Just because it has been hot and humid well into September, don’t let that fool you. Fall is just about here and it’s a great time for planting.
Autumn generally has optimal conditions for root development: warm days and cool nights. All plants need sufficient water after planting, but usually the cooler nights and more frequent rain (we hope!) of September and October mean we don’t have to water as often. Here are some simple steps to achieve great results with fall planting:
- Determine what types of plants your landscape needs before you go shopping (or come in for a consultation with our landscape design experts). Do you have enough evergreens for winter cover for the birds and other wildlife? Do you have a period when there is a gap in blooming? Do you need more pollinator plants in early spring and late fall? September is a good time to find native grasses and late blooming perennials like asters and sunflowers.
Plant early in the fall. Most plants (including shrubs and perennials) should go into the ground at least six weeks before hard frost occurs. With climate change, that date has become something of a moving target. And although it is unusual, the tri-state region has had two severe snowstorms in late October. Plant now to avoid an unpleasant October surprise.
- Use compost rather than fertilizer when planting. Chemical fertilizers have salts that can rob the soil of moisture. Using compost, with its millions of microorganisms will make your ‘living’ soil happy naturally.
- Mulch after planting to retain soil moisture and to moderate soil temperature. As winter weather develops, freezing temperatures can cause the soil to expand and contract. “Frost heave” can result, pushing smaller plants out of the ground. To help moderate soil temperature, add two to three inches of good quality organic mulch around plants after planting. For plants that like a lot of organic matter, like many woodland plants, mix 50% compost with 50% organic mulch and spread as you would any mulch. Just remember to keep mulch a few inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs to prevent crown rot.
- Make sure that new plants go into winter well-watered – especially trees and shrubs. This is especially important for shallow-rooted woody plants like azaleas, rhododenrons and mountain laurels that can dehydrate quickly in dry weather. These types of plants are usually better planted in the spring, as are magnolias, dogwoods, tulip trees and some others. Whether it’s you or Mother Nature, make certain that your new woody plants get a good, deep soaking – on the roots – at least twice a week until hard frost.
- Get planting this fall! You will reap the rewards next spring.