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Photo Credit Arborgen Tree Lines October 2019

 It is almost time to start planting pine seedlings in southeast Georgia. The usual plant window starts around the end of October and runs until the end of February, but be sure there is adequate moisture before planting begins. Here are some things to consider when planting a stand of pine trees.

Site Preparation

Site preparation is a very important step in planting trees that needs to be planned ahead of planting seedlings. This is important because weeds and grass can rob soil moisture and nutrients from new seedlings and reduce plant stands. There are two types of site preparation methods are mechanical and chemical. Chemical site preparation uses herbicides to kill competing vegetation ahead of planting this can be done in strips or broadcast. Mechanical site preparation usually involves disking the soil to remove weeds and grass from the planting site.

Quality Seedlings and Handling

When planting pine seedlings growers should contact a seedlings source in advance to ensure access to quality seedlings. Research shows that planting poor quality seedlings leads to excessive mortality and poor growth. Seedlings should be discarded if the following symptoms are observed:

  • Skinned or weak stems
  • Fermented odor or mold on needles
  • Root system less than 4 to 5 inches or root systems longer than 12 inches
  • For a complete list click on the link for the NC State Publication below

One of the main causes for poor plant stands is improper on-site storage and handling. Once you have your seedlings, keep their roots protected and moist. Begin planting as soon as possible. Store the seedlings in a shaded area and separate the containers to avoid overheating and molding. Only remove enough plants from the storage area that can be planted in a days’ time. If you need to keep seedlings more than two days heel-in seedlings to an open furrow and cover with dirt.  


Pine seedlings can be planted by hand or with a mechanical planter. Planting seedlings at the correct depth (an 8-10-inch straight hole is usually effective) is very important to ensuring a healthy plant stand with either method. Dr. David Dickens a General Forest Specialist with University of Georgia says the earlier the better once soil moisture is adequate. Planting earlier allows the seedlings to grow more feeder roots to aid the seedling with first year water and nutrient uptake. This gives November and December plantings a better chance of survival compared to February plantings. Containerized seedlings can be planted in November and bareroot in December, but all plantings should be completed by the end of February.  

Timing of first year herbaceous weed control can make a huge impact on your overall plant stand during a dry year. In a recent study conducted by Dr. Dickens, where herbaceous weed control applications were made in early April and May which resulted in a 90 percent stand with the April application as compared to a 45 percent stand with the May application. The earlier weed control allowed the seedlings to have more water and nutrients during a dry spring.

Check out these two publications below :

NC State Publication “Steps to a Successful Pine Planting”

Missouri Extension How to Plant Forest Trees Seedlings

For more information Contact Ross Greene at the Evans County Extension Office.

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