Northern Gardening: Preparing for fall planting

Should you find yourself near a larger centre during these days of limited travel, be sure to check out any garden centres for trees, shrubs and perennials. At this time of year, they will offer some great bargains. This is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. An even cheaper option is to dig your own from the sides of the highways that are regularly cleared. In the fall, newly planted trees and shrubs will grow roots even if the branches are bare, until the ground in the root zone freezes.

Even at a bargain, it is important to select the plant and the planting site carefully. Nursery plants will have tags stating the mature height and width and conditions required. When digging your own you want to dig young plants to be able to get enough of the root system. Smaller plants establish faster when transplanted. Also, look around at mature specimens of your plant selection to observe the mature height and width. Check the conditions where the plant is growing for moisture and soil conditions.

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The planting site should match the required conditions as much as possible. Be sure to provide sufficient space for the plant to grow to mature size. Look up for overhead wires if your tree will be tall. Also, consider mature width so that you do not plant too close to the house where branches would brush the siding or the roof.

To plant a potted tree or shrub the planting hole should be no deeper than the bottom of the root ball, but twice as wide. Water the planting hole well and wait for the water to disappear. Remove the plant from the pot carefully so that you do not damage the roots – do not pull it out by the trunk. Cut the pot if necessary to free the plant. Check the root ball for winding roots and free them. If left the roots will continue to grow in a circle and eventually choke the tree. They can be spread out or cut if they are too stiff to spread out. Roughen the sides of the planting hole so that roots can find their way into the surrounding soil. Backfill with the original soil and water well.

Much of the same applies to planting from the wild. Mound your soil in the center of the planting hole so that the roots can be spread out around the mound. You want the plant to sit at the same level as it did in the wild. Backfill and water well.

Newly planted trees and shrubs will need regular deep watering for the first two years, once every week or two depending on soil and weather conditions.


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