Expert offers top three tips on trees

Arbor Day is Jan. 16.

To help you get prepared, here is some important information on the three biggest questions concerning tree planting.

If you have any questions, or just need more information, please contact LSU AgCenter Extension Agent, Matt Gwin, at 728-3216.

1. When is the best time to plant a tree?

The ideal time to plant a tree in Louisiana is November to March. The temperatures are much cooler during this time, causing trees to become dormant. This allows for a less stressful environment and greatly reduces transplant shock. The earlier a tree is planted in the prime months, the longer the tree will have to establish a good root system before the summer heat. This is extremely important for ball-and-burlap trees since most of the root system is lost when dug up.

Newly planted trees need to be watered regularly and with the frequent rainfall we receive in the winter that means the less work you will have to do watering your tree!

2. What is the perfect tree for me?

Every tree comes with different advantages and disadvantages. To find the tree that will be most advantageous for you, start by deciding where you want to plant the tree and what purpose the tree will serve.

Determining the location of the tree will help you decide what size tree you need. Once you have found the perfect spot, LOOK UP! Make sure there are no power lines in the path of the tree’s growth. If you must plant under power lines, select a small, low-growing tree. Also, consider any underground obstructions such as water and gas lines, phone lines, or septic tanks. When planting a large tree, make sure you plant at least 15 feet away from buildings, driveways, or any paved surface. The root system of the tree could damage these structures over time if planted too close. A soil test on your location would also provide helpful information when choosing a tree. Knowing the pH level of the soil will help determine the type of tree that will thrive being planted in that location and knowing the nutrient level will allow you to apply the proper fertilizer.

Knowing the purpose for your tree will help decide what characteristics the tree should have: shape, size, and rate of growth. There are also many ornamental features to consider: bright flowers, fruit, unusual barks, and attractive fall foliage. Do you want your tree to be green all year long? There are certain questions you must answer in order to pinpoint the purpose of your tree. Once you determine the answers and decide on a location, you will be able to choose the tree that is perfect for you!

3. How do you plant a tree?

First, you must DIG! Dig the hole twice the width of the root ball and no deeper than the height of the root ball. The top of the root ball should be at, or slightly above ground level. When digging, make sure to break up the soil because you will use it to fill the hole back up.

Next, remove the tree from its container, making sure the roots are not tightly packed or wrapped around each other. Spreading the roots out will encourage growth into the surrounding soil. Place it in the planting hole. If you are planting ball-and-burlap trees, remove all materials that are holding the burlap in place; nails, nylon twine, or wire basket.

If natural burlap is used, remove the burlap from the top half of the root ball. If natural burlap is not used, remove the burlap completely.

Back-fill the hole with the same soil you dug out. Do NOT mix any additives in with the soil. Amending the soil can cause improper drainage and could discourage roots from growing beyond the planting area.

When you reach the half way mark, firm the soil to get the air pockets out. Once the hole is full, firm the soil again and water it thoroughly to settle in the tree. You may need to stake the tree if it is still unstable after the planting hole is filled. Do not leave this support on the tree for more than 9-12 months.

After the tree is planted, keep the area 1-2 feet from the trunk mulched and free from weeds. The mulch should be 3-4 inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the tree.

Fertilizer can be added in the spring; a root stimulator solution is optional. The most important thing you can do for your newly planted tree is to make sure it gets plenty of water during any dry period.

The only thing left do… watch your tree grow!

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