Growing Things: How to protect junipers from winter kill

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Author of the article:

Gerald Filipski

Publication date:

August 11, 2020August 11, 2020Read for 3 minutes Join the conversation A young Columbia ground squirrel peeks out of the entrance of Ints Burrow behind a juniper grove in the Porcupine Hills west of Claresholm, AB. A young Columbia ground squirrel peeks out of the entrance of Ints Burrow behind a juniper grove in the Porcupine Hills west of Claresholm, AB. Photo by Mike Drew /Postal media

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Q: We have eight Wichita Blue junipers, 15 years old, fully trimmed, with galls being removed annually. This year our two south-facing junipers have turned brown. We cleaned the trees, fertilized them and sprayed copper against galls, which led to new growth. We were told it was Winterkill and we would have to replace it, which we would rather not. We’d love your advice.

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A: Of the eight junipers, only the south-facing ones turned brown, and of your photo, only the south-facing side of both junipers turned brown. I am afraid the initial diagnosis is correct. The damage is very likely winter kill.

The combination of southern sun and winter winds can be a deadly combination for junipers. The needles simply dry out and the water in the root zone is frozen and is no longer available to the plant to replenish the loss of moisture. Another cause could be a rapid drop in temperature after a warm and sunny day.

I applied an antiperspirant to my south-facing junipers. The name of the product is Wilt Pruf. This is an organic, harmless and biodegradable spray that protects the plant from drying out in winter. Most greenhouses carry it.

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Q: Please settle a dispute between my husband and me over our lawn. My husband thinks he has to put lawn seeds on the grass after every mowing. I think this is unnecessary and should only be done in the spring after the lawn has been mixed with soil. In addition, the grass seed ends up in the flower beds, which means that I have to weed forever. Since you are the expert, please let us know who is right.

A: I have to tell you that every time I get one of these spouses to clear up the issues, I flinch a little. My answer was, “Bet your husband about dinner, and if he takes the bet, tell him I agreed with you. You can choke a lawn by doing what it wants to do. Once in spring is enough. ‘

I received the following reply: ‘Thank you very much for your answer and of course for telling you that I am right! We both enjoy reading your informative column in the Edmonton Journal. Take care and enjoy the summer. ‘ I’m still giggling.

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Q: We drove away for the weekend and came back to a dead cherry tree. It’s a very quick doom that has baffled us. Both cherry bushes were developed at the University of Saskatchewan and adapted for the prairies. They were planted at least five years ago and there were tons of blooms and lots of cherries. The surviving cherry has a lot of fruit, but does not look as healthy as it used to.

Any ideas what is going on and how we can save the other? Not a trace of fungus or anything, and we haven’t fertilized for months.

A: Yeah, that’s a quick downfall. Something that quickly reminds you of a few possible causes. One of them is herbicide damage. If you are spraying for weeds in the area, the herbicide may have gotten to the cherry tree. Another possible cause that can work so quickly is fungal root rot. Another thought is lack of moisture. Severe drought conditions can cause very rapid death.

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There is one last option and that is too much mulch. I noticed in your photo that there is a thick layer of bark mulch under the plants. Mulch too close to the tree trunk can cause the tree to suffocate from a lack of oxygen. Since your surviving cherry tree doesn’t look healthy either, I would remove the mulch around the base of the plant.

Mulch is an excellent means of preventing weed growth, but it must be used with caution. I use cedar bark mulch myself, but only apply it to a depth of five centimeters and keep it well away from the trunk or base of the plant. Good luck and have fun gardening!

Gerald Filipski is the author of Just Ask Jerry. Email your questions to [email protected] To read the previous columns, go to edmontonjournal.com and search for Gerald Filipski

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