Today I was walking in the garden and inspecting my plants, and they are so excellent even in winter! I can’t wait for spring to see their new growth.
Last spring, I had a severe problem with coniferous plants. In May, heavy rains began, which continued for more than a month. As a result, several plants did not survive, among which there was a Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Some of the plants have been damaged a lot.
It was caused by overwatering, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Is your Alberta spruce overwatered?
It is difficult to overwater spruce, you have to try hard for this, or the weather should be too rainy. When overwatering is happen, spruce needles crumble, and it is difficult to determine what became the cause.
People may not identify the reason why the plant died and blame it on overwatering. Let’s look at the most common situations.
If you were recently in a garden center and bought an Alberta Spruce there, then you brought it home and planted it in your garden. You did everything right, but after 1-2 months, you lost it, then the shock may be the cause. The plant didn’t get established in a new place. Unfortunately, this often happens.
So if your spruce has died within a few months of planting in a new location, it is not necessarily the cause of the overwatering.
Spruce is often affected by pests, including mites. These pests pierce the soft bark of conifers and extract the juices from the plant. In this case, the needles brown and crumble. The problem is that the mites are tiny and difficult to see, so their damage is often confused with the overwatering.
If the needles on your spruce crumble, take a piece of paper and shake off everything that will fall from the branches. Next, take a magnifying glass and wonder all that has fallen. If you see tiny bugs, it is a mite. If you have not found anything like this, then we move on.
Another thing that can be confused with the overwatering of spruce is the burning of needles. Dwarf Alberta Spruce has unpleasant properties in late winter or early spring that can burn from the sun. Burning occurs because the sun is already shining hard enough, but the plant’s sap movement has not yet begun.
If the needles on the spruce became brown in spring and began to crumble, do not rush to conclusions. Maybe it just burned, but the plant branches are still alive, and needles will recover after some time.
Reasons why overwatering occurred
If none of the reasons discussed above are relevant to your situation and you sure that the problem is with overwatering, you should check the soil moisture.
If possible, use a hygrometer; this would be an ideal option. Also, you can take a wooden stick and make a hole in the soil around the plant. If there is water in the hole, then you have an overwatering for sure.
Next, we will talk about the causes that cause the overwatering of plants.
In spring, when there is a lot of rainfall, spruce can be over-watered. For that to happen, the rain should fall for more than a month, although it also depends on soil type. In clay soil, it can happen faster.
The reason why the plant dies from excess water is that the roots receive insufficient oxygen. The lack of oxygen causes oxygen starvation of the cells, and they die. Also, overwatering promotes root rot.
Usually, during the spring, young growths on the spruce fade during the overwatering, and the plant dies. What to do in this case and how to avoid it, we will discuss below.
Improper watering can also cause spruce death. Most often, this happens if you have not adjusted the watering correctly. If your irrigation system turns on in rainy weather, you either have a broken weather sensor or do not work correctly. It would be best if you resolved this immediately.
Another watering mistake is when the irrigation system pours a lot of water into one place. In this situation, the whole garden receives enough water, and the place where your spruce grows is overwatered. It also needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
And the third most common situation is when gardeners overwater their plants by themselves from a hose. If you are one of these gardeners, please stop. In wild nature, no one is watering plants. They receive moisture from the rain, so water the spruce only in dry weather.
Surface or groundwater
Surface water is a common problem. Maybe you planted spruce close to the house, and a lot of water flows from the gutter, and the soil around the plant is too moist. In this case, you need to replant the spruce or direct the water away.
It is also possible that rainwater is collected in the yard; this can also be a problem. You should take this water out of the yard.
Groundwater can also be dangerous for your plants. Dig a pit 40 inches deep, and if you see water, but it does not rain for a few days, it means the groundwater is too high. To solve this problem, you will have to create drainage; we will talk about it below.
What to do if your Dwarf Alberta spruce overwatered?
If there is heavy rain, then it is almost impossible to do something. I have some spruces that grew in pots and died after a long period of rain. Drainage will not help here. The soil does not have time to dry.
The only thing you can try to improve the situation is to lower the water level. Dig a pit 40-45 inches deep and 20 inches in diameter. The distance from the hole to the Alberta Spruce must be equal to the spruce crown’s diameter.
Such a trick will allow water to divert below the level of the root system of the spruce. This gives a better chance that the plant will survive. After a period of rain, the hole must be backfilled.
If you have planted dwarf spruce near the house and the water from the gutter flows into it. If you cannot fix it, you should transplant the spruce away from it.
It is better to replant in the spring. You can first put the spruce in a pot and put it in the half shade. Later, when you find it a more suitable place, transplant it there.
If surface water is collected in your area, it does not matter if it comes from a nearby yard or elsewhere. It would be best if you dug a ditch where water will flow outside your garden.
How to avoid overwatering in the future?
The best way to save your Dwarf Alberta Spruce from overwatering is to do everything right when planting it. The first thing that you can do is to make good drainage.
When planting, dig a hole 45-50 inches deep and fill it with broken brick, rubble, or stones.
The second thing to do is to add compost or perlite to the soil. That allows the water to flow through faster and does not linger for a long time.
And at the very end, let’s talk about whether spruce that has received too much water can survive. I have a few spruces that have been damaged by the overwatering and have not died. They dropped almost all of their needles, some branches dried up, but the plant remained alive. Some even grew a small number of new needles.
Of course, if the spruce survived after the overwatering, it will recover long enough.