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Conifer hedge going brown  RSS feed

 
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Good day permaculture wizards, how do?

What are your reasons for say a conifer hedge to start going brown and what are your success in bringing it back to life?

What would be the fastest way to bring life back to these trees. The soil is very dry and loose, sandy with a light brown colour and 0 earthworms.
My thoughts first to chlorophyll and the lack of, poor water retention no organic matter and the fact that nobody thinks about feeding their hedge.

Ive done a soil test, levels of minerals using a teams test are decent, humus is also high, magnesium is low and nitrogen is very high reading 150 ppa.

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pollinator
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There is a virus going round if it's that the it's Fu@@@@. Not much you can do other than replace it

David
 
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The first thing that I would try is to chop & drop any leaves & branches or lay some mulch at the base of the hedge to trap any extra moisture you can.  If that is not trapping enough moisture regularly then you might like to try some other water harvesting techniques that would be appropriate for your situation.

Where are you located?  How much annual precipitation do you get and when is your wetter seasons.  Do you have a prolonged dry season?

Also, when you prune/sheer your hedge, do you over do it leaving too much of the inner branches without much green "leaves" / needles. 

Is it browning more where there is full shade?

What kind of conifers are they? 

The more detail you can provide, the easier it is for others to make appropriate suggestions.


 
David Livingston
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If it's in the UK it's a good bet that it's a leylandii  - it's a horrible tree

David
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Adam,
Conifers that turn brown have actually been dead or headed that way for up to 6 months already.

Your soil description does not indicate high humus levels that you say the soil test showed, also a total lack of earthworms indicates not much humus is present.

First thing to do is determine if any of the needles are still alive, if they are they won't break if you bend them. Brown needles are already dead but conifers can stay green for up to six months even though they are dead.

I would try to get some compost into that soil to start with, then it will be time to do some mineral adjustments.

Redhawk
 
Adam Oaktree
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There is a lot here in reply I know, my gratitude for you who takes the time to read

It's the uk so it's generally wet although weather patterns are a changing. Yes is thinks it's a leylandi.

I will have to check about the needles, being dead but green for six months is not something I realised.
The hedge was obviously nice and green all over before trimming, it gets trimmed every year.

With the humus content I was very surprised.. it has its own leaves breaking down under there maybe that's it? The lamotte soil test was not showing just a little bit of humus but a lot! Could it be the moisture content that's the real issue?

The hedge is about 10 meters long, I performed 3 soil tests taking and mixing 3 samples for each. Work using concrete had been done at the base of the trees especially in the middle it seemed and a wanted a ph reading.  From left to right I got  a ph of 5.8 , 5.6, 6.7.  I found a white layer of powder under the first half inch of soil in 2 places. I was unsure whether it was fungus or concrete powder. Maybe the far right was subjected to the remains of the concrete. Still, the other two ph tests could indicate a serious problem in the trees uptake of minerals.

But yes I agree with bringing some living compost to the area, woodchip and mulch to retain moisture, and some mineral adjustment.
I also would like to raise the ph center and left, calcium carbonate should be alright with some added Epsom salts for some extra magnesium and a little extra phosphorus.

I'm also concerned about the high levels of nitrate nitrogen in the soil. This can Ben harmful can't it? I was getting a maximum reading of 150ppa on all three tests. I think 40 is suggested as healthy.


 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Conifers are acidic trees and plants, they will secrete exudates to adjust the soil very near them to their preferred acidity so the 5.8 and 5.6 are just about fine for conifers.
The 6.7 is the puzzler except for the mention of the white powder, this might be lime, put on by someone previous or a remnant of component mixing of the concrete you mention.
IF that concrete work was for something that they dug down a foot or even half a foot, that could be the cause for the die out that seems to be happening.

Many people here in the states forget that conifers will look alive for quite a long time too, but think of the Christmas tree business, those trees were most likely cut at least a month before they even start their journey to the lot for people to buy to put inside their houses.

You might want to do a jar test on that soil just to make sure of the humus content, it will show up as a layer all unto itself.

Redhawk
 
Adam Oaktree
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Thank you for getting back to me RedHawk.. I'm surprised they prefer an acidic soil, but it makes sense that the extended rhizome area all around the trees would have self regulated their needs.. I'm assuming left over concrete powder was dumped on the right hand side..

The actual work was..
Imagine a a conifer hedge 10 metres across with an exposed ditch in front of it. this ditch was covered with paving, a foot from the trunks of the hedge. I'm assuming concrete was used as a base layer with some deeper holes used for structure as I can see them, 2 large bowling ball sized clumps spaced some feet apart in the middle of the hedge.

The work was basically right in line with the edge of the root zone. If this is the cause of the die back what would you do?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I would suspect the construction work was the cause of the hedge demise, that much root damage is not recoverable from by conifers or deciduous trees.
Each branch of a tree has a corresponding section of roots, main branches have main root sections, kill the root, kill the branch.
You state that this work was within one foot of the trunks, that is far to close for survival of the hedge plants, feeder roots are usually at least 3 feet distant from a trunk, within a foot, main roots were most likely cut thus killing the branches they were connected to. 

Since the construction work has been done as well as the resulting damage, about the only thing to do is replant.

I would also try to do some soil improvement with addition of compost or compost extracts, this will improve the biology of the soil.
You will want to add fungi and bacteria with fungi being the higher number of organisms about a 2:1 ratio would be best, but what you add can only improve what is there now.

Redhawk
 
Adam Oaktree
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I would suspect the construction work was the cause of the hedge demise, that much root damage is not recoverable from by conifers or deciduous trees.
Each branch of a tree has a corresponding section of roots, main branches have main root sections, kill the root, kill the branch.
You state that this work was within one foot of the trunks, that is far to close for survival of the hedge plants, feeder roots are usually at least 3 feet distant from a trunk, within a foot, main roots were most likely cut thus killing the branches they were connected to. 

Since the construction work has been done as well as the resulting damage, about the only thing to do is replant.

I would also try to do some soil improvement with addition of compost or compost extracts, this will improve the biology of the soil.
You will want to add fungi and bacteria with fungi being the higher number of organisms about a 2:1 ratio would be best, but what you add can only improve what is there now.

Redhawk



Do conifers or acid loving trees not prefer a fungal dominated soil?  Or is that only alkaline loving trees.

Also I've been looking at compost suppliers here in the uk that deliver a whole bag upto 900L coming straight from their compost pile.
Then found out about ericaceous compost. Unfortunately this isn't delivered in large bags, coming in the regular bags.

Do you think ericaceous is necessary?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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No I do not think it is necessary to purchase ericaceous compost, you can modify the "regular" compost quite easily by re-composting with food scraps and leaf mold and adding air from the bottom.

there are several great methods to make additions to any bought materials, one of the best being worm castings along with fungal wood.
Most of the commercial compost I have seen is bacterial rich and fungal poor, this indicates that if you are using it you will do well to add a fungal element or two prior to spreading that compost.

Some members of the Conifers are mycorrhizal dependent most don't need but do benefit from mycorrhizal relationships, all trees benefit from fungal soils as long as there are bacteria in adequate numbers (ratio of around 2:1 fungi:bacteria) does well all around.
Long Leaf Pines and most Junipers seem to thrive nicely in fungal soils as long as the bacteria are in greater numbers than the fungi.
The sacred cedar (red cedar which is actually a juniper) is one of the mycorrhizal conifer trees, but only in a 6.3 to 6.8 pH soil. when they are in more acidic soils all of the conifers prefer a more bacterial dominant system, still some fungi should be present for the nutrient system to work its best.

most fungi do not thrive in highly acidic soils, but there are a few species that do, if the right conditions are present, they will show up since their spores are literally everywhere in the air.

Redhawk
 
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