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Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

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Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  asilcox on 4/21/2012, 2:31 pm

Hi everyone!

A friend of mine gave me three "volunteer" Natchez Crape Myrtle Trees from her established garden. A week ago today I dug them out of her clay-ammended-with-humus soil and planted them in my heavy clay soil (with two types of compost leftover from MM mixed into the soil). I mulched around them with bark mulch. They were on the North side of her house. I planted them in full sun.

I watered heavily when I planted on Saturday and then again on Wednesday. On Wednesday, most of the leaves on the smallest tree and about 20% of the leaves on the largest tree had turned brown with a crumbly/crispy texture. There has been no rain.

Is that transplant shock? Do I need to water more frequently? Will they recover from this?

Thanks!

~Amanda
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Re: Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  givvmistamps on 4/21/2012, 4:34 pm

Has it been hot there? They're probably stressed from the move, and this isn't the correct season for transplanting them. See this article:
www.fast-growing-trees.com/Instructions/CrapeMyrtleInst.htm
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So likely transplant shock...

Post  asilcox on 4/21/2012, 6:57 pm

Michelle,

Thanks for the quick reply! The trees were free, so timing was not my choice...I read the article - thank you. It sounds like the unusually high spring heat last week combined with the transplant shock. I will water more frequently (until we actually get some rain) and hope for the best.

I researched online before asking, but found that the advice was often different from one place to another. I feel like I am getting to know y'all here at SFG, and consider the community here a trustworthy source!

Thanks again,

~Amanda
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Re: Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  givvmistamps on 4/21/2012, 7:05 pm

I felt like that was a reliable source since they actually specialize in fast growing trees like that one. Transplanting in the wrong season is risky, but it can still work out if you baby the trees. Give them lots of water and a good compost and they might just pull through. With your clay soil, you'll want to be careful to watch out for over watering though. Clay can actually act like a pot with no drainage when you plant things. There's a special technique to it, which I learned back in college in VA. It's difficult to explain just with words though.
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Re: Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  asilcox on 4/21/2012, 7:21 pm

Michelle,

"There's a special technique to it, which I learned back in college in VA. It's difficult to explain just with words though."

I am such a gardening novice - any suggestions for helping me keep my poor little crape myrtles alive would be much appreciated, if you think of a way to explain it, I am ALL ears! Wink

I meant to come across as thankful for an article that someone here thinks I can trust, because I am so wet behind the ears, still! I hope I came across that way, and not like an uptight jerk affraid ! The perils of the internet - no tone of voice!

Thanks for the advice, I will stay on the water (while trying not to over-water), and hope they pull through. I put quite a bit of compost in when I planted them, maybe I should top-dress with compost in a month or so?

Thanks again!

~Amanda
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Re: Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  givvmistamps on 4/22/2012, 5:43 am

Don't worry, I knew you were trying to find the best way to save these crape myrtles. There can be a lot of misinformation out there, and anybody can post whatever they believe to be correct and be totally ignorant of the best methods.

I'm certainly not an expert, but when I first started college (at the ripe age of 28; I had to grow up a bit before I was ready for more education What a Face ), I began college thinking I would go into horticulture. (I wound up in environmental biology, but that's another story altogether!) Anyway, one of my 1st year horticulture classes showed us how to plant a tree or bush in clay soil. We all had to help plant some new trees on campus that had been donated in memory of somebody or other. Let's see if my insomniac brain can come up with words to describe this process...
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First of all, you're supposed to dig a hole that's at least twice as big around but not quite as deep as the root ball on your plant. You'll want to have the difference be about 3".

Then, you're supposed to dig a trench below the point of where the root ball will sit that's (if I remember correctly) about 9" below the "shelf" you'll set your root ball on before you re-fill the hole. This provides an immediate place for water to flow so it doesn't sit right next to the roots of your tree during a heavy rain.

Next, you take your shovel and... hmmm, this is the hardest part to describe... you need to ram the shovel into the walls as close to horizontally as you can manage around the hole you've dug, making "cracks" I guess you'd call it. That will help to break up the clay so that water can flow horizontally away from your tree. Unfortunately for your back and arms, you need a lot of these, all the way around the hole walls. I think they need to be no more than 3" apart, and definitely need to be as deep as you can make it. I found that using the type of shovel that has a short stick (I can't remember the proper name!) with a handle on the end was easier for this, but it can be done with the other type...just wear gloves so you don't get blisters. Some clay will fall into your trench, you'll have to remove that.

Now break up the clay as much as you can, and then mix the clay with your compost. A 50/50 mix would be ideal, but err on the side of more clay if anything.

Now it's time to put your tree in. (Finally!) You'll end up planting the tree a little higher (say 3") than the soil around it. Make the mound for the first few inches a bit flat, then slope it gently down to meet with the surface you started at.

Because you've amended the soil, enough water should soak in without (hopefully) causing the condition where the tree will sit in an enclosed "pot" where the soil will become waterlogged and choke your tree due to lack of oxygen in a heavy rainstorm.

I hope that makes sense. Feel free to ask questions!
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Thanks!

Post  asilcox on 4/22/2012, 11:17 am

Michelle, I am printing out your directions for the next time I plant a tree in my heavy clay soil. It has been gently raining all morning, so hopefully they will perk up.

~Amanda
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Re: Non-SFG Natchez Crape Myrtle Question

Post  givvmistamps on 4/22/2012, 4:18 pm

You're very welcome, Amanda!
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