soil it likes.

Anatomy of the Root

Most plant roots are composed of five main areas. These parts of the roots are the root tip, epidermis, cortex, xylem and phloem.
The root cap is located at the very tip of the root. It is a thimble shaped structure which serves to protect the root tip, or apical meristem, which is composed of almost continuously growing cells.

The epidermis is the skin of the root, composing its outermost surface. It is a single cell thick in most plants and it serves two functions, to protect the tissues within the root and to allow minerals and water to pass through. Microscopic root hairs grow outward from some of the cells of the epidermis, greatly expanding the surface area of the root and increasing the amount of minerals and roots which may be taken in.

The next layer of the anatomy of a root is the cortex. The cortex is made up of parenchyma cells and the endodermis. Parenchyma cells mostly serve as storage structures and these are where excess food produced in the plant’s leaves are stored for future use. The endodermis is the innermost layer of the cortex. A waxy substance called the Casparian strip surrounds each cell, forcing minerals to pass through the cells of the endodermis by a process called osmosis, and not around them. This limits the amount of minerals and water passing into the cortex.
The vascular cylinder is the innermost layer of the plant root. It is composed of two structures, the xylem and the phloem. Both layers are composed of tube shaped cells and both have similar functions, the transportation of materials from one area of the plant to another. The xylem is composed of dead, tubular cells called veins, whose purpose is to transport minerals and waters to the stem and then on to the leaves, sort of like a pipe system within the plant root. The cells of the phloem are living cells, also tubular in shape and referred to as sieve tubes. The phloem also acts like a pipeline system, moving food manufactured in the leaves to either be used or stored in the cortex for future use.

The way the system functions is simple in concept. The root hairs take in water and minerals and pass it into the cortex. Pressure builds up, forcing them through the endodermis and into the phloem and from there up into the stem and outward to the leaves.

Scientific and Botanical Plant Names

Scientific, or botanical, names for plants might seem intimidating to the average gardener. Botanic names are expressed in Latin, or Latinized versions, of words and are used to classify plants in a logical order which tells us where the plant belongs in the vast Plant Kingdom. Common names of plants may change from locality to locality but the botanical name remains the same for plants all over the world. This eliminates confusion if you know the botanical name for the plant you are looking for.

The system of botanical names was devised by Carl Linnaeus, who lived between 1707 and 1778. During his lifetime there were many new plant species being discovered in the Americas and all over the world. He published the first edition of his Systema Naturae in 1735. It is Scientific names and gardeningworth noting that Linnaeus devised a scientific system for naming both plants and animals, but his primary love was of plants and gardening.

A gardener need not learn Latin to utilize the knowledge contained within the botanical name of a plant. But it does help the gardener to know the basics of the scientific naming system that Linneaus devised. Plants are classified according to criteria laid down by this system. The basic system is this – Plant Kingdom/phylum/class/family/genus/species. There are also subkingdoms, subphylums, subfamilies and the like. The only portion of the botanical name which should concern most gardeners is the genus/species portion of the botanical name, because this is the portion which may appear on those little labels you find at the garden center. Most of the plants in this guide will have the genus species name, as well as the family it belongs to. If the plant is a hybrid or variety that designation will follow the species name.
A popular garden perennial, the New England Aster, will be called Aster novae-angliae, Family Compositae or Daisy. Note that the genus name is always capitalized, the species name is lower case. A hybrid will be designated by an “X” after the species name. A specific variety will have it’s name preceded by the letters “var” after the species name. A serious gardener should arm themselves with a good plant name dictionary or even a copy of Hortus Third because the botanical names of the various plants are described in these guides.

Organic Landscape Care is Better for Your Health

Children Exposed to Synthetic Chemical Fertilizers
and Pesticides are at Risk

  • Children are significantly at risk from many lawn and
    garden chemicals. Children & Pesticides
  • It is yet unknown exactly how prolonged exposure
    to some of the inert ingredients affects human health.
  • A developing child’s body is not tolerant of the same
    amount of exposure to chemicals as an adult.
  • “Parents can make a big difference in their homes. They have the power over the decision whether or not to use chemicals.” – Dr. Philip Landrigan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

  • Is it really worth the risk when you have alternatives?

Chemically Treated Lawns Increased Cancer in Pets

Your Plants on Drugs

  • Chemical fertilizers are like drugs for your plants.
  • Plants respond to them by getting “high” and growing
  • But it leaves the root systems weakened and ever
    increasing amounts are often needed to get the same
    results as time goes on.
  • The flush of growth comes at the expense of resistance
    to pest insects and diseases.
  • This creates a need for harmful pesticides and fungicides
    in a never ending and expensive cycle.
  • This is good for the chemical companies who like to sell
    you these expensive products. It is not so good for your
    bank account or your health.

Chemical Fertilizers Linked to “Dead Zones”

A Naturally Better Alternative

  • A healthy, balanced soil environment is loaded with
    bacteria, beneficial fungi, protozoa, earthworms,
    nematodes, and other soil organisms; each with a
    vital role in the process of recycling nutrients and
    filtering water.
  • Natural, organic fertilizers and soil amendments
    support and nourish soil organisms which, in turn,
    support and nourish plants through their activity.
    This is called the soil food web.
  • There are even organic pesticides and fungicides
    that can be used sparingly with minimal negative

Compost Tea

  • Compost tea is an emerging technology and an
    important part of an organic plant health care program.
  • It is a concentrated combination of soil microbes
    and nutrients.
  • This solution is applied to your property to improve
    the health of your soil.
  • Only Actively Aerated Compost Tea is used. This is
    an important distinction from other forms of “compost
    tea” which, if brewed incorrectly, can be harmful to


  • These are beneficial fungi that live on or in plant roots.
  • They help plants absorb more nutrients and water
    more efficiently.
  • Mycorrhizae are extremely sensitive to synthetic
    chemicals and other factors such as construction.

For more information click here.