Treat ailing tree to a "fertilizer stake dinner"

Trees add so much to your landscape. Apart from the aesthetic appeal of their beauty, they provide cooling shade for your home and garden. A mature leafy tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as ten people can inhale in a year.
But when trees have problems, they can be BIG problems, as these readers discovered.
QUESTION: "We have a maple, not a silver one, that has been in the ground maybe twenty years but still looks spindly. This spring was hard on it and it looks half-dead. Is there anything I should do to help it? It is in open lawn and there is no reason that I can see as to why it is doing so poorly." - Karen Meyer
ANSWER: There are many things you can try to do as a homeowner. One of the simplest is to fertilize the tree using a product called Jobe tree stakes. Directions come with it but it is as simple as pounding in the fertilizer stakes at the drip line of the trees.
For mature trees such as the one you describe you will use three stakes for every two inches of trunk diameter, measured at chest height. For example, five stakes will feed a tree with a three inch trunk diameter, and so on. Using the plastic driving cap, tap stakes into the ground, spaced evenly at tree's drip line. The drip line is directly below the ends of the longest branches.
Another suggestion would be to contact an arborist in your area who deals in larger trees. Here is a link to find one. http://asca-consultants.org/directory/index.cfm You can also click on a direct link to that directory when you find this column at my Web site, www.landsteward.org
QUESTION: "I have a Japanese Purpleleaf Sand Cherry at the front corner of my house. It's about six years old and is quite a size. It is part of my landscape. Around the tree I have evergreens, rhododendron, day lilies, hostas and flowering bushes. I have noticed that the leaves are not as big as last year's and it has a lot of black dots along the branches and some sort of white stuff. What is it and what can I do to save the tree? Please respond ASAP if you can as I don't want the tree to die if I can save it." - Teresa Fallone
ANSWER: It sounds like you have some kind of insect infection. You could try a product I've been using called Take Down Garden Spray. It contains a mixture of pyrethrin and canola oil. It is safe to use on vegetables and fruit trees as well as on groundcover, shrubs, houseplants, etc. Readers have told me they've had success with Take Down controlling Japanese Beetles, aphids, mealy bugs and so on.

the next few weeks. Also, you may experience some die back because of this. Once you see some of the tips or light branches dying, you need to trim them back to reshape the bush. Let me know how it works out for you.
QUESTION: "I had a weeping willow planted a year ago. It has done well and is about 9 or 10 feet tall. We are in a severe drought right now. How often should I water this tree and for how long at a time? I don't want to over water it." - Mary Chase
ANSWER: During the drought I would water once per week. You need to do deep watering to get to the roots not just standing with hose. As I've said here before, use a five gallon bucket filled with water and small 1/8 inch holes on the side at the base. The water coming out that slowly will be more likely to reach the roots.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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On Wed, 04 Jul 2007 05:25:33 -0700, " snipped-for-privacy@Greenwoodnursery.com"

This arborist will likely tell you to ignore the previous advice. If he does not, find another. Fertilizing a stressed tree can cause it to die as it spends its last remaining stored energy on a flush of new growth in response to the nitrogen.
Also, fertilizing without a soil test is always risky. If the homeowner (or his predecessor) already fertilized excessively, the buildup of salts could kill the tree. Not to mention the risk of runoff polluting waterways (admittedly unlikely with these spikes).
Speaking of which, the spikes themselves are a very inefficient way to fertilize your soil. The result is a few pockets of oversalted soil surrounded by large areas of unaffected root zone. (I prefer to top-dress twice a year with composted manure. If your soil is deficient in phosphorus, add bone meal. P and K are usually not a problem, though. The compost will add N and also microbes to invigorate the soil ecosystem. This will be much more useful than a chemical spike or two.)
The likely cause of this tree's problems is poor planting practices--too deep, leading to root crown decay and possibly girdling roots. But it is impossible to diagnose without more information. The only good advice above is to call a good arborist.

It doesn't sound like that to me. It is possible, I suppose, but where is the evidence? Sounds like a vague description of normal plant characteristics and too-small leaves, which are not caused by insects. Again, more info is needed for diagnosis.

What, no irrigation products to promote?
Watering plants cannot be done on a set schedule or regimen. You have to dig into the soil to see if it it wet. Water deeply when the top 3-6 inches of soil are dry. Do not water again until the soil is dry again.
Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist #TX-0236AT
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Treedweller wrote:

Where do all the forests come from I wonder... it's extremely rare that a tree requires fertilizing, it became a tree didn't it. duh
Trees have been growing very successfully for millions and millions of years, with no human intervention whatsoever... the only trees that need to be fertilized (perhaps) are those being grown in a pot. Two hundred year old trees grow very well out of little holes in urban concrete... people carve into them, hack off their limbs, spew endless torrents of horrid fumes at them, and no one ever waters or fertilizes them andthey're very healthy, yet for hundreds of years they've never seen an arborist even once... must be those dogs and winos doing their business at their feet.
Self proclaimed arborists are forever attempting to scam products, services, and asinine advice. A real arborist would not be posting such fertilizer. And no one needs an expert to tell them to break out the hose because it's not rained in a while.
Anytime you see someone holding themself up as an "arborist" that's selling/promoting anything whatsoever that's not an arborist, that's a charlatan.
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By mulching!!!!!!!
Mulching - http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/sub3.html and http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/M/ Look up "Mulch"
Look at some of the forest story. http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/SOUND/whatitis/index.html
You do not log your way to improved forest health.

I agree 100%
I am an arborist and what I push most for trees in urban areas is proper mulching which includes ecoart nurse losg.
http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/ecoart /
I am not against fertilizing if someone had optimum fertility levels for trees and could prove that an element was actually lacking.
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist with tree biology background. http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.
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Sounds like another product pusher.
I would first start with mulch, proper that is.
Qestion: Why? Answer - Troubles in the Rhizosphere http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/shigo/RHIZO.html
Unhealthy Trees from the Nursery / Improper Planting http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/sub1.html and Look up "Tree Planting" http://www.treedictionary.com
Improper Mulching - http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/sub3.html and http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/M/ Look up "Mulch"
Improper Pruning http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/tree_pruning
Improper Fertilization (See A Touch of Chemistry) http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/shigo/CHEM.html
Tree Farming and Related Problems http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/SOUND /
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.
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The biggest joke is that the guy is trying to make us believe that we can "feed" trees. They must think we flunked photosynthesis. Trees manufacture their own food. Autotrophs make their own food. Heterotrophs have to have it made for them. Trees are autotrophs not heterotrophs. A basic understanding of trees would see how misleading it is to claim we are feeding a tree a dinner when in reality we are providing essential elements not food.
--
Sincerely,
John A. Keslick, Jr.
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I think you need to sit on a "Ross" root feeder.
If you are of a mind to fertilize your trees ,plain old 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 broadcast lightly in the drip zone is mostly what you need to do, a soil test would be great but a coffee can of fertilizer broadcast over a few hundred square feet of drip zone is plenty and cheaper than the test. Adding organic material is even better, a half inch of sifted compost now and again won't even interfere with lawn mowing. Or mow your lawn to discharge towards the tree and direct the cuttings towards the dripline, trhe same goes for fall leaves.
Here in the Northeast I wouldn't fertilize much after the 4th of July because you don't need to go into the heat of summer and into fall with soft new growth, add the organic material and improve the soil.
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Lawns interfere with the tree. Its best to cut the turf low and place 3-4 inches of composted wood chips and leaves.
Instructions you can use are here.
Mulching - http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/sub3.html and http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/M/ Look up "Mulch"
Also 10-10-10 is a corn treatment and not a tree treatment. What about the other 14 elements trees require?
The dump on method of 10-10-10- and such is old arboriculture.
There are many other tree related problems worth mentioning.
--
Many tree problems are associated with the following: They are Case
Sensitive.
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there are 17 essential elements that trees require. a mixture of 10-10-10 is just N-P-K. What about Fe, B, Mg, Mn, N and so on?
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.
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Everyone of them contained in this-Adding organic material is even better, a half

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Ok
But composted wood chips and leaves has even added benifits other than just adding humus over a lawn.
John
wrote:

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Professionally, for me, if I can the get the customer or client to mulch with composted wood chips and leaves at my specs, I consider myself lucky. If then we desire to go further, for mature trees such as cucumber magnolia, we would have to recommend a soil application of micro-elements. I would prefer to fertilize with 0 nitrogen. I call the micro and not minor because they are anything but minor. if there was hemlocks and the client desired fertilizing I would recommend testing and using my results as a guide. Like I said, more research is needed. How you would fertilize a young trees is very different than how you would want to fertilize a mature trees. I do not believe a mature tree requires to grow bigger and faster as adding a 10-10-10. Nitrogen in the form it is in 10-10-10 was explained to me as follows. Imagine the biggest grand finale on the 4th of July (in USA) you have ever seen and multiply that by 10. Chemistry speaking that is what it is like when you take a pinch of nitrogen in that form and toss it on the soil. I am absolutely not the last word on fertilizing.
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.
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