Proper Planning Provides Planting Success

MIsty Richardson, Hutchins, Robbie

Are you a property owner or forest landowner that is considering planting a tree or perhaps many trees on your property? If that describes you, you have some important questions to ask and some critical decisions you need to make now to ensure that your tree planting efforts will be a long-term success. Make sure Even though the traditional tree planting season seems to be a long way away, the time for planting will be here before we know it.

One of the two primary considerations of any successful tree planting effort is to understand or determine the true reason for the planting. This may sound elementary, but this decision will be the guiding principle for the entire tree planting process. After all, why go through the time, effort, and expense of a proper tree planting effort if what is planted is incapable of meeting meet your original goals and objectives? Some common goals and objectives for planting trees include shade production, aesthetic value, wildlife habitat, timber production, food production, erosion control, personal health, clean air, clean water, privacy, and noise reduction. Your specific goals and objectives for planting trees may include one or a combination of these goals. Unfortunately, at this juncture, many times people have already identified a specific tree or a few different types of trees they would prefer to plant based on their identified goals. However, those people often make an irrevocable mistake in their planting efforts if they fail to consider the other primary consideration in the selection process.

The second primary consideration of a successful tree planting effort is to assess the area where you anticipate that the tree(s) will be planted. Again, this may sound elementary, but this is a very common mistake that can often be irrevocable. A proper assessment of the area evaluates four primary factors to determine suitability of a species for planting. I like to call these factors the “4 S’s of Tree Planting”. The first “S” is for site. Site includes aspects such as topography, water availability, drainage, sun exposure, and climate zone. The second “S” is for soils. Soils includes soil properties such as soil texture, soil pH, and soil fertility. The third “S” is for space. Space includes available above ground and below ground space, both horizontal and vertical space, and future space requirements for the home and the tree. The fourth “S” is for species. Species includes selecting the proper species that will accomplish the landowner’s goals and match the site, soils, and space in the planting location. Species also includes species availability, site preparation and planting requirements, spacing and density requirements, and long-term maintenance requirements needed for species growth and survival.

The next step before planting would be to prepare the site for planting. It is important to understand what type of site preparation your tree(s) will need to maximize the opportunity for survival and growth. Even though they may differ in the size and scope of the operation, homeowners and forest landowners have many of the same considerations when making site preparation plans. Is there a need to conduct mechanical site prep operations such as mowing, disking, bedding, or sub-soiling? Will irrigation be required and if so, will it be above ground or below ground? Will you need to apply herbicides to control invasive or competing vegetation? Does a soil test indicate there is a need to add soil amenities such as lime or fertilizer prior to planting? The dry season, typically July – October in Louisiana, is the best time to conduct site preparation operations in order to minimize or prevent soil compaction from the machinery involved in the site preparation operations. For homeowners this is also the time to complete any digging or trenching associated with anticipated repair or expansion projects to prevent future root damage.

The final step prior to planting trees is to reserve or order the species and number of trees you will need for your planting and secure the services of a reputable tree planting contractor if required. This is especially important true when planting grafted trees such as pecan or citrus since inventory of preferred varieties is usually limited. Unfortunately, landowners often miss this important step or at least delay it so long the better varieties are unavailable. Those landowners are forced to either delay the planting or plant a less desirable species or variety which effects the long-term success of the planting.

Planting a tree is a long-term investment that will provide benefits to people for many generations. Even if this all sounds like a big confusing puzzle please don’t worry. The LSU AgCenter has trained extension agents and informational resources to help landowners and homeowners make the proper decisions during each step of the tree planting process. Extension agents are ready to provide expertise in species and variety selection and the recommended site preparation and planting methods for the selected species. The LSU AgCenter Soils and Plant Tissue Analysis Lab can analyze soil samples from the potential planting site and provide site specific recommendations for needed soil amendments. Your LSU AgCenter’ s extension horticulture and forestry agents are ready to assist you.

If you need assistance please call us at the Rapides Parish Extension Office at 318-767-3968 or contact us directly at or We look forward to helping you make your tree planting efforts a great success.

6/2/2020 9:10:47 PM
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