AUGUSTA – The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Maine Forest Service (MFS) reminds everyone that fall is an ideal time of year to plant native trees. “Because it takes approximately six weeks for roots to get established, the general rule for tree planting during fall is to get them in the ground by Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” said Aaron Bergdahl, MFS forest pathologist. “Roots need time to establish and cold weather and frozen ground shuts down root growth, and the soil temperature needs to be at least 55 degrees at a 6-inch depth.”
Some trees do better than others when planted at the growing season’s end. In general, plants with shallow, fibrous root systems do better with fall planting than those with a deep taproot. “Planting trees in early September provides enough time for root growth and establishment at the new site before soil temperatures drop and trees enter their dormancy period. This prepares trees for a head start on vigorous growth in the spring,” said Bergdahl.
Tips for fall planting
- Don’t prune newly planted trees. Pruning encourages top growth instead of root growth, where it is needed most.
- Whenever you decide to plant trees in your yard, make sure you put the right tree in the right place. Trees that grow 80- to 100–feet tall don’t belong under power lines, and, likely, a weeping willow or river birch won’t be happy in that hot, dry corner of your yard.
- When choosing what type of tree to plant, the MFS recommends looking into whether the tree is likely to become a problem in natural areas in the future by consulting the advisory list from the DACF’s Maine Natural Areas program.
- Research what will be needed to maintain the tree in the landscape. Some trees, such as true ashes, will require frequent insecticide treatments as emerald ash borer spreads.