Oak Trees have few/no leaves
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Author:  Mr.Tantrum [ Thu May 05, 2011 8:00 am ]
Post subject:  Oak Trees have few/no leaves

I live in a new neighborhood with 2 three year old oak trees (not sure what variety). The trees have done great every year except for this year. One of them probably has about 20% of it's leaves and the other even fewer when all of the other trees in the neighborhood are fully leaved.

About a month ago, I removed all of the 4-6 inches of dirt that was used for beds around the trees as originally planted in order to make the ground around the trees even with the rest of the yard. I planted grass in these open rings and fertilized with starter fertilzer (one ring is about 4' in diameter and the other about 6').

I'm wondering if I did something to shock the trees and how should I address it now? Is it best just to wait it out or do I need to somehow address the issue? I water regularly 2-3 times per week, and have done so all winter. My lawn, shrubs, and flower beds are thriving. The only other difference is that I did plant winter rye this year.

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Fri May 06, 2011 4:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Couple questions:

How did you remove the soil that was in the beds?
And did you find feeder tree roots in that soil?
What kind of grass did you lay?
What kind of fertilizer did you apply?

Also, while you didn't ask about this, I suggest you check out this thread and learn about watering. If you are watering 2-3 times a week, you are watering too much.


Author:  Mr.Tantrum [ Fri May 06, 2011 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Soil Removal: By hand with a shovel, mainly parallel and even with the ground around the rings (previously the beds were supported by stone, which I also removed prior to the dirt).

There were only a few small roots, and I had to cut/remove only a couple. Some of the roots may have even been from plants there were in the rings and not the trees.

I planted bermuda grass seed in the rings, and have been keeping the soil moist for germination and initial growth.

I don't exactly recall the fertilizer I used, but it was something that I had left over when I planted my rye grass seed and I remember that it didn't have any phosphates (0 middle number). I think it also was high in nitrogren and a low potassium number.

Author:  Mr.Tantrum [ Sat May 07, 2011 2:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Okay, after much research I'm beginning to realize that I made a mistake by adding the high nitrogen fertilizer above the tree roots (I was only thinking of the grass).

So, now the question is how do I fix the problem? I've read in places that heavy watering will help and that I should use sugar water. Does anyone have any input on this?

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Fri May 13, 2011 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

While I can understand the desire to have a nice lawn that goes all around the trees, it also seems extremely important to always be considering the health and welfare of any existing trees.

If I had -- in my yard -- the exact situation you have (and, believe me, I've created for myself similar sticky situations :oops: ) I would:

1. Apply the sick tree treatment (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garde ... n/id/2205/)

2. Give the whole drip zone (any ground area within the circle of the leaves and canopy of the tree) a 1-3" thick layer of shredded leaves, partially completely compost, pine straw, or bagged organic compost, to give the trees some TLC on their root zones. If you do this, take care NOT to pile mulch on the root flare. Here's more on properly exposed root flares (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garde ... n/id/1609/) and improperly exposed root flares (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garde ... n/id/3590/).

And I would not -- again, for my yard -- grow grass around the trees at all. In a few minutes, I'll post a pic of our 50' oak tree which was in severe stress when we bought our house. After a lot of work, including implementing #1 and #2 above, and maintaining the mulch (which currently needs to be weeded... :oops: ) our tree has ceased losing branches and even has some new growth on branches that we thought were dead.

Hope that helps, and I hope you can save your trees!

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Fri May 13, 2011 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Here is our oak tree. When we bought the house there was a 4' x 7' raised bed over a foot tall around the tree. You can see the dark line at the bottom of the fence where the bed used to be.

The mulch is a combination of pine straw, whole leaves, shredded leaves, and partially completed compost. I add to it spring and fall, or as we have excess compost.

I also aerated (by hand, with a yard fork) before applying sick tree treatment to the soil. I still have a bag of Tree Gunk Goop that I need to apply to a couple small gashes that remain even though many of the gashes have healed up now that we are babying the tree and trying to get it healthy.

Mulch on Drip Zone.jpg
Mulch on Drip Zone.jpg [ 49.6 KiB | Viewed 9400 times ]

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Fri May 13, 2011 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

And here's a picture of a welcome sight. A brand new leaf! I wasn't able to get a good picture that shows the relationship of the leaf to the branch, but this branch has no other leaves on it at all. The branch circumference where this leaf is growing is at least 8". At the end of the branch, all the smaller branches that should leaf out and fill in the canopy of the tree, are dead. The plan has been to cut this branch off as soon as possible. Now, we have a new leaf! :D

New Growth!.jpg
New Growth!.jpg [ 34.48 KiB | Viewed 9390 times ]

Author:  Mr.Tantrum [ Fri May 13, 2011 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

I appreciate all of the advise and pics. I've attached pics of my two trees. I took these at dusk, so that is why their a little grainy. Also, notice that the grass is starting to come in that I planted. The first tree already had all of the leaves currently on it when I planted and fertilized the new bermuda seed.

File comment: Photo of the second tree
tree2.png [ 183.1 KiB | Viewed 9397 times ]
File comment: Photo of the first tree
tree1.png [ 221.39 KiB | Viewed 9392 times ]

Author:  Mr.Tantrum [ Fri May 13, 2011 7:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Also, I just looked at the root flare pics. It is hard to tell by my pics, but I would say that for young trees, the flare exposure is now "proper" based upon the samples you pointed me to. Before, the dirt was an additional 4-6" up the trunk.

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Fri May 13, 2011 9:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oak Trees have few/no leaves

Wow! That's crazy that somebody planted that one tree between the sidewalk and the street. If it does well, that tree is going to end up with a circumference nearly as great as the swath of grass it is planted in. Yikes! :shock:

More than likely, that's where your gas line is, too...

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