How to Save a Dying Tree

How to Save a Dying Tree
Trees are living organisms that live, fall sick, and die just like human beings. But hey, do not lose hope. This article will guide you about revival of dying trees. ...
Trees add life and color to your gardens. They not only provide fruits, flowers, and shade, but also play host to a variety of beautiful birds and creatures. A healthy, beautiful tree can therefore be a prized ornament of your garden. This is just one side of the story though! A fungal, bacterial or viral infection, shortage of water, and lack of essential nutrients can make your tree extremely weak, leading to its untimely death. Most of the trees are robust enough to fight these problems. But there are times when you may have to intervene and save the tree.

Identifying Signs of a Dying Tree

You will all agree that a layman cannot distinguish between a sick tree and a dead tree. It is assumed that, in either cases, the tree will look dried up, lifeless and without any traces of green foliage. Before you invest your time and resources for reviving a tree, it is essential to identify whether the tree is dead or dying. Some of the first tell-tale signs of a dying tree are listed below.

Scanty or No Leaves
There is a definite difference between trees shedding leaves during the autumn season and trees without leaves on account of sickness. Such trees, with bare branches, look like skeletons. At times, dying trees may have foliage that is scantier than a healthy tree of the same genre. At other times, such trees are known to have foliage on just a couple of branches or on a tiny area, with rest of the branches completely bare.

Dried up Wood
Another sign to look out for is extreme dryness of wood. The branches look lifeless and can crack into pieces if pressure is applied. Unlike a healthy branch, dried branches do not bend. This lack of elasticity makes them brittle.

Decaying
You cannot miss this sign. A growth of mushrooms or other fungi on the tree's surface is a giveaway that the tree has a soft decaying trunk or branches. A fungal problem is more serious than it may look. This is because trees decay from their center towards the outer edge. By the time the fungal growth is noticed, the tree is already damaged to a great extent.

Cracks on Trunks
A dying tree may start displaying vertical, continuous cracks on their trunks. Similarly, it might lose the outer smooth layer of its bark.

Leaning Tree Structure
While the tree starts dying, its roots lose their strength and ability to hold the tree upright in the soil. As a result, you will notice that the tree starts bending or leaning rather awkwardly towards one particular side. If the tree in question is huge, it can pose a serious threat to safety of your house.

Weak Branches
The branches of a dying tree are likely to lose strength and give way easily under the weight of its own leaves.

How to Revive a Dying Tree

It is always advisable to consult a certified arborist to revive your sick tree. If this is not possible, you can still salvage a dying tree with a little guidance and understanding. I have listed below some common plant diseases with their recommended cures.

Dutch Elm Disease
Symptoms:
This disease has severely affected the Elm trees all over America. The disease spreads like a wildfire from one tree to another on account of ascomycete microfungi carried by the American or European bark beetle. The disease can also spread to other Elm trees in the vicinity through the roots of an affected tree. You may notice wilting and gradual yellowing of branches from the crown towards the base. Branches start turning brown and dry up.

Cure:
Since this disease is more likely to start from the crown, it is recommended that the infected parts be cut down. Similarly, you may administer some therapeutic fungicidal injections to the plant. Treatments are likely to be successful, provided infection is noticed in early stages.

American Chestnut Blight
Symptoms:
This disease is caused due to a pathogen called cryphonectria parasitica. You may notice unusual orange-colored spots on the branches and tree trunk. A sunken type of canker is formed on the tree which may eventually girdle the tree's surface. You may also notice yellow colored spores exuding from the tree's affected area under humid conditions.

Cure:
You may either opt for a soil compress method or hypovirulence transfer. These procedures can be done only by a professional.

Fire Blight
Symptoms:
This disease mostly affects fruit trees like apple, raspberry, crabapple, pear, etc. It is contagious in nature and happens due to infection from a pathogen called erwinia amylovora. An affected tree looks blackened and shrunken, as if it were scorched by a fire.

Cure:
Experts suggest that the affected area be cut off, as soon as the first symptoms are noticed. Antibiotics sprays made from terramycin or streptomycin may be sprayed all over the tree. These methods tend to yield positive results.

Powdery Mildew
Symptoms:
This disease is caused due to a wide variety of fungi falling under the order Erysiphales. It can affect a wide variety of plants in your backyard under extremely humid weather conditions. The disease starts from the lower leaves of the trees and heads up to the crown. One of the first symptom of this infection is the appearance of a white powdery layer on foliage and fruits of a tree. In advanced stages, the white patches start turning gray or black in color.

Cure:
Fungicides such as propiconazole and triademefon are known as the most effective solutions for this plant disease.

Sudden Oak Death
Symptoms:
This disease is caused due to a pathogen called phytophthora ramorum. Prominent symptoms include splitting of bark and exuding of a dark brown sap. The tree foliage starts turning pale and will eventually wilt away. New shoots rising from the tree also tend to wilt.

Cure:
Experts recommend spraying of phosphonate mixed with a surfactant on the oak tree trunk. Effectiveness of this treatment can be seen in about five weeks time.

A Few More Suggestions

Winters in the US tend to be long and severe. They can dry up some trees in your garden. Try root feeding such dry trees with a solution of water and fertilizer.
At times, under-watering is the root cause behind death of a tree. Understand the water requirement of the tree and water it adequately. If you find it difficult to spare time for watering, it's best to invest in an automated garden sprinkler system. This system can be set up with a special timer to suit your requirements.
Avoid running the lawn mower near the exposed roots of trees in your garden. The sharp blade of a mower can permanently damage the tree roots. Similarly, the damaged part of the roots can accumulate moisture and attract a host of bacteria and fungi.
Avoid sprinkling weed fertilizer close to the trees.
Trees of different varieties require different methods of pruning. Make sure that the method used by you is suitable for your tree. If you are not sure about pruning, then take professional help.
When mulching around the trees, leave sufficient breathing space for the tree roots. This will help to avoid the root rot.
Make sure to cut away and destroy any section of the tree that is infected. This is help to control spreading of the infection.
Always sterilize all knives and shears used to cut away sections of a diseased plant. For this, you may use household disinfectants or bleach. You can also opt for a heat sterilization procedure, provided it is suitable for your equipment.
When making organic fertilizers in your backyard, make sure that none of the diseased plant material gets used.
Make sure to water your diseased or dying plant regularly. You may also add some plant nutrients to ensure tree's good strength to retaliate the disease. It is recommended that you use natural fertilizers for better health of your trees.
Sometimes, trees start dying due to root rot on account of over-watering. Water the tree only when the soil around it appears to be dry and fragmented. If there is a water-logging at the foot of the tree, make sure to devise a proper drainage system for the same. You may opt for removing soil from water-logged area and exposing the roots to fresh air for a few days.

I hope these suggestions will prove to be helpful in your endeavor to save your precious tree. After all, it would really feel bad to lose a tree after spending your time, energy and money on it.
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