What to expect this spring from our plants

Written by horticulture  |  17. March 2007

The winter of 2006-2007 will be one that will not be easily forgotten. The above normal temperatures that began the season followed by the deep freeze that we were plunged into will lead to may calls to tree care companies and other arborists from homeowners claiming that their trees were damaged by spraying. This would not be the case. While the temperatures in the 60's during December and January were a refreshing change for us, they also began triggering the chemical reactions in plants that bring them out of dormancy (There were reports of Cherry trees beginning to blossom and other trees beginning to leaf out). These chemical changes are not supposed to happen until the spring, but since many of the early trees and shrubs were fooled, they may suffer damage to their leaves and flowers. The signs of winter damage will be- browning along the margins of the leaves and flowers, stunted growth of new leaves and yellowing on evergreens. Fertilization for your trees and shrubs is crucial this spring to help replace the nutrients that will be lost from the damaged leaves. It will also help the plants recover faster by sparking a second set of leaves, in case the first set was damaged too badly during the winter. On the legislation front, there is a push in Suffolk County to ban the use of Nitrogen fertilizers. These are being targeted due to the high levels of nitrates that have been discovered in our aquifer. This contamination is a concern because the aquifer is our sole source of water for most of the Island. The east end, if you are not aware have many private wells that supply the homes but they cannot use the water due to the amount of chemicals that are present from the old farms. The fear is that the heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers will further destroy our drinking water. I feel that the government should not have to legislate the use of nitrogen fertilizers. Some of the tree companies on Long Island, such as F.A. Bartlett Tree Experts, have already taken the lead and have eliminated the use of nitrogen. They did this not because of the legislation, but because the soil tests that they do on their properties every year have shown that there is an abundance of nitrogen in the soils that is available for the plants to use. If the rest of the industry follows suit, the only people that will be using nitrogen fertilizers, and therefore subject to any legislation, would be the do-it-yourself homeowner. As always if there is anything I can help you with or have a question, feel free to contact me at aplantdoctor@hotmail.com or at 631-767-2036.

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