Sick Tree Treatment – Update 2011

Trees that are adapted to your site should grow well and not have troubles. Trees become infested with insect pests, parasites and diseases when they are in stress and sick. Mother Nature then sends in the clean-up crews. Pests are just doing their jobs - trying to take out the sick, unfit plants. Most plant sickness is environmental - too much water, not enough water, too much fertilizer, wrong kind of fertilizer, toxic chemical pesticides, soil compaction, grade changes, ill-adapted plant variety selection and/or planting too many of the same plants creating monocultures,  as was done with American elms in the Northwest and the red oak/live oak communities in certain parts of the South.

The Natural Organic tree health plan is simple. Keep trees in a stress free condition so their immune systems can resist insect pests and diseases. For example, it has been noticed by many farmers and ranchers that oak wilt doesn’t bother some trees, especially those that have properly exposed root flares, where synthetic fertilizers and herbicides haven’t been used and those where the natural habitat under trees has been maintained. This process is not just good for oak wilt, but for preventing and curing many other tree problems as well. Here is the updated version and how it works:


Sick Tree Treatment  

Step 1: Stop Using ALL High Nitrogen Fertilizers and Toxic Chemical Pesticides

Toxic chemical pesticides kill beneficial nematodes, other helpful microbes, good insects, and also control the pest insects poorly. Synthetic fertilizers are unbalanced, harsh salts, and often contaminated and destructive to the chemistry, the physics and the life in the soil. They feed plants poorly and contaminate the environment. They volatize into the air, wash away and leach through the soil into the water system.

Step 2: Remove Excess Soil from the Trunk Flare 

A very high percentage of trees are too deep in their containers, have been planted too low or have had fill soil or eroded soil added on top of the trunk flares. Soil or even heavy mulch covering the trunk flares block oxygen, keep bark moist and lead to circling and girdling roots. Ideally, excess soil and circling and girdling roots should be removed before planting. Removing soil from the trunk flares of planted trees should be done professionally with a tool called the Air Spade or Air Knife. Homeowners can do the work by hand with a stiff brush, gentle water and a shop-vac or even a power washer if done very carefully. Vines and ground covers should also be kept off tree trunks and pruned back away from the flares, at least on an annual basis. 

Step 3: Aerate the Root Zone Heavily  
Don’t rip, till or plow the soil. That destroys all the feeder roots. Punch holes (with turning forks, core aerators or agriculture devices such as the Air-Way) heavily throughout the root zone. Liquid injectors or Air Spade type tools can also be used. Start between the drip line and the trunk and go far out beyond the drip line. For normal size residential property, the entire site should be done. Holes 6-8" deep are ideal, but any depth is beneficial.  

Step 4: Apply Organic Amendments 
Apply zeolite 40-80 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft., greensand at 40-80 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft., lava sand at 80-120 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft., zeolite at 80-120 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft., whole ground cornmeal at 20-30 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. and dry molasses at 0-20 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. Cornmeal is a natural disease fighter and molasses is a carbohydrate source to feed the microbes in the soil. The rock materials provide structural improvement and minerals. Finish with a 1" layer of compost followed by a 3" layer of shredded native tree trimmings in bare areas, however do not pile mulch up on the root flare or the trunk. Smaller amounts of these materials can be used where budget restrictions exist. They also can be done at separate times. Also, any rock dust material different than the base rock on the site will help.        

Step 5: Spray Trees and Soil  
Spray the ground, trunks, limbs, twigs and foliage of trees with the entire Garrett Juice mixture. Do this monthly or more often if possible. For large-scale farms and ranches, a one-time spraying is beneficial if the budget doesn’t allow ongoing sprays. Adding garlic oil, or cornmeal juice, or Bio Wash to the spray is also beneficial for disease control while the tree is in trouble. Cornmeal Juice is a natural fungal control that is made by soaking horticultural or whole ground cornmeal in water at 1 cup per 5 gallons of water. Screen out the solids and spray without further dilution. Cornmeal Juice can be mixed with Garrett Juice or any other natural foliar feeding spray. It can also be used as a soil drench for the control of soil borne diseases. Dry granulated garlic can also be used on the soil in the root zone at about 1-2 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for additional disease control. Adding Bio Wash to the spray will help protect against insect pests and disease pathogens and encourage plant growth.


*During drought conditions, adding soil moisture is a critical component of the Sick Tree Treatment.


If you have any questions about this newsletter or any other topic, join me this weekend for my Green Living and Dirt Doctor Radio shows.

Shop at the Green Living Store for all the products that I recommend.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett 


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