Autumn has a reputation as the season for letting things go – as trees shed their golden leaves onto the ground. 

But don’t be fooled, it’s also a time for new beginnings. 

Autumn is actually the perfect time to plant baby trees. We can’t let spring get all the credit for new life!

Yes, it’s true that spring works very well for planting; but you’ll be pleased to know that young trees (seedlings, saplings or shrubs) also thrive in mild Autumn conditions.

Here’s why you should consider planting trees in autumn

In autumn, the best time to plant new trees is after you see the leaves on established trees start to drop. If you live in a very cold region, make sure you do this after the first hard frost and before the ground freezes solid.

Why do baby trees love autumn (or fall) so much?

Plants go dormant when the weather is cool, to conserve energy. Autumn air temperature is just right (not too cold), which keeps the soil warm enough to give your tree the best start to life before the mercury rises in summer. Young trees can focus on developing vital root systems, without dealing with the stress of high temperatures or harsh winters.

During the reprieve of autumn, young trees have the perfect conditions to establish robust roots that will actually help them to thrive later in life – even in the face of scorching heat, drought or the bracing cold.

There’s less maintenance from you too, as dormant plants don’t require extra care as they sleep (or hibernate). You can get away with far less watering, especially if it rains a lot. Not only does this save water, it also gives you more time to focus on other priorities.

Another benefit is that autumn gives your fragile young tree the time to get established in its environment, before being crowded out by weeds that tend to grow very quickly in summer (sometimes to the point of taking over the area)!

Finally – be a little selfish and think of your own needs.  

Wouldn’t you rather be outside digging your hands into soil when the weather is mild and you’re surrounded by a carpet of golden leaves that have fallen from surrounding trees? 

How beautiful.

Believe me, this is far more pleasant than working up a sweat in sweltering summer temperatures, or freezing in the cold of winter. The soil is easier to dig too!

What kind of trees are good to plant in autumn in Australia?

Many deciduous and native trees cope well with being planted in autumn. This season is also great for planting fruit trees such as citrus, apples, figs, plums, avocado and more. There’s no hard and fast rule, as long as the tree species can tolerate cool conditions (most can). 

Choose hardy varieties that are suited to your growing zone. You can ask your local nursery about trees that grow best in your area (your arborist will also know – trees are our passion after all)!

If you’re purchasing a young tree after a long summer, examine it carefully to make sure it hasn’t been damaged by the heat of the previous season. 

And a word of advice about selecting fruit trees: choose compatible varieties that can pollinate each other to produce fruit, or look for self-fertile varieties (like citrus and peach) that don’t need a partner tree to produce fruit.

A few tips for planting trees in autumn (or any season):

Soil is everything, so get this right.

You can’t have a healthy tree without healthy soil. Put some effort into improving your soil before you plant the tree. It’s important to have soil that’s rich in organic matter, to attract earthworms and beneficial microorganisms. 

If you make your own compost or worm castings, then perfect, go ahead and mix the finished compost into your soil (at any time). 

You can even bury food scraps deep into the soil that you want to plant in (at least a few months before planting the tree). This will break down in a few months to nourish the soil (don’t bury dairy, eggs or meat if you don’t want critters in your backyard). 

Alternatively, mix a fertiliser specifically for trees into the soil before planting and every 6 to 8 weeks after that. Yates Dynamic Litter is one option. 

Mulch is your ally:

Mulch suppresses weeds, retains moisture and nourishes the soil, while also protecting soil from extreme temperatures.

Surround the base of your tree with two to three inches of mulch, but don’t go too close to the trunk (leave a gap). Use a chunky mulch such as wood chips or shredded sugar cane. If you don’t have any mulch on hand, you can even use leaves that have been roughly shredded (so that nutrients, air and water can easily penetrate the soil).

Make sure the space around you is suitable for planting a tree

Is the space around you suitable for the tree you want to grow? Plant your tree in a position that receives the ideal amount of sunlight, shade and moisture for that species. Avoid getting too close to utility lines, water pipes and other structures. Remember that tree roots are very powerful and can even damage concrete over time.

Do you need to consider any regulations when planting your tree?

Don’t plant any invasive or noxious trees on your property, as this isn’t permitted by government. 

Browse this website if you want to find out more about invasive trees and plants in NSW. You can look for a particular tree using the search tool, or browse the alphabetised catalogue.

Here’s a list of some of the most poisonous plants in Australia (find more information here too).

For urban areas, you generally don’t need council approval for planting a tree on private property. However, you may need to get council approval if planting a tree in a rural zone, depending on the area you live in (here’s advice from Cessnock council, as an example).

Finally, avoid tree species that are vulnerable to pests and diseases in your area. An experienced arborist can give you more information about this, if you’re uncertain. It’s our job to help people to safely add trees to their property, and we also work closely with local councils to make sure that laws are abided. 

Sydney Tree Company has 20 years of experience:

Our qualified arborists handle everything from tree surgery and removals, to pruning and property care. We advise you on the best course of action and even provide advice on introducing new trees to your property. 

Contact us on 0431 732 265 to request a free quote, or let us know if you have any questions.

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