I always find it interesting revisiting my logbook of phone calls, emails and site visits at the end of each season. Always curious, what was the most common topic? Is it the same as last year? Any new up and comers?
If it were not for the curiosity and anticipation, I do not think I would have made it through the 551 entries since January. With two months to go, the front running questions have to do with trees. With close to 100 calls, emails and site visits, tree questions are always right at the top of the list. Why?
Trees are majestic, provide us comfort, add beauty to our homes and community, filter our air and on rare occasions, provide us with food. We want them to be around for a long time.
We have a lot of money and time invested in our trees. Or, we have a sense of responsibility to the person who planted the tree many years before, who by doing so, allows us to experience the benefits we so appreciate about trees. We love our trees and when we discover they are not doing so well, we want to help them get better. In many cases, this leads to a call to the extension office.
I must admit, tree calls are not my favorite. It is tough to go to someone’s home who is looking for the answer to save their tree, and I have to tell them it cannot be saved. Many times the tree is beyond the point of recovery.
Some challenges trees face are beyond our control. Many trees are prone to certain diseases, insects and, in many cases, are not suitable for our climate and soils which reduces their life span. Some trees are planted for us or before we took ownership, and may have been planted incorrectly not showing signs until many years later.
The challenge is trees do everything slowly and, for the most part, we see them every day so we do not recognize those small gradual changes. Then one day we pull into the driveway and we see it, almost like it happened overnight.
Nothing happens overnight for a mature tree. How much consideration did we take in the few yellow leaves in June, the leaves that fell in July or the edges on the leaves turning brown? We live busy lives and many of the small signs are not seen or are easily overtaken by other things on our minds.
Just like humans, a tree’s greatest enemy is stress. There are a number of stressors for trees, including wind and heat. Most damaging to a tree is water stress.
Water stress comes in two forms — too much or too little. In the vast majority of cases, trees are not receiving enough water. The best thing we can do for our trees is to provide them the right amount of water in the right place.
More than 90 percent of a tree’s active roots are within the top 3 feet of soil and reach well beyond the tree’s canopy and is where we need to water. Very few roots at the base of a tree take up water so there is no reason to water there.
Watering trees properly requires time and the willingness to monitor how deep the water has penetrated. Checking water penetration simply requires a metal probe. To test, push the probe into the soil where you watered. Were the probe stops shows how deep the water penetrated.
Watering frequency is determined by how quickly the root zone dries out and varies depending on soil type. Sandy soils should be watered more often and clay soils less often. Depending on the amount of rainfall, trees should be watered two to three times a month in the summer, two times a month in the spring and fall, and once a month during winter.
Our arid environment is very tough on our trees and plants but it does not take much to keep them healthy and thriving. A good quenching drink of water when needed, an observant eye, and taking action as soon as you notice a change will go a long way in extending the life and majesty of our beloved trees.
If you have any questions or would like additional information about your trees or landscape plants, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
• Meadow Lake Kids Club: 4-5:30 p.., Tuesday, Oct. 22; Nov. 5, 4-5:30 p.m. at the Meadow Lake Community Center, 100 Cuerro Lane, Meadow Lake; free. Youth ages 4-8.
• Gardening Survival Series, “Planting Bulbs”: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop. For information, call 565-3002
• Tea: Specialty Cooking Class: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, $10. Peralta Methodist Church Community Education Building, 25 Wesley Road., Peralta. RSVP by calling 565-3002.
• Beef Quality Assurance Certification: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas. For information, call 565-3002.
• Navigating Taxes for Small Farms, Tuesday: 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12, Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road. Los Lunas. For information, call 565-3002.
• 4-H Enrollment Open: Through Jan. 15. Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas. For information, call 565-3002.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.
Newt McCarty, guest columnist
Newt McCarty is the former Valencia County agricultural agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.