Have you taken a good look at your tree lately? Standing back to look at it, it may look fine, but what about up close? Are its leaves healthy and green? Do you notice any unusual growths, or weakness in your tree’s limbs? We know that keeping an eye out for symptoms of poor health in your tree can make all the difference in saving it from the cause of its health issues, but to do that you first need to know what to look for!
So, what can cause a tree to suffer bad health? The main culprits are drought, disease, and pests.
Drought According to the Arbor Day Foundation, drought is one of the most common and serious threats to a tree’s health, especially since drought can actually make your tree more vulnerable to pests and disease. Young trees, typically those under two years old, are especially susceptible to drought damage because their root system is still developing.
There are a few dehydration symptoms to watch out for, showing up mostly in your tree’s leaves. The foliage may appear to be wilted, yellowed, or turning brown at the outer edges. A tree that is experiencing drought stress might also grow fewer leaves than usual, be losing the leaves it has, or grow leaves that are smaller than normal.
Fortunately, drought has a simple solution, and if your tree hasn’t been suffering too long, it should be able to bounce back with proper watering. Don’t water too much—the soil should be damp rather than soggy—but make sure that the water is reaching the deeper roots by creating a small trench with your garden spade and using your finger to check that the soil a few inches deep is also getting water. In addition to watering, you can help your tree stay hydrated by applying an even layer of mulch to keep the moisture from evaporating, giving your tree plenty of time to soak it all up.
Diseases and Pests The diseases that can affect your tree will vary based on the species of tree as well as the region where it is planted. Look for symptoms such as discolored spots on the leaves, browned or blackened foliage and ends of limbs hanging down, white and powdery mildew coating the leaves, or cankers (isolated dead areas on limbs or trunk).
Insect infestations are likewise dependent on the type of tree and the area, but symptoms can be different. With a pest problem, you might see galls (unsightly, swollen growths on leaves or limbs), large holes in leaves or flower petals where insects have eaten through them, thinning crowns, and holes in the trunk where they’ve dug in or out.
Some insect pests can completely kill a tree within 2-4 years of the initial infestation, so it’s important to watch for these signs and act fast. However, it’s also vital that you don’t get carried away with fungicides and pesticides that might cause damage to your tree. It’s best to seek help from a certified arborist that can identify exactly what’s causing the problem and the best way to solve it.
With these resources, you can hopefully restore your tree to full health. However, in the sad event that it’s too late to save your tree, hiring a tree removal service, like Southeastern Tree Removal, can ensure that your tree is safely and completely removed, helping to prevent disease and infestation from spreading across your landscape.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (and again, and again!): soil is one of the most crucial factors in the healthy growth of your trees. From the moment it’s planted, your tree will rely on its bed of soil to deliver necessary nutrients, water, and oxygen.
Of course, not all soils are created equal—and neither are trees. One species of tree may require a different balance of nutrients and a different pH level from another, and when the soil it’s planted in isn’t providing that balance, you’ll start to see symptoms of nutrient deficiency in your tree’s growth. These signs could include yellowed leaves and slowed growth of new shoots.
If you suspect that your tree could be suffering from a lack of proper nutrition, then fertilizer could be the answer. Fertilizers supplement the soil’s macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur—elements your tree needs in large amounts) and micronutrients (iron, copper, zinc, and others—of which your tree can survive with smaller doses). They can also be used to correct improper pH levels. Most fertilizers are labeled with the percentage of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) they contain, displayed as N-P- K (9-18- 9, 24-0- 15, etc.).
Because of each tree’s unique nutrient requirements and soil’s unique nutrient content, it’s important not to grab just any fertilizer off the shelf in the gardening section, or to assume that the fertilizer you laid down for your lawn will be sufficient for your tree, too. And if nutrient deficiency or pH imbalance turn out not to be at the root of the problem, then no amount of fertilizer will be the solution. Before you reach for any old bag of 12-12- 12, we strongly recommend having a soil test performed to find out just what’s missing from your soil. Compare the results of the soil test with your research about what your tree species needs from its soil, and you’ll have a much better idea which fertilizer to choose.