For those of you who want to plant some trees in the yard this fall, but aren’t quite sure how to do it properly, we whipped up this handy tree planting guide to help you along. Fall is an ideal time for planting; the soil is still warm, but the sunshine isn’t scorching hot like it is in summer, resulting in comfortable conditions for your new saplings to set their roots.
Before you bring a new tree home, be sure to check its hardiness zones before you buy! Not everything can withstand winters in the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, so you’ll want to ensure that your chosen varieties are hardy to Zone 5B. We carry plenty of options at Meyer Landscape and Design, so feel free to visit the shop to see our whole collection!
Our Fall Planting Guide for Trees
Adding major landscape plants into the yard is easier than you might think, and it often results in a nice little boost in property value! Here are our tips for proper planting in the fall:
Prepare the Soil
Dig around your planting site to loosen up the soil and remove any large rocks or debris. It’s a good idea to do a soil test at this time, just to see if the pH is a bit off-balanced or there’s a considerable nutrient deficiency in the soil. If anything is off, you can pick up formulas to amend the soil, but we don’t recommend adding in any fertilizer or compost for a newly planted sapling.
Dig a hole that’s around 2–3 feet larger than the width of the root ball, but try to make it the same depth, so the crown of the roots is right at surface level. Consider mixing in some mycorrhizal fungi and bone meal with the dirt you’ve dug up to backfill the hole after the sapling is in place. The mycorrhizae develops a symbiotic relationship with the roots, resulting in stronger growth and better disease resilience, and the bone meal is full of essential minerals that help support root development.
Preparing your Tree
If it’s wrapped in burlap and a wire cage, use bolt cutters to remove as much material as you can without disturbing the roots. If there’s a bit of cage or untreated burlap left in there, the roots will still develop properly. Just make sure there’s no plastic left behind. If it’s in a container, tip it over gently and try to slide the pot off. The pot might be stuck, so you may need to cut it or break it. As you’re handling the plant, try not to grab it by the trunk without supporting the roots.
Some trees need to have their root ball soaked for a set amount of time—anywhere from 2 to 24 hours—while others benefit from having the hole watered first and getting placed in afterward. Check the planting instructions for your chosen variety to see what the best method is for helping the roots settle in. If the roots are really compacted together, you can take a knife and lightly score the outside, then rustle the roots around gently to help loosen them.
Proper Tree Planting and Care
After loosening up the roots, place the root ball in the hole and hold it upright. Backfill the hole with soil, being careful not to mound it up around the trunk. This can lead to rot, and overfilling planting sites is a common cause of early death in landscape plants. The trunk flare should be above ground. Pack the soil in with the back of your shovel to release any air pockets, and apply a layer of bark mulch all around the base. Again, you’ll want to be careful not to pile it up around the trunk.
Immediately after planting, water for 20 minutes on both sides of the trunk, spanning several feet around the base. An easier method than holding the hose yourself is setting up an irrigation hose that coils around the trunk. It works best because it spreads the water evenly, and you can set a timer and leave it. After that first watering, bring out the hose once again three days later, and then every 10–14 days until the ground freezes.
You most likely won’t need to use a stake, but if your chosen variety seems a bit delicate, adding a stake may be helpful—especially considering how windy it gets here. For winter, you may need to use a protective wrap or some burlap to protect your new planting from frost and harsh winds. We carry plenty at Meyer Landscape, so we’ve got you (and your trees) covered!
For all the supplies and plants that you need to get started, visit us at the shop or contact us to arrange for in-car pickup, home delivery, or personal shopping over Skype. And if you still aren’t feeling up to the task of doing the planting yourself, we’re happy to offer planting services in the Quad Cities Area. Give us a call, and we can provide an estimate!