Tree Planting and Planning
Why March is the Best Time
Think March is still too cold for planting? While that might be true for annuals that need to be installed after spring’s last freeze date, March is the perfect time for planting trees. Many argue that early fall is also good, but new trees often don’t have time to develop a mature-enough root system to weather late-autumn and winter freezing temperatures.
Here are some tips for March tree planting and maintenance:
- All trees and plants need water this time of year, especially if a hard freeze is expected – water encapsulates roots and keeps them from freezing. If a freeze is predicted, check your soil and water if necessary.
- Water new trees regularly – it’s important to give a new tree 10 gallons (two Home Depot orange buckets full or about a minute’s worth of water from a garden house) all at once every other week during the first growing season. Focus on watering around the tree’s base or under the leaf canopy.
- Mulch to improve soil structure and regulate temperature, but be cautious about the type and how close you get to the trunk – create a ring of mulch that starts a hand’s width away from your tree trunk to prevent rot and insect problems. Do not use dyed or treated mulch as the chemicals can leak into the soil. Note, mulch also helps to prevent weeds.
- Hold off on fertilizing until April – it’s best to wait for warmer weather.
- Test your soil’s pH – now’s the time to determine if your soil’s pH balance is good for planting and growing. You want to ensure aluminum and manganese levels are not toxic and that your soil has enough calcium and magnesium. Then you can determine if lime is necessary. You can purchase Do It Yourself pH test kits at Home Depot, Ace, Amazon, and many other places.
- If your tree or shrub dropped its leaves after December’s hard freeze and looks sickly, don’t scrap it just yet – it may still be alive. Lightly scratch a limb with your fingernail. If you see green, the plant is still alive and will probably come back in warmer weather. Wait until at least April before you pull it from the ground.
Are you interested in a free tree? Trees Atlanta has a program for both City of Atlanta and Brookhaven residents called Front Yard Tree program. City of Atlanta residents can apply to receive up to three free tree seedlings and Brookhaven residents two. The trees must be planted in your front yard. Varieties include white oak, willow oak, tulip poplar, river birch, and more. For more information, visit https://www.treesatlanta.org/yardtree/.