The guidelines on this page apply to the cultivation of all kinds of trees and other plants. After reading this page, please see Cultivating Fruit Trees for tips specific to those categories of plants.

Optimizing Plant Health: What We Do

Compare: Cardoon plants from the Garden section of a big-box store …

… and some of our Italian heirloom Artichokes grown in RootMaker® pots with plenty of compost tea.

Our goal is twofold: to promote the sustainable production of native Texas trees and shrubs, and to support you in creating beautiful, functional, AND EDIBLE landscapes and habitats.

Plant health and growth are affected mainly by four variables: genetics, physical environment, chemistry, and biology. Here’s how we optimize these variables:

1) Focus on natives. Most of our trees and shrubs are indigenous to central and southwest Texas. This assures that our plants are genetically well-adapted to our environment, soils, rainfall, and temperatures. Local (native) plants are also resistant to local insects and diseases.

2) Use the best rooting system we know of. We use only RootMaker® containers, which incorporate various special features to promote root branching and the development of new roots. The result is a root system with greater surface area, increased efficiency in the absorption of water and nutrients, and the ability to adapt quickly to in-ground planting. (To learn more about the RootMaker® system and what makes it superior, see our RootMaker® page.)

3) Use optimum materials. Much of our planting media, such as Pine bark and Granite sand is locally produced. The planting media provides optimum balance between aeration, drainage, and moisture retention; while the amendments provide steady, slow release of the three major nutrients, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and essential micronutrients.

4) Optimize plant nutrition. All of our plants receive treatment with a custom formulation of 13 strains of mycorrhizal fungi from the industry leader, Mycorrhizal Applications, as well as compost and compost tea to assure optimum biological activity in the root zone, improving the uptake of moisture and nutrients, and increasing resistance to disease.

5) Use organic & natural formulas. We use no toxic pesticides or herbicides. Though we are not officially organic-certified, we adhere to organic growing practices and buy plants and seeds from organically certified sources to the greatest extent possible, and are constantly seeking to introduce more organic alternatives into our operations.

Optimizing Plant Health: Planting Tips for You

The following tips for planting and care will help ensure your success.

Tree Selection Criteria:
– Match trees to existing conditions of your chosen planting spot for best results.
– Size – Ensure adequate clearance from nearby buildings, trees and other objects for MATURE tree size.
– Soil type – Clay/Sand/Rocky. Deep soil or shallow.
– Sun exposure – Full sun/Part Shade/Shade.
– Moisture and Drainage – Dry, Average, or Moist/Poor Drainage.

When to Plant:
– Generally, planting native trees from October through February allows roots to become established before the next growing season. Container-grown plants may be planted in the spring, provided extra water is applied as needed during hot, dry spells. RootMaker®-grown trees, especially understory trees (i.e. shade to part-shade), may be planted anytime, provided watering is adequate.

Planting Hole Preparation:
– Dig a conical-shaped hole with a flat bottom. A flat-bottomed inverted pyramid is even better, as the “corners” of the hole promote root spread. A flat spade is the best tool for the job.
– Depth – About 1″ less than the height of the root ball.
– Diameter or width – Equal to the root ball at the bottom of the hole. Leave adjacent soil undisturbed to promote normal capillary action of the soil, bringing below-ground moisture to the root ball.
– Check drainage by filling hole with water. If hole has not drained in 24 hours, drainage is adequate only for bog-type plants. This process has the advantage of assuring that the earth surrounding the root ball is moist before planting.

Positioning the Tree:
– Gently remove the tree from the container by pressing or tapping on the sides and bottom of the container, being careful not to disturb the root ball. NOTE: RootTrapper® containers (the soft-sided white containers), grip the rootball firmly, so are best removed by slitting the fabric and peeling it off the root ball. With RootMaker® containers, it is not necessary or desirable to spread roots as with ordinary containers.
– Place the tree in the hole and straighten to a vertical position.
– Backfill with original soil from the hole (no rocks), crumbling clods so the hole is filled as evenly as possible. DO NOT PACK SOIL!
– Water liberally to settle the soil around the root ball. Add soil to refill cavity around root ball.

– Remove grass and weeds to about 3’ diameter around the tree.
– Create a watering saucer using leftover dirt from the hole.
– Fill the watering saucer with wood chips or similar loose organic matter, but pull the mulch away from the trunk.

– After planting, it is essential to assure that the root ball AND THE SURROUNDING SOIL have adequate moisture.
– Subsequent watering requirements are highly dependent on weather conditions, as well as the type of soil and the moisture preferences of the tree you have selected. The following are general guidelines, but NEVER allow the root zone to dry completely or to remain soaked for extended periods.
– In the absence of rain, slow-soak the planting once a week for the first month after planting.
– October – March: In the absence of rain, slow-soak the planting once a month.
– April – September: In the absence of rain, slow-soak the planting once a week.

Care of a Newly Planted Tree:
– Stake tree if necessary to keep it upright and straight.
– First Year: Remove only dead, diseased or damaged limbs. Retain lower leaves and branches to nourish the lower trunk area.
– Second year: Prune for structure, removing narrow-crotch limbs, “crossing” branches, excessively large lower limbs and those competing with leader. When pruning a branch, cut just outside the “collar”, where the branch joins the trunk.
– Subsequent years: Prune for shape, appearance and balance.
– Keep area around base of tree free of grass to avoid damage from mowers and string trimmers.
– Feed tree annually with 1” of manure compost, spread in the “drip” area of the canopy. Replenish mulch and expand area of mulch coverage beyond the drip line.
– Slow-soak “drip” area during any extended period (8 weeks) without significant rain. Soak to at least 5” depth.


Fruit Tree Pruning and Care for Backyard Orchard Culture


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