Autumn is the Optimal Time for Planting
Tim Daly, UGA Extension Gwinnett Agricultural Agent (678.377.4011)
The cool months of autumn are the best time of the year to install trees and shrubs in the home landscape. The air temperatures have cooled, and environmental conditions are not as stressful. Even though the plant parts above ground will go dormant during the cold weather, the roots will continue to grow since they are insulated by the soil. Thus, the plants will have time to become established and develop a strong, healthy root system allowing them to be more resistant to the hot, dry conditions the following summer.
The key to buying healthy plants is to examine all parts of the plant before purchasing. The majority of plants in the nursery should be healthy, well-watered, and free of pest problems. Remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots. Healthy roots should be white or light brown and spread throughout the root ball. Avoid plants that have black, mushy roots, or those with poorly developed root systems. If you observe masses of roots packed into the root ball or growing out of the bottom, the roots have become pot bound should not be purchased.
Dig the hole two to three times the size of the width of the root ball. Plant the root ball, which is the point where the main trunk and roots connect, at the same level with the surrounding soil. Planting any deeper can lead to root rot and other problems. Research has shown adding organic matter, such as compost, peat moss, or top soil to the hole is not necessary. Just backfill with the same soil removed from the hole. However, if you are planting a bed of multiple shrubs or perennial plants, you can add organic matter to the soil.
Wait until the plants become established before fertilizing. Water the plants thoroughly once or twice a week keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged. Apply two to three inches of organic mulch material, such as pine straw, pine bark, or cypress mulch around the plants.
Fall is the optimum time of the year to plant trees, shrubs, and many types of perennials. The cooler weather conditions allow for the plants to become better established in the landscape for many years of enjoyment.