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Tree woes can cause headaches... and heartaches!

Trees add so much beauty and tranquility to our landscape. But when trees develop problems they can cause some big headaches.

Several readers have sent me tree-related questions via e-mail, and I've done my best to help. If you have questions - or suggestions to help your fellow readers with their problems - send an e-mail to [email protected]

QUESTION: "We have a couple of pink crabapple trees that bloom beautifully in the sping time, but as soon as the blossoms die and fall off, the leaves do as well. By the time the summer is over, it is nearly bare and it does produce the apples, but they are the size of very small cherries. Any help you could provide, would be welcomed." - Kirk

ANSWER: "Without seeing the tree, it's hard to tell but it sounds like it could be a nutrition issue. Have you been fertilizing the trees? Is your soil acid or does it have a balanced PH? You might need to add lime. As you know, fruit-producing trees put on blooms that are pollinated by bees. Then the tree begins to devote most of its energy to producing fruit. At the fruit producing time it needs more than it's usual amount of water. Then, after the fruit is produced, it needs nutrition to replenish the tree. You might want to check with a local county extension agent or get a second opinion from a local garden center.

QUESTION: "We are having a problem keeping our trees alive. Most of them get wind burn and we are not sure how to treat them. Maybe we are not putting in the right trees. We hope you can help us with this problem. We don't know if getting a young tree is the reason or if the weather has something to do with it. We would really like your out put on the matter." - Bill & Nina

ANSWER: Young trees need protection from the wind. I recently received some photos from a reader who cut 5 gallon plastic buckets in half (vertically, top to bottom) and then cut out the ends. He then pressed the "half buckets" into the ground about 12 inches from each tree on the windward side. This gave the trees a chance to grow in size and strength to the point where the winds did not affect them that much. This sounds like it might be worth a try in your situation!

QUESTION: "I have a small starter wisteria that a friend gave me. This spring I planted it to grow on some lattice, but after reading that it can get pretty heavy, I am thinking I should move it. I'd love to let it climb but I don't really have a place for it to hold it's weight, so I have considered moving it and shaping it into a small tree. I have seen some that are just huge and not very pretty. Any suggestions on what to do with it and on how to train it would be greatly appreciated."- Mary C.

ANSWER: In order to create an attractive display, you would need to stake the central leader. Once you've done that, go up to about five feet then top it and begin the shaping process. It should take about 2 years to see the effects of your labor.

QUESTION: "I am writing in regards to an epidemic affecting the pine trees in my area. I heard there is a virus that's attacking all the pine trees. Is there anything you can do to try to save them? My neighbor's trees were dying and now mine are, too. There is not a shortage of water and nothing has been done to them. Also, all around my work the pines are dying too.

Help!"- Brad Mueller

ANSWER: I hate to tell you this but I think there is nothing you can do to save them. It is a pine canker, and there are many arborists trying to figure out a solution. Hopefully, they will succeed before it wipes out all the pine. If any reader has any good news to pass on regarding this subject, please drop me an e-mail. Meanwhile, here are a couple of links with some information: http://forestry.about.com/bldisex.htm http://forestry.about.com/od/forestdiseases/p/con_dis_worst.htm

You can find direct links to both sites from my web site. Go to www.landsteward.org and click on the links in this column archived under "The Plant Man" heading.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter.

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