Ask a Master Gardener

Hackberry tree

Hackberry tree

Q. What are good shade trees that are drought-resistant, grow in Kingman and do not cause allergy symptoms?

A. There are many trees that will grow in Kingman and can be planted in the fall. Here are three that are fairly drought tolerant and may not cause allergy symptoms:

Hackberry tree - Sometimes mistaken for its cousin the American elm, its genus is Celtis in the Celtidaceae family. The Hackberry is also known as sugarberry, beaverwood and nettletree. It gets from 30 feet to 50 feet tall and in very good soils can reach 100 feet. It's a fast grower. It produces small berries the size of a pea that animals love. The color of the fruit is orange to purple at its ripeness and humans can eat the fruit, which tastes similar to a date. Plant this tree in well-drained soil and partial to full sun. It does well in dry, windy areas. You should avoid over-watering to avoid woolly aphids.

Desert Willow - This tree (Chilopsis linearis) is a moderately fast growing deciduous shrub/tree with beautiful orchid-like (or trumpet-shaped) flowers that come in different shades of purple and lavender and blooms all summer long. They can grow up to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. From its name, you would think it is a willow, but nothing could be further from the truth. Its closest relative is the Catalpa tree, a member of the trumpet vine family (Bignoniaceae). They are commonly seen in desert wash areas and are easily grown from seed. Desert Willow is a multi-trunked tree which bears seed pods throughout the growing season. When placed on the south, west or east sides of the house, it can provide shade in the summer and will attract hummingbirds for nectar and smaller birds for nesting sites and cover.

Mondell Pine - This tree is also known as Afghan pine (Pinus eldarica) or sometimes mondale pine. This tree can grow from 30 feet to 50 feet tall and from 25 feet to 30 feet wide. It is not deciduous (does not lose its leaves) and grows in a pyramid form. It is originally from southern Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Mondell Pine thrives in the heat, wind and is drought-tolerant once established, needing deep watering. It is not picky about the type of soil and is a host to a sap-sucking aphid, but it does little damage to the tree. This tree requires little if any pruning and will produce cones which open after the third year. It is a great wind and shade buffer and looks beautiful covered in snow.

Q. How important is fall fertilizing?

A. Fall fertilizing is very important to promote root growth, provide good winter color if non-deciduous and spur faster greening in the spring. Even though we think a tree, bush or perennial is dormant in the winter, roots are recovering from the long, hot summers and are active. Give lawns a high-nitrogen fertilizer (first number on the bag) in September/October, and then in November/December apply a high phosphorus fertilizer (second number on the bag). Phosphorus stimulates root growth over the winter. Avoid nitrogen later than September for warm season grasses like Bermuda. Perennials will benefit from a high phosphorus (super phosphate) fertilizer now to promote strength next year. Trees and shrubs benefit from slow-release nitrogen applied now and if they did not flower well, apply a high-phosphorus fertilizer to promote root growth for more blooms next year. Follow directions on fertilizer bags for the correct amounts.

Q. What do I need to do in the fall for my vegetable garden?

A. Clear weeds, vines, dead plants and fruits that were not harvested from the ground and on plants. Leaving these materials can promote diseases such as fungi and bacterias. Add soil amendments such as compost and leaves now to allow for decomposition over the winter, improving the soil by planting time next spring. Three to four inches is recommended. This also controls winter weeds.

Q. Recently, I saw a large spider in my home. It was tan colored, about three inches across, including legs, and moved quickly. What is it and is it beneficial?

A. It probably was a windscorpion, commonly called a sun spider, which populates arid and semi-arid areas mainly from West Texas to Arizona but as far north as North Dakota. They enter your home through small gaps in doorways and are more active at night. Typically, sun spiders are aggressive, catching their prey with their sticky arms rather than by biting them because they have no poison. They look menacing but do not kill them because like most insects in our yards, they are harmless to humans and beneficial to your yard because they eat less desirable insects.