Saturday, September 26, 2015 By: Ask A Master Gardener

How and When to Plant a Tree

Consider many factors before planting trees

Bill Sevier: Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Q: Which trees are best planted in fall and which in spring? P.M., Tulsa
A: When you plant a tree, it potentially will be with you the rest of your life, so it is best to make all the correct decisions about the what, when and how part of the process.
Trees and shrubs coming from the nursery are either balled and burlapped, container-grown or have bare roots. They may be deciduous or evergreen.
Fall is by far the best time to plant container-grown, as well as most balled and burlapped trees and shrubs. However, bare-rooted and evergreen plants should be planted in spring. Bare-rooted plants must grow new roots to survive, and new roots are stimulated by buds opening in spring. Evergreen plants lose water in winter and, if planted in fall, do not usually have enough root system to support their water needs.
Trees planted in fall have been shown to outperform those planted in spring by a significant margin. Trees planted then will have fall, a large part of winter and the following spring to develop a more extensive root system in preparation for the following growing season.
When selecting a tree, consider not only the visual appeal, but also the growing requirements (sun or shade, soil type), mature height and spread, and nuisance factors. Some trees have undesirable seed production and pest susceptibilities. Always think of the mature height of the tree if it will be close to power lines or buildings. Another useful suggestion is to get the largest tree you can afford and can plant yourself.
OSU has a fact sheet, F-6414 “Planting Trees and Shrubs,” which has detailed information for a guide. The basics, as outlined in the fact sheet, are:

  1. Look for soil drainage problems and correct them.
  2. Perform a soil test to determine fertility and acidity status.
  3. Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball, but no deeper than the root ball itself.
  4. In clay soil, plant the tree 2 to 4 inches above grade to help with drainage.
  5. Use no amendments in the backfill soil.
  6. Mulch with 2 to 4 inches of loose organic matter. Do not put plastic under the mulch.
  7. Keep a several-foot-wide grass-free circle around young trees for two years.
  8. Do not prune back the top of the tree or any branches on the trunk unless damaged.
  9. Fertilize trees and shrubs on the soil surface only if needed by soil test. Then use only nutrients needed.
  10. Stake only if needed due to the tree’s structure or if it is on a slope or windy area. Then do so for only one growing season.
  11. Maples, ash and other young trees may sun scald in winter if not wrapped. Wrap trunks in fall and  remove in spring.
Proper selection and planting of trees will add beauty to your landscape, as well as supply shade and shelter for you and the next generation.

Garden tips
§  Begin preparing your outdoor plants for a move indoors. Move houseplants indoors when the outside and indoor temperatures are about the same. For plants in full sun, move to shade. Begin with light and then heavier shade over a week’s time to prepare the plant for the low light indoors. If you move the plant from full sun to a low light indoor situation, the plant may experience “shock”, lose leaves and perform poorly inside.
§  Inspect plants for insects and disease and treat accordingly. In many cases, a few insects can be controlled by hosing down the plant and removing by hand. Another option is to use an insecticidal soap spray. This is effective and safe for you and your plant.
§  Also consider drenching the soil with 2-3 pot volumes of water to help remove insects and residual fertilizer salts.
'Ask a Master Gardener'

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