Fall is for Planning and Planting
Fall is an ideal time for planting from a planning perspective as well. With all your established trees, shrubs, and perennials grown up and leafed out for the season, you can easily spot and identify any holes in your design and/or places where you want to add some texture, a pop of color, or additional plants.
Fall is Good for Root Growth:
In the fall, a perfect combination of warm soils and cooler air temperatures create ideal conditions for newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials. Warmer soil temperatures encourage root growth, more so than in spring when the soil is still warming up following winter. Additionally, with fall’s shorter days and cooler air temperatures, plants spend less energy on growing leaves, foliage, and flowers and more on building a strong root system in preparation for winter. Planting in the fall takes advantage of this which allows our landscape plants to meet next spring with a strong root system, ready to power lots of new growth as soon as it warms up.
The Fall Planting Timeline:
While fall weather is great for planting, we also need to give the roots enough time to become established before the ground freezes. That amount of time needed will vary for different plants.
Perennials that die back al the way to the ground (such as Hosta, Daylily, Astilbe, etc.) need the most time to establish their roots, so they should be planted as early as possible. On average, perennials should be planted by the middle of October for our region. This includes ornamental grasses that need extra time to establish their large, fibrous root systems.
The next group of plants to be planted would be evergreens, this includes evergreen trees, shrubs, and screening evergreens. These plants keep their foliage year-round and thus are more susceptible to more moisture loss during warm spells in winter than plants that lose their leaves. Having a strong root system helps these evergreens through those times. For our region, they will do their best when planted by mid-late October.
Deciduous trees and shrubs can wait the longest to be planted. This is mainly because these trees and shrubs don’t need to build up and store as much energy in their roots to support a canopy of foliage all winter, the way evergreens need to. Deciduous trees and shrubs can be planted just as long as you can get a shovel into the ground. In our area, the ground often doesn’t freeze until mid-December, giving you extra time for these types of plants.
Fall Planting Tips:
In the fall, we generally discourage applying any high-nitrogen fertilizers as they promote new above-ground growth when plants need to focus on root development. If your landscape soil is healthy, you may not need to add much to it before planting. Adding a root stimulant fertilizer will encourage root growth rather than foliage growth. After planting, watering practices will still be a crucial element of success. In early fall, (September and early October), water about twice a week depending on the weather conditions. If the fall season is on the warmer side, you may need to water 3 times a week. By late October, water newly planted trees and shrubs once a week until the ground freezes. This most often will mean pulling out a hose or a watering can since most in-ground irrigation systems will be winterized by this time. Just because your irrigation company turned off your system doesn’t mean it’s time to stop watering just yet.
Once the ground is frozen, apply a 2-3” layer of fresh mulch to insulate the frozen soil from swings in temperature that could cause it to crack and/or heave new plants out of the ground.
What Can You Plant in the Fall?
If you are wondering what you can plant in the fall, the answer is almost anything.
- Fall is an ideal time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials in the landscape.
- Early fall is the best time of year to renovate or over-seed turf grass
- Plant spring flowering bulbs (such as Tulips, Daffodils, and Hyacinths)
- Extend your vegetable gardening season with cool weather crops like Lettuce, Broccoli, Carrots, and Spinach.