Thread: No luck with fall planting...

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Eastern Ohio

    No luck with fall planting...

    I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that fall planting of bare-root trees, especially evergreens, is a bad idea, at least in my climate/zone.

    Lost quite a few bare-root trees in 2004 (few were from Arbor Day) before spring hit.

    Out of the trees I planted this fall, looks like I already lost a fir, a spruce and a holly. I'll seek replacements in the spring (these were arbor day buys) if they don't recover.

    Fall planting tends to actually be winter planting. The last two years I received my trees in early December and was out planting in snow or ice. The ground wasn't frozen either year, but seemed too soggy for planting. I even planned ahead this year and put more time into preparing the planting sites, but looks like my survival rate may still be dismal.

    I think the conditions are just too harsh for a tree already in shock from being bare-root to have much of a chance.

    The potted southwestern white pine I planted at the same time this fall has yet to even lose a needle, so maybe that's the way to go for fall planting.

    Anyone else having a rough time with fall planting?

    Also, I'm wondering if I can alter my Arbor Day membership renewal to spring so my 10 freebies don't arrive for fall planting.

  2. #2

    RE: No luck with fall planting...

    Nightrust, I've had the opposite experience. Although my planting schedule was really smacked when we got hit by a huge cold snap just when the seedlings arrived, resulting in my keeping them in their shipping boxes far longer than optimum (they sat on my porch for nearly two weeks until conditions allowed for planting), the survival rate seems to be very close to 100%. (I'm in Zone 6, near St. Louis, MO.) The mild winter that we've had has really spurred the bud formation and I'm seeing signs of very active growth on many of the new plantings. I'm looking forward to an explosion in the Spring! (I planted nearly 60 seedlings this fall.) One big difference between us, however, is that I don't have any evergreens, perhaps that makes a difference.

    I'm curious about your comment about it being too soggy for planting: While mud makes for a huge mess for the person doing the planting, the trees seem to love it. Several trusted authorities (including both university professors and farmers) have advised me to plant by "muding in" the seedlings. I.e., by digging a hole, filling it with water, putting the seedling in, and then dribbling in the fill dirt so that the seedling is initially planted in an utterly saturated mud. This has worked splendidly for me. It seems like your soggy conditions would just help things along, provided you don't sink too deep into the dirt yourself.

    According to botanists I've consulted, Fall planting allows the seedlings to get a bit of root formation in place before they come out of dormancy. (My view of dormancy, apparently, is too simplistic: I always thought of it as meaning that nothing is happening. Apparently, loads of good stuff goes on even while the tree is dormant--I've been having a blast watching the process on the new plantings!) Then, when Spring rolls around, they're ready to take off.

    I'm sorry to hear that your plantings haven't met with good luck similar to mine!

    I hope things go better for you in the Spring.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    St. Louis zone 6

    RE: No luck with fall planting...

    I have had good luck with fall planting of non-evergreens to, the decidious conifer Dawn Redwood has grown well for me (and a couple friends now) when planted in our St. Louis falls. Fall planting around here is easier on the watering schedule as well. Over the summer it seems I water these things every three days. Our winters are relatively moist so I only water every month or so. after the first week.
    Zone 6, St. Louis, MO

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Eastern Ohio

    RE: No luck with fall planting...

    My soggy comment stems from the large amount of clay in the soil in my area. I'm sure it's not as nasty as the southern red clay or the Texas gumbo, but it makes for poor drainage just the same. I can deal with the muck and mess during planting, but I honestly believe some of my seedlings drown, especially during wet years like this past one.

    Even water-lovers don't seem to survive. I planted five healthy bareroot river birches and lost all but one, and even the survivor's top died and it resprouted from the root.

    I honestly thought I was doing something wrong, but I don't seem to have near the failure rate in the spring, and I don't really do anything differently.

    It's not all bad, though. I've had some notable exceptions. I planted an arbor day Lacebark Elm fall of 2004, and despite some dieback in the spring from anthracnose, it still managed to reach nearly six feet tall! And a few of the decidous seedlings I put in this past fall have the same bursting-at-the-seams buds you're describing, laserboy.

    Maybe bad lack and uncooperative weather were to blame in the past. Guess I'll see what happens come spring and maybe avoid bare-root evergreens for fall.

    Any tips or tricks for fall planting, beyond the usual mulching, etc?

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