Fall Planting Instructions (Containerized)
Fall planting is an excellent time to plant trees because temperatures are cooling off and the trees will require less watering. The trees will start to go dormant and lose their leaves, but their root systems will continue to grow throughout the winter months giving them a head start on next year’s growing season.
The trees you have received may still have leaves on them and be actively growing. Or, the trees you receive may have leaves that are browning and starting to fall off. This means your tree is going dormant for the winter but is still alive and healthy. This is a normal process and not cause for concern.
Even though the cool months of the fall and winter are approaching, they will still need to be watered for the best transplant success. It is critical that their roots receive adequate water until the leaves begin to drop and the trees go into winter dormancy. You may notice some browning of the leaves on your trees. This is the result of them starting to shut down for the dormant winter months and they will continue to lose the remainder of their leaves during the next several weeks, which is a normal process. Once they have lost their leaves and are dormant, they won’t require as much water. However, it is still critical to keep their roots slightly moist throughout the winter months as their roots will continue to grow throughout winter. Rainfall can be adequate in the fall/winter months, but if you experience a dry period for a length of time, they may require supplemental watering. Mulching them well can help keep the roots moist during the winter months. Leaf litter, pine needles, shredded or fine bark, and even hay are acceptable mulches but avoid large bark nuggets. Large bark nuggets require nitrogen to break down and can rob this valuable nutrient from your trees during the growing season. Once they leaf out again in the spring, their need for water will increase as temperatures rise again. Please note: If there are ANY problems with your shipment, WE MUST HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT OF THE TREES by calling 1.855.386.7826 or email firstname.lastname@example.org If your package is badly damaged, please discuss this with the UPS driver at delivery and do not throw away the packaging in case you need to file a claim with UPS.
- Remove the trees from their packaging and water them. Inspect the trees for damage (drying or breakage).
- You can plant the trees right away. For fall plantings, it is important to get the trees into the ground to allow their roots to get established before the winter months arrive. An alternative is to up-pot them to a 3-gallon container for spring planting. You will need to protect the roots while in containers against freezes. For questions about the overwintering process, please contact us.
- Your planting site selection should be in full sun and in well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5 and 6.5. Do not plant in non-low-lying areas that stay saturated for long periods of time. Most trees do not grow well in wet soils. Dense clay soils stunt root growth and hold too much water, leading to weak, slow-growing trees. Avoid frost pockets (bottoms of valleys) because late frosts can hurt nut and fruit production, especially in northern locations. A sheltered north-facing slope protected from drying winds and low sun of winter may be better for cold windy sites. Prepare the area by removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often overlooked but is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass steal light, water, and nutrients from your trees. We recommend weed mats or mulch.
- Dig a hole 2 times wider than the pot, so the roots can grow outward without crowding, but not deeper than the root ball.
- Carefully remove the tree from the container keeping the soil around the roots intact. It helps to tap the outside of the container to loosen the edge. Carefully slide the tree from the container. Don’t yank the tree out of the container as this can separate the roots from the tree.
- Plant them at the same height they were grown in the container (at the crown where the bark changed from green to brown), with plenty of room for the roots. Partially fill the planting hole with the native soil. Set the tree in the middle of the hole with plenty of room for the roots. Avoid planting the tree too deep. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill with native soil and firm the soil around the lower roots making sure there are no air pockets. Keep backfilling until the soil is level with the root collar. Do not add soil amendments such as compost, peat, or bark as this can cause root fungus. Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your young trees. We recommend keeping the pot stake attached to the tree for 1 season. After 1 season you can remove the pot stake. If the tree appears stable staking is not needed. If staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its own and will spring back to a vertical position if gently flexed. Allow trees a slight amount of flex rather than holding them rigidly in place. Tree straps should be made of material that will not injure the tree. If using grow tubes then staking the tree is not necessary. You will need to attach a stake to your grow tubes. Find grow tube installation instructions here.
- Create a water-holding basin around the hole and water the trees thoroughly at planting, making sure that there are no air pockets around the roots. Water slowly at the drip line. After the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2-4” deep around the trunk pulling the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. Leaf litter, hay, shredded or fine bark, or pine needles are good choices for mulch or use weed mats to prevent weed competition and reduce water evaporation. While the trees still have leaves on them, they will need to be watered at least twice/week, perhaps more on sandier soils. The amount of water needed is dependent on your soil, temperatures, and rainfall. As the temperatures cool off and they start to lose their leaves, you can gradually water less, keeping the roots slightly moist throughout the winter. IT IS EXTREMELY CRITICAL THAT NEWLY TRANSPLANTED TREES BE WATERED REGULARLY DURING THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF GROWTH. It is the most important factor to ensure the successful start of your new trees!
- Remove any ties, tags, and labels from the trees to prevent girdling branches and trunks.
- We recommend grow tubes for wildlife, food plots, and forest plantings. Grow tubes act like mini-greenhouses, recycling moisture from leaf transpiration to nurture the growth of young seedlings until the tree is big enough to survive on its own. Grow tubes also provide protection against deer, rodents, and rabbits browsing and chewing, and can also provide a barrier against herbicide drift if the herbicide is used to control weeds (which can kill young trees). Do not use black plastic drain pipe or tubing as tree shelter. They will damage your trees. Weeds compete for water and fertilizer, so weed control is important. We also recommend weed mats, available on our website.
- You do not need to prune your trees at this time. After next summer’s growing season, you can do any necessary pruning during the following winter months.
- Do not fertilize the trees when planting in the fall. Fertilizing can promote new growth and the goal is to allow the trees to go dormant for the winter season. Fertilize next spring after your trees have leafed out and once the danger of frost has passed. We recommend a time-released fertilizer with balanced micronutrients, such as the Scotts Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor 19-6-12, Espoma Holly Tone, or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer (available at most Garden Centers). Do not expect your trees to grow rapidly in the first year. The trees will be putting a majority of their energy into new root production. Once established, they will make rapid growth in the following years.
- We recommend removing any small fruit or nuts that begin to form during the first 2 years. This leaves the tree with more energy for root establishment. By years 3-5, your chestnut and fruit trees should start to bear depending on the care and climate they receive. Trees planted in colder regions, such as USDA zone 5, may bear between 5 and 7 years of age.