The reason fall is for planting is the same reason why we can usually sleep better on fall nights than on steamy, summer nights – the weather. Once the dog days of summer are behind us, the weather becomes more comfortable. Daytime temperatures continue to be warm, though not as oppressively scorching as summer. Unlike hot, humid summer nights, however, the temperatures cool down on fall evenings. Also, the rains return from their summer vacation.
Warm days, cool nights and sufficient rainfall create ideal growing conditions, which trees like. This means climatic conditions will provide your newly planted or transplanted trees with several weeks to get acclimated to their new homes before winter descends on them…and us.
The technique for fall planting is no different from planting in spring. Select a planting site whose conditions are right for the plant(s) you select. Remember – right plant, right place. Dig the planting hole two to three times bigger than the rootball, but only as deep. If potted, remove the plant from its pot. If balled and burlapped, remove the wire basket or rope but leave the burlap around the ball.
Set the plant in the hole and backfill, stopping occasionally to press the backfill to fill in any air pockets. Don’t backfill any higher than the top of the root ball. Finally, water well.
It’s good to mulch any new planting, but it’s especially important in fall. The mulch will help moderate temperature shifts during the winter. Spread 2 to 3 inches, but do not pile it up against the trunk in a mulch volcano. Before winter, add another inch of mulch, but be prepared to remove that in spring.
Don’t fertilize when you plant, especially with high nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen will stimulate new leaves at a time when the tree is getting ready to go dormant for the winter. However, mixing compost or other organic matter with the backfill soil is fine.
The summer that’s winding down has been unpredictable to say the least. We had a rain deficit followed by a surplus of rain. This was followed by nice summer weather, which helped reduce our garden maintenance. We don’t know what next spring will bring so, it’s a good idea to get a head start with fall planting.
Remember, “Fall is for Planting” is more than a slogan.