DIY Yards and Health

DIY Yards and Health
Helping the Do It Yourself home owner in making themselves and surroundings healthy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

After Pruning what should be done

DORMANT OIL - It's been proven by universities that the black "wound tar" over a new cut does NOT help or benefit the healing of the tree. However a Dormant Oil application after pruning will help in several ways. First it will create a film the discourages pest from trying to "stick" their eggs on that healing wound. Second it will suffocate existing eggs and insects overwintering on the tree. Third is is inexpensive and organic (cost anywhere from $5 to $16 a tree depending on size).

DEEP ROOT FERTILIZER - Pruning has taken away some of the photosynthesis provided last year so a fertilizer with Save-A-Tree (Thrive), combined with a true Tree Fertilizer with the minors included promotes the health and again is half the price of buying the products and doing it yourself.

SYSTEMIC DRENCH - Bayer Tree and Shrub is imidicloprid which is a pesticide that goes INSIDE the tree so insects and bores chewing into the tree are stopped. A twenty foot tree will cost around $13 and the last time I checked the retail bottle cost $19.94. Either way it is an excellent way to stop bores and aphid problems.

Link to best practice after pruning
Arborist Link on True Tree Facts

Pruning Trees in the Winter

I'm often asked why I am so emphatic about pruning trees in the winter - here is the short list :)
  • Limbs are autonomous, the trunk only recognizes the limb when it is supplying sugars, if we take the limb when the tree is dormant, the tree will revert energy into the existing limbs better in the spring so we have far less stress on dormant trees.
  • It is easier to view the overall canopy and make decisions on dominant leader corrective pruning
  • There are no insects to take advantage of fresh wounds and open cuts.
  • Flowers, shrubs and other plants are less likely to be damaged from falling limbs, ladders etc because they are dormant too.
  • If we prune too soon in the Fall and we get a warm spell, the fresh cuts will stimulate new growth where we've pruned - then we get a cold snap and the new growth is damaged for next year. So the later the better especially on younger trees; November on is usually pretty safe.
So why don't commercial companies prune in the winter?...well, it's flipping cold out there and most workers don't want to work in those conditions - but  it's best for the trees and that makes it worth it to me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Now is the time for your trees...

Now is the time for Deep Root Fertilizer

Your trees are storing nutrients into thier root system right now -

Deciduas trees (with Leaves) will store sugars to use next spring.

Conifers (think with Cones) will continue to transpire and move moisture throughout the winter - they need energy for that and a big drink.

This is not expensive ($5 to $8 depending on size of tree) but very important. We use the trademark Save-A-Tree combined with a tree fertilizer and iron for a complete balance.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A customer has her yard back

I got this picture and a call from a customer - said she finally has her patio back and can go out without being attacked.

It was a classic Hornets nest four tiers deep and loaded with very aggressive hornets.

I'm amazed she waited so long to get a treatment done...

Why so many mushrooms all of a sudden?

If you suddenly have mushrooms in your lawn you are not alone...I see them in yards everywhere right now.
Mushrooms grow from a wood source in the ground.

Too much water is the main reason we are seeing them this time of year so reduce your water and they will soon be gone. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Now this makes you think

A spider in the ear... while this woman from China was fast asleep, a spider crawled into her ear canal. As seen on the video, the doctor got the surprise of his life - kind of a cute spider though

Monday, August 13, 2012


Why are the Wasp so Large and Aggressive this time of year?

What we are seeing Adult Wasp who are aggressively protecting the last hatch out of the year. This hatch will include an inseminated Queen which will overwinter and start next years brood so the adults are going to work hard to protect them - watch out - they mean business!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why are Boise Trees turning yellow?!!!!

We are seeing a lot of Trees with Chlorosis

A neighbor stated the Nursery told her their Maple was simply going to die. Well that isn't the entire picture...yes Chlorosis is inhibiting photosynthesis which is also inhibiting the trees ability to generate food so the tree is unhealthy.
Link explaining Chlorosis:

What do you do about it?...well trees don't do anything fast.
So treatment at this time of year is a series of applications.
We are seeing good results with a new liquid foliar fertilizer application but that is a very short term (6 week) fix. However it does help the tree through this time period and help it manufacture the sugars to retain for next Springs growth. The follow up treatment is an injection or a soil amendment process to help the pH in the soil as explained in the link.

Bottom line is it is going to cost every year to amend and help the tree because the soil it was planted in was not amended before hand.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Earwigs everywhere


I have had more calls on Earwigs this year than I have ever seen. They are often in a house with poor fitting screens or doorways that are left open.
They are usually coming from an organic environment such as Lilac bushes near a house or other shrubs and trees.
Control is not expensive at $39 and just for the, they do not go into a persons ear while they are sleeping and bore a hole into the brain...LOL

Friday, June 29, 2012

dry patchy grass

Grab the turf and pull on it, if it comes up like carpet keep pulling it back and look for little white grubs as seen in the middle of the picture.

These are Bill Bugs - they eat the grass root off just below the stem.

You can use Grub killer from the local store. Be sure and water it in. The retail products are slow to kill the larvea - if it is a serious infestation call a professional and ask for Areana.

Watering at this point is very important. Remember the grass root is very short so it has to have water constantly to try and recover.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Here comes the heat

Mowing Too Low

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is to mow their lawn too low. Residential mowers are set up to mow 1.5 to 3 inches high with the thought that customers want to make lawns look like carpet. But as the heat hits it becomes brown carpet.
The truth is:
the blade helps support the root base
grass that is high enough to shade the roots helps keep the water from evaporating

You should raise your mower deck at least one if not two notches as the heat hits

Saturday, June 16, 2012

White stuff on my Trees

If you see what looks like puffs of white Cotton on your Maple trees this is a sign of an insect called Scale.
Scale is an insect that overwinters in a hard cover which erupts into that white puff you see in the picture. Unsightly but the real problem is the insect sucks on the plant much like a parasite which weakens your tree.
The best preventative is a systemic drench in the fall or spring but it can be sprayed at the time of outbreak.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to get rid of rising tree roots?

Rising Tree Roots

As a tree gets older we see more and more roots rising to the surface. Most folks are not aware that tree roots NEED OXYGEN. Air molecules or macro pores in the soil are essential for healthy trees. Heavy clay soil with water saturation guarantees root rise.

If planting in heavy clay soil, one help is to do radial trenching (three trenches extending from the root ball back filled with rock, mulch and existing soil to give roots a path and to create a drainage from the root ball. Grass will like this too so it will often be greener down the trench area. The important factor is to plant the tree mounded up so the ball is not deep down in the planting hole and the root flare is definitely above the planting level. Try to plant where the tree is not in a low spot in the yard where lawn sprinklers flood the roots.

In an example like the photo above, your best bet is to simply create a tree well (or even a new planting bed) the size of the exposed roots - covered in mulch, then plant shrubs and flowers that tolerate shade in that area. You can put sand and soil mix over the roots and replant grass however the roots over time will continue to rise.

Here is a good university link on Tree Root issues

Why a Tree Well?

Why a Tree Well?

Always look at how a tree grows well in nature to learn how to get it to grow well in your yard.

Trees create natural tree wells with their needles or leaves which creates an environment for moisture and oxygen over the roots.

However there are other important factors - keep in mind the vascular systems (think veins and arteries) are just under the bark, so a wound with a mower or a weed eater can kill a tree. Another problem is spraying weeds with something like 2-4d over the roots can kill a tree.

Why do trees create natural tree wells is also to get rid of grass and other plants that will compete with fertilizer and water over the roots of the tree. Many people I have worked for have wanted grass up to the trunk stating they want it to look more natural but the truth is look at a forest environment - trees and grass are in direct competition with each other.

I really like this mulch

Mulch is one of the most important ways to control weeds and even more importantly it helps cool and dampen roots around trees.

Mulch is normally created in a forest environment by leaves or pine needles dropping from trees and protecting the root area around the tree. However in an ornamental setting we rake up these leaves and needles.

A good way to keep the ornamental setting looking nice yet build an environment that will give your tree roots water retention, oxygen and prevent weeds is to create a tree well around the tree and add a nice mulch.

I really like Scott's Nature Scapes - it comes in an easy to transfer bag. The wood chips are slightly broken down and even smells like good earth. Dye is added so it does not fade as fast as most mulch. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to avoid Powdery Mildew

My wife asked me what was on our plants in the back yard...hmmm married to a Master Gardner and guess what we have?
Powdery Mildew!

This weather is perfect, cool to hold moisture then hot to promote fungus growth on a roller coaster ride and the plants are showing it.

Couple of rules to keep in mind. Plants (including your lawn) needs to be dry by nightfall - fungus grows when wet in the dark.
Number two is air movement is important - many back yards (especially with the plastic fences) have little to no air movement and create a humid enviroment that is ideal for problems.
If you don't want to tear down the fence we can spray a fungicide but it needs to be done sooner than later.
Which means I'm headed out to the back yard to spray right now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fire Blight Alert is out

Rain vectors bacteria and fungus - combine that with this heat and we have a serious situation now.

Copper is an old standby but discolors - I use products that actually attack bacteria - the main point is you need to spray now if you have trees and shrubs vulnerable to fire blight conditions.

Here is a link for more information

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spray Sycamores NOW!

If your Sycamores lost leaves in June last year and they are just starting to put leaves on need to spray a fungicide for Sycamore Anthracnose.

This has to be done twice at bud break to get the fungicide into the buds.

I prefer a preventive systemic injection in the fall but if you did not do that you need to spray now. It is too late if you wait until leaf drop.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring has Sprung!!

Time to overwork parts of our body we haven't used all winter, get some blisters and re-learn the lesson of sunburn pain.

I see a lot of tree pruning this time of year and I just shake my head in saddness for the poor tree. It is not wrong to prune in the spring but this is a time when the tree is the most active and it does put that much more stress on it. The best time to prune is when it is dormant and I do that in November and all through those cold winter months.

If you have pruned watch the water - too much is as big a problem as too little.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sacrificing to Jack Frost

I remember a great line from the mentor that taught my Master Gardners class, "every spring my wife does her yearly tomato plant sacrifice to Jack Frost."
We all get spring fever and want to get our gardens going but don't be tempted by the 70+ degree weather just yet.
The old timers in the area always used Squaw Butte (Big lone peak with no trees to the North) as a gauge - never plant until ALL the snow is off the Butte. It's worked for me for years.

Friday, April 6, 2012



They see you - They follow you - They attack

Aggressive little foes; Wasp control is one of the most asked questions I get in a day.

Wasp work in a colony much like ants where there is a Queen who over wintered this year and started a brood that will grow up to 1200 workers and protectors of the colony. The paper hive you see hanging around from last year will not be used again however it will attract the next years colony so get rid of it. Most hives are underground which means you need to look for those as well as the obvious ones on the eve and the ones in pipes, trailers even cars sitting idle for a few weeks. You must spray the nest or hive to get real control. Even after you think they are gone - respray the nest hole because the larvae can still hatch after the adults are gone. Be very careful when spraying and do it when it is cool in the morning - not when it is hot and they are most active.

More Info

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Application Ideas for Do It Yourself

If your trees are not that tall and you want to do a Dormant Oil or a Fruit Tree Spray you may have the water pressure to reach the top of that tree. Try your garden hose with your thumb before buying anything and see how far it can reach.

Next you will need a way to control the amount of Pesticide or Dormant Oil you are spraying. Many people go to ACE Hardware and purchase Ortho's dial in hose attachment which is not that expensive and very useful.

Read the label before purchasing the product and make sure you understand the "rate" you need to use.

Wet Spring = Fungus problems

What should we be looking for in this wet spring?
Fungus loves rain and wind to move the fungal spores and promote infection.

Remember to rake up your leaves and remove them because they harbor fungal spores.
To battle this you need to think preventive first; on sycamores we see better results when we do a Fall application with a Arborsystems injection of fungicide into the cambium layer so the fungicide is in the bud of the tree when the fungus attacks.

You can do an injection in the Spring but you will not get the results because there has not been enough time to have the bud form with the fungicide

You can also do a spray that can help but timing is everything and the label calls for multiple sprays which can get expensive.

More information

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is it too late to do drench applications

The species of tree has some bearing on when to drench however Spring and Fall are your best times to apply. Keep in mind that you are applying the chemical to the variables of the ground which includes soil compaction and type. Sand soil will leach faster than clay so dig around the tree and see what the soil is like. Your chemical (usually in this case imidacloprid, can get bound up with soil particles. It can get absorbed by lawn roots or other plant roots. And you need to convince the tree to absorb the material - I include a small amount of plant food (very small) because over the years I've seen how weeds will tak in chemicals better with small amounts of fertilzer. Second is watering enough to leech into the soil but not through the soil.
Obviously this is about as scientific as shooting in the dark which means applying every year is important to getting control.
I have had great results with some species such as Ash keeping the drench right at the root collar but less results with Elm and only okay results with Maple.
One type of application probably will not solve all your insect issues.

Wow are the bugs out and moving

My wife motioned toward a pot today and said "look out, I just got attacked!"
My answer was, "by inseminated queens that over winter, come on, they are slow and more interested in getting their nest started."
I look down into the pot and guess what - FIRST ROUND BROOD already hatched.
This is amazingly early for first round and I treated two homes with Box Elder bugs in third in-star as big as your pinkie finger nail.
This winter was too easy and now the bugs are out and moving.
Be careful out there!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spider Control

They are out and moving!
Folks are contacting me about spiders with a lot of questions. Let's review a few things to understand this beneficial but not so good home pest.
1. In the North West the Brown Recluse is not that much of an issue however I do have a customer that definitely was bitten by one and it created a serious skin damage to his stomach area. People moving from southern states probably brought this spider in as a transient.

2. The Hobo is more of an issue in that it is very common in our area and its bite will kill skin tissue. This spider looks very similar to spiders without the same venom which is panicking a lot of people. There is also studies stating spraying Hobos in and around your home will kill beneficial spiders encouraging more Hobos...think about this logic - keep more spiders in your home so you don't have as many Hobos. Sorry - I am all for spiders ecologically in the wild but not in my home.

3. Do you need four applications often sold by commercial spray companies? Truth is spiders can live for three years but they are very inactive in the winter so two to three applications will control them from invading your home so long as you do an inside as well as perimeter spray.

Spiders all have venom to be able to overcome their prey and eat so treat all spiders with that in mind. They are beneficial in outside areas and only should be controlled in human dwellings where you should be controlling their food source too so they are less likely to infest your home.

The chemicals used to control spiders is tightly controlled by the government and regulated to be as low a toxicity to humans and pets as possible. However make sure the chemical is dry before re-entering a treated area (ten to twenty minutes depending on humidity and heat).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ASH Tree loss

Saving that ASH Tree
One advantage ISA Certified Arborist enjoy is the latest up to date information on tree concerns and treatments. One I'd like to share is the concern on the Emerald Ash Bore attacking Ash trees. There has been controversy on removing infected trees versus using chemical treatment to protect them. Certainly if it is your Ash tree you want it protected and not removed.

So what can be done to protect them but limit chemicals in our environment? February issue of Arborist News p58 addressed the issue stating the current science based on University studies favors several treatments and the EPA has registered those treatments one of which I've discussed before called an imidacloprid drench around the tree trunk.

This is a simple application for the home owner. The tree uptakes the product through the roots systemically - when the larvea bores into the tree it contacts the chemical.

Bayer Tree and Shrub has this chemical but in a very diluted container which can make treatment more expensive than it needs to be. You can purchase imidacloprid in containers with higher amounts of active ingredient saving you as much as 40% in cost.

People often wait until summer or until they see aphids or other insects attacking their trees to apply - the time to apply is in the Fall or right now this Spring.
For more information Click Here

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trees need help this year

This long dry winter warming up so early and pushing trees into bud means we need to take a little better care of our trees this year.
A Tree Fertilizer Program using a formulation specifically for feeding trees is simple and not expensive.
However your soil type, tree species and your yards specific micro-environment needs to be taken into account before you grab a so called "do all" product and dump it indiscriminately on your trees roots.
Conifers have different needs than hardwood deciduous trees and too much nitrogen will actually damage and stress your trees.
Contact your arborist or you can email me at for details, or if you are in my area I can help with a tree evaluation and a planned out program you can use to have healthy trees for years to come.
Trees never do anything fast, including their death. Calling someone to help a tree when it is looking sick is often too late. The real way to have healthy trees is preventive measures and care.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rush to spray dormant oil on trees?

Question that has been emailed in: "Should you be in a rush to spray Dormant Oil on your trees before the warm weather sparks leaf break out?"

Answer: The warm weather in our East Washington through South Idaho area has created bud swell in many of the trees; however there are other factors that make leaf push happen such as Phototropism or length of day. Trees protect themselves from this type of odd occurrence by not forming leaves until the daylight hours have reached a point that will sustain the chlorophyll production. So there is no need to get in a panic.
If you can get your dormant oil done (great inexpensive organic way to control damaging insects that we will go over next week) go ahead but keep in mind the bark must be dry before freezing to prevent the bark from cracking.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tempted to get started
I am getting contacted from folks wanting to get started with Spring projects
such as fertilizing or preemergence weed control; even weed and feed.
It is surprisingly warm and we are seeing weeds break through near sidewalks and curbs where the cement is absorbing the heat and raising the ambient temperature in the nearby ground promoting some weed break through. However the temperatures are still freezing at night.
The problem with doing preemergence weed control now is that it only has a certain number of days it will work which means we won't have control long enough to go through the season. The other issue is most preemergence products need to be watered in.
The Answer is to get a small one gallon sprayer with a liquid preemergence and broad leaf selective weed control in it to just spray near the sidewalks and curbs where you are seeing the weeds break through.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Evergreen Tree trouble this winter

From Boise to Pasco we are seeing the beginning of trouble from the lack of snow this winter. Evergreen trees depend on snow melt during the winter as they continue to transpire throughout the winter. This tree pictured is a typical example of what we are seeing. Slight yellowing and a dull green becoming more and more obvious.
The answer: You need to do a deep soak (soaker hose if possible) around the tree until you have saturated the root system.
Problem: Your hose is going to freeze tonight if you leave it out - so you are probably going to have to improvise by either bringing the hose into the garage at night or lift it and drain the water out (take the cap off the soaker hose) each night.
It's a pain, but you try and go without anything to drink for the next month. Your trees will thank you for caring by surviving when your neighbors is stunted or worse... dies...!

Friday, February 3, 2012

What will this lack of winter mean?

Freezing temperatures and snow are an important part of our environments cycle.

The deeper the freeze and the longer the time it remains at 20 degrees or lower affect the insect population especially the bore problems we've been battling that live just in the cambium layer on trees. Without that deep sustained freeze expect pest population to be at an all time high.

Falling snow actually attaches to the nitrogen molecules in the air and slow releases with the snow melt water moving it into the root system. Conifers and Evergreens especially depend on this slow release of moisture and nitrogen so we will need to do tree fertilization and don't hesitate to water your evergreens now so long as you drain the hose and remove it from the faucet before the evening freeze.

If we have a warm spring with rain; we are going to see fungus like we've never had to battle before. Fungus is best treated before the outbreak so consider applications soon. Your leaves harbor fungal spores so make sure they are removed - reminds me, I need to get my Sycamore leaves cleaned up...guess I know what I'm doing this weekend.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


What is going on?????????This weather from Spokane through Pasco and into Boise has been way too warm for this time of year. What does this mean to our yards?
Well I was on a property two weeks ago in Richland that had all the pear trees in full bud. I haven't been back to see if they were nipped by the cold last week but this is going to change a lot of our typical maintenance practices.
I think the key things to be thinking about are doing drenches on your trees so they systemically pick up the imidicloprid ai and I if you had crab grass problems around your walk ways last would be a good idea to treat that with a pre-emergent just 12 inches off the cement. The reason why is the cement will warm up the ambient temperature in the soil and we could see weed break though earlier than normal.
as always, email me if you have any questions

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best New DIY Fertilizer Product

I am so sold on this product that I am sponsoring it through ACE stores. I do seminars about it in Eastern Washington, Idaho and Western MontanaSPREAD IT & FORGET IT
For the DIY home owner this is going to give them what they always needed - the nitrogen is encapsulated in a polymer that only releases as the temperatures increase. Why this is so much better - the old time release fertilizers released by water - everyone who cares about their yard has a tendency to over water which made the nitrogen release too quickly. Not with this fertilizer - the polymer expands and contracts releasing with the increase in HEAT when the roots need it.
This is not new or untried. Professional Golf Courses use the same technology in their professional products - what makes SPREAD IT & FORGET IT advanced is it releases 5 TIMES during the year.
Five times - the same amount of nitrogen applied by professional contractors but you only have to spread it once in the spring!It is so effective you'll only have to push that kart once a year - email me at . This is one of the best advances in DIY Lawn Care we may ever see. 

Insects and Systemic Drenches

I like using systemic drench (imidacloprid) as a good way to control insects that attack our plants and trees. You pour (not spray) the insecticide around the base of the tree and the tree moves the insecticide inside so non-target insects are not inadvertently killed. However - what seems to happen is the DIY person walks outside in late spring, glances at their tree or rose bush to see it covered in Insects...It can be very upsetting creating a dramatic reaction to do something ...
Insect control is very dependent on timing. The biggest mistake I see DIY home owners doing is a systemic drench thinking the tree will immediately uptake the insecticide and kill all the bugs. This is where timing is everything. You need to do the drench so the plant has enough time to pick up the product through it's roots and translocate it throughout the limbs and into the foliage.
 A good case in point is trying to control aphids on Ash trees - you will have better control if you do the drench at leaf drop in the Fall so the Ash has the insecticide throughout it's canopy in the Spring.

A Green Lawn

Seven years ago; I owned a large landscape company with $885,000 in commercial lawn care contracts which amounted to forty plus acres of turf to maintain. Needless to say; I could not afford to drop the ball and not have those commercial grounds as green as possible -
How do professional contractors keep lawns green?

Step One: Never get behind, or in other words, never let the turf get stressed in the first place. Playing catch-up on a lawn in July, that did not have adequate water in June, is going to be a loosing situation. If the weather forecast calls for an increase in heat next week - bump the water up now.
Step Two: The same goes for fertilizer, do not wait until the lawn starts to loose it's color to add nitrogen - you're back to playing catch up. That is why I really endorse the time release fertilizers that activate with heat (see Spread it & Forget it).
Step Three: Mow the lawn at 2 1/2 inches in the Spring with the intent to raise the mowing deck as soon as you know it is going to get hot. Each heat increase; raise the deck a half inch. In the extreme heat of late July and August you should be as high as your deck will go; which on most home owners mowers is 3 1/2 inches. The taller grass shades the ground slowing evaporation and the longer stem is supporting the root structure during this stress time.

This is how you keep your lawn green!

Juvenile Tree Pruning

My Biggest Issue with DIY care is ignoring Trees!
These are assets that can not be easily replaced yet I seldom drive by a yard that doesn't have issues.
A few cuts here and there on a young tree can correct the growth pattern for decades. Pruning for a dominant leader (single trunk), removing water sprouts before they become unruly limbs, determining the structure of the tree by selecting limbs with the correct attachments, all are simple but crucial steps to have a beautiful tree in your yard for years and years to come.

I will put links to the side of sources explaining these simple steps - it's worth your time to do it right. 

Caring about your Yard

I have spent years talking to home owners about yard care - and we are seeing more and more people trying the: Do It YourselfI have to admit - my concern is the long term damage an un-informed home owner can do to a beautiful yard. So the goal of this blog is to give home owners a source of current information to help them understand what is really needed and direct them to the best online information that will give them the ability to do the job right.
I work as an independent contractor for companies so I bring the ability to give you my unbiased view the newest DIY products that work.
I live and work in the North West including Idaho, Washington, Utah, Oregon and Montana; so my blog posts will be specific to those regions.
Feel free to email me at with questions from those areas - if I don't have the answer; I will find it for you.
Now let's see if we can help you have a Beautiful Yard!
Ted Smith