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Poor soil may cause Walnut tree’s sickness

This week, I heard from a number of readers who were having a variety of different problems with trees. If you’re perplexed by some aspect of your landscape, drop me an e-mail and I’ll do my best to help you with a personal reply and possibly address your problem in a future column.

You can also find a lot of helpful information, including previous Plant Man columns, archived at my web site, www.landsteward.org Now, on to those tree questions...

QUESTION: “I have a black walnut tree that is covered with grey moss. The tree still puts on leaves and looks pretty healthy but some limbs are dead and more die each year. Do you know what it might be and what I can do to get rid of it? Thanks!” – W.T.

ANSWER: A lack of nutrients in your soil would be one place to look. If you have a fungus, that is one of the first signs. Without help your tree may not make it over the next few seasons. I would advise that you contact your local county Extension agent and request someone to come out to look at it. Also you might want to look at improving your soil. One of the things that people frequently neglect is the soil in which they grow their trees and shrubs. There are some excellent organic soil treatments available now. If you need some product information, please let me know.

QUESTION: “I planted 40 Green Giants in May this year. I live on Long Island. They were 12 inchers. Most are in full sun; all got daily watering and have doubled in size and are healthy. I planted them inside tomato cages to protect them from my three small dogs running into them. My worry is the northeast winter, with wind and snow being the problem. Do they need to be covered or wrapped? I'm worried about heavy snow or ice breaking the branches.– David Mikes

ANSWER: I have wintered in your area in past years and from what I have seen other folks doing I would say yes, they will most likely need to be covered. You are already protecting them somewhat with the fences around them so wrapping burlap around them should not be a problem. QUESTION: “I had a USDA shelterbelt planted around my home in the country. This included 2 rows of Silver Maple trees. They constantly grow suckers at the base. I would like a single trunk tree so as to mow around them. They are currently 4 years old, and each year I prune them and each year suckers reappear. I have been told of a product called Sucker No More, but I do not know where it can be obtained or how it is used. Do you have any good remedies or suggestions for the problem, short of giving in to the tree? I have at least 150 trees.” – Al Schroeder

ANSWER: I have been in the nursery business for about 27 years I have never used a product such as the one you describe. You might not want to hear this but I always trim the trees every year. I know this is tedious but the only way I know how to do it. I do know that if you keep doing it at some point the tree stops sending as many suckers. They diminish in numbers with each passing year.

QUESTION: “I am building a large raised flower bed around a mature black walnut tree. I will need to add about 5 yards of dirt to raise the bed, which will bring the soil up past the flared base of the tree about a foot. Will this kill the tree? Actually, I wouldn't mind since I'm sick of slipping on all those walnuts, but I'm doing this for a customer who wants the tree!” – Annie

ANSWER: From my experience one foot of soil should not hurt the tree. However, to be on the safe side, you might want to create a well around the tree about one foot away from the bark.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org