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My trees are growing funny--Why? leaves first by the trunk, and then toward the ends of the branches  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I've noticed over the past few years that my mulberries will leaf first by the trunk, growing leaves slowly out toward the tips of the branches. And then they stop growing leaves, and the tips of the branches look dead. Last year I planted a Paw-paw, and I planted a Persimmon this year, and both are doing the same sort of thing.

Does anyone know why? Mulberries are supposed to grow fast, but since all the ends of my branches die every year, my plants haven't grown much. The mulberries were both planted three years ago. I have a weeping mulberry and a black mulberry.

What can I do to help my trees?
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Black mulberry
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Another picture of black mulberry
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Weeping mulberry
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Asian persimmon
 
Nicole Alderman
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Could it be because my soils are damp? They're gravely loam, so they drain well, but this winter especially, it rained a LOT. Could this have caused dieback to the limbs?
 
garden master
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moisture usually isn't a problem for mulberry trees, they even grow at the edges of swamps.
When was the last frost of the year? Did it occur after the buds were swelling?

It doesn't sound like you had any problems with the soil becoming to dry or flooding, so the most probable cause would be bud death caused by a late season frost. (we got one here that prevented our pear trees from fruiting but the mulberries are doing fine).

Do you keep a weather pattern notebook? if so we can go through it and try to find your new weather pattern that is developing from the global warming effects.

Let's see if we can't discover what has changed over the last few years that is causing branch tip die back.

Redhawk
 
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I don't quite no what's wrong with these plants. It could be frost damage, but I doubt it. But it ain't from frost caused by warming. I'm interested in the answer as the apples I grafted are acting similar to these plants. It's June 15th, I got scions putting out leafs on the stem, I got small new growth one small stem, but I suspect their should be more growth than there is. I'm worried they're alive, but barely. But this ain't the answer to my problem.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Yeah, our weather wasn't too crazy this year. Lots of rain and a warm span in January (it got into the 60s) but I'm north-facing so things stayed dormant a long time. It then got cool and snowed (I think in February or March? My kids ran off with my garden journal), but it wasn't really out of the ordinary. So, I don't think it was the weather.

I'm wondering if it is something nutrient or disease related? The mulberry tree has looked sad for at least two yeas. The only time it actually looked happy was when I buried a duck that passed away under it. Less than a month after that, it really perked up--the leaves got larger than I'd ever seen them, and even though it was August, it put on a LOT of new growth. Supposedly mulberries are really hardy and not picky, but maybe my soil is just so washed out that they need a lot more? I just don't know...
 
John Duda
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Nicole

Try spreading some mulch or a little manure around your planting site. Even if you have grass underneath. A little would give you a hint, assuming they perk up.

In my case I dug a hole in what has been lawn since about 1950. It's clay, I added a lot of peat, and some lime. After I dug the hole I forced my spade down into the bottom of the hole, rocked the spade. Did that about a half dozen times. Then I added a big pile of peat and a half bucket of water. Let that sink over night. I planted the tree with maybe a spadeful of mushroom manure. I would have added more, and covered the whole site with more mushroom manure. But I didn't because I didn't have anymore.

But then I did the same with my leftover rootstocks. The MM111's are growing like gangbusters. The M7's, semi-dwarf are growing mediocrely, in the same hole. The MM111 is just the rootstock, no graft that I might have messed up. But so are the M7's, just leftover rootstocks, actually I cut a piece off and used it as more or less a scion, then planted the leftover roots with a stub on top.

Is this a prime example of the difference a rootstock can make, or an example of what a first time grafter can mess up.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau Nicole,  So you don't think that higher than normal January temperatures followed by cold (snow) isn't a weather factor?

If the tree did better after adding that duck, I would agree that there is a sign that your soil needs some amendments to increase what it is lacking at the moment.
You might also try some mycorrhizae and perhaps some bacteria additions along the way, those will really help the soil provide the tree what it needs.

 
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All that grass growing right up close to them won't help either. Grass is strongly competitive towards fruit trees, and has a big impact in the first few years while they are getting established. I would be mulching a much larger area around the trees.
 
pollinator
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Mother Nature is baffling.    I'll just report that I had a similar situation with my 6 yr old apple trees last year and I attributed it to the weather because the dying tips followed by leaf growth didn't happen this year.     Here in central NC where Gulf stream and Jet stream weather patterns meet, our late winter, early spring is a yo-yo of super warm days and sub-freezing nights.   I despair that I'll ever get peaches or apples.   Right now I'm loving on the 5 little apples on the Fuji that survived this year's crazy weather :)

I am happy that I've not dealt with any diseases or pests since loading them with leaf mold, woodchips, chicken manure, and growing-chopping-dropping  comfrey around the drip line for the last 4 years.   The peach tree suffered leaf wilt the first two years but not since I've done intensive mulching.

My mulberries (all volunteers as far as I know)  are all growing in the understory of giant pecan trees.   They do sprout all over the property but the mature ones seem to like their roots in the shade and their branches reaching out on the southern edge to the sun.   I don't know if, in fact, they don't want to be in full sun - as that's of course what will promote fruiting...?
 
Nicole Alderman
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hau Nicole,  So you don't think that higher than normal January temperatures followed by cold (snow) isn't a weather factor?



It could be, but snow in February is pretty normal here (about every other year it happens) as well as warmer stretches in January. And, since I'm north-facing and only get about 2 hours of sunlight in January, I'm pretty sure the tree wasn't budding yet. But, I could be wrong! I've only been gardening for five years, so I don't have much of a baseline of personal experience to go off of.


If the tree did better after adding that duck, I would agree that there is a sign that your soil needs some amendments to increase what it is lacking at the moment.
You might also try some mycorrhizae and perhaps some bacteria additions along the way, those will really help the soil provide the tree what it needs.



I have another bucket of meat scraps to dispose of, so I think I'll be burying it there! I'll also blend up some more mushroom slurry to apply, and get some more duck bedding there. I put new bedding down around the tree every year, but, I think it needs more.

Michael Cox wrote:All that grass growing right up close to them won't help either. Grass is strongly competitive towards fruit trees, and has a big impact in the first few years while they are getting established. I would be mulching a much larger area around the trees.



I agree--the grass very much needs to go! I've been trying to rid the area of it since I planted the tree, to not much avail. The tree is also kind of in my "zone 3," so I don't get around to tending to it very often . Little kids take up most of my time! After the pictures, I scythed and sickled the grass short. I've also planted mint under the tree, in hopes it would take over. The mint has yet to do what mint is supposed to, and hasn't taken over yet .
 
Michael Cox
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A double layer of cardboard, topped with woodchips, works very well. And you can cover a large area quickly.
 
pollinator
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I planted two baby mulberries early summer last year and they did so well I split them mid-summer.

The beginning of spring I thought they were all dead.   My food forest is young so there isn't much cover for anything. We get some wicked winds out of the SW.

It is June and they are starting to leaf out from the roots.  After reading a bit, my mulberries died back due to the cold.  They were mulched really well or I probably would have lost them.  This year I will mound up mulch to winterize.      

I read that they are very susceptible to cold when they are young.  I wonder if that snow you hand knocked them back a bit.  

Glad to see they are at least leafing out though.   

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Nicole do you have any apple orchards (commercial type) that are near by? You might be able to check with one or two of those to see if they had any problems this year.

I'm fortunate enough to have several commercial "you pick it" orchards close enough (around 25 miles) that if I have an issue with any of our varied fruit trees I can usually go ask a grower about how their trees are doing.
This sort of information can either help you out or unsettle you (like the peach orchardist who has severe leaf curl problems) some times you can be their salvation by offering something to try that they probably haven't thought of or didn't know.
The peach orchardist I mentioned is now using compost tea to spray his trees with and the microbes have almost totally gotten rid of his leaf curl issues.
Since I had approached him about what he did to get such lovely trees established, and I noticed his curl problem, which lead me to ask if he had ever heard of compost teas and he had not.
That allowed me to tell him about what they are, how to make them and use them, at that point he asked me where I heard about this, when I told him my background I got the chance to work with him for a while to help his soil get better.

Funny how some things can work out, I was there to pick some peaches on the recommendation by a friend, and ended up with a client for a year. 
 
Nicole Alderman
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I never got around to updating this thread!

Bryant, we don't have any commercial orchards, but my neighbors have at least 10 apple trees, and many of them have apples on them. And, those ones get earlier sunlight and more frost. So, I'm not thinking it was just the cold weather that did in most of my apples. I could be wrong, though!

---------------

Here's an update on that mulberry. I planted a bunch of mint under it, weeded out the grass, put down a bunch of duck bedding, and planted some wild strawberries. And, I buried about 8 cups worth of meat scraps and fertilized duck eggs that didn't make it. It has literally grown three--maybe even four feet in just this year!!!

The persimmon still looks about the same. I weeded it and added duck bedding and meat and yogurt scraps, but it still doesn't like me. I didn't get a chance yet to give the pawpaws some tender loving care, as they're in my zone 3, but they are still surviving.
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Crazy amounts of growth on that mulberry tree. I guess it really did need some nutrient!
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Could it be because my soils are damp? They're gravely loam, so they drain well, but this winter especially, it rained a LOT. Could this have caused dieback to the limbs?



Hello Nic,

It could also be uneven moisture levels because of the weather and soil type - the sea saw of wet and dry will cause die back and fruit drop.

The soil type also suggests the likelihood of nutrient loss, perhaps the drainage is just too high?

Looks like you've addressed the issues: compost, 'blood and bone' AKA dead duck and meat trimmings, and a growing mulch. Though wouldn't mint be as aggressive as lawn?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I think the main problem with grass under trees is that their root systems are thick and deep, reaching down to where the tree's roots are, and taking their nutrients/water. I'm pretty sure mint has a relatively shallow root system, growing by runners. I could be wrong, though! I mostly needed somewhere to grow my mint. My husband uses 1/4 cup of mint leaves every day in his tea (for his Crohn's), and it seemed really silly to be buying mint. Even with multiple mint plants, they still don't grow fast enough to keep up with his consumption!
 
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