We have had numerous reports of trees not leafing out or putting out only a fraction of the leaves normally borne. We believe much of this is due to the quick drop in temperature from November 10 to 11 last year. We went from a high of 69 degrees on November 10 to a low of 19 the following morning. Many trees had not hardened off and were damaged.
If a tree hasn’t leafed out at all, check the stems. If they are dry and brittle, that part of the tree is dead. However, sometimes the tips of the branches are dead but the tree is alive further back. Take a knife and shave off the outer bark on several small-diameter, young branches. If the tissue underneath is water soaked or dark brown to black in color, then it is likely dead. This cambium layer should be a greenish-white color. As long as the twigs remain supple and the tissue under the bark isn’t dark, there is hope.
So, what should we do for these trees? Help them avoid stress. This means watering during dry weather so the tree has good sap flow. Trees transplanted within the last couple of years should be watered every week during dry weather. More established trees should be watered every two weeks if there is no rainfall.
On young trees, kill all the grass under the tree and mulch.
Reducing root competition makes for a healthier tree that is more likely to recover.
And finally, remove any dead wood so that insects and disease do not have a point of entry. Dead wood can be removed any time of year.
(Ward Upham) KSU