Water Your Favorite Trees, Even Now

GOOD GARDENING

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The possibility of fire is on everyone's mind. Give your plants as much help to survive as you can a fire should it reach your yard. And water the trees too, especially if they have been planted during the past year. I know there are water use restrictions in and around Payson, but do the best you can. Maybe you can't water all your trees, but try and give a drink to any particular favorite tree that you would hate to lose. Water them deeply once a week during the cooler months. A long and deep overnight watering is ideal. If you water only the topsoil, the roots will come up near to the surface of the soil and become more vulnerable in drought conditions.

Check the soil around them and see if it is dry and crumbly. If so, it needs water, but if a long stick poked into the ground comes out with soil still stuck on it, the watering can wait a few more days.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

Once the soil around the plants and trees is wet, add more mulch around them. Coarse mulch will need to be in a deeper layer than fine mulch. The mulch must be thoroughly dampened before it is put around the plants. If it is dry, it will draw any moisture out of the ground, which is defeating its purpose. If you are not sure if it is wet enough, put the mulch in a wheelbarrow and add water, leaving it to soak overnight so it becomes damp/wet all through. Cover it so it doesn't freeze in the early morning hours. You do not want to apply frozen mulch around the plants. If it does freeze, wait until it is thawed before applying. Then when you put water on the mulch, the plants will enjoy the water quite a bit longer than would an un-mulched plant. So ... mulch, mulch, mulch.

Ornamental grasses

Now is the time to deal with pampas grass and other ornamental grasses. Normally a pampas grass is burned to get rid of the old accumulated dead stems but, here, you will just have to cut it back by hand. These are not the days to play with fire.

Grasses can be very allergenic to some sufferers of allergies, so they are not plants which will please everyone. Cut back other grasses as well so you will enjoy the new growth in spring.

New fruit trees

You'll be finding bare root fruit trees and rose bushes in the nurseries now. You have the choice of bushes and standards. If you're ambitious and understand pruning, you could consider cordon fruit trees, or even espaliers, which produce a lot of fruit in a small space and the fruit is easy to reach when picking. Apples are excellent as cordons and some soft fruit too, particularly gooseberries, which are not grown often enough here. Make sure you get varieties suitable for this method of growing. The espalier method is often used against walls or fences, which also results in a lot of fruit in a small space. Once the fruit tree has reached the height you want, cut the top off the main stem and train the lateral branches out sideways. After planting a new fruit tree, remove any weak or damaged growth.

This month in the rose garden

Prune the new roses as advised for the hybrids you have. In the case of rambling roses, support and tie the main stems and prune the ends off. Cut the main stems later when they have reached the length you desire.

My favorite rose is Albertine, a gorgeous pink and well-perfumed old English hybrid tea climbing rose. I have yet to find a supplier in this country but it is a vigorous grower which grows well from cuttings which have not been grafted and produces masses of blooms. The blooms don't last long, but it sure is worth having.

We used to call it the "cesspit rose" as my best specimen grew over our cesspit in England. The equivalent here would be over the leach field of a septic tank. So when I find my Albertine, that's exactly where I'll plant it.

Encourage growth with pruning and fertilizers

Encourage vigorous growth of summer-blooming shrubs by pruning them now if you didn't get it done before winter set in, and shape them if they have become all straggly.

Try and find out the names of your shrubs since there are some which have branches that grow in arches and don't need to be cut right back.

Just take out about one-third of the growths to encourage replacements each year. Trim out any dead or withered stems, which didn't survive the winter.

Think fertilizers too. Horse and cow manure, well-rotted, can be used as a mulch in spring.

Keep the manure away from trunks and stems to prevent burning the bark.

Then during the growing season, add liquid fertilizers when you water, or dry granules or powder and water them into the soil.

Xerophytic versus Non-Xerophytic

"Drought-tolerance" doesn't mean that plants can survive without any water, just that they can survive on less.

As there is no reliable forecast that the end of the drought is near, we should all be thinking of using xerophytic plants in our landscapes.

Xerophytic implies that a plant has some succulence or water storage ability, and can survive, once established, with less water than a non-xerophytic plant.

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