I have several Brandon cedar trees in my yard. Every year I have been raking the dead needles from under them. Do I need to do this or is it robbing them of nutrients? Also, last year there were some tiny hard brown spots on some to the needles and the area they were on dried up. What were they and how can I get rid of them?
Evergreen is a misleading term. All leaves and needles have a definitive life cycle. The difference is that those of cedars and other conifers, or evergreens, don’t die all at once. Typically, cedars lose the needles closest to the trunk, which are the oldest ones, in late summer or fall. This process lessens the stress on the branches when snow and ice weigh them down in the winter. Look closely at the browning on your cedar to see where it appears on the branch. If it’s on the inside and the needles on the outside edges of the branch are green and healthy, there is no cause for concern.
Whether you rake the needles up is a personal choice. Raking is not robbing
them of nutrients or leaving the needles does not increase the nutrients. If you want the area under the tree to stay without grass you can leave the needles and over time it will make a good mulch.
The hard spots sounds like a disease called Cedar-quince rust. Cedar-quince rust is caused by a fungal pathogen, Gymnosporangium claviceps.
This fungus must spend a part of its life cycle on junipers, particularly Eastern red cedars. It alternates between junipers and a wide range of rosaceous host. The galls produced on juniper have an elongated swollen appearance and are less obvious than cedar apple rust galls until the teliospores are produced in the yellow orange “goop” Aecia (spore horn) on hawthron fruit(telium). These galls on the junipers are capable of producing telia for several years. Infected twigs often die. The teliospore infects the alternate host, resulting in spots on fruit and twig (less often on leaves) on the rosaceous host. Later in the season fruit may be covered in orange-reddish spore horns, which will release spores to reinfect the junipers.
On the Cedars it causes little problems and no control is needed.