Ask a Question forum: Oak tree not doing so good

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Coreygill
Sep 11, 2016 5:47 PM CST
I have about 15 - 30 year old oaks in my yard. I'm far from an expert, but I'm told they are live oaks. Recently I've done some construction nearby and "shocked" one of the trees. All of the leaves have browned, but not fallen. There are 2 of them side by side, no more than 6 feet apart. I think it's safe to say their root systems share the same space. One of the trees leaves browned, but it dropped all of the leaves. The other hasn't dropped them, and it's starting to lose some bark. I've contacted an arborist, but the treatment for the tree is going to be over 700 dollars, which I just can't afford right now. I also contacted my local fertilizer dealer, and they made reccomendation on several products to use. I just don't know if the tree is too far gone. It's been about 2 months since the leaves started browning. I've attached some pictures. Need some help, I don't want to lose the trees


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[Last edited by Coreygill - Sep 11, 2016 5:49 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1269803 (1)
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Sep 11, 2016 5:55 PM CST
Welcome! I don't think fertilizer is going to help with construction injury (what kind of construction was it - did it involve heavy machinery driving over the roots?). Do you know what the arborist was thinking of doing?

Coreygill
Sep 11, 2016 6:02 PM CST
It involved machinery driving over the roots. Probably within 10' of the tree on one side, the other side was not disturbed.

The quote was for a Deep root feeding using Micorrhiza and fertilizing.

Coreygill
Sep 11, 2016 6:05 PM CST
Also, there was a spot where some water was left standing. I tried to get most of it graded to where the water didn't stand, however it's still standing. The topsoil was pretty compacted there. I went over the top of it lightly today with the disc on my small tractor. Some of the water seems to have drained into the soil.

I've also had a soaker hose around the base of the tree, and watering it pretty frequently. With as much rain as we have got down here recently I have slacked up on that. Everything is we right now
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 11, 2016 6:11 PM CST
Hi Corey and welcome Welcome! First, if you could please tell us where you are, that will help with ideas on how to save the trees. Different soil types drain differently and if you are in Florida, most of the soil is pretty soft and sandy.

Yes you sure did shock those trees by driving all over their roots with some heavy equipment. Roots of those trees don't go straight down, they spread out fan-wise near the soil surface in a circle around the tree that is usually wider than the spread of the branches. So whatever you built there with the concrete pad (a well?) may be on top of some of the tree roots, and you've torn or broken a lot of the tree's surface roots with all the driving on top of them.

Also, there's standing water in your picture - did you get a lot of rain recently (if in Florida I know you did) and did the area flood? That may or may not be a bad thing for the trees but having the water standing there is not great for the health of the remaining surface roots.

Fertilizer isn't going to help, and may actually harm the trees right now. They aren't growing or taking in much nutrition right now as indicated by the dead leaves. I know it's a difficult thought, but I'd be inclined to just wait a couple of months and see what they do. But keep the vehicles away from now on!

If they've died already, it's too late anyway, but if they're still alive and just in shock doing a whole bunch of stuff like pruning or fertilizing isn't going to help and may do harm. If they put out new leaves and start to grow again, then consult the arborist about having them pruned to remove any dead branches (or do that yourself) but don't let some hack tell you to "cut it way back" which in gardening circles is known as "hat racking". It's a terrible thing to do to any tree and one that's had a shock will not respond well.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 11, 2016 6:18 PM CST
Cross posted with you and Sue, sorry. The tractor treatment to level the soil may have added insult to injury on the roots on that side of the tree.

You also need to STOP watering. If you've (probably) got broken and torn roots under the soil there, keeping them wet isn't going to help the tree. It's not taking in water much right now, again shown by the die-off of the leaves. Let the area dry out, then unless it doesn't rain for a week or so, don't water again. Once you see new green leaves starting to show up, then watering the area in a 40ft. circle around the tree with a sprinkler might be a good idea if we have a dry spell in the fall.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

Coreygill
Sep 11, 2016 6:26 PM CST
NW side of Houstin Tx
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Sep 11, 2016 7:39 PM CST
Did the arborist suggest doing anything to relieve the soil compaction? You may find this article on the treatment of construction injury to trees from the International Society of Arboriculture (is your arborist a member?) useful:

http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/resources/ConstructionD...

Coreygill
Sep 11, 2016 8:25 PM CST
Thanks for the read sooby, I was attempting aeriation today with The tractor disc. The soil was definitely compacted on one side. I drug the disc about 1-1/2 - 2" down and the standing water did soak into the soil somewhat. The mulch is something I could easily do if that might help.

A little bit of further info, the guy at the fertilizer place recommended the following

18-3-6 classic @ 2-1/2 gallons
Sprint 330 iron @ 5lbs wettable powder
Essential 101 @ 2-1/2 gallons

Recommended I inject around the roots about 40' in diameter from the trunk.

As I said, I've done nothing. It's just hard to stand by and watch it wilt
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 11, 2016 8:54 PM CST
I really don't think fertilizer or iron is going to help at all right now, Corey. What do you think, Sue? Don't forget the guy at the fertilizer store is in the business to sell you fertilizer, not give you good advice.

Mulch, though, is probably a very good idea to keep the soil cooler. Even if you have to remove the trees, having mulch there will help whatever new trees you plant to get going.

Just please PLEASE don't drive any more tractors or trucks over the roots of those trees! If you need to aerate the soil more, use a digging fork and do it by hand. Carefully!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Sep 11, 2016 9:09 PM CST
I agree Elaine, and in fact the ISA article in the link above said "Fertilization should be limited immediately following construction damage. Salts associated with quick-release fertilizers can draw water out of the roots and into the soil. Added nitrogen can stimulate top growth at the expense of root growth. Once recovered, fertilization should be based on the nutritional needs of trees on a particular site."

Also agree driving near the trees is just compounding the problem, as is discing. Remember most of a tree's roots are within a few inches of the soil surface.
Texas (Zone 8a)
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tx_flower_child
Sep 26, 2016 4:50 PM CST
Agree with Elaine and Sue.
Since you live in Houston I'm guessing that you might have heavy clay soil?
Did you mean that you have 15 oaks or that your oaks are 15-30 years old? Or 15 oaks that are 30 years old? Doesn't matter b/c I just want to be sure you don't have soaker hoses wrapped around the other trees in the same fashion as the one in your picture. As Elaine said, whenever you do need to water the trees, you want to do it in a large circle so that you are watering just under or a little further out from the drip line.

We have a local gardening guru in Dallas that people either love or hate. (I'm in the 1st category, mostly.) He has a lot of info on trees, among other living things. Here's a link to one of the pages on his website as it starts with a discussion of construction damage. You might surf around some of his other articles on trees on his website. Mostly confirms what's already been said but sometimes it helps to read different authors. (Or that could just be my problem.) Good luck!

https://www.dirtdoctor.com/garden/Tree-Care-Professionals_vq...
[Last edited by tx_flower_child - Sep 26, 2016 5:16 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1283146 (12)
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Sep 26, 2016 5:28 PM CST
This may be coming out of left field but is there any chance that the trees in question may ever have been the victims of a lightning strike? I'm looking at the bark and the trunk and the trees do not look happy. I'm not talking about a recent lightning strike; after being struck by lightning trees can live for several years but will get gradually weaker over time. It's possible that the construction event was one thing too many for the tree to bear.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Texas (Zone 8a)
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tx_flower_child
Sep 26, 2016 9:52 PM CST
Greene - Not sure about lightening, but I think you're right that something was going on prior to the construction work. I don't think the bark would be that bad that fast. I also noticed what looked like a rust spot but wonder what it looks like close up. Could there be insects? And maybe some sap oozing out running down the side? (I'm looking at the last picture.)
Whatever. But I do think you're on to something Greene.
Name: Danita
GA (Zone 7b)
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Danita
Sep 27, 2016 1:32 AM CST
Yes, it looks like there are some spots on the trunk oozing liquid.
Do the wet spots smell a bit like beer or something fermented?
If so, it could have Slime Flux Disease aka Bacterial Wetwood.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Sep 27, 2016 11:42 AM CST
I just pulled into my daughter's driveway...about 3 or maybe 4 years ago the large oak tree across the street had been hit by lightning. The same lightning bolt damaged a pickup truck adjacent to the tree - fried the electrics. Today of all days the tree decides to drop a really large branch in the exact spot that I normally park. Good thing I arrived late today. Thumbs up
Ooh, I have my camera today...running outside...
Thumb of 2016-09-27/greene/034069

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Texas (Zone 8a)
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tx_flower_child
Sep 27, 2016 8:32 PM CST
I knew that being late sometimes pays off! Glad you're ok, greene.

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