March in the Garden—A To Do List

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, your garden, that you have been given the privilege of borrowing for a time. It is our hope that the following to-do list will help you to do just that.

Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden. May it become your personal paradise. This is your divinely mandated responsibility.  Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will pay you back as they express their smiling appreciation to you and yours by radiating their love, joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Below is a to-do list to help fulfill this mission.


We thought that we would skate through winter again this year with very little cold or harsh weather, and then the epic storm with its wintery mix hit the NW Oregon area on the early morning of February 13. This was the storm of a century, at least!

In the northern sections of the Portland metro area snow and ice covered the region. In the southern area where Good News Tree Service, Inc. operates, we had ice—and lots of it in the form of freezing rain and sleet. (To see a photo gallery of both the devastation and sublime, though short-lived beauty of it, go to https://goodnewstree.com/2021/02/27/pristine-beauty-in-the-midst-of-cataclysmic-destruction-the-ice-storm-of-a-century/.) Depending on your elevation, there was anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to more than an inch of ice on every leaf, needle, twig, limb, trunk, flower and blade of grass!

This storm was likely the greatest of its kind in 100 to 150 years. How do I know this? The countless numbers of native Oregon white oak trees ages 150 to 250 years old that were snapped in half like toothpicks, or had major tree trunk-sized limbs broken, indicates that these trees had experienced nothing like this in a very long time, if ever. This dystopian and cataclysmic event extended into the central Willamette Valley and effected hundreds of thousands of people. We are still cleaning up the mess from this, and will be doing so for a very long time.

In the mean time, moderate, gorgeous spring-like weather has returned to our region, and the seeming frail flowers that were only recently encased in and laden with an inch or more of ice are now blooming happily as if unaffected by the adverse conditions. Ironically, the stalwart and mighty trees like the oaks were pummeled to pieces, while the fragile flowers escaped with hardly a bruise. Such are the ever-changing vicissitudes and the contradicting ironies of nature.

While you’re at it, take a few moments and scroll back through this same Good News Tree Service, Inc. blog and check out the archives for any tree and plant care articles that you may have missed. Also check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvcu2lL9NpgoXQtUFYyQShw, our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GoodNewsTreeService/ and our main website at www.goodnewstree.com. Please enjoy!

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 pruning. Prune your fruit trees for fruit production. You can also prune grapes, cane and trailing berries once the threat of major frost is past.
  • Plant fruit trees.
  • 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. 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.
  • Plant or transplant trees and shrubs. Winter 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.
  • Pruning of ornamental shrubs. Do major pruning (called heading back) of rhododendrons (or rhodies) and other similar ornamental shrubs back to latent buds in trunks and stalks. Do this before spring growth begins in a couple of months.
  • Pruning of large trees. Winter is a great time to do aesthetic and structural pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs, since the structure or architecture of the plant is clearly visible making aesthetic pruning easier than when plants are foliated. Structural defects, which can cause tree failure, are more easily spotted as well. Also remove of dead wood, and pruning to reduce hazards. 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.
  • Reparative pruning. Repair winter damaged to trees and shrubs.
  • Roses. The best time to prune roses is after the threat of major frost is past.
  • 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 is best done when the leaves are off the trees.

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 Berckmann’s Blight (Platycladus orientalis): Spray in the fall (late Sept. and early Oct., and again in early Nov. Spray again in early spring (Feb to Mar) if disease is severe. 
  • 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 & Plum Leaf Spot: This leaf blight affects ornamental and flowering cherry, plum and prune trees. Apply fungicide in the spring at flower petals fall, shuck fall and two weeks later.
  • Crabapple Leaf Blight. Apply fungicide as the leaf clusters are just opening up and make several more applications subsequently as per label directions.
  • Deep Root Fertilization: Deep root fertilize your trees and shrubs just prior to or as new leaves begin to emerge. Apply when soils are not super-saturated with rain, so that the fertilizer isn’t washed away from plants’ roots after applications is made.
  • Dormant Spraying of Fruit Trees: Apply dormant sprays against insects and fungi.
  • Lawns: Fertilize yellowing lawns.
  • Leaf Blights: Spray trees and shrubs for fungal leaf diseases (e.g. powdery mildew, leaf blights, dogwood anthracnose, needle blights, etc.).
  • Magnolia Bacterial Blight: Apply one spray in fall and twice in spring near budbreak. 
  • Monitor trees and shrubs for insect pests. When piercing and sucking plant pests (e.g. aphids, lacebugs, scales, weevils, mites, etc.) hatch varies each year depending on when the warmer weather begins. Usually, hatching of plant pests begins from early to late April. When consistent warm weather begins to occur, start monitoring plants for insect nymphs and adults. If necessary, plan a course of action to treat your trees and shrubs against these pests.
  • Piercing/Sucking Insects: Begin applying systemic insecticides against piercing sucking insects (aphids, lacebugs, scales, weevils, etc.) via soil injections (one treatment gives season-long control). 
  • Photinia leaf spot. Spray a fungicide early in February of four applications at two week intervals afterwards. Early spray is key to controlling this fungus.
  • Powdery Mildew: Apply a fungicides as soon as symptoms appear. Best efficacy if used before symptoms appear. Use fungicide at seven to fourteen 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.
  • Tent Caterpillar: Apply systemic pesticide for season-long control.
  • Verticillium Wilt Fungal Disease: Apply a soil in the fall and spring.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around winter flowers. Though the weather may be cold, slugs are still active.
  • 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 all of 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.
  • 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. Remember to feed the humming birds, who have few flowers to feed on during the winter. Birds in the yard are not only fun to watch, but they perform the vital task of eating harmful insects. 

Rose Care

  • Mid to late-February  or early March (or after the threat of hard frosts have passed: Prune roses for health and bloom potential. Remove dead, weak and spindly canes. Leave only the strongest and healthiest canes that are equally spread apart thus giving them good air circulation to reduce the potential spread of fungal pathogens that cause leaf diseases. An open spacing pattern of the canes also provides ample room for the blooms to grow without crowding each other. Make pruning cuts slightly above an outward-facing bud. Endeavor to prune rose bushes into an upward and outward vase-shaped form.
  • Late winter-early spring: Now is the time to plant roses. Plant them in full sun. Roses don’t do well in shade and need at least six hours of sun per day especially in the summer. Morning sun is preferable to dry off the dew. Add plenty of mulch, manure or other soil amendment into the soil when planting. Choose pest and disease resistant rose varieties for best, long term results.

Pristine Beauty in the Midst of Cataclysmic Destruction—The Ice Storm of a Century!

On the nights of Friday and Saturday nights of February 12 and 13, Wilsonville and surrounding areas to the south, east and west of us experienced the most devastating ice storm in 60 years. Sixty years is how long our family has been caring for shrubs and trees in this area, and in that time we have never seen such a devastating ice storm.

In all likelihood, this ice storm was the mother of all such weather events in probably the last 100 years, if not 150 years. How do we know this? It is a simple deduction to make. When you see numerous 150 to 250 year old Oregon white oak trees with their trunks snapped in half, or with main trunk-sized limbs broken off like toothpicks, you realize that these, the sturdiest of any tree in our region, have never seen anything like this for a long time if ever.

In 35 years of business in Wilsonville, I have never seen this kind of destruction to trees from any kind of a storm. We spent nearly two weeks just chipping up downed tree limbs in one neighborhood alone! And our new brush chipper can process tree limbs as fast as two men can throw them into it! There was hardly a property that was not touched adversely by this epic ice storm.

Nevertheless, in the midst of the this cataclysmic devastation, there was a beauty of almost equal proportions though for a brief moment and which then quickly faded away when the temperatures began to rise and the ice melted leaving a dystopian landscape in its wake.

Imagine this type of destruction to thousands of trees in every neighborhood in all directions!
This was my own side yard.
This was the thickness of the ice after the first night of freezing rain. After night number two, the ice was even thicker.
Most people in our region where without power for a few days up to almost two weeks due to falling trees.
The ice that had fallen off the trees covered the ground to a depth of about four inches.
The ice weighted the trees down, so that it was impossible to drive on most of the streets. Many tree limbs had broken and many trees were uprooted blocking roads everywhere.

Yet, inspire of the destruction, there was a gloriously beautiful face to this ice event, as well, as the following pictures document.

This photos is from a client’s property SE of Wilsonville where the ice was even thicker on the trees.

Here is one of our tree service dump trucks—our old ’52 GMC. It was covered with about an inch of ice.


This was Good News Tree Service’s answer to the ice problem—a new brush chipper that is twice the size of our other chipper. On Monday morning after the ice storm, I was at the Vermeer dealer in Portland and bought their first chipper after the storm. This was the first of probably 40 some chippers that they have sold since then to be used in this region’s storm damage cleanup.

February in the Garden—A To Do List

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, your garden, that you have been given the privilege of borrowing for a time. It is our hope that the following to-do list will help you to do just that.

Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden. May it become your personal paradise. This is your divinely mandated responsibility.  Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will pay you back as they express their smiling appreciation to you and yours by radiating their love, joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Below is a to-do list to help fulfill this mission.

As the days begin to lengthen, the cold temps begin to inch upward, and the sun begins to peak out from behind the clouds a tiny bit more, guess what? Heat and light incubate life. Plant buds are beginning to swell, and a few hardy early-bird flowers are beginning to pop out of the cold ground. Rejoice as the earth begins to awaken with a new flourish of life, and take a moment to walk around your personal domain and notice as the inexorable and reassuringly predictable cycles of plant-life rebirths once again despite the crazy, erratic, capricious and often malevolent machinations of many humans everywhere. Never forget that while the outlook may be a bit crazy, but the uplook, heavenward, is always great.

While you’re looking around, scroll back through this same Good News Tree Service, Inc. blog and check out the archives for any tree care articles that you may have missed. Also check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvcu2lL9NpgoXQtUFYyQShw and our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GoodNewsTreeService/. Please enjoy!

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

Tree and Shrub Care

  • Fruit tree pruning. Prune your fruit trees for fruit production. You can also prune grapes, can and trailing berries once the threat of major frost is past.
  • Plant fruit trees. Not only is this a good time to plant bareroot fruits trees, which you can purchase now at many garden centers, but it’s an excellent to plant all kinds of trees and shrubs in the garden, while the weather is cool and the plants are still dormant. 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • Plant or transplant trees and shrubs. Winter is 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.
  • Pruning of ornamental shrubs. Do major pruning (called heading back) of rhododendrons (or rhodies) and other similar ornamental shrubs back to latent buds in trunks and stalks. Do this before spring growth begins in a couple of months.
  • Pruning of large trees. Winter is a great time to do aesthetic and structural pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs, since the structure or architecture of the plant is clearly visible making aesthetic pruning easier than when plants are foliated. Structural defects, which can cause tree failure, are more easily spotted as well. Also remove of dead wood, and pruning to reduce hazards. 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.
  • Roses. The best time to prune roses is after the threat of major frost is past.
  • 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 is best done when the leaves are off the trees. 
  • Trees and Storms. Storm proof your larger trees. Checking your trees for hazards and then take the appropriate measures to protect your trees from storm damage. 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. If you’re not sure about the condition of your trees or even what to look for, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a free on-site consultation.

Plant Health Care

Good News Tree Service, Inc. provides many of the plant health care services as listed below.

  • Arborvitae Berckmann’s Blight (Platycladus orientalis): Spray in the fall (late Sept. and early Oct., and again in early Nov. Spray again in early spring (Feb to Mar) if disease is severe. 
  • Dormant Spraying of Fruit Trees: Apply dormant sprays against insects and fungi.
  • Lawns: Fertilize yellowing lawns.
  • Piercing/Sucking Insects: Apply systemic insecticides against piercing sucking insects (aphids, lacebugs, scales, weevils, etc.) via soil injections (one treatment gives season-long control).
  • Photinia leaf spot. Spray a four applications of fungicide early in February at two week intervals afterwards. Early spray is key to controlling this fungus.
  • Powdery Mildew: Apply a fungicides as soon as symptoms appear. Best efficacy if used before symptoms appear. Use fungicide at seven to fourteen 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.
  • Tent Caterpillar: Apply systemic pesticide for season-long control.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around winter flowers. Though the weather may be cold, slugs are still active.
  • 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 all of 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.
  • 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. Remember to feed the humming birds, who have few flowers to feed on during the winter. Birds in the yard are not only fun to watch, but they perform the vital task of eating harmful insects.

January in the Garden—To Do List

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.

Rain, rain and more rain along with fog and dark, dreary days—welcome to winter in the western one-third of Oregon and Washington State regions. The seemingly interminable rain and fog is occasionally punctuated with some freezing fog that turns everything into a magical winter wonderland for a day. Perchance, the combined elements of a southwest low pressure atmospheric river from the Pacific Ocean colliding with someone opening the freezer door in the Gulf of Alaska thus allowing a batch of frigid air to burst into the Pacific Northwest will even give us a snow or ice event in the lowland valleys. Who knows? Wait and see.

While waiting for a potential surprise visit from Frosty the Snowman, there’s not a lot to do in the garden at this time of the year after you’ve completed your late fall clean-up other than the occasional tidying around the place after the last windstorm has blown through. Oh, and don’t forget to keep the bird feeders full, and don’t neglect the hummingbirds either. Beyond that, go into our own style of hibernation mode and just sit back, relax and get caught up on your reading about gardening. 

While you’re at it, scroll back through this same Good News Tree Service, Inc. blog and check out any tree care articles that you may have missed. Also check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvcu2lL9NpgoXQtUFYyQShw. I am regularly adding new videos for your education and pleasure. Please enjoy!

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 trees. You can start pruning your fruit trees and continue all the way up until February. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 or shore pines (Pinus contorta) and Scotch or 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.
  • Water your plants. Are you serious? In the winter time? Yes. Because of climate change, rain is not falling as regularly and frequently as it used to. For the past few years during the winter months, it is not uncommon to go several weeks with little or no rain. This means that shrubs or trees planted earlier in the season may need a drink of water from time to time during these dry times. This is because their roots aren’t established yet and therefore don’t have the water uptake capabilities that established plants have. The symptom of lack of water, as usual, is drooping and wilting leaves.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around winter flowers.
  • 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.
  • 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. 

December in the Garden—To Do List

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 chilly December-r-r-r.

While you’re at it, take a few moments and scroll back through this same Good News Tree Service, Inc. blog and check out the archives for any tree and plant care articles that you may have missed. Also check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvcu2lL9NpgoXQtUFYyQShw, our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GoodNewsTreeService/ and our main website at https://goodnewstree.com. Please enjoy!

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.
  • Water your plants. Are you serious? In the winter time? Yes. Because of climate change, rain is not falling as regularly and frequently as it used to. For the past few years during the winter months, it is not uncommon to go several weeks with little or no rain. This means that shrubs or trees planted earlier in the season may need a drink of water from time to time during these dry times. This is because their roots aren’t established yet and therefore don’t have the water uptake capabilities that established plants have. The symptom of lack of water, as usual, is drooping and wilting leaves.

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.  This includes both seed and suet feeders. During dry spells, keep your bird bath watering hold full of fresh water. Caring for the local wild birds brings life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird-friendly 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. Remember to feed your local humming birds that overwinter in our region. If possible, fill your humming bird feeders with a syrup that contains only 100 percent sugar (e.g. sucrose or dextrose) minus any artificial sweeteners, red dyes and other chemicals. Your birds will be healthier for it. You can find excellent bird care products and advice from knowledgeable and caring professionals at your local Backyard Bird Shop.

Rose Care

  • Mid to late fall: Prune your roses down by about one-third and remove any dead flowers and dead or diseased canes. 
  • Anytime of the year: Heavily mulch your roses. Organic mulch (such as wood chips, rotted compost, rotted manure) is the best. While barkdust helps to hold moisture in the soil, it contains little or no nutrients, so it doesn’t feed the soil and thus won’t feed your roses.
  • For more information on the care of roses, go to the Portland Rose Society website at https://www.portlandrosesociety.org/all_about_roses.html.

Gallery of Our Backyard Wildlife by Sandi Lawrence

My wife, Sandi, co-owner of Good News Tree Service, Inc., snapped these photos of the winter wildlife in the three-ring circus or our busy backyard.

Is the City of Wilsonville Really That Tree Friendly? NOPE!

The City of Wilsonville proudly claims to be an Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City USA,” but is this more hype than reality? After 35 years as the owner of Wilsonville’s oldest and largest tree service, I have watched the City approve the ostensibly indiscriminate clear cutting of trees for numerous residential and commercial developments, and the planting of nearly all of the wrong street trees in all of the wrong place, only forcing property owners to have remove them later because of the damage they’re causing. I challenge Wilsonville to get proactively serious about tree preservation by consulting with arboricultural experts like me. This video discusses more of the same nonsense and folly being committed on one such development in Wilsonville because of the City’s greedy stack-and-pack Portlandesque urban density proclivities all at the expense of its local residents and its native trees. Shame on the City for this!