saving a two-year-old planting of a young maple

Asked July 24, 2017, 10:08 PM EDT

No one but me does anything to maintain the trees on the public school grounds across the street from me--unless you count cutting them down the trees or doing massive pruning once a decade. Two years ago Blue Water Baltimore depaved an area of the playground, planting a small meadow and a dozen or so young trees where there had been asphalt. Now, in the third summer, only one of a row of five maple has a full crown of leaves and even it has some dying ones. At the same time, one of three sweetgums planted seven years ago has wilting leaves. Those three trees were watered through their first three years. But the one with the limp leaves I've noticed has two major suckers--that is, there are three stems. It is smaller than the other two trees. I fear it, too, is dying. My question: what might I reasonably do to save at least this maple and this sweetgum? My hose might reach the sweetgum but definitely not the maple. The school spigots are not an option--too far away, too difficult to operate, not enough hose.

Baltimore Maryland

3 Responses

Sounds like a tough environment. The area where the trees were planted may have a lot of soil compaction, poor soil, drought, etc. and the root systems are struggling to establish themselves.

The best recommendation is to keep the trees watered during dry periods. If the hose only reaches to one tree, bring a bucket and water the other tree. You also have the option of placing gator bags around the trees. These are watering bags for new trees.
Place a thin layer no more than 2-3 inches of mulch around the base of the tree to keep the weeds down and help conserve soil moisture. Keep the mulch from the base of the tree trunk.

You mentioned that the sweet gum had two suckers around the base. If the main stem dies, you may be able to let one of the suckers grow to produce a new trunk.


Thank you. I've done as you've suggested with the sweet gum, including the gator bag. I bought the donut style since that's what there was at the local hardware store. I bought a second donut-shaped gator bag to try to save another tree but the directions say it can't be moved when it is filled (I was envisioning using a wheel barrow). Any experience with that?

It would probably be best to drain out the gator bag instead of trying to move it when it is filled.