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Old 10-08-2020, 08:22 PM   #1
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THOR #12189
Is There an Arborist in the House?

I would like to get some knowledgeable person's opinion about whether or not this tree looks healthy. It was taken just a few days ago, is located between Hickory, NC and Gastonia.

I thought I heard or read NC had a dry hot summer and was wondering if it was stressed by that.

There's fresh mulch and I threw down a small bottle of miracle grow pellets on the top of the mound. There is an ant infestation there and don't know if they're doing anything to the roots.

I'll be in the area for a while so, if someone comes up with something other than what's already been done, I'd like to read about it.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-09-2020, 05:57 PM   #2
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THOR #20290
I'm not an arborist, but have extensive experience with fruit trees and am a retired horticultural author. I'll give it a shot, although diagnosis via photo is not always easy or accurate.

I'll start with a few questions as the answers may influence future comments/recommendations:

What kind/ species of tree is this? It has the shape of a Rose of Sharon, but the photo is not detailed enough or large enough to give a clear view

When was it planted?

How often was it watered over the summer?

What kind of soil is it growing in? Yours looks like it may be sandy, is that true?

Now comments:

Judging by the other trees in the background, your tree is likely stressed in some way. It seems to have lost a lot of its leaves already. This could be normal for this time of year depending on what species it is, but it seems a bit premature.

Also the leaves seem rather discolored/brown. Are they dried out or would this be the normal end of season color for whatever tree this is. (Forgive me, I'm in the far northern reaches of the Midwest and you may have some tree species in your location that I am not particularly familiar with.)

Stress to this tree could have been caused by a number of factors - insufficient soil moisture;
fungal diseases on the leaves, but this is more common in a rainy season;
insect infestation, such as tent caterpillars/webworms or other leaf feeders;
just being incompatible with the soil it is growing in, some like sandier, better drained soils. Others like heavier water retaining soils.

If the tree is growing on a light sandy soil, some mulch around the base/root area will help preserve moisture in the future. The mulch should be light and slightly airy, not heavily matted (such as grass clippings tend to become when wet). Also, high organic matter mulches are most beneficial - aged manure, fine chopped straw, but not hay with many weed seeds. Wood chips and the coarse bagged stuff sold in many places tends to take a long time to breakdown and enrich the soil.

Leave a few inches of space between the trunk and the mulch or you could encourage the growth of fungal diseases around the tree/shrub's crown.

Normally fertilizer should be applied in early spring. An additional application (along with sufficient water/rain) can be made in summer if plant growth shows the need for it. Applying fertilizer at this time of year is usually NOT a good idea. You can't undo what you've done, but live and learn. At this time of year it is the plant's job to start going dormant. Rule of thumb is no fertilizer after August 1. Encouraging it to grow may leave it more susceptible to winter cold injury, especially if a severe cold snap arrives before it is fully dormant. Fortunately for you, this is more likely up here in the north than where you are.

At this point, I would suggest allowing the tree to go dormant and then be prepared to give it top notch care when it buds out in the spring - adequate (but not excessive) moisture and nutrition, proactive protection from the pests and diseases in your area.

Your local cooperative extension service or a good supply of library books can give you lots more detail that may be more specific to your location and type of plant. (Don't believe everything you find on Google, there is a fair amount that is not that effective or is even counter productive.)

Good luck, hopefully it pulls through.
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Old 10-09-2020, 06:41 PM   #3
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That was a VERY impressive analysis of the situation.
To me: it looked like kindling...
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Old 10-10-2020, 02:24 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVwife View Post
I'm not an arborist, but have extensive experience with fruit trees and am a retired horticultural author. I'll give it a shot, although diagnosis via photo is not always easy or accurate.

cut...
Sorry about the pic. Yes, I know it's rough. I'm an hour away for now, so if you need something specific, please let me know and I'll go back and retrieve that information.

I'll do my best to answer your questions but I'm really not a tree guy.

"What kind/ species of tree is this"? Crape Myrtle. Her favorite.

"When was it planted"? Now you're really testing a guy's memory. I want to say around somewhere between 2013 and 2015.

"How often was it watered over the summer"? It receives water when it rains. It's a memorial planted at on an on/off ramp in Lincolnton, NC. The state of NC ask you not resurrect permanent memorials that interfere with grounds maintenance and provide information on approved plantings. My family agreed and we chose this.

"What kind of soil is it growing in? Yours looks like it may be sandy, is that true"? I believe that's true. The terrain is notoriously sand or red clay. It runs more sandy as you enter the low lands and Lincolnton is on that path (west to east). NC DOT approved the tree for planting and shared climate data etc. This tree was supposed to do well there.

The leaves are a bit brown but still have green in them up close. It was supposedly a hot dry summer here in NC, so the moisture proposal makes sense. Leaves are falling off of other tress without changing color. That used to suggest there was little rain.

There appears to be a significant ant infestation, so I don't know if they're doing anything to the roots. Ants usually ward off other harmful insects but remove a lot of soil from around the root ball. I thought about a pesticide but questioned myself and went no further. They could be providing good aeration to the root ball?

I built a 'well' around the trunk; meaning there is no mulch touching any of the trunks but only welled up around the rim.

"Normally fertilizer should be applied in early spring. An additional application (along with sufficient water/rain) can be made in summer if plant growth shows the need for it. Applying fertilizer at this time of year is usually NOT a good idea. You can't undo what you've done, but live and learn. At this time of year it is the plant's job to start going dormant. Rule of thumb is no fertilizer after August 1. Encouraging it to grow may leave it more susceptible to winter cold injury, especially if a severe cold snap arrives before it is fully dormant. Fortunately for you, this is more likely up here in the north than where you are".

Yes, the energy moves to the root ball this time of year and I'm hoping not to sap that energy with the fertilizer by burning the root ball. I can only get back here once a year to tend it so I took my chances. I'm only an hour away so let me know if you think I should go back and remove it. I used this:https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https...PUfW-RYXBXqEEK and dumped the whole thing on it.

I appreciate your time and effort to craft your reply and I want to recognize it. Thank you very much.

If the above answers are inadequate or you could use more information that helps you help me, please don't hesitate to ask.

Safe travels and keep well.
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Old 10-15-2020, 01:47 AM   #5
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First let me say I'm sorry for your loss.

I have no personal experience with Crape Myrtle. They don't grow this far north.

Given the circumstance you've mentioned - only able to visit once a year, etc - You've probably done the best you can. You will have to decide if you fall fertilizer application is helpful or detrimental. (Sorry, I couldn't open your link for the fertilizer) If you can shift your visit to spring, that would be a better time for applying fertilizer. I'd go with something slow release so maybe it feeds the plant over better part of the growing season.

I don't know that I would be to concerned about the ants. They tend to live more frequently in sandier soils, but rarely do any harm to the plants. If the plant has a pest, such as aphids that exude a sticky, sweet honeydew, the ants are likely drawn to that as a good food source. It would be the aphids, not the ants, that my weaken the plant.

The moat of mulch will help direct any rain you get and preserve the moisture. I would continue that in some form.
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Old Yesterday, 05:57 AM   #6
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Brand: Thor Motor Coach
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THOR #12189
Quote:
Originally Posted by RVwife View Post
First let me say I'm sorry for your loss.

I have no personal experience with Crape Myrtle. They don't grow this far north.

Given the circumstance you've mentioned - only able to visit once a year, etc - You've probably done the best you can. You will have to decide if you fall fertilizer application is helpful or detrimental. (Sorry, I couldn't open your link for the fertilizer) If you can shift your visit to spring, that would be a better time for applying fertilizer. I'd go with something slow release so maybe it feeds the plant over better part of the growing season.

I don't know that I would be to concerned about the ants. They tend to live more frequently in sandier soils, but rarely do any harm to the plants. If the plant has a pest, such as aphids that exude a sticky, sweet honeydew, the ants are likely drawn to that as a good food source. It would be the aphids, not the ants, that my weaken the plant.

The moat of mulch will help direct any rain you get and preserve the moisture. I would continue that in some form.
It's been some time. Thank you for your response. I pruned the tree today.

It's not likely my annual cycle here will change so I'll hope for the best.

I would like you to know I captured your notes elsewhere as not to have to find them again here. I found them informingly helpful.

Safe Travels.
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