Planting trees and shrubs in winter

natalie4b(7b GA)November 28, 2011

I was wondering if winter months (Dec. through Febr.) are suitable in our Georgia climate to plant trees and shrubs, or there is a cut off date/temperatures.

I am waiting till after holidays for the conifers to go on sale, and replace the numerous leland cypruses we have removed recently.

BTW, how long do I wait to plant after the stumps were grinded, and the remaining wood chips mixed with top soil and soil conditioner? What else would you recommend to add to that mix? I prefer to garden organically.

Thanks a lot!


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I feel comfortable planting trees and shrubs during those months. The earlier the better simply because it gives them more time to get established before spring (and we have ample rainfall during those months).

As for planting after a stump is ground, I'd say there is no set rule, as long as you feel confident that the area will not sink after you plant - waiting would give the ground time to resettle so that you could see how much soil to add to the area to bring it up to level.

Personally I would just add some basic top soil ($1.14 a bag at Home Depot or Lowe's), nothing fancier than that. The ground shavings will provide good organic material.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 9:07AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

Thank you, Esh. This rain messed up my planting schedule today - got a bunch of spring flowering bulbs on sale, and wanted to put them in the ground asap. Oh, well...

Sinking issue is a good point - glad you mentioned it. Maybe it's a good idea to pile up more soil as I plant that area to allow some settlement to take place.

I usually get top soil in Lowe's - it's a lighter stuff, makes it easier to carry. Plus they give me 5% off each time I use their credit card.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 4:55PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Most trees and shrubs can be transplanted in our area anytime between mid fall to early spring, as long as the ground isn't frozen too hard to get a shovel in (something that doesn't happen often). A few species with fleshy roots are best left until spring to reduce chances of root rot (they are definitely the minority). Below is a link to a guide that I believe you may find very helpful.

BTW, don't amend the backfill soil!!! That's a well-known BIG NO-NO when planting woody plants. Multiple studies have fairly conclusively proven that this practice is almost never beneficial but frequently detrimental (and that goes for soil types from pure sand to clay and for all climates). Try NOT to mix the wood chips into the soil (nitrogen depletion as well as the standard amendment-caused problems)!!! And, don't ad amendments! Unfortunately, there are still people (even a few dubious nurseries) recommending this long ago debunked practice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting a Tree or Shrub

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 8:25PM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

Brandon, in a past, I spent a small fortune on a special soil for trees and shrubs. Learned a hard and expensive way.
So, what do I do with the wood chips that tree cutters left behind after the stumps were ground? What can be planted there after it is mixed with a top soil? Will it hurt flowers or bulbs?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 6:30AM
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frannyflowers(7b Marietta, GA)

Brandon, I didn't know that amending the backfill soil was a no-no. I usually do amend. But I've noticed over the years there doesn't seem to be any difference when I do or when I don't. And I've often wondered if it was worth the money. Thanks for the tip.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 12:40PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I do not add amendments when planting trees but I do "amend the soil" - meaning dig up very large areas and add permatil or granite dust in the grosses, hardest clay areas. That means several feet deep and probably 8-10 square feet wide. We have a few places with terrible clay soil, water won't be able to percolate if the soil gets dry. However, in general no, it isn't good to amend soil for trees.
We've been piling wood chips to decompose. I make raised bed areas and layer chips and leaves and other garden clippings and scatter on some soil but I do not dig the chips into the soil. Basically I compost right in the area I want everything to break down in...without planting it. Like lazy lasagna beds to be planted in about 2 years. This has worked really nicely for us in far reaching places in the yard, where I plan to plant small shrubs in time.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 7:32PM
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opal52(z7b GA)

We had a large oak tree removed several years ago, and had the roots ground. We used much of the wood chips as mulch around the edges of our beds. The rest we mixed with the soil when we dug the holes for shrubs we planted where the tree had been. It didn't have a detrimental affect. The shrubs have thrived. Also raked the remaining chips to level the ground and planted Bermuda grass plugs. The grass grew thick rather quickly and has remained healthy.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 4:42PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"So, what do I do with the wood chips that tree cutters left behind after the stumps were ground? What can be planted there after it is mixed with a top soil? Will it hurt flowers or bulbs?"

Using the wood chips as a mulch is a good idea, especially if no lingering pathogens (Armillaria, etc) are present. When added to the surface of the soil, the chips don't rob nitrogen from the soil, except maybe from a very thin top layer just under the chips, and, they usually don't present any drainage problems (especially if they are larger chips and not piled high) or soil interface problems.

Annuals and perennials may be a little less bothered by the chips mixed into the soil, but nitrogen problems and drainage issues may still be present. Adding nitrogen (in proper amounts) may keep the nitrogen depletion from being a problem. Also, the potential for problems are probably at least somewhat proportional to the relative amount of chips present. I wouldn't worry about a small amount (even for trees and shrubs).

Some people believe adding amendments (whether course organic material or sand/gravel/etc) to soil can benefit soil drainage. This is not the case when amending a planting hole or in-ground site. Providing more porous soil in the hole/planting area can actually make drainage much worse by increasing the water holding capacity of that amended area. Some refer to this as a "bathtub effect", drawing an analogy between the non-permeable sides and bottom of a tub to the non-permeable or semi-permeable layer of soil beneath and around the amended area. Water runs into the amended soil, but has no where to go and is held around the plant's roots.

Creating a berm/raised bed is often a good solution to poor drainage. Using a courser material in the berm/bed doesn't impede drainage, but the difference in texture (and maybe nutrient levels) between the soil in the berm/bed and the native soil, at ground level, may, at least to some degree, discourage root system development down into the native soil.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 1:06AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

Brandon, what is berm/bed? I have never heard of it.
Thank you for your post.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 9:35PM
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railroadrabbit(7b - Atlanta)

Natalie, I don't know how you would guess how much nitrogen to add to the wood chip dirt (to assist in decomposing the wood chips) without adding too much nitrogen which would burn the new roots that your trees and shrubs will need to survive in our hot summers. So I would dig out the dirt that has the wood chips from the stump grinding. Replace it by digging a hole somewhere else in your yard that you won't plant for a year or two. (Put the wood chip dirt in that hole. A little nitrogen fertilizer or cotton seed mill will help decompose the wood chips over time. But the decomposing of the wood chips could stunt the growth of your new plants, or perhaps cause them to die. After the wood chips decompose, you can plant something in the dirt without risk.)

With the harsh dry summers we have recently experienced, newly planted trees and shrubs have enough shock to overcome without starving for nutrients resulting from the decomposing wood chips.

One other thing to consider, I use the Green Light Root Stimulator & Starter Solution for new plants. It has a little of the rooting hormone and some fertilizer with high middle numbers that help the plants get a good start.

Berm bed = importing soil so you can plant part or all of the root ball above the surrounding ground level. You pile up enough dirt around the drip line of the tree level with the root ball. This is good for trees and plants that need well drained soil, alkaline soil, or need soil that is rich in humus. Our GA clay tends to hold too much moisture for some plants to thrive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Green Light Root Stimulator. Click on the Gallon size link to read the label.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Yes, berm is a raised area. In professionally landscaped areas you will usually see where they "bermed up" an area and planted annuals - basically it looks like a mound. But you can also create a berm to raise up an area to give it more height like if you were creating a privacy hedge - you could give yourself probably another foot in height without it looking awkward. And as brandon says, it improves the drainage for the plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: HGTV ideas on berms

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 3:20PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

One way to think of a berm is to think of it as a raised bed with very gradually sloping sides. Two advantage of berms over raised beds are aesthetics (it looks more natural) and improved root system development (roots aren't stopped/contained by walls and can often grow naturally down into surrounding native soil). Disadvantages may included less access (raised beds can be more easily reached for weeding, etc) and possibly less planting space (depending on design).

I am not a big believer in the various "root stimulator" products for transplanting trees.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 10:21PM
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