Posts

Native Trees to Plant this Fall

Fall is here, and now is the best time of year to plant trees. This year, we are celebrating our native trees, which not only offer beautiful fall foliage, but also provide a variety of fruits and seeds at this time of year that are an excellent source of nutrition for our local birds and wildlife. If you are interested in supporting our environment, planting a native tree is a great way to do so.

Here are some of our favorites that you can plant to support your local wildlife and ecology.

Oaks

Quercus alba (White Oak), Q. bicolor (Swamp White Oak), Q. coccinea (Scarlet Oak), Q. macrocarpa (Bur Oak), Q. palustris (Pin Oak), Q. phellos (Willow Oak), Q. rubra (Northern Red Oak)

These natives are a staple of our local environment, with a massive canopy and root system, they produce a lot of oxygen and sequester a lot of carbon. Oaks support over 500 species of moths and butterflies, in addition to the mammals and birds that eat buds, pollen, acorns, and insects that live in the tree. With many types of oaks available, there is an oak to fit any environment, no matter your local conditions.

Blackgum Fall Foliage

Blackgum

Nyssa sylvatica

These durable trees can flourish in tough environments. We have one growing in the back parking lot at our Fair Oaks location that has thrived even in the heavily trafficked area where it is planted. While we can appreciate the attractive fall foliage, the birds and insects will flock to the tree for its flowers and later, its fruits.

Eastern Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana

These drought-tolerant evergreens serve as a wonderful resource for birds, providing food and winter shelter to cedar waxwings and a wide variety of other local birds. What we commonly refer to as juniper berries are actually small female cones. Male trees develop a gold tint as their cones form at the ends of the tree branches. Many of our local wildlife species winter in stands of eastern red cedars in our region. Ornamentally, these make excellent screening plants. Shrub form and columnar forms are available in cultivated forms.

River Birch

Betula nigra

These relatively fast-growing trees can thrive in poor soils, wet soils and a variety of and even dry or compact soils. We know them best for their signature exfoliating bark. When in bloom, these trees attract a wide variety of insects and birds to feed before the leaves develop. Their fall foliage is yellow. Look for them locally in Great Falls Park.

Serviceberry

Amelanchier laevis

This small tree, also known as the Juneberry, is a vital species that provides an early source for nectar for bees when the weather is still warming up. The fruits arrive in June, and taste like blueberries – if you can get them before the birds do. Birds will flock to the fruits. In the fall, we can enjoy the bright foliage.

Maples

Acer rubrum (Red Maple) and Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple)

Maples are well known for their beautiful fall color, but they also produce blooms which are highly important for local wildlife in the spring. Red maples produce red flowers, and sugar maple flowers come in a yellow color. Once the flowers are done, local wildlife will come for the samaras, which are high protein, high fat seeds.

Sweetbay Magnolia, Tree, Native

Sweetbay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

This native is a great choice if you are dealing with poor quality soil or drainage issues. You will find them locally along woodland creek banks. Fragrant white blooms attract pollinators, and their red seeds attract wildlife as well. Since these plants are semi-evergreen, in a normal or mild winter they will retain 60-70% of their foliage, so you can use them as a native screening plant if you want something in the 10-15 ft. range that needs to handle poor soils.

Fall Vegetables - Carrots and Lettuce

Starting Your Fall Seeds

The midsummer heat is here and our warm season vegetables are maturing and providing delicious edibles. The summer growing season will be winding down soon, but we can continue to enjoy delicious, fresh vegetables from our garden by planting cool season vegetable seeds now!

Plant your fall vegetable gardens in a raised bed, directly into your garden, or in containers. Some need to be planted as soon as possible, others may be planted every two or three weeks now through September.

Step 1: Select your seeds

Fall is a great time to plant kale, cabbage, collard greens, carrots, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, bok choy and turnips.

Step 2: Review the planting directions for all seed types

Read the back of each seed packet before planting to check for information on spacing, depth, and time to plant before the first frost. While overall planting methods are similar for most seeds, these particular details vary and are vital to the health and success of your vegetable garden.

Step 3: Gather your supplies

I use a shovel and hoe to plant my seeds, but you can also use a small trowel if you are planting in a small space. You will also need Leafgro or other organic material compost, fertilizer (I use Garden-tone or Plant-tone), and of course, your seed packets. I suggest using a watering wand for watering, though you can lightly water your seeds with a garden hose if you are careful.

Step 4: Prepare your soil

Before sowing your seeds, apply Leafgro or another organic compost of your choice (2”) and add an organic fertilizer such as Garden-tone or Plant-tone. Mix into the soil along the areas where you will be planting.

Step 5: Sow vegetable seeds

To sow your seeds, make a groove in the soil to the depth indicated on your seed packet. Sow seeds along the groove at the spacing indicated on your seed packets, then cover with soil. Finally, gently water the seeds using a watering wand or gentle spray of the hose.

Step 6: Mulch between rows

Mulching between the rows will reduce weeds and watering. The method which works best for me is to place several layers of newspapers between the rows of plants, spray them down with water, then mulch over the newspapers.

Step 7: Maintain garden space by watering and weeding

Keep your soil moist by watering regularly and pulling any weeds that appear. In time, your seeds will grow into delicious organic vegetables! You can extend the season through October and even into December if you use floating row covers if heavy frost threatens.

Portfolio Items