Fall is the best time for tree planting although technically there are two preferred times of year to plant a tree – spring and fall. We’re coming out of another record breaking summer with September arriving this week and fall being only 26 days away. Time to start planning for fall tree planting!
Why plant in the fall? From September through December, the weather begins to cool down with fewer hours of intense sunlight as the days get shorter. The soil is warm and likely moist from rainfall, both favorable conditions for new plants. A newly planted tree has plenty of time to establish its root system when planted in the fall, establishing new roots throughout the winter months. In winter, tree growth slows and energy consumption is low, allowing the tree to rest. Roots begin to grow as soon as they touch moist soil and continue to grow if the soil is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the warmer days of spring arrive, the tree has stored enough energy to push out new buds in the canopy. Fall typically has more rainfall than summer, which is critical for new trees to become established.
How much should you water? Water the tree with deep, long soaks to ensure the roots will stay moist and continue to grow. I use the rule of thumb 1″ of trunk diameter gets 5-10 gallons of water, depending on soil type. If planting in spring, make sure to plant after the danger of the last frost to ensure the buds won’t freeze. Summer in Texas is the least preferred time for planting a tree. The weather is too hot, sun too intense and we typically have water restrictions. Stick to fall planting if you want to ensure success and longevity for your new tree.
Need support? Some new trees will need staking or guying. Use two stakes, placing them in line with the prevailing wind direction, making sure to drive the stakes outside the root ball. Place the ties taut on the tree trunk 2/3 up from the ground level. Keep in mind these will have to be removed in a year or less to prevent damage to the trunk. Check the staking periodically to make sure it is functioning properly and make a determination whether its time to remove or not depending if your tree is rooted well into the soil.