TX Organic Research Center



Fall Tree Planting, Lemon Tree, Hyacinth Beans
October 25, 2002
By Howard Garrett

Fall is such a great time to plant trees.  I thought it would be appropriate to do a quick refreshener course on proper tree planting. Some of my recommended procedures have changed a little so take note. Although there are many different ways to plant trees, this is the outline of steps that will give you the best chance for success.
1. Choose adapted and healthy plants.

2. Remove the burlap and/or loose/added soil from the top of the tree rootball. Cut or tear pot bound roots in container grown trees.

3. Measure the ball height and dig the tree hole about 2” shallower than the ball height. The hole should be much larger and either a square or a rough-sided saucer shape.

4. If time allows, fill the hole with water and only plant if it drains well.

5. Backfill with only the soil from the hole – no foreign soil, peat moss, compost, sand, fertilizer or anything else.

6. Settle the soil with water. No tamping.

7. Cover the disturbed area with a 50-50 mix of compost and volcanic rock sand.

8. Mulch with shredded tree trimmings, cedar is best. Thickness should be almost 0” (zero inches) at the trunk thickening to 4” and the outer edge of the rootball or farther.

9. No watering rings of soil should be built except the downhill side of steep slopes.
10. Absolutely no wrapping of trunks should be done.

11. No thinning or trimming of the top growth should be done except for broken or damaged limbs.

12. Staking should only be done in rare cases and never left on the trees more than one growing season.

If you follow these simple rules, your trees will be healthy and happy.

Q. Last spring I stuck some lemon seeds into a pot to see what would happen. To my surprise, one turned into a tree, now 5 or 6 feet tall, very beautiful and very healthy. We have a tiny yard, and no place for another tree and I doubt that it would survive a cold winter here. It smells like lime. Can we keep it in a pot, and if so, how big must the pot be? Can we prune all year to keep it small? It sprouts and grows very fast. How much water and fertilizer should it get, and what kind, and how often? What is the minimum low temperature it will tolerate in the winter?

A. Yes, you can keep it in a pot. The bigger the better on the pot size. You can prune the tree to keep it a smaller size, but it may hurt it by removing flowers that become fruit. Normal watering and fertilization are needed and the minimum temperature it will tolerate is 33° and citrus doesn’t like that low temp for very long.

Q. We have a beautiful purple flowering hyacinth bean vine on our back fence. Are the beans in the pods edible? If so, are they good? Do they taste like lima beans? – K.B., Dallas

A. They are edible but very tough unless picked and cooked when they are very young. It is a bean that is best used as an ornamental plant or legume cover crop.

Q. When would be the best time to level my yard? I have a two year old St. Augustine lawn with highs and lows that need filling with good topsoil. – J.A., Dallas

A. There are three ways to fix an unleveled yard.

1. Buy and spread soil into the low areas that is as close as possible to the existing soil on the site.

2. Fill the low areas with quality compost.

3. Core aerate the entire area heavily then rake the cores from the high areas into the low areas. This cut and fill process is effective and cost efficient.

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