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The leaves of this young plane tree were damaged by insects and it dropped most of its leaves early. Usually suction cups are removed if noticed, but the leaves on the suction cups at the base of the trunk are healthy and produce energy for that tree without using any energy.

Courtesy photo

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Trunk damage from mowers and trimmers affects the health of the trees and can shorten their lives. Always keep at least 2 to 3 feet of space between tree trunks and lawn.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

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It is normal for trees and shrubs to drop their leaves early when insect or disease damage has occurred. A thorough fall clean is always a good idea.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

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The leaves of this young plane tree were damaged by insects and it dropped most of its leaves early. Usually suction cups are removed if noticed, but the leaves on the suction cups at the base of the trunk are healthy and produce energy for that tree without using any energy.

Trunk damage from mowers and trimmers affects the health of the trees and can shorten their lives. Always keep at least 2 to 3 feet of space between tree trunks and lawn.

It is normal for trees and shrubs to drop their leaves early when insect or disease damage has occurred. A thorough fall clean is always a good idea.

Question: I have a young sycamore maple. I planted it a few years ago and this year it has sycamore sheds. At this point the leaves fall off and the tree sends growths from the bottom up. Any advice on how to handle this? Do I let the growth continue so that the tree has enough carbon to grow leaves in the next year, or do I cut them so they don’t pull all of the nutrients out of the rest of the tree? Or something completely different?

Answers: It is normal for leaves to fall off trees and shrubs early if they have been damaged by disease or insects during the season.

It is a widespread misconception that healthy leaves “take away” the energy from roots, fruits and vegetables in our garden. Those healthy green leaves on the suckers don’t take in nutrients, they produce nutrients.

There are very few leaves on the top tree and none of them look healthy. These leaves will also fall early, but by then they will consume more resources than they can produce. Right now, the green leaves on the suction cups are the only good source of carbohydrates for the tree. The tree stores this energy for the winter and uses it to grow and grow the next spring.

Leave the suction cups alone every now and then after all of the leaves have fallen, but before your landscape wakes up in the very early spring, you can remove enough soil around the suction cups to expose the roots they are growing from and cut them off from those Roots off. Don’t leave suction cups behind.

Now take good care of your tree. Make sure you water the area with the tree deep but rarely from now on. Established trees should be watered deeply, but not more than once a week in summer and less often in spring and autumn. Your tree is in the lawn, so it is important that you water your lawn thoroughly, but as infrequently as possible. Most lawns in our area can have at least three days between waterings if deeply watered and that would be a good compromise between your tree and your lawn.

Your tree will also benefit from a wider lawn-free area around the trunk to reduce the risk of mower and trimmer damage. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 feet from the trunk.

Question: I was gardening very early in the morning (just before sunrise) a few weeks ago, spraying my lawn with weed killer without actually looking at the label. It wasn’t a lawn weed killer; it was clear of the ground. All the weeds died, but so did my grass. I want to replant my lawn as soon as the weather gets a little cooler so I don’t have a muddy garden this winter. When is the best time to replant my lawn?

Answers: Grass seeds germinate best in mild, warm temperatures and drier conditions so that the soil can drain easily. Laying out your lawn in late summer also gives the grass seedlings enough time to grow and mature to overwinter in our area. But starting a new lawn now won’t help you because of the herbicide used.

In addition to killing the weeds you are spraying, GroundClear and similar products prevent new weeds from growing. The chemicals aren’t picky about what they kill and know the difference between the weeds you hate and the plants you love. The GroundClear label says it will prevent vegetation for up to a year. So you will have to wait a while before you can replant your lawn.

Using pesticides in the dark is like taking medicine in the dark. You can’t be sure you’ve chosen the right container if you can’t see the label clearly. Always look before you spray! Read the label and make sure you have the right product, that it does what you want, and that there are no unintended consequences.

If you want to reduce mud problems in your yard this winter, better let the dead lawn stand. The dead grass will help hold the soil in place and keep it covered for at least part of the winter.

Next spring you can do your soil prep – do a soil test, add compost, upgrade or repair your sprinkler system, and level everything and get it ready for use. Then you can plant a few small test plots every month or two. Once you see a test lot growing and thriving, you know you can invest your time and money into replanting your entire yard.

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