QUESTION: "My mother has an established Kwanzan Cherry tree. Last year
the leaves turned yellow and dropped off prematurely and this year
they are doing the same and are noticeably smaller than they have been
in the past. Do you have any ideas what may be causing this. I would
hate to have her lose the tree!" - A loving son.
ANSWER: With the extreme temperatures and drought that most of the
country has experienced over the last couple of summers, trees and
shrubs have been going into an early dormancy for protection. The
leaves are smaller because they haven't had the chance to grow to full
During summers like this, I, too, notice trees of all types turning
yellow and dropping their leaves. This will generally happen in late
July and throughout August. There isn't a lot that can be done to
prevent this happening.
However, it is always good to put a nice thick layer of mulch/aged
compost mix around the base of the tree with a welled area immediately
around the trunk. This will help to keep the root system cool and
moist as well as decompose over the season adding much needed
nutrients into the soil. Don't attempt to fertilize as it will only
confuse the tree more and can be even more damaging. I hope this helps
to explain what is going on.
QUESTION: "Last December I had several small trees planted at my new
home. One is a maple. It is about 6 inches in diameter now and very
healthy looking. Beautiful deep green leaf with no evidence of pests,
fungus, etc. I have noticed on the trunk in the middle on one side,
right under the last branch, some cracking of the bark, not just
peeling. Should I wrap that spot or just leave it alone? Also when
should I fertilize it and also the crabapple trees that were planted
the same time? " - Victoria Smith
ANSWER: Bark splitting is a common problem. I have included a link
here from the Virginia Tech Extension site on just that. The article
tells how bark splitting happens and, more importantly, how to take
care of the plant. You should find it quite helpful.
You can click on a direct link when you find this column at my Web
I am not a fan of fertilizing trees or shrubs their first year or so
in the ground, especially since the maple needs to heal from its
damage. Fertilizing should be based on results from soil tests as the
purpose of fertilize is to bring the soil up to balanced. The best
thing to do for trees or shrubs (as I suggested in my answer above) is
to apply a good thick layer of mulch/aged compost mix around the base
of each plant leaving a welled area around their immediate base so the
mix doesn't touch the trunk.
Thank you for your inquiry. I hope you are having a wonderful summer
in your new home!
QUESTION: "I have a large concrete bird bath that has a red algae
film. I can empty the bird bath and clean it out, but the red algae
comes right back. Is there a way to get rid of it without harming the
porous concrete or the birds that drink from it?" - Jan Cook
ANSWER: It's almost impossible to prevent algae, but you can control
it. Wash out the bird bath with a solution of bleach and water, using
a "pot scrubber" brush and be sure to rinse it thoroughly three times.
I would imagine that your bird bath is in full sun so that will create
more algae then if it is in the shade. You can purchase some algae
inhibitors at your local pet store but check the label to be sure it
won't harm the birds.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org