Dogwood – Damage to Young One

Q: My wife and I planted this pink dogwood on our wedding day in April. We call it our wedding tree and it is very special to us. Do you have any idea about what is happening to our poor little tree?

A: Just as you know to take special care of your relationship in the first few years, you need to take special care of this tree during that time too.

Looking at the ground around it, I don’t see much evidence of a wide hole being dug. It’s important for tree roots to spread as fast as they can and as far as they can in their youngest years. For that reason you should have first loosened an area ten feet in diameter around the spot where you wanted to plant the tree.

Second, I see grass growing under the tree. Grass is very competitive with tree roots, stealing moisture and nutrients before the tree can get them.

Third, there’s no mulch under the tree. Mulch would help suppress weeds and grass under the branches and would also conserve moisture in the soil.

The damage I see to the dogwood leaves is called “marginal necrosis”. That’s a fancy way of saying that the edges are dry and scorched. This happened because the tree roots haven’t been able to absorb enough moisture. Either the soil got too dry or the roots haven’t developed enough to grab the water they need.

At this point, I’d get a spading fork or pitchfork and stab the ground (thus loosening it) dozens of times around the tree. Pull all of the grass, then spread a one inch layer of mini pine bark chips out two feet beyond the ends of the branches. Give the tree 5 gallons of water each week…and pour it close to the trunk where most of the roots are living.

Have a wonderful marriage …but remember that it takes work to make anything prosper.

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