We’ve all heard that “fall is for planting”, but people go to garden centers every day and ask “is it still OK to plant?” Yes, absolutely! Plants can be planted as long as you can get a shovel in the ground and dig a hole. All the usual requirements for good plant growth success still apply; a generous amount of compost or peat moss/cow manure should be added for plenty of good organic matter. Water well after planting, of course, but the frequency of needing to water in the weeks following planting will be greatly reduced, thanks to the cooler weather.
Plant material put into the ground in the fall will start rooting out much earlier in the spring, as you do not have to wait for the soil to warm to put the plants in the ground; they are already there! As soon as the lower layers of soil have warmed, before the stems of the plant itself are showing any sign of life, the roots are hard at work, growing and extending their reach so they can provide nutrients to the soon to be leafy plant.
Fall is also an excellent time for transplanting, especially perennials. Now is when the gardener can dig and divide hostas, daylilies, astilbe, or nearly any spring and summer flowers that have simply gotten too large over the growing season. It is a good idea to water well before transplanting, as this will lessen the stress on the plants.
An often overlooked component of gardening is fall color, which is an important part of the garden as well. The beautiful flowers of summer have passed; now it is time for interesting foliage and seed heads. Planning a garden at this time of year gives a unique opportunity to get the tricky third season of interest exactly right. Deciduous azaleas are a relatively unremarkable plant for most of the year; they bloom for a very short time in spring, then fade into the background for the summer, but shine again in the later months of the year with brilliant red, orange, and sometimes golden yellow foliage. An absolutely stunning plant for a semi-shady corner.
Fall also gives the opportunity to work on the ‘bones’ of the garden without all the foliage getting in the way. The structure and general flow of the garden itself becomes apparent once the leaves have fallen, and adjustments can begin on the garden itself.
Don’t give up on your gardens yet! There’s still plenty of time before the snow flies to get out there and get your hands dirty…
Ask the Horticulturist: Got a gardening question? Want to see it answered here? Send questions to [email protected] Many times one gardener’s question leads to information for many gardeners!