Wanted: Tree Advice

Alert “0688o” reader — and nature lover — Fred Cantor writes:

A spectacular birch tree that has stood in the side yard since our house was built close to 65 years ago has been declared DOA by the arborist who sprayed it for us every spring.

It’s possible the tree died of natural causes in old age. It’s also very possible the tree is a victim of the drought.

To help with water conservation, my wife and I never watered our grass. It looked okay even during the hottest parts of the summer.

But, I’ve learned, it’s not just newly planted trees that need regular watering. It’s also advisable to regularly water certain types of much older trees in the conditions we have faced locally in the past year or two.

Perhaps “06880” readers who are professional landscapers — or knowledgeable gardeners — can weigh in on how all of us can help preserve older trees.

Fred Cantor’s birch tree, in the 1990s.

9 responses to “Wanted: Tree Advice

  1. Great question. Be careful of digging around older trees – whether it’s to install a fence, patio, or garden – any type of digging should be avoided or kept to a minimum. If you must dig, do it in March before the leaves come out. The worst time to dig around older trees, especially within the tree’s drip line, is in June or July. Beware of property grading or elevation changes that can cause puddling around the tree. Unfortunately, I have seen, too many times to count, painters who clean their brushes outside, killing the trees and plants nearby. Be careful of pool drainage – chlorine or salt water are damaging to trees. Don’t assume that your pool company, painters or other workers will know to avoid tree areas – they often don’t. I hope this helps. Have a great spring.
    Bert Porzio
    Bert’s Tree Service Westport

  2. Birches are not a terribly long lived tree. Yours probably died of natural causes.

  3. Morley Boyd

    Fred, sorry to learn that you lost such a beautiful tree.

    To extend the above comment, you did very, very well in getting this birch to live that long. They’re called pioneer trees for a reason – they colonize open land by growing fast. But anything which grows fast is typically short lived. With care, most people would be lucky to get 20 years out of birches. Of course there are notable exceptions.

    As an aside, I think something is really off about the whole approach to dealing with Birch Miner. Maybe it’s the treatment timing but I’m not an arborist so I can’t really say. All I will say is that if you decide to plant another birch, learn all you can about this subject because once your tree gets infested it’s like the roach motel.

  4. Ellen Greenberg

    Not everyone is a aware as Fred. At Earthplace’s talk on gardening and drought a few weeks ago it was mentioned that after the water company announced drought restrictions in Greenwich and Stamford last summer that water usage in that area actually went up! I can only assume that everyone increased watering to save their lawns and plants ignoring the outdoor water ban.

  5. Mary Ann Batsell

    If there are any tree experts out there checking
    In what is wrong with the white dogwoods
    This year the pink seem fine but the white
    ones, the flower is deformed and have
    Turned brownish, the flowers look like
    dead or rotting flowers. Does anyone know what has caused this?

  6. Jalna Jaeger

    Trees are also affected by drought. Many trees have died during the last 2 summers of drought. We can only hope that this summer is different.

  7. Nancy Hunter

    My experience is: If planting a new tree, spray it high with water, like rain, to let the leaves absorb.
    Same for plants during a drought.

  8. Nathalie Fonteyne

    The Bartlett arboretum is a great resources for all questions. You can email (with photos) or provide samples and a group of master gardeners will do their best to help identify the problem and answer your questions. The team will not rest until they have an answer, collaborating and doing research. If they are stumped they have the resources of Uconn at their back. the master program is part of the university extension and its mission is to serve the public, so it is free!

    We did have drought conditions last year and the trees suffered, and will show the consequences of the last year’s drought this year.

    I respectfully disagree with Nancy Hunter, best to have a slow drip at the base of the tree. Watering the leaf increases the chance of fungal infection; soaker hoses will also prevent loss of water through evaporation.

    Plants need about 1 inch of water per week so the good old can of tuna test is a great indicator. New planting trees need a good soaking where the water will penetrate deep to the roots. Newly planted trees also will need watering well into the fall, especially if a dry fall. Just because the temperature dropped does not mean the tree no longer need water.

  9. Noel Parmentel

    Dan=:Tried to contact You re:  fantastic Untermeyer tree: but no luck.  So if You’ll send me your OTHER eMAIL address, will try again.   Thanks & Best.  s/Noel* * Noel E. PARMENTEL Jr //  eMAIL:  NoelJr@OptOnline.Net ****************************************************