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Proper planting starts your trees and shrubs off right

ALAMOGORDO, N.M.--A member of the 49th Maintenance Group plants a shrub May 6 at Tierra De Suenos Park in Alamogordo, N.M. Planted were 34 Chitalpa trees, 17 Afghan pine trees, 42 Lombardy polar trees and about 150 Oleander shrubs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jamal D. Sutter)

Proper planting techniques can mean the difference between a healthy, vigorous tree or shrub and one that performs poorly or dies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jamal D. Sutter)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Proper planting techniques can mean the difference between a healthy, vigorous tree or shrub and one that performs poorly or dies. 

By observing the following recommendations, you will be giving your plants the best possible start in life. 

Plant the tree or shrub at the same depth of its root ball. The hole should be 8 to 12 inches wider than the root ball. Roughen the sides of the hole to make it easier for the roots to penetrate. 

Check for twisted, circling or kinked roots. Cut and remove roots that wrap around or are broken or discolored. 

Never pull a plant from the container by the stem. If a plant is difficult to remove cut the container on two sides and carefully remove the plant without damaging the root ball. The root ball will stay intact better if the root ball is wetted before removal. 

Replace the dirt dug up to create the hole. Research has shown that the plants will get off to a better start if they are allowed to grow in native soil with no amendments. Make sure the plant is at the same level of the surrounding soil or a little higher. 

No fertilizer should be added at the time of planting. Newly developing roots can be burned. Instead add a root growth stimulator. 

Water the plant thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the roots. Add additional soil if required and mulch the newly planted plant with a shredded bark mulch or compost to a depth of 2 inches. 

Do not practice the old philosophy if a little is good then more will be better. You will slowly kill your plant. 

A rule of thumb is to support all trees that are more than 8 feet in height. This is best done by using two parallel stakes driven at least 18 inches into firm soil on opposite sides of the tree about a foot from the edge of the planting hole. 

Attach wires to both stakes and loop them loosely around the trunk to support the tree. The part of the wire in contact with the trunk should be covered with rubber hose to prevent injury to the bark as the tree moves with the wind. 

The wires should be tightened until they are firm but loose enough to allow slight movement of the tree. Inspect the lines occasionally as long as the tree is staked. From time to time they may need to be tightened or loosened to allow for movement and ensure the trunk is not being cut. 

At the end of one year the tree should be checked and the stakes removed if the tree is firmly established. 

Newly planted trees and shrubs require regular watering. Construct a shallow basin around the plant, slightly larger than the root ball. Since soils and environmental conditions vary, periodically check the soil to see that it is not too wet or dry and that you are watering deeply enough. 

Be sure to water the entire root area and slightly beyond. Roots won't grow in dry soil. However, don't over water. Roots can rot in soil that is too wet. 

To conserve water and suppress weed growth, apply a 2-inch layer of shredded bark mulch from the trunk out 3 feet. Trees require more water than normal lawns. If you water for your trees you'll have more than adequate water for your lawn.