We are entering the ideal season for shade tree planting in south Louisiana. Technically, container grown trees can be planted any time of year with success. However, certain seasons have the advantage of others. Fall normally provides us with the best set of circumstances for transplanted container grown tree survival.
The soil is still very warm at this time. This encourages vigorous root growth. Cooler air temperatures and shorter days make for less crown or top growth. These factors allow for the young tree to establish a strong root base going into the winter or dormant season. When the tree breaks dormancy in the spring, it will be better able to gather nutrients from the soil for vigorous limb and leaf growth. This good season for root growth is important to transplants since most lose roots during planting or when they were balled in burlap. The winter months ahead are usually rainy and will prevent the need for frequent irrigation that spring planted trees usually require.
Follow these steps when transplanting a shade or fruit tree. Dig the hole into which the tree is to be transplanted at least twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the height of the root ball. Make sure there is room for the roots to spread horizontally.
Remove container-grown trees from the container. If the root ball is tightly packed with thick encircling roots, 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. 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. Trees planted too deep seldom grow to their full potential.
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, old nylon stockings or 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 one to two 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 elimination 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 two to four inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the trunk.
After the planting work is completed, give the new tree a good drink of water. Pulling up a small ring levee around the planting zone will help prevent run-off. Allow the water to run slowly into the enclosed area or place a soaker hose. Continue these irrigations until there is a good soaking rain. We have been in a long period of less than average rain fall. Don’t let drought kill your tree before it has a chance to establish a root system.
As I said in the first paragraph, we are entering the ideal season for tree planting. Successful tree establishment can be achieved from now through the fall and winter. There’s no immediate need to rush, the better the environmental conditions are at planting time, the better the chances for successful establishment.
The Jeff Davis Parish Fair is in full swing the week of October 5-8, 2011.
Activities for Wednesday include:
Thursday’s events include: