I can't tell you how late you can plant for your area - much depends on your
first hard frosts and how deeply the soil freezes in winter and the amount of
precipitation. In my neck of the woods, fall planting is de rigeur - the
temperatures are cool and mild, we seldom have hard frosts and winter ground
freeze and we always have adequate fall rains. Fall planting allows trees and
shrubs to establish root systems over winter, giving them a head start on
spring planted items. They can take advantage of the natural irrigation from
fall and winter rains and thus become less sensitive to summer heat and drought
than newly planted spring material. This is a pretty abbreviated explanation,
but if weather permits, fall planting is always recommended as conditions are
more favorable to the plants becoming established rapidly.
'Topsoil' is a pretty generic term - it could be anything from scrapings from
the nearest new development to an actual soil mix prepared by a landscape
supplier. A good quality soil mix should not harden over winter. OTOH, one
should not leave soil additions in layers - ie., a layer of native soil, topped
by a layer of "topsoil", followed by a layer of mulch. This tend to impede
drainage. Better to incorporate your additions into the native soil by tilling,
preferrably a couple of weeks before planting so that the newly tilled soil has
time to settle. Mulch typically is considered a top dressing, so depending on
what is used, you can rake off and save for reuse before tilling or incorporate
into the mix when you till and reapply with fresh material. I mulch with a
compost product - this is a great additive for any soil improvement project as
well as an excellent moisture retentive and fertile mulch.
pam - gardengal
Six weeks before the date that the ground freezes; that's
typically the end of October. The mulch should keep the topsoil
friable; but it's not likely to do much for the clay underneath.
It's better to plant in the fall because the bush / tree has an
opportunity to get it's roots established before it needs to
start supporting leaves.
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