The tree has been sad from the get-go, as my husband left it, bare-root, with a black plastic bag around it's roots, in the carwindshield for about three hours before I found out. I quickly planted and watered the poor thing, but it has been sad ever since.
The whole time we've had it, the leaves have been curled and dry, but it hasn't looked like it's dying. I've watered it frequently and faithfully (twice a week, deep waterings), figuring it to be transplant shock. It has pretty much stayed the same--no new growth, no leaves falling off, etc.
That is, it's stayed the same until today. Yesterday I put about an inch of duck bedding (duck poop+pine shavings) to give it a little boost. Today it's leaves were brown.
So, I went to remove the bedding, fearing nitrogen burn, and noticed fine roots growing right under the soil. Ack! I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to do that! Did I bury the tree too deep in my rush to get it in the ground? Is there anything I can do to bring it back from it's downward spiral?
Those roots are the sign of recovery starting! You are doing the right things so don't fret so much, this tree will make a comeback, this year it is putting its energy into producing roots.
Your hubby pretty much baked the original root system but there was enough life left for the tree to survive under your TLC and now it is forming new roots, this is great!
If you want to help it further, get some B-12 solution and water the tree with it once every two weeks for around 8 weeks. This will help it form more and better roots to replace the baked ones.
Do not give it any type of fertilizer for now, that would be a bad thing.
Don't worry, you didn't plant it to deep, you are being a good steward to this little apple tree.
If you have other questions about this tree, please let me know.
Thank you, Bryant! I am so relieved that the tree is recovering, and the roots are healthy re-growth. I tried to move as much of the duck bedding away from the tree as possible, but it got all tangled up in the birdsfoot trefoil that made it's home under the tree. Should I rip out the trefoil to get the bedding out, add some extra pine shavings to absorb the nitrogen, or just keep watering so it washes away? Or not even worry about it...
As for the b-12 is there a natural (i.e. cheap) alternative to buying a bottle of b-12 solution? My husband suggested just burying some liver next to the tree, but I don't know what other ramifications that would have, let alone what "dose" to give it.
I would only remove the trefoil if you can do so without disturbing those new apple tree roots.
Just keep doing the deep watering, that nitrogen will pass along and go deeper, this will help encourage deeper rooting by the apple tree.
Right now it can utilize a little extra nitrogen.
B-12 the easy peasy, cheep way; Vitamins for humans dissolved in warm water then diluted for application.
It is lots less money and you can take them too, if you like to keep your energy up.
I use 4 tabs in a gallon of water as my starter solution, when I am going to apply to trees or plants.
I use one cup of the starter in one gallon of water, this is all used on one tree, spread around the drip line (where the feeding roots grow).
If I am encouraging new main roots, about one foot from the trunk.
If you go fishing, you can just bury the cleaning leftovers around the tree or use them to build better compost to use as a top dressing. (This is how I utilize all meat leftovers such as trimmings, if they don't go to feed animals).
It doesn't look like you need to baby the tree very much - trees with stress will often shut down early for the year and focus on coming back the following Spring.
The trefoil is fine, the mulch is fine...the water, if anything, is a little much.
Th root nodules look fine - I've had healthy trees with those growing 2 feet up in the air!
From what I've seen, he biggest health impact will be the variety of apple and the rootstock - some of them just don't like our conditions. Selecting varieties resistant to scab and mildew pays off bigtime!