Today feels like fall, my favorite time of year. Cool crisp mornings and warm afternoons. Tall fescue lawns, pastures, and hayfields love it too. The rain and cool temperatures have turned the brown fields of summer green for the fall.
A question I get asked often is “what is the best time to plant or transplant trees and shrubs?”. The best time for planting woody perennials is the fall. Although the top growth is dormant after frost, root growth still occurs. This helps the plant survive when it wakes up and starts growing the following spring.
If you are moving plants around in the landscape or adding to your collection, be sure to start with a good hole. A good hole is one that is twice as big as the pot or root ball. Amend the excavated soil organic matter if needed.
Potted plants should have the potting media/soil removed before planting into clay soils. Potting media is designed to be lite and allow for good drainage and pore space round the roots. When moving from a potted environment to soil, the media will allow the roots to remain saturated and perform poorly in the landscape. So be sure to remove and comb out the potting media from the roots.
When planting into the landscape be sure to maintain the same depth as the plant was grown. Do not bury the plant too deep or shallow. This important for a healthy root system. Also, be sure to spread the roots out as you are putting soil back into the hole. Use light to medium pressure to pack the soil around the roots.
Now it is time to mulch around the plant. Mulch can be a soft wood, hard wood, or other organic based material. Whatever type of mulch you select, it should completely cover the soil. typically mulch should be 2 to 4 inches thick. This helps even out the soil moisture and temperature. It also helps prevent weeds and reduces the chances for erosion.
I do not like to support trees unless it is necessary. If it is needed, don’t over tighten the support wires. Leave them loose so the trunk is able to wiggle. This encourages the tree to support itself and grow stronger. Once the plant is established remove any support that has been used.
The plant is in the ground and it is mulched in place. Now it is time to water the plant. Watering collapses air pockets in the soil and helps make good soil root contact.
During the fall and winter, additional watering should not be needed unless it is an evergreen. Typically, we get about 1 inch of water per week. If we do not, then water heavily once per week. This allows the soil to become saturated and then drain out. One good soaking per week is enough. Over the years I have seem more problems from over watering than under watering.
Lastly, if there is any wire, plastic, or other material around the trunk or stem of the plant, be sure it is loose enough not to girdle the vascular system of the plant. I have seen to often where plants have girded themselves. By the time I am contacted about a problem, the plant is usually dead or too far gone to be saved.
I also see where synthetic weed barriers are used to reduce weeds in landscape plantings. With our heavy clay soils, this barrier seems to keep too much moisture at the soil surface and can be detrimental to plant growth and soil health. Renewing mulch every year to 18 months is the best way to reduce weed pressure in landscape beds.
New plants can add to the landscape. They can also make nice presents. If you want to purchase a tree or shrub, now is a great time of year to do this. There are several local nurseries that can provide a nice plants to act as a focal point for your landscape or maybe some accent plants that can help showcase those focal plants. Also, don’t overlook dual purpose plants that also produce fruit. Apple trees and blueberry bushes can be added to most landscapes without any problem. Just be sure they have full sunlight. These plants can both look nice as well produce a nice treat.
Remember, the fall is the best time to plant. Wait until this winter to do heavy pruning. This is best done in January, February, or March before the top growth wakes up from its winter slumber.
For answers to your agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at http://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.
NC Cooperative Extension Service
Caldwell County Office