By Charlotte Pitt
October is a time for celebrating many things; the coming of fall, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Halloween, and the City of Richmond Arbor Day! Every year the City of Richmond recognizes the third Wednesday of October as the city’s Arbor Day, and in honor of this day they raise awareness for the importance of trees and host a celebration and planting event in collaboration with Groundwork Richmond. Trees are very valuable, especially in urban areas, as they not only provide food and habitat for local pollinators and other animals, but also provide shade, ground stabilization, carbon sequestration, food for humans, and a splash of natural beauty in concrete jungles. October is a busy month for tree care, as the cool weather signals a shift in the seasons and means it is time for planting, pruning, harvesting, and a change in watering and fertilizing schedules.
October is a great time for planting trees, especially California native trees such as Redwoods, as the colder weather and increased chance of rain provides the ideal growing conditions for a new plant. The process of being planted puts a lot of strain on the tree, and the cooler, wetter conditions are less stressful on the plant, thus making it more likely to survive being planted. These conditions also promote better establishment of new plants, and make them healthier in the long run. Depending on the amount of rainfall, the cooler weather can even promote new growth on California native trees that become active during the winter months. For planting trees, it is recommended to dig a hole that is wider and deeper than the pot the tree is currently in, or the size of the root ball if it’s a bare root tree, so the entirety of the existing soil/root ball can be buried in the new soil. Mixing the native soil (the soil dug out of the ground) with compost and then filling the hole so the old soil is completely covered is also beneficial, as the compost will improve the health of the soil and provide nutrients for the tree. After the tree has been planted, spreading mulch such as wood chips, fallen leaves, lawn clippings, straw, or other green materials is also helpful as it increases the moisture in the soil for the trees. Pine needles are an especially good mulch for citrus trees and other acid loving trees, but aren’t recommended for use as a mulch for other trees.
Newly planted trees should be watered deeply immediately after planting, and then watered deeply once a day for the first week proceeding planting. Following the first week, newly planted trees should be watered deeply once a week every month without rain, and established trees should be deeply watered once a month every month without rain. Neither new or established trees need to be fertilized at this time of year as most trees are going dormant, and active California native trees do not require fertilizer as they are adapted to native soil nutrient levels. Mulching is also recommended for established trees, and can be done in October as well as year round. Along with increasing soil moisture levels, the mulch also provides nutrients for the plant as it decomposes over time.
Established trees can also be pruned this time of year, with the focus being on any dead parts or anything damaged by the intense summer sun. Citrus and fruit trees can also be pruned of any unwanted sprouts coming from the stem or other areas of the plant. October is also a month of bountiful harvest, with persimmons, pomegranates, apples, pears, almonds, walnuts, and olives all ripening this time of year. However, it is important to be wary of the effects wildfires can have on your garden and your harvest. It’s important to wash any produce well before eating, as while the produce itself is safe, the particles from the smoke, which can contain chemicals and other debris, can build up on the surface of the fruit. Thankfully, eating fresh produce improves your health and resilience to stress and chemicals so it is still beneficial to grow and eat your own food!
While growing fruit trees is important to provide fresh produce for yourself, family, and friends, it is also important to grow California native trees to provide food and habitat for native pollinators and wildlife. This includes bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and many other insect, bird, and small mammal species. California native trees are also easy to care for as they are drought tolerant and require no fertilizer or soil amendment, and in addition they provide a touch of natural beauty to your yard and home. Maples are an excellent California native addition to any landscape as they add a touch of seasonal beauty with their leaves changing color from green to yellow, orange, and brown in the fall. This October, celebrate Arbor Day and the importance of trees by planting and caring for them in your watershed!
If you’re curious, here is more information on Produce Safety After a Fire.