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Arbor News - 2015

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By Diane V. Steiner

Taking care of your lawn can be a rewarding or frustrating experience depending on your turf maintenance. The best way to keep weeds out of your lawn is to have good turf management which includes fertilizing, weed control, proper mower height, frequency and suitable watering techniques. This will leave little opportunity for weeds to get established.

Weeds in the lawn indicate there is minimal competition from grass. Individual weed species will tell you what to correct. Keeping your grass thick and green will help to snuff them out.

    1. Dandelion ( perennial) indicates thin turf
    2. Plantain (perennial) indicates compacted, poorly drained soil
    3. Chickweed (annual) indicates thin or bare soil where it can reseed
    4. Ground Ivy (perennial) indicates compacted topsoil layer especially in traffic areas or tree roots, shade
    5. White Clover (perennial) indicates stressed soil that has thinned out, wet soils and high potassium fertilizer
    6. Bull Thistle (biennial) disturbed areas, trails, open fields, cultivated soils
    7. Canada Thistle (perennial) aggressive creeping weed usually on disturbed areas

It is important to know if the weeds are annual, perennial or biennial for timing of herbicides and when they are most susceptible.

    Annual Weeds -start from seed
    Perennials -start from root in ground
    Biennials -two year cycle, flowering in the second year

It is also important to know that there is a difference between grass and weeds. They are treated with different chemicals and possibly different timing.

Treat perennial broad leaf weeds in the fall usually after frost. The temperature signals to the plant to start storing food in their root systems. Applying herbicide at this time will accelerate the herbicide’s route to the root. Annual weeds are treated with pre-emergent seed herbicides. This application needs to be done before the seed germinates. Additionally some perennial weeds may spread by seed like Dandelions.

Spring, 1814
By Kevin Nolan – Certified Arborist MW-4399A

A Burr Oak (Quercus Macrocarpa) acorn, long forgotten by the scurrying squirrel that stashed it away, reacts to the warming soil and moist earth. Two simple leaves push above ground, providing energy for the long tap root winding its way through the loam. Against all odds, the sapling avoids being consumed by grazing animals or destroyed by fire as the nearby prairie grass burns. Within a few years the thick bark is strong enough to resist fire and the canopy rises above the surrounding foliage. Perhaps one out of several thousand acorns survive this long, much less continue a cycle of growth and dormancy for the next 200 years.

This Burr Oak, emerging in what is now Deane Blvd. in Racine, Wisconsin was still in exceptional health when I first observed it. The trunk was straight and free of structural defects, the root system tapered wonderfully into the ground, and the branch unions had a textbook arrangement. Branch ends were fully leafed out with only a small amount of average deadwood visible in the canopy. The tree had a diameter of 56 inches at breast height. After all these years of observing and caring for trees, it’s nice to know that there are a few remaining gems that make the most jaded of arborists stand back in awe. I was therefore dismayed to find my estimate notes read “backyard tree, give cost for removal”.

I immediately called the homeowner and asked why the tree was to be removed. The house was for sale, the only offer they received demanded that the tree be removed prior to closing. I felt, and the current occupant agreed, that this tree was a part of Racine’s history and should be preserved at all costs. Unfortunately, all attempts to convince the new owners fell short and they were dead set on removal. Not one to give up easily, I searched for additional options. I was disappointed to find that the City of Racine, Racine County, and the State of Wisconsin do not have any ordinances that could have helped protect this tree. Despite my best efforts, this stately tree was removed in the summer of 2014.

While our company did not perform the removal, I did manage to obtain a section of the trunk and count the rings. While I am admittedly inexperienced with dendrochronology, I found the tree to be approximately 200 years old. Thus began my journey to document the history of this tree and the major historical events it has silently observed all these many years. I decided to pay homage to Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”, where he beautifully describes sawing down a lightning struck oak one cold November day.

Leopold used a two man saw, and his narrative frequently calls for a “Rest!” by the sawyer. As the saw sliced into the tree, Leopold reflected on the notion that his saw was travelling through history as it moved toward the trees center. A chainsaw performs this task much more efficiently, but with the same experience.

The saw grumbles in readiness, and roars as the operator begins his cut. Several inches of thick bark is quickly cut through before reaching the cambium layers, then on to the older wood. Each ring tells a story. 2014 passes by in an instant, noticeably thicker than those in 2012-13 in which we had a severe drought. The tree stood in silent tribute on February 1st, 2003 when U.S. Navy Captain Laurel Clark, a graduate of William Horlick High School, was lost in the Columbia Space Shuttle accident.

Sawdust gathers as the saw moves deeper, back to 1998 when Racine enjoyed a Sesquicentennial (150 years, 1848-1998).

The Wisconsin Arborists Association was established in 1964. In 1943 a Statue was dedicated to Mary and Abraham Lincoln. That same year the Racine Belles win the first World Championship for the AAGPBL.

The Wisconsin State Conservation Commission was formed in 1934 as this already mature Burr Oak struggled to survive the Dust Bowl. These were desperate times, and on November 30th, 1933 John Dillinger robbed the American Bank & Trust Company in Racine, WI. The tree stood stalwart against the winds in 1924, when a tornado ripped through the city and damaged many structures. Our tree has now stood for a century and witnesses the start of World War I in 1914.

In 1912, Racine resident Jennie Hanson survived the sinking of the Titanic, though her husband perished in the disaster. The Racine Public Library was constructed in 1904 (this building is now the Racine Historical Museum).

Cutting deeper, the saw finds the trees heartwood solid and free of rot. This tree was not damaged in 1884, when the Blake Opera House erupted into flames. The passing of “old Abe” the war eagle in 1881 and the construction of the Wind Point Lighthouse in 1880 passed by in the annual cycle of energy gathering and defoliation. 1861-1865: Civil War in America. Our tree stands tall, perhaps offering much needed shade and rest to those travelling the underground railroad of which Racine played such an important role.

Racine becomes an official city in 1848, this same year Wisconsin is ratified as the 30th State in our expanding nation. Gilbert Knapp established Racine in 1834, finding the country agreeable to agriculture and trade. This territory was officially transferred to the United States after the Black Hawk War of 1832. Prior to this, our tree stood young and vigorous upon the prairie.

Now the saw has reached the center, and the beginning of life for this tree. Far from yelling “Timber!” and fleeing for safety as gravity takes over, this section of tree is lifted smoothly into the air with a crane after completing the cut. And now the question must be asked: Should this tree have been preserved? Does a homeowner have complete dominion of their yard, or should regulations exist to protect such specimens? Interested parties can join this discussion, and find additional information on our Facebook page.

I would like to offer my very special thanks to the fine folks at the Racine Historical Museum for their time and assistance. A treasure trove of information lies at 701 Main Street!

I will leave you with a quote from Aldo Leopold: “Thus, he who owns a veteran Bur Oak owns more than a tree. He owns a historical library, and a reserved seat in the theater of evolution. To the discerning eye, his farm is labeled with the badge and symbol of the prairie war.”


We have two new operations to bring to your attention. We now have the 1st 50 trees of our container grown nursery “Special Tree” planted and another 72 ordered for spring. We are still about 3 years off before they become available and include: Flowering Crabs, Serviceberry, Hazelnut, Redbud, Dwarf Birch, Concolor Fir, Magnolia and Black Hill Spruce.

Lawn Care

We now for the very first time have a lawn care division. It is devoted to the same safer environmental practices that we apply to all our plant health care.

Lawn Care Division

Cassity Tree and Landscape has been in the business of Plant Health Care for 37 years. With our motto “Plant Health Care with a Conscience”, we are now offering our expertise as Certified Arborists and Degreed Horticulturalists to lawn care. We have found that many traditional lawn care companies apply products that are counter-productive to tree and shrub health and/or duplicate services to trees and shrubs that can result in detriment to the plants and the environment. We are excited to offer this service and have applied extensive research to provide you with environmentally friendly yet effective lawn care.

Offering complete plant Health Care services for trees, shrubs and now lawns.
    Organically Based
    Improves Soils
    Gentle on the Environment
    Spot Weed Control/No Cover Sprays
    Complimentary to all other Plant Care

Its All About The Soil
By Susan Tangen Certified Arborist WI 0684A

Did you know that there could be billions of microbes in one gram of soil? These microbes, along with other soil organisms, such as worms, are needed to build a healthy fertile soil supportive to optimum plant growth. Therefore, it would be beneficial to create a favorable environment for soil organisms to thrive. Like all living things, soil organisms need food, water and air to survive and thrive. Therefore, we must find ways to provide the necessary requirements needed for their survival. Some practices to encourage a favorable environment for beneficial soil organisms include using organic fertilizers, watering effectively, and avoiding unwarranted pesticide applications.

Providing food for soil organisms is very important. One way to achieve this is by using the proper fertilizers. There are two types of fertilizers; organic and synthetic. Organic fertilizers contain natural materials such as mined minerals and animal or plant materials with little or no processing. The organic matter provided by organic fertilizers will deliver plenty of accessible food for the soil micro-organisms which will help them cycle nutrients that plants need to grow. One the other hand, synthetic fertilizers do not contain organic matter; they contain mineral salts which do not provide food for the micro-organisms. Furthermore, repeated applications of synthetic fertilizers over time will cause the soil to lose organic matter and the all-important living organisms needed to build a healthy soil.

All beneficial soil organisms require a damp, but not soggy environment to be active and to survive. If the soil is too dry, the process of decomposition to form organic matter and the release of essential nutrients for plant uptake, which is driven by soil micro-organisms, will be slowed or stopped. In addition, according to some studies, more than two-thirds of the original microbial biomass decreased following drying of the soils. Therefore, it is important that trees, turd and gardens are watered when the soil begins to dry. Just as importantly, avoid over watering. This will reduce the amount of air in the soil which is necessary for the survival of beneficial soil micro-organisms.

Even though soil microbes are a major agent in degrading pesticides and, in fact, some may enhance the population of certain soil microbes, heavy pesticides use can cause deterioration of soil micro-organisms. To protect the soil organisms and maintain a healthy soil, spot treat areas with herbicides and use fungicide and insecticides only if needed due to disease or insect outbreaks.

Soil organisms are the living part of the soil which has a large influence on plant growth. Without them, plants would fail to thrive and survive. By encouraging a favorable environment for soil organisms, plants will be happier and healthier which will require less maintenance in the long run.

Previous Arbor News Publications

This newsletter has adapted articles from the publications of the following organizations in addition to our original pictures and stories.

Cassity Tree Service - 9160 Charles Street - Sturtevant, WI. - 53177 - 262.886.5224