Is it better to plant in spring or fall?
Both seasons can be effective times to plant your trees and shrubs. A great benefit of planting in the fall is that tree roots remain active throughout the winter, taking advantage of moisture from rain or snow. Trees planted during this season get a nice head start on establishing themselves in the spring through vigorous root elongation and a flush of twig growth. Keep in mind that some plants, such as blueberries, blackberries and grapes, have the best chance of growing up strong and healthy when planted in the spring.
What are some tips for planting in the fall?
- If you cannot plant immediately due to adverse weather conditions, you may store your trees for up to 5 days. If storing your trees for longer than 5 days please follow the instructions for Heeling in Your Trees.
- Avoid planting your trees in pots, if possible.
- When you plant in the fall, be sure to mulch with wood chips, straw or other material to reduce alternate freezing and thawing that can result in “frost heaving.”
- Avoid using fertilizer, potting soil or root starter, as they may be detrimental to the health of your new trees.
Planting trees in late fall is well worth some cold hands! To be sure that your trees arrive in a strong and healthy condition, nurseries will usually ship “natural root” or “bare root” stock only when it is dormant in the fall season. Trees will only go dormant after a few hard frosts, so it’s necessary to wait until then to be able to ship them safely.
But it’s cold! Are the trees able to survive the weather?
As long as a spade can be inserted into the ground, it is okay to plant the trees. In other words, you may plant your trees until the ground is completely frozen solid—so until you can safely ice skate or ice fish on your local lakes or ponds, planting your dormant trees is just fine.
What can I do to prepare for my trees’ arrival?
- Pre-dig your holes now, so when your trees do arrive you are prepared to immediately get them in the ground.
- Store the dirt you removed from the hole in a garage or tool shed where it will not get as cold. Left outside, it may harden and prove more difficult to work with once the time comes to plant.
- Pre-purchase mulch, as some stores may not have as large of a mulch supply in their inventories as the season progresses—you want to make sure you’ve got plenty of mulch on hand for your newly planted trees once they arrive!
(Note: If you live in Hardiness Zone 6, you may still order trees from the Arbor Day Tree Nursery until November 19. If you live in Zone 7, 8, or 9 you may order until November 26 and still receive your order this shipping season. Hardiness Zones 0-5 are currently being shipped.)