Fall Tree Planting
Fall is easily my favorite time of year. I love the smells, the muted (and sometimes dazzling) colors, and the sideways arc of a warm autumn sun. I love the crisp mornings. This is harvest time- when we take stock of all our hard summer’s work. It’s a time of reflection… and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve spent more of my life in school than out, but I see fall as a time of new beginnings. It’s a time to promise oneself that this fall you’ll get a head start on that research paper rather than wait until the last minute (good luck!).
What better way is there to celebrate this time of starting afresh than planting a tree? I know this is typically a springtime tradition; we even celebrate Arbor Day at the end of April! But, the bigleaf maple outside my window knows differently. For the last couple of weeks it’s been dropping its samaras, and in another couple of weeks it’ll be covering those seeds with a blanket of leaves.
Through this natural process, those seeds will have all winter to undergo stratification, and the early spring to germinate and establish a root system that more or less matches the development (and demands) of their aboveground parts.
We can more effectively establish young trees if we capitalize on this natural cycle. But what else can we do to help establish the trees we choose to plant?
• Choose healthy trees at the nursery. Look out for root-bound pots and girdling (circling) roots. As a general rule, I typically choose trees with a smaller tree to pot ratio (more roots & fewer leaves). Not only are these trees less apt to have girdling root issues, they’re also a bit more drought tolerant. Even better, try to find bare root, or balled-and-burlapped trees!
• Invest some time in prepping the roots before putting the tree in the ground. Straighten out any girdling roots, and see if you can ‘tease out’ the roots and get them started on an outward radial path.
• PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO PLANTING DEPTH! Make sure you can see the top of the root buttress above the soil when the tree is planted. Trees that are planted too deep develop all sorts of nasty problems- most of which are eventually fatal.
• Give them a drink. Even in winter things can get a little dry. New trees with developing root systems need a bit more water than their established mature counterparts.
For a bit more information, see the attached PDF on planting procedures. Now get out there and plant a tree!
PDF over here!