Fall Planting of Trees and Shrubs (falltreeplanting)

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Consider Fall Planting of Trees and Shrubs

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Because spring is the time for new growth, most people think of planting trees and shrubs then. But cool temperatures and adequate rainfall make fall a good time to plant as well. The soil may be warmer and less damp than in the spring, and you may have more time to get the job done in fall.

Fall-planted stock does demand extra attention. It is much better to plant in September and early October to allow plants enough time for root establishment before cold weather shuts down growth. Cold winter winds and sunshine cause plants to lose water from their branches, and the roots must be able to replace that water if plants are to survive. Evergreens, particularly broad-leaved evergreens, are more susceptible to winter drying.

Select balled-and-burlapped or container-grown plants rather than bare-rooted stock for fall planting. Bare-root plants should be planted in late winter or early spring while the plants are still dormant. Some species of plants do not adapt well to fall planting because they are more susceptible to winter damage. Sweet gum, red maple, birch, hawthorn, poplars, cherries, plum and many of the oaks are among the plants that are best saved for spring planting.

Plant trees and shrubs early enough in the fall for the plant to develop a good root system. Soil temperatures should be well above 55 F at a depth of 6 inches at planting time. This condition usually exists until early to mid October.

Water plants thoroughly - give them about 1 inch of water per week. Continue watering until the ground is frozen, even after deciduous plants have lost their leaves. Wrap the trunks of thin barked, young trees in late November to prevent frost cracks, sunscald, and animal damage, but be sure to remove the wrap in March.

Ground covers and shallow-rooted shrubs may be heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil that often occurs in winter. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch can help prevent wide soil temperature fluctuations. Apply mulch in late November or early December, after the plants are fully dormant and the soil is cold.

(This resource was added September 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office


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University of Nebraska-Lincoln
in Lancaster County
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