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Why Fall is the Best Time to Plant Trees

In order to answer this question let’s take a look at mother nature and the seasonal growth cycle of a tree. Starting in the spring, we have a tree waking up from a long winter dormancy. As the ground warms up the tree wakes up and starts taking up nutrients to grow new buds, flowers and leaves. Some new root growth occurs but not as much because of the competition going on within the tree. From the new buds, flowers and leaves forming there is a little left for the roots. All this growth has to be balanced to keep the tree alive.

As spring turns into summer, the tree is taking up nutrients through the root system to support the extensive leaf network of the tree. There isn’t much left over to promote new root growth especially in a very dry summer when the tree is working really hard to just survive.

As summer cools off and it turns into Fall we come to the perfect time to plant a tree. The tree is starting to get ready for the winter. The tree puts on one last dazzling colorful show before it sheds its leaves. It then starts to store up the nutrients for the winter in its root system. As long as the ground temperature is around 50 deg. F, the tree will keep growing new roots. More roots means better survivability.

We also have to consider where your tree is coming from, be it a Tree farm, nursery, garden center or any retail setting, your tree more than likely originated from a tree farm. A tree farm will get a seedling that is 2 – 4 years old and transplant it out into its fields where it will be cared for at least 6-12 years, depending on its species. Now you, the consumer, comes along and picks out the perfect tree for your landscape. A good tree farm will only dig the tree while it is dormant, in late fall or early spring, then wrap the root ball with burlap for you. Here is what happens, you have a tree that can be at least 15 years old with an extensive root system. Now it has been dug out of the ground where 90% of the roots were just cut off. I’d be stressed out too if I lost 90% of my food intake! You now have a tree that is coming out of dormancy and stressed because it lost most of its roots. So it is important to give your tree it as much help as possible by waiting until Fall to plant it allowing the tree to do what it does best…Grow! You need not do anything else…just plant it at the right time and the tree will take over from there.

We now understand the growth cycle of a tree and how they are harvested. This applies to Ornamental Shade Trees, Evergreen Trees and Perennials too. It can be determined that Fall is the best time to Plant a tree.

• You get two root growing seasons before the hot, dry, stressful summer

• There is cooler, wetter weather in the fall requiring less watering of a newly planted tree

• As a gardener you have less to do around the landscape than in the spring giving you more time to plant

• Fall is also good for perennials and Bulbs too. Bulbs need to be planted in the fall. Bulbs must have a cooling period in order to bloom in the spring

This Fall, let’s work with mother nature and plant a tree. You will have greater success and a healthier happier tree that will beautify your landscape.

Happy Harvesting,
David Walker