Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2005 4:40 pm

Sickly walnut tree

Hi there, caring for trees is new for me and I just moved to a new home in May with walnut trees in the planting strip out front. There are (were) two trees. One was obviously dead for quite some time and we have since cut it down. The second tree looked sickly when we moved in and we purchased fertilizer stakes recommended for nut trees and pounded them into the ground in the drip zone. The tree started leafing out more and we were hopeful that it was recovering till about a month and a half ago when the leaves started turning brown and falling. I live in Oregon and we've had some strange weather here this year, the fluxuations in temperature were extreme this past spring and early summer could that have caused the problem or is it missing something? The tree is now bare. I'd like to save this tree if possible, what do I do next?

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

How old is the tree? Walnut trees only live to about 60 or 70 years on average. It sounds to me like the tree(s) were quite young so, it may be something else.

Also, the fertilizer stakes that you mentioned; I'm guessing that they are some sort of synthetic fertilizer?

If so, the reason why your tree had a sudden burst of growth is that synthetic fertilizers are immediately asorbed by the roots of plants and to many macro nutrients are fed to the tree all at once. This is most likely why you had the sudden burst of growth.

The problem with the this sudden burst of growth is that the growth is to quick and the resulting tissues are week and prone to disease. The use of organic fertilzer is much better because the tree will secrete small amounts of acid to release whatever nutrients it needs from the soil.

Given that you live in Oregon, my recomondation would be to give your tree a nice deep mulch of maple and apple leaves (if you have apple around you) with some good, well composted manure. If you live near the ocean, some seaweed would be good as well.

Just spread the above listed ingredients over the surface surrounding the tree. Use the manure as the top layer. Composted chicken manure looks aesthetically pleasing.

However, try and find the age of your trees first. It could be that they are dying of old age. No point in putting a bunch of work into them if they are going to die anyway.

Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2005 4:40 pm

I'm not sure how old the trees are and since they are under power lines and get trimmed every 2 yrs I don't even have its size to help me guess. The trunk is 61 inches in diameter if that helps. I do have access to all the ingredients that you mentioned though and I will give that a try. I don't recall what was in the spikes but I'm sure you're right about it being synthetic since it was all pressed into a hard chalky looking spike, we were getting close to the warm season and I was in a hurry to find something before the heat set in. Obviously not a very wise decision though. Thanks for the info I hope it helps. :D

The Helpful Gardener
Posts: 7492
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:17 pm
Location: Colchester, CT

Not mentioned much is that other trees were already dying and this is in a planting strip. Along the road, I assume? So we have an impermeable barrier on at least one side (sidewalk on the other?), advanced trees in decline, and then fertilizer stakes, producing a short burst of growth...

I think soil compaction is a huge part of the equation here; roads, even sidewalks compact the soil underneath and kill roots. So we have a stressed tree to begin with (Walnuts are not great street trees). As these guys got older instead of being able to stretch out roots, they actually were losing root mass as the compaction got worse. All the trimming helped some, but not enough...fertilizing is never the right thing to do to ailing plants and while it produced a momentary burst, I'd haul those spikes out right away.

In the end Opa is right, these may just be old and it may be time for new trees. Actually consulting an arborist in your area is always a good idea when dealing with sick trees or selecting the right one for your area (they will be aware of prevalent diseases and which species and cultivars are right for your area. Tree health is a tricky thing and that's why these guys are liscensed. As an accredited nurseryman, I know a great deal about it, but I'm no pro. I would consult an arborist in your area.

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