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Old 27-10-2003, 10:12 PM
Earl Buchan
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Default Fall planting: should you fertilize now? - A PlantMan Article.

The crisp weather... the golden leaves swirling in sudden gusts of
chill breezes. Yes: fall is definitely here, and for landscapers and
gardeners, this is that special time when we devote our outdoor time
to planting... with visions of spring and summer blooms dancing in our

Fall always brings a flurry of questions from readers of this column.
I try to answer all questions and comments via e-mail within 24 hours
or so, and then select some of them from time to time for publication
here. If you have a question or need some help with trees, shrubs or
landscaping, you can reach me at

QUESTION: "We're in the middle of fall planting and we have a
question. Should we fertilize as we plant?" M & P.

ANSWER: In my opinion, there is really no reason to fertilize in the
fall since the sap is ready to go down and the plant is preparing to
go into dormancy. However, it is an excellent time to build up the
soil around the plant by mixing potash, compost or other organic
matter into the soil. Don't just pile it up next to the trunk however.
Reason: It could possibly "burn" the plant or attract unwelcome bugs.

QUESTION: "We really enjoy your column. I have a question about trees
for you. I am looking for a tree to shade a patio. I was thinking
about an ash, either green or purple. My dad has an ash, I think it's
a green ash and it did great for about 20 years. Now it breaks limbs
every time it storms. So I'm unsure about planting an ash. I want
something fairly hardy, able to withstand storms, as I don't want
branches falling on my house. Any ideas would be appreciated." Pete
& Tracy K.

ANSWER: The Ash is a fast grower but is now getting a disease that was
brought over from China. This tree I'm afraid seems to be going the
same way as the Elm about 40 years ago.

I have to ask: Why do you want such a large tree by your patio? Of
course there are several choices in large trees that will fit the
bill. The one that I would recommend is the fast growing Red Maple
"Autumn Blaze" . Once established it grows about 5 foot a year yet it
is a strong tree. You can plant a 3-5 foot tree and expect it to be 14
foot tall and about 2 to 3 inch caliper in about three years. I have
an alternative suggestion to either Ash or Maple. There are other
patio trees that will still provide good shade if trimmed properly
like the forest pansy red bud or any of the flowering cherry trees
like the ones seen in DC during cherry blossom festival time.

QUESTION: "We recently moved to the Midwest. Can we safely plant in
the fall?" Jerry M.

ANSWER: Yes! Even though the tree or shrub is is going dormant, the
roots will continue to grow as long as the soil is warm. As a rule of
thumb, you can plant August - October in cold climates, September -
October in mild climates, and October - November in warm climates.

The roots will become well established by spring. Generally,
spring-planted plants grow more slowly than fall-planted plants
because the plant focuses on its roots rather than top growth. If you
can plant and still have about six weeks before the ground starts
freezing, then you can safely fall-plant. Remember to mulch quite
generously around the base of the plant.

QUESTION: "What can I use on a sloped area that tends to wash away? It
is now full of weeds. Can I plant some type of vegetation that will
look nice? There are many ruts so it's impossible to mow. I'm looking
for something that is economical and requires little or no
maintenance! Thanks for any help." Pat

ANSWER: Unfortunately you will have to level the soil and start over
with a "clean palette" to work with. I believe the ruts will only get
larger even with vegetation around them. Once you get the area in good
shape you can use any kind of groundcover that thrives in your zone.
There are several archived "Plant Man" columns on groundcover at my
web site, or send me another e-mail with some
specific details about your location, amount of shade, etc, and I'll
give you some suggestions.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit where you can also subscribe to Steve's
free e-mailed newsletter.

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