Plants like mesquite, palo verde, and acacia are dry in terms of water use. They use less water than alternative trees and shrubs and are controlled by watering.
Dry trees and shrubs — including many of our plants from the southwest desert — look amazing; water them after a long period of drought, and they will re-grow leaves and many will bloom again. When they encounter drought or unusually hot windy weather, they will drop leaves and slow down their growth.
This happens to most of our native mesquite, palo verde and acacia. They are in harmony with our desert environment, especially its sporadic rainfall. Plants like this are dry in terms of water use. They use less water than alternative trees and shrubs and are controlled by watering.
Dry crops in the nursery trade come from desert regions in the United States and certain parts of the world. You will not find them labeled "xeric" in nurseries.
Trees and shrubs use more water than dry plants and their growth cannot be controlled with water. They are considered neutral in terms of water use. They are usually sold as "desert plants", but their water is not dry.
Mesic trees and shrubs include wattle, oleander, African sumac, bottle tree, and Chinese pistachio. Trees and shrubs that grow well on the lawn are useless in terms of water use. Don't confuse drought tolerance with low water consumption. Plants such as oleander and vitex may be considered drought-tolerant, but they are definitely not drought-tolerant in terms of water use.
The two biggest benefits of dry plants in the landscape are their lower water consumption and the use of water to control their growth. Dry plants should have their own water supply or irrigation station.
If saving water and controlling their growth are the main reasons for planting them, put them on the same irrigation valve. This allows you, not them, to control their growth.
This is referred to as the creation of hydraulic zoning or hydraulic zones in the irrigation trade. Smaller arid plants such as desert marigold or autumn sage can be on the same irrigation valve, but they receive less water (fewer drips). This leads to a decrease in the water available for application to the soil and plants.
Q: I am transforming my lawn area into a desert landscape. It has a 20-year-old African sumac tree that grows on the lawn to shade the front of the house. The rest of the plants can be removed, but I want to keep this tree healthy because it shades the south side of my house.
Answer: The roots of your African sumac tree prefer lawns when looking for easily available water and fertilizers. When the lawn is removed, most of its water and fertilizer are also gone, and the roots of the tree will be close to the soil surface.
The shape of any tree is similar to a wine glass; the roots spread out at the bottom of the glass. The biggest difference from the wine glass analogy is the length of the roots on the lawn; undisturbed roots will spread twice the height of the tree. A 30-foot tree can have 60-foot roots on the lawn.
The roots of the trees growing on the lawn are very shallow. Most of the roots of medium-sized trees like the African sumac should grow to a depth of 24 inches. This requires regular watering to at least this depth. Because lawns need to be irrigated frequently, most tree roots will not exceed 8 to 10 inches in depth and extend to twice their height.
After removing the grass, your job is to identify where the tree roots grow and replace the water it gets from the lawn. Six or eight drip irrigators will not provide enough water for the tree, nor will it distribute the water to an area large enough to meet its needs. Trees growing on the lawn need to distribute water to areas similar in size and location to the lawn.
Use a drip pipe to irrigate the tree instead of using a separate drip irrigation. The drip irrigation pipe has a transmitter embedded in the pipe wall. The most common pipeline is embedded with drip irrigation every 12 inches along its wall, which can transport nearly one gallon of water per hour.
When changing lawns, a spiral pipe that loops around the tree trunk and circulates about 250 feet should provide enough water. One hour of irrigation should provide the tree with approximately 200 gallons of water each time it is watered. After irrigation, push 4-foot-long steel bars into the soil at random locations to ensure that the water wets the soil to a depth of 18 to 24 inches.
Q: My soil looks good, but after I water it, in some places it will stay moist for a few days. I can water the plants in some areas, but in other places the plants have died because the roots are too wet. Irrigation water does not seem to drain well in some areas, while it seems to be good in other areas.
Answer: It is likely that something in the soil prevents water loss. It is located somewhere below the planting depth. This may be a layer of clay-called a soil lens-to prevent water loss. These are usually located in the lower part of the valley leading to the Las Vegas washing ground.
This clay layer may be 2 feet or more below the surface of the soil. If it is shallow, then drilling or drilling holes 3 to 4 inches in diameter in the soil can "pump" or drain the water from the roots of the plant. This allows soil to drain and plant roots to breathe. If possible, this is the simplest solution.
The next easiest way to solve this problem is to plant on a hill or mound. The size of this mound depends on the size of the plant; larger plants require larger mounds or hills.
If these are small plants, such as perennial flowers, that do not exceed 18 to 24 inches in height, then a mound of 12 inches high and 18 inches wide is sufficiently high and wide. If the plants are small to medium-sized trees, a mound that is 18 inches high and 4 to 6 feet wide is large enough.
You can sculpt the soil or create altitude changes in the landscape for the first time. Raising the soil can improve soil drainage from higher mounds.
Question: I think there are 10 older desert willow trees in my yard. The weather becomes hot after flowering every year, and the leaves turn brown and fall off in summer. What can I do to prevent this?
Answer: If your tree is a desert willow, the reason why its leaves turn brown and fall off is that its leaves lack water. But first, make sure it is desert willow. Bring some small branches with leaves and flowers to the nursery and identify them.
Leaf disease is a possibility for desert willows, but usually requires humid weather. Because it happens when it gets hot, the problem is most likely a watering problem.
There may be many reasons for plant leaf tip browning and falling leaves, and they can be confusing: waiting for too many days to be watered, watering every day, maintenance personnel or insect damage to the trunk, disease problems, herbicides, etc. Occurs in the hot summer The most common cause of this situation is too frequent watering.
Desert willow is a small tree native to all deserts in the southwest and found to grow along water streams, such as arroyos. It does not like daily watering or any type of frequent irrigation.
When it is watered, it prefers to water it in large quantities at one time and does not water it for about a week. This encourages its roots to grow deep in the soil. Deep roots help plants to withstand the heat of the desert. Ideally, it should be watered at the same time as other desert plants.
Some people like to give plants a little water every day. Perhaps the irrigation system does not allow much flexibility, and it is complicated to water various landscape plants and containers. This irrigation method is effective in the short term, but it will affect the growth pattern and location of plant roots in the next few years.
Plants are just like us; they are lazy. Plant roots grow best where they absorb water most and have plenty of air and fertilizer. Watering with a little water every day can promote the growth of shallow roots. Shallow roots are less tolerant to the high temperature and drought that are common in summer deserts.
Bob Morris is an expert in gardening and an emeritus professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Visit his blog on xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.
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