This happens to be an article that will outline some of the best ways that you can keep your trees growing, happy and healthy.
The first thing that needs to be understood is just how much water will be needed. To make it simpler let’s classify the trees into two categories: desert trees and everything else. In low desert environments, a desert tree like the Palo Verde or Mesquite will not really need additional water other than natural rainfall. When you first plant a desert tree, it is helpful to supplement the natural rainfall with irrigation for the first summer, as this helps them to recover from shock when being planted outside of the container. Beware of planting any desert trees into maintained, lush lawns as extremely chaotic and rapid growth can happen. I have had a client who had to have Mesquite trees trimmed 3 times a year because they were planted in her lawn area, which gets frequent shallow watering. Mesquites that are planted in a lawn area will be some of the fastest growing trees, but the rapid growth is brushy and weak.
For everything else that is not a desert tree, there will be a simple formula when it comes to planting an established tree: simply water them 2 to 3 times per month during the summer and 1 time during winter. If you will keep an eye on the tree, then you happen to notice wilted leaves then it is past time to water. Once or twice a month doesn’t really seem to be enough. It is as long as the trees are getting plenty of water each time. A really great way to water a tree is to turn your water hose on the lowest setting on an uphill part and walk away for about 4 to 6 hours. It will give enough water to soak into the ground around the tree for about 3 feet deep. This is vital as it helps to flush salts and other types of chemicals that can make poor soil, below the root level where the absorption happens. Deep watering also helps to encourage the roots to grow deeper. Roots will not grow there is barely any water, there will not be anything for them. The worth thing for a tree is daily, shallow watering like what happens to an average lawn. A tree that grows in a lawn that has constant access to shallow water is very likely to blow over during a storm because the roots are not deep enough to deal with heavy winds. Basically, the tree roots are like ropes that will anchor the heavy trunk and the canopy.
The next thing that you need to worry about is the quality of soil. There’s a myth that states that soil quality has to make up of the soil. For some cases this could be true, but just like with any case dealing with sandy soils it will not hold water. In most cases, all soil issues can be fixed with adding a magic ingredient. That is organic matter. Whenever a person takes a handful of black, rich soil and say, “this is the soil from the Gods” or something like that, what they are saying is that the dirt has a lot of decayed organic matter that will allow plants to grow really well. Good soil just doesn’t happen on accident. It is created through the constant addition of water which causes growth of microbes and the addition to organic materials which is a natural byproduct of decaying plant matter. So, if you happen to have bad soil, then you can fix it by adding some mulch and water. Another alternative or supplement to adding mulch is to plant some nitrogen fixing plants like clover, legumes or buckwheat. These are some magic bean type of plants that can absorb nitrogen from the air. Whenever they die, they are releasing nitrogen into the soil. A cheap source of organic material is that the wood chips from the tree services. Be prepared because if a tree service brings you a load of wood chips, it could be more than you expected or more than you can handle. You will need to spend Saturday hauling them into your backyard. It isn’t needed or advised to work the wood chips into the soil. Just adding 4 to 6 inches of wood chips is a great way to do it. Adding a surface layer of wood chips will be able to retain water. It is estimated that mulched trees will use less water than those trees that have their soil exposed to the air. It is amazing that when you dig under the mulch and find worms and water and even decaying matter, if the tree hasn’t been watered in a month with the Arizona heat blazing. You can be surprised at just how quickly that the mulch will disappear. There is an unproven theory that states worm castings that cover the chips are what will cause the wood chips to disappear and be added into the soil below. Whatever the reason is, you will need to reapply the wood chips yearly to get the best results.
If you can’t leave a lot of mulch on the ground, then the next best thing is to use fertilizer. There is a lot of hype about how awesome deep root fertilization is, but it doesn’t mean that shallow fertilization isn’t as effective. If the fertilizer is water soluble, which more are, then the fertilizer is carried to the roots through the water. It just makes sense that the fertilizer will dissolve in the water and then make its way to the roots. Deep root feeders are just a way to make fertilization cost effective as more trees can be fed this way instead of spreading fertilizer above ground.
The big debate of inorganic versus organic is a pretty tiring one and it is easy to admit that most people don’t feel strongly about it either way, especially when it comes to shade trees that are not producing edible fruit. Instinctually stating that organic is better and less harsh than something that comes from a pit mine, is true. Organic fertilizer has more of a variety of micronutrients and will tend to have a slow release when compared to the synthetic fertilizers which are easily available and rapidly washed out of the soil. Organic fertilizers are often what a person wants. There are not a lot of people out there that will ask for inorganic fertilizers where many people want organic and that is what they get.
The very last thing to say is that you need to keep an eye on your trees. Often times I will be asked to consult on trees that are really declining, but the change happened so slowly that the homeowner did not even notice it. A casual glace at it once a month or so can help to solve some of the issues before they get too serious. If you are noticing a lot of dead branches or notice that the leaves are turning yellow, it could be a sign that your tree needs to be fertilized or it is time to change your watering schedule.
Good Luck nursing your trees in growth.