Spring planting and pruning of woody ornamentals

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With spring quickly approaching and most SWCDs are currently offering their annual spring tree seedling sale, it is time to start getting prepared and ready if you are thinking of purchasing any trees or shrubs to be planted. Early spring is also a good time to start a pruning and maintenance schedule as well on your woody ornamentals if you have not already.

Why is spring one of the best times to plant trees and shrubs? First, spring offers a longer time to get established, which is especially important for plants that are difficult and slow to establish or that are being transplanted in unfavorable conditions. Unlike early fall planting, where you will not have as long a season for establishment, but less maintenance and watering are needed if you plant then. Another reason, is that weather trends/patterns tend to be more favorable for transplanting as there should be a warming trend with the approaching seasons. This is extra beneficial for bare-root plants like fruit and nut trees and shrubs.

The Arbor Day Foundation recommends a six-step process to follow when planting trees. First, call several days before you dig. Second, handle all parts of your tree with care. Third, dig 2-to-5 times wider than the diameter of your root system. Fourth, top roots should be buried 1-2 inches below ground. Fifth, backfill the hole with native soil unless it is made up of mostly clay. If that is the case, supplement with other soil as needed. And lastly, mulch should be 2-3 inches deep but allow a 1-to-2-inch clearance between the trunk and mulch.

Make sure if you are curious about needing or the use of fertilizers when planting your woody ornamentals, you should perform a soil test before planting so you know exactly what nutrients may need to be added. If you are planting bare-root plants we recommend soaking them for at least a half-hour to an hour before planting, especially for spring plantings. Minimal pruning is a good idea when planting. There shouldn’t be much that needs to be done, but it is a good idea to start then and get on a pruning schedule. Tree tubes or wrapping are a good idea to protect from wildlife, hold in moisture and protect your plants from the elements. Larger bare-root plants should be properly staked into the ground to keep the roots from being displaced and to keep your tree tubes in place as well. Just like with everything else in life, there will be some trial and error. What worked for your neighbor may not work for you, but don’t give up!

Guernsey Soil & Water is currently accepting orders for our annual spring tree seedling sale until March 18th. We would be happy to mail or email you an order form. You do not have to be a county resident to order, but we do not ship or deliver orders. It is pick-up only. We also offer soil testing. You can purchase a kit from OSU Guernsey County Extension and we can come out and pull your samples for you! Call our office with any questions you may have (740) 489-5276.

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