Too Late to Plant Trees?

msmity29May 2, 2008

I have a couple of questions I am hoping I can get some advice on. I am purchasing a new lot in northern Wisconsin. However, we will not be closing on the lot until late in May (which I am assuming will be too late to plant trees/shrub). The lot in question is 5 acres. The front 1/2 to 1 acre along the road is cleared. We have been told by the developer that this open area is actually old stumps that were covered by dirt from the road excavation. Anyway, now there is grass and wildflowers growing in this area.

The rest of the lot is covered with birch and poplars with a few pines also present. The very back of the lot (maybe the back 1/2 acre) has wetlands on it. Overall, I am assuming the soil of the whole lot is sandy.

We would like to do a number of things with the lot:

1. Plant some trees/shrubs/bushes in the front area. We would like to keep some of the area open for the kids to play ball in etc but also would like some privacy from the road and to have more of a "North Woods" feel.

2. Supplement the existing trees with trees/bushes/shrubs that provide wildlife with food and cover and give the lot a more diverse feel.

3. Increase the overall value of the lot.

I have a number of questions associated with these goals.....Should we wait to plant trees/shrubs/bushes until fall? If so, is there anything we can do to prepare the lot (especially the front ares) for planting? Is it possible to start growing trees/shrubs /bushes from seed or bare root stock in pots now, and transplant in the fall?

We want to plant native species oftrees/bushes/shrubs as much as possible. As of right, some of the species we are contemplating planting are: American Bittersweet, Grape, Blackberry, Rhaspberry, Apple Tree, American Highbush Cranberry, Ninebark, Wild Rose, Black Cherry, Pin Cherry, Choke Cherry, American Mountain Elm, Eastern Serviceberry, Red Oak, Green Ash, White Ash, Yellow Birch, River Birch, Suager Maple, Red Maple, Willow, Balsam Fir, Northern White Cedar, Hemlock, White Pine, White Spruce and/or Tamarack. Any comments and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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As a general rule you want to plant perennials (such as trees and shrubs) either in the spring so they have time to establish roots to take them through the summer heat or you want to wait until the summer heat dissipates and then plant in time for the roots to establish enough to take the plant through the rigors of winter freezes.

Either way works fine.

What you do not want to do is plant in the mid summer when the plant will lose water via transpiration faster than it's roots can take from it's new home. This just results in stress which weakens the plant heading into winter.

As far as preparing the soil, don't bother. It sounds like you will be planting a lot and won't likely be able to baby what you plant so modifying the soil is a losing proposition. You want plants that will respond well in the existing conditions with no babying.

Yes, you can start shrubs/trees from seed, just understand that the small ones in the nursery are likely 2 or more years old. In other words they take years from seed to amount to anything, but if you have the time seed is more economical.

Yes, you can container grow and transplant in the fall without a problem, but you will face higher water/nutrient demands in the container than you would the soil so why wait?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 5:32PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

As for plant choices, if when you say "grape" you mean wild grape, you may want to think twice about it. Everyone I know who has inheirited it on their property is fighting to stop it from choking other things out. American bittersweet is good, just be sure not to get oriental bittersweet as that will eat the lanscape as well. The emerald ash borer is knocking on our door so ash is iffy but if you have the room, what the heck. I'm not sure what an American Mountain elm is. There is the American Elm of Dutch Elm Disease fame or a Mountain Elm (Ulmus alata)that I'm not sure would be hardy. The rest are great choices depending upon your zone up there. As I mentioned on your other thread, watering and deer protection will be the biggest hurdles.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 6:15PM
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I don't worry so much about when to plant anymore because nurseries plant all season long. I figure if they can do it, so can I :-)

My SIL had a $20,000 landscape renovation during the summer drought 2 years ago. The temps were in the high 80's - low 90's when the landscapers came. She watered faithfully and the following spring had only lost a few plants over winter, which had been a somewhat dry one. The landscapers were impressed with how well she took care of everything.

A general rule of thumb is newly transplanted shrubs and trees need at least a 5 gallon pail of water a week. A nursery man told me that. I put on 2-3 pails-full, sometimes twice a week last year because the drought lasted so long after a dry winter and spring.

While not ideal, the ideal times for planting are so short that I can't get everything done during the ideal time, or life gets in the way and before you know it, there is a foot of snow on the ground, so I plant when I can, then water when necessary. About the only times I don't plant is when the soil is very wet.

If your trees are far away from your water source, and we have another dry summer, it's going to consume a lot of time and all that watering can get to be drudge after a while.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 7:21AM
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Thanks everyone for the advice/info. I am going to wait until this fall to plant. However, I would like to get a head start by planting a few bare root trees in pots now. I figure this might be beneficial since I won't be able to water the trees once they are planted (this is land we are buying that is about 5 hours away from our home). Can anyone give me any tips on which trees from my list above that would benefit most by being planted now? And what size pots, what kind of soil, how often to water/fertilize etc should I use? Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 11:52AM
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msmity, Where in the Northwoods are you buying?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 11:48AM
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pondwelr(z5 WI)

White Birch and River Birch do so much better planted in Spring rather than fall. And seeing as how Spring is so late this year, it sure is not too late to plant those trees.
However, you have to water them upon planting and once a week or so thru the heat of summer. Maybe you should get your well in first. Or have a rain collection system in place. There is no sense to buying trees in any size pot, if you cant care for them.

Years ago, the FFA (Future Farmers of America) used to plant huge plantations of pines, spruce, firs, etc. as part of their school projects. I know they dug rows, plopped in their little seedlings and from then on, they were on their own. We can thank these young men from the 50s, 60s, and 70s for most of the evergreen plantations one sees up north, and as far south as where I live in West Bend. So some trees certainly survive on neglect.
As to fertilizer...dont.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 12:11PM
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