Thread: River Birch Not Fully Budding

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  1. #1

    River Birch Not Fully Budding

    I live in central Iowa. In late October last year, I had a clump of three River Birch trees spaded into my yard. They are approximately four inches wide at the base, about 15 feet tall.

    I soaked them well at least once per week in November until the freeze December 1. I watered them a bit irregularly in the spring due to cool and wet conditions, though this spring was a little dryer than normal. A week and a half ago, the three trees started to bud. One tree is fully budded top to bottom. But the other two trees that are fused together at the base are only budded in the lower 1/3 of the branches. The top 2/3 of branches are not budded at all.

    When I noticed this one week ago, I began watering the River Birch every other day with a slow trickle to stimulute growth, but no luck so far. Still no buds in the top 2/3 of branches. I scratched the bark off the surface on the budding areas and it is greener than those areas which are not budded.

    I wonder if I didn't water the River Birch enough. I had a Red Maple and Chanticleer Pear spaded at the same time, which I watered less, and they are doing great.

    Do I have any hope in getting the rest of these branches to bud this year? Our conditions are still mild, highs around 70, lows in the 50s.

    I have contacted the local tree farm that spaded the trees but haven't heard back. Any advice appreciated.

  2. #2
    Oak
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    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    You might be over-watering if anything, unless your soil is *really* dry, you should not have to water your River Birch that frequently. During droughts, once per week, a slow trickle from your garden hose for 30-40 minutes is generally as often as you need to water.

    I have a clump River Birch in my yard also, it's fairly young (about 7' tall and 6' spread), and it has leafed out, but that does not mean yours should be leafed out 100% yet. Give it some time, add a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of the tree (underneath the mulch), as that might help push some new growth, but don't over-do it because too much fertilizer is not good.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
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    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Upperhand, you must have missed that these were new transplants "spaded" into the yard so they are bigg'ns and need water until established. And NO fertilizer. These trees don't yet have an established root system to support a flush of growth.

    Now with that said, river birch buds are teeny tiny. You may not be seeing them. Give it some time and see what happens.

  4. #4
    Oak
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    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Ah, I missed the transplant part somehow. Thought I read that they were small saplings, so yes, I absolutely agree that plenty of water is a good call. Fertilize in late Fall this year, a small amount of 10-10-10 is always recommended by my tree nursery down the road on any tree. Used it on all my new trees last Fall and all but 1 Poplar budded out beautifully by mid April.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
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    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Once again, trees don't need fertilizer unless there is some nutrient deficiency that is evident either in the appearance of the tree such as chlorosis or a soil test.

    IF you're finding a lot of nursery stock tags that say to use fertilizer it's because nurseries make money selling stuff that you don't need.

    Too much fertilizer, used the wrong way even miracle grow can kill a tree.

    This new birch will be under stress for a few years to come. The last thing it needs is fertilizer.

  6. #6
    Oak
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    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Have to disagree here, I've read hundreds of articles stating otherwise regarding fertilizing trees (whether young or old). Soil tests are always a good idea, I have one done every year, and each year my soil composition changes slightly (including pH), so the advice I receive is to always use a balanced fertilizer, for lawn, trees, and garden.

    I understand that fertilizer application is *probably* not appropriate in the case of a large transplant like the one being discussed here, but it can provide benefit if used in the right dose for most other trees. This opinion isn't being pulled from my rear end, I am simply repeating (verbatim) advice that I have received from several arborists in my area, including a number of local nurseries, NONE of which stock 10-10-10 granular fertilizer (yet that is what they recommend). A balanced fertilizer will not throw off soil chemistry as long as excessive amounts are not used. If your trees grow well and flourish without fertilizer, by all means, don't bother with it.

  7. #7

    RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Thanks for the responses.

    I had a Red Maple and Chanticleer Pear spaded at the same time. The Maple about 4-1/2 at the base and 15 feet tall and the pear a little smaller. I didn't water them as much as instructed by the owner of the tree farm, and they are doing great.

    The owner told me the river birch would need more water than the other two, and that I would have a hard time over watering it.

    I crawled up a step ladder and examined the upper branches. I agree the buds are smaller and harder to see, but still no new buds on the upper branches. When scratching the bark on the upper branches the wood still looked healthy, just not as green as the lower/budded branches.

    The buds/leaves on the lower branches look quite good and are filling out nicely. Biggest leaves are about an inch wide.

    I have not fertilized the tree itself (other than the grass fertilizer I put on) and hadn't planned to. It still has a spring time feel hear with temps.

    With sufficient watering, do you think there is still hope to bring these upper branches back this spring?

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
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    Re: RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Quote Originally Posted by Stu_Hawk
    With sufficient watering, do you think there is still hope to bring these upper branches back this spring?
    Yes there is a lot of hope thats why I say to hang in there and see what happens with it. It's hard to imagine one of these not leafed out yet as they are amongst the first trees to leaf out in my area.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
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    Re: RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Quote Originally Posted by Upperhand
    Have to disagree here, I've read hundreds of articles stating otherwise regarding fertilizing trees (whether young or old).
    What are the reasons they give for fertilizing a tree that doesn't need fertilization?

  10. #10
    Oak
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    Re: RE: River Birch Not Fully Budding

    Quote Originally Posted by Quirky Quercus
    What are the reasons they give for fertilizing a tree that doesn't need fertilization?
    Mainly for boosting growth and vigor, and for overall health of the tree. Fertilizer is like vitamin supplements for trees - people don't necessarily need vitamin supplements, perhaps their diets are ideal, but in most cases diets are not ideal, and vitamin supplementation will (again, correct dosing is important) provide benefit and improve health.

    Within the N-P-K spektrum, the nitrogen acts as a jump-start for new growth, phosphate is great for the root development (though phosphate should NOT be used if you live *anywhere* near lakes or streams - in some areas it is illegal to use fertilizer with any amount of phosphate), and Potassium (K) is vital for plant cell wall thickening and robustness (helps protect trees from frost/freeze damage in the northern states). These 3 nutrients are present in soil in various quantities, though sometimes not sufficient for ideal tree health. Virtually no soil is *ideal*, often iron is lacking, pH is off, or both potassium/phosphate are in short supply. The point is, fertilizer ensures that the nutrients (N-P-K) do become available for trees, and all 3 of the "essential" nutrients are beneficial in additional amounts even if a soil test shows adequate levels of these nutrients already present in the soil. Organic fertilizers (i.e. manure) work best, but more slowly than granular or liquid fertilizers. However, granular/liquid fertilizers certainly *can* be harmful if they are too concentrated or used excessively. Moderation is key, following instructions and having a good understanding of how fertilizers work will certainly result in improved growth, vigor, and plant robustness in virtually 100% of cases where used correctly.

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