Metro-East Living

Here’s what you need to know before you remove that tree in your yard

Q: I had a blue spruce removed. Can I plant another blue spruce in that same spot or do I have to wait or do something to the soil?

R.B. of Belleville

A: First, why was the original blue spruce removed? Did it have a disease or was it infested with insects? Did the needles fall off because of the dry weather that we experienced? If so, you may want to replant another blue spruce in a different location close by but not in the same exact location. You should also obtain a soil test to determine the soil pH as the spruce will require an acid pH 6.3 or below so that the spruce will be able to absorb the correct nutrients. The soil test will also indicate how much sulfur may be necessary for correct soil conditions. It would be wise to wait for fall or next spring before replanting.

Q: In the early summer we cut down an 8-inch diameter red bud tree because it produced no leaves whatever and the smaller branches were dried up twigs. I tested whether there might be any green showing under the bark and there was none. But now we have a lush ‘red bud bush’ growing from the stump and I wonder if we should have given the tree another year to recuperate. On the other hand is it possible to grow another tree by choosing the largest branch by cutting back all the other smaller branches?

K.O-H. of Belleville

A: This summer the extremely dry conditions caused many trees to drop their leaves very early and the younger stems also dried up. When these conditions show up, the tree begins to go dormant and doesn’t spend a lot of energy trying to grow but trying to stay alive, but it doesn’t show any growth. When the tree shows these conditions, you need to begin watering. This would require about 20 gallons of water soaked INTO the soil every five to six days until a one inch rain falls in your area. Then begin the watering again if the weather stays dry.

Your tree may even stay dormant up to two years to stay alive without any growth being shown. It is worth trying to save and grow a tree from one of the remaining small sprouting branches. Just as you suggested save the largest branch and prune off all the others. If smaller branches develop later remove them as well so that all the energy goes to the single tall branch. When the leaf buds sprout out, you will need to supply water to soak into the soil. You will have to baby this sprouting tree by eliminating insects that try to feed on it and be watchful for diseases that may develop on the new leaves.

The one good advantage that you have with the red bud is that it is not a large tree, which could become a problem later if it was a larger tree species.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Things to do this week:

  • Check your lawn areas and if they have gone dormant, try pulling the grass plants gently to see if they are dormant or dead. If the whole plant comes up without the roots, you will need to replant a cool season grass in mid to late August if we start getting some rain. Otherwise wait until we receive some rain before replanting as you will have to do a lot of watering to stimulate this germination.