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When is the Best Time to Plant?

When is the best time to plant?

One of the most asked questions we receive is “when should I plant “? The answer to this varies depending where you are, what you are planting, and is it bare root or potted. If you want ripe, tasty fresh from the vine (or tree or bush) fruit as soon as possible it makes sense that the sooner you plant the sooner you eat! And if you live in a mild winter climate, are able to water and protect it and are planting containerized stock, as ours is, then that is the advice we give. Even during the winter dormant season plant roots grow and establish themselves. It’s well known that a fruit tree planted in the fall will generally put on more growth that next growing season than when planted in the spring. But as we know growing plants is a complex process, so here are some of the other things to consider.

First to look at is your climate and its relationship to the hardiness of the plants you are planting. In northern climates it is often best to plant in the spring. This way your plants will have a full growing season to establish themselves, before they have to endure the challenge of a cold hard winter. Besides the risk of tissue damage from freezing temperatures, plant roots can be damaged from frozen soil heaving if cold weather comes without snow cover. And if you do have snow cover, all the little rodents that

can now travel unnoticed beneath its cover might strip the bark off your baby plants, without you being able to detect it. Fall planting can be done up north, but be sure to mulch well to prevent heaving and wrap the trunk of your trees with hardware wire to protect from those hungry rodents.

If you live in a milder southerly climate, or in the moderate maritime climate of the pacific- northwest, it is possible to plant container stock year around, or bare root starts fall through spring. Even here in the hot interior of northern California we can plant right on through the hottest time of the summer, as long as water can be supplied. A potted plant with a solid root ball suffers little or no transplant setback if removed gently from its container. Though fall through spring is the first choice, if you don’t get to planting then, summer can also work fine. A little shading to give the leaves a chance to harden off and adjust to the hot sun can be helpful. The one exception to fall planting in these relatively mild climates is the sub-tropical’s, such as citrus or strawberry guavas. It’s often best to wait to spring or late winter to plant these unless you are prepared to protect them should an unusually stiff cold snap occur.

And let us not forget, the biggest prerequisite to planting is whether you and your site are ready for the safe establishment of your new “baby” plants. If you have deer are you ready to fence? Or is your irrigation system in place? If you put the “cart before the horse”, as I’ve done many times, be prepared to hustle. It surely is no fun losing an exciting new plant addition. On the other hand the greatest way to guarantee failing to materialize your dream of an abundant and fruitful landscape is to be too cautious and not plant at all. After all the only way to develop a “green thumb” is to keep on planting and not let a setback (or fear of) getting in your way. Happy planting!

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