Tips for Central California Gardeners

By Eleanor Teague

The best time of year to decide where you want to plant a shade tree in your garden is in mid-summer when the sun’s angle is at its highest point in the sky and the days are hottest and longest. In the next few weeks, take a pole, broomstick or a long-handled shovel into the garden at noon and again in late afternoon (when temperatures are at maximum for the day) and note just where the pole’s shadow falls. Finding the right spot for your new shade tree, hedge, or line of small trees in midsummer guarantees that the trees or bushes you plant in fall, winter or early spring will provide shade right where it’s needed most.

There are several additional considerations when choosing a shade tree or bush. Most important, trees should be planted at least 12 feet away from any structure to prevent damage from the roots or overhanging branches. Size at maturity is another important consideration; make sure the tree you select will not touch power lines when it’s mature and will not grow too large for the available space In your garden. You will also want to consider irrigation timing and methods for your new tree. If it will be on an automatic timer, you may need to adjust irrigation zone placement. Bubblers and soaker hoses are best for tree irrigation; lawn sprinklers do not water deeply enough.

You’ve picked the right tree for the right spot, but how’s the soil in the spot? The heavy clay and sandy soils that are common in the Central Valley may need amending to improve drainage and water retention before you plant. Be prepared to dig in several places and readjust your plans and tree selection depending on soil type and the work that might be involved in providing your new tree the best growing conditions. Do remember to mark that perfect spot now for planting in the Fall!

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