Warm Winter Threats to Trees and Shrubs

Unseasonably warm weather this winter produced more than just back yard grilling and trips to the park. It also contributed to an early arrival of pests and the perfect breeding ground for harmful diseases.

Warmer, dryer climates create conditions ideal for an early appearance of ants and ticks; unusually rainy weather results in the perfect conditions for more mosquitoes.  

Overall, it’s shaping up to be a pretty big year for pesky critters.  "Insects are cold-blooded animals," says Dr. Jim Fredericks, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the National Pest Management Association. "When there are warmer temperatures, there's increased insect activity and survivorship."  

In addition to an early upswing in ant, tick and mosquito populations we will likely see a greater number of defoliating pests.

It doesn't stop there. Plant diseases are popping up because of the warm January and February weather.

  • Dry Rot – attacks plants causing decay to stems and leaves. Once infected, plants usually show stunted growth and fail to bloom, and bulbs develop dark brown, sunken lesions with raised edges.
  • Leaf Spot – caused by fungal or bacterial pathogens, insects or mites. Spots can vary from tiny, discrete dots to irregular yellow or brownish patches that cover most of the leaf surface on the plant.
  • Powdery Mildew – forms on plant stems and leaves, as well as flowers and fruit. It often appears on sycamores, crape myrtles and rose bushes, it attacks new growth and causes dwarfed plants. Infected leaves generally die and fall off of the plant.

What can you do NOW to Minimize Harmful Weather Effects?

  • Keep plants healthy. Healthy plants are better able to deal with stress of all kinds.  This includes organic-based nitrogen fertilizer, growth regulators and pest control.
  • Treat for pests and disease at the earliest signs.
  • Choose plants that are well-suited to your climate and growing conditions.  Native plants are usually well-adapted to local conditions.
  • Try to maintain an even moisture level.  Water as needed and mulch. Improve soil to help retain moisture.
  • Mulch perennials and wrap young trees to protect from fluctuating spring temperatures.
  • Know your first and last average frost dates and be prepared to protect plants.  Cover plants with fabric to protect from frost. 

Just remember, Mother Nature is in charge, but we can plan and take steps to help our plants recover. If we stay aware of weather conditions and protect trees and shrubs from pests and disease the summer will bring a healthy and beautiful landscape!  Call us if you have questions or if you would like us to look at your yard.