Well, it’s mid-spring 2018, and I’m getting a lot of hits on this. Come on, people. Get your trees fed pronto.
The article has been increasingly popular each year since I first published it in 2014. I’m feeding my trees every couple of weeks at the moment and they’re now in full leaf and not a single one has fallen, even with the breezes we’ve had.
However, back in 2014 it was a different story. Our silver birch tree began to yellow and drop leaves mid-June! We were worried, and Googling for an answer was next to useless.
Most of the technical advice was North American, and focused on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or the perils of trying to grow trees in either a desert or a swamp. Our trees had none of the beetle infestation symptoms other than leaf drop, and although the British never shut up about the bloody weather, we were not growing ours in anything other than normally-drained garden soil.
After I first wrote this article, I discovered that yellowing/leaf drop can be caused by two different things. You can’t do any harm if you just apply both of the remedies I uncovered, though.
The type we had was where the leaves turned bright, canary yellow – just like in Autumn – and began falling off the tree. As I said, it started in mid-June, and although the yellowing/leaf drop wasn’t as widespread throughout the tree as it is during Autumn proper, it was worrying all the same. I can’t honestly remember where I found this now, but somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of forum pages and obscure “ask the expert” sites rattling on about the bloody Birch Borer I came across two ideas that made absolute sense, and which can be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil.
Summer leaf-drop and leaf yellowing is caused either by a deficiency of nitrogen in the soil, or a deficiency of iron (or a combination of the two). It affects many plants – not just silver birch trees.
Nitrogen deficiency is easily resolved using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers, such as Miracle-Gro, and can be bought from most decent garden centres and from many online retailers (including eBay and Amazon, where I get mine). It only costs about £5 a box, and there’s enough to manage a decent sized tree for at least half a season. You can also get liquid and slow-release varieties.
Bear in mind that normal fertiliser is no good – it has to be the ericaceous stuff – and you just dissolve in water and spread it around the tree. Remember that the roots extend outwards quite a long way and you’ll need to cover a wide area, but concentrate on the drip-zone (the area covered by the branches). The slow-release granules of the same fertiliser are just sprinkled on the ground and watered in, and they apparently work for up to 3 months.
Leaves that look like those in the images here are suffering from iron deficiency – known as chlorosis. This, too, is easily dealt with by buying some sequestered (or chelated) iron, such as Maxicrop, shown above. It comes as a liquid, and you can mix it with your fertiliser and water it in all in one go. Plants need iron to produce chlorophyll, and since chlorophyll is why leaves are green in the first place, not being able to produce it means leaves become less green and take on a yellowish hue, especially when lit from behind – eventually looking like those shown.
Any soil nutrient deficiency may also lead to new leaves being small and misshapen, instead of the classic Birch leaf shape. Some of ours were like that in 2014.
In our case, after a single application of fertiliser treatment in 2014, leaf drop stopped almost immediately once the already-dead leaves had fallen. The tree even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In 2015, I started feeding every few weeks from March with both fertiliser and iron and we had no leaf drop at all. In 2016, it was the same, with very fat catkins hanging from the branches, along with quite significant new growth. In May 2017 our tree looked like the photo at the top of this article, and here’s a close-up of the leaves from that year. Does that look healthy, or what?
An additional treatment for the longer term is to water-in iron (ferrous) sulphate periodically. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is good for ericaceous plants. It’s also very good for your lawn – iron sulphate is a moss-killer and a grass-greener (it’s sold for these purposes).
You have to bear in mind that when trees and plants die back in winter, the leaves they shed return nutrients to the soil as they decay. In urban gardens, concerns over appearance mean that people usually sweep up the leaves as soon as they fall – so nutrients end up being removed from the garden and transferred to wherever the refuse collectors take them. Obviously, your trees and plants suffer the most, which is why you need to give them this extra help to recover what they have lost.
Well, I say “obviously”, but it’s funny looking back, now. I used to think that if you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow, when it turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus! Judging by the increasing number of hits I get on this article, a lot of other people are discovering the same.
A final few words. You have to keep the treatment going about once a month between March and September, and you have to follow the same routine each year (or at least over alternate years). Also be aware that in very hot weather or during drought trees can become stressed and a leaves may yellow and drop for that reason alone. This isn’t too much of a problem, and a weekly deep-watering is all that’s required (hosepipe bans notwithstanding).
A final word: It is 1 June 2018, and my trees have not shed a single leaf so far. My neighbour has a well-established cherry tree (or something which gets pink blossom, anyway) – they’ve had it for decades. It is dropping yellowed leaves already, and the leaves still on the tree are noticeably pale where in all previous years they’ve been dark green. They keep their garden spotlessly clean, thus removing fallen leaves each year as soon as they drop. It’s a clear case of chlorosis and/or nutrient deficiency.
Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?
No, probably not. Not the ones which are canary yellow, anyway, since they’re already dead and will have to fall off the tree. How long that takes will vary, and a little wind can speed things up. The important thing is that by feeding the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable.
I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since the yellowing is not due to leaves dying – they’re just iron-deficient. In that case, you might be able to save some yellowed leaves by applying the chelated iron treatment. However, if not treated then the leaves do die and fall off easily once they are predominantly yellow.
Do you have to keep treating the trees?
Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back depending on how long the previous treatment lasts for, and that is dependent on how bad the deficiency is, how big your trees are, what else is growing there, and how your soil drains when it rains. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year nothing gets returned to the soil. It stands to reason, really, but I was as blind to it as anyone else until I encountered the problem.
Treat your trees from March until September. Feed at least once a month (even two to three times during the earlier months) – and water regularly in hot weather anyway, as they do need moisture.
How often should you feed?
I initially started doing it once a month in the first season, and carried on at the same rate into the second and third. However, I now do it twice a month because one year – and I can’t remember which – towards the end of the season I noticed a few signs a chlorosis about a month before the normal autumn change.
Can heat and drought cause them to lose leaves?
Yes. If they are stressed you may get them dropping a few leaves. It’s a good idea to water them deeply during hot, dry periods. Once a week should be enough.
Is there any other way to deal with the problem?
You have to get nutrients and iron back into the soil. Yes, you could use your own mulch or bought compost, but obviously this is not so attractive in a normal garden (removing it is what got you here in the first place). It would also take longer to have an effect. But it would still work, given time.
When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?
The short – and very obvious – answer is: in the Autumn. It can vary a little up and down the country (just as Spring tends to start earlier the further south you are), but in the Midlands they usually start to show sprays of yellow from early October. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.
In 2016 (almost overnight during the first week or so into October), ours produced a lot of yellow on the inside, whereas the outer canopy remained green – it looked rather nice. The neighbours’ trees had much sparser canopies than ours and they had clumps of yellow all over.
Autumn officially begins in mid- to late-September and you probably can’t do much to fix your trees after August if you’ve got the early yellowing problem. I’d still recommend a good feed or two, but not beyond the end of September. But be ready to start feeding from March.
It’s worth noting that a few isolated yellow leaves on a tree which fall in windy weather are not really indicative of a major problem. When you have sprays of yellow, or if you’re losing dozens of leaves in one go, that’s when you should take action.
How do you apply these treatments?
You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. A single watering can is usually spread over 10 square metres (a medium sized tree probably requires watering over as much as 100 square metres). You can also buy mixer units which have a small tank and connect to your garden hose. You put the concentrate into the tank and the device mixes it with water as you spray the ground under your trees.
What I do is make up a concentrate in a 5L measuring container, then use 1L of that in a 15L watering can topped up with water. It’s quicker this way. I put 250g of Miracle-gro and 250mls of Maxicrop in the container (marked with 1L divisions) and make up to 5L with water. Once dissolved, I just pour out 1L into my watering can, top up from the garden hose, and evenly spread it over about 10-20 square metres, making sure I include flower beds as well as the lawn. I do it at least once every four weeks throughout the growing season (March-September), though I’ve upped that to fortnightly this year.
For the iron sulphate, I dissolve 375g in water in the measuring container made up to 5L, and again use 1L portions in my watering can made up to volume from the hose. I apply this treatment once a month or so – staggered with the fertiliser treatment. Iron sulphate at this concentration will kill moss within a few hours, so don’t worry about any black patches that appear on the lawn – it’s just dead moss, which can be raked out.
I try to time applications of fertiliser to just before (or during) rain to be sure it is fully watered in where the trees can get at it. Otherwise, I put the sprinkler on for a bit. I let the iron sulphate go to work on the moss and let the weather take a natural course – acidifying the soil is a longer term thing.
My tree is losing branches and twigs
If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and small branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop.
Another likely problem, though, is crows. Yes, the winged variety. From March they will be nest-building, and they are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose. We get great amusement watching a pair that have nested near us for the last 10 years or so. They will tear off a hundred twigs and drop them until they get the one they want. It’s nature, so we don’t worry.
Mind you, I’ve never seen a crow carry off a branch – they stick to the smaller stuff – so if your tree is dropping large branches you might need to get a tree surgeon in to have a look at it.
My tree is taking a long time to show any leaves
I’m not an expert, but if this happened to me – and knowing what I know now – I’d start feeding it pronto. Of course, it might just be slow – some trees do seem to lag behind others – but a good feed can’t do any harm. Mine is in full leaf now (May 2018) whereas neighbour’s trees are still in the process of producing leaves judging from the light that passes through their canopies.
In the worst case, it might not be in good condition at all, but you’d have to call the experts in for that.
I’ve got catkins but no leaves
Someone found the site in April 2018 with that query. You’ll probably find that in a couple of weeks you’ll have lots of leaves. As I have said in this article, I start feeding mine from March onwards. Leaves started sprouting a week or two earlier than the neighbours’ trees in 2018, and the foliage on mine is much denser. The catkins came before the leaves.
I strongly recommend feeding them regularly as a matter of course.
Are the leaves changing early this year?
This was a generic search term used to find the blog in mid-July 2017. The short answer is no, they are not – not in July, anyway.
In hot and dry weather, many trees can become “distressed” and start to shed leaves. Silver birches are affected by this. Also, greenfly infestations can also cause leaves to die and fall. If a lot of leaves are turning yellow on the tree then you have a problem – quite possibly the one which is the main subject of this article. However, a few leaves falling is probably nothing much to worry about.
In 2016 the first show of yellow up here on all trees was during the first week in October. In 2017, yellowing began a month earlier, and by mid-September they almost all were clearly changing. July yellowing is/was not down to autumnal changes.
Do Weeping Silver Birches lose their leaves in Autumn?
When do Silver Birch leaves go all brown?
They don’t. The leaves should go yellow and fall off in the autumn.
If leaves are brown and dead then that’s not a good sign. I’ve had quite a few visitors from this search term, and when I looked it up it seems that extreme cases of chlorosis can result in leaves turning brown. It could also be a disease or infestation which you could treat, but the tree itself might also be dead – especially if it has been having any of the problems I mentioned above over previous years. Best to call in the experts.
Does this advice only apply to Silver Birch trees?
No. Chlorosis can affect many plants, and lack of nutrients is going to be a universal issue. You might need a different fertiliser to address any nutrient problem, but iron will likely fix chlorosis.
Recently, someone found the blog as a result of premature leaf drop in their Betula utilis. This is the Himalayan Birch, famed for its peeling paper-like bark, and it is a member of the same family as the Silver Birch. In the Himalayas, it often grows among Rhododendron plants (look at that fertiliser again – are you seeing the connection, here?), so the advice given above would work for the Himalayan Birch, too.
Or, how to destroy the environment and get paid loads of money for doing it.
This BBC news article reports on campaigners’ claims that the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has “violated [the park’s] World Heritage status”.
They cite the dramatic increase in “off-roaders” on motorbikes and 4x4s, who have damaged the landscape. The LDNPA actually encourages morons to come and tear up the countryside.
Let’s not play games here. Absolutely no 4×4 or quadbike/motorbike rider who goes to the Lake District to ride “off-road” – not a single one of them – gives a flying f*ck about the environment other than how they can turn it into mud every weekend. If they did, they wouldn’t have a 4×4 in the first place, and as for motorbike/quadbike riders… well, there’s more processing power in a mosquito’s genitalia than there is in the typical biker’s head area, and all they want to do is make a noise and send mud flying in the air.
That’s why the comments of Mark Eccles, the alleged leader of LDNPA, are laughable:
We encourage users to behave responsibly on what can be vulnerable tracks to minimise environmental impact and respect other users.
This idiot WANTS off-roaders to come to the Lake District and to “behave responsibly. There’s more chance of a squirrel becoming Pope.
He then says something which is almost the exact opposite:
[It would be] preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes” [but it is legal].
If he had any balls, he’d stop them or deter them. It would be easy to justify simply on the basis of how much damage they cause. But he is no doubt one of that modern breed of men who have artificially balanced hormones, and for whom “equal opportunities” is the mantra that governs every decision they make. He’s no doubt of a mind that trees have to be cut down to make every corner of the Lake District accessible by wheelchair, and is probably considering painting it pink to try to attract more female visitors. So, in this case, he mustn’t discriminate against monkeys who like things that make a noise and go fast.
For anyone who doesn’t know, The Lake District National Park covers almost 1,000 square miles. And it looks like the photo above when there are no off-roaders around. Once they’ve been and gone, though, it looks like this.
I’ve noticed a serious downward trend in spelling and grammar these days on usually reputable websites. Even the BBC isn’t averse to mistakes.
This screenshot from an MSN newsfeed aggregate made me smile, though. It’s apparently a picture of a red panda sitting on a branch in New York.
I have visions of someone submitting this for their school homework.
This story beggars belief. It started in 2011, when a British photographer went to Indonesia to photograph macaques. After a bit of bonding, he managed to get the monkeys to press the camera shutter, and the image above is the now infamous “monkey selfie” that has caused the trouble.
In 2014, David Slater, the photographer, asked Wikipedia to remove the image from their site since he had not given permission to use it. Wikipedia – which is renowned for being written by monkeys anyway – refused, arguing that the copyright belonged to the macaque in the photo, and not to Mr Slater.
As an aside, I wonder if Wikipedia got the monkey’s permission to use the photo?
Although the US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright, it didn’t stop PETA finding someone who would represent the monkey – whose name is Naruto, by the way – and sue Mr Slater back in 2014. The case has dragged on and on since then. Well, we’re talking about America here, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you can’t just state the obvious and say that “monkeys can’t own copyright” and throw the case out. As a much more detailed account of the story indicates, if they did that, PETA would just sue again and again. All they’d have to do is find someone else to stand up on the monkey’s behalf, and everything would just kick off again, and since PETA obviously has nothing better to do with its time, it wouldn’t hesitate to do that.
The best part is that no one is actually certain that the monkey, Naruto, is the one in the picture.
With hindsight, it would probably have been better if Mr Slater had not tried to have Wikipedia remove his photo. But then again, why should a bunch of arseholes get everything their own way just because they ARE a bunch of arseholes, and are prepared to prove it to the power of ten by involving other arseholes if you point it out to them?
The big question is: if the monkey won, who’d get the money? What would a monkey do with several million dollars? Buy a huge banana?
I have a solution to this potential nightmare. They should decide in the monkey’s favour, then award all damages to Mr Slater – since he is the only one in all this who actually had the monkeys’ welfare in mind. PETA would win, so it couldn’t sue again, and Mr Slater would not be anywhere near as much out of pocket as he will be if he has to pay the scumbags at PETA.
Unfortunately, I am only joking. If the monkey were to win, there’d be a flood of similar cases as a result of the new precedent. And then we might end up with a Planet of the Apes scenario, where they start to get involved in politics. One might even run for POTUS. Oh, wait…
I wonder if anyone proof-reads BBC articles anymore? They’re riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, with numerous typos thrown in for good measure.
But it’s the content that has me worried. Take this article, entitled How to see biggest supermoon in almost 70 years.
Well, just like on any other night, the usual trick is to go outside and look upwards towards that big, round, glowing thing in the sky and hope that there aren’t any clouds. I almost feel embarrassed at having to explain this.
Incidentally, the photo above is one I took last year. I didn’t have any trouble finding the moon in this instance, nor did I have to look up how to do it.
The local BBC News site had a warning after some local troglodytes were seen waving bags at stags in Wollaton Park. Bear in mind that it is the rutting season, and the last thing any sane person needs is a pair of deer antlers up their backside.
But this bit is funny:
Kath George, museum assistant at Wollaton Hall, said…
“Our advice is always the same, no matter what the season, or whether the deer have children with them – DO NOT approach them!
“They are wild animals…”
I always thought a young deer was a fawn. But it seems that we’re now anthropomorphising them for some reason.
The answer is when it is Trent University – which is more of a glorified sixth form that takes people from around the country instead of just locally. I say this after seeing this story in the week. It laughingly refers to the people ultimately responsible for killing a hedgehog as “researchers”.
In case any Trent University “researchers” are reading this, it is probably worth reminding them what a hedgehog normally looks like.
However, this is what one looks like after Trent University “researchers” have got to it.
The dirty silver thing is a radio transmitter, and the various coloured tags are shrink- or heat-wrapped to the hedgehog’s spines. You have to wonder what sort of retard would attach THAT many tags to a single animal. Well, actually you don’t have to wonder too much when you think of sixth-formers pretending they’re scientists.
Wildlife experts have commented that the coloured tags are far too long and would most likely interfere with the animal’s normal behaviour. They could easily have become entangled. Apparently, the radio transmitter was twisted around the animal when it was found by someone in their garden. Experts have pointed out that such a bulky device would have prevented the animal from crawling under low hedges, gates, and fences, and would thus have put it at risk from predators.
The vet who treated the hedgehog removed TWENTY SIX tags.
The hedgehog was:
…dehydrated, underweight, had mange, severe colitis, broken toes on one foot and [sic] intestinal fluke, and died despite attempts to treat him.
This is the part where you need to make your mind up for yourselves. Do you think that a hedgehog festooned with 26 tags, all of them at least six times longer than its spines, and a radio transmitter the size of a matchbox bearing – if you look at the picture – an antenna which appears to be approximately the same length as the animal itself, is going to be adversely affected?
Or do these two quotes convince you otherwise?
Hugh Warwick from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which part-funded the study, said: “Over 30 years of work there is no evidence that our research interferes with the well-being of hedgehogs at all.
“The heat-shrink plastic tags that are now the standard marking technique do not require plastic to be melted onto the spines and cause the hedgehog no trouble at all. It is not far off humans getting hair-extensions.”
Nottingham Trent University said: “The animal is completely unhindered and able to go about its activities – such as feeding and breeding – in the usual way.
“Research is crucial to furthering our understanding of the threats hedgehogs face and to develop appropriate responses to those.”
Hugh Warwick is clearly one of those pseudo-scientists who likes to anthropomorphise things. However, I think it is safe to say that what was done to this hedgehog had f__k all to do with human hair extensions (which, incidentally, cause MAJOR problems for humans if done incorrectly).
And Trent University – who are clearly too embarrassed to identify the cretin of a “researcher” responsible – have managed one of those brilliant paradoxes. They say they want to further their understanding of “threats to hedgehogs”. Obviously by becoming one.
Following on from that story about the Americans shooting a gorilla as a precautionary measure n their attempts to deal with crass stupidity on the part of their citizens, at least the Aussies are more sanguine about such episodes.
If the victim had survived in this case, then she would automatically have been in the finals for the 2016 Darwin Awards. Such was the level of stupidity on display.
It happened in the Daintree National park, in Northern Queensland. The presence of signs, local warnings about it being a known crocodile habitat, Queensland’s “be croc-wise” safety policy, and I would suspect a fair degree of understanding of the dangers of living in Australia in the first place, not to mention those associated with just being Australian at all did not deter this 47-year old woman from attempting to swim in waist-deep water. At night. It seems that the only thing she didn’t do was bring some extra crocodiles with her just to be sure. Unfortunately for her, though, one of the resident crocs was also taking a swim nearby, and saw its chance for a snack.
Unlike the Americans, who you can almost imagine tripping over themselves to get their guns in order to blow away a gorilla who had not actually made any threatening moves towards a four-year-old (some reports say he was actually three) child whose parents had been so monstrously neglectful as to allow him to climb through a fence and fall into a moat surrounding an enclosure, the Aussies are a little more logical over this incident. A local politician, Warren Enstch, said:
This is a tragedy but it was avoidable. There are warning signs everywhere up there.
You can only get there by ferry, and there are signs there saying watch out for the bloody crocodiles.
You can’t legislate against human stupidity. If you go in swimming at 10 o’clock at night, you’re going to get consumed.
Meanwhile, Australian police have been practising the art of understatement:
We would hold grave fears for the welfare of the woman.
I saw this on the news this morning. Zoo keepers – sorry, “officials” – shot dead a gorilla in a zoo in Cincinnati, after a four-year-old boy climbed through a barrier and fell into a moat.
The gorilla made no threatening moves towards the boy, and was shot as a precaution (hey, this is America, right?) The gorilla, who was named Harambe, was a western lowland gorilla – a critically-endangered species.
No mention is made of the boy’s parents, who really are the ones who should have been in the guns’ sights. What the hell were they doing letting a four-year-old run loose and allowing him do something so ridiculously stupid? And what does it say about the job they’ve done of bringing him up if he was dumb enough to behave this way?
When I was four I wouldn’t have been allowed to run around like that, and especially not in a zoo. And since I can remember when I was four, I wouldn’t have tried to climb into an animal enclosure – my parents would have told me not to, and I would have listened.
Buy hey! This IS America, right?
And it seems I’m not the only one who thinks the child’s parents need a damned good talking to.
I was doing a bit of online research for some recipes for a slow cooker I just purchased. One recipe called for coconut milk, and I noticed one of the comments underneath:
I forgot coconut milk, will it still work with passata?? HELP PLS
This is what coconut milk looks like compared to passata. In case anyone is wondering, coconut milk is the one on the left.
Furthermore, coconut milk tends to come from something called a “coconut”, like this.
Passata, on the other hand, is commonly made from things called “tomatoes”, which look like this.
This gives rise to a distinct difference in the colour region when you compare coconut milk alongside passata. There are also a few notable differences between the plants which produce them.
Coconuts grow somewhere between 15 and 30 metres in the air at the top of palm trees in various tropical and subtropical locations around the world (if you’re still stuck, coconut palms are the ones on the left). Each coconut – once it is removed from its tough outer casing – is hard and woody, and weighs nearly 1.5kg, and each palm can produce fruit for 70 years or more. On the other hand, tomatoes grow pretty much anywhere you want them on bushes usually no more than about 1-2 metres off the ground. A tomato plant can live for a few years, though they’re mostly treated as annuals and new ones planted each year. A typical tomato is soft and squishy and weighs in at around 100 grams. Every 100 grams of coconut contains about 6g of sugar and over 30 grams of fat, compared with about 2.5 grams of sugar and virtually no fat in the same amount of tomato. There are a lot of other nutritional differences.
I wonder if the person who asked that question ever tried the recipe using passata instead of coconut milk?