Jackson Academy Grant

Organizers of a Northwest Florida project that's been two years in the making hope to have 10,000 trees planted over the next few weeks.

The project site is off Caverns Road, just past the Chipola River Bridge in Marianna.

Two grants from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are paying for the trees. The area will become a park dedicated to native vegetation of Northwest Florida.

Jackson Academy instructor Gary Latham has invited the public, along with school children, to get involved in the planting process.

Jackson Correctional Institution Workcamp inmates dug holes for the trees to be planted. Many of the trees are tagged in memory of loved ones.

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Tree Planting

Even with careful handling, newly planted trees may experience transplant shock. Shock is indicated by slow growth and reduced vigor after planting. Planting a tree properly can significantly reduce the stress placed on the plant during the planting.

Before digging, call your local utility companies to identify the location of any underground utilities. Do not plant trees underneath power lines or too close to buildings.

Dig a wide, shallow hole. Dig a hole twice the size of the roots and just deep enough to hold all of the roots without crowding. It is important to make the hole wide because the tree roots must push through surrounding soil to grow, so the less compacted the soil is, the better. The best time to plant trees is during the dormant season -- between the autumn after leaf fall and early spring before buds begin.

Place the tree at the correct height. Place the tree in the hole, leaving the top of the root ball 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil. Make sure the hole has been dug to the proper depth, and no deeper. If the tree is planted too deep, new roots will have difficulty growing. It is better to plant the tree a little high, which will allow for settling. Make sure the tree is straight before filling the hole. It is much harder to straighten once you have begun backfilling. To avoid damage to the tree, always lift the tree by the root ball, and never by the trunk.

Fill the hole, gently but firmly. If the tree is balled and burlapped, remove the string and wire. There is no need to remove the burlap. Fill the hole by gently but firmly packing the soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. To avoid this problem, add soil a few inches at a time and settle with water, not your feet. Don’t apply fertilizer at this time because it may cause root injury.

Stake the tree, if necessary. Staking supports the tree until the roots are well established. The tree should still be allowed some movement. Remove staking after the tree is established; not doing so could damage or kill the tree. Staking may not be necessary.

Spread mulch around the tree. Mulch is organic matter spread around the base of the tree. It acts as a blanket to hold moisture, protect against harsh soil temperatures and reduces competition from grass. Don’t cover the tree trunk, which may cause decay at the base of the tree.

Watering. Keep the soil moist but not soaked. Over-watering will cause leaves to turn yellow or fall off. It’s time to water when the soil is dry below the mulch, usually once a week.

Source: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/TreePtg.html (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and various Web reports contributed to this report.