Fall is the perfect time for you to plant trees and shrubs, and this is why.
As the air temperature rises in the spring, plants leaf out but the ground temperature is still cold, so there is slow root development. As summer comes, the “top growth” slows and root development explodes in the warm soil as the plant seeks out moisture and nutrients. Once heated, the soil is slow to cool, so as the air temperature drops in the Fall, the soil remains warm and root growth continues well after the leaves have fallen.
In soils that freeze and remain frozen through most of the winter, root development comes to a virtual stop. But for you and me in the mid-South, which freezes and thaws throughout the winter, some root development continues almost year round.
By planting in the fall, your plants have a chance to establish new feeder roots into the surrounding soil to help it through next summer. It may not be well enough established to fend for itself so you’ll still need to closely monitor it’s water needs; however, it will be much easier to care for than if it’s planted in the spring.
When planting trees and shrubs, the hole should at least 2 to 3 times the width of, and as deep as the rootball. Your soil mix should be mostly loosened: existing soil (60%-70%) and the balance, an organic matter such as Cotton Burr Compost, Back to Nature Blend, or other organic soil conditioner.
Loosening the existing soil IS THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PART OF PLANTING. (Second only to putting the right plant in the right place.) Everything should be elevated slightly above the existing soil to line to create good drainage and wick excess water away from roots.
Organic matter added at planting does a couple of things: It gives microbes something to eat and it provides a more hospitable home for all the other living things in your soil. It also supplies a “path of least resistance” for the expanding root system.
Fall is also the time to protect or “winterize” your plants for the upcoming cold temperatures. If you need to mulch, be sure to remove as much of the decomposed mulch as you can before adding new. If you leave the old mulch, a layer of fine particles builds up which can inhibit air movement and drainage. Add about 2″ of coarse mulch.
Spray broad-leaf evergreens with a dormant oil. It kills insects and insect eggs and helps prevent water loss. It’s especially helpful on plants easily damaged by winter wind like gardenias.
If you are thinking about moving trees or shrubs – or planting new – fall is the best time. Transplanting, especially with this unusual heat, is best saved for cooler weather.
Moving an established tree or shrub can cause significant root damage. Waiting until it goes dormant will dramatically reduce transplant shock.
If you are planting a new tree, or moving an existing one, the use of a good root simulator and organic food for your tree is key.
Visit one of our two locations to get the expertise and resources you need to plant that perfect tree that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.