Now, though, the sun has been up for a half-hour or so before I have to leave. For those of us this far north, it's putting a spring in our step to have the increased daylight hours, because it's really hard on all of us in wintertime to leave for work in the morning in pitch blackness at 8am, and return home at 4:30 and it's almost dark already. Having sunshine for more of our waking hours makes such a nice difference! It's no longer the dead of winter! YAY!
With spring almost here, it's time to do a bit of housekeeping in our yards. It's the perfect time of year to have a walk around the yard to inspect trees & shrubs, while they're still bald. It makes it a lot easier to see the branches -- which leads to what I'm going to talk about....
The dreaded Black Knot.
Also known as Cat Crap on a Stick -- because that's exactly what it looks like.
Black Knot affects the following trees or shrubs -- if you have any of them, be on the lookout now, before they start to leaf out. It's better, also to get those pruners out & snip the infected branches off, before the sap starts flowing in spring.
- Flowering Almond
- Wild Plum
- Flowering Plum
- Mongolian Cherry
- Japanese Plum
- Nanking Cherry
- Korean Cherry
- Choke Cherry
- Sour Cherry
- Pin Cherry
- Prunus hybrids
This page on the County of Strathcona website has some great info, as well as phone numbers you can call if you need more info or if you have tried & tried to educate neighbours on how they need to manage it and you're being ignored, they will go out to talk to the people & be a bit pushier about getting a handle on it.
If you have a tree with black knot, you will need some good, sharp pruners. If some of the branches are waaaayyyyy up, you'll need telescoping pruners. You'll also need a bucket large enough to dip the blades of the pruners into it after each & every cut you make, to prevent spreading the spores into uninfected areas. Pour some water & bleach -- 75% water & 25% bleach; measure both if you have to, in order to ensure that there is enough bleach to kill spores on the blades. If there isn't enough bleach in the water, it won't do anything to the sprores and you'll just be spreading them around, which you don't want!
If you don't have any pruners right now, Dollarama usually stocks some decent ones for only about $3. No matter what pruners you have, be sure that you dry the blades & the hinge completely before you put them away! It's also a good idea to oil the hinge as well, because the bleaching & cleaning will probably remove the hinge oil, so the hinge will get stiff & difficult to open or close them. If you take care of your pruners, they will last a long time.
When you're done trimming off the affected branches, use your pruners to chop them small enough to fit in a black garbage bag. Seal the bag and place it in your black garbage bin for pickup. I always attach a note to the bag itself, stating "Black Knot infected branches - MUST go to landfill" because my municipality has a waste management system that requires organic matter to go into a green bin for composting, BUT black knot survives the composting process, and will just spread the disease further if the compost stream is contaminated with Black Knot spores. DO NOT compost any part of the tree, including leaves, in your own compost bin! Get rid of them & be sure that your pruners are sterilized & fully dry before you put them away.
I hope that this post is helpful to those of you with Mayday trees or plums or cherries. I haven't got any of them in my own yard, because a neighbour's Mayday tree is terribly infected with Black Knot & it overhangs into my yard. I prune off whatever infected parts I can reach, but it's a losing battle, unfortunately.
If you have any tips or tricks to deal with this disease, I'd love to hear it so I can' add it to this post. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help out.
See you in the next post!