Plant a Tree, Tree care

When is the Best time to Plant a Tree and Why

December 09, 2019
Trees can fill gaping gaps in the garden, offer shade and privacy, and they can even help regulate temperature by cooling the air in summer and preventing cold winds from reaching the house in winter. They are good for the environment, absorbing carbon dioxide, cleaning the air, and providing oxygen. So, while trees can take many years or even decades to even get close to maturity, ensuring that you plant them at the right time of year gives them the best possible start to their beneficial lives. There is some debate over whether spring or fall is the best time to plant trees, and the truth is that either could be beneficial for you and your new additions.

Fall Planting

Fall is often touted as being the best time of year for tree planting. The tree requires less energy and less water to grow. It also has ideal soil conditions for root growth, and it has longer to strengthen before it needs to develop leaves.

Less Energy Required

Tree planting in fall is beneficial because trees do not need leaves at this time of year. As such, it will be able to concentrate its efforts on growing roots, which are essential to its strength and development. At other times of the year, the tree would need to expend more energy as it grows both roots and leaves. Planting in fall means that the tree will have all fall and early spring in which to develop its roots before it has to put effort into producing leaves.

The Best Root Growth Conditions

What’s more, in fall, the ground is cool, without being frozen. This is considered optimal growing conditions for roots. In reality, roots will grow whenever the soil isn’t frozen, but it is widely believed that the cool ground of autumn provides the best possible growing conditions for your roots. If you enjoy a mild winter, and the floor doesn’t freeze during this time, the roots will also enjoy some bonus growth over this period, too.

Spring Tree Planting

Spring may not be considered the optimal time for tree planting, but it still offers good opportunity to get out and plant for a lot of people. In fact, the keen gardener will be itching to get back out in the yard, which is one of the reasons that we do see so many people planting trees at this time of year. There are also more trees in nurseries and there is no danger of an early frost, as can occur in fall. However, a newly planted tree needs more energy to grow in spring and there is the danger of an early hot spell.

Get Out In The Yard

The keen gardener will be itching to get out in the yard and do some gardening. They will want to prepare their garden for the year ahead and ensure that early planting is done. As such, a lot of gardeners head out in the spring months to start planting. Because trees do have a reasonable survival rate at this time of year, gardeners that enjoy success will continue to do the same whenever they want to plant a tree.

More Stock In Nurseries

There is usually more stock in nurseries at this time of year too. Young trees have been tended to over winter, usually kept away from frozen soil, and there might be some good examples of young trees that are ready for planting out. Availability leads many of us to believe that this must be a beneficial time of year to plant.

No Early Frost

Frost and frozen ground can kill off roots and, even if it doesn’t kill the roots, it will prevent them from growing. Planting in spring, or at least planting when you know that there is no further danger of freezing, means that the new tree will have opportunity to lay down roots before there is frost again. It will have the whole of spring and summer to do so. However, this also works to the tree’s disadvantage as well as its benefit.

Spring Trees Expend More Energy

Although spring trees will have longer to develop strong roots, they will need more energy during their first few months. During spring, trees are developing leaves to convert energy from sunlight into sugars that they use as food. They also need to continue to develop roots. Mature trees have already grown roots and they have a reserve of energy that will help them through this process, but a young tree must quickly spread its roots while also growing leaves. Spring is a challenging time for any young tree, but it can be especially difficult for those that are newly planted. Some newly planted trees drop their leaves immediately after planting, because it is such an energy intensive process to develop above and below ground level at the same time.

Danger Of An Unexpected Hot Spell

Frozen ground can prevent roots from growing, but hot weather can be equally problematic. Trees need water, especially during their first few months after being planted. This means that you will have to water them at least every few days, and during a hot spell the water evaporates quickly, with very little of it making it down to the tree’s new roots. They simply cannot soak up enough water to their newly developed roots, and this causes the leaves and the roots to suffer as a result.

So When Is The Best Tree Planting Time?

There will always be debate over the best time for tree planting, but taking all factors into account, fall is the time when you have the greatest chance of nurturing what will become a strong and health tree. It does depend on the weather in your area, and even the type of tree that you opt for, as well as the availability of water, but a good rule is to plant in autumn following the last really hot days of summer. Your tree should have time to mature before it has to deal with winter, and it will be strong enough to grow leaves by spring.

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