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Stressed out cherry tree (2yrs old)

 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Hello,

I have a 2 year old cherry tree. I allowed it to make a few cherries in the first year, and this year I (got greedy) and allowed all of the dozen or so flowers to get pollinated. Now the leaves have turned yellow from the base going up ward, and from the base of the branches going to the tips and all the flowers dried up and turned brown . I read that it was probably too much of a stress on the young tree before it got its roots established to allow it to fruit.

My question is this: How can I mitigate the damage the best, and not lose the tree? It won't die, will it?

Thanks in advance,

Amjad
 
David Livingston
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Amjad
Have you any pictures you could post of this tree ? It sounds more than two years old . What sort of soil have you got and where in the world are you ?
What other treatment have you been giving it ?

David
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Dave - I planted it two years ago, so you're right, it would be older than that. Sorry, I made the first post in a hurry. I planted 3 heads of elephant garlic around the base last fall because I read that was good. But then this year I read on someone's post that it can inhibit (fig) tree growth, so I took those out as the leaves turned yellow. The cherry tree sits in a partially shaded spot, but it should get some sunlight throughout the day. I didn't quite realize just how many problems a cherry tree could have before I looked up this issue... I have fairly heavy clay soil, but I had dug a hole and amended it with some partly broken down compost and bonemeal. I live in London, Ontario, Canada, zone 6a. I have only been giving it water, and after reading up a bit, it seems that I wasn't doing this right. I wasn't allowing the tree to dry out for weeks at a time in-between waterings.

My main question is, what should I do?
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whole tree
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one branch
 
Marco Banks
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If there is too much fruit, the tree will just drop the fruit, or it will be small. I can't imagine that that is your issue. Particularly if the tree's been in the ground for over a year -- it should be established enough to handle a decent crop.

So then you have to go through the list: is the soil OK? moisture? anything attacking the roots? insect damage? fungal disease of some sort? did anyone mess around with Roundup near the tree?
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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I changed the pictures out, those first ones were embarrassingly blurry!

Marco - I honestly don't know if the soil is OK... I've placed mulch around the tree and some sheep manure and besides the elephant garlic, and some amendments when planting that's all I've done to it. How do I know if anything is attacking the roots? I don't see any signs of insect damage. I did notice that the leaves were going yellow from the base of the tree up, and from the centre of the leaf out... which made me think the tree was drawing back nutrients or withholding them. (Total shot in the dark guess there). I don't know how to determine if it's fungus either, nothing obvious was apparent.

My peach tree with leaf worsening leaf curl is about 4-5 meters away. Not sure if that is relevant.

Definitely no round-up around these parts though. At least that one I can eliminate right off the hop.
 
Rick English
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When in doubt, did you try peeing on it?
 
robert e morgan
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dont know about your area but around here [ne kansas] root borers will mostly kill cherries and other stone fruits .
the treatment is to pull the dirt from around the crown of the tree and place the root borer preventive around the crown
and cover it back . if you dont have root borers in your area you have probably watered too much . cherries dont like soggy ground.
 
Michael Newby
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Can you take a picture of the root Zone/trunk area? I have a suspicion that the tree may have been planted too deeply and/or have gotten too much mulch against the trunk. This can lead to stress on the tree.
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Rick - I had diluted some pee and watered this tree and others with it. I erred on the side of diluting it quite a lot, because I didn't want to burn the tree.

Robert - We had some (3-4) fairly hot days - in the high 20s C (80s and above F) so I thought it was too dry when I saw the yellowing. I pulled the mulch back a little when I took out the elephant garlic and the soil underneath the mulch wasn't as dry as I would have thought. I hadn't watered it in a few days by that point and I went ahead and gave it approx 15L of water.... Perhaps I did over-water it because I had given it some water about 5 days previous?

Michael - I mulched in the doughnut shape that I had heard about and kept the mulch off the trunk as much as possible. The branch-stump you can see in the picture is where this tree had two branches previously and I cut one off. In hindsight I don't think I should have cut it off (I made this cut at the start of the previous season and the tree seemed no worse for wear, but I don't think two trunks would have hurt anything except aesthetics and now I have 1/2 as much tree)!

I also thought of trunk rot and felt the trunk at the base. It was not squishy which is how I tried to check for something wrong at that spot. Is that the way to check? It didn't look moldy or rotten.

I hope it kind of stabilizes and tries to put out new growth..however I guess that depends on what the cause of the problem is.

PS Thank you all for your help!
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I lifted the tree guard and the base of the trunk is visible
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How the tree usually is with its tree guard
 
David Livingston
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mmmm Looks like something has had a go at the base
Voles ?
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Dave - I hope not! I looked closely at the base just now and it doesn't look like bark has been eaten all the way around or anything like that. It looks like some bark came a bit loose because it was too wet. I moved the mulch away and hope that between that and proper water management the tree will come back. I feel at such a loss though, because I don't know how to identify any of the myriad other things it could be that may potentially go wrong.

Thank you to all of the permies again who gave their advice. I will take the best care of this tree that I can and hope it comes back.
 
Tristan Vitali
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It's a little hard to tell for sure from the photos, but did the yellowing sound like magnesium deficiency chlorosis? The bit about bottom-up and center-out yellowing made my mind go there immediately.
Therefore, without sufficient amounts of magnesium, plants begin to degrade the chlorophyll in the old leaves. This causes the main symptom of magnesium deficiency, chlorosis, or yellowing between leaf veins, which stay green, giving the leaves a marbled appearance. Due to magnesium’s mobile nature, the plant will first break down chlorophyll in older leaves and transport the Mg to younger leaves which have greater photosynthetic needs. Therefore, the first sign of magnesium deficiency is the chlorosis of old leaves which progresses to the young leaves as the deficiency continues.

Wikipedia - Magnesium Deficiency (plants)

If so, a sprinkle of epsom salt around the tree might go a long way. In fact, a sprinkle of epsom salt around the area is probably a good idea regardless - most soils are "deficient" in available sulfur and magnesium these days, and most of the "fill" they use in suburban lots seems to have high aluminum levels which will only exacerbate magnesium issues.

If you do apply some epsom salt, go fairly light (no more than 1/8 cup or so) and don't bother watering it in yourself unless the soil's dried out well to at least an inch down already. Don't apply directly to the root zone, either - sprinkle it around just outside the root zone (so just a touch beyond the canopy of the tree) so it can access the nutrients if it needs them without being force-fed
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Tristan - I'm not sure that the yellowing conforms to the description of Mg deficiency because the veins did not stay green. Having said that, I applied some epsom salts anyway and will hopefully see an improvement. If the yellowing was due to overwatering, we've just had somewhat heavy rain over the past two days, so I hope the problem does not get worse. I think all I can do for now is wait and see. The leaves at the very tips of the branches did not die yet, so perhaps the plant can come back. I just wish I had a better sense of what caused the problem in the first place. My hunch so far is too much water.
 
Alex Riddles
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Location: Columbia Missouri
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When leaves turn yellow from the base of a tree and the problem moves upward the problem is almost always due to excess water. Here in Missouri we also have clay soil. This leads to many problems for trees and shrubs that are planted too deep. Around here we consider level with the surrounding soil to be too deep. The problem is compounded by Dolomite bedrock that has been leaching excess magnesium into the clay causing it to"tighten up". Cherries are very difficult to grow here because they require well drained soil.

My recommendations would be

If your cherries are planted on a hillside dig a French drain from your improved soil downhill so any excess water has a place to drain away.

Get a soil test done before you add any more Epsom salt. You may be making the problem worse.

Around here we often plant things like cherries that are sensitive to wet feet on an artificial mound to assure proper drainage. Might be a good excuse to build a hugelmound.
 
Amjad Khan
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Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Alex - thanks for the response! How do the trees react over a season after they have had a shock of too much water? Do they grow new leaves, or do they stay "dormant" until next season?
 
C. Letellier
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Looking at your picture my first reaction is over water. Those little areas of the whitish yellow, the mottled pattern are what cause me to think that. Add in your starting that the bottom description and it matches what I have seen of other types of plants over watered. If that is the case some come out of it and some die.(know nothing about cherry trees) What has happened usually is the root of the plant suffocated. Some trees are very sensitive to this. Others from typical river bottom growth handle it better. Willows, birch, some poplars take more of it to kill.

Mg or Fe deficiency usually shows the veining in the leaves and it usually affects the leaf fairly evenly. The lack of veining and mottled appearance cause me to doubt that one.

And borer root damage is often less general in location on the tree. Usually a side of the tree will show damage or if general the whole tree will show damage not this sort of mottled pattern.

One other possible is do you have a bad aphid problem? I have seen this sort of mottled pattern in small trees with bad aphid problem. But the progression pattern and the whitish yellow areas cause me to say this one is one is highly unlikely. Usually aphids cause a solid yellowish color and the leaves go pale green first which I see no sign of.
 
Alex Riddles
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Location: Columbia Missouri
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As to wheather these branches will leaf out again that is a difficult question to answer. If the branch is still alive the cambium will still be green. This is easy to observe. Just prune off the end of the branch and look for the cambium under the bark. If the branch is still alive you will see a green circle between the sapwood and the bark.

In my experience once this starts it usually kills the tree. Anything you can do to improve the drainage will help. If the roots have died back a severe pruning might bring the tree back into balance. Of course this is all based on the assumption that the tree is suffering from a root dieback caused by suffocation. Too much water could also lead to a fungal infection which is a much harder problem to solve unless you are willing to use something toxic.
 
Amjad Khan
Posts: 70
Location: London, Ontario, Canada - zone 6a
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Alex - you mentioned making a hugelbed in an earlier post. From my understanding, doesn't the wood hold water as it rots?

We've had 3-4 days of constant rain here so I went ahead, dug up the tree. Filled the hole with a log and branches, covered it all with soil and then planted the tree on the top of the mound of earth. I mixed the heavy clay earth with some compost to help with drainage. I hope that makes sense, I've always read that organic matter retains water... unfortunately I didn't have any large rocks or sand to help with drainage. Thanks for all the responses. I just have to make sure the roots don't get exposed to the air and the tree should be ok, right?
 
Alex Riddles
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Location: Columbia Missouri
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In a healthy soil about half of the volume is empty space. This space can hold water or air and the roots need both of these in moderation. Because fresh organic matter is porrous it can hold moisture or air. That is one of the reasons we use compost. That's straight out of my master gardener training. You might check out londonmiddlesexmastergardeners.com you will probably find someone there that knows your local conditions better than I do.

A word of warning about master gardeners. We are supposed to give science based advice. A lot of that science is paid for by companies that have a product to sell. So that skews the science and the advice toward the chemical solution. A lot of what I have seen here on permies is aimed at preventing the problem rather than intervening after the fact. You'll need to decide for yourself which path you want to take.
 
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