As fall approaches, a lot of people are looking for ways to prep their yards for both winter and the coming spring. One great way to do this is to plant trees on your property that will bloom and grow for years to come. If you aren’t sure whether the time is right to plant trees, or don’t know which trees you should plant, don’t worry; a wide variety of trees do well when planted this time of year. If you make sure that you plant them properly to give them a good start, most trees will be fine.
Why Plant in the Fall?
Not only will most trees do well when planted in the fall, but in many cases the fall may be a better time for planting than other times of the year. The weather tends to be milder during the fall, with less likelihood of drought or extreme highs that could damage your trees while they are still establishing their roots. Though cold weather will eventually set in, you’ll usually have enough time for roots to become well established before you have to worry about freezing temperatures or other problems from the cold. Add in a dormant period over the winter and you’ll have trees that are already established and ready to grow once spring arrives.
Which Trees to Plant
While there are some trees that might not handle a fall transplant, a lot of trees actually do very well when planted in the fall. More important than matching the trees to the time of year is making sure that you’re planting trees that grow well in your part of the country. Match trees to your planting zone, taking into consideration the cold-hardiness of the trees if you tend to see freezes in October or November. Check local nurseries or agricultural agents if you need help finding the right trees for your area.
Proper Planting Technique
When it comes time to plant, first stop to find out the specific needs of the tree you’re planting. In most cases you’ll have to dig a hole at least as deep as the tree’s root ball, but you may have to dig out three to five times its width to ensure that there’s enough loose soil around the tree for the roots to spread. Put the root ball in the center of the hole you dug, filling it in and tamping it gently, and then water it. If the ground settles during watering, leaving a divot around the tree, add more soil. You’ll also want to mulch over the area to help hold in moisture and keep the soil warm, but try not to crowd the mulch too close to the tree’s trunk. From there you’ll just need to water a few times per week depending on the tree’s specific watering needs.
Timing Your Fall Planting
Even though the fall is a good time to plant a lot of trees, you still need to make sure that you time your planting right, or you might end up with problems when winter moves in. Try to schedule your planting earlier in the fall rather than later; wait for summer’s heat to break, but choose a time that’s at least a few months before you start getting deep freezes. The air temperature should be cool but not cold, and soil temperatures should still be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit even if things are getting cool outside.
Prepping for Winter
Once your tree seems to be establishing roots and settling in to its new location, start thinking about how you’ll keep it protected that first winter. Most years will see the tree dropping its own roots and having grass or other ground coverings around as well. For the first year, though, the mulch you put down will be its main line of defense. Before the mercury drops too much, add some extra mulch above the roots to account for settling and to provide protection for the tree. You might also consider covering the tree with sheets or other coverings during early frosts to give it more time to get established during its first few months.