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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Meeker > County Agriculture Educator > Articles > Fall is the Best Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Fall is the Best Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Source: Brenda Postels, University of Minnesota Extension

People tend to think spring when it comes time to plant trees or shrubs.  However, fall is actually the best time to plant.  During fall, as plants are preparing for winter, they quit putting energy into their top-growth.  Full energy is concentrated below ground, on root growth.  Fall allows time for good establishment of roots before cold weather shuts down growth.

Plant trees and shrubs early enough in the fall for the plant to develop a good root system. Soil temperatures should be above 55 F at a depth of 6 inches at planting time. This condition usually exists until mid-October or so.

Dig the hole at least twice as wide as the as the root system to encourage lateral root growth.  Dig your hole only as deep as the root system.  Your top-most root should sit barely under the soil.  Straighten out any roots that might be circling the root ball.

After planting, be sure to water plants thoroughly - give them about one gallon of water per week, per inch of stem diameter. For example, if you your new tree has a three inch diameter truck, you should give it 3-gallons of water per week. Continue watering until the ground is frozen, even after deciduous plants have lost their leaves. Wrap the trunks of thin barked, young trees in late November to prevent frost cracks, sunscald, and animal damage, but be sure to remove the wrap in March.

Newly planted trees and shrubs may be heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil that often occurs in winter. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch can help prevent wide soil temperature fluctuations. Apply mulch in November or early December, after the plants are fully dormant and the soil is cold. Do not put any plastic or fabric under your mulch.  Be sure that the mulch doesn’t come into contact with the trunk as this can cause trunk rot.

Planting properly will set you up for years and years of enjoyment of your healthy trees and shrubs.  For more information, contact your local county University of Minnesota Extension office.

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