While many parts of the country are facing cleaning up their yards of fallen leaves in anticipation of winter snow, for the desert southwest fall means time to plant desert natives. This is time of year is ideal for planting trees and shrubs because the hottest temperatures are finally over and the soil is warm enough to encourage root growth. This is important because the first summer presents the most challenging time for new plants, and with a root system somewhat established through the fall and winter, the plants will have a better chance of surviving.
The most important part of choosing landscape plants is selecting the right species for the right spot. Make sure you know what you are buying and the eventual mature size so you can give it all the room it needs to grow without pruning. If you are not sure what plants are right for your area, contact either your local cooperative extension service or a Landscape Architect.
Planting the Correct Way
Studies prove the old methodology of digging planting holes very deep is a sure-fire way to either stunt the growth of a tree or cause its demise. To understand why this is true you need to know how root systems develop.
Tree roots grow horizontally more than deep, and extend far beyond the canopy of the tree. The feeder and water absorbing roots are also shallower than you would think. These roots are anywhere from 12 to 18 inches deep.
To dig your planting hole, you will need a comfortable shovel and either a digging bar or pick. The Ames 48 inch Round Point Shovel is a good choice as it is reasonably priced and made of steel. A garden rake, such as the Ames True Temper Jackson Rake will help you sort of good soil and rocks for a better backfill mixture.
To Prune or Not to Prune?
Trees should not be pruned at planting time except for the following reasons:
- Removing dead branches
- Removing signs of mistletoe
- Branches that cross each other and are rubbing together
- Branches that are broken
Do not remove lower branches as these will encourage a strong trunk assuring a sturdy tree. Leave the lower branches on for at least 2 years before removing. Pruning should always include use of a sharp tool just for that purpose. This ensures a clean cut. When pruning branches, always cut back to the point of origin, but never flush with the trunk or the adjoining branch. Most trees have a bulge where two branches meet. This is called the branch protection zone. Do not cut into this area to avoid damage to the tree’s vascular system.
Watering your New Plants
Just because temperatures are cooling off does not mean you can forego watering. New plants should be watered once a day for a week; once every other day for a week, and then 2 or 3 times a week throughout the winter.