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The Canopy 7-13-13

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Notes from the City of Morris Tree Board

A number of us tree lovers have noticed a pale greening, then yellowing, then complete death of 8 to 13 year old trees these last couple of years. These are trees that should be racing into early maturity instead of declining into death. Could it be drought? Mild winters? Severe winters? Late frost? Poor rootstock? The questions are complicated and answers elusive. What we do know is the early demise of trees is a disheartening, disturbing event.

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On Wednesday, July 3, the City of Morris was honored to have Dr. Gary Johnson, U of M urban tree authority, and a team of his colleagues pace the boulevards looking at not only storm damage from our big wind but the early tree deaths of what should be healthy trees.

The results are illuminating, if preliminary. Most of the early deaths were maple trees! Before the disease resistant elms became economical and ash was no longer viable due to future emerald ash borer, many of us began to rely on maples as a "go to tree."   Interesting varieties such as the "fire" series and "autumn blaze" became species of choice.

Recent maple trees have had a slow demise, then death, due to at least two factors. They were either planted too deep initially or the mulch turned into earth after a few years, thus placing the flare roots too deep. These supporting roots are not a tap root but flare out from the trunk shallowly. It seems that when the flares are deeper than 3 1/2" the tree weakens slowly. Most of the maples that died or are dying had flares 5" to 6" deep. We need to keep maples planted shallowly. We need to liven up the mulch by stirring it around so it doesn't turn into suffocating soil. If a maple in your yard looks pale, try loosening gently a bushel basket diameter space of soil around the trunk and lift out the soils. Remove the mulch, etc.

Additionally, string trimmer damage. As we've said ad nauseum and will continue to do so, keep that whirling string away from your trees. Pay attention, watch what you're doing. If you hire lawn maintenance out, make sure they pay attention before they get paid. If you can't, buy a tree guard that doesn't trap moisture and whirl away.

Just imagine all the sun screen we'll need if we can't keep our next crop of trees alive.

"If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to fix it?"

                                                                                                            Frank "The Boss" Mechevick

P. S. All last month's rains are a distant memory to the trees. They need 1" of water per week. If you have a tree bag on a newly planted boulevard tree, help the City and yourself by filling the pocket up with your garden hose once per week. Water your trees.

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