Issue: July 27, 2002

Watering question


I was told that drying of the tips of leaves could be due to wind, OVERwatering, and UNDERwatering! So, please, how do I know about the watering?


If the soil stays soggy for extended periods, then overwatering is the culprit. A clay soil or a soil with a lot of organic matter can contribute to overwatering problems because such soils hold more water. Tree roots need air in addition to water, so if the water fills the spaces between soil particles, roots suffocate.

Underwatering is more likely. The Japanese maple needs soil which is constantly moist but not soggy. The wind answer relates to this because wind draws water from the leaves, drying them. In arid climates, the dry air increases this problem by removing water from leaves even faster - faster than the roots and stems can resupply the water to the leaves.

There is another possibility as well - salt in the water or soil. Salt may be sodium chloride (especially a problem if the home has a water softener) or other mineral salts. Even fresh water contains some salts. When the water is applied to the soil and evaporates, the salts are left behind in the soil. In time, the salt levels can increase to damaging levels. Wind and underwatering will increase the salt problem by increasing the accumulation of salts in the leaves.

Your local Cooperative Extension Service office should be able to provide you with more details and can help you get your soil tested to determine if salts in the soil are the problem.

Some vines to try


I would like to know what vines in my area would be good for an arbor I just put up - also something that would be pretty for my fence. I am trying to create privacy; however, I don't want anything I cannot keep up with and control.


That's a hard question because your taste in vines will be important in making the decision. Many people like trumpet vine because it attracts hummingbirds, but this is one that is hard to control. It will come up from "suckers" (root buds) some distance from the plant and may become more nuisance than benefit. Silverlace vine is fast growing, blooms with clusters of white flowers (bracts). It will need pruning back once it has reached the size you want. Most vines will need pruning to keep them in bounds. Honeysuckle is another one to consider but, in some moister parts of the country, it becomes weedy. It will need pruning. Grapes are a good choice. They will produce edible fruit, and there is information regarding pruning available from your local Cooperative Extension Service office. Climbing roses may be a good choice. Clematis works in many cases. English ivy (evergreen), Boston ivy (deciduous), and Virginia creeper (deciduous) are other good choices. A visit to a local garden store to see what is available followed by a visit to the library to research the characteristics of each vine may be the best way to make your choice. The list is very extensive. (Here in Albuquerque my choice would be grape!)

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!