Before you hire Good News Tree Service, Inc. of Wilsonville, Oregon, we invite you to learn a little about us by watching this short video. We look forward to serving you. Thank you and cheers! — Nathan Lawrence and the team
Life is a complicated and connected chain comprised of countless threads that are all tightly interwoven. Each one is co-dependent for its survival on the other. A dead tree figures prominently into this intricate web of life. How so, you may ask? Let’s explore this idea together.
As a tree care provider for nearly 50 years, for most of that time, on encountering a dead tree, the automatic, even thoughtless, reaction has been to remove it. However, now we realize that there are times when leaving a dead tree is the right thing to do in order to help preserve the delicate balance of nature and protect the chain of life that depends of that dead tree.
Without a doubt, if leaving a dead tree standing will imperil life and property, it must be removed; this is because it’s a liability and a hazard. However, what if that tree is in a place where it won’t be dangerous to life and property, when it starts to decay and fall apart? Or what if we can reduce the tree in size so that it is no longer a hazard, thus allowing it “live” after it has died?
It’s a fact of nature that dead trees play an important role in the balance of nature. As they are decaying, they provide food, protection and habitation for many things such as the soil, insects, birds, amphibians, mammals, plants and fungi. Next time you’re walking in a forest and you spot a dead tree snag, a rotten log or an old tree stump, don’t take it for granted and pass it by. Rather, stop and look at the microcosm of life that surrounds that piece of rotting wood debris. Notice how many life forms depend on it. In fact, there are some that will spend their entire life in, on and around that piece of rotting wood. They need it, and without it, they will cease to exist.
Consider how a selfless tree keeps on giving life long after the last living cell has died within it. And even then, when it has decomposed and melted into the earth, the topsoil that derives from that tree will continue to give life for hundreds or thousands of years. It takes about a hundred years of plant debris to make an inch of topsoil. Just try to imagine how many trees went into making that one inch. It’s an amazing wonder of nature!
The great thing is that you can be part of helping to preserve the earth by leaving stumps or snags in your garden and even working them into your landscaping. It may take some creativity, but it can be done if you stretch your gardening mind and creatively think outside the traditional box. The forest are full of stumps, dead trees and rotten logs, and we think it’s beautiful. How about importing this idea into your own garden?
Here are some photos I have taken that illustrate the points made above. Please enjoy. The captions will explain what’s going on.Continue reading
This guide is tailored for the western valleys of Oregon and Washington.
YOU can help to make the world a better, a more friendly, loving and beautiful place by being a good steward of the spot on this earth that you are privileged to be borrowing for a time—your garden. Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden paradise. Then notice the joy that it will bring to you! This is your divinely mandated responsibility. Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will express their smiling appreciation back to you and to others as they radiate love, joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Below is a to do list to help you to do just that.
Winter is finally here. The leaves are down and picked up. The garden is at rest—a state of stasis, more or less. Time to kick back and give yourself a break from gardening for a little while until life begins to pop again in three months, unless, of course, you’re a diehard, incurable and inveterate gardener like me. In that case, you’re always messing around in your garden no matter the season or weather conditions! Gortex and wool are your best friends at this time of the year, aren’t they? For you hardy souls, here’s a checklist of things with which to keep yourself busy in your little oasis on planet earth during December-r-r-r.
Readers’ suggestions on how to improve this list are gladly solicited. If you, the reader, have any suggestions for additions to this month’s list, please put them in the comments section of this article, and I will add them to the list. Thank you in advance! — Nathan
Tree and Shrub Care
- Fruit tree sanitation. To prevent possible spread of leaf diseases, rake up and remove leaves from around the base of fruit trees.
- Fruit tree pruning: After the leaves drop is an excellent time to prune trees that are done fruiting and for aesthetics, since wounds will heal more quickly in warmer weather than occurs in winter. This is also a good time to reduce the height of overgrown fruit trees, since they are likely to produce fewer water sprouts now then when pruned in the spring.
- Storm proof your larger trees: With the advent of winter storms and the potential damage that they may inflict upon your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. This can be done anytime of the year, but now, before the winter storms hit, is an excellent time to proactive assess the condition of your trees for potential limb and trunk breakage.
- Large trees: After each major weather event, check your trees for damage such as broken or hanging limbs. If you have concerns or questions about your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for damage or the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches.
- Plant or transplant trees and shrubs. After the cold, seasonal rains have started is a good time to plant or transplant ornamental trees and shrubs. Cooler weather means less transplant shock to the plants, and over the winter and spring, they will have time to begin to acclimate to their new environment before the stress of the next summer season occurs.
- Prune your trees and shrubs. This is a good time to start pruning your deciduous trees and shrubs after the leaves have fallen and a tree’s branching structure is clearly visible making pruning easier. If you’re not sure what to do, or how to do it, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a consultation, pruning lessons or to have them to the pruning for you.
- Prune coast/shore pines (Pinus contorta) and Scotch/Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). These two pines are especially susceptible to the sequoia pitch moth whose larvae burrow into the tree trunks during the growing season (April through September) causing the trees to exude large amounts of unsightly pitch globules. While this seldom kills the tree, the bleeding of sap is not good for the overall health and vigor of the tree. It is advisable, therefore, not to prune these pine trees during the growing season, since the pruning cuts attract the moth, which then lays eggs on the tree, which hatch into tree-burrowing larvae. Pruning should be done on your pines from November to March.
- Mulch trees and shrubs: Apply two to three inches of mulch around all trees and ornamental shrubs. This helps to fertilize the plants and feed the soil, and also protects them against weed growth and loss of water when the warmer weather returns, and helps to insulate the roots against cold weather in the winter.
Elsewhere in the Garden
- Put slug bait around winter flowers.
- Plant spring flowering bulbs.
- Rake and dispose of ornamental tree leaves, or better yet, compost them and then spread the decomposed leaves back onto your shrub beds as a mulch next year.
- Mulch your shrub beds. Put a two to three inches of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) around perennials and other plants that might be sensitive to subfreezing weather. Also, spread a fresh layer of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) on all the bare dirt areas in your yard to prevent soil compaction from rains, to prevent weed growth and to enrich and help to condition your heavy clay soils. Adding a layer of mulch (several inches thick) over any tender perennial flowers, especially if the weather turns extremely cold and the ground freezes, will prevent death of flowers like dahlias.
- Winterize your irrigation system. Provide winter protection to in-ground irrigation systems by draining them and insulating valve mechanisms.
- Winterize your outdoor faucets. Protect outside faucets from subfreezing temperatures, and drain and store garden hoses in your garage or garden shed.
- Cut English ivy off of the base of trees. (This can be done any time of the year.)
- Feed the birds. Dutifully maintain your bird feeders. As winter comes, birds have a harder time finding food. Bring life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird sanctuary. The birds will thank you for your generosity by providing you with hours of entertainment, and by eating insect pests that harm your ornamental trees and shrubs.
A year ago while camping in the high desert of Central Oregon, I wrote a hymn about a giant ponderosa pine tree, while sitting on the banks of the Deschutes Rivers. As I gazed at and pondered it, I saw it singing a silent praise hymn to the Creator, the Almighty Yehovah Elohim. You can find my psalm below.
This fall, I found myself camping along side of another river with my wife, this time in southern Central Oregon being amazed by another giant, majestic, ancient ponderosa pine tree. This time, I made a pen and ink drawing of this 500 year behemoth.
Here are my poem and my pen and ink drawing showcased together.
Here are a couple of pictures of the actual tree.
The inspiration of this poem and its birth occurred while sitting next to the Deschutes River in La Pine, Oregon, during the biblical Sukkot celebration (the Feast of Tabernacles) in 2018, while gazing admiringly at the mighty, towering ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) that stand as sentinels gracing its banks. At the same time, the words of the First Psalm in the Bible were floating around in my mind.
La Pinus1 ponderosa2 at De Falls3 River waters4;
A weighty5 giant pondering6 heavenly matters.
Rejecting your former blackjack7 past,
Basking now in heaven’s light at last.
Arms and trunks are tanned a bright orange hue8,
With muscular limbs upraised in praise to You9—
To the Messiah, the radiant Sun of Righteousness10!
O piney tree by the rivers of water,
With crown aimed high—you’re a leafy psalter11.
The still small breath12 of heaven’s heart,
Strums happily your needley harp,
To all who’re attuned in full amaze—
And hear the Spirit’s psalm of praise.
La Pinus ponderosa by De Falls River’s edge—
Precariously planted on the sloping ledge?
Gravity inexorably can’t make you slip,
As you mock the current’s undercutting grip13.
Against the storms you’re resolute,
Exempt from its slavish tribute.
The desert’s torrid breath can’t make you wilt14.
It underestimates how well you’re built.
For deeply rooted are your hairy feet,
As they sate their thirst from the summer’s heat14.
Anchored firmly against the gale.
From brutal breezes that do assail.
Resting on the solid Rock15,
Heat and wind they can’t you shock16.
To the bank of Truth17 you tenaciously cling,
Imbibing the Spiritual life14 the waters bring.
As Heaven’s wind18 fills your leafy sail,
You clap your hands19 as me you regale.
O Pinus preacher at the River Deschutes,
You cry aloud from roots to shoots.
A riveting sermon loud and clear
To open ears both far and near.
Quietly praising the King above,
Silent shouting of heaven’s love!
Puzzle letters from your massive girth20,
A visible testament fall to the earth.
Of heaven’s radiance they joyously glow,
Trampled by naive hikers there below.
But when combined these letters spell,
The truth of heavens evangel21.
This tree’s a wellspring of worshipful praise,
In every tongue with limbs upraised!
La Pine’s1 ponderosas who grace your river blue,
There is much for me to learn from you.
Your arms point upwards in heaven’s praise,
Past you to Him, my eyes I’ll raise22!
This is my heartfelt prayer to You:
With Your Spirit and Truth23 my heart imbue.
From Your tree of life24 I’ll always feed
Producing an abundance of living seed.
May I be too a tree of life,
That my heart-would25 with your words be rife.
Why is it important to plant the right tree in the right place as opposed to the wrong tree in the wrong place? Here are the reasons why:
Planting the Wrong Tree in the Wrong Place Is…
- Aesthetically detrimental: The tree may outgrow it’s spot and come into conflict with buildings, roadways, and hurt or destroy landscapes and lawns thus reducing liveability of property and property values.
- Expensive: A misplaced tree may have to be pruned or removed in the future at great expense and causing a negative environmental impact.
- Damaging to infrastructure, which is expensive to repair: A misplaced tree may eventually cause infrastructure damage (to sidewalks, driveways, house foundations, underground utilities, lawns, landscape and irrigations systems).
- Inconvenient: A misplaced tree may eventually block or cause damage to driveways, sidewalks, roadways, windows and street lights and come into conflict with buildings. Moreover, a misplaced tree may result in cracked foundations and patios, broken water pipes, clogged sewer pipes and rain drains, and come into conflict with and cause damage to roadways, sidewalks, and overhead utility wires.
- Environmentally detrimental: Having to remove a misplaced mature tree is not only a waste of financial resources and human energy, but it is detrimental to the environment. This because when a mature tree is removed, all the benefits a large tree provides humans and the environment are lost.
- Decreases liveability: Trees too large for the area will take over a small yard and decrease usability of the yard and make the yard appear smaller.
- Conflicts with neighbors: Misplaced trees often grow to where they are over-hanging neighbor’s property causing bad neighborly relations that may last for years. Some people may be forced to move because of this problem.
- Decreases home value: Trees that are too large for the yard make the yard appear smaller than it really is.
Planting the Right tree in the Right Place Is Beneficial…
- Aesthetically: A well placed tree enhances the landscape, the house and property.
- Economically: A well placed tree saves on future tree care, and adds assessed value to one’s property.
- And it feels good, brings joy and pleasure to people because it’s the right tree in the right place
Proactive Tree Care
- Placing the right tree in the right place is not only good for the planet and is the right thing to do, but it has many other benefits as well. This includes…
- Saving money in the long run by properly caring for trees. Proactive or preventive tree care is always less expensive than crisis management tree care.
- It makes sense economically and environmentally to care for a tree before it causes damage or is a hazard. This involves putting the right tree in the right spot to begin with and then properly caring for it along the way.
For many years, I have seen cities in my area planting the wrong street trees in the wrong places. This folly has been a boon to my tree service business, but, overall, removing perfectly good trees because they have been planted in the wrong place is a bad thing for the tree, for the environment and for people’s pocketbooks.
So yesterday, I had a meeting with a City of Wilsonville planner to discuss with him ways to improve street tree placement in our city and some strategies on how to preserve existing mal-placed street trees. Below were my talking points. It was an excellent meeting, and hopefully something good will come of it.— Nathan
All well-informed people agree that we need to plant trees for the benefit of the planet. All of our lives depend on it for many reasons.
In Genesis 2:15, we read,
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
This is a standard English translation of this verse. If we look at the original Hebrew of this text that is behind the English, this verse could read,
Then the Yehovah Elohim took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend, serve, by implication to worship the Creator by taking care of and to keep, guard, protect, attend to, regard, preserve, reserve, save the garden.
This expanded translation sheds a whole new light on how the Creator expected man to take care of the environment. What it doesn’t say is to rape, pillage, recklessly exploit or indiscriminately remove trees from the garden!
Taking care of the garden (the earth) was the third command that the Creator gave to the first humans. Tree care and preservation is a divine mandate!
Even though my roots as a tree care professional go back more than 50 years, I started getting a clue about the importance tree preservation about 20 years ago when I began educating myself about tree preservation. Then about 12 years ago I became an ISA Certified Arborists and obtained my ODA Commercial Pesticide Applicators license and purchased the equipment to fertilize and care for ailing trees. I realized that we were removing too many trees that could be saved, so I learned how to save trees by returning them to health. Since then, we have saved hundreds of trees from the chain saw. HalleluYah!
It is our responsibility as stewards of the environment to plant the right tree in the right place, so that we don’t have to remove a valuable tree later.
The wrong tree in the wrong place causes no end of damage to hard surfaces (roads, driveways and sidewalks), for utilities (street lights, sewer and water pipes, irrigations systems), and this can result in thousands of dollars of damage to private and public property, potential legal liabilities for everyone, and thousands of dollars in tree mitigation including pruning, root cutting and removals, and, finally, often a perfectly good trees has to be removed resulting in one less oxygen-producing tree on planet earth all because people put the wrong tree in the wrong place.Continue reading
Trees plus extreme weather conditions plus high alpine elevations equal a high level of art that the world’s foremost human sculptures and painters down through the ages could only dream of emulating.
Be honest. What is more exquisitely beautiful? The photos below of the some of the world’s greatest art or what follows?
… or these photos I took of nature’s tree art in the high Cascade Mountains of Oregon near Mount Hood and the Three Sisters?
The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. — Isaiah 55:12, the Bible
Praise the LORD/Yehovah! Praise Yehovah from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of Yehovah, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away. Praise Yehovah from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name Yehovah, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints—of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise Yehovah! — Psalm 148, the Bible
One of the world’s foremost glass sculptors is Pacific Northwest native, Dale Chihuly of Tacoma, Washington. At the Seattle Center (near the Space Needle) is the Chihuly Garden and Glass showcasing the work of this world renown artist (http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com).
For several years, my wife and I have been intending to see Chihuly’s work in Seattle, but you know how it goes. Imagine our excitement when on our recent trip to London while visiting the world famous Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew we just stumbled on this exhibition of Chihuly art occurring at the same time (https://www.chihuly.com/exhibitions/chihuly-at-kew and https://www.kew.org).
Please enjoy the photos we took of the work of this amazing artist, which is juxtaposed with the plants of the world’s oldest and foremost botanic gardens. Glass sculptures and in a garden setting is a stunning and eye-popping combination as you will see below. Please enjoy!
Now wasn’t that worth looking at? You don’t see this kind of thing everyday! (All photos taken by Nathan and Sandi Lawrence)
My wife and I just returned from a three week trip to the British Isles including Scotland and Ireland. During our six days in London, a twelve day cruise that stopped at ten cities ending with two days in Paris, this tree guy kept his eyes open for cool trees—especially big ones.
It’s hard to top the Pacific Northwest and California for big trees. They just grow bigger and faster here than just about any other place on earth. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t big old trees to discover elsewhere, as I found out on our recent European trip as we visited numerous botanical gardens, castles, palaces, cathedrals and parks.
Allow me to share what I discovered.
When you think of London you generally think of things like this:
But how about the trees? Without trees, we’d all be dead and most of these building couldn’t have been constructed. Right?
Now let’s take a quick trip to southern Ireland. First stop is the Blarney Castle, but not to kiss the Blarney Stone, but to look at the ancient gardens adjacent to the castle.
This guide is tailored for the western valleys of Oregon and Washington.
Reader’s suggestions requested. Also please note that if you, the reader, have any suggestions for additions to this month’s list, please put them in the comments section of this article, and I will add them to the list. Thank you! —Nathan
YOU can help to make the world a better, a more friendly, loving and beautiful place by tending your spot on this earth that has been given to you—your garden. Here is a to do list to help you to do just that…
Tree and Shrub Care
- Mulch. Apply two to three inches of mulch around all trees and ornamental shrubs. This helps to fertilize the plants and feed the soil, and also protects them against weed growth and loss of water when the warmer weather returns.
- Pine tree pruning. Don’t do major pruning of pine trees during the growing season, since this attracts sequoia pitch moth infestation.
- Pruning of large trees. Most trees in the temperate western valleys of Oregon and Washington can be pruned anytime of the year. If you’re not sure what to do, or how to do it, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a consultation, pruning lessons or to have them do the pruning for you.
- Prune fast growing ornamental shrubs that are beginning to look shabby. You may need to prune them again in the early summer for a more neat and manicured look.
- Reparative pruning. Repair winter damaged to trees and shrubs.
- Tree and shrub removal and stump grinding can be done all year long.
- Trees. Have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. This can be done anytime of the year.
- Rhododendrons. Remove old blooms (called “dead heading”). Though it looks better aesthetically to remove the dead blooms, it doesn’t hurt the plants to leave them on.
Plant Health Care
Good News Tree Service, Inc. provides full plant health care services as listed below.
- Apple scab on ornamental crabapple and fruiting apple trees. The first visible symptoms occur on leaves in spring as pale, yellowish, water-soaked spots the size of a pinhead. These enlarge, becoming darker and smoky in appearance, later taking on an olive shade and ultimately a brownish black color. Spots may be any shape but are frequently circular. Young infections often show a radiating spread of fungal tissue through the leaf, and such areas later appear as irregular, brown-colored infections. Diseased leaves can be curled and distorted and often drop early. This fungal disease can also move into the fruit to produce a scabby effect, hence the name “apple scab.” Several fungicidal sprays are required to control this disease just prior to flowering and after flowering.
- Arborvitae Twig Blight (Thuja occidentalis): Spray in the spring and early summer when new growth starts at two week intervals.
- Bronze Birch Borer: Begin treating in mid-May through June. This is the only time of year that this beetle can be effectively controlled.
- Cherry Leaf Spot: Spray cherry trees for leaf spot. Apply first spray at petal fall and two weeks later.
- Cherry Tree Brown Rot Blossom Blight (Monilinia fructicola):Make 3 foliar applications starting at bud break and at 14 day intervals.
- Coryneum Blight (Shot Hole Fungus) or Cherry Leaf Spot: This leaf blight affects ornamental and flowering cherry, plum and prune trees. Spray at petal fall, shuck fall and two weeks later.
- Deep Root Fertilization: Trees and ornamental shrubs—deep root fertilize to promote lush, healthy-looking and vigorous crown growth. Urban soils tend to lacking in many of the nutrients that trees and shrubs need to survive. Many are malnourished or are starving to death, which is why they don’t look radiantly healthy are struggling with pest issues. Deep root fertilization helps to promote healthy-looking and pest-resistant trees and shrubs. The best time of the year to do this is in the spring and fall.
- Dogwood Anthracnose: Spraying with a fungicide at bud break and continue at 10 to 14 day intervals.
- Lawns: Fertilize lawns.
- Leaf Blights: Spray trees and shrubs for fungal leaf diseases (e.g. powdery mildew, leaf blights, dogwood anthracnose, needle blights, etc.).
- Monitor trees and shrubs for insect pests. Piercing and sucking plant pests (e.g. aphids, lacebugs, scales, weevils, mites, etc.) are now out and active. If major infestation occurs, plan a course of action to treat your trees and shrubs against these pests. Small numbers of piercing and sucking insects are not harmful to plants. In fact, they provide food for the beneficial, predatory insects that feed on them. To control harmful insects, one can apply systemic insecticides against piercing sucking insects (aphids, lacebugs, scales, weevils, etc.) via soil injections (one treatment gives season-long control). If applied according to label directions, this will kill only the harmful and not beneficial insects.
- Photinia Leaf Spot: Spray with a fungicide as new shoots are developing at 30 day intervals.
- Pine Dothistroma Needle Blight: Apply fungicide at just before bud break and a few weeks later according.
- Powdery Mildew: Apply a fungicides as soon as symptoms appear. Best efficacy occurs if used before symptoms appear. Use fungicide at 7 to 14 day intervals, or more often if conditions warrant it. If a plant is known to have had powdery mildew previously, apply as buds start to open.
- Spider mites will start to become active as the weather warms. Systemic insecticides are available against this pest.
- Tent Caterpillar: Apply systemic pesticide for season-long control.
- Verticillium Wilt: Soil drench in the spring. Maples are especially susceptible to this fungal root disease as are cherries and plums.
- Willow Twig Blight (scab): Apply two or three applications beginning when new leaves first appear at 10 to 14 day intervals.
Elsewhere in the Garden
- Put slug bait around your flowers and tender perennials like hostas.
- Apply two to three inches of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) on all of your shrub beds. Covering bare dirt areas in your yard with mulch helps to prevent soil compaction from rains, and weed growth, and helps to enrich our heavy clay soils.
- Continue planting annual and perennial flowers.
- Cut English ivy off of the base of trees. (This can be done any time of the year.)
- Feed the birds. Dutifully maintain your bird feeders. Bring life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird sanctuary. The birds will thank you for your generosity by providing you with hours of entertainment, and by eating insect pests that harm your ornamental trees and shrubs. Birds in the yard are not only fun to watch, but they perform the vital task of eating harmful insects.
- Start planting your vegetable garden. Once the soil has dried out, you can begin working it for planting our veggies.
- This is a good time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. Visit your local nursery and select your favorite ornamental shrubs and shade trees. After planting your new shrubs, just make sure that you water them well immediately and regularly subsequently for the first two or three summers until their roots get established. During warm weather (in the 60s to low 80s), deep root water once per week. During hot weather (mid-80s and higher) deep root water at least twice per week.
- Water and fertilize annuals and perennial flowers. The hotter the weather, the more water they will need. Flowers in pots and hanging baskets dry out especially quickly, and so need watering every day or two.
- Fertilize your ornamental shrubs with a slow release fertilizer. If the shrubs have a layer of barkdust or other mulch around them, rake the mulch away and apply the fertilize to the bare dirt, so that it actually reaches the plant’s root zone.