by Emily Cates
Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn is a good time for planting trees. Once a good frost has arrived and trees drop their leaves, it’s a sign that “Tree Time” has begun! To make this event a success, let’s keep a few things in mind. The following suggestions apply not only to trees, but also to shrubs, vines, and other hardy plants.
Good planting candidates should be dormant, young, and small enough to move without too much bother. (A larger-sized plant will be easier to move if it was root-pruned last season by a sharp spade plunged into the radius of soil around it.) Try to get as many roots as reasonably possible. If the roots must be pruned, cut away areas that are damaged in the process, and remember to proportionately trim branches from the top of the tree.
All right, now it’s time to plant, preferably into an already-prepared, rock-free, planting hole which was dug with more than enough room for the roots. Special emphasis should be placed on the width of the planting hole, with enough vertical depth to accommodate an equal depth to which the plant resided previously. Be sure to work loose any compacted areas in the hole. Grafted specimens can be planted with the graft at or under soil level if it is desirable for the scion to form its own roots.
Careful placement of the tree and back-filling of the soil is done best when the roots are evenly spread out. If a root does not fit, do not bend it back towards the tree. Either proportionately prune the root and top, or widen the planting hole. A huge success factor is the amount of water added at this time. Don’t be afraid to make a soupy mess, the tree will love you for it! As the soil is back-filled, water adequately to the point of saturation. Gently wiggle the tree back and forth to get rid of air bubbles. Pack the soil down gently when finished back-filling, and add a nice, thick layer of mulch to keep weeds at bay and to conserve moisture. Old rotted hay or aged sawdust are good choices. Whatever is used, it should be pulled away from the base of the tree. Hold off on fertilizers at this time, but be sure to keep the soil around the tree well-watered, to the point of saturation. Check every day or two by poking around the soil, adding enough moisture, doing so until the ground freezes. This is perhaps the most important aspect of fall planting. After all, this is the moisture that will carry the plant through from freeze to thaw.
To help prevent sun scald from the winter sun, apply a coat of interior latex paint applied from the base to several inches above the snow-line. Wrapping smaller trees, shrubs, and vines with a collar of tin foil (removed in Springtime) will accomplish this and also deter uninvited four-footed, furry guests from munching away all our hard work. While we’re at it, let’s make sure to mark our plants so that the snow plow driver or Aunt Maybelle sees them.
Now it’s tea time! What better way to plant a tree than with a spot of tea?
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