Thread: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

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  1. #1
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    I'm sure this is not the case across the board, but Fall plantings of ADF bare root trees have failed miserably in my case. I'm 0/20 planting blue spruce in the Fall (bare root), and I'm doubtful of my sweet gums, red maples, and willow oaks surviving last year's Fall planting also. I follow the ADF planting instructions to a T, and always plant my trees a bit above the soil grade for ideal drainage purposes.

    On the flip side, all the ADF trees I planted last Spring (hybrid Poplars, forsythia, and a couple red maples) are thriving. My Poplars all grew 3-4' last year (more than doubling in size), and my bare root red maples and forsythia are already starting to bloom this season. Every containerized tree I've ever planted in the Spring or early summer has survived quite well also.

    I just think our Winters are too harsh in my area for successful Fall plantings. Winter typically hits abruptly (during November), and is preceded by violent wind storms. Winter also lasts through April most years (we still have temps in the 20s at night right now). This combination just doesn't bode well for bare root seedlings. The Niagara County soil and water conservation district takes tree orders in February/March and distributes them during the last week of April. I think the county is well-aware of the low success rate of seedling Fall plantings. Bought all my seedlings this year from the county instead of Arbor Day simply because I normally wouldn't receive ADF trees until late May, so the timing by the county is simply better for my area.

  2. #2
    Oak
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    562

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    All I can say is "Amen!" I have had terrible luck with ADF fall plantings and fall planting in general. Lots of experts tell me--in person and in their writings--that fall is the best time to plant, but I have not found that to be true at all.

  3. #3
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    I'm curious as to how many others found themselves in this same predicament. I honestly think early Spring is the most ideal time to plant in my hardiness zone - as soon as the ground thaws, plant away. Friends and coworkers of mine have never successfully planted a spruce or pine during the Fall in this area, they all have the same stories that I do - all their Fall-planted trees failed.

    I've always been against buying plants/trees at Home Depot/Lowes, but I have to admit they had some VERY healthy looking containerized trees in stock by early this month. Ended up buying 2 12' tall October Glory Maples and already planted them in my backyard. The maples are just starting to bud and had at least 18" or so of new growth on each of the branches from last year. I bought a few trees from home depot in late May last year and those trees all survived the Winter and are already starting to bud. The nursery down the road from me was selling the same exact October Glory maples (same size too) at 4x-5x the cost!! The nursery's trees looked a lot skimpier too. A lot of people resent home depot and lowes, but I don't resent their prices and the 1-yr no-hassle warranties. A friend of mine planted 15 Arborvitaes a few years ago, they all blew over in a wind storm and died as a result. He brought them back to lowes in a pickup truck a year later, they exchanged every one of the trees at no cost, no questions asked...

  4. #4
    Sapling
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York, Zone 5
    Posts
    87

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    You asked, I'll tell. Yes, the fall planted ADF "treelets" never made it in Central New York either. They always came in November when it was freezing cold out and the ground was just about froze too.
    I lost a few trees of all sizes this winter. It was so windy the root balls came up out of the ground. It was also very cold for a very long time, like Oct to now (still). I had been buying container trees in the fall from a local nursery at can't beat it prices. Come to find out, many of these have circling roots within the root ball where I could not see it. After 2-3 years of skimpy wimpy or no growth, I dig them up and find that the roots never ventured anywhere. I have 30 transplants coming in from SWCD this week and next. But at 48, I may be to old to see them become trees. They sure are easy to plant though!
    I have had good luck at big box stores if I buy them soon after they come in. Actually got a great deal on a Japanese Maple one fall and it is doing great.

  5. #5
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Indiana
    Posts
    198

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    I haven't had great success with the ADF free flowering trees, but I had planted a pin oak, dawn redwood and red maple in the fall of 07. Deer ate half of each one over the first winter and I decided I would go ahead and plant larger trees where I had those. I didn't want to waste those, so I dug them up and threw them into a pot of water in the early spring. All three sat in the water for a week until I had a chance to replant them. They all leafed out. The pin oak was not in a good spot and I really didn't keep weeds away from it so it died. The maple and redwood are both still alive. They didn't exactly thrive, but considering what they went through, just surviving was kind of surprising to me. I expect both to do better this year.

    I planted a few more ADF trees last fall. A couple Dawn Redwoods look like they are going to be OK. Too early to tell for a couple Sweetgums and Black Gums. 3 Shumard Oaks look like they have pretty good buds on them. We will see.

  6. #6
    Oak
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
    Posts
    562

    Re: RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    Quote Originally Posted by esperance
    But at 48, I may be to old to see them become trees.
    Hey, that's not that old! With a reasonable life span you should be able to see those babies become young trees, at the very least. What kind are they? If they're fast growers, you could see some pretty big trees.[/

  7. #7
    Oak
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Western NY, Zone 6
    Posts
    348

    Re: RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    Quote Originally Posted by esperance
    ...

    Come to find out, many of these have circling roots within the root ball where I could not see it. After 2-3 years of skimpy wimpy or no growth, I dig them up and find that the roots never ventured anywhere. I have 30 transplants coming in from SWCD this week and next. But at 48, I may be to old to see them become trees. They sure are easy to plant though!
    I have had good luck at big box stores if I buy them soon after they come in. Actually got a great deal on a Japanese Maple one fall and it is doing great.
    Did you slice around the entire container ball before planting? Most containerized trees that I have purchased, whether at a nursery or big box store, had quite a few circling roots. Nothing that a sharp box cutter couldn't take care of though - scored the entire container ball about 8 times from top to bottom, then "teased" the roots as much as possible to straighten them out. If you just drop a tree in a hole without slicing those circling roots, the tree will probably girdle itself at some point, even though it could survive a few years.

    When planting any tree, whether containerized or bare root, I add a good deal of peat moss and till up the planting hole thoroughly, then add 12-12-12 fertilizer which I also till into the soil in generous amounts. The key is to encourage those roots to grow outward into the planting hole. The other planting method important for my area is to keep that root flare a few inches above grade, so my trees are always mounded a bit to ensure they get adequate drainage. My soil is very rich/heavy, and my yard is as flat as a pancake, so I'm in a classic "poor drainage" situation. The other challenge in my area is the winds - if I didn't stake my trees they would inevitably die. I probably won't be able to remove the stakes for 2-3 years, not until I see some significant crown growth. We see at least 3-4 major wind events each year (60-70mph winds), most of which occur over the Winter. It is always windy in my area regardless, Lake Erie to the West is to blame for that.

    Believe it or not, 2-3 years of skimpy growth is not out of the ordinary. Trees can take many years before the roots finally "take" and explosive crown growth results. In the next 2-3 years, I don't expect to see much if any growth out of many of the trees I planted last year, except for the really fast growing ones such as my River Birch and hybrid poplars, which grew quite a bit last season, first season I planted them. I bought some Cleveland select pears from home depot last Spring also, both of which put on quite a bit of new growth their first season and are already starting to bud, even though we are still bottoming out in the 20F range at night. Still don't see much activity out of my Swamp white oaks though, even though the buds are there I have not seen them swell up yet. They probably wait until the soil temps are a lot warmer before sprouting...

  8. #8
    Oak
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Eastern PA
    Posts
    457

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    I will do fall plantings, and have had them succeed, but bareroot trees from any source definitely seem to have better survival rate with a Spring planting.
    Cheers,
    Everett

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC
    www.greenmanenvy.com

  9. #9
    Oak
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Waco, Tx
    Posts
    99

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    I've had fall plantings from ADF fail. However in general I've learned that in my area at least, small, bare-root trees survive better if planted in a 5 gal. pot and babied til they have grown some roots. Most of my 5 gallon-container trees live when transplanted.

  10. #10
    Oak
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Knoxville,Tn
    Posts
    356

    RE: Fall planting failures with bare root trees

    For the record I'm one for ten with last fall's Blue Spruces. I can't understand it. This time I put them in pots and 1 lived. I hope in the future when we re-up we get a choice of a couple of trees from the nursery in the 1 gallon range. I recently had 36 Carolina Hemlocks shipped in open bottom plug pots and am having at least a 98% survival rate judging from the buds.I've had terrible luck with Arbor Day bare roots. They are obviously packed with care but they don't like what I've done so far.

    dad burnit cad firnit!

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