Tree Trimming Tips

Part of maintaining the health the trees in your yard involves trimming those trees. While forest trees get by with only nature’s pruning, your landscape trees will require a higher level of care to maintain their health, structural integrity, and aesthetics. While pruning is necessary, improper pruning can cause lasting damage so tree trimming and pruning must be done with an understanding of tree biology.

Reasons for Pruning

Each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree; so no branch should be removed without a reason. Common reasons for pruning are to:

  • Remove dead branches
  • Improve form
  • Reduce risk to property and other trees
  • Increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below


Routine thinning does not necessarily improve the health of a tree. Trees produce a dense crown of leaves to create the energy for growth and development. Removal of foliage through pruning can reduce growth and stored energy reserves. Heavy pruning can be a significant health stress for the tree, so make each cut with purpose.

So while there are many reasons to keep your trees intact, there are also outside considerations that may make it necessary to prune your trees. Safety, clearance, and compatibility with other components of a landscape are all major concerns. Proper pruning, with an understanding of tree biology, can maintain good tree health and structure while enhancing the aesthetic and economic values of our landscapes.

Inchworm Infestations

Inchworms serve as food to many bird species, and most trees and plant life can survive minimal inchworm feeding. However, when inchworm populations grow to the level of an infestation, they can become a destructive pest causing damage to vegetable crops, ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers. Inchworms lay their eggs in both fall and spring, so it is possible to have more than one infestation in a year. 

Generally reaching about an inch in length, inchworms are hairless and come in white, green, or black colors. To check for an infestation carefully check plants for both worms and larvae or signs of inchworm damage. Infected plants will have tiny and irregularly shaped holes between the veins. 

Different species of inchworms have different diets. They are voracious eaters who consume plant matter day and night. New leaves, leaf buds, flower buds, fruits, and berries may all be targets. Damage ranges from large holes to nearly total defoliation. Everything from your ornamental trees to your tomato garden can fall victim to an inchworm infestation. 

The best prevention for an inchworm infestation is ensuring your yard is hospitable to an inchworm’s natural predator: birds. Installing birdhouses and feeding stations is a great way to lure birds to your yard. 

While birds will go a long way, if you have an extreme infestation you may need to hire a professional to take care of the problem if expensive trees and shrubs are at risk. 

If you’re noticing a higher-than-usual amount of inchworm activity in your yard, consider giving us a call. We can offer you a number of treatment options to help tamp down the infestation and save your trees, shrubs, and garden. 

Tick and Mosquito safety

Warmer weather and blooming flowers mean you’re spending more time outdoors. But while you’re out enjoying the weather, so are ticks and mosquitoes, and they’re hungry! Not only are these pests annoying, but they can also carry potentially deadly diseases so it’s important to get them under control as soon as possible. 

Ticks are found in wooded areas and like to hide out in tall brush and grasses. Making the average yard on Long Island the perfect habitat for ticks. Every year we see more ticks spreading diseases, many of which are difficult to diagnose and treat. Some of the tick-borne diseases now spread on Long Island include the Powassan virus, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, Lyme Disease, and Alpha-Gal Meat Allergy.  

Take ticks seriously and consider doing more to keep you and your family safe from them, because what you’ve been doing may not be enough. It is imperative to spray for ticks before the ticks arrive.

Mosquitoes tend to show up a little later than ticks, but should not be ignored. Not only are they annoying, but they can also carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and Zika. These pests breed anywhere where there is standing water. Just an inch of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes. The best thing you can do for mosquito control is tree spraying. Plenty of organic insect control compounds kill dangerous insects but are safe for your family and pets. Discuss your tree spraying schedule early to ensure a happy, mosquito-free summer.

Scheduling regular tree and yard spraying for ticks and mosquitoes can help you take back your yard from these devious pests. Call Aronica Plant Health Care today and keep your family safe.

It’s Almost Spring!

You heard that right! Despite the late-season cold, spring is just around the corner. It’s time to grab your tools and get some dirt under your nails! To help you get a leg up on the work, here is your spring gardening checklist:

1. Time to Trim: Prune back winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn’t get around to it last fall. Then look around. March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it’s time to thin out crowded beds or do some transplanting to fill in bare spots.

2. Check for Signs of Growth: Our winter has been warm, so some plants might have started without you.

3. Prep the Beds: Remove winter mulch or, if it has been well composted, work it into the top layer of the soil. Clear away any broken or damaged branches from winter storms. Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage. Also, remove existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders. Spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots.

4. Prune Away Dead and Damaged Branches: Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems by using a handsaw for any larger than ½ inch in diameter. Shape hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears to be more precise.

5. Divide Perennials: Before plants have begun spring growth you should divide your perennials. Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up.

6. Fill in the Gaps: Where the soil has thawed, dig up perennials—such as Day Lilies and Hostas—to thin crowded beds. Divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. If you’re past the last date of frost, cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. 

7. Perform Basic Maintenance: Check stonework for frost heaves. Check and clean the deck now so you don’t have to do it later; make any repairs.

8. Start Seeds Indoors: Set your indoor seed planting now so they will be ready when the time is right.

9. Plant Veggies: Cold hardy vegetables—such as onions, potatoes, artichokes, and some lettuces—should be planted now, well before the weather truly warms up.

How to Ready Your Property for Spring

Yes, you heard right, it’s time to start talking about spring! While official spring doesn’t start until March 20, there’s a lot to do before then to make sure that your property is looking its best. Here’s some things you can do now so that you’re ready when it’s time to get outside.

How to Ready Your Property for Spring:

To start prepping your property, take a look at your beds and their edging. Neat edges on your beds will make mulching tasks easier and give the property an instant aesthetic boost. You should make a fresh cut around the edge of your bed and scoop out whatever has accumulated over the winter, such as leaves, unruly grass, soil, or mulch. You’ll want to do this early in the season because it’s not dependent on plant growth and can sometimes be time-consuming. Once growth starts, this task can become more difficult. 

Hate edging? Consider raised garden beds, which don’t need edging!

Another task you can do at any time of the year is weeding. As soon as the weather warms even a little, weeds will wake up, and with our relatively warm winter, they’re especially ready to go. Spring rains can make weeding easier as the ground is softer and weeds will come up easier. You want to pull up weeds as soon as you see them, and check for them regularly throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

After the final risk of frost has passed, you’ll want to tame your roses. Whether they’re climbing roses or shrub roses, you should prune them back to a more reasonable shape before new shoots reach half an inch. Remove dead stems, rubbing stems, or stems that are just outside of the shape you’re aiming for once blooming starts.

On Long Island, you’re looking at late March before it’s 100% safe to prune.

Before new growth appears you’ll also want to remove old, dead stems from other perennial plants. Don’t yank on stems, as that can damage new growth. Instead, use gardening shears or hand pruners to cut the dead growth away. For ornamental grasses, you can use a hedge trimmer, and be sure to cut off old, dead tops before the new growth appears if you have not already done this in the fall. 

Finally, plants in spring are hungry after a long winter’s dormancy, so fertilizing them is always a great idea. Mix the fertilizer into the soil once new growth is seen and make sure to soak in the fertilizer, so it mixes with the soil.

Getting all of this done before your garden starts to come back to life can make a big difference in what you see come mid-spring through summer. It’s a lot of work and can be time-consuming, but worth it once you see those plants blooming and bringing color back to your garden.

If you’d prefer to have the experts take care of the dirty work, give Aronica Plant Healthcare a call, and they’ll be happy to prep your property! Visit our website to complete our contact form or call 631.928.9000.

Protecting Trees and Shrubs From Arctic Blasts

We had a warm early winter, but we all knew it couldn’t last. Arctic blasts are coming and we’ll likely have frigid temps on and off until spring. With so much freezing and thawing your plants may need a little help to get through the winter unscathed.

The main issue that causes winter damage to trees and shrubs is desiccation, or drying out. When the ground freezes the roots are unable to take up water from the soil, so they quickly begin to use up all the water stored in their leaves and stems.

While trees and evergreens are built to survive the cold, it’s still a hard time and it can weaken them, allowing disease to set in. Plants such as Rhododendrons and Hollies have a thick, waxy covering on their leaves to hold in water. However, if during the winter plants are exposed to harsh winds or harsh sunlight the plant responds by releasing water from its leaves. This biological response, combined with the unavailability of water, results in winter burn, which can ruin these plants and shrubs.

To prevent this issue we utilize anti-desiccants. Anti-desiccants are products that can be applied to evergreen trees and shrubs to help create a protective barrier that holds in moisture through the winter. While two applications in December and one in February is ideal, it isn’t too late to protect your plants from drying out.

Which plants benefit from anti-desiccants?

  • Broadleaf evergreens such as Azalea, Boxwood, Holly, and Rhododendron
  • Conifers such as Arborvitae, Cedar, Cypress, Juniper, and Pine
  • Tender stems such as Rose Canes and Hydrangea Stems


If you are worried about your trees and plants this winter call the plant healthcare experts at Aronica Plant Healthcare.

How Should I Mulch My Leaves?

Leaves are piling up outside and for many, it’s time to pull out the rake and blower and start bagging leaves to be taken away. Consider, however, that mulching your leaves back into your lawn can help enhance the soil and the effectiveness of your lawn fertilizer.

While leaving whole leaves on your lawn can sometimes smother the grass and leave dead patches, running over those leaves with a mulching mower creates an excellent fertilizer. Many mowers have the ability to mulch if you use the right blade. Mulching blades are serrated rather than straight and help to shred the leaves into small pieces as you go over them.

If you’re using a regular mower you’ll need to put on the mulching blade before starting your task. If you’re using a mulching mower you just need to raise the blade up as high as it goes and remove the grass catcher so that the shredded leaves go back onto the lawn. Be sure you go over the leaves a number of times, making sure they are broken down into small pieces. This way, the leaves will not mat together, but will settle down into the turf and be decomposed by valuable microorganisms within the soil.

These leaves will break down over the course of the winter and release nitrogen back into the soil. This nitrogen, in turn, will feed your lawn and help it to be as lush and green as possible come spring. It will also help your lawn to fight off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass.

Depending on how thick the tree cover around your property is, you may have to mow once a week or so until the leaves stop falling. As you mow over the leaves you’ll see the pieces getting smaller and smaller until they sink down a bit between the grass blades. Once the grass is showing through, and the leaves are broken down to confetti size, you’re done with your lawnmower or mulching mower.

You can also use fallen leaves as mulch for plantings rather than for lawn care. In this case, you’ll still need to shred leaves first, though not as small as when you’re using them for the lawn. No matter what you choose to do with them, leaves should always be shredded before use. When you pile up whole leaves, air and sunlight cannot get to the decomposing leaves at the bottom. This becomes worse once they get wet and soggy. Mold and diseases can grow in this anaerobic environment. Your mulch, like your compost pile, should be as fluffy as possible so that air can circulate and nature’s decomposers can do their work. The idea of leaf mulching is to protect the ground from freezing, thawing, and then re-freezing because this is damaging to plants. The leaf layer in this case serves as a temperature regulator to keep this from happening. You’ll want a thick layer of shredded leaves for leaf mulching your garden beds.

So before breaking out the rake and the blower this year consider mulching your leaves instead. Your garden, and especially the soil, will thank you!

Fall Tree Spraying

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that’s just one sign that it’s the ideal time to start thinking about a preventative spraying program for fruit and other trees!

In particular, Peach Leaf Curl and Shot Hole Fungus can be prevented with a disease control application, while aphids, scale, spider mites, and others may be controlled with a dormant oil spray. After the first winter freeze, your tree’s bark contracts and seals in disease-causing organisms, so catching them early before the first heavy frosts come is essential. 

When trees are dormant, some pests take advantage of cracks and crevices to survive the winter, so spraying now is important for prevention. 

If we have a particularly wet winter, another application may need to be done in early spring just as buds begin to swell. 

It is just as essential to keep the areas around your trees clean from debris as it is to spray. Pests and fungus may take up residence in fallen leaves so it is important to rake up leaves and fallen branches before winter sets in.

To find out what type of spraying your trees may need, or to schedule a preventative service, contact us today!

Ticks vs. Chiggers

The weather is cooling and it’s perfect for spending time outdoors. Unfortunately, for many people, this will mean dealing with bites and the allergic reaction that comes along with them. 

People who have been outdoors in grassy areas may report instances of hundreds of red, itchy bites around the ankles, lower legs, or groin and assume these are chigger bites; but on Long Island, they would be mistaken. 

Chiggers are red bugs found in the southern, southeastern, and midwestern United States. They are the larval stage of a  parasitic mite that tends to bite in clusters where clothing is tight against the skin. They have not been found on Long Island. 

So if not chiggers, then what are those bites? Most likely, these bites are from the larval stage of the Lone Star Tick. Lone Star ticks bite in similar areas of the body as chiggers so it is easy to confuse them. Ticks bite in order to feed on blood, and while they do they often transmit tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease. Deer ticks are another parasite that may also cause these bites. These ticks may be almost invisibly tiny so they’re very hard to avoid. 

Your best bet to avoid any biting insect outdoors is to dress properly in long sleeves and pants and use bug repellent containing DEET. Stay on paths when you hike and avoid grassy areas! 

If you’re worried about ticks in your yard—be it dog ticks, deer ticks, or Lone Star ticks—you can contact us to have your yard treated!

West Nile Mosquitoes

The West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito or, rarely, due to blood transfusion. Mosquitoes generally become infected after biting birds infected with West Nile and then spreading the virus to humans. While most people infected with West Nile Virus (WNV) do not experience any symptoms, many can experience fever accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and diarrhea. In the United States, a total of 54 human cases of West Nile virus disease have been reported to the centers for disease control and prevention, and there are more cases reported every summer. 

Recently tests in Suffolk County showed 13 mosquito samples tested positive. Because of this, it is important to practice mosquito safety to reduce the risks. 

First, make sure you’re wearing good mosquito repellent. Insect repellent sprays with DEET have shown great effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes and ticks. Next, remove sources of standing water. Pet water bowls, bird baths, planters, tires, etc. can all be places where mosquitoes lay eggs. Change the water out regularly or keep water flowing with a pump to dissuade them from breeding there.  

Minimize exposed skin from dusk till dawn, the most active time for mosquitoes. 

Report dead birds. Dead birds may be a sign of local West Nile activity. To report dead birds, call the Bureau of Public Health Protection at 631-852-5999 from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

Finally, consider having your yard sprayed for mosquitoes (and ticks as well!) Make your yard a more pleasant place to be through the fall by keeping up with a spraying schedule to keep your family and pets safe from West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses. Give Aronica Plant Healthcare today to schedule your yard treatment.