Tree Watering Basics by Janet Laminack

Jay recently contacted me about a question he received on his blog from Gabriel Saldivar.

“I am worried about our Burr oak tree. We planted a 95 gallon burr oak in February of this year in Comal County.  Its leaves turned yellow then brown. We got a heavy wind and rain this summer and most of the leaves fell off. I’m worried that it may be in shock and do not know what I can do to help it along the way. I’ve watered it twice a week since we have had it. I do see some new life with some newer leaves coming out. If anyone has any suggestions or know when I should really worry, please let me know.”

As a county agent, I hear questions like Mr. Saldivar’s fairly regularly.  Since it is August and many of you are experiencing similar issues, I thought this would be a great time to review the proper way to water your trees.

trees Trees can be the most valuable asset in the home landscape. They add resale value to the home and they can reduce heating and cooling expenses. Since trees add so much to your landscape (and they are expensive to replace) it is important to learn how to water them correctly. Trees in Texas definitely need supplemental irrigation and they definitely need to be watered differently than the way you water your lawn.

Tree roots are opportunistic and the largest number of roots will be in the location that is most likely to receive rain or irrigation. In most situations, this means roots will be at the drip line, which is out at the edge of where the tree canopy or branches end.  Think about where most of the rain will fall when the tree is covered with leaves.  Watering right next to the trunk or spraying the leaves of the tree is not as beneficial as watering where natural rainfall would be, a few inches inside and beyond the drip line.

Water tree a few inches inside and outside of their natural drip line

Water trees a few inches inside and outside of their natural drip line

An efficient way to water is by using a soaker hose or drip irrigation. These methods lose very little water to evaporation. Sprinklers work as well, but will need to be adjusted to sufficiently water a tree deeply as compared to watering a lawn. Also, laying down a water hose and letting it slowly run works great, but you will need to move it around the tree periodically to ensure that all areas get sufficient moisture.

Soaker hoses are a great way to deeply water your trees

Soaker hoses are a great way to deeply water your trees

In order to create a healthy root system, trees should be watered deeply and infrequently.  When watering, put down an inch of water at a time or ensure that you have watered to a depth of between 6 to 10 inches.  This may sound difficult, but it’s actually very simple to make sure you are getting enough water to your trees. After watering, stick a screwdriver or a shovel into the ground. In most of our soils, it will only go easily in when the soil is moist. If you are using a sprinkler, put out rain gauges or catch cans (use tuna cans) and measure one inch of water being applied.

sprinkler How often should you water? If we are not receiving adequate rainfall, established trees need a deep watering at least twice a month.  Check the soil with your screwdriver.  If your twice a month waterings are not doing the trick, increase the frequency.

One more note.  The tips listed above are most effective for established trees. Newly planted trees need to be watered more frequently for the first three years of their life. Use your screwdriver to check newly planted trees every week.  If the soil around them dries out completely between waterings it can send them into a shock that they may never recover from.

Here is a great video from The Texas A&M Forest Service that highlights the proper tree watering techniques discussed above.

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Summer Vacation

A view of Mt. Baker from the ferry that shuttled us between the San Juan Islands

A view of Mt. Baker from the ferry that shuttled us between the San Juan Islands

Sally and I just got back from a much needed vacation to the Pacific Northwest.  This post is not a back handed attempt to make you look at my vacation photos.  However, I saw so many amazing horticultural things while I was there, I didn’t think you would mind. Since most of us grow in a place with too much heat and not enough water, I thought you would enjoy seeing what happens to plants when they get plenty of water and just the right amount of heat. 

These flowers were organically grown in the field on San Juan Island.  This picture was taken on July 29.  I promise, there is nothing like this blooming in "field" on July 29.

These flowers were organically grown in the field on San Juan Island. This picture was taken on July 29. I promise, there is nothing like this blooming in “my fields” on July 29.

Our youngest daughter Whitney recently moved to Seattle to build a floral design firm that specializes in organic, field grown, fresh cut flowers.  Because of all of her contacts, she was a great little tour guide.


The Madrone is a native tree to the area.  It has red bark and lime green skin.  While photographing this, an attractive, sharply dressed 60ish woman told me the first time she "dropped acid" she saw one of htese and thought it was the drugs that made it turn such crazy colors.  I assure you, I have never heard a story like that in Brenham!

The Madrone is a native tree to the area. It has red bark and lime green skin. While photographing this, an attractive, sharply dressed 60ish woman told me the first time she “dropped acid” she saw one of these and thought it was the drugs that made it turn such crazy colors. I assure you, I have never heard a story like that in Brenham!

Our first stop was The Good Earth Centre.  This organic vegetable farm is the brain child and passion of Gary Miller and Amy Plant.  Gary and Amy are two people that are truly committed to leaving the earth better than they found it.  This farm is much more than a business.  They practice no till, 100% organic and sustainable methods to provide the highest quality produce possible to the local restaurants that serve a clientele that cares very strongly about how their food was produced.   By serving as a host farm for interns from the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms and hosting self-sufficiency workshops and seminars, they are influencing the way the next generation of farmers grow and care for the earth. Whitney met this couple when she was WOOFing on their farm.  It was indeed a pleasure for me to meet the two dedicated and visionary people that made a big impact on my daughter’s future in the world of sustainable agriculture.

The fields of the Good Earth Center.  If you are going to farm, you might as farm in a place that looks like this!

The fields of the Good Earth Centre. If you are going to farm, you might as farm in a place that looks like this!

After leaving the Good Earth Centre we made our way to Lopez Village.  We spent the next three days exploring all that the San Juan’s had to offer.  Even though the natural beauty was over whelming,  the ornamental plantings are what really captured my attention.  I was surprised to see the same flowers growing up there as we grow down here.  However, their flowers were bigger, brighter and healthier.  One of the first things that stopped me in my tracks was a bed of FIVE FEET TALL DAISIES!   Evidently, if you are a flower grower that wants to grow the best possible daisies, lavender, snapdragons,  buddleia or anything else, the the Pacific Northwest is the place to be.  Everywhere we went I kept thinking “This must be what the Garden of Eden was like and I live in the place that God sent them to after the unfortunate incident with the apple”.

My lovely wife in front of a bunch of gerber daiseys that are almost as tall as her!

My lovely wife in front of a bunch of gerber daisies that are almost as tall as her!

 Now before I carry on too much about how horticulturally wonderful things are up there, let me assure you that I did find at least one thing that they can never do as well as we do here in Texas  —  grow a tomato!  Since tomatoes need high temps with hot nights to properly develop their sugars, the Northwest will never ever be able to grow a tomato that tastes any better than those pale and pasty things offered by the chain grocers.

I found these lovely hierloom tomatoes at the Friday Harbor Farmers Market on San Juan Island.  They sure were pretty and I paid $1 a piece for some.  They were sweet and watery.  They may grow pretty flowers but they need to leave the tomato growing to us!

I found these lovely hierloom tomatoes at the Friday Harbor Farmers Market on San Juan Island. They sure were pretty and I paid $1 a piece for some. They were sweet and watery. They may grow pretty flowers but they need to leave the tomato growing to us!

Celebrating the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

IMG_0043a Sally and I celebrated the Fourth of July with our daughter and son-in-law in Oklahoma City.  While there, we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  What a lovely and moving place.  Things like this make me so proud to be an American.  I truly believe that there has never been another group of people that can better come together after a tragedy and turn it into a silver lining.  While there is no doubt that what Timothy McVeigh did on that April day was horrible, the people of Oklahoma rose above it and created a lovely and peaceful place that memorializes those lost and celebrates the sacrifice of the volunteers that turned the horror of that day into a place where all can celebrate the indomitable American Spirit.

Each of these beautiful chairs memorialize on of the victims of this senseless tragedy

Each of these beautiful chairs memorialize one of the victims of this senseless tragedy

Two minutes after Timothy McVeigh lit the fuse of his bomb, 168 men, women and small children were gone; so was the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  An additional 300 buildings in the downtown area were damaged.  About the only thing left standing at the blast site was a large American Elm tree that is now called “The Survivor’s Tree”.  This tree is now the center piece of a horticultural tribute to resilience of the American people.

This Elm tree was about the only thing to survive the blast. The "Survivor Tree" is a testamnet to the reseliance of the human spirit.

This Elm tree was about the only thing to survive the blast. The “Survivor Tree” is a testamnet to the reseliance of the human spirit.

Elm trees in general are incredibly hardy trees.  One example in Ontario, Canada grew to 140’ tall. Elms can take extreme cold, extreme heat and endure extreme drought.  At the beginning of the last century they were the most commonly planted tree in America.  However, around 1928, disaster struck in the form of a small black beetle that spread a fungus called “Dutch Elm” disease.  This disease decimated elm populations that had no resistance to this Asian invader.  Dutch Elm Disease is still a serious problem.  However, if you have the money, there are now treatments that can save an infected elm if the infection is caught soon enough.

If you are a Texan and you have an affinity for these hardy trees, you are in luck.  Texas has a native elm that is very resistant to Dutch Elm  Disease.  In fact, the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia) is resistant to most pests.  While its leaves are sometimes nibbled by the Elm Leaf Beetles, there is not much else that bothers it.  This cedar elm makes a great shade tree and it is extremely drought tolerant.

This lovely print is courtesy of the Texas A&M Forsetry Service Tree Planting Guide at:

This lovely print is courtesy of the Texas A&M Forsetry Service Tree Planting Guide at:

According to my friend Morgan McBride of Tree Town USA, cedar elms are a great choice for most Texas landscapes.  These lovely trees are covered in small, oval, serrated leaves that are rough to the touch and turn yellow in the fall.  They can grow in sandy soils and in thick clay soils.  In fact they can even grow in the highly compacted soils that are common in urban areas.  These adaptable trees have a moderate growth rate and only require a moderate amount of water to thrive.  They can grow to 60’ tall and develop a spread of over 40’.

Cedar elms develop a deep root system that allows them to withstand drought and most windstorms.  If you go to a nursery and ask for an elm for your yard, you need to insist on the cedar elm.  Many nurseries stock the Chinese Lacebark Elm and will often offer it as a substitute.  While the tree does have a lovely rough bark, it develops a shallow root system that makes it easy prey for windstorms.  Also, the Chinese Lacebark is susceptible to cotton root rot.  Because of this, you are taking a risk if you plant it anywhere in our state that once grew cotton (and since most of our state once grew cotton, you really need to think about this when you make your elm choice).

My buddy Morgan is selecting a Cedar Elm for a client.  Notice that he really is touching it with a 10' pole.  Don't know why that is so funny to me but he really does travel around with a 10' pole in his car at all times.

My buddy Morgan is selecting a Cedar Elm for a client. Notice that he really is touching it with a 10′ pole. Don’t know why that is so funny to me but he really does travel around with a 10′ pole in his car at all times.

Like the people of Oklahoma, elm trees were attacked and decimated by an unexpected enemy.  However, they survived.  Now this American classic is making a comeback.  I love elm trees and I am so glad that the people of Oklahoma saved their “The Survivor Tree”.  This deep rooted, dependable and resilient tree is the perfect centerpiece for a memorial that is dedicated to faith, healing and the resilience of the American spirit.

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop and the Homestead Barn Hop.  These hops are great way to gather information from some of the best bloggers on the web.  Be sure to check it out!

This is a detail of a large statue that stands on the site of the old rectory of St. Joseph Catholic Church.  the rectory was destroyed in the blast.  This statue is called "Jesus Wept" and it based on the shortest verse in the bible; John 11:35

This is a detail of a large statue that stands on the site of the old rectory of St. Joseph Catholic Church in OKC. The rectory was destroyed by the April 19 bombing. This statue is called “Jesus Wept” and it is based on the shortest verse in the bible; John 11:35

The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)


Image from the Texas A&M Tree Selector website at

Image from the Texas A&M Tree Selector website at

I am often asked “What is the fastest growing shade tree for my yard?”  When I recommend the bur oak I am often met with skepticism.  A lot of people initially argue with me about my suggestion (which always makes me wonder why they asked for my opinion if they didn’t want it).  They are quick to bring up all of the common issues associated with oaks (in general).  We’ve all heard them.  Oaks are slow growing.  Their roots grow on top of the soil and damage your slab or your sidewalks.  They get oak wilt.  While each of those statements are true in some measure in certain oak species, none of them apply to the bur oak.

The bur oak is one of the fastest growing and the largest of all of the oaks in Texas.  With normal water, you can expect the tree to grow a minimum of one foot per year.  With ample water and a little fertilizer it is not uncommon to get two or three feet of growth per year out of your bur oak. 

This 95 gallon Bur oak is about 5 years old and is already 14' tall.  Photo by Morgan McBride

This 95 gallon Bur oak is about 5 years old and is already 14′ tall. Photo by Morgan McBride

Bur oaks are truly impressive specimens. Besides cottonwoods, they are the only deciduous tree in Texas that can get over 100’ tall.  Plus, they can develop a canopy that spreads to 80’.  There are not many trees that can support a canopy that is 80’.  The bur oak can do this because it is an amazingly well built tree.  It develops a thick trunk and an intertwining mass of heavy branches that are seldom affected by winds or ice storms.  This structure is very pretty and can be appreciated when it drops its yellow leaves in the fall.

The bur oak has lovely, deeply lobed leaves that turn yellow in the fall

The bur oak has lovely, deeply lobed leaves that turn yellow in the fall

Another reason I love the bur oak is the fact that it is native to most of Texas.  This tree has been adapting to our soils and our climate for thousands and thousands of years.  Because of its adaptability, you can be pretty certain that the bur oak will thrive for you whether you live in the deep, rich alluvial bottom lands of Texas’ river basins or if you live in the Hill Country that is famous for its the thin, alkaline  soils that cover a limestone pan. 

Because it is native, the bur oak also takes the extremes of our climate in stride.  The drought of 2011 killed many, many live oaks.  The live oaks died because they have a shallow root system that grows right at the soil line (and breaks slabs and sidewalks).  The bur oak survived the worst drought in our history because it develops a deep tap root that can find the underground moisture needed to sustain it when the rains fail us.  This deep rooting structure not only keeps it alive in low water situations but also makes it a great choice for the landscape.  Deep roots do not break slab and sidewalks.

buroak3As much as I love this tree, it does have one little problem – it produces golf ball sized acorns.  I have to admit, that since the acorns are large enough to interfere with mowing or heavy enough to ding a new car, you should think long and hard about where you plant it.  The good news is, it doesn’t produce a ton of acorns.  And, since they don’t fall but once a year in autumn, they can be managed by setting your mower a little higher or picking them up (they look great in a bowl on a table) before you mow.  Besides, since the squirrels and the deer love them you will have a little help getting them out of your yard.

I truly believe the bur oak is the best choice for a fast growing Texas shade tree.  Even though my friends are often skeptical, my buddy Morgan McBride is not.  Morgan is a salesman for Tree Town USA and a bona fide tree expert.  Tree Town produces many varieties of trees that Morgan can recommend to his many customers.  However he always recommends the bur oak first.  Despite the large acorns, this Texas native is almost entirely pest free and its roots grow down instead of out.  With its beautiful foliage and growth rate of 1 to 2 feet per year, the bur oak really is hard to beat.

A Wounded Hummingbird

Every once in a while, something amazing happens.  For my wife and I, this Sunday brought us one of those amazing surprises.  While outside mowing the yard, our carpentar stopped her and showed her what appeared to be a half grown, wounded, ruby throated hummingbird laying in the grass.  She was surprised when the she bent down to pick it up that he offered no resistance.  She brought it to our son who took it inside and put it in a box that we had been using as a chicken brooder.  The bird was absolutely alert and alive, but he offered no resistance to our handling. 

Our tiny little friend was barely longer than two joints of Chris's finger

Our tiny little friend was barely longer than two joints of Chris’s finger

Chris brought him a drink in coke bottle lid a helped him get a small sip.  After a few minutes we checked on him and were surprised to find he had flown out of the box.  We decided this must mean he had been healed of whatever ailed him so he took him out and placed him on our deck.  Again, he just sat there motionless.  So, since it not every day you can get this close to a hummingbird, I went in and grabbed the camera.  I was lucky enough to get this truly beautiful shot of this truly amzing little creature.

Pictures like this make me truly appreciate my Canon Rebel

Pictures like this make me truly appreciate my Canon Rebel

After I took these pictures, I felt the little guy would be safer in the Chinese Privet that lines our deck.  So, I picked him up and gently started carrying him to the bush.  Before I got there, he bolted out of my hand and flew directly to the redbud tree that sits at the southeast corner of the potager.  If you think full grown hummingbirds are amazing, you should see one when it is “small”.  He was so tiny.  I cannot believe that God can make something so perfect and beautiful in such a small scale.  Everything from his tiny little feet, to his tiny little irridescent feathers was beautiful and perfectly formed.  It truly was a joy to be able to share a few moments with this amzing creature. 

The irridescent feathers of the Hummingbird are so lovely

The irridescent feathers of the Hummingbird are so lovely

I have seen countless hummers leave our feeders and go directly to that same spot in the redbud that our little friend escaped to. I hope there is something safe and nurturing in that tree that will heal our new little friend so he can join the others of his species around our feeders this summer.

Stephen F. Austin Plant Sale in Nacogdoches

A lovely hydrangea in the Mize Arboretum

If you are going to be anywhere close to East Texas  on October 6, you really need to take time to swing by the gardens at Stephen F. Austin University.   The SFA Gardens at Stephen F. Austin State University will host its annual Fabulous Fall Festival Plant Sale from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, October 6, 2012 at the SFA Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet St.

A wide variety of hard-to-find, “Texas tough” plants will be available, including Texas natives, heirlooms, tropicals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and exclusive SFA introductions.  Most of the plants are extensively trialed in the gardens before being offered to the public and most are produced by the SFA Gardens staff and volunteers.

A lovely double pink althea at SFA

This popular event benefis the SFA Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, Gayla Mize Garden, and educational programs hosted at the gardens.  Combine your plant buying with a tour.  The arboretum and gardens are absolutely beautiful and the weather should be wonderful.

Since I have several plants in my yard that came from this sale I can attest to the fact that you will be buying incredibly healthy and hearty plants that are sure to thrive for you.  Your support will ensure that the team at SFA will be able to continue providing educational programs that reach over 15,000 students (ages 1 to 100) on a yearly basis.

Come early and bring three things; a wagon, a camera and your questions.  There will be staff on hand to provide you all of the tips and tricks you need to make your plants thrive and answer any other gardening questions you may have. For more information, call (936) 468-4404, or visit for a list of available plants.

My wife with Greg Grant in front of one of the many camellia’s at SFA

Chainsaw ART-IS-TREE by Clayton Coss

Losing a beloved tree is a heartbreaking experience.  Because of last year’s drought many homeowners have experienced the feeling of loss, and the very big cost, that usually accompanies the death of a mature tree. Until my recent vacation to Tulsa, I thought the only option available to people with a dead tree in their yard was to call in the pros and watch sadly as they turned it into wood chips.  However, thanks to a good friend, I now know that if you live in Tulsa, you have another option when it comes to dealing with your dead trees.

Clayton Coss is a sculptor whose skills with a chainsaw have made him a bit of a celebrity in the Tulsa area.

Clayton Coss is a sculptor from Tulsa.  For the past 26 years he has made a living turning tree tragedies into works of art.  Clayton is a skilled carver that can convert your dead tree into a portrait of your kids, Mickey Mantle, Ben Franklin or anything else you can dream up.  While there are many sculptors out there that can carve figures out of a piece of wood, there are very few that can do it with a chainsaw.  That’s right, I said chainsaw.  Now I know what you are thinking but trust me; Clayton is not your run of the mill, road side sculptor of bears and totem poles.  No, Clayton is a very talented artist that has been able to turn American kitsch into his own brand of fine art.


I would have never believed a bust this realistic could be carved with a chainsaw

I met Clayton while visiting with our friends Mark and Margaret Hartley.  The Hartley’s recently moved into an absolutely adorable Tulsa neighborhood and Clayton was in the process of finishing two sculptures in their new neighborhood.  Bobby and Jonas Woolslayer commissioned Clayton to carve a large bust of Ben Franklin and another of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ in their front yard.

Margaret knew I would be interested in Clayton’s work so we walked over to the Woolslayer’s almost as soon as we arrived.  When I turned the corner and saw Ben I was literally speechless.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that someone could have carved such a striking likeness of a human head with just a chainsaw.  I truly thought the bust was outstanding.

This lovely lady is one of four Coss originals you can find in Uttica Square

Clayton is a quiet and humble man and I enjoyed visiting with him immensely.  Since chainsaw artistry is kind of an obscure art form I had to ask how he got started.  He told me that several years ago a friend showed him a few tricks.  Since he enjoyed it, he just stuck with it.  His practice and perseverance has paid off.  His talents are in high demand and have now made him a bit of a local celebrity.

Clayton’s work can be seen all over Tulsa.

If you want to see more of Clayton’s work, just drive around Tulsa.  You can find his work in neighborhoods, local businesses, public places and even the upscale and very swanky Uttica Square.  I spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring Tulsa while conducting a scavenger hunt for his many sculptures.  If you would like Clayton to turn one of your dead trees into a Coss original contact him through is website “Chainsaw Artistry”.

A whimsical Coss creation in Uttica Square

P.S.  If you don’t live in Tulsa, please remove dead trees from your property as soon as you notice they have died.  Yesterday I read a very sad story out of Houston.  During a backyard family gathering, a pine tree that died in last year’s drought fell and killed a mom and seriously injured her 13 year old daughter.    This would not have happened if the neighbor with the dead tree had done the right thing.  Sorry to sound a little preachy but it really is important to remove dead trees.  If you don’t and your tree falls on someone else or their property you will be held responsible.

Tree Town USA Supports Relay For Life

I work for the MD Anderson Cancer Center.  It is the finest cancer hospital in the world and I am proud to work there.  However, I hope I never have to come to the campus for any reason other than work.  I just cannot imagine what it would feel like to hear someone say “You have cancer”.  Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people hear those very words each and every day.

My friend and cancer survivor Janice McBride stands with the trees donated for gifts to survivors by my friends at Tree Town USA

A few years ago one of my oldest friends (not in age, in length of time we have known each other), heard those words.  Like 226,000 other women that year, Janice had her world rocked by a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer.  Now Janice was lucky.  She was young and healthy and she caught it fairly early.  However, it was a very aggressive type of cancer and there were times when she didn’t think she would make our 30th Class Reunion.  Janice persevered.  Thanks to great treatment, a positive attitude and the support of her loving family, Janice is now a survivor.  And because she is a survivor, she is honored to be able to participate in “Relay for Life” each and every year. 

A very happy survivor and caregiver pick their tree

This year, thanks to the generosity of Tree Town USA, Janice and her husband Morgan (my botanical brother) got to do a whole lot more than walk at the Grand Praire Relay for Life event.  Tree Town USA donated a variety of very nice trees as gifts for the survivors.   Morgan and Janice had so much fun distributing the trees.  They got to meet and share experiences with several wonderful people who had all gone through cancer treatment and lived to tell the tale.  They were moved by those stories and humbled to meet people that were enduring things that no one should ever have to endure.

Go to the Relay For Life website and find out how you can help.

If you would like to take part in a fun and healthy activity that raises money to cure a disease that will eventually effect one in three of us, consider participating in a local Relay for Life event.  Relay for Life events happen all over the country in the spring.  Groups of people agree to walk all night (because cancer never sleeps) to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  My wife does one in Brenham each year and the girls all dress up in theme costumes and have a ton of fun raising money and honoring all that have struggled with cancer.

MD Anderson has a new president.  His name is Dr. Ronald DePhino and it is his strong belief and goal that during his tenure, MD Anderson will finally be able to cure several types of cancer.  Research and science have now progressed to a point that his dream is actually possible.  However, all of that research and science costs money.  Generous donors like Tree Town USA, great organizations like Relay for Life and scores of volunteers are all helping Dr. DePhino and MD Anderson “Make Cancer History”.   Thanks to all of you that do so much to help us fight this deadly disease!

Incredible New Live Oak from Tree Town USA

The Empire Live Oak from Tree Town USA is a beautifully shaped, fast growing, and pest resistant tree that is perfect for the landscape.

Necessity is frequently the mother of invention.  When Tree Town USA, the country’s largest tree farm based in Texas, couldn’t get a sufficient yield of high quality Live Oak seedlings from the acorns they were receiving from their seed sources they needed to make changes.  They would regularly end up with many genetically inferior trees that did not meet the quality standards of their most discriminating landscape contractors and landscape architects.  Changes needed to be made to keep their customers happy with a consistent supply of high quality trees.  They developed an area where they could harvest their own acorns from parent trees that exhibited the genetic traits they were looking for to produce high quality trees consistently.  Their experienced team of growers selected parent trees with good branching angles, faster rates of growth, good foliage, and overall appeal from their large inventory of Live Oaks.  They planted them near one another in an isolated area of their 1,200 acre tree farm near Glen Flora, Texas segregated from other Live Oaks on the farm.  They began harvesting acorns produced by the selected trees to produce a large portion of their crop of seedlings.  After watching the seedlings for several years, the growers determined they were getting a much higher percentage of high quality trees than any other seed source they were using.  They noticed consistency between the trees, faster growth and overall higher quality resulting in many more trees meeting the quality requirements of their most discriminating customers. 

Tree Town has thousands of these remarkable trees available to the trade

The good genetics, seedling quality, combined with their growing and pruning practices have produced the first crop of these high quality trees for sale in 2012 in sizes from 10 gal to 45 gal.  Tree Town USA trademarked the name Empire Live Oak to identify the trees produced from these superior genetics and growing practices. 

Compared to other live oaks, these trees grow quickly and have been breed to produce a lovely, upright canopy

The seedlings are produced in special seedling pots to prevent circling roots and each subsequent step up to a larger size occurs when the trees are at a young age to ensure proper root structure.  Trees with root issues or other quality issues are removed at each stage of the shift up process.  The trees are staked for straight trunks, good leaders and good branching.  Any tree that does not meet the genetic or quality requirements along the way to a finished tree is segregated and dealt with.  The end result is a crop of high quality Live Oaks that will have a similar appearance, good branching, faster growth rate, good foliage, and overall appeal when planted in the landscape. 

Tree Land USA offers this tree to professionals in all sizes from 10 to 45 gallons. A 670 gallon version will be available soon.

The great lengths that Tree Town USA has gone through will insure that landscape contractors, landscape architects, business owners and home owners will have a source of consistently high quality trees for their landscapes.  The trees will be offered in sizes up to 670 gal over the next few years.  The company is accepting contract grows for special large landscape construction projects in the future as well as future orders for companies wanting to offer the finest Live Oaks to their customers.  They have more than 70,000 trees in inventory to support the anticipated demand for this popular tree.  The Empire Live Oaks will be offered through retail garden centers, wholesale landscape suppliers, landscape contractors and other retail garden outlets in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

Tree Gators, Aggies and Wildfires

Well, Mother Nature finally sent a little relief to all of us that have been suffering under the heat of the HOTTEST AUGUST ON RECORD.  This cool front was much appreciated by all of the fall gardeners who really needed to get their seeds and seedlings in the ground.  The milder weather encouraged me to tear up and haul off an old brick side walk.  I was also able to get the beds of the potager ready for a slightly late Fall planting.

I also got to install my latest “garden gadget”.  Because of the drought, all of our neighbors are watering much more than normal.  This leaves us almost 0 water pressure at our house.  Due to the low water pressure, our sprinklers are just not covering the same amount of area that they used to.  It has made it somewhat difficult to get enough water on our trees.  So, to help ensure that my trees make it, I bought five “Tree Gators” If you are not familiar with Tree Gators, they are basically a big ziplock baggie that wraps around the base of your tree.  You fill it with 20 gallons of water and then tiny holes in the bottom of the bags drain the 20 gallons over a five hour period.  I was very impressed with this little invention.  It has an incredibly simple design, is ridiculously easy to use, and entirely effective.  What more could you ask of a gadget?  You can check out the entire line of Tree Gator products at

Over 80,000 Aggies showed up for Sunday’s game. It was the fourth largest crowd ever at Kyle Field.

Despite getting to watch A&M beat up on SMU, the weekend was not perfect.  The tropical depression that brought a ton of much needed rain to Louisiana, brought us extremely high winds for most of Saturday and Sunday.  These winds caused a small personal tragedy for me.  I lost my greenhouse to the winds.  I know that this is in no way comparable to losing one’s home.  However, to me it was pretty heart breaking.  I just bought my little greenhouse a month ago.  It was very disappointing to drive up my road on Sunday morning and see all of those dreams of fall and winter propagation wrapped around a barbed wire fence.

My little greenhouse fell victim to the high winds on Saturday

The Texas Wildfires

I would also like to take a minute and talk a little about the fires that seem to be consuming most of Texas.  Right now, there are 64 wildfires burning in Texas.  Things are so bad that on Saturday, I heard something I have never heard in all of my 49 years.  The Brenham radio stations were making public appeals for all volunteer firemen, regardless of where they lived, to grab their gear and head to Bastrop.  The fire in Bastrop is awful.  I heard this morning that Bastrop State Park is gone!  How can that be?  Bastrop State Park was a huge stand of ancient pines covering acres and acres of beautiful rolling hills.  I have spent many painful hours pedaling up and down those hills on my bicycle.  While my thighs hated the hills, the place was so beautiful that I gladly accepted the burning in my thighs as the small sacrifice that my body paid so my mind and soul could be invigorated by the scenery.  I will miss this place dearly.

While Brenham is still fairly safe, all of the counties around us are burning.  Two of my nephews that live close to Bastrop were forced to evacuate on Sunday.  I cannot imagine leaving your home and all of your possessions knowing there is a very good chance they will not be there when you return.  According to the news wires, between 600 and 1000 Texans have lost their homes to wildfires this summer.  Please keep these people in your thoughts and in your prayers.  Also pray for the men and women that are battling these fires.

If you would like to see where these wildfires are currently burning, the Texas A&M  Agrilife Extension site hosts a Google map with data provided by the Texas Forest Service.  Here is the link: