Tips from a Louisiana Master Gardener
If shrubs and trees weren’t pruned last month, and Hurricane Zeta didn’t do it for you, there is still time to do so this month. December’s climate in southeast Louisiana is mild with sufficient rainfall. Now is an optimal time to add a new tree, or transplant an existing one, within your home and garden landscape. Research mature sizes of all trees for the appropriate growing space. A 3’ Southern Magnolia in a 3-gallon pot today will grow to be 50’ tall by 30’ wide. Save the house foundation and plumbing by locating trees well away.
For existing tree transplants, dig the new hole first. Roots can dry out quickly even in cool weather. Cover the rootball if necessary. Dig a gently-sloped, cone-shaped hole twice as wide as the container for a new tree. For existing trees, use a simple 1:9 rule: for every inch diameter of tree trunk, the hole is 9” wide. Dig up as much of the root system as possible. Hole depth will match the container grown in or otherwise. Top of the rootball should be level with the soil surface. Break up solid pieces of soil before replacing around the rootball. Water thoroughly, and occasionally after that if weather is dry. Several inches of mulch, pine straw or fallen leaves, keep areas weed-free and provide weather protection. Avoid trunk rot by clearing any mulch several inches away from the trunk. Avoid making mulch volcanoes. No fertilizing until spring and any staking should not constrict the trunk or damage limbs and should be removed after nine months.
Choose native trees such as Shumard oak, Drummond red maple, or Sweetgum for fall color. And gifting a tree is a wonderful holiday gesture and activity for the family.