While it may seem that the gardening season should be over, fall is actually a perfect time to plant. Yes, things above ground may look bleak, but below ground root growth is still in full swing.
- Planting success is all about the roots.
- You can plant later than you may think.
When you plant in the fall the soil is still warm from summer. Warm soil temps encourage new roots to grow. Fall is also the time when plants naturally shift their energy from top growth to root growth. This helps plants establish faster. Rainfall is more plentiful and predictable in the fall. New plantings require moisture for optimal growth. In addition, annual weeds that compete for nutrients and moisture are finishing their life cycle, which reduces this competition. And fall’s ample rainfall encourages roots to grow more deeply. Deeper roots are better able to find water now and next spring.
Another counter-intuitive benefit to planting in the fall is the cooler air temperatures above ground. Cooler temps mean less stress and fewer pest and disease problems.
Last but not least, roots continue to grow until the ground freezes. The results are that plants that are put in the ground in the fall will have stronger roots to start off next spring. Then when summer comes, they will be better equipped to deal with heat and drought.
Some things need to be planted in the early fall
There are many plants that will thrive when planted about four weeks before the first hard frost. These plants – grass seed, turf and cool season vegetables – need to establish a root system before the ground starts to cool in late fall.
Seeds or seedlings of lettuce, radishes, broccoli and spinach can be planted in early fall. To extend the harvest later into the fall, a row cover of black plastic can be added for further protection once heavy frost arrives.
Early fall is the best time for rejuvenating your lawn or for planting a new lawn. Grass seed germinates at cooler temperatures than summer can provide. Weeds are not germinating now making it the perfect time for lawn work. Ideally, new grass seed should be planted about a month before the first hard frost predicted for your area.
Groundcovers such as Vinca or pachysandra will develop strong root systems when planted in the fall. When spring arrives your fall planted beds will be thick and full of healthy plants.
Some things can be planted even into late fall
Any perennial, shrub or tree that has been grown in a container or ball and burlapped can be planted late into the fall – right up until the time that the ground freezes. Later plantings will benefit from a protective mulch once the ground is frozen. This insulates the soil and keeps it from freezing and thawing.
Tulips, Daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs are best planted from mid-October through ground freeze. Planting too early can cause the bulbs to send up top growth at the wrong time. Planting bulbs in the fall ensures a good root system and a beautiful garden when spring arrives.
Savvy shoppers know that plant prices come down as the year comes to an end. Perennials are an especially great bargain because most people see a perennial that has passed and assume it’s dead. Fact is planting perennials in the fall means you’ll get a great price, and the plant will have the fall months to grow a strong root system. Next spring you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic, established plant and some extra money in your pocket to boot.