Wait for cool weather in late summer/early fall to plant perennials, shrubs and trees. Photo by Sandy Cortez

Wait for cool weather in late summer/early fall to plant perennials, shrubs and trees. Photo by Sandy Cortez

Get It Growing: Plan, purchase, prepare and plant in fall

Late summer, while the past season is still visible, is a good time to evaluate your garden, allowing you to see areas that may need additional shrubs, trees or perennials. Plan now to purchase, prepare and plant this fall.

Fall is a great time of year to plant on the Olympic Peninsula; it’s dry enough to work in the garden and the coming winter rains will help nourish the plants. Late August may be a good time to purchase perennials, shrubs and trees for fall planting.

In the late days of summer you can get some good buys, but wait for cooler weather to plant. Once purchased, make sure they are well watered and protected from harsh conditions.

Fall planting takes advantage of a plant’s dormant period when energy is available for root development. Water is plentiful and when spring finally arrives, and the air and ground temperatures increase, the roots can begin to feed the foliage.

Purchasing the right tree, shrub or perennial for your location is the first key to success. Consider what size and shape these plants will be in five to 10 years and have a plan to allow for growth. A local nursery can provide ideas and advice on varieties that are compatible with the local climate and your specific site.

Whether you are planting a perennial, bare-root tree, potted shrub or a balled and burlap-wrapped tree, preparation is much the same. Dig a hole that is only as deep as the height of the root ball. The hole depth should be shallow enough so that the root crown (i.e., the point where the trunk thickens and meets the roots) remains at ground level when planting is complete and the ground has settled around the roots.

The width of the hole should be two times as wide as the diameter of the root ball for perennials, even wider (three times if possible) for a tree or large shrub. In heavy soil, loosen up the edges of the planting hole.

Evidence suggests that plants do better when planted in native soil (s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments.pdf). Amending the soil can be helpful initially but can lead to problems with water movement, girdling and sinkage as the plant grows.

If soil is excessively sandy, compacted or infertile, it would be best to add all new top soil to the planting bed.

Well-rooted

Plants are all about roots! It’s important to protect the roots by supporting the root ball while moving a plant. This is particularly important for a balled and burlap-wrapped tree, avoid handling by the trunk. Make sure all plants are well watered before planting.

If you are planting a bare-root tree, gently spread the roots being careful not to break them; cut away any severely damaged roots. Identify the location of the root crown and make sure it is not below ground level.

For potted plants, examine the roots. If root-bound, gently loosen the roots so that they can grow out. Cut through any roots that have grown in a tight circle around the root ball. A circling root mass can greatly reduce the performance of the plant.

If planting a balled and burlap tree, remove any string, tape or plastic and as much of the burlap as possible without damaging the roots.

Once placed, view the plant from all directions to make sure it is straight. Fill the hole with about one half of the back-fill followed by water, and let settle. Add the remainder of the soil making sure to eliminate air pockets by gently firming and then watering.

Cover the soil with 2-3 inches of mulch, keeping the mulch a few inches away from the base of the plant. Most new plants require about an inch of water per week for the first two to three years until established.

Continue to water during the winter, as needed, unless the ground has frozen.

Do not fertilize plants in fall. It can result in new growth that is susceptible to winter damage.

Most trees will develop stronger root systems when they are not staked. However, weak trees or those in extremely windy areas may need added support.

Use two stakes, placed opposite, outside of the root ball, and secure with wide straps or hose to avoid harming the bark of tree. Allow the tree to sway two inches to either side.

Plant this fall and sit back and enjoy come spring!

Susan Kalmar is a Clallam County Master Gardener.

More in Life

tsr
Learn how to grow rare fruit on the peninsula

Get tips on how to take advantage of Clallam County’s unique microclimates… Continue reading

City of Sequim seeking Sunshine Fest performers

The City of Sequim is now accepting applications for musical performers to… Continue reading

tsr
Veterans Corner: Preparations for the holidays!

I am sad to report that there will be no Veterans Day… Continue reading

tsr
Milestone: City of Sequim employee gets wastewater plant operator certificate

John Christenson, City of Sequim Wastewater Operator III, recently earned the Wastewater… Continue reading

Parenting In Focus: Feeding your baby

Feeding your baby can be a confusing time. People frequently disagree about… Continue reading

tsr
Celebration of Shadows fest includes shadow theater, pumpkin carving workshops

The Port Angeles Fine Arts Center hosts the Celebration of Shadows Fall… Continue reading

x

4-H is stepping up to the opioid epidemic with a unique approach,… Continue reading

tsr
Milestone: Healthy Families gets boost from Sequim Soroptimists

Cat Xander, president of Soroptimist International of Sequim, presents Becca Korby, executive… Continue reading

Get It Growing: Prudent pruning of conifers

The primary reasons to prune conifers include shaping, removing diseased or damaged… Continue reading

Most Read