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Fall is a great time to plant trees

Fall is a great time to plant trees

Tree planting

It’s nearly September which means fall weather will soon be here. Also, September and October are great months to plant a tree. We can now start thinking about what trees we want to plant and where to plant them.

How to plant a tree

Health and longevity of the tree starts with good planting practices. First, remove the tree from the container and remove all wraps and ropes around the rootball, including the burlap. Next, shake off the excess soil and find the main rootball. The area where the lateral roots begin should be just below the soil surface. After you have determined the actual size of the rootball, dig a hole twice as wide and only as deep as the roots. Do not loosen the soil in the bottom of the planting hole or the tree will settle lower and then be too deep in the ground. 

Nicole Stoner

Nicole Stoner

Backfill into the hole with the soil that was removed when digging the hole to avoid creating a wall that roots cannot penetrate from one soil type to another. Add a mulch ring to all trees. The ring should be 2-3 inches deep and at least 2-3 feet wide around the tree. Trees can be staked if necessary but the staking equipment should only be left on for one growing season.

After planting, be sure to water the tree right away and keep it watered for the first few years. When we are not receiving rain, water new trees weekly for 15-20 minutes per application. Once the weather starts to cool down this fall, this watering can be done every two weeks. As the tree grows, it will need to be watered for 30-45 minutes and up to one hour on the same weekly and biweekly schedule.

Where to plant a tree

When planting your trees, remember to pay close attention to where you plant it to ensure that the tree can have a long life. Often when we plant a tree, it is hard to visualize the full size of a tree, but remember, that small tree will grow into a much larger version. Plant the tree where it can spread its branches and grow to full size and think about what is around the tree. Consider overhead powerlines, underground utilities, current buildings, any future construction that is planned, sidewalks, and the mature size of the tree.

Prior to planting, call the Digger’s Hotline at 811 to ensure there are no underground utilities near the planting location. Remember that the tree roots will grow; it would be best to give your tree plenty of space to grow without becoming too close to the powerlines to avoid future problems with the roots and the lines. Calling the Digger’s Hotline will also help so you don’t run into underground utility lines while you are planting. Never assume that the utility lines are deeper than you plan to dig.

Also, look at the above ground structures when you plant a new tree. Plant large trees at least 20 feet from a building to avoid damage to the building as the plant grows. Plant trees 25 feet away from overhead power lines to avoid damage to the lines and to help the crews of our electrical companies from having to send a crew out to prune the trees in the lines. Smaller, understory trees should be used under powerlines to help the men and women who work for our electric company.

Nicole Stoner is the Gage County Horticulture Extension Educator. She can be contacted at (402) 223-1384,, or by visiting the Gage County Extension website at Like her Facebook page at, or follow her on Twitter @Nikki_Stoner.

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