What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants cool shade and tender rain,
And seed and bud of days to be,
And years that fade and flush again;
He plants the forest’s heritage;
The harvest of a coming age;
The joy that unborn eyes shall see –
These things he plants who plants a tree.
From "The Heart of the Tree" by
Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855 – 1896)
Although the summer blooms have faded, you may want to keep your garden tools out for just a bit longer. Autumn is the perfect time to make structural changes to your garden by relocating or adding trees and shrubs. There are several reasons for this.
Fall is an ideal season to evaluate your garden. Summer has just passed so you have a good idea of what has done well and what you would like to change.
You are also more likely to have the time to take on large projects. During the spring and summer the majority of one’s attention goes toward perennials, annuals, vegetables and general maintenance of the garden.
You can get some real bargains on plant material in the fall. Rather than over winter large plantings, nurseries often drastically reduce prices on trees and shrubs.
And last but not least, the cooler temperatures and plentiful rain typical of autumn create the best conditions for developing strong root systems. This allows your newly planted trees and shrubs to take off in the spring.
Tree Planting Tips
Northern gardeners that experience long dormant seasons should plant balled and burlapped material or transplant trees and shrubs in late summer or early fall. This allows roots cut during the process to regenerate before a hard freeze. However, plants purchased in containers have a full root system, so they can be planted later in the fall.
Some trees don’t transplant well in the fall. Conifers, dogwoods, liquidambars, oaks, crabapples, and birches should be moved in the spring.
Before doing any major digging always check with the utility company for the location of any underground cables and gas lines. Utility companies will come out and mark the lines free of charge.
After selecting a site for your new tree or shrub, dig a hole at least twice the size of the root ball, container or root spread.
Mix the soil 50/50 with compost. Add this mixture to the bottom of the hole. This gives the roots a good home and raises the tree to the proper grade. Try to match the original soil line with the existing grade of your lawn or garden. If your tree or shrub is container grown or bare root, spread the roots out in the bottom of the hole.
You want to encourage all of the roots to spread out and take hold in their new home. If the plant’s roots are tightly bound, gently tear them loose before planting them in their confined form.
If your plant is balled and wrapped in cloth burlap, fold back the burlap from the top of the ball. This is biodegradable and will break down in just a few months. These days, trees and shrubs are more often balled and wrapped with a synthetic material. This covering will not biodegrade and should be removed completely.
Once you’ve positioned the plant, make sure any nylon cording around the trunk or limbs is removed. Leaving it will girdle the tree or shrub and as the plant grows, it will die.
Once you get the tree or shrub in the ground, add a root stimulator that contains vitamin B1 to buckets of water. A root stimulator helps to accelerate the development of feeder roots. Many root stimulators contain a mild fertilizer that is fine for the fall. Wait and do the heavy feeding in the spring.
Now, just layer in the soil mixture, occasionally adding water mixed with the root stimulator to displace any air pockets.
Once planted, tuck your plants in with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to keep the roots consistently moist and also help them withstand extreme changes in temperature.