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Saving an Alberta Spruce
After a problem move

Q: Please Help. I had three Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees on the side of the home I just purchased. This fall I wanted to move them from their cramped location to being placed in front of the house in the front garden.

The most beautiful of these trees (6+ feet tall) is turning yellowish-green and now brown. I do not know how the trees were moved since I was not at home when the man moved them. The two others seem to be doing fine.

Is there anything I can do now (dead of winter) to help save this lovely tree, or is it too late.

A: It sounds like the one tree didn't make it through the transplanting process, which is very stressful on a tree. Without having seen the actual transplanting process myself, it's hard to opine on what may have happened.

It could be that not enough of the root system was transplanted along with the tree, but again, without having seen the activity it's hard to say. It may also be that this tree had a small overall root system, not enough to sustain itself in its new home.

As to what to do at this time, you can do the "thumbnail" test and scratch a number of small twigs to see if there's greenish tissue beneath the bark. If so, the tree may have enough wherewithal to sprout in the spring, but you'd have to wait until then to find out what destiny has in store.

The brown needles will likely fall off, so you'll have to wait until spring to see what happens.

If, in spring, you detect some growth activity, be sure to water properly and right away. We'd hate to lose the plant if it's at least trying to come back, and the lack of moisture could spell doom.

Be sure not to overwater, either. Once a week is generally enough; apply about 1 gallon of water to every surface square foot of root zone.

You can also apply an anti-dessicant/anti-transpirant to reduce the amount of moisture the plant loses during the winter months (I'd have done this as part of the transplanting process, but that's me).

I can't provide brand names, but these products are available at garden centers, and often at hardware stores. If you find greenish tissue beneath the bark, one of these products may help it through.

I recommend spraying the spruces that look OK, too, just as a precaution. I would spray them annually in fall, following the directions on the label, to protect them during future winters.

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Tom Mugridge

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