Staked tree

 At least two stakes should be used for each tree, giving support in two directions for more stability. Three stakes even better! 

Summer storms are plentiful so far this year. The recently removed stakes (fence post) around my apple trees will soon be going back in place.

Heavy winds have rocked my young trees from their upright stance. I should have waited one more year, but mowing around the stakes can be a pain and I was impatient. Staking trees is critical when trees are young or newly planted. Older trees that are established are difficult if not impossible to correct.

When staking trees, using the correct materials are important. I prefer to use a fairly stiff wire/cable threaded through a piece of old garden hose secured to steel fence post. Slide the piece of protective hose into place so that it makes direct contact with the tree. A bare wire or cable will easily cut through and destroy bark, as a tree moves and sways in the wind.

There are other types of strapping material available as well. At least two stakes should be used for each tree, giving support in two directions for more stability. Three stakes even better! A tree may need the stakes in place one to three years depending on how crooked it was to start with. You may need to readjust and tighten your system once or more a year. If your tree is recently planted, overwatering can result in tipping over. Try re-setting it, cut back on the excessive watering, and no staking may be needed.

Be sure to remove your system when its purpose is fulfilled…but not too soon like me. Left on forever, the part in direct contact with the tree, can become embedded in the bark. Once this happens, you may have to cut off the wire or cable, trimming it as short as you can. Avoid damaging any bark by attempting to dig or cut it out.

Bronze birch borer

Recently I have noticed numerous birch with dead tops. Could that be the work of the Bronze Birch Borer? Very likely.

Years ago, it was common for homeowners to plant that one paper birch in the yard with a patch of perennials and a hunk of fence and call it good. Paper birch are woodland trees that thrive in the woods where their trunks are shaded from their neighbor’s leaves and they have cool feet (roots) on the forest floor from all of the shade. But, we take them from that environment, stick them in a hot, sunny yard and wonder why they don’t thrive?

Besides the plant environment being wrong, another major reason is the bronze birch borer. This beetle loves the tops of paper birch that are in sunny locations to lay their eggs. After the eggs hatch, the larvae create tunnels through the structure of the branches which interrupts the flow of water. Eventually, the tops of the trees begin to die back. After several years of continued damage the tree usually dies. Drive through any neighborhood and I bet you can spot this.

There are some treatments if you catch it soon enough. If you can, trim off the dying parts and make sure those branches are destroyed. If you can’t save it, remove it and start over with a better choice. Unlike the paper birch, the river birch, is considered resistant to bronze birch borer – in other words, the insect is not as attracted to it to lay its eggs on. The river birch is Betula Nigra, and ‘Heritage’ is my favorite.

River birch have more tan and caramel colors in their thick, peeling bark. River birch, as their name implies, enjoy a little extra water now and then. It can be hard sometimes to decide when a tree can’t be saved. Once they are misshaped, lopsided or the crown broken off – it’s time to replace. Every year you procrastinate is another year your new tree isn’t growing in its place.

It’s also Japanese Beetle season again. The voracious feeders have a long list of favorites but will ultimately eat most any plant. They are usually found in huge groups as the smell given off by chewed leaves attracts other beetles. Must be something we can’t smell! Half the gardening community says don’t use traps, as the scent will lure them in, the other half says they are already there, and I am hanging my traps! Zero here so far….

The Mankato Farmer’s Market is open! Saturdays from 8 a.m. – noon, and Tuesday/Thursday from 3:30 – 6 p.m. at Best Buy on Adams Street. Peas are in!!! Come shop for spring veggies, plants, canned goods, baked goods, craft item, textiles, honey, maple syrup, greens and lettuce, soaps, and locally grown meats.

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