Why you need to start plant­ing in the fall

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Ta­nia Mof­fat

As the sea­sons change and tem­per­a­tures be­gin to drop, the soil re­mains warm, which is a ben­e­fit for newly trans­planted trees, shrubs and peren­ni­als. The warm soil, com­bined with the on­set of dor­mancy, ac­tu­ally pro­vide fall trans­plants with a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ing a solid root sys­tem than their spring and sum­mer coun­ter­parts. Their roots will con­tinue to grow un­til the soil freezes, giv­ing th­ese plants a head start in the spring.

In the spring, new ad­di­tions not only have to try to es­tab­lish a root sys­tem in cool or cold soil, but must use up en­ergy to grow and bloom. Ad­di­tion­ally, plants cod­dled in the green­house can ex­pe­ri­ence trans­plant shock when they are ex­posed to out­door tem­per­a­tures. While it’s best to harden off new plants to re­duce this stress, if it is not done, or done

Wise gar­den­ers and bar­gain hun­ters alike know that fall is one of the best times to plant and shop. Not only can you find plants on sale as green­houses clear out their stock for the up­com­ing win­ter, but some may ar­gue, that plant­ing in the fall is ac­tu­ally bet­ter for your plants.

cor­rectly, plants will strug­gle to thrive. Sum­mer can be even more dif­fi­cult as higher tem­per­a­tures and lack of wa­ter can in­crease stress on trans­plants.

By the time fall rolls around most pests and dis­eases have dis­ap­peared, or at least have past their spread­ing and de­struc­tive stages. Gar­den­ers can save a few dol­lars on fer­til­iz­ers as well, since there is no need to en­cour­age growth or blooming. Most ar­eas will have an ideal plant­ing win­dow of six weeks be­fore the hard frosts of Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber be­gin to roll in.

None of this is to say that plants can’t and aren’t suc­cess­fully trans­planted at other times of the year, but rather to let dis­be­liev­ers know that fall re­ally is a great time to plant. Gar­den­ers both­ered by the heat of sum­mer, or frus­trated with the num­ber of spring plant­ing days, can take ad­van­tage of the cooler temps by plant­ing at this time of year. In fact, the only down­fall to shopping and plant­ing in the fall is the de­creased se­lec­tion in plants!

Se­lect­ing your baby from the nurs­ery

When pur­chas­ing plants in the fall the most im­por­tant thing to be cog­nisant of is the plant’s over­all health. Check the soil to en­sure that is not mouldy from over­wa­ter­ing or too root bound. The leaves may be turn­ing, de­pend­ing on when you are mak­ing your pur­chase, but look for signs of dis­ease – leaf spots, dried out branches, dead ar­eas and in­sect in­fes­ta­tion.

You should also pur­chase a root en­hanc­ing fer­til­izer. Prior to plac­ing your plant in its newly dug hole sprin­kle the rec­om­mended amount in, then place your plant. At this time of year many plants have be­come root bound, be sure to loosen the soil and cut com­pacted root balls with a spade or trowel to al­low them to branch out prop­erly.

Many green­houses still of­fer war­ranty on fall pur­chases! So how can you go wrong?

What can you plant?

Ba­si­cally, you can plant al­most any tree, shrub or peren­nial in the fall. It is also a great time to sow grass seed, spring-blooming bulbs and cool-sea­son veg­eta­bles such as spinach and Swiss chard.

Grass – Grass seed is best sown closer to hard frost as you don’t want the seeds to de­velop and die. It is also a great time to take care of all your lawn needs – de­thatch­ing, aer­at­ing and fer­til­iz­ing.

Spring bulbs – Th­ese beau­ties must be planted in the fall for a blaz­ing dis­play of spring colours. Bulbs such as daf­fodils, hy­acinth, and squill need to ex­pe­ri­ence a pe­riod of cold dor­mancy to sprout in the spring. Re­mem­ber not to plant sum­mer and fall blooming bulbs such as glads, can­nas or dahlias, and re­move them as soon as they be­gin to die back, prior to freez­ing.

Veg­eta­bles – That’s right you can still plant veg­eta­bles such as Brus­sels sprouts, broc­coli, car­rots, cab­bage, kale, let­tuce, spinach and Swiss chard in the fall. Th­ese plants thrive in the cooler fall temps, just en­sure you have enough time to har­vest them. The sea­son can be ex­tended through pe­ri­ods of light frosts by us­ing row cov­ers.

Trees and shrubs – Both take kindly to fall trans­plant­ing, be sure to wa­ter them well un­til freez­ing to max­i­mize root growth.

Peren­ni­als – You don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to visit a green­house, fall is a great time to divide and re­plant hostas, irises and other peren­ni­als. Peonies should al­ways be planted in the fall. Lilies and or­na­men­tal grasses also do well with au­tumn plant­ing as do ferns, which will wel­come a cov­er­ing of freshly fallen leaves to help pro­tect them from snow and ice.

All of your newly trans­planted ad­di­tions should be wa­tered well un­til freez­ing, but be care­ful not to over­wa­ter. Soak­ing the ground with ap­prox­i­mately one inch of wa­ter, once per week, should be suf­fi­cient.

While you are out in the gar­den, take a mo­ment to as­sess it for the fol­low­ing year. Ask your­self if you have enough fall colour? Do you want more plants to at­tract wildlife, birds or ben­e­fi­cial in­sects? Do you need more plants for shade or sun, wet or dry ar­eas? This is the time to take note of how your gar­den per­formed, while it is fresh in your mind, and make plans to im­ple­ment any changes needed for the next sea­son.

Fall is a great time to plant!

Fall is the ideal time to divide hostas.

Plant­ing trees in the fall al­lows them to ex­pend all of their en­ergy on root devel­op­ment.

You can get great deals in the fall.

The only down­side is the lim­ited plant se­lec­tion.

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