Sunday 30 August 2009

Fall Planting Tips

Fall is unfortunately the forgotten season for planting.

Spring, the traditional time to plant, is the busiest, most crowded time to visit your local nursery. Many trees can be planted in the fall and the prices at the nursery can be very reasonable.

I received a call the other day from a valued client who was thinking of replacement plantings for a few trees taken down over the last few years. A quick consultation over the phone started the process to selecting the right trees. We were able to get together at a nursery and chose two trees that suited both the site and his vision of the landscape.

We were also able to avoid trees that would cause problems in the planting locations further down the road. When looking for the right tree it is important to consider the growing conditions at the site. Three major considerations are shade tolerance, drainage and soil conditions. There are many trees that do well in partially shady locations, few that do well in deep shade and many that require full sun to grow and thrive.

Growth habits of the tree are very important when considering the final location. A tree that grows into a large shade tree should not be planted to close to buildings. Trees that produce

flowers are great to use a focal point in the garden during their flowering season. Be sure that the fruit they produce doesn't become a nuisance by dropping onto your patio or deck. Fighting with wasps and flies or constantly washing your fruit stained deck is not a lot of fun.

Some flowering trees produce no fruit and still provide you with great colorful flower displays.

There are trees that retain their fruit and provide wildlife a valuable food source through the winter. Watching winter birds gather fruit and seeds can break up a grey winter day.

Once you have your choices, more are better, go to the nursery and carefully examine their stock .

All trees are not created equal, or at least they don't end up growing that way. Even among cloned cultivars there can be tremendous differences in branch structure as well as cultural artifacts that you may want to avoid. We are not talking about shards of ancient pottery in the growing media, what I am referring to are the various issues that may be present in the nursery that will cause problems later. Trees that have groups of roots spiraling around the base of the tree should be avoided, pot bound trees will fail in future years. While you are looking at the roots look at the base of the main stem, does it have scars or damage from old injuries? This could cause rot at the base of the tree resulting in failure. Following up the trunk look for branches that are co-dominant or have included bark. If you want a tree that has a strong single leader avoid ones that have large branches separating low down on the main stem. Take a close look at the amount of growth present this year and in past years. You can do this by looking at the length of this years growth back to previous years bud scars on the branches. Trees that seem to be growing less each year should be avoided.

Generally younger smaller trees will establish quicker and last longer in the landscape than a larger mature tree. Once you have found a tree that best suits all your needs and have checked it for faults its time to negotiate the price and planting details with the nursery. Selecting good trees right from the start is the best way to ensure great trees in the landscape. If you have more questions about tree selection and planting contact your Certified Arborist.