Monday, November 12, 2012

Best Time to Plant Shade Trees is Now

According to UGA Cooperative Extension's Frank Watson, fall is the perfect time to plant trees to provide summer shade in the coming years. In a recent article, he wrote, "Fall planting allows tree root systems to become established and supply the moisture needed for next spring's growth. This way your trees will get off to a great start."

Watson recommends that homeowners consider several factors in selecting the perfect tree for the proposed planting site. Among these factors are the amount of space available for the tree, whether there are any overhead wires, where the shade needs to be cast in order to provide the most help for the homeowner, the importance of flowering and/or fall color, the strength of the wood, and the pest and disease resistance desired.

The UGA publication "Shade Trees for Georgia" includes a very helpful table that addresses many of the above characterstics. The publication also explains how to plant the tree, starting with the size of the hole that needs to be dug:

"A large planting hole, two to three times the size of the root ball and with well-tilled backfill soil, will produce satisfactory results. Organic soil amendments placed in the planting hole will NOT produce a superior tree (although their use in annual and perennial beds is recommended). Research indicates that the best use of organic materials when planting trees is as mulch. Over time, mulch will decompose into the soil, adding much needed organic matter.

For best results, add organic matter or compost to the entire landscape prior to planting...

Plant at the proper depth, avoid excessive packing of the fill-soil, water the tree in after planting and mulch with 2 inches of an organic material such as pine bark or 4 inches of pine straw. Trees should receive 2 tablespoons of a 12 percent to 16 percent nitrogen fertilizer (12-4-8 or 16-4-8) per 10 square feet of root area. Do not apply large amounts of fertilizer until the trees are established, usually after the first year. After broadcasting the fertilizer evenly over the planting area under the crown of the tree, water it in.

The single best cultural requirement you can provide to a young tree is water during establishment. Establishment in the landscape is helped tremendously with as little at 40 gallons added over the first season after planting."
Taking the time to choose the right tree for the spot and to prepare the planting hole correctly will go a long way toward promoting the good health and growth of your new tree!