Scott Eckert, Harvey County Extension Agent, Horticult
Where has our summer gone? It seems like yesterday we were experiencing a hot, humid summer and we were sweating like crazy. Well it’s still hot but we are gradually cooling down like our fall usually does each year. This brings me to the topic of tree planting. We see all the spring commercials and advertisements for planting in the spring. We also have “spring fever” after spending the winter indoors. But the fall is a great time to plant trees.
During the spring, soils are cold and may be so wet that low oxygen levels inhibit root growth. The warm and moist soils normally associated with fall encourage root growth. Fall root growth means the tree becomes established months before a spring-planted tree and is better able to withstand summer stresses like heat. The best time to plant trees in the fall is early September to late October. This is early enough that roots can become established before the ground freezes. Unfortunately, certain trees do not produce significant root growth during the fall and are better planted in the spring. These include beech, birch, redbud, magnolia, tulip poplar, willow oak, scarlet oak, black oak, willows, and dogwood.
Fall-planted trees require some special care. Remember, that roots are actively growing even though the top is dormant. Make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy. This may require watering not only in the fall but also during the winter months if we experience warm spells that dry the soil. Mulch also is helpful because it minimizes moisture loss and slows the cooling of the soil so root growth continues as long as possible.
I have never had a fall planted tree die on me.