Greenspace: Now's the time to plant trees, shrubs
It seems strange, but we’re entering the best time to plant trees and shrubs. How can that be? It’s almost winter.
Summer stresses these newcomers. Hot, dry days claim more new plants than anything else. Their leaves are few and tender, not enough to keep the plant going amid heat stress.
Fall, even with its dips to freezing, is perfect for these guys. Almost all of the growth of a new plant is below the ground. The roots must take hold first before anything else happens. They grow well in cool weather, stopping only when the soil deep-freezes in January.
Fall brings ample moisture; the soil remains damp. The cool days and nights slow evaporation, maximizing the effect of the rain. Cold slows everything, but that’s OK. It’s better for a plant to expand its root system slowly. Rapid growth may be too much to support when the soil inevitably dries as temperatures rise.
You have two choices at the nursery. Some trees and shrubs are in containers, others are still in the field, or they’ve been pulled and their roots are wrapped in burlap. Knowing this is important as it will guide your planting.
Trees in planters should be replanted as soon as possible. They’ve probably been grown in greenhouses and are more delicate. Trees in burlap fresh from the field can be hardier and will survive longer out of the soil. Still, make plans to plant them soon.
On deciding where to plant, check labels on future size or search on the name on the Internet. You need to imagine its girth in 15 to 20 years to find its perfect place.
Planting container plants
Take diameter and height measurements of the soil in the container. This is your root ball. Your planting hole should be as deep as the root ball is high. It should be double the diameter of the ball. If you have clay soil, dig the hole slightly higher, leaving a few inches of the root ball exposed at the top. This will be covered with mulch.
Loosen the roots. Trimming a few of the small ones will encourage branching. Loosen the sides of the hole, but do not cultivate the bottom. It should remain firm to hold up the plant without sinking.
Plant the tree and fill in the hole. Tamp the soil lightly as you fill to remove air pockets.
Planting burlap roots
Plant the same as for container grown, being careful when moving to avoid unwrapping the ball. Near the hole, remove twine or wire from the burlap.
Leave the burlap on the ball. It eventually will rot. Fold back the burlap away from the trunk leaving an open space for water at the top. Be sure to cover all of the burlap with soil. Any exposed will act as a wick drawing up and evaporating water.
Last things for both
Add at least four inches of mulch, pulling it away from the trunk. Water deeply.
On plants more than 5 feet tall, you must add stakes and cords for support. You need at least two. Use plastic protectors (or cut sections of old hose) where the cord touches the plant. Keep the supports for a year.
The plant should be considered new for three years. It takes that long to fully establish. This means watering during dry spells and mulching each season if needed.
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