Fall Planting: Your Plants will Thank You Next Spring!
Professional gardeners and landscapers know an important trick of the trade: Fall isn’t the end of the growing season, it’s the beginning! Here is why you should be thinking about your planting game plan right now!
Cooler Weather Ahead
If you were the proud parent of an infant who was just a few months old, would you take her or him outside in their baby carriage under a blazing sun? Or do you think she would be more comfortable enjoying the open air on a cooler, less scorching day?
Think about your “plant infants” in the same way. In most parts of the nation, planting in spring means the tender little gals or guys are soon exposed to the scorching heat of the sun and must endure it throughout the summer during a crucial time in their development.
However, fall planting is far less stressful on your plants. Shrubs and trees planted in the fall have the advantage of a cooler environment above, and perhaps something even more beneficial, out of sight below ground. Roots have the perfect opportunity to grow and establish themselves without the need to concentrate on providing nutrients as well.
In fact, the root systems of fall-planted plants can continue to grow throughout autumn and into winter, usually becoming dormant only when ground temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Essentially, planting in fall, instead of waiting until spring, gives your plants a headstart of several months. By next summer they will be sturdy, resilient adolescents instead of vulnerable, tender babies, and far better prepared to take on the rigors of a hot, and possibly very dry, summer.
Did I mention “dry”? Most trees and shrubs planted in spring require regular watering during this vital “establishment” phase of their development. Summer’s heat makes this even more critical. But in the fall, you will not need to provide your new plants with nearly as much water. As you might imagine, evaporation is much less of a factor in the autumn, so water loss is greatly reduced. Additionally, a plant’s water requirements are considerably diminished when the natural process of photosynthesis slows down as the days become shorter.
Another water-related benefit is that in the fall you are unlikely to be faced with any municipal watering restrictions that might affect your new plantings during a long, hot summer. Nothing is more depressing to a garden lover than to see new, young plants dying because of lack of water.
We all like to grab a bargain and smart gardeners can take advantage of sales and clearance-priced plants at this time of year. If you’re buying from a reputable nursery, the plants now on sale have probably been cared for throughout the summer by knowledgeable professionals and should be ready for fall planting…but at a much lower price than prime time spring! They also like to clear out inventory for new fall inventory.
It’s worth asking an expert at the nursery, or at least carefully reading the plant’s tag, to be sure of the best time to plant as this can vary from zone to zone.In Celina, we are best suited for climate zones 7 and 8.
Forget the Fertilizer
Plant in the fall and forget the fertilizer until next spring. Why? Fertilizing new plants at this time of year could force new growth that would then fall victim to frost damage during the winter before it has time to harden off. Buying and using fertilizer is an extra step and expense you won’t need to worry about, at least until spring! By then I will gladly advise when and what type is best suited for your planting. Feel free to email me at the address listed below.
More Fun, Less Stress
Many customers tell me that they find fall planting more enjoyable. The reason, they say, is that they can concentrate on the planting in the slower-paced ambience of fall. With so much to do in a spring landscape, it’s easy to be distracted from the joy of planting. And let’s face it, the more therapeutic the better, right?
Question: Jimmie, what do you consider the best tree for me to plant in a low wet area on my property? I really would like some shade there, however I have killed 3 nice Red Oak trees trying. Any thoughts? I really appreciate your time. – Mike C. in Celina
Answer: Hi Mike, I can see why you might have run into problems with your previous efforts. Red Oaks are notoriously known for not liking “wet feet”. We always plant them “high” or on the top of root ball at grade level. A few varieties, we even add a 3 – 5” base of gravel for extra drainage.
A much better option for your unique situation would be a Bald Cypress or River Birch tree…both will thrive with wet feet. Growth rates are similar, but foliage and overall canopy is way different…check them both out. As long as your fundamental criterion is correct with your choices then each variety that fits into those criteria becomes a personal preference.
Question: Jimmie, please help!!! I have no idea what I just found on my bush outside. Day before yesterday, it was fine, but I saw the almost 1.5 – 2” things hanging from it that looked sort of like a pinecone. I just thought it was something new growing on the tree/bush. This afternoon, I went out to water the plants, and the whole side of the bush is almost gone and has turned brown. I looked at the things I thought were growing on it and saw that they moved!! I ran inside and got garden spray and they seemed to be worms trying to come out of them. This has really freaked me out. I want the bushes gone. I have always loved them because they grow like a tree; they look a little like a pine but with flowing needles that are really soft. They are a light green in color. I do not know what kind of bush it is. Please tell me what those things are, and what will get rid of them until I can get someone to cut them down for me. I don’t even want them in my yard now. That one looks ruined anyway. Thank you so much for your time. You have been a great help to me and friends of mine! – Michelle in Celina
Answer: Hi Michelle, thanks for the kind words. It sounds like what you have are Bagworms. They are common to the plant you are describing, the Arborvitae. You need to remove them, put them in a little bag, and then burn them. After you have done this you will need to spray your plants with Malathion, (follow directions on the label). You should do this about once a month during the growing season. Of course, this is only if you decide to keep them. Perhaps a better alternative to consider would be Eastern Red Cedar (they are more native to our area). Hope this helps. Until next time…Happy Gardening!!
Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth area.