Fall Is For Planting

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, October 10, 2004

By Lynn Rawe

The fall planting season has arrived! The temperatures have cooled, and the time has come to think about adding a new tree, or a grouping of shrubs to the landscape. Perhaps you have an area in your landscape that needs “remodeling” or rejuvenating. Well, fall is an excellent time to get to work!

Many people prefer the spring for planting, but the fall months of October through December have distinct advantages. Fall planting follows the heat of summer and precedes a cold winter season. Trees and shrubs planted now use this to their best advantage. The roots of plants grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees F. or higher, and this occurs frequently during wintertime in San Antonio.

It’s during the winter months that the root systems of the fall-planted specimens begin to develop and become established. When spring arrives, the established root system makes it possible for the plant to take advantage of it’s full surge of spring growth. Balled and burlapped plants have had their root systems cut and some shock can be evident in their appearance. However, planting balled and burlapped plants in the fall gives them ample time to recover and reduce transplant shock before hot weather arrives.

There are exceptions to fall planting. All bare root plants, including roses, pecan, and fruit trees should not be planted now. In fact, it is doubtful that you will be able to find them available until late December or January. Palm trees prefer to be planted during the summer.When you buy plants for your home landscape, be sure to get healthy, well-grown plants. Always buy from a reputable dealer. A person who is in the plant selling business year-round depends on repeat customers, and only by selling his customers quality plants can he be assured of your continued confidence and business.

Beware of plant bargains. They can easily turn out to be real headaches. A bargain is no good if it dies. Many times the plants have been in the container too long and will have root problems. The price tag, especially the cheapest one, is not the best guide to quality.

All plants have growing requirements. Think about the plant’s needs before you invest. Will it grow in sun or shade? Does it need a wet or dry location? Is it hardy or tender? Some nurseries have this type of information on tags beside the plant. If not, ask the nurseryman.

Always plan before you plant. That’s always a good rule of thumb. Whether you are planting a single plant or an entire landscape, plan first, then plant. Good planning is a worthwhile investment of time that will payoff in greater enjoyment through a more attractive and useful home landscape. It will also increase the value of your home. It’s much easier to move plants on paper than to dig them up after planting in the wrong place. A plan saves many planting mistakes.

Plants properly planted should serve a purpose. Ask yourself, “Do I want this plant for screening, for privacy, for shade, etc.?” How large will it be five years from now? Many times I have heard people say, “When we set the plant out three years ago, it fit that spot perfectly, but now look at it. It’s a monster!” If, after three years, it takes a machete to cut your way through a plant jungle before you get to the front door, you’ve planted the wrong plant!
Plants, like people, grow up. Be sure to provide your plants with the space they require. Remember, that a “dwarf” one-gallon size plant will look entirely different after a few years of growth in your landscape.

It’s best to avoid the really fast growing trees, since most are quite prone to pest problems and weak wood. Included are willows, cottonwood and fruitless mulberry-all have problems with borers, cotton root rot, and heat stress. Arizona ash has problems with borers, sycamore with lace bugs, heat stress, and anthracnose, and mimosas with webworms, and mimosa-wilt. Buy quality trees to avoid these problems.

This article was written by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.

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