Plant Shrubs and Trees for Autumn

R. L. Rhodes
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Early autumn is a great time for planting shrubs and trees. The changing weather gives new plants respite from the soaring temperatures of summer, but the ground is not yet so cold as to restrict root growth.

If you’re looking to add new shrubs or trees to your landscape, see the tips below for some best practice guidelines.

  • When planting in fall, it’s best to get your trees and shrubs into the ground early. As the average temperature drops, plants will have a harder time establishing deep roots, affecting their longevity.
  • Dig the hole at least a foot wider than the spread of the roots. Sure, it’s more work to leave so much room, but it pays off for the health of your plant. That’s what’s meant by the traditional adage, “Dig a ten dollar hole for a two dollar plant.” To provide better drainage, dig the pit several inches deeper than the roots, and raise a pedestal of soil in the center of the pit floor.
  • To check the drainage of the plot, you can fill the hole with water. The water should drain completely over the course of six to eight hours. If there’s still standing water at the end of eight hours, the site needs better drainage.
  • If the roots of the plant have been compacted by growth in a container, gently loosen the mass before planting.
  • The burlap wrapped around the root ball of some trees and shrubs will decompose after planting. It is not necessary to remove it before hand, but it should be loosened, and any rope or wire removed to prevent it from constricting growth.
  • Horticulturists generally recommend that you refill the hole with a mixture of topsoil, organic material (e.g. compost), and sand.
  • Fill the pit six inches at a time, tamping the backfill at each interval.
  • Don’t be too quick to fertilize your new plant. Fertilizer added too soon can burn the roots.
  • Mulch and water the plant well after planting. In most places, newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered at least once per week. Discontinue watering as the season changes to winter.
  • Mounding soil in a ring around the tree can help ensure that your shrub or tree isn’t left thirsty after you water it. Otherwise, much of the water you give your plant may run off along the surface of the ground, rather than settling into the roots. Be sure to remove the ring before winter, as it may, in colder weather, result in pools of long-standing water which encourage disease.

Be sure to check your local Home Depot for the best shrubs and trees for your region.

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