The summer monsoon is a dramatic event that occurs throughout the Southwest, bringing rain and brief periods of cooler temperatures. But with the welcome rainfall and brief respite from the heat comes the potential for damaging wind and flooding.
Although much of the Southwest is dry and arid, summer rain comes down in torrents accompanied by high winds. Not surprisingly, they leave behind damage to the landscape in their wake in the form of broken branches, flooding, and more.
Thankfully, there are tasks that you can do to help minimize and even avoid the damaging effects of the monsoon.
Pruning is the most important task that you can do to minimize the harmful effects from high winds that accompany dust storms and rainfall.
Drive down any street after a storm, and you’ll likely see limbs torn from trees or even entire trees being uprooted.
A proper tree structure is essential to prevent significant loss of limb or the entire tree. Many desert trees such as mesquite and palo verde have a natural growth habit of a large shrub. We tend to prune them up into a traditional tree shape, which makes them top-heavy.
Trees that are trained into a single large trunk are more susceptible to wind damage. Conversely, multi-trunk trees are better able to withstand high winds as the weight of the tree is dispersed among several trunks instead of one.
Pruning should be done before the onset of the monsoon season. Concentrate on pruning back long, overhanging branches. Pruning will decrease the weight and help to avoid large branches breaking off.
Shallow irrigation results in roots close to the surface, which don’t provide as much stability as those that grow farther down into the soil. Proper irrigation is crucial in helping to promote root growth. The recommended depth for irrigating trees is approximately 3 feet. What this means is that where the water goes, the roots will follow. Deep roots better enable the tree to withstand windy conditions without being uprooted.
Another aspect of watering is to make sure irrigation is applied to where the majority of the roots are. With trees, this is along the drip line, which is the point to where the branches extend out. As trees grow, drip emitters should be moved outward to follows the growth of the tree’s branches.
The torrential rain from summer monsoons falls quickly, and much of it runs off before it can be absorbed. This creates problems with excess water causing flooding. Instead of allowing the water to run out into the street, guide it back into the landscape using swales, mounds, or retention basins. In this photo, a gentle swale diverts the water toward a young palo verde tree, providing a deep drink of water.
Rain barrels are very popular and are an excellent way to collect the rainfall from the roof. A hose can be attached to the rain barrel and used to water plants throughout the landscape. Consequently, rain barrels are a helpful tool to prevent flooding next to the house.
You can implement these strategies right away to help your plants and landscape avoid or minimize the potential damage from summer monsoons.