We’ve long since said goodbye to summer, but did you think that meant that your gardening opportunities were over for the year? They don’t have to be! Fall is a great time of year to be outside, enjoying the crisp air and the beauty of the changing leaves, but it is also a good time to plant some native trees and shrubs. Read on for four fall planting tips to give your new shrubs or trees the best opportunity to flourish.
Much like in real estate, location is key for trees and shrubs. Read the tag on the plant carefully, or speak to a specialist in the gardening center, before you decide what to buy. The location of the plant should match the growing conditions that the species needs. Make sure that the area doesn’t provide too much or too little sunlight, that it doesn’t get routinely flooded, and that when the plant reaches its full size there will be enough room for it. When in doubt, ask a professional.
Dig the hole two to three times wider than the root ball of the new tree or shrub, but no deeper than the root ball. You want the top of the root ball to be pretty even with the top of the hole when you put it in. When the hole is big enough, loose the dirt at the bottom, but don’t remove it. This will make it easier for the roots to spread out into the surrounding dirt (since it is no longer compacted) and give the native tree or shrub a better chance.
Consider the Root Ball
Before you put the root ball down in the hole, remove any wire, string, or plant tags. If it is wrapped in burlap, you can remove it, but it will eventually decompose if you leave it on there without any problems. If your native tree or shrub came in a pot, remove it from the pot before planting. If it doesn’t come out easily, try rolling the pot on the ground or gently hitting the sides with a mallet till the root ball comes out. If all else fails, cut the pot with strong scissors, then loosen the roots since they are likely to root bound.
Gently Plant the Tree/Shrub
Before you set the plant into the new hole, decide which side looks best from wherever you’ll be viewing it. Set it into the hole so the top of the root ball is even with the surface, and replace the dirt. Don’t amend the soil or prune your new tree right now. Fall is a time when most trees go dormant, so the roots already have the opportunity to work on themselves (rather than growing leaves and branches) and you don’t want to disrupt that.
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