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Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Gardeners understand the power of mulch which simply put, improves plant growth and health. This hard-working product regulates the temperature of soil, retains moisture in the soil, reduces weed growth and provides a finished appearance to a garden’s design.
 
PineLife Mulch is a blend of composted pine mulch, fine compost, mycorrhizae, barkfines, and slow release fertilizer which improves soil structure, feeds plants, and encourages beneficial microorganisms.
 

During the winter, the insulating quality of mulch protects plants from the freezing and thawing cycle which can lead to “frost heaving". Frost heaving occurs when water in soil that is unprotected by mulch expands and contracts leading plants to literally rise up out of the ground, causing damage to plants’ crowns and roots.


In spring, this same insulating quality helps to warm the soil a little earlier allowing for earlier planting than would normally be possible.


·Unprotected soil will often crust over due to lack of water. Mulch provides a protective cover that prevents this crusting. Instead of running off the hard surface, mulched soil absorbs water. It also slows water evaporation from the underlying soil, in some cases, by up to 35 percent.


Mulching also controls weeds by blocking the light that some unwanted species need to germinate. Some weed species can rob up to 25 percent of the moisture that would ordinarily feed nearby plants.


Mulch also prevents soil from splashing onto leaves, reducing the potential for the contamination of plants with fungal and bacterial diseases often found in the soil.



The aesthetic benefits of mulch are well known as are some of its exaggerated excesses. Mulch unifies a garden’s design by creating a neutral backdrop in the garden, allowing the shrubs and flowers to take center stage. Mulch can also help fill patchy areas in the garden, creating a clean and tidy look.


Everyone is familiar with the mulch volcano, where mulch is piled high around the trunk of a tree, in the shape of a volcano. This can cause bark decay and can cause the tree’s roots to grow up into the mulch, rather than down into the soil. Mulch should always be kept several inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs.


Generally speaking, ornamental gardens should have a layer of mulch 2-3 inches deep; not too deep that it will suffocate plants but deep enough to keep weeds from taking root.


Beds mulched with PineLife mulch.

Organic mulch, the only type of mulch we recommend, breaks down and improves the soil’s structure and fertility over time. Mulch materials generally include hardwood, pine bark and compost. While each material is beneficial in its own way, each also has drawbacks. Hardwood mulch can “knit together” and impede the growth of plants, pine bark can be blown or washed away, and compost can provide a prime bed for airborne weed seeds.


To overcome the downsides of these traditional mulch materials, Renewed Earth, our mulch supplier located in Otsego, Michigan, created a new mulch, PineLife, which we’ve started using with great results. It’s a proprietary mix of composted pine mulch, fine compost, mycorrhizae, barkfines and a slow release fertilizer designed to improve soil structure, feeds plants and encourage beneficial microorganisms.


Before PineLife mulch application.

This nutrient enhanced, performance based landscape mulch also provides a beautiful backdrop to any landscaped garden. It’s deep brown color and fine texture improves the look of landscaped beds as well as areas around tree and shrub plantings. The before and after pictures of our customer’s beds are a testament to the beauty of PineLife mulch.


After PineLife mulch application.


  • Writer's pictureNeil Atzinger

Essential cleanup, weeding, and pruning makes for a successful garden for the whole year.


Gardening is a wonderful way to take in the energizing sunrays and get the body moving after a two-month hibernation. But health is not the main reason to get out in your garden in March or even late February. Starting early in the season, in March, is the perfect time to get ahead of garden maintenance, pruning, and plan for a successful season. In this article, we will discuss why starting gardening in March is crucial to stay on top of gardening for the whole season, and what specific tasks should be done during this time of the year.


 

1.Clean winter debris


April is full of its own, important tasks. Starting your garden maintenance in March helps you to get on top of gardening for the rest of spring. In April, it's all-hands-on-deck for weeding, applying fertilizer or compost, and transplanting or reorganizing beds. We can't be busied with the extra debris cleanup that should have happened in March. There's not enough time, and we fall behind on important work. By cleaning and weeding your garden early on, you can prevent weeds and pests from taking over your garden and reduce the amount of maintenance work you need to do later in the season.



2. Dormant pruning for healthy growth.


Dormant pruning is the process of pruning trees and shrubs before they start to grow in the spring. It helps to promote healthy growth and can prevent the spread of diseases. In April, many pathogens that will attack fresh, sap-filled cuts are ready and willing to make your late, heavy pruning a challenge. Woody plants such as fruit trees, roses, and deciduous shrubs should be pruned while dormant. This is during late winter and early spring. With cuts made in March, the cut will have dried, and healing tissues can begin to grow over the wound. Avoid unnecessary fungal and insect damage with March gardening.


Ruth and Neil enjoy late winter pruning on one of their first jobs as Atzinger Gardens. These crabs near the center of Saline received a thoughtful, timely pruning that opened up the tree for health and beauty.


3. Identify and control early-season weeds


Weeds are a significant threat to a healthy, beautiful garden, and some weeds start to establish themselves early in the season. Weeds such as chickweed, henbit, and dandelions germinate in the fall and start to grow in early spring. Annual weeds like chickweed, crabgrass, knotweed, lambs-quarters, purslane, and speedwell start to germinate very early. These weeds can quickly spread and take over your garden, so it's important to identify and control them early on.


4. Plan for a more beautiful garden.


Early spring is the perfect time to plan for a more beautiful garden. You can start by assessing your garden layout and deciding what plants you want to add. Research the plants that you would like to add, and make a list of what you need to buy. By starting early, you can take advantage of early-season sales and ensure that you get the plants you want before they sell out. When you work with Atzinger Gardens early in the season, it affords us time to get your project on the schedule at just the right time.


With a plan already in place, we are ready to get aggressive with dividing Siberian irises.


5. Save time and effort in the long run


By getting on top of gardening in March, you can save time and effort in the long run. Preventing weeds and pests from taking hold early on can reduce the amount of time and effort you need to spend on garden maintenance later in the season. This gives you more time to enjoy your garden and relax in your outdoor space.

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Pollarding is an ancient technique used selectively by Atzinger Gardens. Pollarding is the aggressive cutting back of the upper branches of a tree to the secondary branches near the trunk of the tree. The pollarded tree then sends up a dense head of new growth. This practice has been used for centuries to manage trees, primarily for agricultural or ornamental purposes, and it has become an increasingly popular method of urban tree management in recent years because of its use in reducing large trees to fit in a manageable space. Use this method of pruning for a look that suggests medieval European orchards and monasteries.


A successfully pollarded Acer plantanoides (Norway Maple) at a client's home in Canton.


 

Process for Pollarding


Pollarding can benefit trees in stimulating new growth, reducing the risk of damage from wind and snow, and improving the tree's overall health and appearance by allowing more light and airflow to enter.


The process of maintaining a pollard involves cutting the upper branches of a tree back to a predetermined point, typically just above the last pollard cut. The timing of pollarding is essential, as it can significantly affect the tree's growth and overall health. Generally, the best time to pollard a tree is during the dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring. This timing ensures that the tree will be able to produce new growth quickly once the growing season begins. Maples (Acers) should not typically be pruned aggressively at this time because if their heavy sap flow.



 

Which Tree Species Can Be Pollarded?


Only certain species of trees can be pollarded. These include willows, poplars, oaks, elms, hornbeams and sycamores and some maples. The type of tree that is best suited for pollarding will depend on the species' growth habits - how quickly does it heal, push new buds, and send up new growth?


For example, willows and poplars are often used for pollarding because they are fast-growing and can tolerate heavy pruning. These trees can be pollarded annually to keep them at a manageable size and promote new growth. On the other hand, oaks and elms are slower-growing and require less frequent pollarding, typically every 3-5 years.


It's important to note that not all trees are suitable for pollarding. Most conifers (except taxus/yews), do not respond well to pollarding and may become damaged or weakened as a result. Additionally, trees that have been pollarded in the past may not respond well to additional pruning, as the repeated removal of upper branches can cause stress to the tree and weaken its overall structure.

In-progress work on apple tree pruning using a technique similar to pollarding.


Maintaining a Pollard

Regular pruning is essential to maintaining healthy pollards, as it helps to stimulate new growth and prevent the tree from becoming too dense or top-heavy. Typical pruning techniques also come into play such as removing any dead or damaged branches, thinning out crowded areas, and shaping the tree to maintain its desired size and shape.


In addition to regular pruning, it's important to monitor the tree for signs of stress or disease. Signs of stress can include wilting, yellowing leaves, and reduced growth, while signs of disease may include cankers, fungal growth, or insect infestations. If any of these symptoms are present, it's important to take action immediately to prevent further damage to the tree.


Pollarding can be a highly effective method of tree management when done correctly. By carefully selecting the right trees for pollarding, choosing the appropriate timing and frequency of pruning, and maintaining the tree's health and appearance through regular care, pollarding can help to create healthy, attractive, and well-managed trees. However, it's important to work with trained horticulturists to ensure that the process is done safely and effectively.


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