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Michael Wheeler: Cement your trees roots by planting now
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Throughout the year, people will call wanting planting advice.

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

Planting time in Georgia can happen during most of the year. This is especially true if you are growing plants in containers. They can be potted even in the summer. But the maintenance for them is more extensive than if you plant them when the weather is cooler.

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

And the key to a plant’s survival is how well you do your prep-work.

I always tell people the first year of growth should concentrate on root establishment. If the root system is not allowed to develop and become established in the new environment, it will die. The more you help out the plant now, the less you should have to do down the road.

Much of the preparation comes from ensuring you put the plant in an environment where it can grow healthily. You cannot just throw the plant in the ground and walk away.

I know digging a hole in the ground is not rocket science, but you can do a few things to make your efforts pay off.

The hole for the plant will dictate a lot of its success. Remember, the primary goal during the first year is to grow roots. The best way to accomplish that is to dig a hole two or three times the diameter of the root ball. All of the loose dirt surrounding it 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 with the ground. Even though roots are in the ground, they still have to breathe.

Also make sure a firm base is at the bottom of the hole. That way the root system does not slip deeper into the ground.

Next, water the tree well to ensure the dirt has settled around the root system.

Once the tree is planted, you may add tree supports if you think it will lean. The supports should be used for a short while until the tree becomes established. Lots of times this means for only a few months or through the summer.

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

Sprinkle mulch to the edge of the planting hole. It will not only keep weeds from sprouting in the freshly exposed dirt, but it will insulate the roots from extreme temperatures. Mulch will also make watering more successful by keeping the liquid from evaporating.

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

In the first year, fertilization is not required. But douse the plant with an inch to 1« inches of water once or twice a week. If you use 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, His column appears weekly and on