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Wheeler: Planting trees in dead of winter is OK
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If you just cannot wait to plant that special landscape tree, why wait? In Georgia, the dead of winter is not all that dead. During the winter, roots continue to grow as they really do not have a dormant period in Georgia.

By planting in the winter, you are providing the plant a great advantage over plants that are added to your landscape in the spring. Roots will grow in the late winter and early spring, providing the above-ground parts of the tree more "life support" as we go into the heat of summer.

As the temperatures soar, it is the roots of the plant that can pull the plant through by providing water. If the plant has more established roots, then it will not suffer too badly during the hot days of summer.

The hardest part now may be finding the tree. Go to good nurseries or garden centers that tend to keep a good inventory year-round. When you are looking at trees to plant, pick out trees that look healthy and free from insects and disease. Also stay with native species, which are better suited to our climate, soil and weather conditions.

In your landscape, pick a place where your tree will have plenty of room to grow and mature into its full size without needing to be pruned every few years. Dig the planting hole no deeper than the root ball or container is deep, but dig out at least two to three times the size of the root ball to allow the roots plenty of room to explore and become established.

Add a good 3-inch layer of mulch to help retain water and keep the soil temperature from getting too hot in the summer. Even though it is winter, give the tree a good watering. This not only will help the soil settle around the roots, but also help the tree fight transplant shock.

For the first year, keep the tree well watered when needed, and protect it from pets, children and lawn mowers. Do not fertilize the tree in the first year. This will encourage the root system to become well-established.

You should not need to water the tree in years two and three unless there is a drought. From there on out, you should not need to water the tree, except for extreme drought years.

If you have any questions, please give the office a call.

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 gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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