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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Desiccation

Posted by John Fulton -

While the damage from the freezing temperatures is evident, maybe just as bad was the wind. Wind dries things out, especially at lower temperatures. Colder air just can't hold as much moisture as warmer air, and the combination of cold and windy is just a double whammy.

Some plants show the damage from drying winds more noticeably than others. White pines are almost the kings when it comes to visible damage. The damage shows as brown needles. When you look at damaged evergreens, the key thing is the bud. If buds are still plump and green, new growth can occur. Even if all the needles are brown. Also remember on evergreens that they only keep up to four years of growth. The older growth toward the center trunk falls off each year, usually in a gradual process so it is hardly noticed. In stress situation such as drought or temperature extreme, many needles suddenly turn color and drop. This is quite noticeable, but the results are the same as the usual gradual loss of needles.

Evergreens and tender, succulent plants are most susceptible at this time of year. Hopefully nobody got caught with the latter out at this time of year, so that left evergreens. It is even more noticeable since the foliage doesn't drop off every year. But, it does drop off. That's why you get inches of needles that build up under a mature tree.

What can we do? At this time it's like the "take two aspirin and go to bed." In the case of trees and shrubs, this means to water when it is dry, and fertilize with the normal lawn rate in May and September. If you are fertilizing the lawn, you have taken care of the trees and shrubs. There would have been some preventative things that could have been done. One option is to block some of the wind with a screen of some sort. A second would have been to spray foliage with an anti-transpirant to slow the moisture loss from the needles. With plump, green buds there should be new growth occurring shortly.



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