by Carole Schwalm
He that plants trees loves others beside himself.
(Thomas Fuller/Arbor Day Foundation site)
This is the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs. The weather is cooler, but the soil stays warm. Whatever your location, just ensure that the soil temperature is above 55° F at 6". For many of us that could be thru October and even during part of November.
Recommended for planting now: alder, ash, buckeye, catalpa, crabapple, elm, linden, hackberry, honey locust, maple, pine, spruce, sycamore. Select the proper tree for the location.
Avoid: azaleas, birch, boxwoods, broadleaf evergreen, cherry, dogwood, hollies, magnolia, many oaks, plum, poplar, red maple rhododendrons, sweet gum, and tulip tree. If you just have to plant make sure your trees and shrubs are well protected. Treat with an anti-desiccant. The trees with foliage are better planted in the spring.
THE PLANTING PROCESS
First, if you aren’t going to plant your trees immediately, find a shady area and keep them watered. When ready:
- Dig the hole, but do not amend the soil below the root ball. The tree needs a firm base.
- If the tree is in burlap, pull it away from the soil bull and trunk. Make sure you remove any twine or wire
- Put a 2 to 4” layer of bark mulch around the tree. Do not let the mulch touch the trunk. And do not put black plastic below the mulch!
- Soak after planting. Several hours later, water again. Maintain a deep-watering schedule to encourage root growth during the winter. Monthly is adequate as long as the air temperature is above freezing. Water early in the day to allow time for the water to soak in before nightfall.
- Wrap the trunks to prevent frost cracks, sunscald and animal damage – remove covering in March. Stake a tree only when it is necessary or you have a windy site.
The plants are great for decks and patios!
Use clay or wood pots slightly larger than the root system in depth and width. Use a heavy container so it won’t blow over. Provide adequate drainage, and a tree needs lots of holes, but make sure deck and/or patio are protected. There are plant mixes especially for trees and shrubs. They also like additional peat moss.
Container potted trees are subject to cooler weather than those planted directly in the ground. Cover the pot in the winter to keep in the heat and to avoid the freeze/thaw pattern that damages the roots.
- Put pebbles in the bottom of the container, and then add one layer of dirt.
- Unwrap your tree and lightly (carefully) knock the soil from the roots. Remove the upper layer from between one to three inches on the first tier of roots.
- Place the tree into the container and carefully spread the roots.
- Add more soil to fill the container half full and then water.
- Finish filling the container with soil and water again.
- Mulch to keep in moisture (2” layer).
- If you want to keep the tree to a size “bonsai” it, or prune back the roots.
- Fertilize: The Arbor Day Society recommends a water-soluble slow release fertilizer, but ½ the concentration of that used for house plants.
- Slope the sides of the planting hole.
Drawing courtesy of Maryland Cooperative Extension
Share your tree planting experience or if you'd like more information.