The transition of leaf color symbolizes an end to the growing season, but it is also the best time of year to start planting trees. A fall-planted tree will establish roots before the warm summer temperatures draw moisture from the tree, causing stress. Before planting trees, consider following these steps:
• Select trees that are well adapted to the individual planting site. To ensure proper soil drainage, dig a test hole and fill it with water. If the hole drains at a rate of less than 1 inch per hour, choose a different species of plant or raise the planting site.
• Dig a planting hole at least two times as wide as the root ball. Do not dig a hole deeper than the root balls or put loose soil beneath the roots because the soil will compact and the tree will be too deep.
• In heavy clay soils, score the edges of the hole so roots can penetrate out of the planting hole. Backfill the hole with native soil as organic matter can cause differences in pore size and create water and drainage issues.
• Remove all wrapping and closely inspect the root ball for girdling roots. If roots are circling around the exterior, cut through the roots in a few places. Remove tags and labels to prevent girdling of branches.