By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Planting a tree that will live in our ever-increasing heat and decreasing water availability can be a challenge. The good news is that there are varieties that will grow here and fall is the time to plant. Next week’s article will list varieties that are recommended for West Texas.
Once you have chosen your tree, it is important to give it the best start by correctly planting it.
When you dig the hole for your tree, be sure the depth will allow for the tree to be planted 2” above grade. The hole should be two to three times the width of the root ball. The root flare MUST be above grade. Scratch the sides of the hole to remove the hard edges.
Remove the tree from the container by the root ball, not the trunk. You may have to cut the container to do this. It may be necessary to remove some of the potting soil to find the root flare which is where the trunk changes from the trunk or stem to the roots.
Check to be sure that none of the roots are girdling and straighten the roots if necessary. You don’t want the roots growing in a circle. Gently loosen the soil around the tree. Place the tree in the hole to be certain it is not being planted too deeply. If you add soil to the hole be sure you tamp it down.
Now fill the hole with water and let it soak into the walls of the hole. Once the tree is correctly in the hole backfill with native soil, tapering from the flare to the edge of the hole. Install drip irrigation in circles around the tree with the beginning circle 24” in diameter. The drip should not touch the tree and should be 12” apart.
Next add a 3” layer of mulch. Mulch should never touch or be stacked against the tree.
Be sure that all wires or plastic tape is removed from the tree and loosely stake it if necessary. The tree should still be able to move when the wind blows. This helps the roots become strong enough to withstand the West Texas winds. After the first season remove the stakes.
As your tree grows it may be necessary to adjust the irrigation to be sure it never touches the trunk and always extends past the tree’s canopy. Once your native tree is established you may be able to remove the irrigation.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.