Fall is a great time to plant trees

Published 5:24 am Friday, September 16, 2022

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Contributing columnist

Fall is a great time to plant trees, as it allows the tree roots to settle in and get established during the dormant season, making it better prepared for the Spring growth spurt and summer heat. You can plant even in early winter as long as the soil is not frozen. Here are some tree planting guidelines:

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Plant the tree no deeper than it was being grown. Dig a hole at least one-third wider than the ball.

Stretch out roots if they are from a container and compacted. Loosen the burlap (you don’t have to remove) on a balled tree once it is in the planting hole, and remove any binder twine, especially around the trunk. If your soil is heavy clay, beware of glossy looking sides created by the shovel. This means the clay is glazed and can seal out water. Use your shovel to slice jagged gashes in the side of the hole so that the tree’s feeder roots can grow beyond the hole. Backfill with soil you removed when you dug it. Don’t add peat moss, fertilizer or manure. Doing so will encourage the roots to stay in the planting hole and not move out into the existing soil. Stake the tree only if it is more than two inches in diameter. Mulch around the tree so your mower and string trimmer don’t get close to the trunk. Pile the mulch no deeper than three inches and keep it away from the trunk’s surface. Many bark problems are caused by too much moisture contact.

Don’t fertilize the first year. Later, fertilize in the fall or winter, and use a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Keep the tree well-watered during next year’s growing season. A soaker hose is the best means of getting water into lawn soil.

Steve Roark is a volunteer at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.