Struggling Hemlock

Asked April 23, 2019, 9:04 AM EDT

Hello, About 1 1/2 years ago I planted a row of 8-10 foot hemlocks along my lot line for a privacy screen. The area was mostly shaded from large oak trees and tge soil is mostly sandy. They were planted in October and the following spring showed a lot of new growth. I was very diligent about watering them but by the end of that first summer a couple of them started to show some die off at the top which has slowly progressed on individual trees and also started to involve most of the other trees by this point. Last spring (second spring after planting) the trees showed only minimal new growth. There appears to me to be no evidence of the woolly adelgid or other infestation. I have two questions: 1- Do you think these trees can be revived? And 2- could the soil they are planted in (very sandy) be the issue with their poor health? I appreciate any advice you can offer. Regards, Phil Hartgerink

Allegan County Michigan

4 Responses

Because these trees have been planted so recently I would consider environmental stress as a possible cause. Did you plant these yourself? One cause of stressed trees is planting too deeply, the root flare should be visible at the soil line, not looking like a telephone pole going into the soil. The trees are also a size that makes me wonder if they were balled and burlapped and it anything was done to make sure there are not girdling roots. It also looks like there is competition from established trees close by—all of the trees wanting the water that is available! Mulch should not be right up to the tree bark but a few inches away. As for the soil, mulching and organic matter is crucial to improving the sandy soil’s ability to hold water. As you know, sandy soil retains very little moisture and you have a lot going on in a small area. Do any of these ideas sound like it could be contributing to your trees stress?

PS-were you watering from a hose or a sprinkler? Sprinklers often do not give adequate moisture. A hose running slowly on the root ball is the best way.

Great ideas and thx for your prompt response. The trees had burlapped root balls and were planted by a professional landscaping company. I’m betting you’re correct that transplant stress has a lot to do with the issue.
I watered with direct hose as well as a sprinkler run for hours covering a few trees at a time. I felt like I watered a lot especially that first summer. I watered so much I started to wonder if maybe I watered too much but thought that was unlikely given they were in sandy soil. I’m wondering now if they can be saved. And if so what should I be doing? Heavy watering? Should I fertilize?they just seem to be slowly slipping away.

Hi. I wish I could promise that your trees will survive! Continue to practice good management techniques. I think watering with the hose at the base of the tree is the best thing to do-think of that big burlapped root mass and that is what you want to be healthy and to be spreading roots out from there. A couple inches of compost used as mulch is also a good idea. Another option would be to contact the company that sold them to you. I hope the trees settle in and are healthy.