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Tuck Trees In For Winter's Nap

The waning days of autumn is best for adding trees and shrubs to your garden.

The newcomers nestle in and establish strong root systems during the winter so they can burst forth in full bloom in spring, says guest gardener P. Allen Smith.

"It's a great time to get good values," Smith explains to The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. He says nurseries want you to "Take 'em home and plant them and we don't want to take care of them over the winter."

When buying a tree at the nursery, you'll have to choose between a tree that has been "balled and burlapped," or a tree that has been grown in a container. Container trees are smaller and less mature but have a fully developed the root system, Balled and burlapped trees have been dug up from the nursery's garden, the root ball wrapped in burlap, and waiting to be transplanted to your yard. These trees are typically stronger and more mature, but their root systems have undergone some trauma.

"What happened with a balled and burlapped tree, " says Smith, "is like my granddad said: With burlapped trees, it is important to remove the nylon cord." The burlap is biodegradable but the cord is not and will harm the tree as it grows, Smith warns.|

Here are the steps Allen recommends:

  1. Dig a hole that's twice the size of the root ball or container.
  2. Mix the soil in the hole with compost to give the roots a good home.
  3. If the plant's roots are tightly bound, gently tear them loose before planting.
  4. Once you get the tree or shrub in the ground, add a root stimulator that contains vitamin B1 to buckets of water. This helps accelerate the development of smaller feeder roots.
  5. Layer the soil back into the hole, occasionally adding the mixture of water and root stimulator to displace any air pockets.
  6. Finally, cover the area around the planting with three or four inches of mulch to keep the roots consistently moist and to help them withstand extreme changes in temperature. The mulch will also protect a tree from one of its worst enemies: the lawn mower. Lawn mowers and weed wackers can skin the bark off a tree's base; if the skin is stripped around the entire base, the tree will die.

According to Allen, the biggest mistake people make when planting trees is putting them too close to a house or sidewalk. Spreading roots can destroy a home's foundation or break up a sidewalk.

To prevent this, do a little homework and find the tree's mature branching - the span of the tree's branches at its mature size. As a basic rule of thumb, divide this mature size by half and leave at least that much distance between the house and tree. For instance, if a tree has a 30-foot spread, never plant it closer than 15 feet to a house.

In general, Allen says to never plant shade trees close to a house.

Now also is the time to plant beautiful spring bulb flowers like daffodils and tulips. And don't forget when you go to the garden center, to check out many of the perennials that are on sale. And don't be put off by how droopy they look.

"They're going to sleep," says Smith. "They may be a little weary but get them in beds and they'll root in and next spring, you'll have glorious flowers."

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