Roll Up Your Sleeves, it’s Time to Plant!
Fall is a time for harvesting and tidying up our gardens, but fall is also a time to plant. We typically think of prepping and planting our gardens in the spring, however fall is just as good a time! Planting perennial flowers, trees and shrubs in the fall can bring you great rewards with a little time and effort.
If you are anything like me, you study your garden, get great ideas…but then forget them by the next spring! Take some time to observe your garden now and formulate your ideas and needs. Are there any gaps you would like to fill? Are there plants that have disappeared over the years? Are there any specific colors of flowers or foliage you’d like to add to your landscape? Have the blooming plants finished for the season and you’d like a few to keep the bloom going into the fall? Is there a shady spot that needs to be filled in or a sunny spot that needs a show-stopper? Make notes of what you need and what you would like to see in your garden. Then it’s time to shop!
Visit a local nursery, armed with a budget and your notes. Take time to investigate what is available. Choosing native plants, trees, and shrubs is often a great way to go. Native plants are not only beautiful and fit in with our landscapes but are tremendously beneficial to native pollinators and wildlife. Many of the perennial flowers that are available now are late summer and fall bloomers, so you will know what they will look like in the spaces you are looking to fill. In the early spring, it can be hard to imagine what that plant will be looking like later in the season. Keep in mind that new plants grown in containers have the potential to grow and fill up more space when they reappear next spring. Check the tag for the plant’s full dimensions. Take care to match the plant to the space and the plant’s growing requirements. Bear in mind the temperature zone of the plants being considered. Some flowering plants that are sold at this time of year are annuals and will not survive our colder, snowier winters. If you are on a budget, buying perennials at this time is often a great choice because nurseries are trying to move inventory and may have great sales or deals that they don’t have in the spring.
After you have made your choices and purchased your items, it is time to put them in their new home. At the planting site, dig a hole deep enough so that the plants root ball is even with the surrounding soil. Make the hole two to three times wider than the container. Once the hole is prepped you may wish to add amendments to give the plant a boost for growth in the spring. Take the plant out of the container and before placing it into the hole, loosen the root ball. The roots of plants grown in containers for a long time wrap around themselves. If you plant as is, the roots will continue to grow this way even without the container. By loosening the soil and straightening the roots, you will train them to grow out and down. To make it a little easier, soak the root ball – the moisture helps the roots become more pliable.
Planting in the fall gives you an extension of the growing season. After you plant – sit back, relax and wait until next spring to see the bounty of your growing garden!
About the Author
Senior Environmental Educator
Maggie is a graduate of SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and has been teaching environmental education for 20 years. Although she loves all aspects of nature, her personal passions are birds and native wildflowers. Participating in trail marathons allows her lots of time on trails to train and look for these gems!