Ask an expert: My new Japanese maple plants seem droopy. What can I do? – OregonLive


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The gardening season is up and running and if you’ve got questions, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type it in and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?Q: I bought two Japanese maples at a plant sale a couple of weeks ago, and they arrived in 3-gallon pots and are about 6 feet tall, with long thin trunks and are completely drooped. Can I train them upright or shall I take out the tops entirely?A: There are many varieties of Japanese maples. Some varieties are small trees and reach heights of between 6 to 25 feet, while others are more like weeping shrubs. Your Japanese maples appears to be one of the small tree varieties.Japanese maplesOSU Extension ServiceThese Japanese maples, as a small tree variety, should be trained as upright trees. After transplanting the trees, continue to use stakes for support as Japanese maples tend to have shallow root systems. Updating the stakes with ones that are more appropriate to the size of trees would be beneficial. When staking be careful not to disturb the root ball and remove the stakes within one year. Selecting, Planting, and Caring for A New Tree has more information on how to stake trees.Be sure to plant the Japanese maples in dappled shade with soil that drains well, is slightly acidic and is high in organic matter. Do not add fertilizer when transplanting the trees, their roots do not have the ability to uptake nutrients. Wait until next spring to fertilize. Mulch can be used to help retain moisture in the soil, just make sure it stays several inches from the trunk as to not cause damage to the trees. Additional transplanting and care information is provided in Japanese Maples - Brilliance and Delicacy.The best time to prune a Japanese maple is during the winter when they are dormant. Winter, when they are without leaves, makes it easy to see the structure of the trees and remove any dead or dying wood. It is usually best not to take out the top or the “central leader” of a tree, but if you want a multi-stemmed tree, instead of a single, main trunk, it may be appropriate. During the summer, only prune for thinning and keeping good air flow. The link Pruning Japanese Maples includes additional information about the best ways to prune your Japanese maple. – Jan Gano, OSU Extension Master GardenerFallen fir needles. Oregonian file photo. Jamie Hale/The OregonianQ: I have a large fir tree in my yard that has been dropping a lot of needles this spring. They are messy. Any advice? – Marion CountyA: Evergreens, as conifers are often called, are not truly evergreen. They drop some needles every year, especially toward the end of winter. The cones will fall off after they have matured and opened to drop seeds.The lichens on the trunks are also common and do not hurt the tree. They just use the tree bark as a home. They enrich the soil by trapping water, dust and silt. When lichens die, they contribute organic matter to the soil, improving the soil so that other plants can grow there.From your photos, it does not appear that your trees are losing an inordinate number of needles. If you notice the new growth tips dying or other issues on the trees themselves, please take photos and write again. Otherwise, I would say your trees are behaving quite normally. – Lynne Marie Sullivan, OSU Extension Master GardenerQ: I have two spruce trees that I transported here from Colorado 10 years ago. They were small then and have only grown about 2 feet since then because I only had an apartment balcony for them. I’m planning now to transplant them into grow bags since I now have a much better space for them. (I’m still renting so I can’t put them in the ground.) I have good dirt from a forest product company but would like to know if I should put anything in the bottom of the 20-pound grow bags, or any other suggestions you might have for transplanting them. – Lane CountyA: I hope that you mean good potting soil, not dirt, for the planting mix. All that should go into the grow bag is the tree and the planting mix.Do not plant any deeper than it is now planted. Regular soil should not be used in one of these bags. Also, the black bags tend to heat up a lot in the summer and that can cause root problems and watering problems. The problem can be solved somewhat by wrapping the bag loosely with a reflective material such as aluminum foil or by setting a cardboard box (open ended, of course) around the grow bag. This helps insulate against wide temperature changes. – Pat Patterson, OSU Extension horticulturistDahlia bulbs. File photo. Can dahlia bulbs be planted in chicken manure? Q: Can dahlia bulbs be planted in 15% chicken manure? I have already planted them in pots with this mixture but began to wonder if this mixture is too “hot” to start bulbs in? – Jackson CountyA: I am linking here to a chart listing the composition of your chicken manure: This mix is meant as a soil amendment to potting or top soil to improve fertility and drainage. The manure bag should list how to use it. Dahlias are heavy feeders and need a good, loose organic rich soil (such as you get by adding the manure to soil). 1More information on Dahlia Culture can be found at this site. – Sharon May, OSU Extension Master GardenerNote to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
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