I have eight Dwarf Alberta Spruces in my garden, and several of them exhibit unique traits. I frequently receive questions regarding the overwatering of these plants.
It’s entirely possible to overwater a Dwarf Alberta Spruce to the point of killing it. Typically, the main culprit is excessive watering, which leads to root rot and ultimately the death of the tree.
In this article, I’ll share my personal experiences and offer advice on how to prevent this from happening.
Signs of overwatering Dwarf Alberta Spruce
The first sign of overwatering is a partial yellowing of the needles. At this stage, part of the roots have already died and the rest of the roots are not able to provide enough minerals and water for the spruce. As a result, chlorosis and partial yellowing of the needles develop.
It is still possible to save the spruce at this stage. You should not hesitate and I will explain what to do next.
The second sign is browning and falling needles. At this stage usually almost all the roots of the tree have rotted and the tree is dying. Check if the buds and branches are still alive; if so, the tree can still be saved.
The third sign is very wet soil. When overwatering, the ground is soggy or very wet. Also, mold can grow on the surface and you may notice an unpleasant odor in the root zone.
Reasons of overwatering
There are various reasons why overwatering might happen. Some are straightforward, while others might not be immediately apparent. In what follows, I’ll discuss each reason, starting with the most common and moving to the less frequent causes.
The primary culprit behind overwatering is watering too often. A common misconception is that the soil surrounding the tree should always be damp, leading many to water excessively. This can cause the roots to rot, potentially killing the tree.
Additionally, many gardens are equipped with automatic sprinkler systems. If these systems are set to run daily and the water reaches the area where the Dwarf Alberta Spruce is planted, it could jeopardize the tree’s health over time.
Overzealous watering, where excessive amounts are used, can also be problematic. This can transform the soil into a muddy mess, which isn’t conducive for the tree’s growth.
- Refrain from watering too frequently. Only water when the top 2 inches of soil in the root zone feels dry. In general, spruce trees need watering until they get established in the garden (1-2 years).
- Adjust your automatic sprinkler settings to operate only during dry spells and not when it’s raining. Alternatively, redirect the sprinklers so they don’t drench the spruce.
- When watering the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, use between 1 to 3 gallons of water, depending on the tree’s size. After watering, the soil should be moist but not boggy.
Issues with Soil Drainage
If your soil is clayey and heavy, water stagnates in it for a long period of time. This period can be enough for the roots to start rotting. You may not water your Dwarf Alberta Spruce very often, but the water will still stay in the root zone for a long time.
Most soils on the planet are heavy. If you have not improved the soil in your garden, it may be the reason for overwatering.
- Reduce or stop watering. Water only when the soil is more than 2 inches dry. Do this only in the first 1-2 years after planting, as a well-rooted spruce does not need watering.
- Next spring, transplant the spruce to a new location. Make a drainage of river stones under the new place. Use a mixture of native soil and compost for planting.
Places with high humidity
Very often, novice gardeners make a mistake when choosing a planting site. As a result, the conditions are not suitable for the spruce and it can die. Let’s look at a few places where Dwarf Alberta Spruce should not be planted.
The first place is too close to the house where rainwater from the roof collects. These places usually have very wet soil, and when it rains it is a swamp. If a spruce is planted there, it will quickly die of root rot.
The second unsuitable place is near a pond. Usually the ground there is also too wet and the spruce can suffer from this.
The third is where rainwater accumulates. In many households there are places where water collects from the whole yard during rain. Spruce trees should not be planted in such places either.
The first thing to do in this case is to divert the water away from the spruce tree. Use a shovel to dig a small ditch a few feet away from the tree. This ditch should carry the water as far away from the root zone as possible.
Next year, transplant the spruce in early spring to a less wet location. Take care not to damage the roots when transplanting and shade the tree for a few months afterward.
This is a fairly rare cause of overwatering, but it does sometimes happen. There are areas where rainfall is higher than in most other areas. Usually these areas are near mountains or near the ocean.
Rainy periods occur in the fall or spring. If it has not stopped raining for more than 20 days, there is a high risk of root rot.
The only thing that can be done in this situation is to transplant the Dwarf Alberta Spruce to a location with very good drainage.
Next spring, move the tree to a location on a hill. Make drainage under the planting site and use a fast-draining soil.
How to avoid Dwarf Alberta Spruce overwatering?
The first thing you need to do to avoid overwatering Dwarf Alberta Spruce is to choose the right location. The best place to plant it is on a small hill where rainwater will not collect. It should not be too wet.
The second thing is the soil. Plant the spruce in a mixture of compost and native soil. There can be other organic matter instead of compost. As a result, the soil should be well-drained.
Third water the spruce for the first two years after planting. Water only after the soil has dried 1-2 inches using no more than 3 gallons of water at a time. Once the tree has established itself, watering should be discontinued as rainwater will be sufficient.
This is the end of my story and I hope you found it useful. I wish you success!