Young apple tree looks to be dying, please help!

Discussion in 'Fruit and Nut Trees' started by Dan1980, May 20, 2022.

  1. Dan1980

    Dan1980 New Member

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    Hi there,

    My young Cox's Orange Pippen tree (3rd year in the ground) is not doing well. It looked promising at the very beginning of the spring, but now the leaves that have emerged are mostly wilting and dead /dying - please see the attached pictures.

    We had a great first crop of apples last Summer and it seemed so healthy and happy, so I'm perplexed as to why it isn't anymore. I did a light pruning late winter. also, it is in quite a clay soil but we followed the garden centres reccomendation by creating a large hole and amending all the soil, and we put some gravel at the bottom in order to assist in drainage. I was also advised to stake it because it is growing crooked, but after a few months I have removed the straps because I thought maybe this could be harming it. I also have another mature apple tree (a different type) which is currently flourishing with leaves and flowers.

    Any thoughts or advice on what to do would be greatly appreciated, thank you,
    Dan
     

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  2. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    The only thing that I can think of is that its roots might be drowning. You created a hole in poorly draining clay soil and filled the hole with amended soil; but did you did you put a drain line in to allow the water to exit from the bottom of the hole? If not, the bottom of the hole could be full of water from the frequent rains this spring. You can check the drainage rate of your soil by digging a hole to the same depth as your tree hole in some inconspicuous spot, filling it with water, and checking how long it takes to empty completely.

    I don't know how long the tree has been growing in this location, but its roots will mostly stay in the amended part of the soil. The roots before last year could have been growing in the upper part of that soil and then extended toward the bottom during the hot, dry summer. After the wet winter and spring, those new roots could be under water. That's one reason why current advice is not to amend the soil when planting trees.
     
  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  4. Dan1980

    Dan1980 New Member

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    Ok thank you both. It’s weird because I did most of what you / that article says, apart from the drain line . Is there anything that I can do at this point to try and help it survive?
     
  5. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The article is offline for a bit, but I don't recall it saying to add gravel or amend soil. Here's a different article to read: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments.pdf

    In short, the amendments have likely caused root growth only in the amended soil and not into the surrounding soil -- and the 2 transition zones (amended soil to gravel to clay native) have "captured" the water in the amended, hence the drowning of the new roots (which are the most critical for nutrient uptake).

    What to do? You can try replanting elsewhere, but the demand from the aboveground part of the tree is now mismatched with what the belowground can provide. I suspect you'll also need to wisely prune if that has any chance of success, but other folks here have far more experience with trees than myself.
     
  6. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I would first confirm that lack of drainage is the problem. Instead of testing the general drainage rate of the soil, you could dig down at one spot at the outer edge of the planting hole until you reach the gravel to see how wet it really is. If the soil is saturated there, your only choices are installing a drain line or replanting the tree properly, possibly on a raised mound.
     
  7. Dan1980

    Dan1980 New Member

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    Ok thanks very much! I really appreciate your thoughts and advice. I also spoke to a garden centre today and they don’t think that there is much hope for it at this stage, but just to leave it, dont stress it anymore and just wait and see. Hopefully it pulls through , fingers crossed. Thanks again
     

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