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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Growing Quality Trees-Fast

"We would like to plant an oak tree but we don't want to wait 10 years for shade." Have you caught yourself saying that? This is a very common comment from new homeowners who want to plant shade trees.

Of course, everyone would prefer a fast-growing tree. I can understand that. We don't want to wait. For that patio, porch or roof, we need shade today-not tomorrow!

But what about the "fast" versus "slow" growing trees? The fact is, with proper care, trees that may otherwise be considered slow growers might not necessarily be slow growers at all. It all depends on the care they receive.

Super shade and ornamental trees such as the live oak or Spanish (Texas Red) oak should not be passed up just because they are labeled "slow growers." There are several things that you can do to speed up the growth of any tree.

First, consider the nutrient supply in the soil. If the soil is naturally infertile, periodic applications of a complete, slow-release fertilizer such as 19-5-9 can greatly enhance the rate of growth of your trees.

Next, consider the spot where you will plant the tree. Most trees experience maximum growth when planted in full sun. Don't plant any tree in the shade and expect it to grow quickly.

Use mulches around the tree to reduce soil temperature, especially if planted in full sun. The spreading of organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings or straw under and around trees will effectively control grass and weeds, yet still have an attractive appearance. Not only will mulching with organic materials prevent grass competition, it will also conserve moisture for tree root use and stabilize soil temperatures (since roots don't like extremely hot or cold soils). Young trees should be surrounded with at least three feet of thick mulch (3 to 4 inches deep) that is maintained throughout the growing season, but never piled on the trunk of the tree.

The last two points to consider are probably the most important:

(1) Never disturb the root system
(2) Reduce competition to the tree.

Even though trees have a few very deep roots, most of the root system is very shallow. Any digging or hoeing that damages the roots of the tree can slow its growth considerably.

And finally, keep the grass cleared from the base of the newly planted tree as long as possible. When summer rainfall is low and less than adequate, watering begins and the competition for water imposed by weeds or grass turf can substantially reduce tree growth. When competition from grass is eliminated, tree roots are more evenly distributed, root numbers are higher, and they utilize a larger volume of soil. Effective utilization of soil by a larger root system will mean that the fertilizer you have added will be utilized more fully.

When should the "bare look" begin? The bare fact of the matter is that the sooner the better! The longer that turfgrass is allowed to grow under trees, the greater the reduction of new growth. There is also a culmination effect that decreases tree growth for several years. For instance, if the growth of a tree is reduced by 20 percent for one year because of grass competition, the growth will automatically be 20 percent less during the second year's growth. Grass competition can reduce growth by as much as 50 percent.

Liberal watering can offset the retarding effect of grass. Obviously, if the tree is having to compete with grass for the water needed during dry periods, then extra watering the tree will result in a more optimum growing condition. Your trees need a deep, thorough soaking once a week in the growing season, either from natural rainfall or from supplemental irrigation. Whenever you must irrigate, be thorough and allow the water to deeply penetrate. Don't overdo it when root systems are small and tree needs for water uptake are minimum, i.e., a newly planted tree. A baby doesn't require as much water as an adult! Too much water for a newly expanding root system will cause root rotting and will be visually expressed by the tree as a drought characteristic of wilting and yellowing foliage. To avoid the problem of watering too much, check to see how moist the soil is around the base of newly planted trees BEFORE EACH watering. Remember, any fool can water and most do-too much!

Maximum growth of any tree is the result of how well you help meet the optimum growing conditions of the tree. If you will follow these suggestions, the desirable "slower growing" shade tree may well grow just as rapidly as one of the "fast growers." And by planting a quality tree, you will have added a valuable and lasting investment to your home landscape.

Have an overall plan or objective for planting a tree. Do you need shade, protection from wind, screening, a pedestrian barricade, or a colorful accent?

Remember when you are doing your planning, consider the tree's ultimate height and spread. Beware of planting too close to the house, building, street or power lines.

Know your soil and climatic conditions. In our alkaline, rocky, and caliche soils, several tree species that do excellent in other areas of Texas, do very poorly here. Our sudden temperature fluctuations in the spring and fall kill many non-adapted trees each year. Use ONLY those trees and shrubs recommended at:

For the best deer-resistant trees and shrubs, use those recommended at:

I n the nursery, small trees (6 to 8 feet heigh) may be your better investment, since they recover more quickly from transplant shock than larger specimens. Container-grown stock is generally the quickest to re-establish, followed by trees that are sold balled-and-burlapped and trees that are bare-rooted.

It's best to avoid the really fast growing trees, since most are quite prone to pest problems. Included are willows (borers, cotton root rot, heat stress), cottonwood (borers, heat stress, cotton root rot), Arizona ash (anthracnose, borers), sycamore (lace bugs, heat stress, anthracnose), mimosas (mimosa webworm, mimosa wilt), and fruitless mulberry (borers, cotton root rot, heat stress).

Once you purchase and plant a good tree, don't abuse it! Have you beaten your tree lately? Maybe you ran into it somewhere. If you accidentally did either, you damaged your tree more than you realize. Most people do not understand that injury and infection started by lawnmower wounds can often be the most serious threat to tree health.

Lawnmowers cause the most severe injury during periods when tree bark is most likely to "slip" in early spring during leaf emergence, and in early fall during leaf drop. If the bark slips, a large wound is produced from even minor injuries. Most tree injuries occur when mower operators attempt to trim grass around trunks with a push or riding mower. You can prevent these injuries by removing the turf around trees, or hand trimming. The site of injury is usually the root buttress, since it flares out from the trunk and gets in the path of the mower. However, injury is also common anywhere from the roots to several feet above the ground. Although large wounds are most serious, repeated small wounds can also add up to trouble.

Wounds from lawnmowers are serious enough by themselves, but the wounded tree must also protect itself from pathogens that invade the wound. These micro-organisms can often attack the injured bark and invade the adjacent healthy tissues, greatly enlarging the affected area. Sometimes, trees can be completely girdled from microbial attack following lawnmower wounds. Decay fungi also become active on the wound surface and structural deterioration of the woody tissues beneath the wound will often occur. Many wounded trees that are not girdled may eventually break off at the stem or root collar due to internal decay.

Bark can often be successfully reattached to trees if the wounds are treated within a few hours after injury occurs. Torn bark should be positioned as much as possible on its exact position before the injury and held in place by a few small tacks or staples. If several days or weeks have passed since the injury, torn or loose bark should be cut away and the edges of the wound should be traced using a band tool such as a pruning knife.

Older injuries with callus development all around the wound are best left alone. If any bark around old wounds is dead it is advisable to trace the area back to live bark. Application of wound dressing for cosmetic purposes is optional.

The lawnmower injury problem is not a tree problem, but a people problem. It is a classic case of communication breakdown. The solution is to educate lawnmower operators about how serious these wounds can become, and also to protect trees from careless grass trimmers such as weed eater maniacs and lawnmower jockeys who use tree trunks for bumper pool. Mulching the area around the tree trunk can provide protection from lawnmower and weed-eater damage.