RIGHT NOW!! Seriously though, the very best time is as soon as you can. There is not a minute to waste. If you have the time and the inclination don’t let anything else stop you.
I am often asked when is the best time. Most of us tend to be “time poor” so it stands to reason that as soon as the things you need are together (that is time and plants), it will rarely be perfect planting weather and/or time of year.
The sorts of things that do need to happen are the basics. Moist soil or even muddy soil is fine, a bit of fertiliser to suit the plants you are using, a spade, plants “hardened off” and a bit of time.
The state of the plants themselves is quite critical especially if extreme temperatures are expected (and expect the unexpected!). I have planted in 47 deg. C with no problem and likewise, just before severe frost without undue problems. Why? you ask. By making sure that the plants used have been fully hardened off. Plants are not ready to plant if they are too “soft”. This is very much a relative term. If the plant normally is as tough as old boots to handle anything other than this is too soft. Quite literally it will feel and look soft. If the plant normally has a softer texture to it then if an individual specimen is softer than normal, it too would be considered too soft to plant. For very hardy local species, it can take around two months for plants to harden up for field conditions. However, if you decide to store them in part shade even for a couple of days this will be enough for them to become “soft”.
If you are going to hand water your plants, dig your hole, fill it with water and go and have smoko.
If you are installing a drip system do it before you plant. This enables you to set it up without worrying about young plants in the way and you can wet the soil up before you plant. Drop the fertiliser in the hole, remove the tube or pot off the plant, back fill and water in. In most soils around 40 to 50 litres of water for an initial watering is required and for dry land plants around monthly watering with the same amount is usually enough.
There are two big ifs. IF you maintain good weed control and IF there isn’t a high level competition from existing plants. Keep in mind that a large tree thirty metres away can draw huge amounts of moisture away from your new plants.
The weed control can be maintained in many ways but it must be done for a good result. As for undue competition,try deep ripping and or supply additional watering.
So the best time to plant is right now, with the right plants and right advice.
This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © February 11, 2010.