If you are one of those people who are semi-organic then listen. I believe it is best to plant early in the fall, for many reasons but one in particular and that is it allows more time for growth. Although it is cooler and the leaves are falling off or have fallen off, roots are still functioning. Soil temperatures are still conducive at 50 degrees for root growth and function. However, it seldom if ever reaches that temperature. Rain frequency increases as well along with a reduction in temperature, intense sunlight and prevailing winds. All of these factors combined allow for the best environment for the longest period of time before the heat comes on. In addition you should have the tree fed (fertilized), with a 3-1-1 an organic slow release fertilizer like Arbor Green Pro. The lower the salt index, the friendlier it is for roots.
A properly planted tree or shrub will result in a more vigorous and healthy plant. A plant that can tolerate more adverse conditions and require less management than one planted incorrectly.
The steps in planting should begin with knowing the yard or area you will be planting. Find out where the soils are deep or shallow and how they drain with or without irrigation. Then determine the amount of sunlight and shade during the day and through the growing season. Select a species that fits the parameters above and that will fit in this area (space) to accommodate both growth and character.
i.e.: Live Oaks are wider growing than taller. Red Oaks are taller growing than wider.
Whether the tree is ball & burlap or container grown, always observe the plants appearance. Is the foliage free of spots, lesions and discoloration? Is the branching desirable and characteristic? Next, observe root flares. They should be exposed, and free of any soil build-up.
In our soils, soil amendments (peat moss, potting soil, etc.) should be avoided, the less soil interfaces the easier and faster roots become established. If soil types can be matched, the tree will benefit by becoming established much quicker.
At the time of putting the tree in the ground, the largest consideration should be to keep root flares exposed and above soil level, 2” – 3”, this will allow for breathing and settling. Cut away the top half of the basket, and remove nylon strings, avoid loose backfill and air pockets then water accordingly. Mulch the tree but keep off of the root flare.
Now that you have the tree in the ground correctly your next challenge is how to take care of it. Trees are pets too, as my blog states. They need water, food (fertilizing), pest control, pruning and a good doctor, like me, when they get sick.
Irrigation systems are made for turf and flowers, not trees unless there is something like a bubbler or drip specifically designated for the tree on a separate station. In dry periods deep watering is necessary. The base line recommendations are for every inch in diameter, 10-15 gallons of water is required. Do not go beyond 4 days in the summer in the absence of rain and several days in the winter as well.
Certified Arborists are the only professionals qualified to prune trees. Everyone else may think they know how, but we see the damage done every day. Trees require proper pruning annually, these are called pruning cycles, they are to remove structural imperfections like bifurcations, inclusions, interfering limbs etc. Trees can grow healthy and strong and live a long life with pruning cycles. Proper care is the ticket.