Friday, June 22, 2012

Guerilla Gardening - the Natural Way

Photo courtesy:

When planting trees, think to the future. The tree that lives outside my condo's livingroom window is the inspiration for this blog. I have enjoyed that tree for 17 years; watching it grow from a sapling to a majestic maple, enjoying the privacy it affords my living room window, listening to the soothing sounds it creates when it rains or a breeze is blowing, watching the birds it shelters in its leaves and loving the sound of their short, I just love that tree.

When the tree was planted, it was placed an inch or so below grass level with a small amount of dirt around the trunk left bare. That helps a lot. However, that was the extent of it. Now, like many other places, our weather patterns have changed over the past two decades; and, we are having an uncharacteristic drought. My tree is showing the effects. For the first time in 17 years, I can see the leaves wilting on the tree for lack of water; and, it upset me.

I assume the end to the drought is nowhere in sight because the City is putting out requests for volunteers; and, instructions on how to water the city trees that line the streets. They are requesting that everyone water the tree(s) outside their property. I live on the 4th floor and have no access to a hose of any kind.

So...tonight, myself, my dog, and several full large soda bottles went outside to water my tree. Zoe (my dog) and I were out there for about 15 mins. as we let the water absorb into the soil slowly between waterings. We waited until dark so the sun wouldn't burn off any of the surface water. I think a couple nights of this should put the moisture back in those leaves.

OK, OK, I get NO points for style as I sat there on my walker, in the dark, patiently watering the tree; but, you do what you gotta do for friends.

How to Make a PVC Watering Tube

Make Tubes and Prepare the Site

1 Cut four 18-inch sections from the 10-foot, perforated PVC pipe. Discard the belled end. File or otherwise smooth the edges of the ends.

2 Glue caps on one end of each section. Wrap the sections with screening to keep gravel and dirt from entering the holes. Overlap the wrap by 3 inches and secure with zip ties.

3 Test your tree site soil for drainage, as good drainage is essential for new trees. Water your chosen spot well the day before planting.

4 Dig a hole twice as deep as your root ball and three times as wide. Mix 1 part compost to 1 part dug soil. Fill the bottom half of the hole with soil mix and firm it in.

Plant Your Tree and Install Tubes

5 Remove your tree from its nursery container by cutting away the container. For ball-and-burlap plants remove the burlap wrapping. Bare root trees will not have coverings. Prune off broken roots, but do not prune back top growth.

6 Place your tree in the hole, making sure the top of the root ball is just above ground level. Spread matted or circling roots. Install the PVC tubes at four equally-spaced points around the hole against the edges. Make sure the top 4 inches of the tubes are above ground level.

7 Add soil backfill halfway up the hole, firm it in and water to remove air pockets.

8 Build a 4-inch high berm (soil wall) around the filled hole with compost, and a 2 inch high inner berm 2 inches out from the tree trunk. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch between the berms.

9 Water your tree immediately by slowly filling the berm and tubes. Use the remaining four caps to cover the tubes when filled.

10 Fill the berm twice to make sure the ground has absorbed enough water. Surface watering is necessary to promote active root growth. Continue regular watering once a week throughout the growing season.

During times of drought, the tubes can be uncovered and water added slowly to the tubes allowing the first 1.5' or so to receive the benefit of a good watering. Fill the tubes, wait for them to empty, fill tubes again, etc. until the trees have received a good watering. Cap tubes to keep dirt or other things out when finished.

Tips & Warnings

Watering tubes can be used to apply liquid fertilizer. Always mix according to manufacturer directions to avoid burning roots.

Installing several watering tubes at the drip line of larger trees may help deliver more water to roots during drought conditions.

Checking the soil around your new tree with a soil probe or moisture meter after watering will help you determine if your watering is effective.

Do not sink watering tubes right by the trunk, as this can promote disease and damage roots.

Extra tubes may need to be installed for supplemental watering as trees grow since it's most effective to irrigate from the dripline to 3 feet beyond.

Do not water trees lightly or just the same amount as lawns; trees have different water requirements. In order to survive, trees need to have huge root systems that extend many feet into the ground. If they are constantly lightly watered, the root system will not develop the depth it requires because the roots will stay on the surface where the water is. Trees need to receive deep waterings that will encourage the root system to grow properly.

Taking this precaution now will allow you to enjoy your tree(s) for a lifetime without wasting any water to do so.

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