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Mother Nature is what holds up nurseries in complying with a grower’s wish to purchase trees for fall planting, says a Pacific Northwest nurseryman.

“Mother Nature is what determines if we can deliver trees in November or early December,” said Jack Snyder, president of C & O Nursery in Wenatchee, Washington. “Once the trees go dormant, which is usually in November, we can get them dug and delivered, but we have to wait to get them into dormancy.”

He noted that some of their customers do want trees for fall planting, and they supply them when they can. However, there is a risk if the trees encounter subzero temperatures during the winter.

“We do have a few growers who want to jump the gun and get trees in the ground early. But what happens if we get 20 degrees [Fahrenheit] below zero later in the winter? If the trees are planted in the fall, they will be dead.”

Winter temperatures during the last ten years have been relatively mild, he said. “When the subzero temperatures hit again, the cold will kill all the fall-planted trees.”

Gamble

Trees that are planted in the fall come without a warranty or guarantee from the nursery because of the potential for subzero temperatures, Snyder explained. “The nurseries can’t have all the gamble just on their side.”

He said that once the nursery trees reach dormancy, there is about a two- to three-week window in late fall for growers to plant. When dormancy is achieved, all of the nursery trees are dug out and brought in from the field for grading and storage.

Delivery time to the grower could be shortened, Snyder said, if the grower met the nursery in the field as the trees are dug and picked up the trees right then, but planting stock would not be graded.

Snyder added that they can do anything their customers want, but that when it comes to fall planting, nature is also a player and must cooperate with their efforts.