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Planting Trees & Shrubs

Planting refers to the permanent establishment of nursery material whether it is container grown or balled and burlapped (this means field frown material which has been dug with the roots and surrounding soil held in place with a tight covering of burlap). There are two main items to consider in planting - the soil and the plant.

  1. The Soil - it is important to have a good soil in which to permanently locate the plant is important. In most cases in South Florida, the soil will have to be improved. The soils here are sandy; they drain rapidly, drying out quickly, they are devoid of nutrients and are sometimes too alkaline.

    • Drainage - In most cases, drainage is not a problem in our sandy soils. Sometimes a large rock, a slab of plaster, or an impervious hardpan may exist which will hinder good drainage. If a hardpan exists less than 3 feet under the surface, it is best to dig deep enough to break through the hardpan and replace it with a coarse material for free drainage.

    • Water Holding Material - Though good drainage is important, if the soil drys out too quickly, the roots will dry out from lack of water and the plant will fade. If frequent watering is practiced to overcome this, poor aeration occurs with similar results. The answer is to mix a good percentage of organic matter into the soil. If the right amount is used, the correct amount of moisture will be retained in the soil after the excess has drained out.

    • Nutrient Holding Material - It is easy to see that a well drained sandy soil will not hold nutrient elements. These, applied as a fertilizer, will wash out with the water. It is also easy to see that if water is held around the fibrous particles or organic matter, the nutrients dissolved in this water will also remain.

    • Correct Nutrient Level - Is important - not too high (or tender roots will be burned); not too low (or plants will not grow properly). The soil must contain a small percentage of a complete, well-balanced fertilizer.

    • Correct pH - Is important in South Florida where most soils tend to be too alkaline for best plant growth. Of course, this would depend on the plants to be used; some require an acid soil, some can tolerate an alkaline soil.

    • Digging the Hole - Dig out a hole using the sand from this hole for part of the soil mix. Organic matter should be added to the sand -- a good proportion is 1/3 organic matter. It's important to know your plant material as the size of the hole will depend on the root requirements of the plant when it matures. Trees, especially fruit trees, require a larger hole. Palms have a more compact root system and shrubs need even less room.

      tree graphic Essential element deficiencies are prevalent in Florida trees. Nitrogen and potassium deficiency is common in sandy soils. This appears as an overall yellowing of the foliage, especially of the older leaves. Also, growth is greatly retarded.

      Magnesium deficiency is common in trees. The control is to make yearly applications of magnesium sulphate (epsom salts) at the rate of from one to five pounds depending upon the size of the tree.

      Iron deficiency is sometimes a problem. This appears as a yellowing of the leaves with the veins remaining green. Some plants require an acid soil and additional iron. This can be corrected with applications of chelated iron or iron sulphate along with a small amount of fertilizer.

      tree graphic Some palms require an acid soil and additional manganese, especially in the Queen Palm, Royal Palm and the Paurotis Palm. This deficiency affects the new growth causing a frizzled look of the new leaves. Depending on the size of the palm, a yearly application of from one to three pounds of manganese sulphate will control this problem.

      Balled or burlapped plants may be planted without removing the burlap as it will soon rot. Remove any pots or cans from the plants before planting.

      The planted tree or shrub should not be deeper in the ground than it was in the container it came in. It is better to plant it a little high as the plant will tend to settle. Before you dig your planting hole, do not measure the depth of the tree's root ball until you pull a little bit of burlap back and do a root-crown excavation. Pull the soil back from around the stem and keep pulling it back until you hit the first root. Many times you will find that the root ball has an artificial depth to it and you will need to shorten your hole. The soil should be firmed into place as the hole is filled in. Pack the soil in 4 or 5 places around the plant.

  2. The Plant - Transplanting involves digging an established plant out of the ground and moving it to some other location. By doing this many roots are cut and many root hairs will be damaged. There will be shock to the plant. Transplanting also reduces the plant's ability to take up water and nutrients.

    tree graphic To reduce the demand on the root system, a great deal of foliage area must be removed. Just prior to digging, thin out all unnecessary branches and stems, then reduce the size of the plant by cutting back the remaining branches. This should remove more than 1/2 of the foilage. This will also makes digging much easier.

    The soil around the plant should be watered well before digging. This makes it easier to remove a ball which can be burlapped. If the plant is to be moved "bare root", it should be done as quickly as possible to prevent drying. Water thoroughly at planting time. Palms that are set out in warm to hot weather will probably need to be watered every day for the first seven days after planting, then every two or three days for the next several weeks, depending on the soil. The goal this this stage is to keep the soil moist but not constantly soggy. The palm root ball will often dry out faster than the surrounding backfill soil. To encourage rapid establishment, fertilize the new tree lightly several times during the growing season.

    Deep watering of a regular basis is vital to good growth of all special of trees. In general, trees grown in sandy soils need frequent irrigation.

    tree graphic Larger trees need bracing. Braces should not be nailed into the tree, nor should guide wires be attached to the tree without a protective cover. Newly planted palm trees should be braced by three or four sturdy supports placed around the trunk. The trunk should be padded to protect it, supported around the trunk and staked into the ground. When transplanting mature palms, prune away some or all of the leaves, this temporarily slows the palms transpiration until its roots regenerate.

    Dead fronds may be removed to improve a palm's appearance. Some species tend to look messy and unsightly without regular trimmings. It does not hurt a palm to let fronds remain until they fall off by themselves. Tall palms may be very difficult for the homeowner to trim, and although special long-handled pruning saws are available for this purpose, it often makes excellent sense to hire a professional tree service to trim very large palms.

    tree graphic It is also important that weeds and grass are not allowed to grow near young trees as they will greatly restrict the tree's growth. Be careful not to injure the base of the tree with weed trimmers or lawn mowers as these injuries allow for the entry of diseases into the tree. Do not grow annual flowers against the base of trees as this will make the tree more susceptible to fungus diseases.

    Once your trees and shrubs are established, they require very little care, except for fertilizing and watering, to remain healthy and beautiful.

Caring for Trees & Shrubs

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Timber Tree Company, Inc.
(772) 283­-6298
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