Fall is my favorite time of year to be in the garden. Comfortable weather makes it easy to catch up on the things that were ignored during the miserably hot late summer months.
After cleaning up downtrodden plants and topping off mulch, there isn’t much left that needs attention. By Oct. 1, the vegetable garden only needs harvesting, and maybe some additions of garlic and shallots. Perennials can be divided before the first freeze, and there may be a shrub or two that needs relocating.
Autumn is a good time to reflect on your landscape, and make plans for future seasons while the information is fresh. If you plan to add trees or shrubs, now is the time for action.
For further information or questions, contact Joshua Fuder, agriculture and natural resources agent of Cherokee County, UGA Cooperative Extension Office, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-721-7830.
1. Plant and site selection.
Select plants that are well-adapted to the individual planting site. Soil drainage is critical, since most trees and shrubs don’t like “wet feet.” If you are unsure whether or not you have proper soil drainage, you can dig a test hole and fill it with water. If the hole drains at a rate of less than 1 inch per hour, you may need to choose a different species, or raise the planting site.
2. Site preparation.
Dig your planting hole at least two times as wide as the root ball. Do not dig holes deeper than root balls or put loose soil beneath the roots because the soil will compact over time, and the tree will be planted too deep. In our heavy clay soils, it is recommended to score the edges of the hole so roots can penetrate out of the planting hole. Backfill the holes with native soil, since too much organic matter can cause differences in pore size, and create water drainage issues. Fertilization at planting time is not recommended; a slow release fertilizer can be added the following spring.
Remove all wrapping and closely inspect the root ball for girdling roots. If roots are circling around the root ball exterior, cut through the roots in a few places. Remove all tags and labels to prevent girdling of branches.
4. Water and mulch.
Thoroughly water the tree or shrub after planting, and water when needed during the winter. Mulch should be put down in an area at least equivalent to the dripline of the tree (the area located directly under the outer circumference of the tree branches). Mulch 2 to 3 inches deep is best, and mulch should not touch the trunk.
When correctly positioned and planted, a tree planted in the fall will perform better than one planted in the spring, because it will have the opportunity to establish its roots before the
warm summer temperatures draw moisture from them and stress the tree.
By Joshua Fuder, the agriculture and natural resources agent with UGA Extension-Cherokee County.