Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting Expert Advice on Trees in Your Landscape: When Google Isn't Enough

For the most part, I like to experiment in the garden and don't mind living with the consequences. I do a lot reading and Googling first, and then just hope for the best. If things go wrong, oh well. The experimenting is the fun part.

It's probably a good thing my hobby isn't science

However, I do have an exception to that rule--and that's for trees. If you don't take care of your trees correctly, you can really do some damage. Bad placement, bad watering, bad pruning, and you have a tree that could come down during a storm. If you're unlucky, it could damage your house, your car, your fence, or (Heaven forbid) a person. That doesn't seem like something you should experiment with.

Which is why I recently decided to call Noelle Johnson, from Noelle has a degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist, and has lots and lots of experience with Arizona plants and trees. She's also just a great person. I knew she was the right person to call when I had questions about my trees.

My first question was about the trees in my front yard. They are quite mature, but I have never moved the emitters from their original location about 3 inches from the trunk. Had I royally screwed up? Answer: Nope. I'm OK. (Phew!) The trees have clearly been getting water from the emitters placed for the shrubs surrounding the trees, so the trees are OK (but it is probably time to move those emitters away from the base of the trees--they aren't doing any good there).

FYI, if you are looking at a tree from the top, the roots will naturally reach past where the leaves are so they can get water during a rain storm. That's where you should place your emitters. You can see a good description of it in Landscape Watering by the Numbers.

My second big question turned out to be much trickier. It was about a big Palo Verde tree I have in my backyard.

When my husband and I first moved into the house, we thought it would be clever to plant this tree in the lawn, because then the tree would naturally get watered when the grass gets watered. However, lately we've been wondering whether that watering schedule is really working well for it. It hasn't been looking that healthy.

It turns out, planting this tree in the grass wasn't such a good idea. Desert adapted trees aren't well-suited to lawns. These types of trees need a chance to dry out between watering, but lawns need frequent watering. There's a good chance this tree is rotting from too much water. It's disappointing to hear, but I'm glad we found out before it fell down in a storm and did some real damage. Now we have a chance to remove it safely.

Bonus Tips!

Even though I mainly asked Noelle to come to see me to give me advice about my trees, two avid gardeners can't help but keep talking. In the course of conversation, I got some great bonus tips about my various shrubs and my vegetable garden. Here's the one that I'm most excited about:

I have this really mangy, awful looking Mexican petunia:

Awful, isn't it? In case you're wondering, here's what a Mexican petunia is supposed to look like:

Like looking in a mirror, right? I had considered just pulling the mangy thing out and replacing it with something else, but these things are impossible to remove. (I've tried it twice.) Once you plant it, it's there for life. So I have this horrible plant that I cannot get rid of that looks awful. The solution? Cut it back to about 3 inches and it will grow back good as new. I love easy answers!

It was such a pleasure to talk to Noelle and get expert answers. If you're looking for some advice about your garden, I could not recommend her more!

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