Learning by doing

Peoria High School agriscience students work with a Carescape employee April 20 to plant a red push pistache tree outside the Peoria Main Library.

Students from the Peoria High School agriscience program worked with city of Peoria staff April 20 to improve the landscaping in front of the Peoria Main Library. Brandon Putman, Peoria landscape and trails coordinator, worked with PHS students to plant three new trees and more than 50 small shrubs, and revitalize the planters.

As part of the agriscience program at PHS, students learn about plant needs and the proper way to plant them. April 20 gave them the opportunity to put those lessons into practice and benefit the community. Putman, also an arborist, and city contract workers from Carescape helped the students plant the trees at the proper height using current best-practices techniques with the hope that the trees can live healthy long lives.

Students experienced all of the things they have learned in class, such as the proper size to make the hole, how to loosen soil around the ball, that the root/trunk line is where the soil height should be, tricks for centering it in the planter, watering before and after, filling in the hole properly, and mulch is a much better cover.

After the trees were planted, students installed small shrubs around the trees and in the remaining planters. They also replanted the flower bed directly in front of City Hall. All of the plants placed had been grown at Peoria High School in the agriscience nursery. The plants had been propagated by students from adult plants all around the PHS campus. Students installed the plants with the same care as they did the trees: right place, right height, right techniques, with mulch, etc.

“Right plant, right place” is a focus of the city. Many trees planted in the Valley struggle because of improper cultural practices, such as trapping the root ball in too small a space, using gravel or rock under non-desert trees (resulting in increased reflected heat), or planting too close to buildings (also a heat problem). Improper cultural practices stress the health of the plant and can allow subsequent disease to affect the plant. Many ash trees around the city are suffering from ash blight, which is a fungal infection of the tree that resulted from the stress of improper planting described above. Ash blight is generally untreatable once it has started.

The dying ash trees are not being wasted. Upon their removal, city crews are chipping/grinding the trees and the resulting mulch is being placed around plants. Some of that ash mulch was used April 20 and added to all of the planters in front of the library and City Hall. Organic mulch reduces reflected heat, absorbs water for later use by the plant and returns nutrients to the soil. That reduces plant stress, allowing for happier, healthier trees.

Following the installations, Putman took the students on a tour of City Hall Square, where he was able to show them some of the dos and don’ts of proper tree planting.