Fall Colors May Not Be Vivid This Year

We took this photo the other day. We’d say drought conditions currently exist.  And because of that, colors may not be as brilliant this fall.

Our trees are under a lot of stress. Back in June, we had the driest 22 day period in record keeping history for DuPage County. July was under average for precipitation and between August 1st and today, we’ve only had 2.4 inches of rain.

We should all do what we can to water our lawns now so that when the rains do come, the ground is more able to absorb and accept it. If the ground is rock hard, most of the rain that falls will ‘sheet off’ to lower areas which might make trees go into the Winter too dry. Be sure to water root systems up until ground freeze should it stay unusually dry.  Click here to review the proper way to water your trees and shrubs.

Trees whose roots extend under dry lawn are really suffering right now. Shrubs and small trees, however, that are completely mulched in to their drip lines are under less stress as the mulch will help to retain soil moisture and deflect the sun. The exception is trees that were planted in the last 2 years. Pay particular attention to these trees even if they are mulched.

We have been getting several calls about tree leaves shriveling, drying out and dropping early. Some trees just look thin and sick. Watering now will begin to help. In addition, trees need water to display their best Fall colors.

Over 80% of our clients are scheduled for Fall High Pressure Root Fertilization  which is the most important thing you can do for your trees. We strongly recommend that you consider it!

We hope you take a moment to absorb the Fall beauty around us, even if colors may seem muted this year.

Water Your Trees!


This last Saturday we heard WGN’s Tom Skilling say that the previous 17 days have been the driest 17 days on record in Chicago since the 1920’s. Considering this takes into account one of the worst droughts on record in Chicago back in 2012, that’s really saying something! It has now been 20 days since our last rainfall.

We’ve had some rain this week but the ground is so dry that any rain we got may have run off or had trouble soaking in to the ground. It may take two or three rains before the ground softens up enough to allow rainfall to effectively reach tree roots. We recommend that you water your more established key trees with a broad spectrum sprinkler that will reach from the trunk all the way to the outer drip line.

On any newer trees that were planted within the last two years, it is important to note that these trees haven’t re-developed their root systems from being dug, balled and burlapped. They have far less water absorption and water storage capacity. On these trees, an open-ended hose should be laid right at the base of the tree and allowed to run on a trickle setting for 30 to 45 minutes to really soak the root ball. On trees planted this year you should be doing this once a week all Summer long and into the Fall. On two year old plantings, once every 10 to 14 days is recommended.

TREES THAT TREE GREEN TRUNK INJECTED THIS YEAR: If we have trunk injected your Ash, White Birch or Scotch or Austrian Pine trees this year with insecticides or your River Birch or Oaks with iron, it will help these trees to move the product internally if you water them now.

WHEN SHOULD YOU WATER AND FOR HOW LONG? We suggest that you water in the early to late evening or early morning, not in the middle of the day as the sun will cause a lot of evaporation before the water can soak in.

Water each area or zone at least one hour; longer if you don’t mind the water bill. An hour may not give the tree all the water it needs but it will help to soften the ground and prepare it for rain.

Fungus at the Base of Trees

In the past, we have mentioned the hazards of two unfortunate common practices:
1) The ‘pyramid style’ of piling mulch on the base of trees and…
2) Allowing perennial plants, groundcover and vines to grow too closely to the base of trees.

In the accompanying photos you will see one of the best examples we have ever seen as to why these practices are detrimental and can cause the death of a tree or shrub.

When trees germinate from seed, the bark above ground develops a different outer skin than the roots below ground do. The bark covering the roots takes on a different consistency that allows them to handle a wetter, underground environment. The bark above ground, however, is meant to ‘dry out’ quickly after becoming wet.

white-fungus-on-crabapple-trunk white-mold-on-trees

The Hazards Of Piling Mulch On The Base Of Trees Or Allowing Plants To Grow Too Closely To The Base

In the above photos, you will see a white mold/fungus attached to the base of a Crab Apple tree. This was caused by allowing Boston Fern plants to spread and encroach too closely to the trunk. The Boston Ferns were already cut down to ground level in preparation for winter, but our customer confirmed that every year they grow to three feet tall, completely surrounding the trunk of the tree. What this does is trap moisture on the tree trunk every time it rains or when a sprinkler activates to water the garden. This begins the rotting process and in advanced stages, could eventually kill the tree by disrupting the carrying of water throughout the tree which flows just beneath the outer layer of now rotted bark.

This type of trunk damage occurs much more frequently when mulch is piled up and onto the trunk. It is OK for you or your landscaper to put 2 to 4 inches of mulch in your gardens but try to keep it at least 6 inches away from the base of your trees or shrubs. Putting more than 3 or 4 inches of mulch over the root zone can smother roots, depriving them of oxygen and preventing the lighter rains from penetrating the thick layer of mulch.

If you hire a company to mulch for you, we suggest that you tell your landscaper in advance to follow these guidelines.