Planting trees in San Antonio is rewarding for a multitude of reasons. They offer homes shade and well-needed protection from the harsh Texas sun. Trees offer a gorgeous focal point to landscapes. And planting trees can also offer a chance to grow fruit and nuts. With all of these great reasons for planting trees, why not make it one of your gardening projects this fall? Rainbow Gardens urges you to incorporate these majestic beauties into your landscape. Read on to see how easy it is to plant trees in San Antonio, TX.
Timing: In San Antonio, the best time to plant is in fall. This allows your trees to establish roots all through winter. Your trees get 6 months to take up moisture and nutrients before the heat from our San Antonio summers blaze in. In summer, moisture from the soil is directed to the plant parts above ground. So it’s not so much the cold we worry about when planting trees here in San Antonio. It’s the summer heat! (If planting tropical fruit trees or citrus, you’ll need protect in lieu of a freeze.)
Tree Choice: We have tons of tree options at Rainbow Gardens, so it’s important you research which tree is right for your needs. Be mindful of the height and width of the tree at maturity. If you don’t, you’ll be pruning the tree nonstop to keep it smaller than it really wants to be. Where are you planning to plant your trees? Are there walkways, windows, and other features that might be affected when the tree is mature? Native trees are a great choice for San Antonio. You’ll have less maintenance with these trees because they’ll be growing in the environment they long to be in. Planting native contributes to rebuilding San Antonio’s natural ecosystem and feeds our native wildlife.
Soil: Our limestone soil in San Antonio can be pretty rough to plant in. Rainbow Gardens suggests amending your native soil. This way your trees will start off growing in nutrient-rich matter. To amend, you’ll dig out the native soil from the hole you will be planting your tree in and set it to the side. Next, add soil conditioner or living mulch at a ratio of 2/3 native soil to 1/3 soil conditioner/living mulch. Mix it all up and this is what you will use to back fill your hole once you have placed your tree.
Digging: Depth and width are very important to remember when planting trees. For the correct depth, dig a hole only as deep as the root collar of the tree. The root collar is the area where the the roots join the main trunk. This is usually identified as the top of the soil line of your tree when it’s in the nursery container. If you see extra inches of soil on top of the root collar, simply remove it. Planting trees too deeply is one of the biggest reasons tree transplants die. For the proper width, dig a hole 2 times as wide as the root ball. This space allows for fast regeneration of the root system of your tree.
Planting and Filling: Gently remove your tree from its container, trying to keep the roots undisturbed. Place your tree in the hole, with the trunk perpendicular to the ground. Begin filling the hole with your soil mixture, firming the soil as you work, keeping your tree as upright as you can.
After your tree is firmly planted, create a 4″ high berm around the tree with shredded mulch. (Garden-Ville Living Mulch, Hardwood Mulch or pine bark mulch are great because they organically break down and add nutrients to the soil.) A berm looks like a doughnut around the base of the tree. Do not put the mulch up against the trunk. This causes rot and eventual death. The berm will aid in controlling moisture and soil temperature (desperately needed through our San Antonio summers). It also aids in weed suppression, and protects your tree against damage from lawn mowers and edgers.
Watering: Immediately after planting your tree, fill the berm with water to settle the soil. Newly planted trees need about an inch and a half of water (25 gallons) weekly, either by rainfall or by you with the hose. Usually 30 seconds of a steady stream is sufficient, dispersing the water around the tree to all of the roots. It’s best to check regularly to see if your tree actually needs watering. Do this by pulling back the mulch and feeling the soil underneath. If it’s warm and dry, go ahead and water, if it’s cool and moist, check back in a couple of days. During hotter months, you may need to check more frequently.
Both under watering and over watering can be damaging. But by watering in incremental amounts, you “wean” your tree off of being dependent on you for water. You are “teaching” the roots to become dependent on natural rainfall. It can take 1-2 years for your tree to be completely established. See why planting trees in San Antonio during fall is a great idea? More chances of rain! Our dry summers make it difficult to get appropriate amounts of water to our plants.
Fertilization: We have great success planting trees with our agriform tablets. These tablets will slowly release nutrients over a period of 6 months. Push a few tablets into the soil around the root ball to get started. You can supplement with fertilizer specified for trees and shrubs 6 months to a year after planting trees.
A quick word on staking trees: Most trees don’t need staking. But if your trees will be planted on slopes or exposed to high winds, you can stake your tree to offer support. However, do so loosely. Your tree should be able to sway naturally with the wind which creates stronger roots. See our Tree and Shrub Planting Guide for more info.