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Tree doctor Howard Burnett.

Dear Tree Doctor: Lightning recently struck the maple tree in my yard. It blew the bark off about 25 percent of the base down to the roots. Other than the bark, the tree appears healthy and no branches were broken. Should something be done to the exposed part of the tree?

Larry Pedersen, Illinois

Clean off any loose bark, so that no water gets trapped, and any rain will drain away from the bottom of the wound. From there on, the tree will take care of itself. Research has shown that trees "wall off" injured areas, and thus prevent, or at least retard, any disease or insect attack at the wound site. Do not paint, tar, or otherwise seal the wound. This just keeps moisture in and encourages rot or insects. Keep the tree well watered, too. Time will tell if the lightning strike was fatal.


Dear Tree Doctor: We had some evergreen trees planted on a berm behind our home in early June. Neither the landscaper nor the developer watered the trees for over a month, and we had no rain. Some are completely brown and others have significant sections that are brown and look dead. The landscaper finally started watering after a month but by then they were severely drought-stricken. Can the trees be saved?

Kathy, via e-mail

The situation does not sound good. First, trees should be transplanted during their dormant season, and June is a long way from winter. Planting trees at this time is risky at best, but copious watering is called for and apparently that did not happen. Second, some berms are really loose soil, often not topsoil. That does not offer an ideal planting site. With continued heavy watering, some might pull some through. But if parts are dead now, the result will be misshapen evergreens. Responsible nursery contractors usually provide a year's guarantee on their outplantings, I suggest you find out if your landscaper follows this practice. If the trees have to be replanted, late November to March is the best season for that, so roots can get established before the following season. Watering for the first two or even three years should be scheduled, if possible.

Dear Tree Doctor: How much wind can a pecan tree tolerate?

Lisa Agnoll, via e-mail

Pecan, a member of the hickory family, has pretty tough wood, but most open-grown trees have a wide spreading crown, with long limbs that might be more subject to wind damage than shorter limbs. I have seen some pecan trees uprooted by hurricane-force winds, but it seems to take unusually high gales to tear away the root systems. Look around your area and see how well local trees do in windy conditions. If you find many broken-off crowns, or mainly tree species with less spreading crowns, that might indicate that the local winds are too strong. If you see a number of full-crowned trees in your area, take a chance on planting.

Dear Tree Doctor: My evergreen trees are starting to turn brown. About three to four weeks ago, they were given a 30-10-10 fertilizer for evergreen trees, cedars and acid-loving plants. On the bottle it says to fertilize once a month. We moved to this property two years ago, and the lawn, trees and plants were all in need of maintenance.

Ann Mary Korycki, via e-mail

Many areas of our country are suffering from drought conditions this year, so perhaps that is at least part of your tree's distress. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office to get some localized information on tree care. A soil test might be a good place to start, and that would lead to a decision on how much and how often to fertilize. In the meantime, hold off on the fertilizer but keep the trees well watered. If you have been doing a good bit of needed landscape maintenance, could it be that some pesticides might be part of the problem? If you've been doing some pruning, some of the browning might be due to increased exposure to direct sunlight.

Dear Tree Doctor: I have a row of cedar trees. Short of constant pruning, is there a way to control their growth?

Randy Haskell, via e-mail

There just isn't an easy way to slow the growth of cedars, so constant pruning to keep them in shape will probably be the way to go. Japanese bonsai artists control plant size by constant pruning of foliage. As far as I know, even they do not have a better way of controlling growth.

Dear Tree Doctor: What happens if you add dirt to an established tree at its base?

Vincent Bono, via e-mail

Burying the tree flare is usually fatal. It reduces the oxygen in the soil, and roots depend upon that. It also changes water table relationships under the buried area. Burying the lower part of a tree can subject that area to increased attack by insects, diseases, and even small mammals. In short, don't bury the tree flare. A tree that looks like a telephone pole at ground level is usually in big trouble.
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Title Annotation:News from the world of Trees
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 22, 2006
Previous Article:Washington outlook.
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