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My new yard has a lot of trees, probably 20-30. There are apple, pear, peach, pine, plum, and a few others. Most of them are fairly old (50+ years). Some of them don't seem to be very healthy (dead branches, withering/yellow leaves, etc.). Are there any tips or tricks for helping an unhealthy tree? How do I figure out what is wrong with them?

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What is your hardiness zone? Have you had any unusual weather is the past few months? Have the trees been unhealthy for quite some time or just recently? –  WienerDog Mar 21 '12 at 14:51
    
Hardiness zone is 6B. It's been a trend for quite some time. My grandma has been taking care of them for the last 20 years, and she said that ever since she started they haven't been doing as good as they used to. –  jdickson Mar 21 '12 at 15:23
    
A lot of fruit trees tend to have shorter lives, so they could be "fairly old" as you say. It might be time to think about what you would replace them with when they die/blow over. Successional planning :-) –  winwaed Mar 22 '12 at 12:39
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Generally speaking, established trees like it just the way it is. Grade changes, drainage changes, more foot or car traffic causing compaction; these are things that trees don't like.

That sounds like a lot of trees for a backyard. I've seen cases where previous owners liked trees and planted a lot of them. "They're so cute when they're small." After twenty years it can get a bit crowded as the trees fill in.

Things that you can do from easiest to harder:

  • look at the trees for pests and diseases
  • decide if there are any you do not want
  • top dress around each tree with good compost twice a year to a depth of 1/4" to 1/2 inch from the drip line to within 6" from the base of the tree. (Thanks @winwaed)
  • if the soil is compacted aerate yearly around the drip line of each tree (don't get too close to the trunk)
  • if it is dry during the summer, water them generously and thoroughly every two weeks
  • do a maintenance prune yearly or get an arborist in
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Good ideas. It probably hasn't been aerated ever, and it does get pretty dry during the late summer. It is a lot of trees, but it's a big yard (almost an acre). Thanks for the tips! –  jdickson Mar 21 '12 at 15:27
    
Top dressing is popular - perhaps too popular. Do NOT bury the tree's trunk flare. This is a common problem you see in gardens and even parks. –  winwaed Mar 22 '12 at 12:38
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