Blue Spruce Care And Feeding - Knowledgebase Question

Evergreen Park, IL
Avatar for Cktp
Question by Cktp
February 2, 1998
We have just purchased a home with a large Blue Spruce (approx. 20 ft. high) in a relatively small back yard. There is a concrete driveway nearby and a concrete patio. The tree has approximately 10' x 18' feet of ground surrounding it, with the tree sitting to one end of the longer area.
The branches look healthy enough from the outside but looking inside, these branches are sign of brown needles, though. What kind of care should this type of tree get? Some barren, dead branches near the bottom were removed in late fall.

Answer from NGA
February 2, 1998
The area you describe is pretty small for a tree of this size. Please know that the Blue Spruce can reach an adult height of 100 ft. It's roots are going to be all over that yard eventually (and crowding may be part of the problem now) so you may want to think about whether it's a "keeper". It isn't too alarming that the inside is a little bare, some needle drop in the winter is not uncommon. If there were many dead branches removed in the fall there is the possibility of a pest such as spider mites. You mention no browned needles (which we often see with spider mites) but, there may have been browned needles and they have already fallen. Spider mites like to hang out in dark, dry the inside of a spruce tree. Youcan guard against them by letting a little light into the inner part of the tree. If it is very dense, perhaps remove a few branches to allow some sun to shine in. Mites hate that! If you have a spider mite infestation, a blast with the water hose aimed at the inside of the tree is effective, as are insecticidal soaps. Check for mites in the spring, look for areas of browned needles and if you find brown areas, prune off a branch and hold it over a sheet of white paper and shake the branch onto the paper catching anything that falls off. Fold the paper in half and press while "smearing". Open the paper up, if you see red , brown, or even blue smears those are spider mites. Also look in the inner branches for very fine webbing, these are also from mites. If you find no evidence of mites and the tree doesn't seem seriously damaged (needles aren't turning brown in the spring and summer, new growth is appearing, etc.) I wouldn't be concerned any further. If you find no evidence of mites and the tree is showing damage in the spring, I would advise you contact your County Extension Agent and discuss the problem. They could actually take a look at your tree and more accurately diagnose the problem. If you would like to feed your spruce it is always great to provide about 1" of organic matter such as compost, leaf mould, or composted cow manure at the base of the tree out to the drip line. You could also fertilize with any fertilizer designated for pines and spruces, carefullyfollowing package instructions.

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