Another year has come and gone. 2023 was a great year for me personally, especially at work. My job overall transformed and I had less back problems because of it. In early 2023, I took over the Nursery Manager position here at Grimm’s Gardens, while still heading the Landscape Maintenance department, and doing tree consultations. It has been a fun ride. And now, after a great year, I also am taking over as the main ordering person for the trees in the nursery, while also supervising the ordering of all other plant materials.
But what other things have been noticeable in 2023? Were there major pests or disease outbreaks? How was the weather? Are there incoming pest problems? How did landscapes fare overall? I will go over each one of these items.
Disease Problems for 2023
As usual, I and some of my colleagues went to the annual Turfgrass & Landscape Conference in Manhattan, KS. It is a good way to follow up the end of each season, and see how other landscapers fared across the state. And sometimes you learn things too! One of my favorite sessions is on landscape diseases, but this year it was a disappointment. They did not even mention the big disease issues we faced here in Northeast Kansas. Surely we were not the only area of the state with disease outbreaks!
Fireblight, a bacterial wilt was the first disease of concern in 2023. We had a warm wet May, which in turn resulted in an outbreak of fireblight on flowering pear, apple, and hawthorn. This disease is spread most commonly from rain splash and wind from one infected tree to another. But it can also be spread by pruning. If left untreated it can destroy an apple or pear orchard. I recommend pruning out the infected branches (spray your pruners or saw with alcohol before each new cut) and then applying a preventative bactericide the following spring, before leaf emergence.
We also had warm, wet weather in early August, following drought and heat from June through July. This resulted in a lot of cases of bacterial leaf spot and scorch. Both diseases are caused by fungi and are unsightly, but not deadly to plants. Basically, you get a lot of little spots on the leaves of your favorite plants, which appeared nearly perfect before that.
Pest Problems of 2023
2023 had fewer new pest problems than years past, but I did see an uptick in calls for EAB (Emerald Ash Borer). In 2022, EAB was found in Brown County Kansas, although it had likely been active for at least 3 years prior. Kansas also added Franklin County in 2023. I found evidence of EAB damage in both Sabetha and Seneca, which are in Nemaha county, so I expect it to be added in 2024.
Bagworms, Japanese beetles, and grasshoppers continue to be a problem, but I think Japanese beetles were less abundant than any time in the last 5 seasons. They started slow, and we were able to keep them at bay with a variety of traps, sprays, and cultural practices.
Ugh. What is really going on with the weather? Is climate change real? In part, yes. The climate is always changing; each year is different after all. But do I believe in man-made climate change? No. Everything comes and goes in cycles. 2023 was the 3rd consecutive year with a dry fall. But in between the drought of late 2022 and fall 2023, we had some good rain. May and August were wet, and summer was hot. But I think the drought was less severe than in 2022 overall.
Landscapes in 2023
This year our maintenance division was divided between 3 crews, but I oversaw everything and sent people out on assignment. It was a good year for annual flowers, despite the heat and drought. As long as you get those flowers planted in good time, they root in well and will bloom all season. New plantings struggled for perennials and shrubs, but most trees were resilient.
Despite the droughts of 2021 and 2022, I saw little damage to newly planted landscapes or trees. There was more noticeable problems with older evergreens and larger trees, than with recently planted trees. Some evergreens died from drought stress and I even found evidence of damage from the floods of 2019 killing some trees this past year. So, be sure your trees and plants are planted in the right place at the right time, and watered correctly.
I could not do a blog on 2023 without including something about my work on iNaturalist. I started using this app in 2018 on the recommendation of one of my best native plant buddies, to track both natives and nonnatives. Since then I have created goals for myself for each consecutive year in regards to it. In 2023 my goal was to hit 3000 different species of plants, animals, insects, birds, fungi, and others. I started the year with around 2500 and will end with around 3100, more than reaching my goal.
Also, it was my personal goal to be the species count leader in a Kansas Project, Kansas Biodiversity, and I have gained and maintained that. At home, I continue to increase my personal species lists of moths, beetles, wasps, and bees, all of which I routinely keep eyes open for.
2023 was a year of both surprises and delights. Just remember, every year is what you make of it. I set goals for each year, yet never get to all of them. But here are my goals for 2024:
- Take more photos
- Learn some Spanish
- Be a blessing to someone
- Share the Word of God
- Get grounded
- Fast weekly
- Stay true
God bless you in the new year!