For The Answer
PRIMETIME NEWSPAPERS WEEKLY COLUMN
Week of January 15 2001
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System, and Horticulturist
It is time to plant trees. Trees planted in January and February have time to develop roots before the summer heat arrives.
Select a tree species based on what you like in terms of appearance, how much space you have, and what you want to accomplish. One of the best tree recommendation lists is available in the Xeriscape Conversion Guide by the Bexar County Master Gardeners. Find it at your favorite nursery for $5 or through the Master Gardeners by sending $7.40 (includes postage) to Xeriscape Conversion Guide, 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208, San Antonio, TX 78230. Among the trees recommended on every list are live oaks, Texas red oaks, bur oak, chinkapin oak, lacey oak, Monterey oak, cedar elm, Chinese pistache, and Arizona cypress.
Take particular note of their final height and crown width. A live oak planted under electrical wires will be a problem in a short time, whereas a loquat, desert willow, Bradford pear, or red bud planted near the wires may be acceptable.
Large shade trees need to be at least 30 feet from buildings and other large trees. Red buds or loquats planted under the crown edge of a large shade tree work well.
Dig the hole only as deep as the tree was planted in the container. Keep the root ball intact as much as possible. If the roots, however, twist around the root ball, cut or break some loose so they are not prone to stay root bound. It is best to encourage the roots to move into the native soil as quickly as possible. Do not add sand or compost to the planting hole if the native soil is heavy. Hundreds of newly planted trees are drown when water wells in planting holes before the roots move into the soil. Mulch over the root system with three to four inches of organic mulch.
Water the new tree deeply at planting and every time the soil dries to one inch deep under the mulch for the first year. In the winter that may be once per month and in the summer it may be once per week. Fertilize every February with one cup of lawn fertilizer for every inch of diameter spread over the root system. Placing the fertilizer on the mulch and covering it by the materials works fine.
On another development that will be important to the urban forest in San Antonio, San Antonio Forest has created a Heritage Tree Registry. Obtain the application from the website at http//www.saforest.org. Complete the form so that we have an inventory of the large and historically significant trees that bless our area. Dominick Dina, San Antonio Forest spokesperson, says the registry may help everyone appreciate the wonderful trees we have and help determine policies that are needed to protect the legacy.
If all this discussion of trees has inspired you to do more, contact San Antonio Forest (273-9082), the Bexar County Master Gardeners (Dee Emory, 467-6575), San Antonio Trees, or City Arborist Debbie Reid (207-8265) to find out how you can get involved in tree planting in San Antonio. There is an especially important planting of 20,000 trees occurring over the next few years on the Mission Trail; the trees are funded by American Forests Inc. San Antonio Parks also has surplus trees at their nursery that they will provide to area schools if there is a good plan to plant and care for the trees.