I was called to a property on the Kent, New Milford line in March. The homeowners, weekend New Yorkers, were concerned about their landscape. Their trees in this relatively new landscape are in decline. The first time I went up to the property there was snow on the ground. Considering the property is at the top of a hill, with almost 360 degree exposure, I assumed that the damage I was looking at was winter dessication. Winter dessication is the process of water leaving the foliage faster than it can be replaced due to frozen ground or a lack of moisture in the soil. When this happens, evergreen foliage/needles turn a shade of brown and eventual dies.
It also made sense because a lot of the hardest hit plants were Japanese Cryptomeria. Although listed with a hardiness to zone 5, I’ve never seen a Cryptomeria thrive in Litchfield County and certainly not the extreme growing conditions, with full exposure of this property. Definitely not a wise choice of plant material. Preventative maintenance should have happened months earlier with anti dessicant sprays in the fall and early winter as well as wrapping sensitive plants with burlap through the winter months. All I could do was give them a proposal to fertilize come spring.
Months had gone by when one day I get an email that the owners wanted to go ahead with the fertilizing. Now, well into April, I went up to the property ti fertilize and couldn’t believe what I saw. Basically, the damage that I thought was from winter dessication was actually stress from improper planting. This was not some puny landscape job! This was a big job, somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 and unfortunately every tree on the property was planted at least a foot too deep. A couple of inches too deep can make all the difference between a tree that thrives and a tree that struggles through life. A foot? Are you kidding me? These homeowners spent big money for such an inferior landscape. Many problems are brought on when a tree is planted too deep and is stressed. Trees are much more prone to girdling roots, insects and disease issues, even winter injury. So the next time you see a tree under stress, first look towards the trunk. 90% of tree problems occur below ground. The lack of a tapered trunk or root flare where the tree meets the ground is a tell tale sign that things aren’t good. It’s sad to say but most landscape companies have no idea how to properly plant a tree. All you have to do is look at landscapes all over Fairfield and Litchfield County to see that planting too deep has become an epidemic.
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