Windy weather forces plants to use more water

Windy weather is very damaging to plants. (Notice I said “is” not “may be”.) Light winds do very little damage. Moderate winds cause moderate damage. Strong winds cause a lot of damage. Why? I can think of at least two reasons: the extent of the damage and the use of water.

Vegetables grow best when located closest to the downwind side of a windbreak. The plants don’t care if the windbreak is alive or not, they just want the wind to slow down.

For this reason, the best windbreaks are not solid walls (eg block walls) but perforated walls (eg chain-link fences with slats inserted into them).

Solid walls cause the wind to swirl. The perforated walls slow down the wind. Science has shown us that the best windbreaks are about 80-90% strong, not 100%.

Examples of damage include damage to leaves and flowers with small fruits torn from the tree. Plants grown in windy locations are smaller than plants grown in protected areas.

In very windy places, I have seen fruit trees leaning over sheltered from the wind. Wind damage to fruit trees is worst on trees closest to the wind. Wind damage decreases on the second and third rows of fruit trees.

Plant fruit trees in blocks so that they protect each other from the wind. Locate the fruit trees that are most tolerant of wind damage on the windward side of the block.

Examples of wind-tolerant fruit trees are pomegranates, apples, and pears. These trees will protect the less wind-tolerant fruit trees. Less wind-tolerant fruit trees include citrus, plums, apricots and peaches.

Plants in windy weather use more water. Wind is a good predictor of water use by plants. In fact, along with the brightness of the sun, it is one of the best predictors of water use by plants.

Go out in the morning. Watch the weather. Is it clear and sunny that day with very few clouds in the sky? It is the first predictor of high water use.

Look at the trees. Are the leaves moving? Look at a flag flying on a pole. Does the flag barely move? Does the flag fly a lot? Does the flag wave in the wind? These are indicators of the strength of the wind.

Clear, cloudless skies and strong winds equate to high water usage in our desert climate. It’s time to water in nice windy weather.

Q: I’m finally getting my empty garden landscaped. This is the typical super hard floor of the subdivision. Should it be changed in some way before the new factories are added? More than just in the hole where the plant goes, I mean.

A: I would recommend amending the soil in the planting hole with compost or another amendment. The hole for the plant should be dug and amended to a width three times the size of the diameter of the container or the roots.

The hole does not need to be dug deeper than the container but should be dug three times the width of the plant roots.

The only time the soil should be dug deeper than the container is when the soil is very poor at draining water. If a planting hole is full of water and it drains that water overnight, then the drainage is quite good; three times the width of the roots/container is enough to prepare the soil.

If water does not drain from the hole overnight, you need to plant on top of an embankment or a small hill. If you are planting a medium-sized shrub (6 to 10 feet tall) in this spot, the soil for the modified mound or hill should be 12 inches high and about 3 or 4 feet wide. Cover this soil with some sort of mulch, either wood chips or rock depending on the type of plant.

Q: I need a hedge to block the view of the dog area. Are there any drought-tolerant, full-sun bushes that can handle the extra nitrogen in the soil from dog urine, or is there something I can add to the soil to balance this type of nitrogen? I’ve seen additives that claim to increase beneficial microbes or bacteria or something like that to help the nitrogen cycle.

A: Any of the Texas Rangers will work (aka, Texas Sage). The Green Cloud or Gray Cloud varieties of Texas rangers stand about 10 feet tall and should be planted no closer than 8 feet apart or 8 feet from a sturdy wall.

There are shorter varieties of Texas Rangers, such as Compacta (5 by 5 feet and 4 to 5 feet from a solid wall) and Cimmaron (3 by 3 feet and 2 to 3 feet from a solid wall) that use less d water due to their size. and have a more appropriate height for certain sites. They are still Texas rangers so the frequency they are irrigated is the same, just give them less water each time they are irrigated.

But there are two caveats. Remember that all plants use water and the more tall plants you have in your landscape, it may cost more (in water or pumping costs) to irrigate them. The second caveat is that people schedule when to water the plants, the plants don’t. This begs the question: are the plants responsible for water use or are they the people? You can give low water plants more water than they need, and they won’t mind.

All plants are damaged if a dog’s urine comes into contact with any part of the plant. Generally, the roots of plants are softer than the stems. Usually the leaves of plants are about as tender as the roots.

The plant regrows from damaged stems if dog urine is sprayed directly on the leaves or roots. Having soil around the roots makes them less susceptible to direct contact with dog urine.

How much less sensitive depends on the plants. But almost all the leaves are damaged. Stems will develop new leaves when damaged. The roots will grow new roots when damaged.

Pay attention to product marketing claims. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they stretch the truth. In your case, I think you are talking about rejuvenation or renewal of the soil rather than the plant.

Soil renewal is a totally different matter from plant renewal. Protecting the soil will not protect the plant from urine damage.

Q: I am writing to you regarding the purchase and planting of a Eureka lemon tree. The main concern for me is where to plant the tree, where to buy the tree, what size tree to buy, how often should it be watered and fertilized, and how big should I make the planting hole ?

A: I recommend planting the variety called Improved Meyer Lemon rather than a Eureka Lemon for our area because of its tolerance to our colder winter temperatures. The Meyer lemon begins its cold winter damage at around 25 degrees or slightly lower, but the Eureka lemon begins its frost damage (32 degrees). That’s a 7 degree difference in cold tolerance without even accounting for wind damage.

The Meyer lemon is not a real lemon like Eureka, but the flavor is very close.

If frost threatens, roll the tree and container into the garage until the freezing temperature has passed, then drive it out. You can try covering it with a frost blanket.

This gives the tree about 5 degrees of extra protection (up to about 27 degrees depending on the wind). You can try Christmas tree lights that give off heat (this can help a few degrees), but again, it depends on the wind.

The rest of the information you requested is the same regardless of the variety. Depending on the variety you want, you may need to purchase it from an online nursery.

Select a medium-sized tree, around 5 gallons, and plant it in the warmest microclimate you can find around your home (usually on the south or west side). Amend the soil with compost at planting time and dig the planting hole three times the width of the roots.

Plant it 8 to 5 feet from a warm wall and protect it from the wind. Throw it away for at least a year if it’s a 5 gallon size or larger. Wet plant. Cover the ground with wood chips when you’re done. Protect him from rabbits.

Use a citrus-based fertilizer (eg Arizona’s Best) once in the spring, but no more than twice a year. More than that is not harmful but useless.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at Send your questions to

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