By Ann Farnham, LLA
Why plant trees in the fall? Among the reasons, consider that fall temperatures are more moderate than summer, rainfall is steadier, and it is easier to work outside on the cooler days. The trees in question are less likely to go through heat or drought shock and will have an opportunity to establish some root growth before winter. Inventory at nurseries and garden centers might be reduced in price as the company will not want the expense of overwintering the stock (beware, however, that you do not buy the leftovers, less desirable plants from the earlier season!). In this area, plan to plant your tree from early September to, ideally, 6 weeks before the expected first heavy frost, around the end of October or early November.
Inform yourself thoroughly before buying your tree. Is the exposure (sun, shade, wind direction) of your chosen site correct for this plant? Are the soil type and pH what the plant requires? Concrete walls. patios, and walkways, for example, can make the soil pH more alkaline than the surrounding area. Most trees do well in a pH between 5.5 and 6.5; evergreens and broad-leaved evergreens prefer some acidity in the soil. Is the drainage adequate? Be sure to check this. Dig an 18” test hole to see how long it takes for water to drain out of it. If it takes more than over night, you will need professional help to improve the drainage.
Are there buried utilities in that spot? Walls and fences might create a microclimate which will be too warm for your plant of choice. The soil at this planting time should have a temperature over 55º at 6“ deep. Take a soil sample for analysis; our local extension service will do this. Be sure that your downspouts do not drain into the site and that there is adequate room for the mature tree. Check the tree for bugs, broken or diseased limbs, a dried-out root ball or container, or “wobble” from the root ball or container, which indicates stem breakage or damage. Is the tree “root bound”? That is, are the roots in the container so crowded –from being too long in that sized container- that they encircle the inside of the container? Do roots come out of the drainage holes? This condition requires extra measures or another plant.
Once you’ve checked out all of this and for further instructions, look for planting details, drawings, and plant lists at our Fall Planting page.
The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Tree Topics from all Ewing residents. Email suggestions or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To calculate the value that trees add to your property, go to treebenefits.com/calculator/