Dwarfed Leaves and Feeding Trees

Question:

Good morning, thank you so much for your monthly tree advice column.
We live in the south valley and we have a couple of trees that we are uncertain of.
1.The Hawthorne-  we planted the Hawthorne about two years ago and this year the leaves seem dwarfed (very small not full size).  I’ve done a couple of google searches on this and all I’ve found is the drought conditions causing this.  If it is the drought what can we do to recover the tree?  
a.We also have very dense clay soil conditions throughout out property, when we had our septic system installed we were told we have clay at least ten feet down.  Could this be causing our problem?
2.We have another Elm in another area of the yard that has the same dwarfed leaves on a majority of the leaves.  We’ve noticed recently some leaves are coming in full size.  However on this tree we did some over excavation on the hole we planted it in.  We used a mix of compost, sand, and clay soil while planting about three years ago.  Is this a result of drought or transplanting
3.Final question.  We have 2 trees planted in a grassy lawn area.  can we fertilize the lawn with weed and feed products?  Or fertilize with regular lawn fertilizer?  Or fertilize at all?  
a.On that note should we fertilize our trees?  If so, how often?

Answer:

Hello Nathan,

Lots of questions! Thank you! The symptoms do not sound like drought stress. Most of the time, small leaves on Elm and Hawthorn is related to an herbicide, usually a weed killer. Weed killer used even 50’ away from your Elm can affect it. Most times when any of these trees are suffering from drought stress, they will have yellowing leaves or fewer leaves, especially at the tips of the tree. When you have dense clay soils, your tree can often have nowhere for the roots to go. This causes girdling and the tree is choked out. When this occurs, your tree will have stunted growth but usually that manifests in a smaller overall tree not just small leaves. Sometimes dense clay soils have poor drainage so-much-so that your tree drowns. Too much water and not enough water have the same symptoms. If you think your tree has very poor drainage, you can drill holes about 3’ deep with an auger to try to aerate a little. This helps sometimes. Weed and feed products kill broad leafed weeds. Trees have broad leaves and they don’t know they aren’t weeds. It may not kill them but they definitely won’t like it. You may not notice any issues but there are always issues, even if they are slight. I have seen trees drop dead after 10 years of consistent use without showing any real signs in advance. If you’d like, you can call the office and I can go look at them or you can send pictures and I can be more specific.
Thank you …
Camille, Certified Arborist

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