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Fall months: a favorable time to plant new trees
October 22, 2009
Contacts:  Kristin Ramstad, 503-945-7390
Cynthia Orlando, 503-945-7421
Because spring is a time for new growth, most people think of planting trees then, but the fall months of October and November have distinct advantages. 
Fall planting follows the heat of summer and precedes the cold winter months. Trees and shrubs use this to good advantage. Their roots can grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher. The soil may be less damp than in the spring. And, you may have more time to get the job done in the fall.
Tree selection: right tree, right place
What criteria do you have in mind while selecting your tree? If you want to plant a tree to provide a visual screen in your yard and you have plenty of room, a conifer will do a better job than a deciduous tree, which loses its leaves in the winter. If providing fall color is your goal, then trees like maples, scarlet oak, sweetgum, or for smaller spaces, dogwood or vine maple, may be on your list of trees to consider. 
Also, when deciding which kind of tree to plant, make sure you know how big it will get, and have a good idea of how it will fit into the surrounding landscape over time. Realize the tree will need care and maintenance particularly during the first three years after planting, and anticipate how best to prevent lawn mowers, weed whackers, vandals, children, and car doors from damaging the young tree. Know the light requirements your tree will need, and the solar orientation of the site. 
Once you’ve decided which kind of tree to buy, look for container-grown, or “balled-and-burlapped” trees. “Balled-and-burlapped” is simply nursery lingo for trees taken out of the ground with a ball of soil around the roots, and then wrapped in burlap for support. 
Tree planting tips
Dig the hole at least 2 feet wider than the size of the root system or root ball. A large hole will allow better root growth and is especially important in compacted soils. When planting a new tree, handle the plant by the root ball, not by the trunk. Once in the hole, it is important to remove the wire basket (if there is one), and the burlap and ties. You may need to rock the tree gently to do this. Then, make sure the roots are covered with soil, taking care not to plant your tree too deeply. Instead, set it slightly above the level of the surrounding soil to allow for settling and increased soil drainage.                                     
While mulch is recommended, don’t overdo it; adding a depth of 4 to 6 inches of mulch around the base of the tree is adequate. With mulch, it's best to first remove the grass in a circular area from around the base of the tree, and then distribute a “donut” of mulch over that area. Spread the mulch one to two feet out from the trunk, and leave a 3 to 4-inch ring around the base mulch-free. Mulch helps prevent soil temperature and moisture fluctuations during summer months, softens rain penetration during the winter, and helps discourage weeds. 
Also, there is no need to fertilize your tree after planting. Research has shown that most trees do not need fertilization until they have been in the ground at least one or two years and, if grown in a yard with a lawn, may never need fertilization at all.
Trees pay many dividends
What are some benefits of planting trees, and creating a healthy "urban forest canopy"? 
For starters, trees are a vital component of a healthy community because they provide clean air, clean water, and psychological well being. Tree-filled neighborhoods have lower levels of domestic violence and are safer and more sociable. 
Trees also reduce energy costs and raise property values. Studies show trees have a positive economic impact on the local community.
“Trees help us grow the communities that support our families and friendships,” says Kristin Ramstad, urban forester at ODF. “Sure, maybe a few more leaves are tracked into the house on the bottom of wet shoes in the fall, but what’s the alternative? A treeless urban landscape beckons no one outside on warm days.”
More information:
* For information about urban and community forestry, visit:
* For more information about trees and tree care, visit:
* For more information on tree-planting, take this right-tree-right-place quiz: