The situation with an apple tree has baffled me for over a year.
I already know that there could be many variables with my situation here. That's why I'm reaching out to the community for help. Any and all input is valued and appreciated!
So, I'm already familiar that there is a multitude of various ways to plant a fruit tree, let alone any tree in general. Also, we have other appletrees, stone fruit, nut, nitrogen fixer, etc trees that have successfully been planted and have all been thriving.
I live in zone 6a/b
The topic at hand is a granny smith apple tree that was grafted onto a standard/full size rootstock. This was not the first apple tree that I've planted, but it's only grown probably 10 inches in the past two years. It grew a main leader last year. This year it grew some wimpy short branches.
The tree was purchased bare root and dormant. It came out of dormancy just fine. The initial size of the tree (minus roots) was probably 2.5 feet or so.
One observation that I had noticed is that the leaves displayed a nutrient deficiency. I've narrowed it down to probably nitrogen deficient....possibly magnesium deficient. The tree has been watered appropriately in times of no precipitation etc. Mulched too. No turf grass nearby the tree. Protected from deer.
But, before I knew better, it was planted appropriately 12 feet away from where a bitter nut hickory once stood. I don't know if the juglone is enough to affect the tree this much. The hickory trunk diameter was appropriately 12 inches. The hickory tree stood probably 50 feet tall.
One more note....a Jonathan apple tree is planted (and thriving) a similar distance away from where the hickory once stood.
I have several ideas on my course of action. But I'd like some input before I make the ultimate decision.
Option A-- Leave the tree as is and see how it gets on next year
Option B-- Dig a trench between the hickory stump and apple tree and try to remove hickory roots leading to the apple tree. Then back fill the trench with existing soil.
Option C-- Gently ecavate (by hand) around the root system of the apple tree to give the roots a 'checkup'. Possibly add some higher nitrogen and other organic material closer to the roots.
Option D- Dig up tree before spring, and plant elsewhere
Option E- ?? Please help with input
I'm really baffled with what's going on with last this one apple tree. Zone 6 A/B in missouri is where I live. Closest big city is Saint Louis, Missouri.
Before I even finished reading your post my thoughts were that there was something allelopathic nearby! I just had to move my baby pecan tree to the other side of my property because I just read an article that says apples are particularly sensitive to juglone. My bet is that this is your problem, if it were me, I would actually leave the apple tree there and dig up the roots from the hickory leading up to the apple tree. I think as the roots decay they release the hormones into the soil even more than when they are alive. So I think this unlucky apple tree just went in too close to a root.
I have a 30ft tall ‘wall’ of laurels on my back property line and I have to be careful when I plant things for this very reason because I’ve found their roots going more that 20ft away so far! If only I could afford to have them removed lol.
Also on a similar side note….lilacs are ALSO allelopathic. In case you didn’t know… I didn’t. I also have a ‘wall’ of lilacs on the side of my property that must be about 50-60 years old, as they are as tall as my laurels. (Pawpaws are NOT sensitive to juglone, if you want to try something different lol)
The topic at hand is a granny smith apple tree that was grafted onto a standard/full size rootstock.
Congratulations on such a well thought out first post with thorough explanation of the situation. One tip for future posts your location and growing zone and other information can be posted with your name if you fill that information in your profile. The link is at the top of the page.
A consideration is how the root stock was obtained. Rooted cuttings from full sized trees may not form roots as readily as more selected grafting stock. Your suggested plan of actions choices are well thought out. I would start with the trench to se if there are offending roots and then work in to the roots of the transplanted tree. I had to move an apple tree that was not thriving and too close to a peach which was thriving too much. I discovered that the rootstock never developed a good root ball and was not sending new roots out beyond the planting hole after several years. The disturbance of replanting it seems to have stimulated much better root development.