Caring for young maple tree

Asked September 24, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT

I planted a maple tree couple years ago at cottage up north that is about two inches in diameter. Noticed that the leaves changed color and fell in late August. Neighbor said the leaves had fall type colors most of the summer. I wonder if tree was planted to deep and if should be raised in early spring. Three does not have a distinct crown above root base so may have planted to deep. FYI last year tree looked lively but appeared to have smaller than expected leaves.

Clinton County Michigan trees and shrubs

3 Responses

It is difficult to diagnose what is going on with your maple without seeing it. I can offer a few suggestions.
1. Before planting, was the tree balled and burlapped in a wire cage? If so, was the burlap turned down from the top of the root ball by at least 1/3? Were all of the ropes and pins removed from the root ball? Was the wire basket cut back or turned down by 1/3? Burlap does not degrade as fast as one would imagine. It is possible that if there is still burlap around the top of root ball and exposed to air that it is wicking moisture away from the roots.
2. Do you see where the roots flare out from the bottom of the trunk? If not, your tree is planted too deep. If the root ball it is still bound you may be able to replant. If not, you risk loosening the trunk from the roots. . Maybe you can remove some soil instead?
3. Has there been extremely dry weather in the location of the tree? Some areas of Michigan have experienced extreme dry/drought conditions over the past two to three summers. Did this tree receive supplemental water?
4. This tree may have not established itself yet. It can take several years.

The best you can do for your tree is to be sure that it receives supplemental water during dry times. Water until the ground freezes. If the soil is sandy you will need to water more often as the water will run right through. If the soil is clay you will still need to water however be careful that you do not water log the soil. Clay typically drains very poorly. Mulch the root zone to a depth of 2-3 inches with an organic mulch. Do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk of the tree. Mulch against bark promotes diseases and insects. Mulch moderates soil temperatures and helps the soil maintain moisture. Check before watering to be sure the soil is dry. Use a soaker type hose and water the entire root zone.

Here is a little more information on the proper planting of a tree and after care.

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-295/430-295.html

http://www.clemson.edu/extfor/urban_tree_care/forlf17.htm

Thanks for the info. FYI The tree was not balled. It came in plastic pot. I am not in the area with opportunity to water. While the area did have above average rainfall for most of the year there were couple periods of dryness. I have removed soil down to top of area where roots flange out. I did set the tree in a depression thinking it would facilitate watering so as to keep waste around the tree vs running off. I will determine if can remove soil to drain water instead of digging up the tree and replanting.
Do you think three will still live after loosing leaves in August?

This is a wait and see situation. See if it leafs out in spring. It might be a year or two before it displays total demise or continued success. If possible keep it watered as above. That will a large impact on success.