PLANTING YOUR FUTURE
It’s almost time for the summer monsoon! Anyone with a garden or landscape should be cheering for all the free water we are going to get.
But besides the good things that come with storms, there are always a few tragedies. If you are attentive and notice things happening in the landscape, chances are you won’t experience a tragedy.
So how can you prepare for big winds and drenching rain?
First, make sure that you have good watering practices. Tree roots refuse to grow into dry soil. In order to have a well- rooted tree, you must water deeply and infrequently. Over the first eight to 10 days that a new plant is in the ground, it should be gradually weaned from being watered daily to just once a week. This doesn’t mean you give it less water as the weeks go by. It means water less frequently but with a greater volume. When you see trees blown over on the side of the road, you can bet they were watered shallowly and frequently. A deeply rooted tree will not blow over, and there are no culprit trees that are more susceptible to blowing over.
Canopy thickness can play a part in trees going down. In nature our desert trees are very well-balanced multi-trunks. In many of our landscapes, we have chosen trees that have one trunk, a huge head and a shape somewhat like an umbrella. If this sounds like a tree in your yard, make sure it is deeply rooted from deep watering and consider having the canopy thinned before the monsoon. Thinning the canopy consists of prudent pruning that removes some of the bulk of the leaves and branches while not damaging the shape and health of the plant.
Young trees need to be properly staked. There are some trees that require no staking at all. When first planting a tree, remove the crutch stake that is in the nursery pot. It is there only to help the trunk grow straight. If the tree stands straight and tall – if you can gently bend it to the side and it springs right back into place – no stake is needed. The tree that bends and yields to the wind will not break. Desert trees that rely on multiple trunks for their balance do not need to be staked. However, if they have been trained into a single trunk, which is not natural, they will require staking.
Some of the “trees” that most often need staking are shrubs trained as trees. These include privet, xylosma, evergreen pistache, crepe myrtle and oleanders – plants that would naturally be a shrub but have been trained to be a tree. Their trunks take quite a while to develop and should be staked.
To stake properly, use a triad of stakes arranged evenly around the tree and hammered deeply into the rigid soil outside of the planting hole. Numerous types of materials can be used to hold the tree in place, but no matter which you choose, it should be the tension of the tie to the stake that holds it in place. With even tension applied in three directions, the tree will be allowed movement to build strong caliper, but not enough to wrench it from the ground.
Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.