by: COURTESY OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - Fall is a  great time to plant a treeFall is a great time for planting trees, but do take time to plant them correctly

With fall in the air comes opportunities to harvest what's left in the garden, get outdoors to enjoy fall color, and yes, with milder temperatures and upcoming rains to take care of watering needs, it's also a great time to plant a new tree in your yard or garden.

Right tree, right place

What kind of tree will you plant, and where will you plant it? When deciding on tree type, it's best to take a walk around your property and picture how the tree might best fit into the surrounding landscape.

Knowing what the mature size of your tree will be will help ensure that the tree you select will be a good fit for your site. You don't want to end up with branches scraping against the roof or siding. You also don't want its roots too close to the foundation. Large, popular trees like tulip trees, maples, or Ponderosa pine should be planted well away from fences and your home. Ask your local nursery how big the tree will get and how much sun it will require


Tree planting tips

So you've purchased your tree and brought it home. What next? Probably the three most common tree-planting errors are not digging a big enough hole, planting the tree too deeply, and improper mulching and watering.

Here are some tips:

• Dig the hole at least 2 feet wider than the size of the root system or root ball; a large hole will allow better root growth and is especially important in compacted soils.

• Handle the plant by the root ball, not the trunk. Once in the hole, it's important to remove the wire basket, if there is one, as well as the burlap and ties.

• Make sure the roots are covered with soil, using soil that was removed from the hole and taking care not to plant your tree too deeply. Instead, set it slightly above the level of the surrounding soil to allow for settling and increased soil draining.

• It is not necessary to fertilize a newly planted tree, but a deep watering will help get rid of air pockets and is essential.

Use of mulch

Mulch can be made up of compost, shredded bark, wood chips or shredded leaves, and applying mulch is recommended. It helps prevent soil temperature and moisture fluctuations during summer months, and discourages weeds. Just don't overdo it, because a tree's roots need to breathe; adding a depth of 4 to 6 inches around the base of your tree is fine.

Then, spread the mulch one to two feet out from the trunk, leaving a 3- to 4-inch ring around the base of your tree mulch-free. Give new trees a deep watering at least once a week, barring rain, and more frequently during hot, windy weather.

More tips

Lastly, when spring arrives, avoid planting flowers at the base of your tree. Flowers compete with trees for moisture during summer months, and digging around the base of your tree can introduce pathogens into its root zone.

For more information about trees and tree care:

For more information about tree planting — or to volunteer to help plant trees — visit Friends of Trees’ website at

Cynthia Orlando has a degree in forest management and is a certified arborist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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