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Trees grow faster when planted in good soil that holds nutrients


A question we hear day after day, particularly as summer drags on and people get tired of their hot homes, patios and yards is: “What kind of tree can I plant that will grow fast, really fast?”

I always try to steer that question to the other tree issues such as questions about ultimate size, deciduous vs. evergreen, flowering or other special characteristics.

A gentleman I was talking with recently showed me the error in my logic.

“I don’t care about any of those other things,” he insisted. “I just want a tree that grows fast, really fast.”

Assuming we don’t have restrictions on how big a tree gets, how much water it uses, how long it lives, what color flowers it has, etc. – I have answers.

But before I lay out the answers, I have just a couple of comments on how to get a tree to grow its fastest. Because no matter what tree you plant, it grows faster in what we would call “good” soil as opposed to “poor” soil.

What makes soil good is its ability to hold nutrients and water and to allow the roots to spread far and wide.

So unless you are planting a tree on the banks of the Tanque Verde wash, make the soil in the planting area as much like the alluvial riverbank soil as possible, then water and feed that tree as much as you possibly can.

If you are planning to plant a tree in an area that sure as heck looks like a rock pile or unending sand, don’t despair.

Just remember the type of soil that your tree will grow fastest in and do your darndest to imitate that.

Many times people foil their own ambitions by skimping on preparation. Don’t be tempted to do that! The extra time and energy that you put into digging that hole wider or deeper, the extra $5 or $10 you put into compost or soil conditioner to make the planting area better, will more than repay you many times over in the growth of the tree.

OK, lecture over.

Here are the fastest growers:

• Eucalyptus. Many varieties grow well even in poor soil.

• Eldarica and Aleppo Pines. Growth of 6 feet a year is not unusual.

• Cottonwood. Watch out for your water bill growing as fast as the tree.

• True Chilean (big thorn) Mesquite. They only blow over if watered incorrectly.

• Silk Oak (Grevillea robusta). Not a true oak but an evergreen tree with gorgeous flowers.

• Willow Acacia (Acacia salcina). Drought tolerant with the best of them.

• Arizona Cypress. Gorgeous native needled evergreen.

Not quite as quick, but a close second:

• Acacia smallii. Sweet acacia.

• Quercus virginiana. Southern live oak.

• Ash (Fraxinus). Many varieties available, but native Velvet Ash is the fastest.

• Sycamore. They’re fast, but like cottonwoods, you’ll wish for your own well.

• Chinese Pistache. Fast growth and fall color.

• Locust (Robinia). Cultivar “Purple Robe” is a black locust with awesome flowers.

• Paloverde. New hybrids like Desert Museum are fast, conservative and pretty!

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

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