Fall, the best time to plant trees

Published 1:11 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Trees in your landscape can be home to many different types of wildlife.

Trees can also reduce your heating and cooling costs, help clean the air, add beauty, provide shelter from the elements and add value to your home.

Fall is the best time to plant a tree –– both for the gardener and the tree.

The tree also benefits because the soil retains moisture better in the fall. Here are some tips for successful fall planting of trees:

When choosing a tree, consider your lawn’s soil, sun, moisture and temperature conditions. Make sure the site you choose is large enough to support the tree after it has reached maturity.

Before you plant the tree, make sure your site has proper drainage. Dig a hole, fill it with water, and check it twice –– once after 24 hours, and again after 48 hours. If the hole drains well in this time frame, the soil should adequately support your tree.

Dig the planting hole at least twice as wide, and about as deep as the tree’s root ball. The hole should be deep enough to plant the tree at the same depth or slightly above the depth it was growing in the container. If you dig the hole too deep, the tree will settle as you water it. This will cause stress to the root system.

The key is to have the “flare” (sloping part of the trunk where it meets the roots) at the soil surface. After placing the tree in the hole, refill it with the soil that was removed from the planting hole.

Soil pH should be correct before planting. The soil may need to be amended, usually with lime. A soil test will tell you the correct amount of nutrients that need to be added to the soil. As you refill the hole, gently tamp the soil to remove air pockets and establish good root contact with the soil. This will help prevent the root system from drying out. Water deeply.

Apply fertilizers according to soil test results. Choosing the right tree for the right place, planting properly, and avoiding difficult species, will help ensure successful fall planting of trees.

Nelson Wynn is an extension agent with the Shelby County Extension Office. He can be reached at WYNNNEL@aces.edu.