Stay up to date on our latest news, announcements, and seasonal concerns.
Making Progress On New Location
We are happy to report we have started construction of our new office. We anticipate moving into the new office this summer. Meanwhile, we are operating from our temporary location in Newport. See our progress on new location at the corner of HWY 24 and Hibbs Road Ext in Newport.
Spring Seasonal Concerns
The following are some seasonal concerns.
Problems With Septic Systems
Lately we have seen an increase in problems with tree roots and septic systems. In most situations the problem develops over decades. Here in Carteret County where the temperature at ground level is usually above freezing, a tree’s roots grow through every season continuously seeking nutrients to sustain its life. Septic systems tend to attract roots because of the amount of moisture and nutrients in the soil near a septic system. The tree’s roots penetrate the septic system and expand, blocking water flow and occasionally damaging the system itself.
If your yard has numerous trees or there are trees close to the septic, there is a greater risk for roots to infiltrate the system. Avoid planting “wet-footed” trees such as Cypress, Willows, Elms, Birches, Gums, Poplars and Maples (especially Silver Maple) anywhere near the septic, as they pose the greatest problems. Smaller trees tend to have smaller root systems and present fewer problems. Trees such as Japanese Maples, flowering Dogwoods and Eastern Redbuds are safer options. However, planting should still be done at a safe distance (at least 50 feet and in the case of Willows, 100 feet) from the septic system and with consideration to appropriate spacing based on the tree's eventual size.
When roots invade the drainpipes in the septic system, the result may be slow draining of sinks, tubs, showers, toilets and washing machines and eventually a back up at the lowest point in the home. More seriously, a root can penetrate and crack the septic tank causing a spill of its contents. This should be suspected if you notice patches of dense green growth in lawn, or soggier than usual conditions or sewage smells near the septic tank. This is a dangerous situation as gas and bacteria (including E-Coli, salmonella, shigella and cholera) are present in the vicinity of a sewage leak.
In the case of existing trees, adding copper sulfate to the distribution box of your septic system twice a year may be helpful in preventing root infiltration by existing trees. If the “D Box” is inaccessible, it may be poured into the toilet. When trying to unclog slow pipes within your home try to use enzyme-based products for the same reason. Be sure to follow instructions and safety warnings found on the label.
Southern Sanitary Systems Inc. (2019, February 20). Tree roots in septic tanks: the dangers and fixes. Tree Roots in Septic Tanks: The Dangers and Fixes (southernsanitarysystems.com)
Lovejoy, R. (2018, December 14). Trees with roots that will infiltrate your septic tank. SFGate. Trees With Roots That Will Infiltrate Your Septic Tank (sfgate.com)
Save The Crepe Myrtles!
Crepe Myrtles are among the most bountiful tree species in Carteret County. Homeowners and businesses incorporate them into their landscapes for various reasons, including their beautiful blooms and interesting bark and limb structure. They naturally grow as upright or vase shaped trees with multiple trunks growing upward and outward. (Photo 1) The species originated in Asia, was taken to England where it failed for lack of heat and then brought to Charleston, SC in 1786 where it thrived and quickly became a southern favorite. While the spelling “crape myrtle” is used most frequently in North America, “crepe myrtle” has a long heritage of use in the South. They are both correct and have a valid etymological basis.
The most important decision to make before planting any tree is choosing the correct mature tree size and breadth for the intended location. As with all trees, always consider the mature growth sizes. With Crepe Myrtles there are a wide range of hues from white to red to purple with every shade in between as well as types of bark in the following varieties listed below with their final height at maturity: (i) More than 15 varieties of Miniature/Weeping: not more than 3 feet; (ii) More than 28 varieties of Dwarf: 3-5 feet; (iii) More than 18 varieties of Intermediate: 5-10 feet; (iv) More than 35 varieties of Medium: 10-20 feet; and (v) More than 20 varieties of Tall: 20 feet plus.
We have observed locally that many Crepe Myrtles are heavily pruned (“topped”) in early spring. (Photo 2) Presumably this is done thinking this will result in more blooms. This is not true. Not only is the topping unsightly, but there will also be a shorter bloom time, delayed flowering, and weaker unattractive branch habits. (Photo 3)
Pruning back to the same spot causes deformed knobs to appear at the cut and the new growth that does appear are thin and spindly sprouts which will not support seed pods. (Photo 3) These sprouts are not the new wood that would naturally grow if the tree had not been topped. Blooms grow on new wood which is naturally produced in the spring by untopped trees.
Topping also results in damage and potential death of the tree over time. (Photo 4) It might not be noticeable right away but the following issues are cumulative: (i) Topping results in the removal of much of the tree’s canopy, reducing the tree’s ability to take in enough nutrients through photosynthesis. (ii) Weak limbs (sprouts) come in quickly as the tree attempts to replace its leaf canopy: these sprouts are unattractive, grow fast increasing the height of the tree and bear few if any blooms; (iii) The tree and the material if any below it are suddenly exposed to more sunlight than before which can damage the tree and anything growing beneath it and ultimately lower the tree’s defenses to pests such as Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale and other diseases and insects; and (iv) Destruction of the natural structure of the limbs and branches of the tree.
We trim only according to ANSI A 300 standards. Late winter is the best time to prune Crepe Myrtles. While an arborist will not top a tree, reduction pruning of both height and width can be done which will preserve the natural shape of the tree. This involves cutting back the tallest and most wide spreading branches as well as branches which cross through the middle of the tree to the junction of another branch.
An Arborist’s Thoughts about Mulch
The right amount and type of mulch (2-4”) may help retain moisture , suppress weeds and eventually break down and provide nutrients to the tree. It can also serve to protect trees from mowers and weed eating. Ideally mulch tapers down at tree’s trunk and extends out to the edge of the “dripline” which is directly below the tree’s canopy.
Mulch which is too thick (Photo 2), particularly the “volcano” style can prevent water from reaching the trees roots as well as cause rot of the tree trunk if the mulch is touching the tree’s trunk at grade. When mulch is too thick, it can become water repellent, leaving the tree thirsty.
Too deep of a mulch reduces the amount of air in the soil causing a decline in the tree. In addition to potentially suffocating the tree, it encourages insects and rodents and other creepy crawlies (i.e., snakes)!
A complete list of crape myrtle varieties - Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney. Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney, Texas. (2020, March 20). Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://crapemyrtletrails.org/varieties/complete-list-crape-myrtle/
Ammons, A. (2019, March 25). Crape myrtle bark scale – a new pest for our county.NC Cooperative Extension. Crape Myrtle Bark Scale – a New Pest for Our County | North Carolina Cooperative Extension (ncsu.edu)
Bender, S (2022, November 17) How to grow and care for crepe myrtle. Southern Living. How To Grow And Care For Crepe Myrtle (southernliving.com)
Crawford, B and Cabrera, R. (2021, July) Problems with over-mulching trees and shrubs. Rutgers: New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. FS099: Problems With Over-Mulching Trees and Shrubs (Rutgers NJAES)
Gaona, David. (2022, July 20). Crape Myrtle vs Crepe Myrtle: Which Spelling Is Correct? TreeNewal. Crape Myrtle vs Crepe Myrtle: Which Spelling is Correct? | TreeNewal
Glen, C. (2022, August 18) Can too much mulch kill plants? NC Cooperative Extension. Can Too Much Mulch Kill Plants? | North Carolina Cooperative Extension (ncsu.edu)
Newton, S. (2017, March) Crepe murder. Gardening News Hoke and Scotland County. 2017MarHortHokeScotNL (ncsu.edu)
Teasley, D. (2020, November 5). Crepe murder revisited. NC Cooperative Extension. Crepe Murder Revisited | North Carolina Cooperative Extension (ncsu.edu)