Gardening with Laurie: Sick tree treatment

July 28, 2011 at 2:28 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

When you become interested in gardening and start to enjoy the action of working in the soil and working with all types of living plants, you soon realize the importance of trees. This time of year, we certainly do enjoy the wonderful shade they can provide us with. But shade is just one of the wonderful aspects of trees.

Trees can actually help to clean our air by blocking airborne particles. Trees also help to produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide in their wood, roots and leaves. Trees are also useful as wind breaks and help to prevent soil erosion. And, as most home owners know, having trees in your landscape will increase your property value.

Over the past month, I have had many gardeners asking how to save their dying trees. It's unfortunate to ever lose a tree, but sadly, these folks were all concerned about old trees that had been around for a hundred years or more. It would be highly unlikely you'd ever replace something that big.

This general decline in tree health is most likely related to the very severe drought we have been experiencing for more than a couple of years now. This decline did not happen over night. It is something that has been happening over a prolonged period of time.

For any tree that's starting to show signs of stress from any kind of disease, lack of water or environmental issues, I'd suggest using The Dirt Doctor's Sick Tree Treatment. Howard Garrett (the Dirt Doctor) has formulated an organic recipe that has shown excellent results when properly applied to any type of tree problems. All of the recipe and much more valuable information can be found at I'll go over the basic recipe and a few tips.

One of the most important things any of us can do to encourage healthy trees and plants is to stop using chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These products not only kill off natures beneficial insects and good nematodes, but also all the other helpful microbes naturally found in organic soils.

You always want to be able to see the root flare on any tree. Unfortunately, it is common to see trees in containers or in the ground planted too deep. Covering the root flare and any of the trunk of a tree is asking for trouble. It will take years to begin seeing results from this problem. Soil or a heavy mulch layer against the trunk will block oxygen from the area and invite in pests and diseases as the tree bark stays moist. You will need to pull all soil and mulch away from the trunk until you can see where the roots begin to flare out.

Aerating all of the root zone area can help to open up the soil. Never till or plow under a tree, this would only damage roots. Aerators are available to rent, or you can simply use a garden fork to perforate the soil. Start punching holes between the tree trunk and the drip line, and work your way out to well beyond the drip line.

Now, you are ready to start applying the recipe products. They do not have to all be applied at the same time if it's not affordable. All is best, but some ingredients are better than none. Come away from the trunk to start applying, and work your way well beyond the drip line.

After products have been put out spread about a inch to 1 inch of compost to the area, and then spread 3 to 4 inches of a shredded native mulch on top of that.

If nothing else can be done at this time, at least give the tree a good foliar feeding with an organic liquid fertilizer each month or more. Last, but not least, always water slowly and for long periods when watering.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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