Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  Are any plants deer proof?

No.  There are really no plants that should be considered ‘deer proof’ in the Ithaca area.  However, there are many plants that can be considered very unlikely to be browsed by deer.  Some common general things to consider are flowering shrubs such as spirea and potentilla, ornamental shrubs like spruces, fragrant sumac and boxwood, and perennials such as catmint, lavender and lambs ear.  Combining other site requirements with heavy deer populations can be tough but our staff should be able to guide you to the perfect plant.

Q. What are good deer resistant plants?

Please refer to our list of deer resistant plants on Minimizing Deer Damage.

Q. What shrubs or trees do I need to protect from deer?

This is a difficult question, and the answer really depends on your area deer population and availability of other food sources (ag. crops, green lawn, and neighbors’ plants).  It is best to pay attention to what is being browsed at what times of the year.  Often it helps to pay attention to what your neighbors are protecting.  Browsing is worst in late fall through mid-spring.  During these times little or no other food sources are available and the deer become desperate and will browse on plants they would otherwise never bother.  If you have questions about specific plants please consult our staff for guidance.  Some plants that are typically heavily browsed are: rhododendron and azalea, holly, yew, arborvitae, chamaecyparis, some juniper, some viburnum, hemlock, soft needle pines, roses, lilac, most hydrangea, daylily, and hosta.

Q. What shrubs or trees do I need to protect from rabbits?

Rabbits are not generally a problem in our area, but occasionally they can be a serious problem.  Here at the shop, we have problems with rabbits, but only in the winter.  During the dormant season, the rabbits get more desperate when their herbaceous food dies back and resort to eating bark off shrubs.  This can be devastating to shrubs and trees as they will often girdle the main stem, killing the plant.

The main plants to be concerned with are deciduous shrubs and smooth barked young trees.  It is difficult to predict what species the rabbits will prefer or even if you’ll experience any problems at all.  It is often best to keep a vigilant eye through the dormant season and protect as required, learning from season to season what you’ll need to protect on your site.

A short (2-3’) chicken wire fence around shrubs seems to be most effective against rabbits.; the key here is to make sure the fence is tight to the ground and well secure to the stakes.  Thick mesh trunk guards or spiral trunk guards work well on tree-like specimens.  Occasionally larger trees and high value specimens may require chicken wire to be wrapped loosely around the main stem(s).

Q. What is the best kind of trunk guard?

We recommend one of two preferred options: 36” spiral wraps and 48” hard mesh collars.  The spiral wraps work well on small (under 1”) diameter trees, as well as small multi-stemmed trees.  The mesh collars work well on shade trees with clear, straight trunks up to 4”.  If your tree doesn’t fit these specifications it may need a combination of efforts or a temporary deer fence installed.

Q. Why are my Rhododendron’s leaves curling this winter?

This is caused by extreme cold weather.  It is normal for plants to take measures to help prevent damage from cold and dry winds and this is a rhododendron’s way of dealing with this.  The curled leaves decrease the surface area of the leaf, thus decreasing the effect of the cold and wind on the plant.  The leaves should open back up and be healthy when warmer weather returns.

Q. Why are my Hemlock trees dying?

Eastern hemlock is an important tree in or area both environmentally and culturally.  Recently, major mortality has begun to be seen in areas to the south of us, and has even begun to be reported here in Ithaca.  The cause of this problem is a tiny, almost microscopic insect known as the ‘hemlock woolly adelgid’.  It lives and feeds on the underside of hemlock needles and eventually infests a tree to the point of mortality.  Cornell Cooperative Extension Info: http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/hemlock-woolly-adelgid

Q. What can I do about HWA?

Currently, the only effective treatment for this pest is insecticide.  On small trees a foliar spray can be applied directly to the underside of the needles and on larger trees only systemic insecticides will be effective.  These can be applied as a soil drench, basal spray or stem injection.  These insecticides are only available commercially and must be applied by a registered pesticide applicator.  Please contact our office if you have any further concern regarding hemlock you may have on your property.

Q. Why are my Ash trees dying?

There are many factors that can be attributed to mortality of Ash trees.  First, natural mortality is common among Ash.  They are highly shade intolerant and can easily decline as a result of overcrowding as well as over story shading from nearby trees.  Second Ash Yellows, a phytoplasma disease, can cause decline in otherwise healthy specimen.  Lastly, Emerald Ash Borer is currently the primary threat of Ash trees in our area.  These tiny boring insects have not been established in Ithaca yet.  However, there are hotspots in Syracuse, Rochester and Steuben County (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/42674.html).  Currently, we are assuming the EAM will move into the area and eventually preventative measures should be taken to control the insect.

Q. What can I do about my ash trees?

Currently, we are not recommending preventative measures.  Upon confirmation of a population closer to our area, insecticide should be used to prevent infestation of important specimen.  These insecticides could include foliar spray of small trees and commercially applied soil drench, basal spray, or stem injection on taller trees.

Q: I have several small trees in pots to be planted next spring.  Right now they are all huddled up next to my house, outside.  Should I bring them in the garage over the winter?  I don’t have the capacity to “mulch them” .  What is your take?

A. Since you can’t mulch the plants, I would bring the in the garage for the winter.  It is not so much the cold as it is the freeze/thaw effect on the root system that will damage or kill the plants. We overwinter all our container trees in covered, unheated storage houses so the garage would be the best equivalent.  Be sure to keep an eye on watering: they shouldn’t need much, probably a good drink before going in if the soil is not already moist, and once or twice as spring approaches.  Just don’t let them dry out completely (from our Horticulturist, Kerry).

The trees will be more protected from extreme temperatures in the garage… which could prevent root damage. However, “trees” is a big category and different species would respond differently.
-Very hardy trees… like sugar maple or aspens… can just be left outdoors.
-Tender trees… like redbuds and dogwoods… will do best indoors.
-Conifers… like pines and spruce… need sun.  They continue with photosynthesis over the winter and also need more water.  Best left outdoors.
-Broad-leaved evergreens… like rhododendrons… will have less winter damage indoors. Put them by a window and water once or twice per month.
Hope this helps (from David).

Q. Do you have watering guidelines?

Yes we do!  

1. We have an easy to remember Watering Adage for new plantings:

“ Once a day for the first week,

once a week for the first month,

once a month for the first year.”

2. However, this is not completely accurate.  You normally have to water quite a bit more with later spring and early summer plantings, as much as 2 to 3 times per week through the hotter months. Water heavily if the soil is dry, and/ or more frequently if the area is in a drought.

3. Do not water if the soil feels wet ; wait until the soil dries out before watering. Overwatering g can kill plants by eliminating the oxygen in the root zone.  This is an issue with poorly drained soils, but not with sand, gravelly well-drained soils.

4. You want to make sure evergreens to into the winter in a well-drained state perhaps by giving them a good soaking in November.  Deciduous plants, usually will not need watering at all from Mid-November to mid-April.

5. For second year plants, those that have overwintered , resume watering in May when warmer temperatures dry the ground. Continue with one time per week waterings during hot dry weeks.  No need to water during the cool dry weeks. From then on, water during droughts as needed.

6. The amount of water is generally 10 gallons per tree and 2-3 gallons per shrub.

Q. Where do you mow?  How much do you charge?

Because mowing involves a lot of driving, we don’t mow everywhere, and we are restricted pretty much to the Ithaca area.  The neighborhoods that we mow include south Lansing, Northeast (Ithaca), Cayuga Heights and Cornell Heights, East Hill, Taughannock Blvd (on West Hill), and the west end (near town) of Cottington Road.

Factors considered in the cost of a mowing include lawn size, degree and frequency of obstructions, frequency of lawn mowing, off-street parking and proximity to other regular customers.  A one-time mowing of a lawn that should have been mowed 5 times will likely cost 5 times that of a single regular mowing, e.g., if the lawn had been maintained and we estimated the cost at $50, then a one-time mowing that missed 4 mowings would cost about $250.