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Prepare planting beds

POSTED: March 18, 2009 4:00 a.m.

The warm weather last week got many gardeners in the mood to plant. 


However, the recent rains may have slowed down our outdoor plans.


We may purchase plants with the intent of immediate planting only to find that a sudden change in weather, or the sudden need to do something else, will cause delay.


After plants are purchased and until they are planted, they need to be given proper care. If they are ignored and become too dry or are damaged, they may be weakened and be slow to establish.


Preparation of planting beds for smaller trees or shrubs in advance of purchasing plants is always a good idea. This may often be done during drier weather and covered with plastic to reduce saturation by heavy spring rains during storms. 


When planting holes for larger trees are required, they may still be done in advance. Soil that is removed from the holes and improved by mixing with organic matter or other materials may also be covered with plastic to prevent excessive water absorption.


Trees and shrubs available for planting are normally sold in three types: dug without soil so they are ‘bare-root,’ container grown, or dug from a field with soil remaining around the root system which is ‘balled-and-burlapped.’


Those with bare roots are often sold with the roots in packages which contain sphagnum moss or a type of fiber around their roots to keep them moist.


Trees and shrubs that have been bare-rooted often benefit from a short period of soaking in water before they are planted. Roots may be placed in a bucket or tub for between four to eight hours. Never allow plant roots to remain in water for more than 24 hours.


Trees or shrubs in containers or balled-and-burlapped may normally be kept outdoors until planting. A slightly protected location with some shade is best, but not essential. Keep the soil moist during the holding time.


Select a location where watering is convenient. Since spring storms often contain quite strong winds, larger trees that are balled-and-burlapped without support should be placed where they get some wind protection from a building or other large structure.


When planting, the roots of bare-rooted plants should be spread naturally in the planting hole. Roots of container-grown plants that may be circling the containers should be cut to stop the circling pattern. In many cases, balled-and-burlapped plants do not have to have the burlap removed, but the twine should be cut and removed before the hole is totally filled.


For additional information, contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.


Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.



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