Oh, the joys of spring are in the air, you step out your front door to enjoy the morning air and almost bust your butt after slipping on a gumball. This is the time of year when the gumballs start falling after new buds are forming on the tree. Homeowners are always trying to figure out ways to clean this pesky little fruit up after it has fallen. From raking to blowing there are several ways to help with this task.
Gumballs come from the Sweet Gum Tree (liquidambar styraciflua) after the female flower has been pollinated in the spring. They are the fruit that this shade tree creates. Not only are they not very showy hanging on the tree but create a hazard once they hit the ground. We have tried different solutions over the years on how to clean them up. They are usually too heavy to be picked up by a lawn mower or get thrown around by the blade like you’re in a batting cage. Raking them is a better solution but can be a timely endeavor. The best thing we have found is to use a leaf blower to blow all the gumballs into a pile. Then go about cleaning them up by placing on a tarp or in a trash can and disposed of in the yard waste cans. This varies from different municipalities as some provide yard waste cans or require them to be put in paper bags. If you use the leaf bags I recommend getting a funnel to help hold the bag open, then placing the bag in a trash can to help it stand up straight. These items can be found at your local home improvement store.
Some tree companies are now providing a spraying application that can reduce the amount of fruit that the tree will produce. The name of the product that is used is called Florel, it is a synthetic growth regulator. It is a safe effective way to control gumball production on the tree, it is safe around pets and humans too. I recommend calling a certified arborist to find out if this solution would work for you. They have the expertise and proper equipment to get the job done right.
The debate of global warming is still one between many people if it`s a true thing or not. We have seen some wild weather patterns over the last couple of years. Rain has been around a lot in the summer months and the fall has been tending to be on the drier side. This is usually the opposite as rain is hard to find sometimes in the summer months. Fall is an ideal time to re-seed parts of the yard with the cooler weather and more abundant wet weather. Temperature swings in the atmosphere also tends to confuse some plants on when to go into dormancy and when to perk up for the spring.
We had a late fall color transition this year in the immediate St. Louis area with the warmer months. This is the latest I can remember for doing leaf clean-ups in January since starting my business 6 years ago. Some plants that shut down for the winter, were starting to bud up early with temperatures being in the 80`s in November. This is very bad as it will open the plant up to winter injury since it hasn`t sealed itself up for the season. Newly installed plants like to have warm weather and good watering’s in the spring. Heavy amounts of rain and early mild weather can make it hard for the plant to develop a good root system before the hot summer months arrive. Try and water newly installed plants daily for the first 2 weeks to help them establish this root system.
Pests have also been very bad the season as the warmer months allow them to live longer and feed more. Spider mites could feed late into the season and cause a lot of damage on evergreens and ewes. Usually this bug is finding a place to bed down for the winter months. We were treating plants late into November to help control the problem. Summer annual weeds and grasses took over early as the ground did dry out early in June. Even with the treatment of putting down a pre-emergent crab grass was running a mock in yards around St. Louis. This is due to the ground cracking early in the season breaking the barrier created by the pre-emergent. Along with a lot of rain that will help it dissipate the chemicals in the pesticide. I believe that the climate is changing and this may have a big impact on the green industry as a whole. Try and plan and follow a good regimen for keeping your lawns and gardens happy this spring. Following watering recommendations and applying a good fertilizer to feed them. Always remember to follow the label on the fertilizer for best results.
Seasons are changing around the area with us deep into fall and winter right around the corner. Doing a few things now will help to keep the gardens clean once winter hits. This may also give you a head start next season as some of the things will be completed already. Cleaning out the garden before snowfall happens around here will help to avoid pests and diseases finding a home in the garden for the winter.
Once a good hard freeze sets in one night, a lot of perennial ground covers can be cut back to a couple of inches above ground the level to get rid of the dead top growth. This would include mums, hostas, day lilies, etc. It is advisable to let the growth stay on some plants like lariope and pompias grasses to protect the crown over the winter from snow and ice collecting on them. I will usually cut back the long reeds on the grasses and leave the remaining growth to protect the crown. Covering up roses and the cut back ground covers will protect them from the winter weather and keep the soil at a constant temperature to help avoid thawing and refreeze which can sometimes pop plants out of the ground if they are fairly young and don`t have an established root system. A good winter mulch can be pine needles, or mulched up leaves. Just make sure to remove your winter mulch in the spring once the chance of frost is gone which is usually by April 1st. Keep the leaves cleaned up as they fall. I know this can be a never ending battle as a lot of trees are late this year to drop their leaves with the mild temperatures that we have been having. A few things can go a long way to help out the garden this winter.
With fall usually being the time that plants can recover from the summer heat with the cooler temperatures and increased rain fall, this isn`t the case this year as dry conditions have been around lately. Plants will require a deep watering to prepare them for winter dormancy.
A well deep watered plant will be ready for the first freeze better than nothing at all. It is always advisable to keep plants watered regularly during the growing season as well as the fall months. In dry conditions woody plants especially should be watered to wear the moisture will reach 8-10 inches below the soil line. Lawns should have a deep watering of 4-6 inches below the soil line. Plants will soak up the water to survive winter conditions. Once the ground freezes the moisture in the ground can turn to ice particles to wear the roots can`t absorb it. Cold air and winter winds can remove the moisture from plants as well. It is best not to prune any shrubs past August as cutting the plant in late fall or early winter can cause the loss of moisture in the plant and cause winter injury if the temperatures get that cold as the plant can`t heal itself properly from the pruning. Remember to keep the hoses out and water before old man winter arrives.
Roses around the area are falling victim the virus “Rose Rosette” which will eventually kill the whole plant. There are no treatments or no resistant varieties at this time. The virus is spread around by a small mite called “eriophyoid mite” which is about only a quarter size of a spider mite that most gardeners may be familiar with to compare the two insects.
The virus was first found on wild roses which are known as a noxious weed in most states. There was joy that there was a natural control for the wild roses until it set its sights on the prized garden rose. Once the plant is infected it is too late. It is a systemic to the plant which means it will spread all the way down to the root system. There is now way to prune out the disease. One bite from the eriophyoid mite and it`s all over. The disease is also being spread by the means of grafting which a lot of greenhouses do to cross bread different variety of roses. Make sure to purchase your plants from a reputable nursery. The only means to control the disease is to remove the whole plant along with the root system once discovered.
Symptoms are very noticeable on the plant once it is infected. Leaves will become malformed as if the plant has an herbicide burn from pesticides. Large thorns will be produced up by purple stems that would naturally usually bloom as flowers. This is usually known as “Witches Broom” on the plant. The plant will eventually stop flowering and eventually die. There is no known control of the virus at this time. So keep an eye on your garden these days and keep your fingers crossed the virus passes you by.
Photo Credit: University of Missouri Extension - Chris Starbuck