Do you have tree leaves turning color and dropping already? It might seem as though autumn has arrived early. The calendar hasn’t jumped forward a couple of months, though. The early defoliation is due to the drought.
In most cases, there is no remedy. Many trees will leaf out and come back to life in the spring. So, just clean up the leaves and compost them. Other trees, however, may need a bit more care to return to good health. For that, we recommend calling a plant health care professional.
If you notice the early defoliation before all the leaves lose their chlorophyll and drop, plant health care professionals may be able to prescribe a treatment regimen that will help the tree hang on to its remaining leaves for a while more. They are needed to make food to sustain the tree through the winter.
Don’t just apply fertilizer. Off-the-shelf fertilizer formulations have too much nitrogen (the first number on the label). Nitrogen improves leaf production, and new leaves are the last things you want at this time. The tree will use more energy on a new flush of leaves than those leaves will make before autumn actually arrives. Professionals use a fertilizer formulated just for our current situation. They will include more of the nutrients needed for overall vitality and to build strong roots.
It would be a good idea to have a plant health care professional inspect the tree to be sure there is no insect or disease activity. Premature defoliation is a sign of stress, and stressed trees are favorite targets for insects and diseases.
Summing up, if your trees are experiencing premature defoliation, here are some actions you can take and some that should be avoided:
- Do water. Applying an inch of water a week may stem the tide of defoliation so the tree can continue making food.
- Do not fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen will encourage a new flush of leaves, which you do not want at this time.
- Do have your tree(s) inspected by a plant health professional to be sure insects and diseases aren’t taking advantage of your tree’s distressed condition.