Just because the weather is cooler and thoughts are turning toward scaling back your garden, it’s not too late to plant trees. In fact, autumn is an excellent time to plant deciduous and evergreen trees—it’s a season of more natural rain events and, therefore, less manual watering is required. It’s easy to forget to water as temperatures drop, so be vigilant about monitoring natural rainfall amounts to make sure new transplants are appropriately watered. When transplants are dug up, their total root volume is reduced, which results in less water uptake.
Hardy, Native Deciduous Trees
Leaves complete their work in the fall and drop, which means there will no longer be a loss of moisture through the leaves. This will help with the overall water content in the tree, although deciduous trees will still benefit greatly from a thorough soaking in October and November before the ground freezes. And don’t be concerned about less-than-perfect-appearing leaves (spots, whitish cast, and holes)—these trees probably received overhead irrigation throughout the summer, which can cause visual imperfections.
It’s important to remember to water evergreens throughout the fall season until the ground freezes. Evergreens have foliage year-round that transpires—loses moisture—making them more sensitive to cool, dry conditions. They often don’t show the effects of being too dry until spring, when it’s too late to correct the condition. If we experience a spring thaw, evergreens (especially arborvitae) will benefit from a thorough watering in January or February.
• Remove burlap and twine from the top of the root ball.
• Dig the hole larger than the root ball.
• Planting depth should be the same as in the pot or burlap. Don’t plant too deep.
• Add soil around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
• Water when the hole is half filled with soil, add the rest of the soil, then water again.
• Add a layer of mulch (not deeper than three inches) to insulate and help with water retention.
Hardy, Native Tree Types for the Greater Madison Area
Deciduous: Serviceberry, Eastern Redbud, Pagoda Dogwood, Hawthorn, Star or Saucer Magnolia, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Freeman Maple, River Birch, Whitespire Gray Birch, Hackberry, American Hornbeam, Ginkgo, Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, American Hop Hornbeam, White Oak, Red Oak, Bur Oak, Pin Oak, Linden, and Elm
Evergreen: White Fir, Norway Spruce, Black Hill’s Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Colorado Spruce, Eastern White Pine, and Canadian Hemlock