This is the perfect time of the year to plant trees. I'm often asked, "doesn't it make more sense to plant them in the spring?" No, it doesn't actually. The reason we plant in the fall is to take advantage of fall temperatures and light conditions. Both combine to encourage root growth in the tree as opposed to top growth.
I plant trees in the spring, but would prefer to do the job in the fall. A spring planted tree needs water all season. It's putting on root growth, top growth and maybe even flowering too. That's a lot of energy to expend after dealing with transplant shock.
Probably the biggest mistake made by gardeners when planting a tree is to ignore the planting tag which lists the height and spread of the plant at maturity.
A tree will always try to achieve its genetic size and should never be topped. Cutting the top of a tree off will change the growth habit forever. Usually, the tree will just send out sprouts around the cut in an attempt to reach it s mature height.
I cringe driving by new developments freshly planted with an instant landscape which will be overgrown and problematic in only a few years.
Choose the tree carefully and think long and hard about where it will be happy for the next 50 years.
When choosing a site for planting also look for decent soil. The conventional wisdom these days is to plant the tree without soil amendments. Theoretically
the roots of the plant will search out nutrients in the original soil. If the planting hole is filled with compost, the roots act like they are in a pot and will circle around, becoming root bound.
If the soil is pure clay, there's no sense in planting there, not many plants can survive in those conditions. When the soil is less than ideal, I'll mix some compost with the back fill from the planting hole and also mulch with compost. Some plant experts disagree with this technique, but sometimes as a gardener, you have to do what makes sense to you.
Dig the hole two or three times as wide as the root ball and never plant a tree deeper than it's original planting depth.
The photo above is of a dawn redwood seedling in front of a mature tree. The full grown specimen is 100 feet tall. I've found the perfect spot in the woods to plant the tree. A large oak fell, leaving space for a new planting to take its place.
Dawn redwoods (metasequoia) are beautiful, fast growing, deciduous trees which were once thought to be extinct.
During WWII a group of dawn redwoods were discovered in China. The valley is still a source for the trees today.
The brownish orange exfoliating bark and wonderful pyramidal shape make it the favorite tree in my garden. In fall the green, needle like foliage turns bronze and falls to the ground.
If you've got the space, try one in your garden, you'll be glad you did.