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Wheeler: Establish roots for healthy shrubs, tress and flowers
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If the past few days of warm weather have given you a fever to plant shrubs, trees and flowers in the yard, then you are not alone.

The promise of spring is in the air, and it is hard to sit still as the days become longer and the temperatures begin to rise. I love days like this and really enjoy getting out and experiencing a new start as plants wake from their winter dormancy.

If you are going to add to the landscape, there are a few things to keep in mind before you dig out your first shovel full of dirt.

Ideally, take a soil sample before you are ready to plant your new additions. Soil test results gotten from my office will tell you exactly what is needed to provide the best nutrient conditions for your plants.

If lime or fertilizers need to be added to the soil, mix in the recommended amounts to the soil dug out to make the hole. Do not add lime or fertilizer at the bottom of the hole. This could potentially burn the plant’s roots and cause more harm than good.

When you get the trees and shrubs home, keep the root ball moist and out of the sun so it does not dry out and stress the rest of the plant. This is especially important if it is going to be a few days before you are able to find a permanent home for it.

When you are ready to plant, take a close look at the root ball itself. If the roots are bound up and tangled then it is well worth taking the time to score the root ball to loosen the roots from each other, or tease them apart.

When you dig your planting hole, only dig a hole deep enough so the top of the root ball is level to the top of the soil surface. Be sure to maintain or build a solid base at the bottom so the root ball has a firm place to sit. This will keep the tree or bush from settling deeper in the hole.

Once you have your depth figured out, begin to loosen the soil two to three times the diameter of the root ball of the new addition. This will provide it with lots of growing room to explore with its roots and become established quickly.

During that first year, I like to see all of the plant’s efforts be focused on becoming established and growing lots of roots. Drought stress can be a transplanted tree or shrub’s biggest killer so do everything you can to give the plant all the resources it needs to make it through that first growing season.

Add mulch around the tree in order to reduce moisture stress and help cool the soil in the heat of summer.

When you irrigate, be sure to water slowly and deeply about once a week. A soaker hose placed around the drip line of the tree is ideal. Take time to follow these steps and enjoy your new addition to your landscape for years to come.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears weekly and on