Gardening with Deb: Assessing tree problems |

Gardening with Deb: Assessing tree problems

Deb Babcock/For Steamboat Today

Deb Babcock

Because trees are among the most expensive and most loved of the plants in our landscapes, we tend to pay particular attention to their health.

If you think your trees may be experiencing problems, here are some steps to take to help determine the problem and efficiently deal with it.

Step 1: Identify your tree. We receive many calls at the Extension office in which the homeowner describes problems with their 'spruce trees' or 'pine trees,' only to make a site visit and see that the tree has been misidentified. Many tree problems are very specific to the type of tree, so it's important to know whether the tree in question is a Colorado blue spruce, a Pinyon pine, a juniper or mountain ash, for example.

Step 2: Walk completely around your problem tree and notice whether the tree has problems from the top down or the bottom up, from the outside branches toward the inside ones and whether the problem is uniform, with a clear demarcation or in varied parts of the tree, but spreading.

Step 3: Stand back and look at the area surrounding the problem tree. Note how are other nearby plants doing, whether any new construction has taken place and if there are any other changes that may impact the soil, water or air near the tree.

Step 4: Look at the soil and root area of the tree. Fully 80 percent of tree problems have to do with soil problems. What you're checking for here is soil compaction, whether the trunk flare is visible above ground or if roots are girdling the tree. If a tree has been planted too low, it can take up to 20 years for problems to become so bad they kill the tree.

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Step 5: Examine the trunk and main branches looking for cankers, lawn mower or weed whacker damage, exit holes from borers (often with sap or resin drips) and other such damage.

Step 6: Look at the smaller branches, checking for cankers, galls, borer exit holes and other signs of insect infestation.

Finally, look at the foliage for die-back, spotting and fungus, mites and galls.

Once you have this information, it's a lot easier to identify what is ailing your tree and address that problem. Help is available on the web at, in books at the library or by calling the CSU Extension Routt County at 970-879-0825.

Every Thursday during the growing season, Master Gardeners are on hand at the Extension office to answer your gardening questions and help you diagnose plant problems and identify plants and weeds in your gardens. Since the volunteer time is limited, you may want to help the process along by taking the steps listed above before calling the Extension office for assistance.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or email:

CSU Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays throughout the gardening season. Call them at 970-870-5241, email them at csumgprogram@co.r… or visit them in the Extension Office, located at 136 Sixth St.