I have two maples trees, both put in about twelve months ago (I believe they were ten years old at purchase). It’s autumn here in Melbourne, Australia, so leaves are changing color. Note that my soil is clay based.

Both trees are looking a bit rough. Any advice? Is his what I should expect after a year in the ground? I recall them at purchase, and they looked much better. Note that our weather has been hotter than expected, possibly confusing the trees about autumn.

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  • I am having a tough time understanding how your trees are planted. Are they in a six inch pot? Or are they planted below the deck in the garden soil? If so, you've piled soil up around the bark of the trunk that HAS to be kept clear of moisture. I am seeing in the foliage lack of chemistry or 'fertilizer' for these trees. What have you added for fertilizer? The colors show are not Autumn senescence but lack of chemistry for the leaves to photosynthesize and provide carbohydrates for energy. This will put the tree at risk for winter. Fertilizer at this time is also a risk. – stormy May 1 '18 at 21:58
  • The plants are both in the ground - the container is just open within the deck. Both have been watered, seasol and blood and bone (in spring). The one at the back can get eaten by possums, and does face stronger wind (which appears to tunnel behind the shed). – Simon E May 1 '18 at 22:02
  • Looks as if you have fashioned a beautiful hole for your tree in that deck and it must be planted below...that soil at the base of your tree is your biggest problem...soil, mulch, rock, even decking close to the bark will hold moisture too long against the bark, bacteria get going and will start decaying, eventually girdling your tree, killing it. Some of the leaves show senescence but that first picture shows chemistry deficit in your soil. If this is true, cut out more of the deck, get all soil and mulch off the bark, only the top of the root ball should be buried. – stormy May 1 '18 at 22:02
  • The deck is new and there is little to no soil/leaves/mulch around the base of the tree. – Simon E May 1 '18 at 22:04
  • Great, but your trees need a balanced fertilizer, not just blood and bone meal. Ummm, the container, the metal band? are you saying it is open in the middle so it is not compromising the bark? Let me know...how about another picture to show how those flowers are planted, do they have their own pots? Possums? They would be after worms, grubs, kitchen waste, not your trees. The roots of your trees are nicely shaded so while all other plants are frying in the weather your trees should fare better. Bone meal is not a balanced fertilizer, mostly phosphorus. – stormy May 1 '18 at 22:19

The one with the most leaves looks fine, it just looks like its autumning. The one without so many leaves doesn't look quite so good, with a lot of leaf loss towards the top.

Mature plants need particular care for at least two years after planting, because it takes them much longer to settle down and start growing in their new environment, so copious amounts of water are required whenever the weather is dry and especially if it's hot. It may be that the one with fewer leaves didn't get quite enough water throughout the summer so its lost more leaves early - the other possibility is, it's more exposed to the temperature and elements at the top, which would also cause earlier leaf loss there if the temperatures have been low, particularly overnight. The worst possibility is dieback, but you'll know if its that by next year, the twigs at the top won't leaf out in spring; dieback cannot be treated nor prevented in most cases, and Acers are prone to dieback.

  • Thanks Bamboo! Anything we should be doing to keep them healthy outside of watering, eg fertilizer, seasol? – Simon E May 1 '18 at 21:48
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    Assuming they're both in the ground, maybe a balanced granular fertiliser in spring, but otherwise and more important, a mulch 2 inches deep over the roots using something like composted manure or good garden compost would be helpful - best applied in spring and when the soil is moist. Keep the mulch off the trunks though...no piling it up in the middle! – Bamboo May 1 '18 at 22:29
  • I agree, wait until the spring for a balanced fertilizer and the mulch on the soil might be a bit tough to do now, grins! I think your trees will be fine until spring when you should use...a balanced fertilizer, a tree fertilizer stake? Nice answer, Bamboo! – stormy May 1 '18 at 22:36

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