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Maple tree looking unhealthy

Posted by dpc5555 5b (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 12:02

Hi all,

I'm concerned about my October Glory Maple tree. It is about 3 years old and has been doing great. This year though, there has been no new growth on the tree, the leaves are about half the size they should be and the leaves seem to be constantly drooping. I thought that maybe it was just early in the season, but we are in Mid June and the leaves are still about 1/2 the size as normal.

Some details: We have had good rain this year, including downpours twice this week. Last year was very dry and hot. Temperatures this year have been on the cool side, mostly in the 60s with lows in the low 50s (kind of autumn like - maybe that's the problem?). I fertilized with Milorganite a couple weeks back.

Any help would be welcome. No leaf drop has occurred and the leaves don't look scorched or brown.

I'm a little nervous because there was been a rash of dead trees in my area. I'm guessing from the stress of last year's drought.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Update - I was just outside and it is looking much worse. We had another massive rainstorm last night and that seems to be the problem. Now all of the leaves are shriveled and starting to look crunchy like they are dying.

I tried removing all of the grass within about 16 inches of the tree trunk in case that was trapping moisture in.

I'm not entirely sure what to do if rain is the culprit... it is supposed to be dry in the area over the next week


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

That is the oddest thing.

I have been taught small leaves are a sign of transplant shock and lack of moisture uptake.

Last year's drought weakened many trees you seem on top of this one so I bet ya watered.

Was that a balled and burlaped transplant? Can you get your fingers down into the soil near the roots and see if it is as damp as the surrounding soil or if there is still burlap and wire there?

Maybe attach a pic of where the trunk meets the dirt as well.

October glory is a red maple hybrid clone if I recall. One of the Acer rubrum common names is swamp maple so while it is not a bald cypress overwatering should be difficult.

Good luck. I am losing an acer palmatum to a different problem even though it looked fine in the drought myself.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

roots......and can you elaborate more on the rash of dead trees? Are there gas lines in the area?


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

You should remove the grass away from the trunk as a general rule. The grass competes for water and nutrients.

I did a study of trees, all planted at the same time. Some were in grass with the grass right up to the trunk and the rest had 24" mulch rings around them. The trees with mulch had 3 times the growth after 1 year and appeared more vigorous.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Thanks for the replies.

Toronado3800 - Nope, wasn't transported lately. I had bought about three years ago from a garden center, and it was potted (it was a small tree that grew).

Calliope - The tree death in my neighborhood was random, and not attributed to any particular cause. My only suspicion is the drought from last year. A lot of younger trees seem to be doing poorly in my area. I watered every day last year, but the dryness and unusual heat we had sapped the water fast.

Rugbyhukr - Thanks for the info! I did remove some grass (about an 18" circle). If this tree dies, I'll make sure to keep a grass-free ring around the trees in the future.

It's really weird - this tree has underperformed this season since the get go, so I'm not certain its just the recent rain. It leafed out unusually late and has been very sluggish, despite near perfect conditions this year.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Remove the green critter cage and inspect the lower trunk for damage if you haven't checked it this year.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Can't see for sure, but looks like there is trunk damage. Also watering every day is not a good ideal even in drought. You say it's been planted for three years, then why is it still staked? Tree that size probable doesn't need staking at all. From the little I can see in the photo, improper planting/watering/weed eater damage seem the most likely culprits.

Arktrees


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

j0nd03 - Yep - the rabbit cage came off this weekend. I'll take a closer look at the trunk when I get home later. If you're looking at the base of the trunk, you might be seeing some tall grass that was caught up in the cage - in the picture it's blending in with the trunk.

arktrees - Behind that tree are some hydrangeas that would wilt when it got too dry. I would usually pay attention to them as to when to water. Truthfully, I usually water the trees less than the other plants, since I figure they are less sensitive. Despite the drought/watering, the tree was super healthy last year.

The staking was due to my inexperience with tree growing. The first couple of years, the tree was smaller and more frail, and was bending from heavy winds. I should have taken the stake out last year, because I didn't really need it, but I didn't. I did take it out over the weekend. The bottom of the stake (about a foot deep) was dripping with water when I took it from the ground.

I can take a better pic of the trunk after work tonight. The leaves are in much worse shape. All are crunchy and curling now, since Saturday's rain.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

I have lost several red sunset and october glory's that were seemingly fine one day and within a span of 3 days, they had brown crispy leaves that were almost transparent. All were done in by borer damage in the lower 1-1.5' of the trunk. That is why I ask you remove any grass around the trunk and take a closer look now that the cage is off.

Verticillum wilt can also produce similar symptoms IIRC

John

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 11:18


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

dpc,
My apology if I sounded harsh. All these questions have to be ask to get as much info as possible. What seems unimportant to the owner is often critical to the answer. Certain things we see on here over and over and over again, and those are the things I listed. In you last post, you said the stake was dripping wet when removed, that strongly suggests that the tree being too wet is the primary cause. However, it may still be planted too deep etc. For success, all factors need to be identified, mitigated, or a different species selected. Soil type may be a problem as well. I suggest you did a hole about 12" deep very nearby. Fill with water to the brim. Wait 24 hrs and repeat for 5-7 days. Fill one last time, wait 24 hrs and measure how much the water level has fallen. This will tell us about your drainage, and will allow us to determine if your soil is clay, holding water, and producing a "bath tub" effect, where the water moves into the whole from the surrounding soil. Frankly, this seems likely to be the case from your comment on the stake being dripping when removed.

Arktrees


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

John - I'll definitely take a look later. I don't recall noticing anything unusual when I was tending to the soil around the trunk, but it is certainly possible that borers/disease are present and the heavy rains just intensified the stress on the tree.

Arktrees - No problem, I appreciate the help. It allows me to learn and hopefully I'll avoid mistakes with future trees.

I can tell you that my soil is heavy clay. I did amend the area around it when planted, but it may be acting like a bath tub, as you suggested. The location itself may be problematic. Though it looks fairly flat, it may valley slightly back there. It's worth noting that this is the second tree I've tried in this spot. The previous, a crabapple, developed a disease in year two (apple scab, if I recall) and went downhill fast.

I may have planted too deep as well - someone at a local garden center told me yesterday that it would be better too plant it slightly high and mound the soil around it.

Another possibility that I came across doing research is that the soil may be too alkaline for red maples. My hydrangeas a few feet behind it are the Endless Summer variety, and they quickly changed from blue to pink after planting (color in those responds to soil pH).

Also - before I moved into the house, I was told that there used to be a massive oak back there. They ground out the stump, but there are still roots under the soil. That may be adding to the bathtub effect. I remember digging through roots to dig the hole.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

is it telephone poled???.. pic of trunk/soil interface ..

you said: I fertilized with Milorganite a couple weeks back.

==>> did you fert the lawn.. and then double fert the tree????

more facts please ...

ken


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

I'll take a pic of the base of the tree tonight.

No, I didn't double fertilize. I actually don't really fertilize my lawn often. I use the Milorganite as a general fertilizer for my plants, shrubs and trees (I'm in Milwaukee, and given the popularity of Milorganite here, that seems to be common practice, at least from the local advice I get).

I just tossed a little (maybe a tablespoon worth, maybe less) near the base, nothing excessive.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Here's some pics of the tree trunk and the leaves following the rain:

 photo DSCN2119_zps62b77736.jpg

 photo DSCN2120_zps0e5244d9.jpg

 photo DSCN2122_zps6b0a5acb.jpg

 photo DSCN2121_zpse86469db.jpg


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Definitely telephone poled. At this point the tree is most likely a goner. Use it as a learning experience! When you dig it up, knock all the soil off the trunk and see how far below the soil line the root flare is so you can improve your planting technique next time :)


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

As John said, learning experience. Nearly all of us here have had these in one form or another. I have to deal with the clay issue myself. It's better than it was when we first moved in, but it's still a problem at times. I basically plant on a mound, so that 1/2 of the rootball is above the original grade. It is best to use the native soil for this, and do not amend the planting whole. Amending the planting whole produces the "bath tub" effect mentioned earlier. Also clay tends to form a slick hard surface when digging in it with metal tools. This can make it difficult for roots to penetrate into surrounding soil. Therefore we use a forked hand ho, to break off chunks of soil on the side while planting. That way there are exposed surfaces that were not cut by a tool, so that roots penetrate better. Also make sure there is not soil covering the root flare, nor are there roots crossing over the root flare, wrapping around the flare, etc. Proper watering is as much an art as science. It's best to water only when the the original rootball begins to feel dry. That rootball is where the tree will get nearly all it's water for the first several weeks (since that is where nearly all the roots are), so it is the best place to monitor. Then water thoroughly when dry. Then wait until dry again. You also need to deal with any possible circling roots as well. See another current post in this forum for the longterm results of those not being addressed.

With all that said, Red Maple is a good candidate for that location with that kind of soil, but it has to be handled in a way so that it survives until it can put roots down. There are MANY other trees that would do well there. Nuttall Oak Quercus texana, Cow Oak Quercus michauxii, and Blackgum Nyssa sylvatica come immediately to mind. All of which have excellent fall color as well.

Arktrees


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

John - By "telephone poled," do you mean that the tree was planted too deep in the ground so that the root flare was covered? If so, I'm fairly certain it was. This is one thing I now have learned. Prior - I always dug holes that were deep enough that the entire rootball was at least an inch under the soil line. I certainly won't be doing that again!! :)

Arktrees - thanks for the advice! For the replacement tree, I'll definitely go above the soil line and mound the soil around the rootball. To make sure I understand - if the rootball is a foot in diameter, only about 6-8 inches should be underground and the remainder should be above ground with soil up to the root flare (but not covering it)?

Regarding using native soil and not amending - do you mean that I should use the heavy clay soil from the ground to fill the hole and cover the rootball? Can I use new top soil, or would that be prone to the same problems I've been having? Since that clay is kind of thick, I want to make sure I'm not suffocating the roots.

I'll probably be making the hole a lot bigger as well (shallower, not deep!), breaking up the soil around the area better.

I'll watch the watering and be mindful of the circling roots. If it is a potted tree, I'll try to open up the roots so they are not circled and compacted.

I'm a little nervous about planting in that same location again, given that two trees have died there. I'm tempted to move the site about 10 feet east of the current planting spot - it would be away from the area where the massive oak roots are located (or at least away from their highest concentration).

Thanks again for all of the advice John and Arktrees. This is an education for me, but hopefully it will end up in healthier trees for my yard.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

DPC - wrt telephone poled - you nailed it!

Below is a quick sketch of what your planting should look like. There are much better pics online but making my own was much more enjoyable than a standard Google search for me


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Some people prefer the saucer shaped hole. This allows the roots near the surface to spread faster in the broken up soil.

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 14:54


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Thanks for the making the images John - I appreciate that you took the time to do that! This totally makes sense to me now.

Since I'm thinking of sticking with a maple and they have very horizontal roots, I'll probably go the saucer route.

So to recap - long, shallow basin, rootball sticking up out of ground by a few inches, use non-amended soil to fill it in. Tamp down a little as soil is added and use a fork to score the heavy clay so the roots can grab. Before planting, uncurl roots and maybe cut in a couple places to make sure they spread and are not compacted. Mound soil up but keep root flare uncovered and mulch the bed up to a couple of inches of where the root flare starts.

Two last questions:

1) If the clay is very dense and compacted, is it okay if I break it up in a wheelbarrow and mix in a little top soil to make it less sticky and clay-ish? If not, I'll grab some from elsewhere in the yard.

2) Is it okay to plant another tree at this time of the year? It has been unseasonably cool in these parts (low 60s today) but we may be getting a heat wave next week.

I'm learning so much here, thank you.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

The saucer planting hole is my favorite style. Trees seem to flourish a little better with this style although it is hard for me to tell if it is the increased diameter of soil or the increase in diameter of the mulch that helps the trees out the most. I suspect the latter is the biggest player as long as the hole is sufficiently wide.

You are pretty much right with your next paragraph. Make sure you do not tamp too hard. If you already have thick dense clay, further compression will not be beneficial to your new tree! Everything else is spot on :-)

1) Feel free to pulverize the clay some in your wheelbarrow but do not add anything if at all possible and do not pulverise the clay to the point it is all tiny pebbles. You want to keep the soil density close to the soil surrounding the planting hole. You might have to wait until the soil is a little on the dry side to plant if the clay component is that high. I have very sandy soil at my house so I am not an expert dealing with it in any shape or form. Listen more to those that have experience with it, like Arktrees.

2) I would not plant anything in my location requiring root surgery until fall at the earliest but YMMV. Potted stock that have roots in good shape can be planted any time the ground is not frozen. Potted stock that have roots in good shape is(are?) also rare in the current retail setting. Most have circling roots that must be addressed for long term success and summer is not the season to do that IMO. I know there are others on here that disagree.

Glad to help you out! I was in your shoes about 3 years ago when the gardening bug came on full force and I have been obsessed ever since :-)

John


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Great, thanks.

I'll try to keep the soil natural. I have a few places I can draw from if needed.

Now that I have all of this info, I have the massive urge to plant a tree right now! :) I'll keep an eye on the weather and consider waiting. We had a really late spring this year and we have yet to really turn to summer (mostly highs in the 60s, lows in the low 50s), so the current conditions are ideal, but I'm not sure if that will change soon.

I have also decided to change the type of tree I will plant. Upon researching it, it looks like our very alkaline soils might be problematic for red maples (probably why the nursery I go to doesn't really stock them). I'm thinking of going with a Freeman Maple. I know they are not very popular on Gardenweb, but for my soil and climate it may be ideal. There's one called Autumn Fantasy that I like and is found in both garden centers and nurseries locally. Also Autumn Blaze, but I like the color and shape of the Autumn Fantasy better.

Thanks again!


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

dpc,
You are well on your way. Circling roots are a extreme problem, as are improper planting. Finding that root flare and putting it at the top of the soil is critical. As for planting now, it CAN be done, BUT you really have to be on your game. The lucky thing with AF is that they are rather forgiving, and the roots grow very quickly, so establishment period is relatively short. Just the same, in my part of the world Summer can be beyond brutal and has the last couple years. As such I prefer to plant in the fall so that there is maximum time for root growth before summer hits again. That has worked very well for me. But also understand that I don't necessarily wait till leaf fall. IMHO planting 3-4 weeks before your typical first frost would be fine too. You are obviously located in the north, so things are different for you. If you are willing to take the risk, and get a plant that you do not have to cut allot roots on, then you could probable plant if your typical summer temps are 85 or less. JMHO. If you do choose to do this, then you need to take pics of the rootball etc and come back here so that we can help you get it right. I have a specific problem that is common in mind, but will wait to cross that bridge when it time to cross it.

Follow the link. That is our Autumn Fantasy fall 2012. Planted early summer 2008 as a 5 gallon plant about 7' tall, then babied the rest of the summer. It is large enough for meaningful shade now. I do not post pictures to this website anymore, since they changed the format to overrun the users with ads. However you are welcome to look at my photos.

Edit: John thanks for making the drawing. Your the John of many talents. ;-)

Arktrees

Here is a link that might be useful: Autumn Fantasy Maple

This post was edited by arktrees on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 22:39


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

Thanks for the link to the photos Arktrees! Beautiful shots! I really enjoyed viewing all those lush colors and seeing what the AF Maple looks like after a few years.

I'll give it some thought over the next few days, but I'm thinking of taking the risk and planting now. I did a little research on my area (Wisconsin) and it seems that spring is really the best time to plant here. Fall can be challenging since we get some rough winters and the roots need to get established before that (though you said AF is a fast rooter, so that might be less of a problem with this cultivar). Our summer climate is usually pretty temperate with the occasional heat wave, and the forecast looks to remain on the cool side, except for some heat this weekend.

Given that this is not the ideal time to plant and that the Freemans grow fast, I may seek a smaller potted tree for this experiment, so that if it doesn't work, I'm not out a lot of money.

I'll post some photos after I start to show what I did.


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

IMHO, there is ZERO need to buy a large transplant with these, as they can grow so fast. So I definately suggest you get a relatively small one to begin with. Smaller will also can be more forgiving of some errors, and will "establish" (basically get their roots and crown back in balance) faster. When I planted ours, I cut lots of roots, and then was very careful with the watering for 4-6 weeks. After that, during upper 90's weather in a dry period, it got a good soaking once a week, and it never showed any stress. So yes, quick to get those roots down.

Arktrees


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RE: Maple tree looking unhealthy

By "telephone poled," do you mean that the tree was planted too deep in the ground so that the root flare was covered?

====>>>

here is how i conceptualize it ...

roots are made to handle moisture ...

trunks are not made to handle moisture.. they spend 99% of their time.. vertical and dry ... and shed rain, etc ..

when you bury the trunk.. and it stays wet ... wetter than it prefers.. it interferes with the functions below the bark ...

perhaps .. to analogize ...think of building a deck ... in the soil we use pressure treated wood... to offset the moisture .. in our case.. roots are such ... and above.. we can go with cheaper... non-treated wood ... in our case.. the trunk ... if you use untreated wood in the ground.. your deck has the potential to rot real fast ...

the worst scenario in all this .... is the mulch volcano .. where peeps bury the trunk with mulch too high ... and it has the same effect ...

the root flare .. is the point.. where the tree changes from one type of wood to the other.. so it should be at ground level ...

the real trick to planting in clay.. is to plant high.. and mound a better soil .... so that half the root mass is in the clay.. and half is above.. and the tree.. will put its roots where it can cope ... and that will be down in the clay ...

the failure is not that trees cant grow in clay .. its all a PROPER PLANTING ISSUE.. we screw it up at transplant ...and the plant.. does not have time to grow roots into the clay ... before it starts dying ... if we give it a chance.. there is no reason trees cant grow in clay ..

good luck

ken


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