More Than a Funeral: What To Do When a Tree Dies

It happens more quickly than you think: one day you are looking out your window or mowing your lawn and you notice it, that your beautiful tree has died. Unfortunately, even if you have the best tree care and you always make certain that your tree is healthy, trees will eventually die. This is just a fact of life and something that all homeowners, gardeners, and even tree care professionals need to understand.

How you handle the situation will determine whether the other trees in your garden will be far behind, however. Dead trees need to be treated properly so that you can continue to have a healthy ecosystem in your yard.

So, what should you do?

Start here:

4. Check for Infestations

dead tree
Credit: Bobu
  • One of the most common killers
  • Can spread to other trees or plant life in your yard
  • Might require professional help of some kind

If you have trees, there is a chance that you have pests. Sometimes, the pests aren’t bad enough to really cause any problems. Over the years, if left untreated, however, you might start to notice that your tree is slowly dying. This is because the pests (most often they are insects) are feeding off of the tree, absorbing the water and nutrients that it needs to survive.

According to Gardener’s Path, infestations can kill trees extremely quickly. This is because once they find something that provides them with nourishment or protection, they spread the news to their friends. Once the tree is dead, it can no longer provide the sustenance. These aren’t hospitable pests, however, and they don’t just move onto someone else’s tree – they will move onto the next live source of nourishment they can find. Most often, this is something else in your yard.

If your tree is dying, look to see if there are insects or the remnants of insects or pests (holes, excrement, nests, or shells). This means you have a huge problem and you should probably reach out to a professional of some sort – either a tree care professional or a pest management company.

3. Consider Replanting

creepy dead tree
Credit: Joan Sorolla
  • Be careful when purchasing new trees or greens
  • Make sure the soil is prepared for a new tree
  • Consider new types of trees – or the same kind in some cases

After a tree has died and has been removed properly (meaning the stump has been removed) the next thing to think about is how to fill the hole left behind.

According to the Royal Horticulture Society, “Plants that have died of physical causes such as waterlogging, poor establishment or underwatering can be replaced with the same type of plant. Remedy any site problems such as poor drainage prior to replanting.

Plants that have been killed by a disease, in particular a soil borne disease (e.g. honey fungus, Phytophthora root rot or Verticillium wilt) or difficult to control foliage/stem disease (e.g. box blight) are best replaced with something that shows resistance. Lists of resistant plants or those not affected can be found on our advice pages of common garden plant diseases. Plants that suffer from replant disease (e.g. roses) should not be replaced with the same type of plant.”

If you know why your tree died, you will better be able to figure out what to do with that empty space in your garden.

2. Root Rot

dead tree
Credit: Josh Giuliano
  • Common problem during spring seasons
  • If tree is healthy, leave it be
  • Talk to a professional if you have questions

One of the bright spots for people who think their trees are dead might actually come if it has been raining more often than normal – that rain could have caused symptoms of tree death, but it might not actually be dead.

According to Gardenerdy, “Sometimes, trees start dying due to root rot on account of over-watering. Water the tree only when the soil around it appears to be dry and fragmented. If there is a water-logging at the foot of the tree, make sure to devise a proper drainage system for the same. You may opt for removing soil from water-logged area and exposing the roots to fresh air for a few days.”

If your tree looks otherwise healthy, you might be able to keep it around for a few months to see if it will come around. Still, you have to think about the dangers that come along with unhealthy trees, so make sure that everything is secured.

1. Call a Tree Care Professional

Credit: Alan Levine
  • There is a chance to save your trees
  • Only professionals can handle some removals
  • Will make suggestions for other trees in your yard if the underlying cause could kill them as well

According to the Tree Care Industry Association, no matter when your tree dies, you want to always have your tree inspected by a tree care professional who will be able to make a diagnosis on the death. This is so vitally important because we are able to get a deeper look at your tree and help you to figure out just why the tree died. Sometimes, it will just be because of old age – this happens to many trees. Other times, however, and sometimes more commonly, it is because of a particular disease or nasty infestation. In these cases, you want to ensure that dead tree removal is treated properly and that the correct tools are used and cleaned properly. As a traditional homeowner, you probably do not have these tools at your disposal.

Many tree care professionals have the tools to help you remove stumps and the resulting debris from your yard and garden. At the same time, we can also help you turn that tree into something new and beautiful – fire burning logs, decorative logs, and/or mulch.

Whatever you do, don’t try to take tall trees (or any trees at all) down by yourself as it can be extremely hazardous and you will probably hurt yourself, another structure in your yard, or even your other trees.

At Portland Tree Service, we can help you with all of your tree care needs – and we will bring our own tools. For more information about our services, give us a call today at (503) 941-0922.

Header photo courtesy of Matthew Dillon on Flickr!