The impact of the drought in Texas has affected a 35' maple tree in my front yard. It is slowly trying to leaf out, one here and one there. What can I do to save this outstanding shade tree?
Trees are sensitive living organisms, and there are many factors, not just drought, that contribute to tree stress and decline. Therefore, one would have to see it to be sure. In the meantime, here are some pointers. One: Mulch. The tree should have a mulch ring at least 8 feet in diameter, preferably larger. Two: Root collar. The base of the trunk that flares out to meet the root system needs to be exposed. Gently pull any mulch, soil, leaf litter, bedding plants, etc. away until the root collar is exposed, ensuring that nothing is touching the trunk or flare. Three: Water/drainage. Make sure you are not watering the tree as frequently as the lawn. Trees prefer a slow soaking with a fairly thorough drying period between intervals. If the drainage is poor (which is likely), then you may need to extend the intervals. Four: Nutrition (also known as fertilization, or improperly termed deep-root feeding). Get the tree fertilized using soil injections or, if you already have a mulch ring, drench. Forget about surface applications and tree spikes; these are for healthy trees. Also, watch your nitrogen: If it's under stress, chances are it has damaging insects and/or mites, and chances are you will boost pest populations to the detriment of the tree. So easy on the nitrogen until you can get a handle on the pest. Five: Borers, root rot, and leaf disease. A stressed maple gets borers pretty easily. If there are holes on your trunk, they may be secondary, not primary, borers. In other words, they are working wood that is already dead that you didn't know about because it was hidden under the bark. Check to see if there are already a lot of bore holes, because your trunk may be as much as 90% dead and only 10% live tissue and still appear green. Especially if it is only sporadically leafing out, it may well be mostly dead. You may want to take it down before it falls on its own. However, if the entire crown is experiencing bud swell, but part is behind schedule with another part, then the tree might be okay. Get it fertilized, treated for borers, possibly for root rot, possibly for bleeding cankers, and possibly sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf spot diseases. If the tree starts dropping some of its leaves after midsummer, even just a few, then it's in decline and you'll need a more thorough assessment than what's been provided here.
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