Black Walnut...in diress?

We have a 20 year old black walnut tree in our yard that may be showing signs of distress.
Each year it leafs out fairly late by comparison to other trees. This is consistent however -- it leafs out roughly the same time every year. What has me concerned is that this particular year has the added curiosity of LOSING its leaves early. The tree has already fruited, the squirrels are hitting it hard of course, but it's lost a solid half of its leaves.
All of the trees seem to be having a bit of a problem this year, likely due to hot weather and a lack of rain I'm thinking. I was just curious if anyone else has experienced any similar issues, especially with their black walnut trees.
James Zone 6, SW Ohio
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Walnuts do leaf out late. But they don't particularly lose their leaves early.

Walnuts are highland trees, and fairly drought resistant. I find it hard to believe that you have a drought, here in SE MI (perhaps 400 miles N of you) I have had to water seedlings a couple of times, but I have yet to water the tomatoes, potatoes, chard, zucchini, garlic or onions. Lots of mowing, though.
How is your soil? Does the walnut have to fight with grass? Perhaps you should consider some manure, and 6 inches of wood chips all the way to the dripline.
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We have two items conspiring against us here -- first and foremost, we've been a bit below our average rainfall totals. Second and most important has been the type of rain -- rather than getting a series of regular rains we've been getting occasional drenching followed by lots of dryness. In mid-June we were 6 inches below average and the only reason we were that close was the deluges we had received. We're finally starting to see more regularly rains but I think it's come a little too late.

The soil's fair-to-middlin' -- it's mostly clay. Yes, there is some grass around the tree but the tree is a happy 50 feet tall now -- I find it hard to believe that after 20 years it's now having problems with grass. If I put wood chips all the way to the drip line it'd be pretty big. :)
James
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That is the way with trees. They look fine for 20 years running and then suddenly they start to keel over. If it looks stressed you should react. And it is a one ton tree, so it will want tons of organic matter.
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For the time being I've been taking leaves and such and piling them in the area directly around the trunk. Before winter hits, I'll be doing a lot of work re-landscaping the yard including mulching the whole front yard over. We're also planning on catching rainwater from the downspouts and funnelling them out to the yard over time.
James
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If you object to all that exposed mulch, you ought to consider groundcovering it. With a tree yuo can only layer on top.
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I don't object to it -- in fact, it's a part of my general landscaping plan. Unfortunately it's a tad more pricey than I can afford at this time -- we're talking around a thousand square feet here so.... :)
James
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<snip>
Hello James
We live in Northern Kentucky on a farm. We have hundreds of black walnut, oak (at least 8 different oaks), maple, sycamore, locust, cottonwood, etc., etc. to make comparisons.
The black walnut are always the last to get their leaves in the spring. And they are always the first to lose their leaves in the fall. No ifs, ands or buts, always.
During the drought last year the garden centers and extension offices and agriculture departments were all predicting a hard summer for hardwoods this year because of that drought. Apparently the drought's effects are seen mostly in the following leaf season. With some residual effects for up to 10 years. I was just noticing a few weeks ago that quite a few trees have fewer leaves to start and are losing quite a few already. But they all seem to have brown spots on their leaves. Not just one species, or age group, or site, but all of the hardwoods.
We have these 2 elm trees at the top of the driveway. They are magnificent. One on each side of the gravel drive which is only about 10 feet wide, if that. If you stand under them and look up it appears that there is a natural ceiling of leaves. Just a really great shape, like this huge umbrella. Reminds me why I love nature so much. Anyway, these trees have less leaves and quite a few branches that aren't looking too healthy.
Hoping all of this is what the 'experts' were predicting and not a really nasty something starting to develop.
Judy
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etc.,
And
or
this
seem
or
magnificent.
Judy -- You guys are just the other side of the drink; I'm over in Cincy. It's good to know I'm not alone.
Like you, I've noticed a number of my trees are not doing as well as I would expect. My crab apple has dark spots on the leaves as do the maples. My redbuds have certainly seen better days -- they didn't really leaf out as well as I'd hoped and the leaves have been droopy all season long. Even the lilacs are droopy.
James
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