Trees are one of the most interesting and beautiful things you can plant in your yard. A tree can shade in the summer, a house for birds, food if it’s a fruit or nut tree, a place to picnic under, and even a jungle gym for active kids. What makes a tree not fun to have is to have one that’s diseased or dying.
If you’ve been worried about tree disease, you're not alone. Many factors contribute to tree disease, and if you suspect your trees are diseased or may get diseased, it can be cause for concern.
A healthy tree is strong and robust, but many factors may work to contribute to a sick or dead tree. Wind, rain, as well as extreme heat and cold, can affect the health of a tree. It’s important to keep an eye out for early symptoms because we have yet found a way to control the environment. It’s a fact that some diseases, like Dutch Elm Disease, can have such an impact that they can cause the loss of an entire species of trees.
Sick or dead?
Before you panic, you should try to determine if your tree is healthy, sick, or dead. Trees should be inspected each season and especially after severe storms. If your tree is healthy, it will have a full crown. The crown is the area of branches and leaves that extend from the main trunk.
Don't let green leaves fool you, though -- trees can be sick and still have a lush, green crown. So how do you know if your tree is unhealthy? Here are some tried and true warning signs:
Decay: Trees usually rot from the inside out, so decay may be tough to spot. Fungi, like mushrooms, are good indicators of decline, as is soft or crumbly wood.
Dead wood: Dead wood is dry, lifeless, and breaks without much effort. Because it's brittle and can't bend in the wind like a good branch, it's likely to break. Dead branches, can be dangerous and should be removed as soon as possible.
Cracks and cankers: Cracks are deep splits through the bark, and are usually an indication that a tree is dying or diseased. Cankers are holes in the bark. The chance of a stem breaking is higher near a canker.
Weak branch unions: Weak branch unions happen when branches aren't attached securely to the tree. When two branches grow closely together, bark grows between them and creates a weak union. The bark isn't as strong as wood and will weaken the joining of the branches.
Poor tree architecture: Poor tree architecture is defined by an uneven growth pattern. One way to spot poor architecture is a crooked or leaning tree. Poor tree architecture is usually caused by years of damage from storms or improper pruning.
Can I save a diseased tree?
Avoiding any disease is preferable to treating it. If you want to try to save your trees, your best bet is to contact an arborist at a professional gardening company. They’ll help you determine what the problem is, and then help you decide what to do next.
How can I keep my trees healthy?
Keeping healthy trees can sometimes be a tricky task. Here are some tips to keep yours in shape for years to come.
Don’t put weed fertilizer on grass anywhere near the tree's roots.
If you mulch around the tree, leave a little space around the trunk. The space will let the tree breathe, and avoid wood rot.
If your tree has exposed roots, hand trimming that area is preferable to using anything with a sharp blade, such as a lawn mower.
Watering trees during droughts is an important step, because tree roots move up toward the top of the ground in search of water, weakening the tree's root structure.