Troup County Extension agent: Fall is a good time to plant trees

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 9, 2015

Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Late fall to early winter is great time to add a tree to the landscape especially when fall color is everywhere we look.

Some of those brilliant orange/red maples would be a welcome addition to our home landscapes. There are some questions on how to plant a tree properly.

You can plant a tree almost anywhere, but if you want it to thrive here, are some pointers to help make it happen.

Selecting the proper site is the first step. Some trees are understory trees, such as flowering dogwoods and eastern redbuds, and do not require full sun. Many of our landscape trees will do very well in full sun, such as the oaks and maples.

Select a site that the tree will receive at least eight hours of full sun. The next step is to provide the proper fertility. Soil testing will provide the answers. Trees will grow in acid soils but will grow much better if the pH is in the slightly acidic range, 5.2 to 6.2. If your pH is below these recommendations, you should lime according to the soil test report.

A good rule of thumb is to plant a $10 tree in a $50 hole. Mark out the planting area at least five times the diameter of the root ball. Spade or roto-tiller the area to about 12 inches deep. You want to give the roots enough elbowroom to spread out.

Make the planting area wide but not deep. Some horticulturists do not recommend adding organic matter to the planting area while others do. They believe that the roots have to get used to our red clay soil sooner or later. If you decide to add organic matter, evenly distribute in the worked soil.

Set the root ball on solid ground level with the soil surface. Never place the root crown below the surface. This will cause the tree to die.

Remove the burlap, wire and straps from the root ball. Spread the roots out. Gently fill around the roots and pack the soil lightly to remove any air pockets. Rake the soil evenly around the newly planted tree. Watering the tree in can settle the soil.

Two to four inches of mulch will usually do. Do not over mulch such as you see in “volcano mulching.” The mulch will hold in the moisture and prevent grass from growing close to the trunk. I was told years ago by a forester that allowing grass to grow near the trunk of a newly planted tree is like putting a noose around its neck.

Staking a tree is not generally recommended. Allowing a tree to sway in the wind is necessary for building up the trunk’s strength. If wind is a problem or if the tree starts to lean, place three stakes 16 inches into the soil evenly spaced around the tree.

Use 3/4-inch nylon webbing instead of wire. Attach the nylon webbing one-third the tree height. Remove the stakes and webbing after one year. If you leave it on longer you run the risk of girdling the tree.

Remove any trunk wrap at this time. It prevents the tree from adapting to the climate and provides a nice home for bugs. Air and sunlight are necessary for healthy bark to develop.

This is also a good time to transplant small trees that may not be doing so well in their current spot. Several weeks prior to transplanting, prune the roots by using a shovel with a 16-inch long, narrow blade.

Make a circle approximately 20 or so inches in diameter around the tree. You are forming a root ball. Hopefully, by the time you transplant the tree, new roots would of formed within the circular area. Follow the same instructions as above for digging the hole.

Following these steps may provide a good start for a new tree in the home landscape.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office. UGA has a wealth of information for home and property owners.

What’s going on in Extension?

Jefferson Street Market begins Saturday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon at 625 Jefferson St., just off of Dallis Street.

Oct. 10: Our 59th Annual October Harvest Fest will be held at the LaGrange Mall in the J.C. Penney parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon. We will have locally grown produce, plus jellies, jams and all kinds of crafts. If you wish to have a booth, call the extension office for further information

Oct. 29: Small Flock Management Class. Cost $15; lunch provided. Call the extension office to sign up.

Tree seedlings can be ordered from the Georgia Forestry Commission, 706-845-4122.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.