Twenty-seven years ago, I had a Dutch elm tree on our farm in
Orange County, Ind. It was about 15 inches in diameter and stood
about 100 feet from our house where we had a swing in its shade.
One morning, a redheaded woodpecker took some dead bark off a limb,
and I realized the tree was dying from Dutch elm disease. But I had
an idea to save it. My father kept a can of pure gum turpentine and
said it was good to put on an animal’s cuts and scratches to keep
flies away. I thought it might work on the elm tree.
I drilled a 1-inch-diameter hole into the tree about a half inch
deep and screwed an 18-inch, L-shaped pipe into the hole. (To make
the L, use a 1-inch-diameter pipe 2 inches long, threaded at both
ends, an elbow and an 18-inch, 1-inch-diameter pipe.) I poured
about a cup of turpentine into the pipe and put a cork into the
end. A week later, I checked the pipe and all the turpentine had
drained into the tree. I unscrewed the pipe and put a cork into the
hole and covered that with turpentine.
We moved a few years later, but recently I returned with my
son-in-law to visit the farm. There was the tree, 3 feet in
diameter and about 75 feet tall, healthy as can be! I guess my dad
was right about turpentine keeping insects away.
Be sure the pipe fits tightly into the hole so no turpentine leaks
out and always use pure gum turpentine. If the tree starts to die
again, give it another dose.