When our kids were younger, we’d usually take them to Disneyland on a random Tuesday in January before school break was over. Yes, it would be a neat place to be in the month of December, wandering the streets of downtown Disney, checking out all the Christmas decorations, fake icicles everywhere (hey, this is Southern California), but to do so, you’d have to fight a HUGE crowd. Go in July to enjoy a refreshing splash from one of the water rides such as Matterhorn Bobsleds, and you’d really see too many people. Who wants to spend all your time hunting down a cool place to enjoy a snow cone because you are SO hot and thirsty. In January, the weather was decent and the crowd light, so we were able to go on all the exciting rides over and over. What does this have to do with planting trees in the fall? Everything! Because trees like it when everything in their world is laid back and pretty tame like us humans.
Yes, you can plant in July when the temperature is hot enough to melt anything that stands still for longer then a few minutes, but who wants to be up at sunrise (cooler for the hole digger) to plant the tree, and then always be on your guard (no, you don’t have to watch TV every night from the patio flat screen) watching for the minute it needs a drink of water. Yes, you can set up a drip, but out here in the arid west, a newly planted tree does appreciate being sprayed off on occasion to slow water loss and cool down its foliage.
On the other end of the spectrum, in many areas you can plant in the winter (there are exceptions), and yes, I’m talking to gardeners in the Dakotas, Wyoming Montana, upper Michigan and those who just plain have no desire to see how frozen the ground can be in December…..so what do you do? Like my trip to Disneyland (nice weather), plant in the fall, and here’s why.
Planting in the fall (it varies by region) means you are planting when there are no extremes of weather; its not too hot and its not to cold, kind of like the porridge in the tale of “The Three Bears”. Trees like this. Yes, irrigate as needed, but if a watering is a tad late or doesn’t quite soak deep enough, its not that big a deal because the tree is getting ready for its winter dormancy, its metabolism slowing way down. The second reason why this is something you may want to consider is it will give your trees a big head start. Over the winter, the roots do continue to grow, even though above ground you look out from your Christmas dinner and all you see is something that looks more like a lonely stick. Think about it…. when it comes time for the tree to wake up in the spring and push growth, it now has more roots to do the job, and the top growth you see will make you do a double take its so impressive. And for the best part, you’ll be that much closer to crop. AND you won’t have to fight the crowds at the garden center in the spring. AND the guy at the garden center may just buy you coffee and talk football because he has the time.