Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Monday, May 5, 2008

From the Inbox: A Fallen Mesquite

From a Correspondent:

My Chilean mesquite tree in the back fell over in a storm about a year ago. I tried raising it but it fell again in the next storm so I left it on its side to see what would happen. Then I pruned hoping that it would grow up and again become a shade tree. I think I might have made too many pruning cuts as there are not many branches now. However, the tree does have new green leaves and I am hoping that it will flourish. Do you think it has a chance?


Good morning Anonymous,
As they say: where there's life, there's hope. Green leaves mean it has a chance, but only if someone stops pruning it.

For those who have the space, a fallen but still growing mesquite tree can be a very decorative addition to the landscape; as it is nearly impossible to effectively raise a fallen mesquite, it's also about the only practical way to keep the tree once it's failed.

The first consideration is safety; if it's possible that the tree may fall further and injure someone, then it needs to be taken out. That aside, it is important to let the fallen tree grow. Consider: the tree has gone through a major trauma and really needs all its resources to get through it and recover its health. If it is pruned, that limits its ability to feed itself and gather the resources for new growth.

Your best bet now is to leave your tree alone and let it grow into the unique and interesting shape that comes from a fallen tree. No tree really responds well to our attempts to radically shape it into something that fits our wishes, and that applies doubly to a fallen tree.

In a few years, you may be able to do some very selective pruning to encourage certain patterns of growth, but if you really need a shade tree of a certain determined shape, you're better off to take this one out and start over. And now you know why I don't recommend Chilean Mesquites!

I hope this helps,


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