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Problems with my Bay Tree

Discussion in 'Container Gardening' started by Plowii, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. Plowii

    Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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    Hello, it's been a while since I visited but...

    I hope I have posted this in the correct section.

    About a couple of years ago I was given a small bay tree plant. It was about 16" high in a small (5"?) pot. It seemed healthy and happy. It was beginning of winter so given the severe gales we experience here, I kept it indoors on my kitchen window sill, meaning to plant it outside in the garden the following spring. That didn't happen.

    The plant really just sat there and didn't 'do' anything for 12 months. Suddenly it started to shoot from the top, large leaves different from the previous leaves. Apparently fleshier and much larger and more rounded in shape. I renewed my interest and potted it up into a larger container, a plastic pot about 10" in diameter and 12" high. I used supermarket compost to provide the additional soil. I did not add any fertiliser, organic or otherwise. The roots were somewhat balled so I tried to tease them out as much as I could without damaging them too much. After I re-potted the Bay Tree, the new top growth withered and blackened from the centre of the leaves. I watered it regularly with about a pint of tap water when the soil no longer felt moist to the back of my fingers. It then produced a shoot from ground level which produced some more apparently 'fleshier' more rounded leaves than is characteristic for a Bay.

    The new top growth withered and blackened so I removed it, back to the main stem.

    One of my keenest interests is photography. I like to do time-lapse when the opportunity presents itself, this seemed an opportunity, so I started to prepare a setup so I could keep one of my cameras trained on the Bay Tree continually.

    At this time I noticed another new shoot at ground level. So I started to photograph it every hour. This is my setup...

    [​IMG]

    Not having done a long time lapse of this nature before I have been evolving my technique as I go. I have increased my rate from one exposure per hour to every ten minutes, six an hour. So far I have taken over 3,100 exposures.

    The ring around the bottom of the pot is a piece of 6mm copper pipe to stop slugs from clambering up the side of the pot, which I fitted after spotted trails. Slugs don't like copper.

    However, back to the Bay tree. The first ground shoot is showing signs of fungus around the stem buds, I tried spraying it with washing up water but no improvement.

    There are many very small white 'mites' clambering all over the soil and up the stems, exploring the buds and leaves. There is also worm activity, worm casts are regularly thrown up around the stem.

    My thoughts are that the white mites may be milking the plant's nutrients, the lack of feed may be starving the plant or there are deficiencies in the makeup of the soil. I would think worm activity could be good, but maybe the wrong type of worm? I suspect the fungus is a consequence rather than a cause of this situation.

    I can of course provide more photographs! Eventually a short video of a micro world perhaps.

    I ask for any suggestions to help me get my Bay tree back to good health please. I was delighted to have been given it but I wasn't anticipating these issues.
     
  2. Redwing

    Redwing Wild Gardener

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    The first thing I would say is that the pot is too big. I would repot it into a smaller pot. I have a Bay and it grows in the ground outside. I don't know where you live but they easily withstand outside winter temperatures in southern England. Yours may be a bit small for planting out though. I would leave it in a cold greenhouse, if you have one, over the winter or outside against a south facing wall. If it gets really cold you could move it inside for the duration of the cold spell.

    Other comments:

    New growth on bays is soft and fleshy and hardens up as it ages.

    You may be watering it too much. The fungus may be related to this and that fact that you are keeping it indoors, as may the mites.

    Why would you need copper ring to deter slugs in your kitchen?

    Worms are not good in pot plants; too much disturbance.
     
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    • Plowii

      Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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      I'm bewildered I replied but the reply hasn't appeared?
       
    • Redwing

      Redwing Wild Gardener

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      That's because for some reason, You sent me a private message. You need to click on "Post Reply", not "Start a Conversation". Maybe Mods can help. I've copied and pasted it below with my comments in black and yours in blue.


      The first thing I would say is that the pot is too big. I would repot it into a smaller pot. I have a Bay and it grows in the ground outside. I don't know where you live but they easily withstand outside winter temperatures in southern England. Yours may be a bit small for planting out though. I would leave it in a cold greenhouse, if you have one, over the winter or outside against a south facing wall. If it gets really cold you could move it inside for the duration of the cold spell.
      Thank you for that RedWing, I just wonder if the upheaval of re-potting might be a bit disruptive for the plant... After all yours is in a massive pot! LOL

      I just checked, my 'forum signature' doesn't seem to work, I guess the forum software has been updated since I was last here. I live within yards of the South shore of the Duddon Estuary in South Cumbria. it's relatively mild but the winds are ferocious, on Wednesday? I measured over 60mph very near the house.

      Other comments:

      New growth on bays is soft and fleshy and hardens up as it ages.
      OK, thanks.

      You may be watering it too much. The fungus may be related to this and that fact that you are keeping it indoors, as may the mites.
      Apart from reducing the watering, is there any treatment which might deal with the fungus? What about the mites, natural predators? Spiders?

      Why would you need copper ring to deter slugs in your kitchen?
      The slugs are a pest, very common here. They come from nowhere in the dead of night and ...explore. Have removed all carpets and lino downstairs and laid tile floors, cemented up every nook and cranny, yet still they come back.

      Worms are not good in pot plants; too much disturbance.
      So I need to get rid of the worms, the upheaval when they do get going is quite amazing, it really shows up in the time-lapse.

      Is there any point in testing the soil acidity or otherwise?

      Do I need to do anything to enrich the soil or might it already be too rich?


      ??? I don't seem to be able to post a reply? Only "start a conversation"??? Never met that one before...

      Robert.
       
    • pete

      pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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      It needs airy conditions, its not a house plant.
      Sounds like its too wet, and I agree the pot is far too big for a plant that size.

      I'm getting the feeling its suffering from root rot, dry it out by standing it on a old newspaper and dont water until the compost is quite dry.

      If you get the growing conditions right, most of the problems will sort themselves out.
      Winter coming on now so you cant really expect much growth, so getting it through the winter could be difficult.
       
    • Plowii

      Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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      Redwing, many thanks, I must have hit the wong button... Silly old dodderer. :pathd:

      Pete, thank you for your input, so leave the worms and mites and let it develop, or not...

      It's survived two years of my neglect and mistreatment, hopefully it will survive the winter too.

      So you suggest putting it out in spring?
       
    • Mike Allen

      Mike Allen Gardener

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      Please forgive me but. I find the camera setup more interesting. Might I respectfully ask, what camera, have you, are you using some kind of timelapse photography. Why on earth do you want to take a snap every hour?

      Back to basics. Laurus nobilis, the Bay tree. Yes it is an out- door woodland tree. Yes some folk have formed an attachment to it and use it as a conservatory plant.

      The photo does show, the subject is in far too larger pot/container. The new roots are slow growing and as a result of the contained soil/compost several growing conditions etc are compromised. More than likely artificial feeding might be applied. This can often have sad ill effects, in a way, similar to medical science and practice when administering opiates. Even plant foods and additives can actually build up in the soil and in time cause the death of the plant.
      Laurus nobilus tends to have a varied rate of speed growth. OOPs! worms in plant pots can be of value.....sorry.

      Growing a bay tree. Ask yourself. Why and what for. So it's an evergreen. Yes you might liketo use the odd leaf or two when cooking. Perhaps you just want a pot/container plant, a bay tree.

      So if you want a potted bay. Then you have to check and direct it's growth. You might want a toffee apple type. Long stem/trunk or perhaps a kind of pyramid. Either way you will have to be patient as, the plant dictates it's own future.
       
    • shiney

      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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      I, also, think that a Bay is not really an indoor plant but it has become accustomed to the protection so putting it outside at the moment probably isn't a good idea unless you have a greenhouse. Otherwise I'd put it out in early spring. Pot grown Bay is not as hardy as those planted outside and are not happy below -5C. Outside, in the ground, they can take -10C quite easily.

      Initial thoughts:-
      The pot should not be stuck in a plant saucer. Although Bay needs regular watering it hates having a soggy bottom so should be stood on feet in a larger saucer. This would allow free drainage.

      They're not too good as normal house plants although are quite happy as pot plants. I think that the lack of light from that window isn't helping as they do like a lot of light.

      The white mites could possibly be Bay sucker. Remove the top couple of inches of soil and remove the mites by hand. If it is Bay sucker they will also congregate under the leaves and chemicals don't work very well on them.

      Removing the top couple of inches should also help with the fungus problem. Also clean the fungus off the plant.

      Bay needs fairly free drainage so I would be inclined to repot it with some vermiculite or perlite in the soil. This, together with it standing on feet, would allow it more chance to survive.

      I'm puzzled about the worms and would be concerned that they're not garden worms but the larvae stage of some other pests. What colour are they and what size? Earthworms in pots will eat the roots!

      Different shaped leaves are not a problem.

      I'm with Mike Allen on this and wonder whether you should really bother with it as a houseplant. :dunno:
       
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      • Plowii

        Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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        Nothing to forgive Mike!

        In some ways I also find the photography more interesting, provides quicker results! LOL

        The camera is an old(ish) Nikon D300S, fitted with a micro Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 lens, intended for up to 1:1 or a little more. The camera has built in intervalometer, a timer which can be easily programmed to take exposures at pre-determined intervals. It has been taking photographs of the Bay tree every ten minutes since the 2nd of September, previously it took a couple of hundred at hourly intervals, but after discussing it with another photographer more experienced with time lapse of plants, I decided that was too infrequent so went for 6 an hour.

        I have several other cameras including infra red @720nm and ultra violet @365nm with suitable high quality UV lighting.

        You can see the growing stem wriggling as it grows. I particularly want to capture the event of the leaf buds bursting and the leaves unfurling, which is a fascinating thing to see.

        Seeing the soil rising as the worm moves just under the surface then ejecting worm casts is quite amazing.

        I may take a much closer series for a day or two before I disrupt the entire setup see if I can get some close up's of the white mites and the worm or larvae which populate the pot.

        I have created quite a few time lapse video's but never over this time scale. A few hours or day or so but not weeks or months. The batteries only last about 150 to 250 exposures depending on the battery, they are quite old... I have ordered an AC power supply for the camera but it's been ten days lost in the post so far. Which reminds me I must start a complaints procedure for non delivery from eBay...

        Are you saying it may have been over fed, or needs feeding?

        I haven't fed it with anything, the compost is basic B&Q compost, not John Innes potting compost or anything like it.

        I am wondering if the Bay might need some additional nutrients and it may be starving? Normally when preparing a garden bed I fork in copious amounts of horse manure, peat and sand. Nothing like this has happened with the Bay.

        I had it given, unsolicited. Many years ago my father had two Bay trees in half beer barrels either side of the front door of his pub, one of my duties as a child was to gather leaves for my mother to use to flavour cooking. The tubs were in a North facing aspect, almost no sunlight, except perhaps dawn and sunset. They seemed to do well enough. They were of lollypop style but frankly if mine would grow at all I would be grateful, never mind the shape!

        I would like it in a tub, in my back yard. I do have a small greenhouse about four feet by six. Right now it's a bit cluttered, acting more as a shed... If I got it into the greenhouse then I could continue photographing it, that's impractical outdoors without special gear and then there is the wind...

        For now I just want to optimise it's growing conditions so it can regain it's health.
         
      • Plowii

        Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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        I appreciate the Bay shouldn't really be inside, it was never my intention for it to stay inside but it fell off my radar when it should have been taken outside in the spring after I had it given.

        Initial thoughts:-
        The pot should not be stuck in a plant saucer. Although Bay needs regular watering it hates having a soggy bottom so should be stood on feet in a larger saucer. This would allow free drainage.
        Click to expand...​
        Agreed.

        They're not too good as normal house plants although are quite happy as pot plants. I think that the lack of light from that window isn't helping as they do like a lot of light.

        The white mites could possibly be Bay sucker. Remove the top couple of inches of soil and remove the mites by hand. If it is Bay sucker they will also congregate under the leaves and chemicals don't work very well on them.

        Removing the top couple of inches should also help with the fungus problem. Also clean the fungus off the plant.

        Bay needs fairly free drainage so I would be inclined to repot it with some vermiculite or perlite in the soil. This, together with it standing on feet, would allow it more chance to survive.
        Click to expand...​
        OK it seems if it's not really ready to go outside then I have to make room for it in the greenhouse and re-pot with vermiculite and maybe sharp sand? to improve drainage.

        I'm puzzled about the worms and would be concerned that they're not garden worms but the larvae stage of some other pests. What colour are they and what size? Earthworms in pots will eat the roots!
        Click to expand...​
        There seem to be different worms, one appears to be an earthworm which produces worm casts. Another could well be the larvae stage of some other pest. certainly I have seen a much lighter 'worm' I will try to find a picture and post it here, it does appear from time to time, and I did notice it was much lighter than the earth worm.

        Different shaped leaves are not a problem.
        Click to expand...​
        Good! :yay: Something positive. LOL

        I'm with Mike Allen on this and wonder whether you should really bother with it as a houseplant. :dunno:
        Click to expand...​
        I think we are ALL agreed on that! :)

        Many thanks for taking the time to answer my daft questions, I appreciate your input and hope you may be able to guide me a little as the recovery progresses.
         
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          Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
        • Plowii

          Plowii Apprentice Gardener

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          Update: After a lull in activity, one of the shoots is opening it's top leaf bud. I will try to post a photo or two tomorrow. The growth activity is quite noticeable.

          My AC power adaptor has arrived for the camera now, so daily battery changes are no longer required. I have switched lens to my micro Nikkor 105mm f/4 so I can get a bit closer images from further away, it magnifies the scene X2 times, compared with the standard lens.

          I haven't watered the Bay tree since I first posted this thread, it still hasn't dried out on the surface, although from certain angles the surface of the soil in the pot appears green, so *something* must be growing!
           

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