As the air in Oklahoma cools off, the landscape around the state is beginning to turn bright orange and brilliant red.
Not only is fall a great time to enjoy the outdoors, it also is a good time to plant many varieties of trees and shrubs, said Mike Schnelle, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ornamental floriculture specialist.
"As the weather cools down it creates an environment that reduces the stress on trees and shrubs to allow ideal root growth and establishment before the really cold weather hits," Schnelle said. "When planting, avoid unnecessary damage and stress to plants to ensure optimal success."
It is critical to keep roots of all plants damp or moist until the moment of planting. Keep the root ball moist, and handle plants by the container, not by the trunk or stems. Take extra care to not break the ball of roots. This can be fatal for young trees, especially evergreens.
Just as important as the selection of trees or shrubs is the proper preparation of the planting area. Be sure to consider soil drainage when selecting the planting area. Once the location has been selected, the easiest way to help a young tree or shrub survive is to dig the planting hold much wider than normal.
"For some shrubs it's better to dig an entire bed area than individual holes," he said. "When preparing individuals holes, dig the planting hold two to three times the diameter of the tree or shrub's root ball. Make sure the hole isn't any deeper than the root ball itself. Because much of Oklahoma's soil is clay, plant trees and shrubs one to two inches above the grade. If you have sandy or light soils, plant at original grade."
When the planting is complete, be sure to water regularly just as would be done in the spring. A light mulch around the plant will help ensure the roots do not freeze before they can become established.
Young trees with green or tender bark should be wrapped by the end of October. Start wrapping from the ground up to the first major limb.
Tree wraps can help keep animals from chewing on the tender bark. In addition, the wrap also reflects the sun, which can directly or indirectly damage the bark.
"It may be tempting to fertilize newly-planted trees and shrubs, but it's not a good idea," Schnelle said. "By refraining from fertilizer applications, woody plants are able to harden off their latest growth to avoid freeze injury. Also, you shouldn't prune your trees and shrubs at least until dormancy occurs. New succulent growth could be damaged as temperatures drop below freezing."