Friday, March 22, 2013

A Little Bug Control

Well I've learned something new....and there's a bit of back story here.

We have six giant hackberry trees on our lot, one of which hangs directly over our driveway. We had been told somewhere along the way that hackberries spit sap, which eats at the paint on your car (and we spend last summer with our cars covered in black sticky stuff), so we had thought we were going to need to cut the one by our driveway down. At the same time, we also thought that we were going to have to take two of them in the backyard down as well because they are very close to the house.

Now, I did get a quote to have all three trees removed.....and nearly had heart failure. It was going to cost us $5600(!!!) to get those trees taken down!!

This was the point where I started looking for alternatives, and someone suggested I speak with an arborist to find out whether the trees even needed to come down, or whether they could be trimmed back, and checked for general health. With this idea in my head, I started looking for arborists, and found Quality Tree here in Nashville (I'm not affiliated with fact, they don't even know I'm writing about them!).

The arborist came and checked out the trees (I didn't even have to be there), and called me back with the prognosis: none....that's right, none....of the trees actually needed to come down.

What he did tell me was that all of the hackberries had been topped at some point. I don't fully understand why someone would lop off the top third of a tree, but I do know that it damages the trees. The arborist told me that one of the trees had developed a form of root rot, but that it wasn't nearly advanced enough to worry about removing the tree. He did, however, recommend that both trees up close to the house be trimmed to remove anything hanging over the house, any dead wood, and extra, unnecessary brush. Easy enough, and this process is far less expensive than removing even one tree.

As for what I learned, the tree over the driveway also didn't need to come down. Hackberries are extremely susceptible to aphid infestations. The black sap that was getting all over our cars is actually not sap. It's an aphid secretion called honeydew.

Nothing like having sticky aphid poo all over your car right?

Fortunately, the aphid problem has an easy fix: Merit. The arborist said he could do this for me, but that it would be less expensive for me to do it myself, and that it's a pretty easy process. All I had to do is get this merit stuff, mix it according to the directions, and pour it around the base of the tree. The tree soaks up the insecticide and the aphids die. The only thing I really needed to know is that this has to be done during March, well before the aphids start their summer-long party on my tree.

So off I went looking for this merit stuff. Home Depot didn't have it, but Bates Nursery did! I grabbed a bottle and headed home ready to kill me some aphids.

The directions were a little confusing at first, but I finally figured out that I needed to measure the circumference of my tree (easier said than done since my arms can't reach all the way around the tree!). Then, I needed to mix 1 ounce per inch of circumference with 1 gallon of water. Since My tree is (much) larger than 16 inches in circumference, I needed two gallons of this mixture.

Since my tree is 60 inches in circumference, I quickly realized I was going to need much more than the 32 oz. that I bought, so back to Bates I went for the gallon size. There are other brands, but this is the solution that I purchased:

I got out my 5 gallon bucket and got to mixing. The merit is a milky white substance.....

And it's actually not bucket just had a little leaf debris from my fall cleanup.

I measured out 120 oz, mixed it with 2 gallons of water and poured it around the tree, covering two feed out from the base. Easy as pie. Oh, and this treatment should last a full year!

So has anyone else been killing some aphids? Tree trimming?

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