A Few Other Thoughts
- When purchasing a new tree, watch out for girdled (circling)
roots. These can cause the tree to fail later in life, often much later.
Girdling roots occur when a plant is left in a container too long. Always
wiggle the trunk a bit in the pot or box, and see if a 'plate' of soil
heaves, indicating it is girdled from when it was in a smaller pot.
When planting, after removing the plant from the container, make vertical
slices through the root-ball about 1 inch deep, and every 6 inches,
all the way around. If you hit a large root, cut it!
- Younger is better when planting new trees. Younger trees
are more adaptable, establish better, and usually end up healthier and
out-grow larger specimens. Plus, you save money. I think 15 gallon trees
are an ideal size, but even younger is better.
- Trees need deep, wide irrigation. Make sure your tree has
access to water beyond the immediate root-ball. Extra emitters should
be added. The larger the tree will become, the more emitters it will
need. Other plants with their own emitters can add to the trees wetting
pattern, for plants share root space. The roots should be encouraged
(through wetting patterns) to radiate out in all directions, for they
will provide the physical support to keep the tree upright in high winds.
- Think of irrigation in two parts; how much and how often.
The difference between a Mesquite (low water user) and a Magnolia (high
water user) is not in how much water they should receive when irrigated;
each should be watered deep and wide. The difference is in how often
each should be watered, with the Magnolia watered frequently, the Mesquite
- Desert tree species do much better with infrequent watering.
They are stronger, healthier, more attractive, require less pruning,
and are more cold-hearty.
This is the Screwbean Mesquite growing near the turf (grass).
The shovel is in the photo for scale. This tree is only 1 year old from
a 15-gallon container.
This tree was the same size and planted at the same time as
the one near the turf. It is not near turf and I last watered it in
October. It is half the size of the one near the turf, and in the long
run, it will be the much more healthy and beautiful of the two, and
require far less work (unless I get rid of the turf by the other one.
Hmmmmm, there's an idea!)
- Staking is only temporary. The stake that is against the
trunk should be removed the day it is planted. Stakes should only be
used if necessary to hold the tree upright or keep the root ball from
shifting. Such stakes should be outside the root-ball, and cut short
enough so that the stakes do not cause injury by rubbing against branches
in the canopy. Stakes should be removed within 1 to 2 years.
- Plant at proper depth. This is usually where the plant
is in the pot - keep the soil level the same. To check, wiggle the tree
in the pot. Where it pivots is at the point where it should enter the
ground. If there is soil above this point (making the trunk look like
it' 'wallowing' around) then its planted too deep in the pot, and plant
it to the correct depth (the point of pivot). Another sign of the right
depth to plant is root-flare, a spreading out of trunk tissue right
where it enters the ground and transitions into roots.
- Remember that pruning is a long-term process. Not all pruning
objectives can be achieved in the first year. Plan ahead, years ahead.
Know that small branches grow and become large ones. Use vision and
imagination to determine what to prune now, and what to prune later.
- And don't stress! Gardening should be fun. Plants recover
from mistakes. If a branch is removed that leaves a hole in the canopy,
plants naturally fill in those holes with new foliage. Take your time.
If you're not sure about a cut, wait and think about it. Don't stress!