NOVEMBER is the best month of the year to plant trees in this country. So, if you’ve any planting ambitions, you need to get to work fairly soon.
There are several reasons why November is optimal. The first is that deciduous trees and shrubs are best planted when they’re dormant.
Different species become fully dormant on different dates, but the dates are often not as early as people think. Autumn happens later in this country than in most parts of Europe because of our mild, maritime climate.
Anyone who observes the countryside will notice full autumn colour is seldom present before mid-November. However, by now you can be pretty sure any deciduous species is fully dormant, with all its nutrients withdrawn into the roots.
This of course is not as important if you are using container-grown plants, though even they will withstand the trauma of losing their container and being stuck into open soil better in November. But it’s extremely important for bare-root plants, which are much cheaper.
Heavy frost is bad for newly planted trees and if the soil freezes to a depth of several centimetres it can kill them. But this sort of frost seldom occurs before January or February, by which time trees planted in November have had a chance to consolidate.
Two other things that can cause a newly- planted tree to fail are drought and airpockets around the roots. In most places the moisture content of the soil is at its highest around now and winter rain over the next few months will wash soil down to eliminate any air-pockets. But if there should be an unseasonal dry period for the weeks following planting you may have to water. The way to water a tree is the opposite of little and often —- in other words, use as much water as possible in one go.
On a very dry site it is a good idea to bury a short length of plastic pipe with the tree, leaving one end above ground and the other in the middle of the root ball. You then insert the hose or watering can into the upper end of the pipe and the watering is much more effective If the site is windy or the tree is spindly you may have to stake it. But don’t use a stake if it’s not necessary and, if you do use one, do it properly. I’ve seen too many trees damaged or even killed by bad staking.
The stake should obviously be put in before the tree, to avoid damaging the roots. The tree then has to be attached to the stake tightly enough to avoid excessive movement but loosely enough not to constrict the tree as it grows.
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