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Understanding When to Plant Baby Trees

by Guest on Feb 4, 2010

Fall or wintertime is a great time to think about planting baby trees. Most trees survive better if they are planted or transplanted while they are dormant. If you have baby trees, they may even look dead during this time. A small scratch on the bark of the tree should expose a green layer, reassuring you that the tree is, in fact, alive, but in a dormant state. Trees enter a dormant state when the days shorten and the sunlight is in short supply. They need to stop growing and producing during the fall to store energy and prepare themselves for winter. When you are taking care of your baby tree, keep this in mind.

Heavy watering or fertilizing during the fall can force a tree to stay in its flourishing state and it will fail to prepare itself for winter. This can cause the tree to be intolerant of harsh conditions and die. Once a tree is in its dormant state, it is fine to water it again to help it through the winter months. This is the best time to plant new trees or move existing trees. If you are growing a tree from a seed, then you will not see any growth in the winter. This is because germination only occurs during the spring.

That gives the new seedling the best chance to survive the weather. Seeds can stay dormant for a very long time if the conditions are not right for germination.

There are two types of dormancy in seeds; External dormancy and internal dormancy.

  • External refers to the seed coat or outer shell of the seed. This type of dormancy is common in fruit seeds. The hard external shell keeps the embryo inside secluded from oxygen and water.
  • Internal dormancy is also referred to as embryo dormancy. The embryo of the seed will stay dormant until it gets enough water, light, warmth and/or oxygen.

If your baby tree is dormant and you are ready to plant it, follow these simple guidelines to give it the best chance at survival.

  1. Dig a hole about twice as big as the tree roots.
  2. Stir up the soil around the sides of the hole so that the dirt is not packed tight. This will allow the roots to spread more easily.
  3. Gently place the roots in the hole and carefully fill dirt around the delicate roots.
  4. Water the first layer of dirt so that it settles securely around the roots.
  5. Add another layer of dirt, water to help it settle, then repeat.
  6. Keep adding and watering until the dirt level reaches one to two inches above the top root.
  7. Form the soil into a well so that water drains toward the tree.
  8. Mix mulch in the top layer of soil to help water retention.
  9. Top off the area with mulch that expands one to two feet away from the trunk.
  10. If snow is available, pack snow on top of the mulch to insulate the tree from the elements.

Learn more about tree service and planting trees or find a local arborist in your area.

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