Home On The Range #23: Fall Planting Advice via Chestnut Hill Outdoors

   08.13.21

Home On The Range #23: Fall Planting Advice via Chestnut Hill Outdoors

Welcome to our reoccurring series of “Home on the Range.” Here, we would like to share all of our experiences for those who may be homesteading, living off the land, hunting, farming, ranching, and truly investing in nature and the great outdoors. The ability to provide for yourself and your family can be tremendously rewarding and simultaneously difficult at times. So, in “Home on the Range” we want to share our different exploits so you can learn and hopefully we can receive your feedback along the way as well.  Apologies for the brief hiatus, summer harvesting and drought battles took all of my time, but we’re glad to be back!

Young trees waiting to be planted in specific locations, I created a small nursery to keep them in until conditions were ideal

Chestnut Hill Outdoors – The Best Time to Plant a Tree…

Chestnut Hill Outdoors, purveyors of excellent food plot and deer attractant plants, recently sent out a summary of fall tree planting.  I’ve taken quite a few agricultural classes and learned tree planting techniques from people with extensive agricultural and landscaping experience. In addition, I’ve participated in the planting of hundreds of trees.  That being said, the summary from Chestnut Hill Outdoors on fall planting caught my eye because it is concise and is one of the clearest and well-written “how-to” pieces on fall planting.  Per Chestnut Hill Outdoors:

As you sow, so shall you reap. That applies not just to what you put in the ground but how you go about it. Proper planting procedures will ensure your trees can put down roots and enrich the land that sustains you. And while most folks think of spring as planting season, fall is a better time to establish your mast orchards.
Why
As the days grow shorter, trees go through a transition. Growth slows down; they shed their leaves and then enter a state of partial dormancy. However, they will continue to grow roots until the ground freezes. This is especially true for and important to young, newly planted trees as it gives them a chance to become acclimated to their environment before the stress of the spring growing season. It also gives them the ability to start stronger the following spring.
Moisture availability is also important as it is a vital component for early growth. Most folks think of April showers when it comes to natural moisture, but many areas typically receive more rain in the fall. And because growth is slower, trees require less water.
There is yet another advantage to fall planting, especially for those who travel some distance to their preferred hunting haunts. You can slip in an early morning hunt, spend the middle of the day planting, then sneak back out in the afternoon. A little early autumn effort will make the rest of this season and all of the next one more relaxed and enjoyable.
Where
Much goes into deciding where to plant. If you want maximum mast production, you need to consider where the best location on your property is for each species. In most cases, it’s best to avoid shady areas, rocky or sandy ground with poor soil moisture or low-lying areas where frost pockets may form. Instead, seek higher areas where cold air drains off, more open spaces with less competition, and south-facing slopes that receive more direct sunlight. Also, bear in mind that variation in elevation, site location, directional orientation, and proximity to bodies of water can create local variations in temperature or micro-climates. And don’t forget to consider how your mast orchards can work in concert with other features on the land like food plots, travel corridors, and bedding cover.
How
After planning comes planting, you want to reap the maximum benefit from your efforts, so sow appropriately, ensuring your plants get the proper amounts of sunlight, moisture, fertilizer, and a healthy dose of dirt wisdom. Spacing is critical, and 35-40 feet apart may seem like a lot now but will ensure your trees aren’t competing for sunlight, soil moisture, and nutrients, now and in the future.
Now it’s time to get dirty. You’ll be planting potted stock in the fall, so dig a hole two times wider than the pot but no deeper than the root ball. This allows roots to grow outward without crowding and prevents re-filling too deeply around the tree base, which could cause girdling. In most cases, you’ll be re-filling with native soil you remove while digging. However, if the soil is exceptionally dry, adding a little peat moss will help the fill retain more moisture. As you back-fill, firm the soil by packing or stomping to remove air pockets. You’ll want the soil around the trunk to be relatively flat and level, but you can also create a water-holding basin around the hole.
Next, the recipe calls for adding a little water, slowly and at the drip line. When that’s done, and the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2- 4″ deep around the trunk, pulling it a few inches away from the trunk. This will help hold moisture and reduce weed growth.
The folks at Chestnut Hill Outdoors also recommend Grow Tubes. They act as mini-greenhouses, recycling moisture from leaf transpiration to nurture the growth of young seedlings until the tree is big enough to survive on its own. They also protect against deer, rodent and rabbit browsing and provide a barrier against herbicide drift if the herbicide is used to control weeds. Or, you can use weed mats. It’s also a good idea to attach a stake to your grow tubes to keep the tree stable during its first season.
That’s about all there is to it. If you’ve planned and planted properly, your property should be productive in perpetuity. Over time, your trees may require a little maintenance, but we’ll save that for another time. Meanwhile, step back, appreciate what you’ve accomplished, and imagine what it will look like next year, and the year after, and the year after…

Additional Thoughts

Take some PH tests of the water in your area when making planting considerations, as well as soil samples.  This will give you a better overall picture of nutrients you may need to add for your plants.  I don’t use herbicide, so when weeding tree wells, they need to be hand-weeded.  This helps prevent destruction of your ring or drip irrigation from a weed whip/whacker.  Immediately after planting or transplanting, I like to boost the nitrogen level of the tree with organic liquid fertilizer and pelletized chicken manure.  If it snows where you live, young bark can actually get sunburned from the reflection of the sun off of the snow, so tubes around your saplings are a good idea for at least the first winter.

Hopefully these tips help for your next tree planting project this fall!  For more information please visit Chestnut Hill Outdoors!

Fall planting can work for big trees, too!
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