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Tips on Planting and Caring for Your Trees: An Interview with Steve Sain of Trees That Please Nursery

By Steve Sain

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Trees That Please is a full-service nursery centrally located in Valencia County on highway 47 in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. We offer native as well as New Mexico adapted trees, shrubs, and cacti. We specialize in native oaks and trees, growing most from seed of local populations. We also graft our apple and pear trees, selecting varieties that are productive in our climate. Plants are available in a variety of sizes. We also offer "The Right Tree for the Right Site" plant selection service where we consider site, water, and purpose (shade or specimen) matching the client's needs to the best plant choices. Delivery and planting services are also available. We are here to help you succeed.

What are some of the most popular trees that homeowners in New Mexico are planting now?

Our most popular trees include the Texas Red Oak, Chisos Red Oak, Shantung Maple, Chinese Pistache, Gambel Oak, Chinquapin Oak, Desert Willow, Austrian Black Pine, and fruit trees. Where water is not limiting the Cotton-less Cottonwoods, Native Sycamore, Globe Willows and Texas Redwoods are popular choices.

Can you briefly explain the basic steps to successfully plant new trees in your yard?

Planting Instructions
Remove and discard grass and weeds from the planting site. The hole should be 1 foot wider than the diameter of the root ball and no deeper. Dig the hole square rather than round as roots cannot follow the sides of a square hole as easy as a round.

Pour several quarts of 3 percent grade hydrogen peroxide on the sides and bottom of the hole until saturated. You will see the soil bubble and fizz, which softens the soil and allows the new roots to penetrate the sides of the hole.

Carefully remove the tree's root ball from its container, taking care not to break or damage the root ball. Take care to not touch the roots with bare hands as lotion and acids from your skin can cause damage. Place the tree in the center of the hole on firm ground so the root crown (where the trunk meets the roots) is level with the surrounding ground level.

Return undamaged containers to the nursery so they may be recycled, thanks!

Backfill the hole with the soil you removed (original soil). Discard any grass and weeds from the soil. Do not add soil amendments. Try to use pulverized soil like that of a gopher mound. Do not pack the soil in; instead use water to settle the soil into the voids of the hole.

Do not place any kind of fertilizer tablets into the backfill. Do not use any kind of root stimulator or fertilizer of inorganic origin with newly planted trees. Earth Magic with our Protein Crumblies may be applied on the surface only.

Remove the nursery stake, if your tree came tied to one. If your tree is sturdy enough to hold itself upright, do not re-stake. Trees trunks will develop faster if they can bend in the wind. Water thoroughly right after planting to soak the planting area and settle the soil.

For optimum tree growth
Watering well with a sprinkler is best. Judge the amount of water put down by your sprinkler by measuring 3 to 4 inches of water into coffee cans. The zone that needs to be watered and mulched is the same area the tree needs to expand its root system out into, the first growing season, which is approximately a 20 to 30 foot radius of the trunk. Mulch with organics or wood chips about 4 to 6 inches deep over the entire future root zone area, leaving a bare 4-inch to 6 inch area directly around the trunk. Feed with Earth Magic and Protein Crumblies twice a year.

If a temporary water basin is needed, make it as big as possible. Build the walls of the basin above the surrounding soil level, making sure that the tree's root crown remains at soil level. Fill your basin with mulch. Using basin watering long term will affect the overall size, growth rate and health of your tree. Roots only grow into soil that is moist, limiting that area greatly increases your chances for problems with tangled roots, limited growth, lower nutrient uptake, wind throw (trees being blown over in strong wind) and stress. A stressed tree is more vulnerable to bugs and diseases.

Do not depend on drip irrigation to water trees as it will not create a large enough wet spot in the ground to grow a satisfactory tree. A copy of our Planting Instructions can be found at our website by following this link:

How does the soil figure into optimum tree health?

Healthy Soils = Healthy Plants = Healthy People

Mimic mother nature to develop healthy and productive soils that can support healthy trees and shrubs. Cover your soils with mulch to retain moisture and keep soils cooler.

Add humus or humic substances to your soil. Humic substances contain humic acids, which are complex biologic chemicals, prevalent in healthy top soils, but often deficient in soils of agriculture and urban landscapes. The problem is that the typical management of soils does not provide the chemical environment or precursor substances that are needed for the production of humic acids! "Humic acids are remarkable brown to black products of soil chemistry that are essential for healthy and productive soils" Journal of Chemical Education, 2001, Geoffrey Davies, University of Arizona. Humus is not just compost, peat moss, or aged manure, as it describes a stable soil carbon complex called Supramolecular Humic substances. Something much more complex and valuable than just decaying organic matter! They are chemicals of nature that not only persist in undisturbed soil for thousands of years, but accumulate to the point that they give a topsoil its structure and its dark color. The humic acid fraction of the humic substances are involved with hundreds of very important chemical processes, keeping everything in check and balance. It can be said, that the definition of a topsoil is the presence and the concentration of these substances, which improve the structure, drainage, porosity, chemistry and the biology of soil. They are complex molecules rich in carbon that unlike carbon found in compost or mulch, will not rapidly cycle back into the air as a greenhouse gas. If your goal is to build a topsoil, these are the substances that can be fortified into your soil to speed up the process!

Feed your soils and plants with organic slow release fertilizers like compost, Protein Crumblies, and worm castings. These decompose slowly releasing their nutrients into the soil. Protein feeds the soil's micro-organisms and slowly provides nitrogen to the landscape of plants without damaging the environment or surface and groundwater with nitrate leaching. Plant derived compost provides most of the required plant nutrients as it is decayed and concentrated plant material. Compost provides its nutrients slowly so they won't be carried away with the water stream like inorganic water soluble fertilizers. To learn more about the Journey to Better Soil Health visit the Soil Secrets website at:

What do you recommend for the proper care of trees that have just been planted through maturity?

Summer Watering
A newly planted tree should be watered approximately once every 2 to 4 days by soaking the tree canopy drip zone using a sprinkler or due to area or budget constraints by filling a water basin. Optimum tree growth will occur if you mulch the tree canopy drip zone or basin with organics or wood chips to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, leaving a bare 4-inch to 6 inch area directly around the trunk. (The ideal tree planting site is a mulched site, with a radius of 20 feet which is the potential reach of a small tree roots during the first growing season. Soak this zone once per week until the soil is saturated.) If you have any doubts then check the soils moisture content. Push aside the mulch, and grab a handful of soil. If it is soaking wet then decrease water. If your soil is just moist to dry then it is time to water.

Feeding or Fertilizing
The Soil Secrets products, Earth Magic/Protein Crumblies, may be applied anytime, normally twice annually. These products inoculate your soil with beneficial soil bacteria and mycorrhizae fungi, and much needed Humus and provide plant available mineral nutrients. The beneficial mycorrhizae fungi help plants acquire water and nutrients making your landscape stronger and more drought tolerant in the long run. Humus - humus and more humus. Earth Magic is humus and there is no toxicity point to humus. If your soils are awful and you are in doubt use more than the label rate. Nothing else can do what humus and mycorrhizae do!!!! TTP Supreme Compost can also be used, as it is a great organic form of nutrients that remain available to plants in the soil for a greater time than inorganic sources of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Many of these inorganic sources are water soluble and are carried deeper into the soil and away from the roots with each watering. It is best to avoid chemical fertilizers for this reason. Compost feeding can be done by direct application to the mulch beds around plants and then thoroughly watered in. All fertilizers chemical or organic need to be used properly as too much of even a good thing like our TTP Supreme Compost can cause burn and can cause plants to lose their relationship with the mycorrhizae. Feed with compost twice annually, in spring and fall.

Winter Watering
As trees go dormant (deciduous trees lose leaves) decrease watering frequency from 7 to 14 to 21 day intervals. Water when able in the winter (i.e. when the ground is not frozen). Young trees / shrubs must be watered during the winter to prevent the root ball from drying out which may result in death of your tree. Winter watering should be done approximately once every 3-4 weeks by soaking the tree canopy drip zone using a sprinkler or by filling the watering basin. Make sure the plant is not soaking in wet mud all winter long which can cause rot. Moist soils not wet are the rule!

Resist the urge to prune and shape during the first season unless there are dead or misshapen branches. Leaving these branches on the plant helps to support growth of new roots and shoots. Pruning can be done during dormancy after the first growing season or anytime (season) thereafter. Winter pruning often increases vigor.

Trees planted in high wind areas may require staking. In general, stake your tree loosely on 2 or 3 sides. This allows trunk movement which helps build its strength. Make sure the tree does not rub or bang against the staking!

A copy of our Tree and Shrub Care Guide can be found at our website by following this link:

What advice do you have for people in New Mexico who want to plant trees that aren't native to the environment or naturally live in a pretty different environment?

As with anything else do your homework, research the plant you desire (do a Google Search) and determine its growth requirements. Be sure to include its mature size, winter hardiness, soil pH requirements, soil drainage requirements, water needs, etc. Also include root structure. Root structure, taproots or surface roots, determine how close to structures you can plant your tree or shrub. Make sure your desired tree is a good fit to our climate and your space.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Trees That Please Nursery
3084 Highway 47
Los Lunas, NM 87031
Phone: 505.866.5027

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saim jhone

I have read your article, it is very informative and helpful for me.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for

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