Fall is for planting:
Garden Clippings for Sept 9, 2023
Prof Vandersteen taught me a thing or two at Michigan State University. The best time to transplant a Pine is August 27. The best time to sow grass seed is August 20. The best time to plant daffodils is Sept 14, and tulips three weeks later.
That’s not to say these dates were to be cast in stone. Digging up Pines later in fall or even springtime is also fine. And forty-five years ago, Global Warming was not yet a thing, so I expect if Prof Vandersteen were still teaching today, he would move the dates forward by a week or two.
Moving and transplanting Pines or any conifer is best done in fall. Cooler nights, more frequent rainfall, and heavy dew every morning add up to perfect planting conditions.
By the end of summer, evergreens have done their growing and moisture reserves in the needles are high. Roots are growing and continue to send water and nutrients up to the needles. The worst of summer heat is over.
Transplanting conifers in early fall also makes sense for recovery time. In our corner of the world, soil does not freeze till Christmas, giving 8 to 12 weeks for plants to make new roots prior to winter dormancy.
For transplanting deciduous trees and shrubs, we are best waiting till after our first frost, probably around the middle of October. Professional nursery growers usually wait till late fall to harvest their crops. They will then put them in cold storage, pot them up in winter, and have them ready for sale by early spring.
Plants that are nursery grown in pots or burlap bags are easy to plant any time of the year because they are already planted, thus practically eliminating any transplant shock.
I prefer fall planting over spring planting because plants would rather face a cool fall and winter than a hot dry summer. Planting a tree in September will give 8 months of recuperation time where the tree has access to moisture and can build new roots before summer draught arrives. If planting a tree in May, it only has a month or two before July stress arrives.
When planting a new tree, dig your hole to the same depth as the tree is sitting in its pot or burlap bag. Dig your hole twice as wide as the size of the pot. Set the plant into the hole and backfill with a mix of peat moss, triple mix or other organic material, and some of your existing topsoil. Add water by setting a trickling hose at the base of the plant. In a few minutes the hole will be filled with water, and you can tamp the soil with your heel.
For heavier clay soil, or for areas where water does not readily drain, plant the tree a few inches higher than the adjacent ground level and mound the soil around the plant so it sits on a small hill.
For insurance, I suggest adding root booster fertilizer at planting time. Keep an eye on the weather and add water once a week for 4 weeks unless we get rain from above. Cover the soil with a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture and keep the soil cool.