Fall is the ideal time to plant shade trees


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 3, 2022

With moderate temperatures and sufficient ground moisture, fall is a great time to plant shade trees, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said in a press release on Oct. 18. Planting in the fall gives trees extra growing time before hot summer days, and fall’s cooler temperatures allow trees to form their roots. 

“Properly planted trees will have a better opportunity for a long healthy life,” Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh said. “Improperly planted trees can become stressed more easily or may look otherwise healthy, but then suddenly die in the first 10 to 20 years after planting.”

The Iowa DNR offers tips to keep shade trees healthy with a long life. 

  • Put additional soil far from the top of the root ball — the main mass of roots at the base of a plant — to identify the first primary lateral root before digging the hole.
  • The depth of the planting hole can be measured by the distance above the first lateral root to the bottom of the root ball. Health issues can arise if a hole is dug too deep. 
  • Remove roots growing around the root ball, as well as any roots on the bottom of the root ball. 
  • Dig the planting hole at least twice the width of the root ball. 
  • Use the soil from the initial hole to refill around the roots of the tree. 
  • Water the planting hole to settle the soil. Keep watering the expanding root system as the tree grows.

On The Radio – Leaves drop early due to fall drought


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Some leaves in Iowa fell to the ground before changing color this year due to drought. (Liz West/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | October 9, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how drought conditions in late September pushed some trees into early dormancy.

Transcript: Tree leaves in Iowa began changing colors and falling to the ground earlier than usual this year due to drought conditions.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Leaf color change is closely tied to weather conditions. During the last week of September, the U.S. Drought Portal reported that about thirty percent of Iowa was experiencing abnormally dry conditions and about twenty-five percent of the state was in a moderate drought.

Officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources explained that if trees do not have enough moisture, they can be pushed into dormancy earlier than usual. As a result, many leaves died and fell from trees before they bursted into autumn’s hues of red, yellow and orange this year.

In a typical year, leaves change color in northern Iowa between the last week of September and the second week of October, from the first to third weeks of October in central Iowa and from the second to fourth weeks of October in southern Iowa.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Leaves drop early due to fall drought


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Vibrant fall leaf colors may be missing in some parts of Iowa this year due to drought conditions. (Ashley Webb/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | September 26, 2017

Tree leaves in Iowa began changing colors and falling to the ground earlier than usual this year due to drought conditions.

Leaf color change has a lot to do with weather conditions, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The U.S. Drought Portal reveals that about thirty percent of Iowa is currently seeing abnormally dry conditions and about twenty-five percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought.

Kandyce Weigel is the administrative assistant of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ State Forest Nursery. She told the Des Moines Register, “When they (trees) don’t have enough moisture, they’ll start to go into dormancy. They need moisture and they need cool nights. And usually, the light change — when we have less light as the days get shorter — that cues them to change, too. But that dryness is cuing them to push into dormancy earlier.”

In a typical year, leaves change color in northern Iowa between the last week of September and the second week of October, from the first to third weeks of October in central Iowa and from the second week through the end of October in southern Iowa.

Unfortunately, dry conditions cause leaves to die and fall from trees before they burst into autumn’s hues of red, yellow and orange.