sealPurdue News

September 27, 1996

Fall's a fine time to plant a tree

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Spring may be best ,but fall can be a fine time to plant a tree, if you follow a few recommendations from Purdue University forestry and horticulture specialists.

"Not only are fall weather conditions milder compared to most summers that follow a spring planting, but the trees may also be on sale," said Rita McKenzie, an urban forestry specialist in Purdue's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.

The first step is to get a soil test. Use the information on nutrients, organic matter, soil acidity and salt content to determine which species are best suited to your yard, McKenzie said.

Choose carefully, though, says Purdue Extension horticulturist Mike Dana. It's a large and expensive piece of planting, and putting the right tree in the right place means thinking ahead. Envision a full-grown tree at the proposed site. How tall will it grow? How wide will the canopy spread? Where will the roots go? What might go where the roots will be? A large stump next to the house is a good sign somebody guessed wrong. Trees need room to spread both roots and branches.

"The failure to anticipate tree size is the most common mistake," he said.

Dana follows the "look up, look down, look all around" rule. Keep in mind power lines, lines of sight in front of windows and doors, and underground utilities and drains that might block roots or be blocked by them.

Available sunlight, moisture and cold hardiness are other considerations to keep in mind.

"It's important to match the tree to the yard rather than try to force a favored species into unfavorable conditions," Dana said. "The choice of plants may be more limited, but the likelihood of long-term plant survival with minimal maintenance is much greater."

The specialists suggest these other tree planting tips

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