Thread: Tree troubles; please advise.

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  1. #1
    Acorn
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Brown City, Michigan
    Posts
    17

    Tree troubles; please advise.

    Since my wife & I moved into our new build home 2 years ago we have planted 42 trees & 36 shrubs on what was cleared farmland.

    I'm attaching several photos (1st time poster so I may need to do several posts to get them all!) of some red & golden maples that were planted in May of 2008 that have some problems. The nursery that planted gave a one year warranty & said to water every 2 weeks. I did. After 1 year + here are the results:
    The nursery owner has agreed to replant Golden Maple 1 which didn't bud at all. Golden Maple 2 did bud, however the leaves are exceptionally small & looks like it will not survive. Red Maple & Twin Maple lost nearly 1/2 of their branches but otherwise look OK.
    The nursery recommended that I use some deep root fertilizer (0-30-30) on the 3 in-question trees as well as trimming the dead branches on both red maples.
    Maybe those of you who are nursery owners have connections where to find 0-30-30 fertilizer but I can't! Best I can do is root spikes.
    So, please feel free to post your recommendations as I really love these trees!

    I should also add that we live on the thumb area of Michigan. We get 4 balanced seasons here.
    GARoss
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  2. #2
    Acorn
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Brown City, Michigan
    Posts
    17

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    Here's the other maple
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  3. #3
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    Looks like those Maples must've already been quite large when you first planted them last year in May. What you are seeing is die back, this could be happening for a variety of reasons. Some die back is normal and a result of transplant shock, the tree will eventually recover and grow again in that situation. In other cases, the die back could be caused by circling roots (if the tree was container-bound when you purchased it from the nursery); circling roots can eventually girdle and kill the tree, often this does happen quite rapidly (within a year), and a number of Maple varieties are susceptible to root girdling (especially Norway Maples). Red Maples typically do not have problems with girdling roots, so your Red Maple should be fine. Red Maples are also known as "Swamp Maples", make sure you're providing a deep, thorough watering in times of heat and dry weather. I've noticed that Michigan has had exceptionally warm weather the past few days, ensure that you are watering your trees sufficiently (don't over-water though!).

    Here's another tip that may help you - like you, I also built 2 years ago on flat farmland, hence most of my yard drains poorly. This means that under the layer of topsoil, there is a "water bath" since water has no where to drain. It is VERY critical to plant the trees ABOVE grade in my situation (on mounds), otherwise my trees probably would not have survived their first Winter/Spring. It's also important that you are planting trees that are appropriate for your soil conditions - a lot of Maples require good drainage (Red Maples are fine though and tolerate wet soil), I'm not familiar with "Golden Maples" but if they are anything like the Sugar Maples in our area, poor drainage = dead tree (unless you mound it up nicely so excess water can drain off the tree roots).

    Contact your County extension office and ask for an arborist. They will come out free of charge to inspect your trees and offer advice (your tax dollars pay their salaries). The arborist will be able to give you the low-down regarding those Maples you have planted, often nursery personnel are not as knowledgeable as they should be so they do give bad advice at times. Do NOT fertilize those trees with anything until they have gone dormant during the LATE Fall season. At that point you can add a fertilizer (such as the one you mentioned) over the mulch (see my post about Fertilizing trees, it is just verbatim advice that I received from my own county arborist) to help "winterize" the tree and encourage more vigorous root growth. Fertilizer may make the problem worse if those trees are stressed or suffering from transplant shock. If you notice brown/black edges on the leaves (wilting) and they have been watered sufficiently, the problems are almost certainly related to poor drainage and over-watering (though I see that pond in the background in one of the photos, that will help with poor drainage).

  4. #4
    Acorn
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Brown City, Michigan
    Posts
    17

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    Thanks for the reply, Upperhand.
    All of these maples have 3.5 to 5.5" trunks. When we moved in there was one lone maple in the front.
    In Michigan we have a saying: "If you don't like the weather - wait 10 minutes (it'll change!)"
    2 years ago we had a serious drought. During that time, naturally, we were trying to grow grass - 3.5 acres of it. Last year when we planted the maples it was a normal summer. This past spring, up until a few days ago, it was unseasonably cool & wet. This past weekend we had a small cloud burst (2" of rain). Today, we hit mid 90s. The only way I've learned to describe the weather here is with 4 letter words!
    It's a little hard to tell by the photos that our lot is fairly slopped. In one of the photos you can see our pond which is the result of needing back-fill on one side of the house.
    Golden Maple 1 & 2 are either dead or near dead. Both are planted in clay from the pond or backfill soil, that has little sand & top soil. The red maples are in good soil.

  5. #5
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    We deal with a lot of wind in my area (and we have plenty of 4-letter words for the wind ), but other than that our weather is fairly tolerable (well, aside from the fact that we have Winter 9 months out of the year, or so it seems).

    I noticed at the base of your dead Golden Maple that there was no mulch on that soil. Over the Winter, a mulch-less soil mound may allow those tree roots to freeze (resulting in a LOT of die back). Since none of the other soil mounds were shown in those photos, I can't tell if your other trees might have been in the same situation.

    I grew my lawn in (from seed) last year, I planted during the worst time of the year (mid July), but our 7" of monthly rainfall during July (which you would think would be a good thing) was our worst enemy. I'd put seed down, and a heavy downpour would wash it all into the ditch. It was a daily battle, I'd buy another 50 lb. bag of seed (not cheap), spread it, and eventually put peat moss over the seed (had to buy MANY cubes of peat moss last year). Eventually the lawn came in nicely. I planted the backyard during September, and it came in amazingly well in comparison because it's completely flat back there and the seed stayed put even during heavy rains. Now there's a lot of quality tall fescue (over 1-2 feet tall) growing in the ditch this year .

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
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    Georgia
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    1,589

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    What is a "golden maple"?

    I can't really tell from those photos. They show up very small when you upload them to the forum. If you could instead upload them to www.imageshack.us they will show full size and we can see them better.

  7. #7
    Oak
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Sylva NC zone 7
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    276

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    I have looked on the internet and all I can find that even has gold in it when it comes to maple trees is Princeton Gold Maple. When you say Golden Maple are you talking about the Princeton Gold Maple Norway selection.

  8. #8
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Western NY, Zone 6
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    348

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    The "Golden Maples" are most likely Norway Maples, so that is probably a correct statement. As I suspected in one of my above posts, Norway Maples are known to have issues with root girdling, this is a likely cause of the decline of the Maples in question.

    GARoss - if you're considering replacing those trees, I would replace them with Red Maples or perhaps a variety of Oak that grows well in your area (most oaks should do well throughout Michigan). Make sure the soil base around the tree is well mulched (3-4" thick layer of mulch), but don't mulch all the way up to the trunk, leave at least a 3" gap all the way around the trunk. Plant the tree above grade, a small mound is fine. Water deeply (a slow trickle from a garden hose is best) at least once per week for an hour or two during dry/hot weather.

  9. #9
    Acorn
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Brown City, Michigan
    Posts
    17

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    OK guys. Looks like I need to upload some detailed closeups to determine exactly what kind of maple we're talking about. I'll get these uploaded to the link as suggested ASAP.
    As for no mulch; the planter didn't recommend it. I've had plenty of other trees planted @ other homes & mulch was the 1st thing they did after planting. Looks like this is a MUST!
    As to how they were planted (above or below grade) this was determined by the planter. As you can see, larger trees may have settled somewhat afterward. Then again, the planter created a "bowl" for watering; giving me instructions to fill the bowl 2x every 2 weeks unless we had excessive rain, which we didn't last year.
    As of now, he has agreed to replant the one dead maple (I'm calling it a Norway Maple from now on! ) The other Norway isn't technically dead according to him; at lease not yet!
    GARoss

  10. #10
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    RE: Tree troubles; please advise.

    The nursery I purchased trees from last year was the same way - the tree *really* had to be dead before they would replace it. I had a Norway Maple (Crimson King) die on me last year from the excessive water it received (due to way above normal rainfall). It took a couple of months of dry/wilted leaves before the nursery agreed to credit me for the tree (I then put that credit toward some Swamp White Oaks). That was the last time I purchased from a tree from a nursery - they are overpriced and I don't agree with the hassle they put customers through for tree replacement. The well-known large home stores are perfectly fine for tree selection (as long as you're out there in the Spring), and they have hassle-free 1-year return policies (your tree could burn in a fire and they would exchange/credit it back for you).

    Mulch is a tree's best friend - it will protect the tree from temperature extremes and will help with water retention. Mulch is especially important for the Winter since it provides insulation for the more delicate roots that can easily be destroyed if they freeze. I would bet that you will see less die back and more vigorous growth next Spring if you mulch your trees this year.

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