The Benjamin Journal
Selecting and Planting Trees For The Landscape
Trees are a vital part of most landscapes and can provide shade, privacy, windbreaks, fruit or nuts, shelter, flowers and real estate value. Select carefully because trees are a part of your landscape that will be around for a long time. Proper placement should also be well thought out as mistakes are not easily corrected later on when the trees are large.
There is no one perfect tree and no one tree that lives forever. All trees have advantages and disadvantages depending on the planting location and desired characteristics. Here are some points you need to consider: Select a tree that will mature at the appropriate size. A small patio might benefit from a small 25 foot tall tree planted nearby, but be completely overwhelmed by a large tree. Planting trees that will grow too large for their location is one of the most common mistakes home gardeners make.
Think about the purpose of the tree and why you feel it is needed. This will help you determine what characteristics the tree should have such as its shape, size and rate of growth. Ornamental features should also be considered such as flowers, attractive berries, brightly colored fall foliage or unusual bark.
Decide if you want a tree that retains its foliage year-round (evergreen) or loses its leaves in the winter (deciduous). Remember that evergreen trees also drop their leaves, just not all at once. One of our messiest trees, the Southern magnolia, is an evergreen. Deciduous trees are particularly useful where you want shade in the summer and sun in the winter.
Don't forget to check the location of overhead power lines, and if you must plant under them use small, low growing trees. Also consider underground water lines, septic tanks as well as walks, drives and paved surfaces that may be damaged by the roots of large trees. Locate large trees at least 15 to 25 feet away from your house.
November and early December are excellent for planting trees in Louisiana. The soil is still warm, encouraging vigorous root growth. Trees will have several months to get established before next summer's heat. At the same time, the weather is cool, and the trees are going dormant. This reduces stress. Generous rainfall during the winter makes constant attention to watering unnecessary. Planting at this time is especially beneficial for balled and burlapped trees, because they lose so much of their root systems when they are dug.
Plant trees properly using these steps:
Dig the hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the height of the root ball. Remove container-grown trees from the container. If the root ball is tightly packed with thick encircling roots, try to unwrap, open up or even cut some of the roots to encourage them to spread into the surrounding soil. Place the root ball in the hole. Place balled and burlapped trees into the planting hole, remove any nails, nylon twine or wire basket that has been used to secure the burlap and fold down the burlap from the top half of the root ball or remove it.
Make the top of the root ball level with or slightly above the surrounding soil. It is critical that you do not plant trees too deep. Thoroughly pulverize the soil dug out from the hole and use this soil, without any additions, to backfill around the tree. Add soil around the tree until the hole is half full, then firm the soil to eliminate air pockets, but do not pack it tightly. Finish filling the hole, firm again and then water the tree thoroughly to settle it in.
Generally, do not fertilize trees planted in the fall, although you can apply some slow-release fertilizer next spring. The use of a root stimulator solution is optional.
Stake the tree if it is tall enough to be unstable; otherwise, staking is not necessary. Drive two or three stakes firmly into the ground just beyond the root ball. Use strips of cloth or old nylon stockings or use wire (covered with a piece of garden hose where it touches the trunk) tied to the stakes and then to the trunk of the tree. Leave the support in place no more than nine to 12 months.
Keep the area 1 to 2 feet out from the trunk of a newly planted tree mulched and free from weeds and grass. This encourages the tree to establish faster by eliminating competition from grass roots. It also prevents lawn mowers and string trimmers from damaging the bark at the base of the tree. Damaging the bark can cause stunting or death. The mulch should be 2 to 4 inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the trunk.
For more information contact the Tangipahoa Parish Extension office at 305 E Oak St., Amite, or call (985) 748-9381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if requesting information to be sent to you please include your address).