Battling the Borer

The Emerald Ash borer is in Pennsylvania and is munching its way through the state, destroying our beloved Ash trees as it indulges. Believed to have been transported to the United States from Asia in the early 2000’s, the Ash borer larvae feed on the inner bark of Ash trees and make it impossible for the trees to take up nutrients. Found in 31 states so far, the borer has killed hundreds of millions of Ash trees and cost property owners a bundle. 
What’s a homeowner to do when this army of pests is approaching, prepared to kill all Ash trees in its path? The first step is to identify any Ash trees on your property. If you aren’t sure if you have Ash trees, invite an arborist to walk through your landscape with you. When I did this, I learned I had 24 Ash trees on my 1.3 acre lot. That’s a borer smorgasbord for sure!

My wooded property
Once identified, it’s important to decide what approach to take. In my opinion, you have 3 choices:  remove trees, protect trees, or leave trees to die. If you decide to leave trees to die, be aware that arborists can’t climb the trees safely after they have been killed by the Ash borer, which means cranes and other heavy equipment will be needed to facilitate removal. Since my property is wooded, I didn’t feel I could leave trees to die, since they wouldn’t be accessible by the necessary equipment. Instead, I chose to protect 10 and remove 14.
Ash tree removal underway
Once you have identified your Ash trees, I suggest you study them. Do they provide shade where you need it? Do they have a lovely shape or broad canopy that adds good structure to your garden? Conduct some analysis and determine if they are ‘keepers’. To protect the trees you will need to have them injected at the root flare, a process that needs to be repeated every other year for an elapsed time of at least 10 years. While other methods are available, like a drench, I’m told by arborists that the injection method is most effective in repelling the borer.
One of my Ash trees getting its shots

If you are removing trees like I did, consider the best use for the wood you will have. While you can certainly choose to have the wood removed from your property, there are a lot of ways you can utilize it for your benefit such as firewood, wood chips, garden sculptures, or naturalistic benches. My talented friend Carlos Soler made some stunning wooden bowls for me out of some pieces of Ash wood, immortalizing my trees in a way that will last a lifetime – a true ‘ash to treasure’ story.
The beautiful bowls Carlos Soler made for me
None of us welcome the arrival of the Ash borer or the necessity to protect or remove trees.  We aren’t excited about the damage to our pocketbook either, as treatment and removal are expensive. But, when life gives us lemons (or the borer), we have to make the best of the situation. We all know there is only constant in life and that is change. The Ash borer will cause drastic changes to our environment. While some changes are negative, others are positive. You’ll have the opportunity to plant other trees, shrubs and perennials for additional seasonal interest and you might even attract new wildlife. That’s what happened on my property. For the first time ever, bluebirds were attracted to my landscape, since it was more open and less wooded. 
The arrival of bluebirds, encouraged by the removal of trees
The battle of the borer is best won by taking control where you can and inviting positive change. Good luck in your efforts – I’ll be standing right beside you with my Ash armor on, fighting hard.  

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