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While spring is the default planting season, fall is the ideal time of the year for some trees. Here’s everything you want to know about planting trees in the fall and what you can grow in your backyard.
For gardening enthusiasts, fall is the best time to plant trees –even better than spring. However, many people assume spring is the perfect planting time because it gives your plants an entire season to become established. But the truth is spring isn’t always supportive when getting your plants in the ground.
Due to the harsh winter months and lack of vegetation, we all want to refresh our yards and landscapes. Depending on where you live, while spring weather can still be the default season for many gardeners, fall may be more suitable for planting trees. However, keep in mind that the perfect planting season can vary from region to region.
That said, in moderate areas with consistent, year-round weather, there may not be a favored planting season. Similarly, in regions that experience different seasons, fall may be the best time to plant trees.
This article will discuss when to plant trees, the benefits of planting trees in the fall, and what trees you can grow in your backyard.
So, let’s get started!
Benefits of Planting Trees in the Fall
As mentioned earlier, spring is the best time to plant trees for many of us, but fall can be equally as great. The season comes with distinctive and ideal weather conditions that can help your newly-planted trees to establish and thrive in new environments.
A few distinctive benefits of planting trees in the fall include:
In addition to brighter, shorter days, the cooler temperature in the fall offers an ideal environment for your newly planted trees. Extreme environmental factors, such as high temperatures, can compound the stress levels of a new tree and can make it hard for your trees to establish correctly. So, planting trees in the fall is a great idea to avoid these conditions.
New Root Growth
One of the significant benefits of planting trees in the fall is their new root growth. Remember that newly planted trees establish their root systems immediately after you plant them in the fall. Following the hotter summer months, soil retains its warmness till the fall season, which helps plants create a better and healthier root system.
Moreover, shorter, brighter days and cooler temperatures trigger your trees to supply essential nutrients to the roots, further improving root development. Your tree’s roots will continue to develop until the soil freezes, resulting in a more developed and robust root system ready to spring into action.
Fewer Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are the most common cause that can kill your plants. However, planting trees in the fall means fewer pests and diseases. For instance, leaf defiling pests are more common during the summer o and spring months but begin to recede as the temperatures decline. That said, fewer pests and diseases means less stress on your newly planted trees.
Pro Tip: It is worth noting planting trees in the fall also come with some risks. The chances of plant failure will increase later in the season you wait. So, give your newly planted trees at least eight weeks of mild weather for root development before the ground starts freezing. However, since the exact timeframe is impossible to know, October may be a good time.
So, when to plant trees in the fall?
When to Plant Trees in the Fall
Well, while planting trees in the fall is a great idea, there are plenty of factors to take into account. It will depend on various factors, including where you live, the local climate, what type of trees you want to plant, and how much time you have left before severe weather is forecasted.
Moreover, since most trees and shrubs require up to 8 weeks to establish roots in the fall, it is acceptable to grow them anytime the soil is workable. Here are a few essential factors in learning more about when to plant trees in the fall:
Look at the Trees in Your Region
One of the most effective ways to know when to plant trees is to look at the trees in your area. You can plant new ones in your backyard if they still carry leaves. Ideally, mid-August to mid-October is considered the best time of the year for new tree planting.
However, that time-frame can extend up to December. So, to be 100% sure, measuring soil temperature early in the morning for a week or so is a good idea. If you find the soil 50 degrees or higher consistently, you are ok to plant new trees.
Moreover, it is worth noting that 50 degrees or higher temperatures are great for deciduous plants (trees that shed leaves before winter). Due to this, the only focus of those deciduous trees is to grow healthier and supply water to their root system.
On the other hand, evergreen trees, such as spruce or pine, hold onto their needles all year round. Getting essential nutrients before the soil freeze is necessary for their survival. It means planting evergreen trees in the fall when the soil temperature is below 60 degrees is not a good idea.
Furthermore, for most US states, including USDA zones 5, 6, and 7, planting trees in the fall is a great time. Similarly, zones 8, 9, and 10 have plenty of time to get your plants in the ground, allowing planting till December.
Here is a list of US states with exceptional tree planting in the fall:
While fall is excellent, the winter season from November through March is the best time to plant trees.
You can plant trees in late fall or winter. However, the best planting months are November and December.
It is a brilliant idea to start planting in the rainy season. The best time to plant trees starts from May through October. However, it is acceptable to plant your trees any time of the year.
Early winter is perfect for planting.
November and December are the best times to add plants to your landscape.
Deciduous vs. Evergreen Trees
Keep in mind that deciduous trees are the most appropriate ones for fall planting than evergreen trees. Evergreens, such as rhododendrons or arborvitae, are more susceptible to losing water through leaves throughout the colder months. They are significantly more prone to winter injury before establishing their root system.
On the other hand, trees with shallow, fibrous roots are perfect for fall planting due to their quick recovery abilities than those with large, thick taproots. Because of this, deciduous trees, such as tuliptree, magnolia, ginkgo, and oak, are best suited for spring planting.
Moreover, deciduous tree species that do well in fall planting include maples, crabapples, elms, honey locusts, apples, and lindens.
Choosing Trees for Fall Planting
When buying trees for fall planting, you have a few options in terms of what type of nursery-grown tree you get:
Bare Root Trees
These trees are planted in the field and then tunneled while leafless in either spring or fall. Fall planting trees are sold immediately or stored with their root system packed in moist material. One of the common drawbacks of these trees is root loss during digging.
However, they are easy and inexpensive to ship, allowing gardeners to choose from a broader selection if they cannot go to a local nursery. Since you can see the roots, it is easy to assess the tree and choose a healthy plant for fall planting. Moreover, bare root trees are also among the lightweight and cheapest options. The best time to plant trees is in the fall.
Container Grown Trees
These fall planting trees are initially kept in containers with potting mix lighter than regular soil. It means they can also be shipped economically. Ideally, they spend enough time in the container to allow root development. However, while buying these plants, be careful as some vendors may have bare root trees and label them container trees.
Moreover, try to slide your container-grow tree out of its container to analyze if the plant is root bound. Furthermore, it is also recommended to restrain yourself from getting the giant tree possible. The plant you want to buy should be no taller than four times the height of its pot.
Balled and Burlapped Trees
These trees are often dug using clay soil, meaning removing the soil can cause root loss. Therefore, such trees are lifted with a ball of soil and then enveloped with burlap. While clay soil is great for holding together than lighter soils, it is heavy. Due to the delicacy and weight, these plants are less feasible for mail-order shipping.
If you want to buy such a tree, you have to buy it locally. It also means the plant selection will be limited. Moreover, depending on the size of your tree, it is hard to plant trees yourself without the help of machinery. The best time to plant trees is in fall or spring. However, you can plant them almost anytime.
How to Plant Trees in the Fall
1. Select an Appropriate Tree
Planting trees in the fall means you want a healthy plant. Remember that healthy trees or plants will grow more nutritious and last for decades. So, it is essential to consider longer-time landscaping goals and learn about how you can grow plants in the fall.
In this regard, choose trees with different features year-round, such as changing leaves color in fall or fruits in summer. Similarly, suppose you are considering planting a blossoming tree. In that case, you can choose ornamental cherry trees or redbuds for the northern region, desert willow in the southwest, and crape myrtle in the southeast.
2. Leave Ample Space
Ensure to research your tree’s full-grown size. It will help you give your trees ample room to grow. For this, you can get help from a local garden center for recommendations or read the information that comes with the tree. Moreover, you can also use a tape measure to make your trees easily fit in your existing landscape.
Furthermore, avoid planting trees too close to your neighbor’s property to prevent damage to the building or your tree roots.
3. Dig a Hole
Now, it’s time to dig a hole. Digging a hole twice as wide as your plant pot and deep enough to cover the root ball in the soil is essential. Ensure that the root ball is slightly above ground level.
4. Nurture Your Newly Planted Trees
Your newly planted trees need nutrient-rich soil. So, use appropriate garden soil like Miracle-Gro while planting and blend it with native soil evenly. As mentioned above, ensure to keep the soil line of the root ball higher than the ground level. For balled and burlapped trees, don’t forget to remove the twine as much as possible.
Removing twine, burlap, and wire cage are particularly essential for clearing the top of the root ball to give your tree roots enough room to grow. Now, fill the hole at half with the soil mixture and then add some water before filling the remaining soil.
Lastly, pull some soil away from your tree trunk and create a donut-shaped ring of soil as a basin for retaining water and funneling it to the roots.
5. Use Mulch to Retain Water
Mulch is excellent for newly planted trees and plants as it helps your trees to conserve soil moisture. Using a 3-inch bark-based mulch layer is recommended on top of the soil. Also, leave some room around the tree trunk to prevent disease.
It is essential to consider the water needs of your newly planted trees. However, the watering requirement will taper off until spring since you are planting trees in the fall. As your trees become established, watering a couple of times a week should be enough.
Best Trees for Fall Planting
Here are a few trees that are perfect for fall planting:
Honey locust trees are one of the best options for fall planting and are common in New England. They are incredibly hardy trees and produce stunning fall colors. The best time to plant trees is from spring to fall. While planting honey locusts, leave at least 30 feet of space and keep your newly-planted trees well watered.
Moreover, mulch around the base is an excellent idea as it can help with healthy growth and increase the chances of your tree’s survival. Remember that these trees lose leaves late in the spring, so don’t give up on your tree if it takes time to produce new leaves. Honey locust prefers full sun and can grow up to 30 feet in height.
These trees are beautiful and a perfect fall-planting option, especially near streets and sidewalks. Elm trees prefer damp soil and full sun or partial shade. However, planting these trees near sidewalks can cause cracking (like many other trees do). While the best time to plant trees is in fall, you should wait until spring to fertilize.
Like honey locust trees, adding a ring of mulch around your elm tree will increase its odds of survival. Also, keep in mind that these trees are a great addition to larger landscapes as they can grow up to 120 feet.
I love its stunning spring flowers. While crabapple trees thrive in full sun, they are shorter and can grow between 6-25 feet. It means you can plant plenty of them even if you have a small backyard. In addition, a crabapple tree is also hardy and grows well in well-drained, loamy soils.
While planting trees in the fall, ensure to plant them at least 10 feet apart for better airflow and healthier growth. Creating a mulch ring around your crabapple will increase the tree’s chances of survival. Moreover, during the spring season, ensure to remove dead leaves and broken or damaged branches for healthy growth.
These trees are straightforward to grow from seed. If you plan to grow buckeye, gather seeds in mid-autumn when their green fruit splits open, revealing brown seeds inside. However, remember that parts of buckeye are toxic, so ensure to handle your tree with gloves.
Moreover, you will have to soak the seeds in cold water for 24 hours. Following that, you can plant the seeds into the soil directly or in large containers. Additionally, while planting the seeds directly, mark the spot where you have planted them. Lastly, place the seed about half an inch deep and keep it wet throughout the season.
Linden tree is a famous fall-planting tree, mainly because of its spectacular fall foliage with rich, golden leaves. Like other trees on the list, the best time to plant trees like linden is in the fall. While linden trees love to thrive in full sunlight, they are also tolerant to partial shade.
Adding some mulch around a linden tree will help your newly-planted tree to get essential nutrients while also improving the odds of increasing its survival chances in colder temperatures. Moreover, ensure to feed your newly-planted tree in spring for healthy growth. However, once it is established, it doesn’t need any fertilization.
While spring planting is the perfect time of the year for some trees, there are ones that you can plant in fall. These trees produce stunning fall foliage and are a great addition to any landscape. We hope the above post will help you learn when to plant trees, what trees you can grow, and what is the best time to plant trees in the fall.
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