Help your trees suck it up

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I have three maple trees. One is in the front of the house one is behind the house and one is in that stripe of grass between the sidewalk and the street. They all have some horrible problem. There is a tan-colored browning all around the edges of the leaves and some are curling up. And there are scattered round spots about the size of a pencil eraser that are dark brown on the ring around the outside and tan in the middle. Why is this happening?
In the Big, Fat World of Plants, there are three categories of problems. One is disease or pathology. Another is insects or pests. And the third category is environmental or mechanical problems.

The disease and insects make up far less than twenty percent of the problems. Most of the trouble falls into where the plant is growing, the care it is receiving or injuries from people or animal activities.

Yours is Door No. 3, the biggest door of all: environmental. The marks on margins of the leaves and the curling are called leaf scorch. Basically, it means that there is not enough water.

Every day that the sun shines on the leaves, the tree pulls up water to cool them so they do not burn. But to give it up, the tree has to suck it up. Sucking time is over for most plants. Soil is very dry. There has been little rain for at least six weeks. Most of the tree roots are in the top foot-and-a-half or 2 feet of soil. There is no water there.

If you have a lawn irrigation system, it is designed to water the top 3 or 4 inches of soil, exactly where the grass roots are located. You need to put the hose on the ground and let it run until there is at least 12 inches of damp soil. Water all the way around the tree because the tree can only use water on the side on which it has been placed. There is no magic tree plumbing to move it other places.

The little eye spots are called Phyllosticta leaf spot and are considered cosmetic. They are a common occurrence when there is humid spring weather. They are not cute but create no damage for the tree, just for the anxious owner.

My tomato plants are not growing. I bought them recently because the price really dropped. When I took them out of those little plastic packs, they had really beautiful white roots. There were so many roots that I could not see dirt. I made a small hole and stuck each in a hole. But they have not grown at all in two weeks. What do I do?
Your tomato babies have roots that are not growing outwards from the original cell pack size. Roots are not smart. They do not realize that have been turned loose to run free. They are root bound.

Carefully dig up one and see if any roots have left the white, cork-shaped root ball. When you have seen that they are essentially the same, use a utility knife or a single edged razor blade and put four vertical cuts on the root ball from top to bottom, one on each side. The cut will be only one-eighth of an inch deep. Now, when replanted, roots will grow outwards from the cut areas. Or you could cut the bottom one-quarter inch off the entire root ball.

The danger when being a cheap gardener is that you can get what you pay for: a discounted plant that will not perform well because of root compaction. Growers were hoping to have these plants sold and moved out to the garden six weeks ago. But don’t blame the seller. Plants keep growing whether they have the room to do so or not. Often, root bound plants that do not have the roots loosened stay small and produce less flowers or fruit than plants with root systems that have spread out.

Roots do more than just prop up the plant.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles

Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.