How to Prepare Trees in the Fall for Winter
Arborist Lou Meyer shares five ways (plus some) on how to prepare your trees in the fall to ensure they are entering the winter months stress-free and setting them up for a successful growing season in spring.
“Preparing them in the fall for winter gives them a jumpstart for spring,” Lou shares.
Why is Fall the Best Time of Year for Planting Trees
Fall is the best time to plant a tree because they are starting to go dormant for the year. During the spring and summer, the top portion of the plant is growing and that takes a lot of energy. In the fall it slows down, so planting or moving a tree is less destructive. (00:05:00)
Tree Planting Tips & Tutorial
Watch Lou demonstrate how to properly plant a tree. (00:06:55)
Here’s a step-by-step guide with tips and tricks:
- Getting the right tree for the right place. Examine the tree’s health before planting. Check the base and trunk for any cuts, abrasions, or wounds. Also examine the surrounding area to make sure it’s the optimal placement for the type of tree.
- The hole should be 2-3 times as wide as the rootball. Biggest mistake is not making the hole big enough.
- Mix soil conditioner with the backfill soil. Biochar is activated charcoal that helps build better soil to hold more water and nutrients. Biochar is good for all trees and even your turf! With clay soil, you can mix in a compost.
- Don’t plant the tree too deep. Make sure the root flare isn’t covered with soil, it should be visible.
- Properly mulch around the tree. You want to use 1-2 inches of mulch around the tree, keeping the root flare exposed. Avoid the “volcano mulch!” Ideally, you want to mulch to the drip line of the tree to protect the roots.
- Proper watering. Turn your water hose on to a small trickle and let it run for 20 minutes to get about an inch of water. When and in what region you are planting will determine how often you should water. Commonly, trees are overwatered. (00:29:00)
*Trick to check your watering: place a finger into the soil. If you can make a ball out of it and it sticks together, you are good. If you aren’t able to because it’s too wet, you’re watering too much. If it just crumbles (“disintegrates”), the soil is too dry. (00:30:13)
- Staking a newly planted tree. Ideally, you shouldn’t stake a newly planted tree. But if you are in a high-traffic or windy area, we recommend it. Be sure to only leave the stake on no longer than 6 months to a year because trees need to develop cellular growth to hold them up. If the stake is left too long, the tree won’t be able to develop it. (00:31:25)
Continue reading below for more information:
If your tree has experienced the “volcano mulching” over the years, root collar excavation can help break up the tough dirt from the trunk of the tree. (00:21:28)
At Davey, we use a high-speed compressed air tool to safely remove the dirt while preserving the root system.
With fall pruning, you are removing any deadwood and thinning the crown of the tree to allow air to pass through to avoid any fungal diseases and to help withstand harsh weather conditions. (00:26:40)
Winter is also an optimal time for pruning.
Here are additional benefits for fall and winter pruning.
There are three numbers on fertilizer bags: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Each nutrient plays a role in the plant world as vitamins do for us. (00:32:55)
At Davey, we use our specially manufactured ArborGreen PRO®. We generally want to fertilize in the spring or fall.
- Fruit trees and newly planted trees can be fertilized in the spring to give that boost during the growing season.
- In the fall, you are encouraging root growth and ArborGreen PRO has a slow release which lasts a long time.
With tree spikes, they are a faster release, so you are replacing them more often.
Upcoming Talking Trees Live Series
Tune in for the next Talking Trees Live event! Each series will explore various tree care topics from damaging tree insects and diseases to landscape best practices and seasonal tree care tips.
Have all your questions and concerns ready! You can ask them all live during the streaming interview.
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