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Can I Plant Trees in the Spring in Utah?

Thursday, March 21, 2019 | by Scott Bennett

The snow has finally melted (mostly!) and many of us are ready for warmer weather, blue skies, and being outside. Nurseries and garden centers are filling with plants and it seems to be the perfect time to plant a tree—or is it? When should trees be planted in Utah? When should I avoid planting trees?

The best time to plant trees is not the spring. It is actually in the fall—late August, September, or October as the temperatures start to drop but the ground hasn’t frozen. Trees planted in the fall can easily establish roots. In the fall, naturally, a tree’s growth is slowed as it approaches dormancy in the colder winter and early spring months. Trees can focus their energy on roots and not on growth.

Another advantage of planting trees in the fall is that most garden centers are liquidating their stock at that time of year. They don’t want to have to winterize their plants and would rather sell them. You can get good deals on trees.

So what about spring? Why are there so many trees for sale in garden centers if spring isn’t a good time of year to plant? After fall, spring IS the second best time of year to plant trees, especially if it is done early spring, as soon as the ground isn’t frozen. In early spring, trees are still dormant and can focus on their roots, not growing taller. Later spring, when blossoms are popping out on trees, is when trees are in peak growth mode. Ideally, you would get trees in the ground before this peak growing season hits. As the temperatures rise and summer approaches, trees can become stressed.

Summer is the toughest time of the year on trees. It is the hottest and driest time of the year. Avoid planting trees in the summer months.

Winter isn’t a good time either. If the ground is frozen, a tree will struggle to get established.

Whether it is in the spring or the fall, what is the best way to plant trees?

Follow these simple steps for a successful planting:

1. Know how large your tree will get and choose a spot that will give your tree plenty of room to grow. Most varieties of trees planted in Utah yards grow 2 feet per year or more. It may look “cute” now but it won’t be its current size for long.

2. Did a hole deep enough to cover the root ball but not too deep. You don’t want to cover up bark unnecessarily. Find the trunk flare—the point at which the trunk widens. This point should be barely visible when the tree is planted.

3. Make the hole about 3X the diameter of the root ball but no wider.

4. Backfill the hole with the original soil, since this is the soil your tree will have to get used to living in and getting nutrients from. Fertilizer isn’t necessary until the tree is firmly established.

5. Cover the dirt with mulch to limit weeds and because it looks nice. Use 2-3 inches of mulch but don’t let it touch the bark of the tree. Keep it back a few inches to discourage bugs from finding their way onto the tree.

6. Stake the tree to help support it if necessary. Many trees don’t need stakes unless they are being planted in a windy area.

Enjoy planting your trees. You will enjoy their beauty for years to come!

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