A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

If done correctly we can successfully plant trees and shrubs all year long in Georgia.  However, now is the time that most people plant trees because this is when they are available in stores.  I would warn you as I did in one of my previous articles, just because a store has a tree or shrub doesn’t mean that it is suitable for our area. 

When planting trees and shrubs we first need to prepare the site so that it will be suitable right now and years from now as the plants grow and mature.  How do we do this?  If you didn’t say get a soil sample then this is the first article of mine you have ever read.  In the absence of a soil sample you should apply 20 – 40 lbs. of lime per 1000 ft2.  It would also be beneficial to add some phosphorous fertilizer.  The addition of lime and phosphorous is critical prior to planting.  Lime needs to mix with the soil to react and raise the pH.  Phosphorous needs to be incorporated because it will not move within the soil.  Once a tree or shrub is planted, it is hard to correct a low pH or low phosphorous fertility without causing damage to the roots.

You are now ready to plant.  Planting is best done when trees and shrubs are dormant.  I like to wait until January, only because there is plenty of other stuff to do in December.  When you prepare the hole make sure that you make it deep enough to accommodate the root ball or tap root (on bare root trees).  Don’t make it too deep because your plant will probably settle.  It is also important to make sure the hole is 2 times wider than the root ball or wide enough to arrange bare roots without them touching the sides.  Finally it is a good idea to angle the sides of your planting hole upward.  This will encourage the roots to grow outward and not down or in a circular pattern around the existing roots.

Finally refill the hole with the soil that you removed.  Never place potting soil, fresh manure, or fertilizer directly into the planting hole.  This can actually do more damage than good.  Fertilization of new plantings does not need to be started until the following summer.  For most trees and shrubs 6 – 12 inches of growth annually is ideal.  If growth is slower than this you can apply a complete fertilizer like 16-4-8 at the rate of 6 pounds per 1000 ft2.

Be sure to keep the new planting well watered.  Watering will help settle the soil and remove air pockets.  It also insulates the roots from cold winter temperatures.  Dry roots can get much colder than roots with plenty of moisture.  It is sometimes beneficial to place tree wraps on young trees.  Tree wraps can serve multiple purposes.  They can protect thin bark from cold damage, they provide a barrier to herbicides and they provide a shield against weed whacker disorder.  They also provide shelter for all sorts of insects (wasps love them) so be careful when removing them. 

I hope this helps you as you get ready to spruce up your landscape or orchard.  This is where we see who actually reads my articles.  If you are planting a tree or having someone planting trees in your yard contact me or your County Agent and we will make sure that you have done it correctly. 

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