Beautiful leaves and strong roots |

Beautiful leaves and strong roots

The golds, reds and burgundies of maples this time of year are drawing gardeners like bees to a flower, as people pay hundreds of dollars for the perfect Acer rubrum.

Although trees lose their leaves in the fall, they still have a period of growth in the root structure until the colder weather of winter sets in.

So it may seem counter-intuitive, but fall is a great time to select and plant trees for your garden.

In addition, dogwood trees have already set their buds, and birch also are good planting choices for fall.

“This is the best time to plant, because the days are getting shorter, but the ground is still warm,” said Karen Bansemer, veteran saleswoman and consultant at Weiss Bros. Nursery, 615 Maltman Ave. in Grass Valley.

Fall planting “gives the tree a whole season to acclimate to the new location so it doesn’t go into shock,” said Angie Figueroa who, with her husband, Ron, operates Fig’s Nursery at 10324 Combie Road in southern Nevada County.

(Fruit trees are an exception; bare-root fruits get planted in December and have different requirements.)

In addition, if you’re interested in trees for their glorious autumn foliage, fall is the time to plan how a tree’s color and shape will fit into the garden.

Planting tips

Here are some tips from the two arborial experts:

• Learn as much as you can about the trees you are interested in: The climate zone, correct altitude, water and sunlight needs, height and diameter at maturity, and how far to place it from buildings and other large plants. A tree intended to give shade must be planted in full sun.

“Plant them in the right spot!” Bansemer advised.

• “Pick a healthy tree with a nice, straight trunk and outer branches,” Figueroa said.

• A rule of thumb for the planting hole generally is twice the width of the tree’s container and just a little deeper to give the roots enough room to grow. Fill the hole with water, then check back later to see how the soil is draining.

• If the tree is rootbound, loosen the roots. “It doesn’t hurt to snip them,” Figueroa advised.

• Plant the tree with a mixture of half good topsoil or planting mix and half native soil. Some people like to add sand to help drainage. Bansemer likes to mix native soil with Bumper Crop, a master gardener product, because it’s richer than regular planting mix, she said.

You also can add mulch, but it’s not necessary, Figueroa said.

• Use a 0-10-10 dry plant food (the mixture of nitrogen, potash and phosphorous), either mixed into the planting soil or sprinkled around the trunk, Figueroa suggested.

Bansemer adds rock phosphate when she plants. “Our soils lack phosphate, so they need to put that (two to three cups) at the bottom of the hole and around the perimeter, then back-fill” with the native soil/amendment mixture.

• Then, “give it a good soaking,” Figueroa said. “These new areas need to be watered in.” Check the tree regularly to make sure it’s getting enough water through the fall, especially when the days are sunny and warm.

“Our biggest problem here is people don’t water them long enough or deep enough,” Bansemer added. “They put them on a drip system, and they don’t run that drip long enough, or they don’t have enough drippers.”

• Watch the weather report, and keep mulch around the trunk and root area. In case of a freeze, protect the tree. Freezes usually strike between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

• Before October passes, feed the tree and all your plants one last time for the year with the dry 0-10-10 food. “It’s a good practice to get into,” Figueroa said.

• In March, June and in the last two weeks of August, fertilize again with an all-purpose 16-16-16 fertilizer, Bansemer said.

And whenever you have questions, go back to your nursery and ask! Don’t let your investment wither.


To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4230.

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