Goldrush apple tree which doesn't grow

bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)August 26, 2011

I planted a dozen apple trees this spring and aside from 2 M27's which didn't make it, all are growing well. Except this one.

The leaves are hanging on, but they are a bit crinkly. It doesn't appear dead, but there isn't much life to it.

Most of the trees are in a long line in the center of the yard. I also planted a Goldrush off to the side in front of a south-facing retaining wall (~8 ft tall).

As far as I can tell, this tree (Goldrush on G16 rootstock) hasn't grown at all from when I planted it.

I have another Goldrush (same rootstock) in the long line and it has shot up to 6.5' (90% of its eventual height (7.2' for very good soil) per OrangePippin).

The good Goldrush:

Can anyone suggest why the tree in front of the retaining wall hasn't grown any? I figured that it would be a good spot for Goldrush

as it could extend the season a bit on both ends (heats up early in spring and escapes frost by re-radiating heat at night).

My best guess is too much water, as the ground in this area is often moist. There isn't standing water, but there is a fair amount of water in the soil which seeps down from higher ground.

It eventually continues its journey down the hill, so it doesn't ever really flood. It can be visualized as follows with the ":" being the retaining wall and the tree planted on the "_".

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I think it has enough sun- roughly 9am to 4pm at this time of year, though the one in the center of the yard has about 1 extra hour.

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misterbaby(7a/b TN)

I think that if your tree's soil were too wet, you'd see yellowing of the leaves. Stunted growth and cuppy leaves are symptomatic of insufficient nitrogen. Wait until spring, then fertilize. Misterbaby.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 10:37PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Would there be any harm in applying some now? That would help me to know if it will come back or if I need to replace it....I've probably got about 1.5+ months of growing season left- last year the first frost was on Halloween.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 12:54AM
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alan haigh

Sometimes moles will stop plants from growing by keeping the soil too loose around the roots while harvesting worms- never had it happen to a tree here in southeastern NY, but often with annual plants and in S. CA I used to have that problem with figs as a result of gophers- they didn't eat the roots just made it impossible for the roots to get enough soil contact. I'd flood the base of the figs with water and tamp down the soil to get them growing again. I do the same thing here with annual flowers. This is one of the few problems brought on by a nice organic mulch. Of course, it also encourages vole issues.

Once a dwarf apple tree runts out you sometimes have to cut the buds off if they've become fruit spurs as your terminal buds appear to be. Spurs are an energy sponge that can keep a runted tree from generating adequate root- even if you remove any fruit they might produce. They still invest in a flower for the next season.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:34AM
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misterbaby(7a/b TN)

Bob, fertilizing now would encourage new growth that would still be tender at frost and subject to damage. I would prune in the manner of H'man, give it a good jolt of N in the spring, or replace it. The advantage to working with the existing tree is that you can learn as you futz around as recommended. A new tree might not fare any better than the one you have. Use the winter to store up several big coffee cans with urine, and begin applying just before bloom. The tree will likely take off like a scalded dog. Misterbaby.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 9:38AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

The soil around this tree is very solid- if it is a problem anywhere, it would be for the line of trees in the middle of the yard (the ones growing well), which have a 3-6" top-dressing of well composted leaves and wood-chips on top. I'll keep an eye out for it there.

Thanks for the pruning tip!

Misterbaby- I've never seen a scalded dog run, but it sounds impressive. I don't think my wife would be OK with me saving urine, but I keep making more, so it shouldn't be an issue getting enough to fertilize one tree. I remember Harvestman describing this before- diluting it seems to be an important step. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 10:41AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Fast-forward 1.5 years from my last post. I've fertilized and kept the area weeded and mulched. Yet the tree has grown very little- two years after planting it is almost the same size. In comparison, the other Goldrush is over 10' tall (much better branched than the old pic) and produced ~10 apples last fall. So, I decided to make a change. I've dug it up (mostly) bare root and potted it in a 7 gal fabric container. Maybe it can make a comeback in a different environment.

While digging it up, I tried to save as much roots as possible. But, I didn't find all that much in the way of roots. The tree I dug up is the bottom one in the below picture. The soil was very heavy. After I had the tree out, I dug down a few more inches and it was quite wet and a bit stinky. It seems that the roots were never able to establish.

In its place, I'm planting an Izu persimmon from Burnt Ridge (the upper tree in the picture). Rather than risk the same fate with this tree, I took 8-10 shovels of dirt from the hole and mixed it with 3 cubic feet of pine bark and about 25-30 lbs of Turface. I filled in the hole with the mixture and set the new tree so that the tips of the roots extend just slightly below grade. I then piled the mixture up to form a 3' wide hill on top of it. At the center, it is ~10" high, after pressing it down. I then piled on a few more inches of wood chips. Hopefully it will do better than its predecessor.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:41PM
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hoseman

To me, it looks like a classic case of voles eating the roots. I have lost numerous trees over the years from voles. The trees that are more exposed to vole damage (woodedge) I now plant with a hardware cloth wirecage around the roots and leave the top of the cage about 1-2 inches above the soil line. Also, you have to keep the leaves and grass away from the trunk of the tree to help prevent voles from moving in. I had a very mature apple tree damaged this past winter because I left fallen apples and leaves under the tree, ideal envirnoment for voles!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:55AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

It didn't seem like anything could have made its way though that soil- voles included. It was quite heavy and thick. I suppose it is possible, but I suspect that voles would prefer the trees I have growing 30-40 feet away on lighter soil.

Its also possible that I lost some roots while digging it up. I did find a few roots when digging deeper, but I'm not sure if they are from the tree or from nearby blackberry plants (a row of Triple Crown starting ~5' away), which have actually done pretty well there. Just out of curiosity, I potted up the roots and we'll see if they sprout blackberry plants...

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 12:21PM
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