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Plant now for roots to grow deep

POSTED: January 17, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Throughout the year, people will call wanting planting advice.

Typically, they want to know what type of plant should be planted for their landscape. But I also get a lot of questions about if the time of year is right.

Planting time in Georgia can happen during most of the year. This is especially true for container plants. These plants can be planted even in the summer, but the maintenance is going to be a lot more than if you plant them when it is cooler.

Balled and burlaped trees should be planted anytime other than summer. Bare-root plants should only be planted in the dead of winter.

No matter what type of tree — bare root, container or ball and burlap — planting in late fall and winter is the most ideal time for all of them. It gives plants the longest time in the ground possible before the summer heat tests their survival.

During the first year of plant growth, gardeners should concentrate on root establishment. The primary cause of a plant to die in the first year is if the root system is not allowed to develop and become established in the new environment.

The more you help out the plant now, the less you should have to down the road.

Prep work also is key to a tree’s survival. Much prep work comes from making sure you are putting the plant in an environment where it can grow.

Remember the saying, “Put the right plant in the right spot?”

You cannot just throw the tree in the ground and walk away. I know putting plants in the ground is not rocket science, but you can do a few things to make your efforts pay off.

The hole the tree goes into is going to dictate a lot of the success. To help the roots grow, dig a hole two to three times the diameter of the root ball. All of the loose dirt surrounding the plant is great for it to extend its roots.

While digging the hole, keep in mind the depth does not need to be deeper than the depth of the container or root ball. The top of the root ball should be level to the ground. Even though roots are in the ground, they still have to breathe. The hole also needs a firm base at the bottom so the root system does not slip deeper into the ground.

Water the tree well to make sure all the dirt has settled around the root system.

Once it is planted, you may want to add tree supports if you think the tree will lean. Adding these supports should be used for a short time while the tree becomes established — only a few months or through the summer.

One requirement is to add a good layer of mulch around the tree. Mulch should be 3 or 4 inches deep with only about an inch of mulch up against the tree itself. A lot of mulch up against the tree will encourage insect and disease problems.

Mulch all the way out to the edge of the planting hole. Doing this will not only keep weeds from sprouting in the freshly exposed dirt, but it will insulate the roots from extreme temperatures. Mulch also will make your watering efforts more successful, keeping the water from evaporating from the soil.

One more advantage mulch gives is guarding the tree or shrub from lawn mowers or weed-eaters. Many a tree or shrub has met its doom from “lawn mower blight.”

During the first year, fertilization is not required, but make sure the plant gets about an inch to 1« inches of water per week, once or twice a week. Or if you are using a soaker hose, water until the top eight to 10 inches of soil is good and wet. This will make the roots take hold deep in the soil.

If you have any questions, give me a call and we can talk it over.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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