As we start to wrap up summer and head into fall, it’s tempting to think that that the gardening season is over, but nothing could be further from the truth.
There are still flowers to enjoy (mums in particular), last harvests to be gathered from your vegetable plots, and bulbs to get into the ground that will bloom next spring.
Often during this time, planting trees is an activity that gets overlooked.
It’s only natural that many people associate tree planting with spring. After a long winter, we are anxious to get back into the garden and grow things, including trees. There tends to be a bigger selection of trees in the spring. Even our national observances tend to argue for spring tree planting – both Earth Day and Arbor Day are in April, not September.
Yet, for those of us in Northern Arizona, a fall planting might be the better way to go.
Planting in the fall gives trees some extra time to get established before the heat and dryness of summer, which can put a lot of stress on a new tree.
While the air above ground might be getting crisper, the soil temperatures are still warm, and that combination encourages trees to spend their energy growing their roots instead of foliage. A stronger root system means that the tree is better able to adjust to heat or drought.
And don’t worry that your young tree won’t be able to withstand the coming winter weather. Trees go dormant in the winter, just like some animals hibernate in the winter.
In fact, it’s safe to plant trees until the ground is frozen, which is generally after our first hard frost. Even if we got a freak early snowstorm this year, you’d still probably be able to plant; the general rule of thumb is if you can still stick a spade into the soil, you can still plant your tree.
What you can’t do is forget to water it. In addition to being essential for life, water in the winter winds up working like insulation. Soil that stays moist will be warmer and plant cells that are plump with water are less likely to be damaged by the cold.
In fact, the very first thing you should do with your tree – even before you remove it from its container to plant – is water it. And then, after you’ve placed your tree in its hole and backfilled it, you need to water it again. To promote vigorous root growth, we suggest adding a root stimulator like Fertilome.
Once your tree is planted, water once a day for the first two weeks. After that, proper watering will ensure long-term growth. For new plants, that’s about every other day until winter truly sets in, then about once or twice a month.
When we say water, we mean a really good, generous soaking. Trees like to drink slowly and deeply. Drip irrigation systems offer the best water delivery, but if that’s not possible, a slow trickle from your garden hose for about 30 minutes is a fair imitation.
Try to make sure you do your watering early in the day, so that your tree can absorb it before the temperature drops at night, and remember to water at the edge of the tree’s canopy to encourage root growth.
Following these tips, you should be able to give your new tree a head start by planting it this fall to enjoy next spring.
Happy Gardening! FBN
By Misti Warner
Misti Warner-Andersen is the manager of Warner’s Nursery & Landscape Co., located at 1101 E. Butler Ave. in Flagstaff. To contact Warner’s Nursery, call 928-774-1983.