Preparing for Winter

Nearing the end of November and having days with temperatures in the 60s is sort of helpful for someone like me who feels behind in their winter preparations in the garden. I still have a few areas to fertilize and a pile of mulch that needs pitching. The bad thing is that the lingering warmth disrupts the plants’ own preparation processes for the impending winter. Last year similarly had a lot of warm days during the first half of November, but Philadelphia also had it’s first snowfall well before Thanksgiving. Since the weather is a very unpredictable, but vitally important component of my job, it’s best to get as much done during times of good weather that I can.

In performing just about any task, I feel like it’s never as easy as it sounds. Ok, I need to fertilize… Sounds simple, right?

Well, there are a few young pines that I wanted to acidify their soil and add some organic matter to feed the soil microbes. While I’m pulling away the pine needle mulch, I decide to take a look at the trees’ root collars. The mention of “root collar” should have my IPM rep’s ears ringing. Whenever I ask them about the health of certain plants or symptoms that they’re exhibiting, I can predict that I’ll hear, “Have you checked the root collar?” There are four pine trees in question and only one of them had easily accessible and quite handsome root flares. The other three weren’t terrible, but they did need some careful manipulation.

First, since I don’t have a fancy airspade that the arborists use, I needed to carefully excavate the roots without causing too much damage. Damage will occur when using a metal soil knife to do this, but if you take your time (think surgeon working around vital blood vessels) it can be porque pastilla viagra azul minimal. The first roots that you encounter when digging down may not actually be your root flare. When a tree is planted too deep or the soil level increases around the trunk because of careless mulching habits or simply by having organic material break down over time around the trunk, the tree may put out advantageous roots at or just below the soil level. If you find roots but the trunk doesn’t actually flare, keep digging (carefully)! Unfortunately, if you don’t find the flaring roots, the advantageous roots will be your tree’s new support system, so you have to do everything you can to protect these smaller and weaker roots.

After doing all of the excavation deemed necessary, I decided which roots were advantageous that I could cut, and which roots were girdling and I needed to cut or redirect. I also made note of which roots to come back to next year since taking all advantageous roots at once may not be the best thing for a tree that is now relying on them as a source of water and nutrients. Two of the pine trees had their flares kind of low compared to the soil level, so I had to remove a few inches of soil from their drip line. A few inches of soil over a large area amounts to a large volume of soil to remove and move.

With all of this done I could then, finally, breakup the soil around the trees, add sulfur to acidify, add compost and dehydrated manure for organics, give it a stir, and recover with a thick layer of needles. Now, I have a large area to mulch elsewhere in the garden. The complexity with what sounds like a very simple, basic, everyday gardener’s task is that the area is bordered on one side by bamboo who’s running roots need to be dug, cut, and removed so it doesn’t spread. This is so much easier to do while the ground isn’t frozen, so I should probably get started.

Below is a photo of the red pine who needed some help with a girdling root and advantageous root removal and another photo of a black pine exhibiting a pretty handsome set of flares.