Blue Spruce lost blue color and losing needles rapidly

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by lawnplugger, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. lawnplugger

    lawnplugger Member

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    If this is not posted in the correct location please advise - thanks!

    I have a blue spruce about 20 years which has lost its blue color and needles this year. I always have some needle loss but this year has been more then normal and the tree is really starting to thin so I am going to assume that this tree may be dying. 3 Years ago I removed the sod around the tree and put a round retaining wall around it. Within this wall I have planted flowers. This year I added some top, peat and manure for the flowers planted underneath of this tree. The flowers are watered buy a netphin (sp?) water system that lies just below the surface of the flower bed as well as sprayers that water the top of the flowers. My thoughts are this new retaining or the amount of water the tree now gets may be the issue. When I had grass planted under the tree the lawn was watered 3 times a week for 20 minutes. With the flowers that area underneath of the tree now gets 5 minutes of water per day. Also the soil around the tree is about 6 inches higher then it was when it had grass around it.

    The needles look very dry.
    The pine cones are few and look shriveled up and dry.
    Other blue spruces in the neighborhood look healthy.
    there is a bit of dicoloration on the tree truck on the top half

    Could adding 6 inches of soil around be not allowing enough oxygen to the tree.
    Could daily short watering be not getting enough water to the roots. The retaining wall around the tree was done 3 years ago but this is the first year we have seen a problem.
    Could the top, peat and manure not be a good mix for this tree. I have grown flowers there every year for the past 3 years but this is the first year I added manure which has done wonders for the flowers.

    I have added some pictures. I am having problems getting a decent quality up close picture. One picture is what the dried up (very small) pine cones look like

    Thanks for any ideas
     

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  2. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    It might survive, but the chances aren't good. Sorry to say so, but the cause is the damage to the roots when you put in that brick surround.

    The "pine cone" is actually an insect gall (caused by Adelges cooleyi); not relevant to the poor health of the tree.
     
  3. lawnplugger

    lawnplugger Member

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    thanks Michael,

    When you say the roots were likely damaged due to the brick surround do you mean the extra dirt that was added to cover the surface roots? When we cut around the tree to put in the block we were careful not to cut the roots or nick the larger roots. It has the appearance that the block was cut deep but we did not go any deeper with the block then the roots so the bottom of the block is actually sitting on top of the roots. Do you think removing a couple of layers of the block and removing the additional dirt to get it to its original level and to expose the large surface roots will provide any relieve?

    Also, thanks for the information regarding the insect gall

    Gerry
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yep, adding soil above the roots is damaging (the roots need access to oxygen diffusing down from the air, and the extra soil cuts most of that off). Removing the top layer would help, if it isn't already too late (which I fear it may be).
     
  5. lawnplugger

    lawnplugger Member

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    Thanks Michael,

    All I have to lose at this point is my flowers a month or so early.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide input/advise.

    Cheers,

    Gerry
     
  6. tsugajunkie

    tsugajunkie Active Member

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    And as if the soil wasn't hard enough on the tree, watering daily also helped keep oxygen away from the roots. When you remove the extra soil and stop watering you may hear the tree gasp as if it had been holding it's breath for some time ;-)

    tj
     
  7. lawnplugger

    lawnplugger Member

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    Yes, that is correct. The soil was very wet. Saturday I removed 8 inches of the soil which was very soft the entire 8 inches. I now have the soil level were it was originally and it has dried out. Within a couple of days after removing the flowers, soil, and the water source the needles have significantly decreased in falling off and there are still many needles on the tree. I was blowing the needles off my driveway every morning, now I have not blown off any needles from driveway in 4 days as there are just a few every morning. Perhaps the tree did take a big breath and will manage to pull through. Lesson learned and now crossing my fingers!

    Here are some pictures from today. You can see in the the dark area at the bottom of the trunk were the soil was.
     

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  8. tsugajunkie

    tsugajunkie Active Member

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    The area on the bottom of the tree where the roots start to spread out (the root flare) should not be covered with soil or even mulch. Those cells on the trunk are not meant to be below ground. If the roots hadn't been gasping, odds are the trunk would have rotted thereby girdling (and killing) the tree. I think you may have a chance now.

    tj
     
  9. growing4it

    growing4it Active Member

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    I hope that you tree recovers. Will you let us know how it's doing in a year? Good Luck.
     
  10. lawnplugger

    lawnplugger Member

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    I will. Hopfully I will have good news in the spring - thanks!

    Gerry
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Unless not occurring there or time of year is wrong tree may also have mites which would become apparent inspecting the leaves more closely. But overall color is so poor at this point failure seems likely anyway. Time will tell. If it goes you will at least have an opportunity to make a different use of the location. Another spruce, probably best a dwarf cultivar could perhaps be planted elsewhere on the property in a spot where it can be allowed to retain branches to the ground and look better than one that has been limbed up.

    Conical garden conifers are most generally appealing when exhibiting similar structure and attributes as specimens selected for use as Christmas trees. Although "Calgary Palms" are frequent in gardens nobody would buy a Christmas tree with a section of bare trunk at the bottom, except where that is to be sawn off before displaying the tree.
     
  12. whis4ey

    whis4ey Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hopefully you got this just in time. If you did, your tree will recover fine .....
     

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