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Fall Planting of Trees and Shrubs

Fall Planting of Trees and Shrubs

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Early fall is an excellent for replacing or adding woody plants to the to landscape. The exceptions are bare-root trees shipped in from other states. Plants that are container-grown or balled-and-burlapped have plenty of time to become well established before winter comes.

Fall plantings survive better if you follow these planting suggestions.

1. Nurseries often offer an array of varieties. Make certain to select those that will survive your climatic and soil conditions. Select only varieties that do well under our conditions.

2. Locally acclimated stock does not suffer from shipping shock or wrenching changes in environment.

3. A plant that has been sitting on display all summer may be root-bound. Check out the root ball, if you can, to see whether the roots are growing normally or wrapping around in a stranglehold.

Look for healthy leaf color and bark with no wounds. Look for plants that are not thin and spindly or too tall for their container. Most shade trees grow best with a strong central trunk and branches attached at near right angles. Tree branches attached with narrow angles (close to the trunk) often break down.

4. Dig a planting hole that is no deeper than the height of their root ball. Dig one that is two to three times the width of the root ball -- in all directions.

5. Break up the soil until the clods are no smaller than a grape and no larger than an egg is a good idea. Add compost, peat moss or other amendments over the entire area, not just the planting hole.

6. Some root ball-packing material is almost indestructible. Remove wire, plastic, fiberglass or anything else that will not rot quickly.

7. Girdling roots that have started to grow around the trunk will continue doing so, even when unwrapped or removed from their container. Cut through the outside of the root ball in three or four places, so it will start putting out new roots after planting, to prevent a root from circling and growing until it strangles and kills the plant.

8. Avoid stomping on or otherwise compacting the soil when planting. Fill the planting hole about one-half full with soil. Then water to help that soil settle and collapse any air pockets. Finish filling the hole and water well. Tamping the soil will be unnecessary.

9. Add a layer of organic mulch to help moderate temperature extremes, conserve soil moisture and hold down weed competition. With such fine mulches as dried grass clippings, 1 or 2 inches is enough. With such coarse mulches use a 4- to 6-inch layer. This layer helps reduce frost heaving.

10. Water to keep the soil moist but do not overwater. Keep an eye on the rainfall and supplement it as needed. Keep in mind that temperatures are cooler and that the trees are losing their leaves so they have less need to be watered in the fall. Drought-stressed plants are much more likely to suffer winter damage but overwatered trees quickly develop root rot.

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