The bottom half of my spruce tree is brown. I discovered my neighbor was dumping cat litter under my tree for a period of time. How can I save my tree?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Ken in Pennsylvania: First things first: if there is still cat litter under your evergreen, you will want to rake it away and dispose of it in the garbage. Over time, cat urine can actually alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material, so depending on how long your neighbor has been dumping the cat litter there, the pH may have already been altered. It sounds like your spruce is stressed and only time will tell if it is going to recover. Unfortunately, once these evergreens lose their foliage they may not put on any new growth. You will want to remove any dead parts of the spruce and make sure to clean up around the base of the plant. Plant debris is an ideal place for insects and other potential disease issues to thrive. You can take a sample of the damaged foliage to your County Cooperative Extension Service for the horticulture agent to have a look at. This will rule out any other possible issues. You can also have your soil tested through them to know if you need to adjust your pH. For now, make sure your evergreen has sufficient moisture. A thin layer of mulch will be beneficial in terms of retaining moisture. It should be no thicker than 2 inches and avoid piling it up around the base of the trunk.