CRESTVIEW — With root system growth in its optimal growing mode while shoot and trunk growth is dormant, now is the best time to plant new trees, experts say.
County extension agents on Tuesday discussed tree-planting do's and don'ts, and demonstrated planting techniques while attendees received their choice of eight native species of northwest Florida trees to take home and practice what they learned.
University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences County Extension horticulture agent Sheila Dunning, who spoke on tree growth and care, offered these tips:
• Water saplings well at first. "Don't put a tree in the ground and walk away," she said.
• Don't fertilize a new sapling. It could burn the tender young roots. Wait until a tree is established to fertilize.
• Never snip off the top of a tree to compensate for trimmed roots. Trees grow from the top, not from the bottom. Do clip malformed, broken or misdirected branches, however.
• When trimming a branch from a mature tree, never trim close to the trunk. Cut at an angle, being careful not to nick the trunk.
Planting trees in north Okaloosa County
University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Okaloosa County Extension Director Larry Williams offers these tips when planting a sapling brought home from the nursery.
• Loosen the roots from the root ball. "Circling" can stunt growth when roots try to wrap around inside the container in which it is sold.
• Knock away potting soil as necessary to free the roots.
• Dig the outside of the hole about the same circumference as the largest branches and stretch the larger roots out. Make the hole no deeper than the topmost roots and the tree's "collar."
• Do not stomp the soil down. Instead, water the sapling well and let the water compact the soil. Use clippers to trim broken branches or those growing in the wrong direction. Never clip a branch right up against the tree's trunk.