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The best time to plant any tree or shrub is first thing in the spring shortly after frost has left the ground and while the plants are still dormant. This cuts down on the transplanting shock the plant must face and provide lots of time for the plants to get new root establishment before the next freeze up.
If you plan to plant in the fall deciduous trees should be planted after leaf drop and they have gone dormant to minimize the stresses on the trees. For conifers fall planting should be done in late summer or early fall to allow the trees time for new root establishment to avoid frost heaving.
If you are planting potted or larger trees they can be planted from early spring to late fall but the timing will determine how much after plant care will be required (for summer planting you will have to be able to water on a more regular basis). Ensure that your potted plant has a well established root system in the pot and is not a freshly potted bareroot plant.
Remember that bigger is not always better, because the bigger the tree is at the time of planting the greater the after plant care it will need.
Tree seedlings require four basic elements to thrive: water, nutrients, sunlight, and room to grow. Grasses, weeds, and brush growing on the planting site threaten your new seedlings by competing for these basic requirements. Heavy vegetation also provides habitat for mice and other rodents that eat the bark of young seedlings.
Good site preparation helps to reduce competition from unwanted vegetation, and also ensures suitable planting spots for your seedlings. Site preparation can also make tree planting easier. Consult the extension note entitled "Clearing the Way: Preparing the Site for Tree Planting", available on the product page (under extension notes) of 'The Landowner Resource Centres' website, www.lrconline.com.
Planting can be done with a machine or by hand. No matter what seedling types, planting methods, or tools are used, there are a few things that planters must do to plant a tree properly: