Question from Elizabeth:
I have 4 ornamental plum trees in the backyard which I have had since 2002.
They bloom the most beautiful pink flowers in spring. Lately, I have noticed that three trees have bark split.
I have used tar spray, but not sure if this is the best treatment to use for this condition. Also, I’ve noticed ants on the trunks. Is Tanglefoot okay to use on these trees?
Answer from Pat:
When bark splits on fruit trees, whether ornamental or bearing edible fruit, this is usually the result of winter damage caused by temperature fluctuations that shows up later in summer. Fruit trees, including ornamental types, have thin bark. During winter when temperatures drop and then rise again on warm sunny days the bark can suffer damage from sunscald, but you cannot see the damage then. Later in the year, during summer when temperatures rise, the outer park peels off and you see the result of the burned area beneath. Unless such splitting girdles a tree, this does not kill the tree.
Prevention includes not feeding the tree in fall. Unfortunately many newspapers tell gardeners in cold winter climates to feed fruit trees in fall, but a wiser course, especially now with global warming an issue, is winter or spring fertilization. This way you won’t trigger a spurt of growth in fall that might result in split bark.
Additionally it’s wise to wrap trunks of young trees or paint the trunks with white latex paint. It’s too bad you sprayed the split areas with tree seal since recent reseach indicates that this is not the best way to heal damaged areas. Refer to this recent advice from “the Plant Clinic” at Cornell University: http://ccesuffolk.org/assets/Horticulture-Leaflets/Bark-Splitting-On-Trees.pdf
No, do not spray Tanglefoot onto bark since this can harm the bark further. Instead, put a band of paper around the tree and spread Tanglefoot on that. However, this is a very sticky and unpleasant job!. (I know since I’ve done it and one often gets more Tanglefoot onto oneself than the tree. ) Or use other methods to control ants, such as spreading a layer of dry earthworm castings over the ground surrounding the trunk. Ants cannot walk over it. Also make sure the foliage does not touch ground.
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