Chilean Mesquite Planting-distance from house

Clay_TucsonOctober 23, 2011

Hello Forum, Thanks in advance for all your help. I purchased a Thornless Chilean Mesquite today from Mesquite Valley Growers in Tucson, and I'm excited to plant it. It's going to provide some MUCH needed shade since the afternoon/evening sun sets directly into my back porch.

Quick question. How far away should I plant this mesquite tree away from the foundation of my house? I have the perfect spot picked out which is about 16 feet away from my house but only 9 feet from the edge of my cemented/covered back patio. I'm concern with long-term root growth affecting the foundation of the patio or house. My home was built in 2007 and was built on a post-tension slab. Again, ANY insight would be greatly appreciated! THANK YOU

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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I'm strange in that I don't worry too much about trees and foundations. If I see a problem starting I have no problem cutting a root, taking down a tree, or cutting patio slab. I'm considering cutting a hole in our wide driveway and planting a tree. That's where I'm coming from.

I do know the patio slab is not connected to the slab your house is on. And also, unless there is some leak someplace, the soil under your patio and house is probably bone dry. I don't see why a tree would send roots under there and if they did, why the roots would get big. No juice, no roots.

So, to me, 9' away is plenty. Branches hitting the roof will be an issue but pruning can handle that.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 2:20AM
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Thanks Waterbug! I'm thinking I'm going to go for forward with this spot. I do have a second question which I'm going to post but I may as well leave it here too.

I dug the planting hole about two feet deep (for starters) to test the drainage. I filled it with water about one foot deep yesterday afternoon. This morning the water is pretty much exactly at the same level! In other words, I think there's NO drainage. How deep do I need to dig to assure the roots will be able to anchor in downward? If there is a caliche or clay layer, how deep might it be? Some of my neighbors have really tall trees and I'm assuming their backyards have the same drainage issues that mine does. Again, Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 10:19AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Mesquite can send a tap root down something like 190' at least for one tree some university dug up to see.

Caliche can be anywhere say in the 1' to 10' range and be thin to foot or two thick. In general caliche is not a continuous unbroken surface. I would never worry about caliche unless it's a known issue. Let the tree earn its keep and let it find the cracks it can send roots through.

It's kind of like the drainage issue...if there's standing water the tree won't grow roots in that area and keep roots higher. As long as we're not talking about a bog the tree will probably find a way.

A lot of these rules for planting stuff are the absolute best possible environment. But plants, like people, can handle a less than perfect world. I may have mentioned in another thread, this year I grew Mesquites from seed in a bucket with no drainage, watered everyday, so it was sitting in water. If you asked a 100 gardeners 99.9 of them would say that's impossible. Most of what you hear is just repeated from person to person, there's little actual testing or knowledge. A bit of common sense goes a long way when listening to advice.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 1:41AM
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Waterbug guy pretty much nailed this 100%. If you do your best to provide as many positive conditions as possible chances are your tree will be just fine in spite of a bit of caliche/drainage/etc. Mesquites are pretty determined trees, I see them growing under all sorts of crazy conditions, you should be ok.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 6:50PM
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crista(Sunset 13)

My two cents: I have three Chilean mesquites that are 10 years old. The area from one side of the canopy to the other is an average of 60 feet - yep 30 feet out from the tree trunk. We haven't given these trees a lot of water, and they are not in a grass lawn, this is just how they grow. If I was you, I'd be just as concerned about where all those branches are going to go once the tree gets some size. You risk roof damage if the branches brush the roof or if they fall on the roof. IMHO planting as close as you're describing to the house in going to be a pain in the rear to keep the branches off the house.

Regarding drainage - you may find that the problem is a layer of concrete waste that is buried in the soil. It's not uncommon for builders in these area to do a lousy job with clean-up leaving all sorts of surprises for gardeners to deal with later. Once you dig down another foot or so and get into native soil your drainage may improve.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 1:15AM
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