Fall is the time for planting trees. Although most people consider spring being the ideal time to plant, there are many trees that do better when planted in the fall. This does not mean that you can just plant them and forget them until the spring. You still need to take care of your newly planted trees so they can survive the winter months.
Trees That Don’t Do Well
Some trees do not adept well when planted in the fall months. These include Magnolia, dogwood, red maple, birch, hawthorn, poplars, cherries, plum and some varieties of the oak trees. These are best planted in the spring time for better growth and easier adapting to their environment..
Choose a Burlap-Wrapped Tree
When choosing a tree, select ones that are balled and wrapped in burlap. Plant the bare-rooted stock during the late winter months or early spring. Choose smaller trees if possible. Larger trees need a longer time to become established and you don’t want to stress them needlessly.
The best time to plant your trees is when the soil temperature is still above 55 degrees F. at a depth of 6 inches. Of course, living in South Dakota, October can range from being overly warm line in the 60 and 70s to show and freezing temperatures. The earlier you plant in the fall the better the trees can become accustomed to growing outdoors in the ground.
Planting the Tree
Dig the hole and test for drainage. To do this, fill the hole with water. Check to see if the water has drained away after 24 hours and then check the hole again after 48 hours. If the water has drained away, it has adequate drainage to plant. Now you need to dig the hole to plant your tree. Dig the hole 2 to 3 times wider than the tree’s rootball, but keep the depth only as deep as the rootball. Resist the urge to dig a hole that is deeper, because the tree will settle in the loosened soil and become lower than the ground. This will put more stress on the root system. It is a good idea to loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with your spade or shovel.
Place the rootball into the hole, but do not remove the burlap covering or twine as these will decompose in the ground. Do remove any synthetic wrappings or fastenings. Refill the hole until half full with soil you removed. If there are any big clumps either break them up or toss them away. Tamp the soil gently to remove any air pockets. Finish filling the hole, tamping the soil gently. Water the tree well.
For added protection during the winter months and to help retain moisture, put a 3 inch layer of mulch around the tree. Keep the soil moist until the weather freezes.