Everything our family business does depends on the weather. Each year presents a new, unique set of conditions and challenges and this year has been no exception!
The year started out with the rainiest spring that I can ever remember with more than twice the normal amount of precipitation. These continuously wet conditions were very favorable for fungus and mold disease. When fresh leaves are unfurling in the spring, their tissues are very tender and susceptible to infection. Last spring’s rainy weather resulted in the rapid advance of all foliar diseases.
I have never seen Apple Scab this bad. Susceptible Crabapple trees were totally defoliated for weeks. Although we have several options for controlling this disease, the best solution continues to be planting or replacing with disease resistant varieties. “Red Jewel” and “Sargent” continue to be my favorites, although there are many varieties that are very disease resistant. Most have tiny, persistent fruit that cling to the tree, displaying themselves in the snow during the winter months and providing a good source of food to our overwintering birds like Cedar Waxwings and Cardinals.
Most trees exhibited foliar disease of one kind or another last year. Anthracnose and Tubakia Leaf Spot is rampant in Oaks. Tar Spot of Maple caused round black spots on leaves. Walnut and Aspen leaves fell from the trees early due to fungal infection. Many fall colors were less than prime last autumn thanks to foliar diseases. Fortunately, these infected leaves will fall from the trees and with a good fall cleanup, most diseases will not return with normal spring weather in 2018.
Spruce Needle Blight took a turn for the worse last year. Four sprays during the year seem to help the trees to hold their own. Ultimately, the best long-term solution is to remove diseased Colorado Blue and White Spruce and replace them with resistant species.
Mother Nature gave us a second punch last fall with a mini-drought during September. Perennial plants that were not watered during this period went dormant early. Watering in the fall is very important for trees and shrubs to encourage the development of dormancy. This metabolic process requires a good supply of water as plants make the anti-freeze that is needed to survive sub-freezing temperatures.
The weather man says that we are going to have a very mild winter. Many pest insects overwinter in the ground and without a long, deep freeze will become more problematic, especially with Japanese Beetles, Emerald Ash Borer and Bark Beetles. Even native bark beetle populations once kept in check by freezing temperatures are now exploding to levels that are causing 90% mortality in Lodgepole Pines in the Grand Tetons and Sitka Spruce in the Pacific Northwest. It seems that winter temperatures once cold enough to kill off these native insects and hold their populations in check may never return. Mother Earth is becoming angry with us and our stewardship has never been more important.
As we continue to care for the green world, our family business continues to grow. In my nearly 40 years in business, I have never had such excellent employees. I am very proud of every one of them as we all strive to give our customers the high-quality service that they deserve. Our extended family of customers continues to be the most important thing in our lives and we have a lot to be grateful for.