Ens­ley: Win­ter plant­ing is OK in Ge­or­gia, but prepa­ra­tion needed

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By RICKY ENS­LEY Polk Ex­ten­sion Co­or­di­na­tor

If you just can’t wait to plant that spe­cial land­scape tree, why wait? In Ge­or­gia, the dead of win­ter isn’t all that dead.

We have such great weather for roots: they don’t re­ally have a dor­mant pe­riod here. Peo­ple in land­scap­ing can learn a les­son from com­mer­cial foresters. In Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, they’re busy plant­ing pines across count­less Ge­or­gia acres.

Why don’t they wait un­til spring? Be­cause, there’s much more harm in wait­ing too long, than in plant­ing too early.

Roots are ac­tive and grow­ing in a lot colder soil than peo­ple may think. As the weather warms in spring, the roots get a head on the fo­liage. And that’s the way it should be, be­cause the above­ground parts of the tree de­pend greatly on the root sys­tem un­der­ground.

In Ge­or­gia, sum­mer is the real test. You need to give the roots as much time as you can to get es­tab­lished be­fore it gets hot. The hard­est part now may be in find­ing the tree. But if you go to a good nurs­ery or gar­den cen­ter, you will prob­a­bly find plants more avail­able than you thought.

Go to a rep­utable nurs­ery or gar­den cen­ter and pick out the tree you want. A Ge­or­gia grown tree is best. It will be more adapted to our cli­mate and less prone to en­vi­ron­men­tal stress.

Choose a place in your land­scape where the tree will have plenty of room when it’s ma­ture. Then plant the tree in a big, well pre­pared hole.

Add two to three inches of or­ganic mulch over an area ex­tend­ing well be­yond the root ball. That will help keep the soil tem­per­a­ture and mois­ture more even. Wa­ter it well. That is crit­i­cal, even when the win­ter cold and spring’s mild weather don’t re­mind you of the need.

You re­ally need to baby your tree through the first year. Make sure it gets the wa­ter reg­u­larly. Do what­ever you need to do to pro­tect it from lawn mow­ers, string trim­mers, chil­dren, pets, and any­thing else that might in­jure it.

Then, dur­ing drought times for the first three years, wa­ter the tree. If you do all that, you should have a healthy tree that will out­live you.

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