It may seem a little unnatural adding plants to your landscape during the Fall, especially if you’re in a region that has cold winters. Many homeowners fear their new plants might not make it through the winter months. But Fall planting actually has a lot of benefits.
Fall Planting Benefits
1. Less Stress on Plants- Cooler temps and less intense sun make fall planting ideal. A lot of people think Fall planting is too close to the winter and fear that a new plant won’t survive the harsh winter conditions. But it’s actually summer that is a much more stressful time for plants. During the winter months plants head into a dormant state in colder regions (zones) where they require little to no care.
2. Longest Time to Establish Before Next Summer– Since summer is the most stressful time for plants, it’s best to allow them to get established in the ground as much as possible before facing their first summer in the landscape. Fall planting gives plants the most amount of time to establish before the next summer.
3. Less Watering Needs– There’s usually more rain in Fall which means you don’t have to irrigate new plantings as much. Also, less intense sun and cooler soil temps allows soil to retain moisture.
4. Great Deals– Some of the best plant deals pop up in the Fall. Garden centers and big box stores are looking to clear out their plant inventory to make way for their seasonal inventory. While plenty of plants may look tired and neglected, there are still plenty of good buys out there. Take a look at these Arborvitae I saw 50% off at Home Depot:
Definitely not a bad deal. Sometimes you can get additional discounts by buying in bulk and contacting the sales manager.
5. Focus on Root Growth– In the Fall, plants change how they focus their energy. They focus more on root development rather than pumping out leaf growth. This means new plantings in the Fall can get right to work where it matters the most, in the ground. In just a couple of weeks a lot of plants can send out a decent amount of little anchor roots to help keep the plant sturdy. Earlier Fall planting allows more time for roots to develop than late fall planting, but don’t let that stop you from planting late into Fall. As long as the ground is workable, your plant is good to go into the ground. Even if it doesn’t have time to put on root growth, it will head into dormancy and wake up in the spring.
6. Less Fungus and Pest Problems– Usually fungus and pest problems fade in the Fall. Another reason why Fall planting is less maintenance.
7. Less Yard Chores– Most homeowners find that they have more time in the Fall. Other duties around the yard such as lawn mowing, pool maintenance, and other gardening chores come to an end which makes more time for planting.
Fall Planting Tips
1. Early Fall Is Best But Not a Deal Breaker– If possible try and plant towards the beginning of Fall. The longer plants have to get established the better. This allows little anchor roots to develop and attach to nearby soil. This provides stability and makes it easier for the plant to drink and take in nutrients. But if early Fall planting isn’t an option don’t be afraid to plant late into the season. Even a completely dormant plant in the ground should be ok during the winter months. In the spring when soil temps warm the plant will break out of dormancy under very natural conditions.
2. You Should Still Water, Especially Evergreens– Even though much less water is required when establishing plants in the Fall, it’s still important to give them some water, especially right after planting. Watering plants directly at the base will make sure that the soil compacts around the roots making good contact. It’s also important that plants take in as much water now so they can store it over the winter months. This is especially important in preventing winter burn with evergreens.
3. Use Caution with Perennials– While most shrubs and trees are safe to plant late into fall, use caution when planting perennials, especially small ones. If you plant too late they won’t have time to get established and frost can get in the plant and kill it. Also, the freeze thaw cycles can cause heaves along the soil surface and actually heave the perennial out of the ground.
4. No Pruning– Don’t prune shrubs and trees in the fall. When you prune, you leave an open wound which can let in frost and kill large sections of the plant, if not the entire plant. Late winter and early spring pruning is much safer, when the threat of frost is gone.
5. Cover Base with Mulch– Mulching around new plants is always a great way to add winter protection and keep soil moist.
6. Unbound Roots– Usually by Fall, plants that have been in containers have been there for awhile. Their roots usually begin to circle round the inside of the plastic container. This is a rootbound plant and if you plant as is, it has a high probability of dying or underperforming. Use your fingers or a small garden tool to rake out the roots so they aren’t circling the plant.
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