My landscaper installed three white (or Jacquemontii) birch trees last
summer. They are each about 8 feet tall. I live in NJ and we had a
drought last year where it didn't rain for two months. I diligently
watered the trees almost every day and they seemed to be doing ok. Our
soil is mostly red clay. Over the winter I noticed they were losing
branches. I would find main branches on the ground with a clean break
from the trunk. This spring, the trees didn't bud and they are barren.
I think they are all dead. Does anyone have any ideas or insight
about what happened? Are there any signs of parasite damage I should
look for? Is there any treatment I can give them? BTW, I received no
guarantee from the landscaper so it looks like I'm out $1,000.
Watering a tree can be difficult, especialy since the roots grow so
deep that a significant amount of water may be necessary in a severe
However, too much water, especialy when the trees are already stressed
can be disastrous.
Also, just an FYI or reccomendation for the future;
Tell any future landscapers you may hire to only purchase trees that
are grown in-state, rather than grown elsewhere and shipped. This way
the trees already are aclimated to your area.
I live in a state well kown for it's red clay. I hate the stuff. It
forms a "seal" that actualy prevents water from soaking into deeper
levels of soil and becomes bone-dry extremely easily. It also creates
poorly airated soils.
The only other thing I can think of offhand is that there are several
boring beetles which lay eggs in branches. The grubs develop and
tunnel under the bark. When time for maturation arrives, the grub will
actualy eat thrugh the branch, causing it to fall from the tree. The
grub then exits and enters the ground to pupate. I would advise
distroying any branches that have fallen if you suspect that they may
be a result of such activity. (You should be able to see holes and
boring tunnels after breaking a few branches)
Your birches are a different variety from mine. I planted mine myself
about 30 years ago, and they are now old but leaf out well. Too well.
I get the city on my case to cut them back to 8' clearance. They are in
a very sunny, not-too-well drained site, and I noticed that while they
probably have shot down very deep tap roots, there is a network of very
shallow roots close to the surface. When I planted them, I worked in
plenty of peat and either fertilizer or good top soil, can't remember,
with the soil I dug out of the hole. Then I watered them diligently
until they were established, but not every day.
Now I can't help you about grubs or parasites, but if you shop around,
especially a small-town landscaper, I just had to have an American
linden tree and couldn't plant it myself. They gave me a good price for
what trees go for now, and a guarantee that if it didn't grow, they
would replace it. I'd try to negotiate something like that next time.
I do have a spot with nasty clay even after bushes were there for years.
Tomatoes did ok in it. I still haven't worked enough into it to break
it down. Clay is nasty stuff, but lots of gardeners seem to know how to
deal with it.
Could have been any number of things, from transporting the trees
untarped before planting (you know those trees going down the freeway
at 65 mph, whipping in the breeze? That sucks moisture right out of
the tree-- not a good thing), to improper planting, to soil type not
suitable, to planting diseased stock, to poor watering (water deeply
and not so often), etc. etc.
I understand bronze birch borer is a common pest in the NE states; you may
want to choose a tree species better able to cope with local conditions.
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