Fall…Plant a Tree, Clean up the Garden

fall-tree-planting-blog-post

Fall is a great time of the year. The heat and humidity has finally been reduced and we can enjoy going back outdoors again. It is a great time of the year for planting to get things in the ground before it freezes and we can start doing other chores in our landscape to keep it looking beautiful throughout the winter months.

Fall is a great time to plant a new tree in your landscape to add fall interest to your yard. When choosing a tree and location in your yard, the first thing to consider is overhead and underground utilities, future construction sites, and the mature size of the plant.  Large trees should be planted a minimum of 15 to 20 feet away from buildings and a minimum of 20 to 25 feet from overhead power lines.  Purchasing a three to six foot tree usually saves money, gets the tree started faster and will outgrow more expensive, larger alternatives.

Health and longevity of the tree starts with good planting practices. First, remove the tree from the container and remove all wraps and ropes around the rootball, including the burlap. Next, shake off the excess soil and find the main rootball. The area where the lateral roots begin should be just below the soil surface. After you have determined the actual size of the rootball, dig a hole twice as wide and only as deep as the roots. Backfill into the hole with the soil that was removed when digging the hole to avoid creating a wall that roots cannot penetrate from one soil type to another. Add a mulch ring to all trees. The ring should be 2-3 inches deep and at least 2-3 feet wide around the tree. The tree can be staked if in a windswept location but the staking equipment should only be left on for one growing season.

With the threat of Emerald Ash borer now in Nebraska, this fall would be a good time to plant a tree as a replacement for an ash in your yard. With Emerald Ash Borer still only in the Omaha area, this portion of Southeast Nebraska doesn’t need to do anything for treatments or removal of ash trees yet. Treatments should not be done until Emerald Ash Borer is found within 15 miles of your tree. However, if you have decided that your ash tree is not in the condition to treat or you don’t want to spend the money to treat it annually, a replacement tree is the next best option. If you start a new tree nearby now, by the time EAB gets here and we have to remove trees, you will already have one started with a good amount of shade provided.

pruning tools-K. Todd

Pruning Tools Photo courtesy of Kim Todd, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Fall is also a great time to get out and clean up our landscape beds. Replenish the mulch around the plants and remove the leaves of herbaceous perennials once they have turned brown in the fall. It is vital to wait until those leaves turn brown in the fall because while they are still green, they are still taking nutrients back into the roots of the plant that will help kick start the plant early in the spring. Wait until spring to cut back roses and butterfly bushes. These plants have a hollow stem and can have more winter dieback if they are pruned in the fall. Don’t prune any spring flowering shrub in the fall or you will be pruning off the flower buds for next spring. Wait until the trees are dormant before pruning them in the fall. If pruned too early, new growth can occur which will be more vulnerable to dieback in freezing temperatures.

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