September 23, 2016

Autumn: An Ideal Season for Tree Planting

  September 22 marked the first day of fall. Although the traditional growing season is over for Iowa’s crop farmers, the autumnal equinox ushers in the perfect conditions to complete your tree planting.

  Fall is a great time to plant shrubs and trees because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes. However, planting trees too late in to the fall can result in poor plant health. The ideal window of time to begin your tree planting is from September through November, or roughly six weeks before the first sign of a hard frost.

There are several reasons fall may be more favorable than a spring establishment. The key is getting a head start on root growth.

1. Cool Temperatures, Warm Weather, Moderate Moisture  
As the days grow shorter throughout the fall season, temperatures drop and the rate of photosynthesis decreases. Air temperatures are cooler, but the soil remains warm and encourages new root growth instead of top growth. In the absence of extreme heat, plant transpiration is also low, and moderate autumn rains support rapid root development.

2. Equipped to Beat the Summer Heat 
Compared to a spring establishment, trees planted in the fall develop stronger root systems that can better tolerate stress from heat and drought during the summer season. Fall may also offer a better window of opportunity for planting as spring weather often invites generous amounts of rainfall that can prevent you from digging at your site.

3. Dress Up the Farm with Fall Colors  
     In addition to mitigating odor and controlling snow, trees also add visual appeal. Planting your trees in the fall will give you a glimpse of the beautiful fall foliage your trees will produce year after year.

4. Species Selection 
Before deciding when to plant your trees, remember to consider your species selection. Generally, plants with shallower, fibrous roots will adapt better during the fall season than those with fewer, less extensive root systems. Examples of trees that are recommended for fall planting include maple, spruce, pine, linden and elm trees.

Planting trees on your farm this fall?  Contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers at 800-932-2436 or You can also connect with one of the landscapers or nursery professionals participating in the Green Farmstead Partner program.

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist  

August 1, 2016

When in Doubt, Hire a Professional

  Last month we highlighted three simple steps for diagnosing your tree problems. While it can be rewarding to complete an on-farm project independently, sometimes taking yourself out of the equation can be the best way to save both time and money.

         When it comes to planting trees, the benefits of hiring a professional tree landscaper can often outweigh the costs. Whether you’re planting a small row of trees, or implementing an entire farm windbreak, the project will seem less of a chore if you call on the experts to complete the job.

1.)    Save Time – As the saying goes, time is money. Hiring a professional tree landscaper will allow you to check one more item off that long to-do list. You’ve already taken a step in the right direction by determining when and where you want to place your trees. Take a backseat on the tree planting so you can tackle other farm priorities.

2.)    Guarantee Your Satisfaction – Hiring a professional tree landscaper will provide you the satisfaction of a job well done. Though farmers are known for being a “jack-of-all-trades”, relying on a professional will help you mitigate the risk of spacing your trees incorrectly or planting them at the wrong depth.

3.)    Insure Your Investment - Having faith in the tree experts will give you peace of mind the project will be completed with care and according to your timeline. A farmer’s work day is always weather dependent. By allocating the job to a professional, you won’t have to feel rushed during the ideal establishment seasons (spring and fall) when you’re gearing up for planting or harvest.

         So how can you connect with a tree professional? Participate in our Green Farmstead Partner Program! We work with a network of nurseries and landscapers from across the state to help you develop an attractive and functional windbreak on your livestock farm. 

To learn more, call 1-800-923-2436, or read more about the success of the GFP program right here on our blog! 

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Communications Intern

July 1, 2016

Diagnosing Tree Problems: A 3-Step Solution

             After devoting your time and money to a newly planted farm windbreak, the last thing you want is for your trees to become unhealthy, lose their aesthetic appeal or die. The reality is, trees are susceptible to a number of health threats including environmental stresses, siting problems, animal injury, disease and insect infestations.
Diagnosing tree problems doesn’t necessarily require referencing a textbook or online resource. Instead, the process can start with you. By following these three easy steps, your own observations may be the key to finding the right solution.

Step 1: Examine the Foliage
            Systematically examine your trees by starting with the leaves or needles. Note any discolored foliage including abnormal shades of yellow, light green, black or browning leaf margins. You should also check for the presence of holes, ragged edges, spots, deformities or insects, as well as any sign of prematurely fallen leaves.

Step 2: Assess the Trunk and Branches
            Direct observation of the trunk and branches may reveal mechanical bark injuries, ice, hail, or wind damage, or evidence of insect activity. Additionally, the presence of any wet, sticky substances, may indicate a bacterial infection, while fungal conks or cankers may indicate internal decay.

Step 3: Consider the Roots 
            Finally, an inspection of what’s happening below the soil surface may lead to an accurate diagnosis. Check the base of the tree to determine planting depth, and note any changes to the surrounding soil including compacting, excessively wet or dry ground or standing water. You should also verify if there is any visual evidence of girdling roots or other signs of physical injury.

Other Important Considerations
Additional characteristics to keep in mind while documenting your observations include:
-          Specific variety or cultivar
-          Approximate age or tree size
-          Soil type
-          Water, fertilizers or chemicals applied to (or near) tree
-          Evidence of injury to surrounding vegetation 
-          Date or time of year when symptoms appeared

At the end of the day, your eyes are your best resource for initiating a simple tree diagnosis. 

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Communications Intern