Q: I enjoyed your recent article about Autumn Blaze maple. I’m sending a photo of our massive red maple, as we called it, which was destroyed by a tornado in August 2015. We purchased two bare root maples at the time, not knowing their colors. We were constantly picking up branches from the yellow maple, but the red maple never shed a single branch. It was a sad day when we lost our favorite tree, with its perfect shape. — Kim Utke, Sheldak Ranch, Sheldon, N.D.
A: Thanks for sharing the stories of your maples. Your tree was picture-perfect and I like your nicknames for the maples, based on their fall color. Your yellow maple is probably silver maple, Acer saccharinum, which develops attractive yellow autumn shades and tends to be weak-wooded, while maples that turn red or red-orange with stronger branches include sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum), and hybrid maples including Autumn Blaze.
I’m not certain the exact type of red maple from your photo, but based on its near-perfect shape it was likely a hybrid cultivar, which are usually selected for shapes more uniform than the randomness that comes from run-of-the-mill seedling grown trees. Sheldon, not far from my hometown of Lisbon in southeastern North Dakota, is outside the Red River Valley’s heavy clay gumbo soil that can be problematic for some maple types. Your maple grew well.
Q: After the wind and rain my formerly upright tree started to lean. Should I try to do something, or will it fix itself? — Carol Cwiak, West Fargo.
A: From the photo you sent me, it looks like your young tree teetered below ground, caused by this fall's saturated soil, snow and wind. Now, while the soil is still wet, stake the tree, gently pulling it into a more vertical position as best you can, without forcing the tree to the point of breaking.
Even if the tree can't be pulled into a perfect vertical position immediately, it's often possible to do so in stages, a little this fall, a little next spring while the soil is soft from the spring thaw, and so forth. Proper tree staking methods, plus a section on wind-thrown trees can be found here.
As we were discussing on Facebook how to correct this leaning tree, Gloria Sorenson Reiss, Kathryn, N.D. added, “We had to do this with a 60-foot spruce tree that was leaning nearly 45 degrees. It took nearly three years to get it back into an upright position. That was almost 20 years ago and the tree was saved and is still standing in our yard.”
Q: We had a chokecherry tree cut down. How do we get rid of the stumps so suckers quit growing from the stump? - Denise Randall, West Fargo.
A: I was taught a successful method for preventing stump regrowth while I was a student laborer at North Dakota State University. To kill a living stump plus the surrounding suckers, apply broadleaf herbicide to the cut surfaces immediately after cutting the trunk and sucker sprouts. If it’s been longer than a day, make fresh cuts, otherwise the conducting tissue seals, preventing uptake.
Use a broadleaf herbicide with active ingredients such as 2,4-D, mcpa, or triclopyr, which can be found listed in the fine print on the herbicide label. Saturate the cut surfaces of both trunk and suckers with the herbicide, which is most effective on stumps if used undiluted. If the trunk and suckers are cut flush with ground level, the stumps and sucker ends can be covered with soil to contain fumes and aid in future decomposition.
When chokecherry and its purpleleaf form, Canada red cherry, are cut down, sucker sprouts commonly arise out in the lawn. Cut sprouts and treat as described previously, always following label directions on any products used.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at email@example.com or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.