1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation with Ken Hutcheson, President of U.S. Lawns, in the Franchising forum.

    Dismiss Notice

Birch tree help

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by Green Sweep, Aug 19, 2002.

  1. Green Sweep

    Green Sweep LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Pittsburgh, PA
    Messages: 322

    I have a huge white birch in my front yard. Every year it loses its leaves during drought like conditions. This year, there are few leaves left. I HAVE RAKED LEAVES 5 TIMES SINCE MID JULY! It breaks my heart to come home from work & see my beautiful lawn covered with leaves in mid to late summer. I know nothing about tree & shrub care (putting Miricle-gro on my flowers & Miracid on my evergreens is the extent of my knowledge). I think that it is too late to do anything about it this year, but I was wondering if in the future, there are any steps that I could take to prevent this.

    Thanks in advance
  2. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476


    The Birch COULD be losing leaves from drought. You didn't say if you water it. If not, then go ahead. I have one specimen tree that doesn't receive the benefit of water from my irrigation system. Last weekend I set up a soaker hose on Friday night. I shut it off Sunday afternoon. Long slow & infrequent waterings are better for trees.

    However you could be raking up the former residence of "Birch Leaf Miners" too. Look carefully. Are the upper & lower halves of the leaves seperated? If so, there will be frass (poops) in the area "mined" by the leaf limers.
    Early summer Orthene/Acephate sprays are commonly used to treat for leaf miners. But I don't bother.

    I would use Merit75WP. Pick up a 2oz jar somewhere $40-$50 DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU SHOP). Wear 15-18" Nitrile Gloves, & Eye Pprotection. Dump it into a 5 gallon bucket that has 3 gallons of water in it. Add a handful of cheapo soluble fertilizer. The analysis isn't important for our purposes but it should contain a fair amount of all soluble nitrogen. 20-20-20 is fine. Brand names include Miracle Grow, Peters, Fritts, Macron, Doggett, etc.
    Mix it up gently to avoid spilling.
    Now take a measuring cupped that's clearly marked "PESTICIDES ONLY". Dip it into the solution (wearing your gloves of course). For every 1 inch of trunk you need to treat, use 8.5 oz of this solution. So if the tree is a 4" caliper, use 34 oz or about one quart.

    Late September through November 1st (or until the ground freezes if you've got too much going on) is the proper timing. I try to do mine around mid-late October here in CT. Make sure the drought condition has been rectified first. If the soil is compacted, carefully cultivate (avoid injuring roots), or use a probe to make some 2-3 inch holes. The pour the solution evenly over the feeder root zone. Pour slowly enough that the material doesn't run out of the treatment area. Keep soil moisture on the high side for the next few weeks, but don't drown the trees. Just don't let the soil get dry again.

    This method will also protect the Birches from borers. If done properly & on time, the Birch will not have any Leaf Miner or Borer activity for 1 year. Some chewing catepillars & beatles will be reduced too. Even those not on the label.

    Other trees, shrubs, roses, etc may be treated this way for many other pests. Reafd & follow the entire label for more information.


    If you're not sure of this diagnosis, try to get some fresh sample foliage to your nearest ag-experiment station, a good chemical vendor, or university pathologist/entomologist to make sure before treating with anything.

    Good Luck,
  3. Green Sweep

    Green Sweep LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Pittsburgh, PA
    Messages: 322

    Thanks Steve,

    I checked the leaves for insect activivty but dont think thats it. The leaves are yellowing before they fall. Also, the leaves falling are sporatic. The weather hasnt changed much but the tree will lose leaves for 2 or 3 days. Then the tree will be fine for a week or more. The birch is in the center of my front lawn. I've been watering (my lawn) every other day assuming that the tree will also benefit from this. I will try the soaker hose for a few days. I never knew that long, infrequent watering is better for the tree. Thanks for your valuble information. I am going to try merit/fertilizer treatment in the fall. If it wasnt for the tree protecting my house, and my wife, the tree would come down!


  4. Lohr Equipment & Wel

    Lohr Equipment & Wel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    I am sorry to say that no matter what you do your birch trees are going to decline. Whether you believe in global warming or not the summers have been hotter and the winters have been very mild. Birch trees are much healthier in a colder climate like we used to have 25 years ago.sorry
  5. BigJim

    BigJim LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 382

    All the above,but its mainly the lack of moisture,birches like water.I don't think its worth bothering to try and water it to stop the leaf fall.Down here birches get a rust fungus late summer with the same results they drop all their leaves early,not worth spraying either.Between their leaf fall and the messy seeds that blow off them I'd be voting for the chainsaw,they make good firewood:D
  6. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    This is interesting.

    Here in Southern CT/Metro NY, we're on the southern extreme edge of the range for Paper Birch.
    In Maine, where I often vacation, Birches get much larger. It isn't uncommon to find naturally occuring stands with some 30+" caliper DBH woppers.
    The don't do this in CT. Here we recognize the limitations of the species & usually give up before the tree is much bigger than 12-16" DBH. Without human intervention, they often wouldn't get that big. Many folks never see their Birches get more than 6" due to the "zero maintenance syndome". In droughty soils, things are worse. The River Birch has proven more tolerant of the insect pests that often take down the stressed trees & is being used more often as a fair replacement. This is the southern edge of zone 6.

    But I don't think PA would be all that much different. Is ornamental plant health care not being offered to consumers? What zone is your part of PA?

    Rob, How big is your Birch? Which variety?

    Water, fertilizer, & Merit are almost all that's needed to have mature Birches that really perform. I'm looking at a nice 5-clump Paper Birch that was all but dead when I bought this house. Leafminers & Borers were just getting a fatal footing. Two more years & it would have been firewood. It's my neighbor. But it's also the view from my office window. I've treated it for the past few years pro-bono. I did have to spray the leafminers the first year with Cygon, but Merit has changed all that. He waters it with a little fixed-spray portable sprinkler 3 or 4 times per summer at my request, & the thing is awesome.

    Is it considered unusual to treat PA trees in this manner? Here it's considered "found money" by the applicators. It's considered a non-intrusive & environmentally acceptable means of keeping valuble landscape material alive by consumers. But then we have more Commercial Tree Care Operators per capita here in Metro NY than anywhere else on the planet. A fair amount of disposable income too.

    Me thinks the commercial entities that be in PA are missing out on something here.

    For the record, my client list includes the largest consumers of sprayable Merit in the country. A fact confirmed by Bayer & their generous Golf outing in Scotland next week. The other winner & I, from our company are both here in CT. Part of the reason is Birches, but Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is the main reason. It's another native who is on the brink of extinction that can easily be kept healthy & performing with some timely soil injections.

    But a bazillion Golf Courses don't hurt either.


Share This Page