I love fall. It’s the perfect time to add new trees, shrubs and spring blooming perennials to the landscape. Perhaps you have an area in the landscape that needs a makeover. Fall is the best season for planting woody plants, followed by winter, then spring, with summer being the worst.
Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which may occur all winter in Texas. During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established. When spring arrives, this expanded root system can survive with much less stress during its first hot, dry summer.
Think about the plant’s needs before you invest. Is it adapted to your soil type? Will it grow in sun or shade? Does it need a wet or dry location? Is it cold hardy or heat tolerant? Thankfully, most nurseries have this type of information on tags with the plant.
Whether you are planting a single plant or an entire landscape, plan first, then plant. Good planning is a worthwhile investment of time that pays off in greater enjoyment of attractive landscaping and in increasing the value of your home. A landscape plan saves many planting mistakes.
Every plant in the landscape should serve a purpose. Ask yourself if you need screening, privacy, shade or a focal point. How large will it be 10 years from now? Remember, that a small 1-gallon plant will look entirely different when it “grows up.”
Here are a few guidelines on planting properly.
Dig a hole large enough in diameter so that the root system has at least 6 inches of clearance on all sides. The root ball should rest on a solid soil foundation, so don’t dig the hole deeper than the ball.
Plant the tree or shrub slightly above the level of the surrounding soil, to allow for settling and increased soil drainage.
Carefully place the tree or shrub in the hole. Handle the plant by the root ball, not by the trunk. Always remove any container before you plant.
Backfill the hole, using only the native soil removed from the hole; do not use soil amendments when planting trees. Fill the hole, and firm the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots and to eliminate air pockets.
Do not fertilize your trees or shrubs after planting. Wait until early in the spring and then go lightly. Heavy applications of fertilizer may burn the root system and could kill the plant.
At the time of transplanting, soak the plant in the container first. A thorough watering every seven to 10 days, if it doesn’t rain, dramatically increases success. More frequent watering may encourage root rot. Remember, more trees and shrubs fail from overwatering than from underwatering.
Add 4 to 6 inches of mulch around the base of newly planted trees and shrubs. This helps to keep down weeds and conserve soil moisture. Use pine bark, pine needles or compost.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of “Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” “Heirloom Gardening in the South” and “The Rose Rustlers.” You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com) or follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More science- and research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.