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Why We Don’t Use Dyed Mulch

06/07/2018 13:20 pm

Why We Don’t Use Dyed Mulch

There are numerous reasons why we don’t to use dyed mulches in the landscape. Aside from looking artificial here are a few more.

Origin of Dyed Mulch

Dyed mulches (black, red, green and other colors) are usually (with few exceptions) made up of recycled wood waste. This trash wood can come from old hardwood pallets, old decking, demolished buildings or worse yet pressure treated CCA lumber. CCA stands for Chromium, Copper and Arsenic; chemicals used to preserve wood. This ground up trash wood is then sprayed with a tint to cover up inconsistencies in the wood and give it a uniform color.

Effect of Dyed Mulch

This dyed wood mulch does not break down to enrich the soil as good mulch should. Instead it leaches the dye along with the possible contaminants (chromium, copper, arsenic and others) into the soil harming or even killing beneficial soil bacteria, insects, earthworms and sometimes the plants themselves. These wood mulches actually rob the soil of nitrogen by out-competing the plants for the nitrogen they need for their own growth. Dr. Harry Hoitink, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University, warns that dyed mulches are especially deadly when used around young plants and in newer landscapes.

Help reduce the effect of oak wilt disease on your oak trees

04/10/2017 13:06 pm

How Ferguson Township is reducing the risk

It is now illegal to trim oak trees in Ferguson Township between April 1 and October 31 without a free permit.  The Township put this limitation into place to reduce the risk and the spread of oak wilt disease, which could decimate oak trees in your neighborhood unless it is controlled.  Oak trees pruned between April 1 and October 31 are more likely to become infected with oak wilt and die.  Infected trees can then spread the disease to other trees around them.  Two incidents of oak wilt-infected trees occurred in 2016 on Cherry Ridge Road in Park Forest Village.  The infected trees were removed and oak trees within a 200-foot radius of the dead trees were treated with fungicide.

Causes, symptoms and prevention of oak wilt disease

Oak wilt is a fungal disease transmitted by sap and bark-feeding beetles.  These beetles are especially attracted to trees with open cuts, or wounds, from which sap bleeds.  Fungal spores on or in the beetles are deposited in the sap while the beetles feed.  The fungus grows out of the sap and into the tree, where it quickly spreads throughout the tree and into the roots.  Symptoms of fungal infection generally consist of leaf discoloration (browning), leaf wilt, and the brown leaves falling off altogether.  Infected trees can then spread the oak wilt fungus to neighboring trees through connections between tree roots.  Prevention is essential because there is no permanent cure; once infected, a tree will die.

Preventing oak wilt disease 

Fortunately, there are very effective ways to minimize the chances of your oak trees getting oak wilt:

• Never prune oak trees from April 1 through October 31 — when beetles are active.  • Never allow individuals who work on your trees to climb them using boots with spikes or spurs that inflict sap-bleeding wounds in the tree. 

Ferguson Township Ordinances and Resolutions addressing oak wilt disease

Ordinance 1023 stipulates fines for anyone (resident, contractor, etc.) pruning oak trees without  a permit during April 1 through October 31 or climbing oak trees with boot spurs or spikes at any time of the year except for the purpose of removing the entire tree.

Sometimes there is no way to prevent oak trees from being wounded, particularly when storms break off live branches.  These naturally occurring wounds could attract sap beetles and result in an oak wilt fungal infection.  Therefore, Resolution 2016-32 includes helping private property owners shoulder the cost of abating an oak wilt infection on their property.  

Abatement includes removal of the infected tree, proper disposal (chipped then burned or  composted) of the wood, treatment of all oak trees within a 100- to 150-foot radius of the infected tree, and possibly trenching around the infected tree to break root grafts through which the fungus can spread.  Wood from an infected tree should never be moved to unaffected areas, even for  firewood, so as to prevent beetles in the wood from dispersing the fungus into a new patch of trees.

Residents with oak trees on their properties are advised to be aware of the signs of oak wilt  described above, especially leaves at the top of a tree turning brown and falling off altogether. 

Please report any tree related concerns to any member of the Township Tree Commission or to Ferguson Township Arborist Lance King.

Forget the Gym, Garden Instead

07/19/2016 15:35 pm

Are you bored with your summer workout routine?  Install a garden as part of your backyard landscape.  Why?  Gardening is just like going to the gym.  Some interesting comparisons:

  • Turning compost is like lifting weights.
  • Raking is like using the rowing machine.
  • Pushing a mower is like walking on a treadmill

Looking at specific calorie burn, a half an hour of digging burns 150 calories, raking a lawn burns 120 calories and pushing a lown mower burns 165 calories. 

So lets get gardening!

Putting the Garden to Bed

10/26/2015 10:35 am

I in my scarf and Mom in her cap had just settled the garden in for a long winter’s nap.  When from the garden shed there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the perennial bed to see what was the matter.  When what to my wondering eye should appear but bushy tailed squirrel with eyes so shiny and black, he was packing away acorns and seeds in old planters rack.

            The squirrel and I both knew fall was giving way to winter and the only thing we could do was get ready for the long cold months ahead. He was storing acorns, nuts and seeds.  I was harvesting the last of the winter squash and beets and cleaning and pruning the vegetable garden and perennial beds. 

Late fall is such a great time to go through the gardens to get them ready for the winter as well as evaluating the status and condition of the various landscape plantings.  The list of fall garden chores includes: pruning, weeding, mulching, and installing weather protection for vulnerable specimens.

After the leaves have fallen from deciduous trees and shrubs it is a good time to inspect those plants for branches that may have been damaged by summer storms and to then prune the branch to prevent further damage.  Late fall through early spring pruning allow the plant’s wound (the freshly cut area) to dry and carry less risk of attracting harmful insects and pathogens.  Pruning or removing diseased branches or plants from the garden also helps to remove the pathogens and prevent a more extensive outbreak when the temperatures warm up in the spring.  While broken braches can be put through a chipper or cut into small pieces and placed in the compost.  Diseased branches and leaves should be burned or put in the trash to remove the pathogen from the garden entirely.  Another aspect of fall pruning is general shaping or training of the respective plant specimen.  Branches that are growing awry can be pruned back to maintain the balance and shape of the plant or to remove limbs that brushing against buildings or growing into vital sight lines.

This is also a great time to remove those rogue perennial weeds that have very happily set up house keeping in the back of the beds where they are easily missed during the primary growing season.  Weeds with tap roots like burdock, horse dock, and the ever infamous dandelion can be easily and very effectively removed from the garden by cutting the root several inches below the soil line and removing the leaves and top portion of the root system. This is also when you want to be on the look out for winter weeds like chickweed, speedwell, and ground ivy.  These little creepers only grow an inch or two in height but can cover large areas in thick dense mats. These are called winter weeds because they continue to grow long after other more respectable garden residents have gone dormant and will lay in wait for the first warm breeze of spring to begin flowering and producing thousands of seeds for the next generation of uninvited garden groundcovers.

Fall and winter mulches are typically more protective than decorative.  Chopped leaves from healthy trees, straw, and pine needles all make wonderful fall and winter mulches.  Plants with low graft unions such as hybrid tea roses benefit from having a think layer of one of the above mulches added around their base to protect the graft from harsh freezes and extreme temperature swings.  Plants like strawberries that are prone to heaving during the freeze and thaw cycles of our winters benefit greatly from being put to rest with a nice thick (3-5”) blanket of straw.  Heaving is when the ground freezes and expands pushing the plant up and then thaws and settles back down; exposing the root crown to freezing temperatures and drying winter winds.

Lastly, some of the stars (or divas – depending on your view point) of the garden may need additional protection to get through the harshest elements of our winter.  Many broadleaf evergreens will benefit from an application of a foliar spray like Wiltproof® or a simple burlap screen to prevent the leaves from drying out or ‘burning’ during the gusts and gales of winter winds.

As ‘Bright Eyes’ the squirrel scurried off for another acorn and I returned to the perennial border to finish tucking the garden in for the winter.  I began to day dream of my own long winters nap and took comfort in knowing the garden would ready welcome back the first robin of spring.

Lawn Aeration

09/17/2015 14:08 pm

Now that summer is winding down, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your lawn for the winter.  We are coming off one of the driest August we’ve had in a long time and we know that your lawn has taken a hard hit.  In order to achieve and maintain a beautiful lawn, you should employ basic lawn care practices such as properly mowing, fertilizing and watering. It is also important to ensure that nutrients can reach the soil beneath your grass. Aeration can be an extremely vital element to a healthy lawn because it allows air and water to penetrate built-up grass or lawn thatch.  Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn.


Your lawn may look fine, but if you notice any of the following, chances are your lawn is begging for some much-needed airing out.

•Puddles form on your lawn after a rainstorm. If the ground isn't soaking up any rainwater, it’s preventing much needed moisture and nutrients from reaching your soil.

•Your lawn does not pass the “screwdriver test.” If you have difficulty sticking a screwdriver into the ground, it’s time for a thorough aeration.

•There is a thick layer of debris (also known as thatch). Excessive thatch (over 1/2 inch thick) creates a favorable environment for lawn-damaging insects and disease.