Fall: The Best Time for Planting
Advantageous for both garden and gardener, fall is the best time for starting plants. Here’s why:
Autumn provides the perfect gardening energy for those who love to get their hands dirty — a pleasant temperature, easily workable soil, and beautiful scenery as the leaves start to turn.
What’s even more important, however, is that the plants love fall too. The sun isn’t beating down on their leaves, and the moderate temperatures lessen the demand for water from their roots. For this reason, plants dug in the fall tend to be more robust than those dug in the spring or summer.
Less Watering, Less Maintenance
Planting in spring or summer often requires constant observation and watering during the first few weeks or months. Fall planting allows you a bit of a reprieve. For perennials, simply soak the plants in their pots a few hours before digging and stick them in the ground and leave them. For shrubs and trees, give them a thorough watering in the hole to get it tight around the new roots pulled out from the root ball. You won’t have to worry about watering unless it’s a dry winter. Then, choose a warm January day to give them a soak.
You Can Plant Later
If you buy a tree in mid-October, it’s ideal to plant it right away, but you don’t have to. In fact, you can wait several weeks to plant it — even into late November in some areas.
The best part about waiting is that it might actually be easier on the trees once their leaves are gone. No leaves means there is less of a need to devote resources to keeping them alive. All of the tree’s effort is then dedicated to growing roots. Concentrating on root growth is the incentive for fall digging because it means when the plants come back in the spring, they’re all ready to put on more top growth (foliage and blooms). If you plant in the warmer months, you’ll have to wait an entire year to see those results.
It’s Easier to See Gaps Between Plants
While leaving your plants up for winter helps insulate the garden itself, captures moisture and protects pollinators, it also helps you see where the gaps are between your plants, making it easier for you to know where you need to add. For instance, maybe an open spot needs grass, or you discover you need some spring blooms to pop in one of your beds. Fall is the time to make these changes. You’ll be able to see the ground and navigate right to the spot.
How Late Into Fall Can You Plant?
Fall planting times vary by location. In the northern regions and at higher elevations, dig in August and September. Toward the coasts and in the southern regions, you may be able to dig into December.
Regardless, by doing most of your planting and dividing in the fall, come springtime all you’ll have to do is go outside and enjoy the fruits of your labor — healthy plants with more robust root systems, and luscious foliage and blooms.