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Putting Down Roots

While many people are packing away their gardening tools for the coming winter, Georgia Raimondi, author of The Passionate Gardener, reminds us this is a prime season for tree planting. She shared some tips on The Saturday Early Show.


Fall is an ideal time of year to plant a tree because the soil is generally moist unlike in the hot, dry summer months. The soil in most parts of the country will stay warmer longer than the air, allowing new trees to set roots.

But be sure the tree goes in the ground a month before the ground freezes. For most parts of the country, the soil does not completely freeze until December.

Trees generally come wrapped in burlap or twine of natural material or synthetic material. You can leave the majority of the natural materials on the root ball, as they will eventually decompose. Synthetic materials, however, must be removed before planting or the tree will be strangled.

Choosing a Sitecolor>

When deciding where to place your tree, be sure to give it enough room to grow. Large trees should be planted at least eight to 10 feet from the house. If the tree is too close, the roots or branches could damage the foundation.

Dig a hole approximately 24 inches deep and fill it with water. If the water is gone in 24 hours, the drainage is fine. If standing water remains, choose another site.

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Place the tree in the hole so the crown, the area just above the root ball, will rest at or an inch or two above ground level. The hole should be two to three times wider than the root ball so the roots can grow outward. A widely spread root system is the best anchor for a young tree. Use a garden tool to loosen the soil on the sides of the hole to assist root growth.

Place the tree in the hole and check that the root ball is at the right level and the tree stands straight. Make sure the best side of the tree is facing out if planting near a wall.

Loosely fill the hole halfway with soil and gently pat it down. Then fill the hole with water. Check the position of the tree to make sure it hasn't moved and is still level. Then fill in the remainder of the hole with soil.

Use the remaining soil to form a shallow water-catching basin around the outside edge of the planting hole. Water the tree again and let the soil settle.

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Mulching will help conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil. Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch over the planting hole but be sure to keep the mulch six inches away from the tree trunk. Rodents and insects will burrow in mulch placed too closely to the trunk.

Water the tree well during the first growing season. To monitor the soil moisture, insert a dry stick into the soil near the trunk and remove it after an hour. If the stick is moist and damp, then the soil is sufficiently moit.

Do not fertilize the area until the tree has been in the ground for one full growing season. It is best to let the tree root in native soil and not force in additional nutrients until the root system is well developed.

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