When adding trees and shrubs to your landscape, fall is the best time to plant them.
Fall is an ideal time for you, as all the hard gardening work of spring and the upkeep of summer will be winding down. It’s also the best time for the tree. The combination of warm soil and cool air stimulates root growth to help your tree or shrub get established before the ground freezes.
Most container-grown and balled and burlapped deciduous trees and shrubs sold at garden centers are ideal for fall planting, as they already have well-developed root systems and are capable of growing in cooler soil temperatures. Planting them is easy. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Read the information on the tag and pick a location that matches the growing conditions your plant requires. Note the plant’s mature size and leave enough space around it to allow for air circulation and expansion to its full size. This is hugely important. You don’t want to have to transplant a tree or shrub later.
2. Move your tree or shrub to the intended location. If it’s bulky or heavy, use a wheelbarrow to push, a tarp to drag, or a hire a band of burly men and watch them move it.
3. Dig the planting hole two to four times wider than, and just as deep as, the root ball. If you shovel the dug-out soil onto a tarp, it will be easier to refill the hole later. Once the hole is the right size, dig in the shovel a few times to loosen the bottom of the hole.
4. Remove all wires, twine, burlap, and plant tags. If your plant is in a pot and doesn’t pull out easily, place it on its side and gently roll it. If this doesn’t loosen it, use a mallet to gently tap on the sides. If this doesn’t work, use strong scissors to cut the pot away.
5. Shovel the soil you dug out earlier back into hole. Press the soil down lightly, but do not stomp it down. You want air pockets so rain can get through, roots can grow, and worms can do their thing. Do not amend the soil or add compost into the planting hole. If the soil in the planting hole is much more nutrient-rich than the surrounding soil, the roots won’t want to spread beyond it and will grow in circles instead of out like a web. This makes the plant much less stable.
6. Newly planted trees and shrubs will benefit from a layer of mulch. Two inches is plenty. Keep the mulch from directly touching the trunk or stem. Piling mulch too high and covering a tree’s trunk can cause excess moisture to build up which creates perfect conditions for wood decay diseases.
7. Water your newly planted tree or shrub every day until the ground freezes (generally late November or early December). Trees and shrubs are thirsty, big drinkers. Not watering them in properly is a big mistake, especially in fall when they really need to establish roots in a short time.
8. Get your new tree or shrub off to a good start by applying H-G Plant-Aide to encourage healthy root growth. Do NOT apply a fertilizer that encourages foliage to grow. During fall it will only weaken the plant and take energy away from root establishment.
With care, patience, and H-G Plant-Aide for roots, you’ll be able to sit back and relax, and enjoy your new tree or shrub for years to come!