Remove grass from around browning evergreens

As we move into the third year of drought, the lack of water, past cold winter temperatures and this unusually hot early summer has damaged and is still damaging many evergreens. It seems that most any evergreen somewhere is affected. The rapid drying and browning on the south and south west side of evergreen trees and shrubs indicate a very dry soil for those trees and shrubs. With the ground frozen, the plants could not replace the water being lost through their needles. Bright sun reflected off the snow would further dry out the needles beyond the normal drying.

Interestingly, the degree of browning can vary greatly from one tree to the next. Some trees will burn severely which one next to it has little or no winter burn on it at all. It is similar to people who vary greatly in their propensity to sun burn or not sun burn when being outside together. Genetics are one part of the equation of lack of water, cold, wind, sun and other stresses which will cause trees to brown.

What can be done? It depends on your water sources and the amount of money you want to spend. The trees need water. And rather than look at adding water, let’s first think in terms of getting the available water they get to be available for them. It is cheaper in the long run, and will give you more drought resistant trees and shrubs.

GET RID OF GRASS!!!! I have mentioned on more than one occasion how damaging grass is to trees. But I will harp on it again. Because if given a grass free chance, trees will reward you with good health and surprisingly fast growth, no matter what variety of tree you have. Trees with grass growing under them and around them will grow one-fifth as fast as trees having no grass under and immediately around them. So in the time it takes a grass grown 2-foot tall tree grown in grass to reach 4 feet, a grass- free tree will have grown to 16 feet. This is true of any tree or shrub, evergreen or deciduous, responding to the lack of competition from grass for water and nutrients.

Water if you can. If you do, let it run slow, long and deep. Move the hose around the outside of the tree’s branch ends so it is watered on all sides. And let it run for hours. They have a water deficit to make up, but they will have the sun and wind drying the soil and them as well.

I know there are diseases, mites and insects that also affect our evergreens. But the immediate crisis for them is the lack of water. And the lack of water will weaken them so that they will not be able to fight off disease or the effects of mite or insect feeding. They need to be healthy to be able to fight off disease or pests. So get the vegetation away from the trees and shrubs, mulch with an organic (NOT ROCK!!) mulch and water if possible. Your healthy trees will be better equipped to ward of disease and pests.

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