WildcatNurseryman
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Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:42 pm
Location: Lexington, KY.

Sawtooth Oak Problems

Have already talked with the county extension office and they have proven to not know what they are talking about so I thought I would give my fellow plantoholics a shot. I have two Sawtooth Oaks that are planted on a slight slope in VERY good soil. They have been in the ground for 7 years or so and have grown extremely well. This year they have not filled out as usual and are very sparsely leaved. They are also producing leaves that are very stunted, yellow and cupped. I have a feeling that they are lacking micronutrients and are not able to take them up due to high PH. (The soil test is not back from the lab yet)
My question is- have any of you been successful in raising your PH to a degree that is sustainable, both over time and financially? I have read about different ways to achieve iron uptake, but would like to know if anyone has personal experience.
Side note- The leaves show no signs of lesions or insect damage, just to let you know.
I would like to save these two but only if it would be something that wouldn't put me in the poor-house, and hopefully would last at least a couple of years. Thanks in advance. :?:

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Midwestguy
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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:43 pm
Location: Kansas

It sounds like chlorosis, which is common for sawtooth oaks in neutral to alkaline soils.
If you do amend your soil to decrease the pH, which will increase the acidity, you need to be very careful. The soil pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that each whole number is a factor of 10 larger or smaller than the ones next to it. So if your soil has a pH of 6.5 and that pH is lowered to a pH of 5.5, the acid content of that soil is increased 10-fold. If the pH is lowered further to a pH of 4.5, the acid content becomes 100 times greater than at the pH of 6.5. And if the pH is lowered even further to a pH of 3.5, the acid content becomes 1000 times greater than when it was at a pH 6.5. If you don't know what you're doing, you can ruin your soil in a hurry.
You may not like my next suggestion, but I am going to give it to you anyway. If you have high alkaline soil, you may always have a problem with the sawtooth oaks. I don't know how much money you have invested in these trees, but if you could afford it, I would suggest removing the Sawtooths and replacing them with Chinkapin Oak trees. Chinkapin oak trees thrive in alkaline soil and have no problem with heavy clay soil either. Chinkapin oaks grow faster than most people realize approx. 2' per year.
It's always easier to plant something that is suited to your environment and soil conditions than trying to change the environment or soil in order to plant something that isn't.
I am actually planning to eventually plant a Chinkapin Oak tree in my own front yard.
Well, good luck and happy growing.

WildcatNurseryman
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Posts: 266
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:42 pm
Location: Lexington, KY.

Thanks for the response, Midwestguy. I am familiar with the PH issues you explained as I have kept tropical fish for my entire life and they have similar issues with water quality. Thanks for the info though.
The trees were free and I would be out nothing by letting them go, but they are very nice (or were, for 7+ years, at least) so I am out nothing at this point. They are part of a collection of Oak trees, and the are actually near a Chinkapin and an Overcup that I transplanted this Spring. Also near-by are a Swamp-White Oak, a Shumard, a Scarlet, and a Bur.
I don't expect to have much success changing the PH but was just curious to see if anyone else has, especially for an extended period. That is really the only way these two will have a chance. Everything I have read champions their adaptability, but alkaline soil is certain to be their achilles heel. The soil tests will tell the tale. I'm guessing a 7.0-7.1.
(For everyones info, all the others are show zero problems)

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Midwestguy
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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:43 pm
Location: Kansas

Well, it certainly sounds like you know what you are doing.
I have a friend who planted an Autumn Blaze Maple a couple of years ago that was suffering from chlorosis. He was actually injecting iron all around the peremeter of the tree, and is still doing so to this day. :roll: It will probably be something he will be doing for the rest of his life.
That's just too much work for me to do for a tree. If I was him I would just remove the thing and replace it with an October Glory or Red Sunset Maple. :wink:

WildcatNurseryman
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Posts: 266
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:42 pm
Location: Lexington, KY.

I hope Autumn Blaze aren't a particular problem because there are three of those too. I have really liked those trees and they have been VERY fast growers with zero problems so far. I have seen some red maples around town that show signs though. A customer I worked for last week has a big red maple in his yard that is just beginning to show signs on the south side of the tree. I guess it is just the luck of the draw around here with our limestone bedrock.

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rainbowgardener
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Location: TN/GA 7b

I have a native woodland (shade) wildflowers garden. Unfortunately my soil is alkaline and many of the native woodland plants I would like to grow (kalmia, bunchberry, wintergreen, etc) are acid lovers. I tried for awhile amending the soil for them. But you need to amend the soil in a big area around them and then you need to keep doing it, because whatever you do is neutralized by all the alkaline soil around them. I always ended up torturing them to death. They would grow well at first in their little bubble of amended soil and then gradually fade out and die, because I just couldn't keep the right environment for them. Maybe if I were more diligent about keeping on amending the soil around them, but I just didn't have time and energy for that so it never worked. I gave up on trying to grow any acid lovers.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Leo Kolo
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Re: Sawtooth Oak Problems

Sawtooth oaks in alkaline soil do not do well. But if you yearly apply Elemental sulfur 90% graduals, every early spring, apply 3-5# of sulfur with a hand spreader out to the drip line and then some. My 8 to 10 year old Sawtooth is doing great in its 7.5-8.5 PH. This also works well with River Birches that have an iron absorption problem. Check with your local herbicide dealer for the sulfur, it is very inexpensive.

Leo Kolo

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