Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 10/28/2005 2:39:40 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
The high winds of hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused the loss of many trees around the state. If you are considering replacing trees that were lost, you actually can begin planting right away.
The best time to plant trees in Louisiana is from November through early December. During that time, the soil is still warm, which encourages vigorous root growth, and 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, which reduces stress. Another plus is that 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 system when they are dug.
On the other hand, if you need more time, the ideal tree planting season actually extends until March.
When planting, keep in mind the trees you plant are going to grow much larger than the saplings you purchase and bring home from the nursery. While it is tempting to plant more trees than you really need, years later you will realize you made a terrible mistake if you do.
There is no one perfect tree for Louisiana. All trees have advantages and disadvantages, depending on the planting location and desired characteristics.
With that said, however, here are some points you need to consider:
–Select a tree that will mature at the appropriate size. I cannot stress this too much. Generally, small trees are those that grow from 15 feet to 25 feet tall, medium-sized trees grow from 30 feet to 55 feet tall and large trees are those that grow 60 feet or taller.
–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, as well 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).
–Choose trees that are well adapted to our growing conditions. A number of northern species of beech, maple, conifers and others you might see in catalogs are not suitable for our area.
–Check the location of overhead power lines, and if you must plant under them, use small, low-growing trees. Also consider underground water lines and septic tanks, and don’t forget walks, driveways and paved surfaces that may be damaged by the roots of large trees. Locate large trees at least 15 feet away from your house or any paved surfaces.
Planting trees is not particularly complicated, but doing it properly greatly enhances the tree’s ability to establish well and grow. Follow these steps when planting trees:
–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 their containers. 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 rootball in the hole.
–Place balled and burlapped trees into the planting hole. Remove nails, nylon twine or the wire basket that has been used to secure the burlap. Then fold down the burlap from the top half of the root ball.
–The top of the root ball should be 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, firming the soil as it is added. Finish filling the hole and then water the tree thoroughly to settle it in.
–Generally, fertilizer is not applied to trees planted in the fall, although some slow-release fertilizer could be applied next spring. The use of a root stimulator solution is optional.
–Stake the tree if it is tall enough to be unstable. Otherwise it’s not necessary. If you do stake a tree, don’t leave this support in place for more than 9 months to 12 months.
After you’ve planted, keep the area 1 foot to 2 feet out from the trunk of a newly planted tree mulched and free from weeds and grass. The mulch should be about 4 inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the tree.
Water a newly planted or transplanted tree whenever the weather is dry. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure its survival, especially the first summer after planting.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.