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  • Writer's pictureMartin Ford

Fall: The Season For Planting Trees

Native trees have already begun preparing for the long cold that is coming by recognizing that the day lengths are shortening. In doing so they have stopped active above-ground growth and focused on storing nutrients and carbohydrates which, come next spring, will be immediately available to ‘fuel’ the burst of growth we so look forward to. We can see this in this picture of a Pagoda Dogwood where the lower leaves are showing the colors we associate with October and November.

This is actually a sign of health that the tree is starting by first withdrawing nutrients from older leaves which are less productive, now that they are in the shade of the upper stems and branches with their new shoots and leaves.

As a tree’s ‘state of being’ has initiated this resting stage, then when we move a young tree to a planting site of our choosing, it has 3 months to settle into its new soil and circumstance before going into dormancy. Thus the plant’s systems are disturbed far less and so are more able to adapt and minimize ‘transplant shock’.  Most importantly, this settling time also initiates some limited root growth ‘now’ which then enables rapid establishment into the soil when it warms in Spring.

We have also come to understand that the settling in period gives an opportunity for any appropriate mycorrhiza present in the soil to form a symbiotic bond with the roots, which furthers the effectiveness of the plant’s ability to gather water and nutrients come spring time.

The principles of Pocket Woodlands Designs were created to give the most ‘friendly’ scenario for the newly planted trees. These principles are that the trees will be planted young (5-7 years old or less), planted into a bed of raised soil to provide freely available oxygen to the roots and ease of drainage, planted next to other plants (shrubs and perennials) and in close proximity (3-5 foot distances), and have an organic, composted mulch placed over the surface of the raised soil area. In addition, each week into December, particularly during dry spells, the young root ball will be soaked with water to aid its root establishment before dormancy.


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