Winter Weather and your Trees Health

February weather in Colorado can be very unpredictable.  In the past few years we have seen everything from mild 55 frost_crack_initiation_pointdegree days to freezing temperatures below zero for multiple day stretches.  These conditions place significant stress on our trees.  Mild temperatures can promote an early break from dormancy, which often leads to freeze damaged leaf and bud tissue.  Massive temperature swings may damage vascular tissue inside the tree when moisture in the cells expands due to freezing.  Injury from cold temps and large temperature swings can persist long into the growing season, and it may impact processes such as flowering and fruit production.  Damage can also extend into significant trunk injury known as “sun scald” or “frost cracks”.  Heavy snows can destroy branches and impact tree structure for years to come.

Mitigating the impact from Mother Nature’s heavy hand cantree wrap 2 be difficult.  Trunk wrapping with a layer of insulated paper can offer a measure of protection from the intense sun exposure.  Supplemental watering can protect sensitive root tissue during mild temps and drought periods.  Protecting roots in the winter will help to prevent lags in growth when spring arrives.  It is also very important to plan ahead when it comes to pruning your trees.  The time and attention you spend on corrective pruning will pay big dividends when it comes to preventing storm damage in the canopy of trees.

Our Arborists are always available to meet with you to discuss the potential problems that your landscape may encounter, as well as helping you to develop a plan to protect your property.

Late Winter Lawn Tips

Even though lawns are still dormant, now is the time to plan a strategy to have a beautiful, healthy lawn this summer. By doing a few simple things now, you will get a jump start on problematic early growing season problems.

Lawn-MitesLook for dry areas. Places where the snow melts first are prime areas for mites to cause damage during the winter. Watering these areas on warm winter days can help replenish the water the mites are draining from the blades of grass, while also knocking down the adult mite populations. If these dry areas are getting ‘crunchy’ to walk on, it’s a sure sign of mite damage.  (Dormant grass should still be soft.)  Mountain High does offer winter mite sprays to cut down on damage.

Should mites do heavy damage recovery will be slow. Often these areas will stay brown considerably longer than the rest of the yard, and the worst cases may have to be repaired with seed or sod in April or May.

Rabbit damageSome areas of the lawn may thin out during the winter. Several common causes of lawn thinning include insect, rabbit, and disease problems. Heavy traffic, poor soil fertility and too much shade are also common factors to a thinning yard. Poor maintenance such as improper mowing and watering can contribute to this as well. An area in decline can really suffer and could even totally die out during the winter months.

To help struggling areas of the lawn, keep traffic off as much as possible. Often areas of heavy shade get more sun during the winter and early spring because there are no leaves on the trees. If this is the case, try to keep those areas open, moist, and sun exposed.

winter weeds in lawnWinter weeds can be a problem. While many weeds dies out in the late fall after producing seeds for the following year, some weeds don’t die. Early spring applications of weed killer can bring them under control before they cause heavier weed infestations. This is why Mountain high lawn technicians start in late February or early March.

One of the more common lawn diseases over the winter is snow-moldsnow mold. Snow mold is either grey or pink in color, and causes splotches of matted down grass. There is no need to treat this with a fungicide. Instead, fluff up the grass with a rake to allow air flow. Lightly fluffing the grass in the middle of winter in these areas will prevent long lasting damage later.

Most damaging lawn insects are not active now, but they may have damaged your lawn last summer or fall. These bugs are primarily a problem May through early October, and if areas of your lawn were damaged insects are often the problem. Getting a mid-spring application of insect control (late April – early May) can drastically cut down on re-infestations. Mountain High offers professional lawn insect control.

Dog Urine SpotsLawn areas that have been damaged by wear and tear from dogs, children or foot traffic can be helped with extra care. Picking up dog waste quickly can prevent dead spots in the lawn. If a dog urinates in the same place all the time, fencing off the area so the dog has to move to a different location will cut down on heavy concentrations of urine. Hand aeration of areas of heavy dog activity will allow some of the damaging aspects of the dog waste to go deeper in the soil and will eliminate root level burning. Hand aeration will also help with heavy traffic from pets and kids. Having kids change the walking path by just a few feet can also prevent compacted soil paths, which are very difficult to get to recover.

One of the leading causes of decline in turf quality is shade. As trees and shrubs grow larger they tend to create more shade in larger areas. This change in the environment often leads to grass thinning. In many cases tree or shrub thinning will allow enough sunlight through to allow the grass to stay lush. If not, landscaping with shade-tolerant plants may provide the best long-term solution.

Finally, this is not a good time to fill in sunken or dog dug lawn areas. The grass is not actively growing and could be smothered. Wait until May through September to fill lawn areas. However, keep in mind that grass will only grow reliably through a thin layer of fill. If you need to fill deeper, you should plan on replacing the turf in those areas. One other thing to keep in mind: trees and shrubs can be injured or killed by excessive fill deeper than two inches covering large areas of their root systems.

ORGANIC MULCH – Health and Beauty for Your Trees and Shrubs

Mulching is a great way to keep your trees and shrubs both beautiful and healthy. We offer a variety of sustainable organic mulches, made on-site from locally harvested logs and branches. Our mulch is aged and rotated to help eliminate tree pathogens. Its high quality ensures it mats down so it stays put, and is consistent in size and color for top dressing year to year.

Here’s how mulch benefits your yard.

Studies show that evaporation rates are decreased about 35% by top dressing with mulch. A 2” to 4” layer of mulch spread over the root zone is one of the most simple and effective things you can do for your landscape.  Mulch is also an insulating layer, protecting the hard-working roots from extreme high and low temperatures. That’s why mulch is so helpful in Colorado.  In addition, weeds find it difficult to grow through, which allows the roots to absorb all of the nutrients and moisture available.  As your mulch breaks down, it turns into nutrients that are useable by your trees and plants, therefore, creating a more fertile soil.

Note: Remember to leave 4 inches of space between mulch and the trunks of your trees.

Organic mulch is available in a variety of colors including amber, red, and dark brown. For those looking to add some color to the landscape, organic mulch is a must. It is also available in its natural color for a more subtle but still well-defined look. Mulch creates a natural and sensible partition between grass and other parts of the lawn as it surrounds and beautifies trees and shrubs.  Basically, organic mulch is a gorgeous addition to any yard. Here’s a look at the different varieties we offer:

Call us today for an estimate. Our experts will work with you to find the perfect type and amount of mulch for your needs. An investment in mulch is an investment in your landscape.

Get to Know Craig Bachmann – ISA Certified Arborist


Craig Bachmann ISA Certified Arborist

Craig Bachmann - Certified Arborist

My name is Craig Bachmann, and arboriculture is a second career for me.  After many years in traditional “business” jobs, I began again with a new career in tree work.  And to quote Robert Frost; “that has made all the difference.” Raised in northern Illinois, my childhood was spent climbing trees, riding horses and exploring the nearby woods.  As a teenager, I attended summer camp in Buena Vista, CO, where I learned to rock climb.  Then, I completed my degree in Environmental Science at Principia College, including a study-abroad program in New Zealand.  After college, I went “indoors” for 13 years for a series of sales and marketing jobs, while continuing to enjoy the outdoors through hobbies, like camping and rock/ice climbing, in the Northeast and then here in the West. Finally, I decided to change directions and combine my hobbies and my career.  Getting into tree work and earning my Certified Arborist designation has fulfilled a lifelong passion for me.  Spending every day outdoors, here in beautiful Colorado, is an incredible experience.  Whether I am hand-pruning delicate roses, pruning a large cottonwood or using a crane to remove a hazardous tree, being a Certified Arborist at Mountain High is one of the great joys in my life.

Potential Damage from De-Icing Salt Products

De-Icing Salt Products and Potential Damage to Plants
Denver Lawn Service - Salt DamageWith the recent snow and cold weather most of us have to use some type of product to help keep the resulting ice under control. There are many products on the market that can be used and each has different properties, end results and impact on your landscape. These products can be very effective if used correctly. But if they are overused or misapplied, they can damage the concrete (example on right) as well as nearby plant material, including the lawn. There are four main materials that are used as chemical de-icers:

 Calcium Chloride
 Sodium Chloride (Salt)
 Potassium Chloride
 Magnesium Chloride

All of these products are acceptable for use.  Limited use of any of these products should cause little damage.

Problems occur when they are used excessively and there is not adequate rainfall/moisture to wash or leach the material from the area.  It is still best to remove the snow and ice by hand when possible and spot treat with the ice melts, thereby using lesser amounts. Putting these products on newly poured cement is also not recommended for the first year.If damage from de-icers is going to occur, it will not be noticeable right away.  Problems are uncovered in the spring when the plants and grass along the walks are dead.

salt damage canada1

For areas that may have had excessive runoff or product applied – additional hand watering in the winter on warmer days will contribute to ​your plant health in the spring.

How to Control Rabbit Damage

Rabbit Damage
Rabbit damageOnce again the rabbit population along the Front Range is extremely high. Several factors, including the decrease in foxes and other natural predators, coupled with the extra precipitation of the spring, have contributed to this.When food sources are abundant the populations of rabbits per litter goes up. On average, rabbits have between 2 and 6 litters per year, each with up to 6 babies (the proper term for a baby rabbit is a kit, multiple babies are therefore called kittens). Over this past year the numbers of litters and kittens per litter have been toward the higher end of that range.

Rabbit droppings 2Rabbits can do a great deal of damage to lawns. With high populations and the inability of grass to grow during the winter, they can cause serious problems for the lawn in spring. These damaging rodents normally spend their entire life in an area of less than ten acres, so once they become established in a lawn, they are unlikely to move without a good reason.The damage they can create can lead to big problems for yards and even shrubs. They not only chew grass down to the root, but the concentration of urine frequently creates brown and dying areas, making it harder for the grass to recover. When grass is dormant in winter, there is no chance for a recovery – meaning the rabbits’ feeding and excretions can kill areas of the lawn. Once this damage starts it tends to progress because rabbits like to feed in the same areas, and will even lead their kittens through their scent to those same areas.

If areas of the lawn are showing damage, the best thing to do is to make the rabbits not want to come back. Then, once they are off the property, fencing off the area can keep them out. If damage can be stopped early before urine or stress kills the entire area, it can be reversed. Rabbits don’t eat the root system. This means the lawn has a great chance of coming back.

Although difficult, it’s not impossible to get rid of established rabbit families. They love low-to-the-ground shrubs as well as taller grass, because it provides them with shelter and extra food. Eliminate areas they could hide. Trimming shrubs and bushes, putting chicken wire below porches so they can’t get under areas where they can build dens, and elevating any kind of decorative garden pieces where they could hide are all good countermeasures.

Another way to get the annoying rodents to seek a new location is to cut off their food supply. Put perimeter fences around, making sure that the openings of the fence are smaller than a rabbit’s head and dug 6 inches into the ground so they can’t sneak through underneath.

Spraying/sprinkling different natural odors on your plants like capsaicin (pepper extract), castor oil, ammonium salts, or predator urine can also help, but they must be reapplied after every watering or rain.

Another good option is to let household pets out onto the lawn areas in the early mornings and late evenings when the rabbits are most active. If rabbits are constantly getting chased by something they deem as a predator, they will be much less likely to stay in the area and it will discourage them from breeding in those areas.

dog chasing a rabbitcat chasing a rabbit


Advantages of Pruning in Winter

The Advantages of Pruning Your Trees in Winter:man pruning tree in winterwith frameIn Colorado a major obstacle for trees is harsh winter storms that can bring dry Chinook winds with heavy, wet snows or “hurricane” force winds that damage tree structure. Besides getting a good look at the structure and form of a tree in winter there are other benefits of winter pruning. When other plants in your yard are dormant it is an opportune time to prune your large trees and minimize impacts to the rest of your landscape. Prune fruit trees and susceptible Hawthorns in winter to avoid disease activity,and trees such as American Elms or Pines when bark beetles and other insects are dormant.


Keep Your Plants Healthy Through the Winter

Denver is arid, that means trees and grass are always at risk throughout the winter months. We understand this is challenging, but as experts we want to help you understand the dangers of winter and some ways to protect your precious landscape and replenish it as the winter passes.


Dead branches are always a danger to your tree, but especially in winter. Snow or ice build-up can cause a branch to break off the tree, damaging it. Even more so, early or late snows, while leaves are still on trees can cause even greater damage to live branches.

Sun damage is also a concern in the winter. Here in Denver, the sun can be intense throughout the year. In the winter, trees do not have their leaves to shade themselves, plus the sun is lower in the sky allowing a more direct angle to the south and south-west sides of tree trunks. The direct late afternoon exposure can cause trees trunks to crack, especially on thin barked and young trees. Applying tree wrap, or better yet shading the trunk from direct afternoon sun can help to protect trees from this.

Dehydration, or drought stress, is another significant winter issue for plants that live in the Front Range. Our soils are typically dense clay that is not capable of holding moisture, and our typical snow is dry. On average it takes 12” of snow to equal 1” of water. Do not assume that a few light snows are providing enough water to keep trees healthy. Supplemental watering should be considered on a monthly basis. You may need to actually feel the soil a few inches deep to determine if it is time to water or not. Adding a 3” to 4” deep layer of organic mulch around the base of trees will help retain and conserve up to 30% of the moisture received. Mulch also adds much needed organics to our soil. Be sure to keep mulch a few inches away from tree trunks.

Turf grass

Turf grass is also susceptible to winter issues. First and foremost keep the lawn healthy throughout the season with proper watering, fertilization and mowing. Mow at 2.5” to 3“ height. Keep lawn mower blades sharp and water deeply as opposed to often. Watering to 3” to 4” deep allows the turf roots to grow deeper where they are more drought resistant.

In the fall, rake leaves off before winter sets in as matted leaves will cause dead patches and allow disease to be a bigger potential problem. Lawn mites can be very problematic in the fall and winter, especially on south and sun exposed areas. Periodic watering of exposed areas can keep mite populations down, but in severe cases mite sprays may be needed to obtain control.  During extended dry winter periods a good through overall lawn watering is very helpful.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions related to any tree or landscape care concern.

De-icing & Salt Landscape Damage in the Springs

Every winter, homeowners use a variety of de-icing salt products to combat ice as it builds up on sidewalks, steps, and driveways. Regardless of the type of salt product that is used the resulting damage is always the same.

Spalding in concrete caused by Salt for melting ice.
   Spalding in concrete caused by Salt for melting ice.

Salt, by its nature, is acidic. Conversely, concrete is very alkaline. When a salt product is used to breakdown ice it will eventually make its way into the small pores of the concrete and begin to lower the pH of the concrete, causing the concrete to become brittle. Once the integrity of the concrete has been compromised it will begin to flake off and deteriorate.

Preventing ice build-up without using a salt product is important to keep your landscape and lawn healthy, as well as to prevent the destruction of your concrete and other hardscapesAs salt products melt ice, the resulting salt water solution will make its way into the soil of your landscape.

Salt damaged plants in Denver
                Salt damaged plants in Denver

Any addition of salt into your landscape will cause long lasting damage to turf, shrubs and trees. Getting the salt out of your soil is very difficult, so it’s vital that steps are taken to prevent it from getting there in the first place. To keep your sidewalks and driveways ice-free, make sure to shovel as soon as you can after it snows. Try not to walk or drive on the snow before doing so to avoid the snow getting compacted, making it harder to remove and more prone to ice.

If you really need to use a de-icing product, be sure to use de-icers properly: It is still best to remove the snow and ice by hand when possible and spot treat to melt ice if needed, thereby using lesser amounts.

There are de-icing products available that do not use salt as their main ingredient. These products are more expensive than the traditional salt products, but the extended costs of repairing concrete, turf, and plants after salt damage occurs is something to avoid if at all possible.

Be Prepared for Voles This Season!!

Once again the Front Range is dealing with extreme vole activity.

Over the summer of 2015 vole activity was at near record high levels according to CSU. As the colder weather sets in voles are focusing on plants close to their dens. This means damage to Junipers and other woody plants is increasing.

Voles in Denver

What are voles?

Voles are small, mouse-like rodents that exist throughout Colorado. Though commonly called meadow or field mice, their short tails, stocky build, and small eyes distinguish them from true mice. Voles feed on vegetation. Because of this, voles cause problems by damaging lawns, gardens, trees, Junipers, and other plants.

Vole Facts:

Voles are small with adults weighing just an ounce or two. Their overall adult body length varies from about 3.5” to 6” Though voles may differ in size and color; most are dark brown to near black and have very short tails.

Voles, like mice, have many predators including foxes, snakes, hawks, owls, coyotes, and badgers. While Voles can live for a year or more, most fall victim to predators within a few months. Unfortunately as more predators (such as foxes) are pushed out of urban areas, vole populations have exploded. Damage to urban landscapes is at an all-time high in the Denver area.

The breeding season for voles encompasses most of the year, with peaks occurring in the spring and fall. Most voles have multiple families per year. Some voles have been shown to produce upwards of 10 litters of two to five young in one year. The normal is three to five litters a year.

According to the University of Nebraska, vole populations often are cyclic and can increase from 10 to 250 voles per acre. In North America, vole populations peak about every four years. Occasionally, high vole populations last about a year before predator populations increase. These peaks to vole populations occasionally result in severe damage to crops and landscapes. At this time it appears the Front Range of Colorado is heading into one of these peak times.

Voles do the worst and most costly damage during the winter when food supplies are low. This leads them to lawns and evergreens. The chewing at the bases of these plants (especially Junipers and other shrubs) can kill them.  However, with large populations; damage to wanted plants can continue year round.

Identifying damage:

Many voles leave characteristic surface trails in lawns and other dense vegetation. These trails consist of close to the ground/root level chewing of vegetation about one to two inches wide. Small holes can often be found at the end of the trails, these holes lead to the nests.

Denver Lawn Damage – Vole Trails in Grass
Vole Damaged Juniper bush in Denver

Voles usually damage woody plants during late fall through early spring. Voles may chew woody plants leaving girdled areas. Tiny teeth marks may be visible; the chewing marks are about an eighth of an inch wide and regular in appearance.

Vole treatments, including mouse traps, can help reduce populations, but for a heavily damaged area professional treatment can save thousands of dollars with landscape damage prevention.