Why Late Fall and Early Winter Are Best for Tree Planting in Nashville, TN

As the days grow shorter and temperatures start to drop, you might be thinking that your work on your landscaping can take a nice long pause when the weather’s cold. While it might sound counter-intuitive, many arborists recommend planting trees in the late fall and early winter over any other time of year. Here are the primary reasons this season works best for planting trees in Nashville.

Why Tree Planting in Nashville, TN is Optimal in Late Fall and Early Winter

Soil Temperature

Optimal tree planting in Nashville is different from other regions in the country, and that’s important to note. Depending on the climate of an area, late fall might not be ideal for different areas. Here in Nashville, we don’t usually see a frost or a rare snowfall until winter is in full swing. Soil temperature during late fall into early winter in our region is ideal for planting trees. Soil temperatures take much longer to lower than outside air temperatures, and that’s especially true in lawns with healthy grass and turf. Soil holds onto heat much better than air, so it is usually warmer than the harshest winter days. As November rolls around, soil temperatures in Nashville are still a bit above that 50-degree threshold, meaning it’s almost perfect. The reasons for this temperature being ideal are many. For deciduous trees especially, newly implanted roots grow their best in temperate soil. Deciduous trees are trees that foliate and defoliate each year, meaning they lose their leaves each fall and grow new ones in the spring.

Can you plant trees in the winter? In Nashville, you can! But just because it’s early winter doesn’t mean it’s always the right time. We are no strangers to cold snaps that drop temperatures below the safe threshold for planting. If soil temperature is too low, new roots will not be able to move freely beneath the soil. Roots are tough, but their leading ends are small, making them weak against frozen soil. Not only does frost make expansion impossible — it can also kill premature roots that are just developing. When it comes to planting evergreen trees, you need to start the process a bit earlier, as these trees need a soil temperature of 60 degrees.

Not every tree is the same, and each has its own quirks. It’s important to research the types of trees you’re looking to plant before it’s too late so that they have the best odds of flourishing this spring. Working with a certified arborist is a great way to make sure you’re giving your tree the healthiest start this winter. The Parke Company can help, as we’ve been servicing Nashville clients with new trees and other landscaping services for years.

Moisture Levels

Winter and fall are usually considerably less wet than spring and summer in Nashville, and that’s a good thing for saplings. While trees do need water at all times, a little can go a long way when the temperatures are cooler. Planting trees in fall ensures that your tree is getting the moisture it needs, without a high risk of too much rainfall. While you can’t predict the weather, climate trends going back decades suggest that the optimal time to plant trees in Nashville is in the late fall and early winter. If a new tree gets too much water, it can actually become overhydrated, or even fail to take root entirely. In the spring, when rainfall is heaviest, the soil can become a breeding ground for fungal growth and other diseases in trees, both old and new.

Planting trees in winter is a safe way to prevent this issue, as lower temperatures keep fungal growth to a minimum, even in the soil which is considerably warmer than the air above it. Winter is a drier time of year, and new trees need that from their new homes.

Lower Stress

Trees experience stress a bit differently than people. While a tree doesn’t worry about taxes, they do need to contend with different levels of environmental factors that can cause them stress. In trees and other plants, stress refers to anything that can negatively impact growth. The act of transplanting a sapling is a very stressful act for a tree, so it needs to have as few external stressors as possible. So, not only can you plant trees in the winter — you also should for many reasons, stress reduction being chief among them.

A new tree needs to spread its roots out as quickly as possible in order to get the nutrients it needs and establish a sturdy foundation. Since winter is a dormant time of year for trees above the ground, they don’t need to focus nutritional resources on maintaining their foliage and growing new leaves. This gives the roots that much more energy and focus, which is what a new tree needs most. Pests and insects are other environmental stressors that can kill a new tree relatively easily. While mature trees have the ability to coexist with many native insects and animals, that isn’t the case for saplings. These young trees need to invest their energy and nutrients into establishing a solid root system before they can be expected to handle external stressors. That makes the winter a perfect time for a tree to get this done. Planting your trees when the weather is cool ensures almost no insects will bother them, as they are dormant during the winter. Animals are likewise stocking up or hibernating during the cold season, meaning they aren’t out in your yard looking for food – they already have it.

Time to Plant?

There are many reasons for late fall and early winter being the best time of year to plant a tree in Nashville, and the explanations outlined above are the key takeaways. It’s certainly a good idea to invest more time and research into optimal tree planting times, however, so give us a call at The Parke Company for a free consultation and estimate on your landscaping needs this fall.