Planting New Trees

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Bebesmom, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    New Trees w/ Roots in Clay - Problems

    We planted a yard ourselves 3 years ago and purchased trees from the various nurseries around town. In several instances, the trees roots came packed in clay. I assume this is to keep them moist while in the nursery. Question: should the clay be removed before planting? In several cases, we left it in place - removed the burlap or whatever was around it. However, while the trees survived, they did not flourish. In two cases, the trees died eventually and when we removed them we noticed that the roots had not grown. Any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2006
  2. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Bebesmom,

    Sorry to hear this. I've never heard of packing a trees roots in clay before. I can't see how they would survive such a situation. If you need sites on planting, mulching or watering trees or how their roots grow just let me know.

    Newt
     
  3. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Yes, it seems to be a common practice here. We've just planted the roots, clay, and all in the ground but the roots don't seem to make it out of the clay. They stay moist, which gives the illusion that the tree is making it, but very little signs of growth and the first adverse condition (like hot summer wind) and the tree dies.

    Any suggestions of places to find info. about planting et al, would be appreciated.
     
  4. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  5. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    I'm looking at each one of these sites. I see one problem already. We are not digging the hole large enough. However, the clay situation is not really addressed. Maybe it's not the real problem. Maybe it's the hole size. Thanks for your help.
     
  6. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Oops! I spoke too soon. The SeattlePI's site has an article which suggests washing all the root material off the roots before planting to check for kinked or strangling roots. It refers to "clay" as a root material. I think I'm going to live dangerously and do this from now on. The last tree I lost, a little Hawthorne, was just planted in April. I finally removed it because it's leaves dried up. The clay ball fell apart and I saw that it had short stubby roots that had obviously been cut and packed in the clay prior to sale. There was very little root surface. Had I washed off the clay and planted it as a bare root, it might have survived. By the way, another possible problem is I bought this tree at Home Depot. I'm questioning their quality.
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The HD stock is fine when it comes in but often may not be kept watered afterward. The trick is to visit frequently and grab stuff before it goes downhill. If you live across the street or are driving by all the time anyway this may work but if you have to drive any distance you may be killing any savings you might realize by getting a somewhat lower price than from an independent nursery. And you will be offered a fraction of the variety selection that a full-sized independent nursery provides. If the hawthorn (note spelling) was in leaf when you got it and shriveled afterward implication is that it failed under your care and not theirs. If the clay ball was dry inside that would've been it, and not the pruned roots. A problem I have seen is clay rootballs not being kept moist between the field and the final planting at the site of the end consumer. The inside can dry out while the outside looks moist.

    The pruned roots would be implicated only if the tree started budding out and then failed right after, at the end of winter. Getting to the point of being in leaf, in spring I don't think would have been possible if the tree had been killed by root loss. In fact, new root growth of barerooted trees is initiated by a chemical signal sent from the opening dormant buds on the ends of the branches. As soon as these break, the signal is sent and new roots appear.

    I have had a few failures this spring from barerooting at planting. Many years before Chalker-Scott promoted this procedure Whitcomb (ESTABLISHMENT AND MAINTENANCE OF LANDSCAPE PLANTS) wrote that when there was doubt about condition of roots it was probably best to open them up and correct them, making the plant into a cutting of sorts than to have it girdle later. This means that the plant so treated needs to be kept watered faithfully while it regrows its roots. Since I am planting at least part of the time in a situation where followup watering is not completely consistent I have gone back to minimal disturbance at planting--at least for the time being. Some of the plants, if not most I am sure have deformed roots but the project is one where if something pinches itself off or topples over (as long as it does not crush something) when we are all old or dead none of us will care.

    If it looks like a tree may fail and fall on whoever ends up with the property later I will assume I will be on hand to remove the tree and prevent this. The main scope for this problem is with tall, fast trees like pines and gums. Mostly I plant comparatively slower-growing high altitude gums, these may freeze out before they are 60ft high and blowing over anyway.

    If you look at Chalker-Scott's planting fact sheet on her web site (search "chalker-scott" with a search engine) notice that early in the discussion she states that fall is the best time for planting in suitable climates, and also that after she says to bareroot new plantings she also notes that you must stay on top of watering. Fall-planted stock will experience decreasing water stress after planting as temperatures decrease and precipitation increases, whereas the opposite happens to spring-planted stock. Spring planting is best limited to items that will not survive fall planting in a particular area. Unfortunately, since the market is driven by spring fever outlets also have their full selections only at that time.

    A final point: most stock I have barerooted at planting has survived, the small number of recent failures have been mostly unmulched. Possibly they would not have burned up if the soil had been shaded by mulch.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2006
  8. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Ron B, thanks for the wealth of information. I won't be so hesitant to by from Home Depot but will look for new stock. This was the last of the Mohicans - end of the spring in late April. Probably too late to plant. Hawthorn (no e) was in leaf when I bought it. Leaves were brown at the ends and no evidence of new growth. It just sat there for 2 months and with the first blast of summer wind the leaves crisped. I worried about it not getting enough water, so since it was right out my back door, I drenched it with a pail of water every day (maybe too much?).

    You speak of Gums and I have a round-leaf Liquid Amber purchased from a good nursery and planted in the fall - 2 years ago. I may start this as a new thread because the subject matter is different, but I might not attract your attention. Anyway, the LA had leaf buds but they never opened this Spring. They were at the ends of the new branch growth from last season. Finally, very late, the tree started to sprout leaves at the junction of the new last-years growth and older brances and even at the trunk. The last-years stem growth and leaf buds just dried and the buds never opened. Any thoughts there?
     
  9. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Bebesmom, check to see if the rootflare on your Liquid Amber is covered and if it's planted too deep. That's usually the cause of this type of problem in recently planted trees.

    Newt
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I think you may have deficient watering, the hawthorn may have been dry at the center even though watered frequently. A clay rootball will shed water once dried out completely. Yakima Area Arboretum south of you has a pretty good collection now (started in 1970s), all planted in apparently liberally watered turf. When visiting it is noticeable how cool and humid the air is due to the evaporation off of the grass. Washington hawthorn and sweetgum are both eastern North American humid climate items that would need plenty of water to thrive in central WA.
     
  11. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    The base of the tree connects to a knob. It almost looks like a graft, but not absolutely sure (not an expert). This is about 4 inches above ground. Then, I dug down to where the actual roots start to spread and that is an inch or two down. I exposed that area in a deeper basin around the tree. Now that it's finally sprouting, I'm hoping this will do it. Or I could wait until it is dormant and try to lift it up.
     
  12. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Ron B, Being a Western WA person who has recently relocated to Central WA, I'm learning that what could be stuck in the ground in Western WA and ignored, is a real challenge to grow here. They sell the same varieties of trees and plants locally, so you think that means they're suitable. The tags say "semi-moist", full-sin, or whatever, and as long as they're within the sprinkler system and I give them the occasional pail, I think I've got it covered. I think what you're saying is the arid AIR around the trees dries them out and it takes much more water to thrive. I've never had so much trouble with trees. On top of, hot dry wind, we have crappy soil of sand and/or clay, so, I'm making my holes too small, too. I have a cherry whose roots are traveling at ground level - probably due to compacted clay beneath and it's suffering, too. If I get through the summer, I'm going to re-dig holes around some of these trees, try to elevate them a little and just generally try to do some P.M. I may kill them all, but at least it will be a fast death instead of this slow one.
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    You want uniform soil texture throughout rooting area. Trees are big eventually so if you are going to change the soil for them you have to do it over a big area. More practical to choose trees adapted to existing soil. Are you mulching? If not, this could be a big part of your problem. It makes quite a difference, even in comparatively cool conditions over here.

    Sunset WESTERN GARDEN BOOK with its climate zone designations for each plant could be a help to you.
     
  14. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Bebesmom, you said, "The base of the tree connects to a knob. It almost looks like a graft, but not absolutely sure...".

    Take a look at this pic. The grafts are high, but that's what they look like. I suspect you have a graft there and you definately don't want that buried or it could form sprouts.
    http://www.hawaiifruit.net/biwa/image/loquat_trunk_.jpg

    You said, "I dug down to where the actual roots start to spread and that is an inch or two down. I exposed that area in a deeper basin around the tree. ...I could wait until it is dormant and try to lift it up."

    Don't leave the surface roots entirely exposed. you can prune away any roots above the rootflare. Consider adding 1" to 2" of mulch to keep the roots moist.

    You said, "I have a cherry whose roots are traveling at ground level - probably due to compacted clay beneath and it's suffering, too."

    Not sure how old the cherry is or if it's ornamental or fruit bearing, but my mature Yashino cherry had some surface roots as well. It had been planted in a very tight area for root growth. Some trees have more surface roots then others, though cherries usually don't have surface root problems.
    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/trees/PRUYEDA.pdf

    The Kwanzan cherry has more sensitive roots and doesn't take stress well.
    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/trees/PRUSERB.pdf

    Newt
     
  15. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Newt and Ron B. I will definitely mulch. Have spread a little bark but could use more.

    The cherry in question is a Mt. Fuji or similar. I had a problem in the spring with it leafing out and then the leaves wilting. Apparently, my husband had changed a sprinkler head and it was getting double-coverage. We quickly changed that situation because everyone on this site agreed it was probably getting overwatered. Now I have these roots snaking everywhere close to the surface and little sprouts of leaves poking though the bed at quite a distance from the tree. Additionally, an orange tar-like substance is oozing out of the bark in various places and hardening. Is this poor thing in it's death throes?
     
  16. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  17. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    I found my original tag - it's a Shirofugen Flowering Cherry or a prunus serrulata Shirofugen. Sounds like a variety of Mt. Fugi. Gummosis sure looks like it could be the problem and the spring wilt was a symptom that we diagnosed as overwatering. At the time I actually treated it with a systemic insecticide (as a precaution), but not a fungicide. I haven't seen any obvious cankers but will go out and look and report back. It's a young tree - not three years and was beautiful and full last year. I can think of one possibility for injury. We are living in the middle of a herd of deer - literally. There are as many as 50 or more individuals in the open foothills behind us in winter and they come into the yard to browse any uncovered greenery (we burlap almost everything). Deer like to rub on trees during early winter (mating ritual?) and have injured a number of our trees, scraping the bark off. I didn't notice any injury on this one, but I'm going to inspect it more carefully. Thanks for the eyeopener. Don't know if I can save the tree, but will read further and see what they suggest. Your help is greatly appreciated.
     
  18. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Bebesmom, you are so very welcome! I do hope you can save the tree. It's a lovely one. You might find this site helpful. Scroll down to 'Disease Susceptibility'.
    http://selectree.calpoly.edu/treedetail.lasso?rid=1182

    You may need a certified arborist who does diagnostics to take a look at it.

    Newt
     
  19. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Newt. No obvious signs of injury on the tree. It was not rubbed by deer and no cankers visible. The oozing sap seems to split right out of the bark on an otherwise healthy looking young branch. I have a branch with gummy spots tracing up one side at intervals. Strange? I cut several branches off after the spring die-back and wilting because someone recommended that to me. Perhaps the fungus entered there. I've not found a recommended treatment except preventative measures. My tree already has the fungus, so I guess I'll try a "garden variety" fungicide and see what happens.
     
  20. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Further on the subject of clay root balls, since that is how the thread is now titled, I've just opened up the burlapped root ball on a weeping redwood and found it to be completely clay as well. It was growing new root tips out through the burlap. The clay is unbelievably hard and it is quite a puzzle how best to handle this, it being mid-summer and a sunny spot. So I'm quite interested to hear of your longer term outcomes from this scenario. I broke a bit of the clay off, but then decided it is probably best sunk into the ground as is for the summer. Perhaps I will bare root it in fall.
     
  21. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    KarinL,
    I've learned that if the clay dries out, the water may just run off the clay and avoid the roots. I would soak the clay and rootball before planting to be sure it is not dry. Put it in a pail or something. Then continue to water regularly. I don't know if you should dig it up and replant in the fall, sorta like a "holding pattern" until you can replant at a better time. Maybe someone with expertise can answer that. Based on my experience with the clay, I probably would do so. Too much danger that it would dry out and then you're in trouble. It's tough to have 2-3 years into a tree that eventually fails. Whatever you can do when it's a babe to get it started right is the way to go.
     
  22. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Cherry is grafted onto sweet cherry (Prunus avium) which is demonstrating its propensity to sucker and make thick extraterrestrial roots. These even crack sidewalks in urban plantings. Scattered top dieback can be due to fungal or bacterial blights that have nothing to do with soil conditions. However, wilting or slow decline of whole top can be due to root problems. "Shirofugen' and 'Shirotae' (Mt Fuji) are distinct cultivars. Both (and 'Kanzan') are fancy garden hybrids, not variants of pure P. serrulata. Listing them as P. serrulata '________', while widespread is inaccurate.
     
  23. Bebesmom

    Bebesmom Active Member

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    Ron B. Thanks for explaining why the roots of the Shirofugen are so shallow. I had visions of a clay reservoir beneath and was planning to dig around and under it in the fall after it was dormant to see if I couldn't improve the soil quality. It sounds like it wouldn't help and the tree is just doing what it does.

    The dieback it suffered in early spring was in an interesting pattern - whole limbs died back, leaving other limbs looking healthy. I pruned the wilted limbs off the tree. However, after cutting back the water and using a systemic insecticide, it's now developed oozing sap globules with no sign of canker or other obvious injury - except my pruning, of course. The leaves and limbs that remain are doing okay, except I would say that the growth hasn't gotten heavy as is usual in summer and the gummosis is present. Do you have any thoughts?
     

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