Here in Alexandria, VA the ripping hot summer season showed us the absolute limits of our air conditioners and brought the pain to our trees and other landscaping elements. If you live here, you won’t have to go too far to find the evidence: zombie trees and shrubs.
With the mercury reaching higher than 107 in August, our sprinkler systems just couldn’t deliver the deep, refreshing water that our trees need to live. The heat and lack of good soaking rain mortally wounded hundreds if not thousands of trees this year in the area and I’ve been busy taking down these zombie trees.
What’s a “zombie tree?”
I describe a zombie tree as one that appears to have a sign of life in it but will most likely never rebound from the damage. The foliage is usually dried in appearance and the majority of it has fallen off the tree. If you see a tap-root near the surface of the soil or even exposed, this is the tree adapting to dry deep-soil conditions and the tree is attempting to collect water from shallow soil where the sprinkler systems are. The bad news for the tree is that this becomes a liability for the tree in super-hot summer weather.
What to do with a “zombie tree?”
If you think you might have a zombie tree, the best thing you can do is call a licensed tree service immediately to evaluate if your tree is capable of being revived. If the tree is too far gone, it’s time to schedule a tree removal and possibly start over.
Careful removal of your tree will prevent the tree from becoming a hotel for insects and other nasties that you don’t want attacking nearby trees. Additionally, removing the tree will immediately improve the look of your yard compared to having a dead tree carcass standing there. A dead tree is much more likely to fall down in a strong wind storm and the last thing you need is that tree falling on your house or someone’s car. Typical tree removals cost between $190 and $300 depending on the size.
A good arborist should be scheduled every year or two to come out and carefully examine your trees, similar to a regular check up. Keep in mind that big healthy trees are impossible to replace and we have several strategies at our disposal to get a stressed tree back on track to full health.