Vertical mulching will give your trees a boost

If you have trees that are not growing much, vertical mulching will give them a jump start. It opens up our poor soils to get air and water to the roots, it drains away salts and it gets rid of toxic gases.

Vertical mulching involves drilling several two-inch-wide holes into the ground under the tree’s canopy as deep as possible. It isn’t as hard to do as it sounds. Here’s how to make a vertical mulcher and use it:

• Purchase a three-quarter inch-by-five-foot-long PVC pipe, a water jet and a water hose bib, along with necessary PVC couplings and glue from your nursery.

• Attach the hose-bib to one end of the PVC pipe and the water jet to the other. You now have a vertical mulcher.

• Attach your vertical mulcher to your water hose and note how the water jets out with great force. You’ve heard the saying “let your fingers do the walking.” In this case, “let the water do the drilling.” Your mulcher makes holes two inches wide and as deep as you can drill.

• Drill your first hole two feet out from the trunk.

• Move around the tree three feet at a time, making holes until you circle the tree.

• Move out three more feet and circle the tree again making holes.

• Repeat the process until you’re beyond the tree’s dripline.

This summer, you’ll love the results. The Springs Preserve and University of Nevada, Las Vegas use vertical mulching on their trees with amazing results. For even better results, put a composted product down the holes to create an ideal environment for microorganisms.

Dormant spray: Spray fruit trees with dormant oil before blooms open. It kills overwintering aphids, scales and mites. The refined oil places a covering over the hibernating critters and either suffocates or penetrates the insect’s minute breathing tubes. On a calm sunny day, spray twigs, branches and the trunk to the point of runoff.

Prune grapes: To get larger and sweeter grapes, prune every year. Study sprawling, entangled canes closely. Get rid of the gray-barked canes. Save a few light-brown, smooth-barked “fruiting canes,” as they’ll bear this year’s fruit. Count out along these canes 10 buds and nip off the rest. Select other canes, but only save two buds on each cane and remove the rest. These are “renewal spurs” to grow this year and bear fruit next summer. Remove all other growth and spread fruiting canes on a trellis. Grapes need only a small dose of nitrogen, so don’t overdo it.

Fertilize fruit trees: Now’s the time to fertilize fruit trees. Add a well-balanced fertilizer plus iron. Adding iron is necessary because of our highly alkaline soils. Use an iron chelate containing EDDHA, because it remains available to plants in our soils. Vigorously growing trees may not need fertilizer each season, with the exception of the iron. Iron is so critical in the production of quality fruit and the health of the tree. Make a second application of fertilizer after harvest.

Trees: They need nitrogen, but not much. If you overdo it, you’ll be pruning a lot this summer. It is a waste of time to put nutrients next to trunks. Place it where you water your trees for quicker uptake. If you planted new trees in an improved organic soil, there are enough nutrients to keep trees happy the first year. But if it’s struggling, give them a dose of nitrogen.

Shrubs: They do not require much nourishment, especially if they’ve matured. In this case, feed them sparingly. Spread the fertilizer under the bushes, scratch it and then water. The preferred times for feeding shrubs are now and again around Memorial Day and Labor Day.


If you are considering fruit trees in your yard, Google UNCE Orchard Evaluations 2009 pdf for a copy of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension five-year summary of varieties of fruit trees. Bob Morris conducted these evaluations at the extension orchard, and it is hot off the press. When telling me about it, Morris snacked on his favorite apple, Pink Lady.


Create a new vista in your yard with a scrumptious yardscape. Get your garden off to a great start from the planning stage to the harvest. Go through the step-by-step process with Amy Zeldenrust, owner and landscape designer of Avant-Gardener, and me to make your landscape garden delicious and satisfying to all the senses. The program is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Call 822-7786 to reserve your seat.

You can reach Linn Mills at or call him at 822-7754.

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