Master Gardeners: ‘Rooting for Newnan’

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By: Marci Moore, Coweta County Master Gardener Extension Volunteer (MGEV) 

 On March 26, 2021, our City of Homes was hit by an EF-4 tornado that destroyed the beautiful tree canopy throughout much of Newnan. Two Coweta County MGEVs decided that something had to be done to help restore the beauty that once was.

MGEV Ed Atkinson presented his idea to MGEV president Donna Deitz and with the enthusiastic support of the entire Coweta County Extension program, a tree replacement plan was born.  MGEV Gary Brown submitted the winning name for the project “Rooting for Newnan.”

Originally, just 200-300 trees were to be donated, but with assistance from the Georgia Forestry Commission, Newnan Utilities Compost Facility, Super-Sod & Soil3 and a team of MGEVs led by Ed Atkinson and Don Lambeck, the “Rooting for Newnan” project increased to 500 donated trees! City of Newnan Mayor Keith Brady cheered everyone on, “We need something like this, and I think there will be more of this. On behalf of the City of Newnan, thank you to every group who has done anything or will do anything to help restore our City of Homes and City of Trees. Newnan has been a Tree City USA designee for over thirty years, and we cherish that designation.”

Georgia Forestry Commission Chief Forest Ranger Terry Quigley said, “The trees that were lost, our grandparents and great-grandparents saw them growing. It will take at least two generations to have these shade trees return. In twenty years, you can hang a swing in it, and in thirty years, maybe, you can build a treehouse.”

The trees will be distributed on Georgia’s Arbor Day, Friday, February 18, 2022. Seth Hawkins of the Georgia Forestry Commission shared, “The swamp chestnut and cherry bark oaks tend to thrive in swampier areas, due to the oxygen content – not necessarily the moist soil. Many of the swamp species make some of the best urban-tolerant trees. When planting a tree that will grow as large as an oak, it is important to give it plenty of room and ideally 640 square feet of open soil area. Trees should not be placed too close to the house where the roots could upheave drives or sidewalks, or where they could grow into power lines.”

He also says that the worst thing you can have is turf grass right up to the tree roots. Hawkins says that sod is like an impenetrable barrier for water to the root system. Plan on using mulch or at least keeping the area bare, and blow leaves around the tree base to add nutrients as well as protect the roots from drying out.

MGEVs will assist homeowners with selecting the proper replacement tree for their space. Cherry bark and swamp chestnut oaks are the fastest growing, while the northern red oak is a tad slower growing–and the all-time favorite white 0ak is the slowest growing.

The Georgia Forestry Commission donated the oaks, and the trees are a year old and two to four feet high. They will grow another six to twelve inches before planting. The rich soil for this project was a mix donated by Newnan Utilities and Super-Sod and Soil3. Super-Sod and Soil3 also provided special grow bags for the trees that will allow maximum drainage and ease of transplanting. MGEV Audrey Harrelson coordinated a team that tends and waters the trees until planting. The MGEVs are maintaining a database of those who need trees, and each household is limited to two trees. Trees may be reserved at https://bit.ly/RootingforNewnan-Coweta or for more information, call the Coweta Extension office at 770-254-2620 or email [email protected].  

Additionally, the Georgia Forestry Commission sells multiple varieties of small trees in packs of ten. For more information, visit gatrees.org.

Every volunteer participant hopes this “Rooting for Newnan” project will build happiness and positivity in our community and will help those affected by the tornado.

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