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Pratt tree experts offer advice

Fran Brownell
Many types of trees are now in full bloom in south central Kansas, including this one on Glenarm Street in Pratt. Now is a good time to order and plant young seedlings to guarantee such trees will be around for generations to come.

When it comes to trees, Robert Torres and Vicki Simonsen share enthusiasm, based on expertise.

Torres is director of Pratt County Environmental Services and Simonsen is Pratt County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent.

“We all know the value of trees for landscaping and aesthetics,” Torres said. “But, even more important, is that the shade they provide helps cool land surfaces and the oxygen they produce is critical to human health and life.”

Whether one lives in the city limits or in the county, both Torres and Simonsen are available for tree care and planting help.

Simonsen said she gladly makes house calls to help with trees in distress.

“One of the most common calls I get is ‘I just love this tree! Can you help me save it?’” she said. “More often than not, watering is the best tree life-saving advice I give.”

During the growing season between April and October, trees under five years old should be watered once a week during the first year, every other week during the second year and every three weeks for the third, fourth and fifth years. Large, mature trees should be watered if there has not been a significant rain event for more than a few weeks, according to Simonsen.

The best way to water young trees, Simonsen said, is to use a five-gallon bucket with one or more holes drilled in the base. The size of the hole depends on the size of the tree, ranging from quarter to three-quarters inches in diameter.

The goal is to have a slow, even flow and the bucket should be repositioned from one side to the other when the water level reaches the half-way mark.

Torres said disappearance of the South American rainforests is a matter of global concern.

“As individuals, we can’t control the disappearance of the Amazon Rain Forest, but we can plant and nourish trees in our own area,” Torres said.

Torres said he is concerned about tree rows in Pratt County and said it is important to replace trees as they die out.

“Keeping our tree rows strong and healthy is critical to our Pratt and Kansas environments,” Torres said.

Simonsen agreed.

“The last two years have been particularly hard on pine trees in shelter belts. I have visited a lot of trees that are in decline due to environmental stress,” Simonsen said.

Simonsen said the Pratt County Extension Office at 824 West lst Street has free publications available with information on tree species which includes what species of trees are best suited for this area.

The extension office also has Kansas Forest Service order forms for seedlings, priced at 25 for $25 or people can go online at kansasforests.org to buy barefoot seedlines specifically for their area of growing conditions. Order are accepted now through May 1 with shipping beginning mid-March.

Simonson may be reached by phone at 620-672-6121. Torres may be contacted at 620-672-4127.

Pratt’s Lemon Park at the south end of Pine Street, and neighboring Sixth Street Park to the north, are showcases for over 40 varieties of mature trees that provide shade as well as beauty during the summer and autumn months when their foliage is in full array.

Often, neighborhoods or yards with trees have higher property values than those without.

In spring, many trees around Pratt are starting to bloom, a sign of hope for many. Torres and Simonsen both encourage others to take a look at the trees in their neighborhoods and find ways to plant more, especially those suited for the south central Kansas environment.