Many homeowners are timid about planting during the fall season. But there is no need to be scared about planting as temperatures begin to cool. It's actually the best time to plant. Once the weather begins to cool, plants begin to go dormant and shed their leaves. For most zones (5 through 9), the ground, on average, remains warm on into December. Meaning it doesn't freeze under the grounds surface. Areas can have snow, but it doesn't always mean that the ground is frozen.
Here are 8 tips to safely plant during the fall season:
- Don't fertilize - instead mix aged compost or aged manure mix into the soil as you're planting. Fertilize tends to encourage top growth which is not something plants need in fall, but adding bio stimulants to help roots absorb nutrients is a good thing. Toss a packet of our Nutra-Pro Packs to help their roots absorb needed nutrients.
- Mulch with chopped (or mowed) leaves instead of compost or shredded bark mulch.
- When planting bare root ground covers on a hillside, monitor the weather. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks for new groundcovers to put on feeder roots (you can tug random plants to see if they give any resistance). If heavy rainfall is scheduled within the first 1 to 2 weeks after planting and your plants aren't rooted in, visit your local Farmers Co-op or other farm supply for bales of straw (not hay as it often contains weed seeds). Pull the bale apart into layers a couple of inches thick and place them over the planted area (so you'll need enough to cover the area). Grab the end and pull apart sections so they're thin enough for air circulation and to not crush the plants, yet thick enough to hold the plants in place during the heavy wind and rain.
- Fall is a great time for planting perennials. Our greenhouse staff prunes perennials back as they begin to fade for their part of the growing season. With the exception of late season flowering varieties, perennials can be pruned back to a few inches above the ground at planting.
- Planting container grown plants is quite easy. Dig the hole just a bit larger than the container. Holding the container firmly with one hand, squeeze it and lightly pull the plant straight out with the other hand. Holding it over the hole, place your hands on each side of the root/soil and lightly pull as if to stretch the roots. Some of the soil may fall into the hole. And then you plant it.
- Water around the plant after planting. This will help settle the soil and remove any air pockets that may still be there from mixing up the soil.
- The Fall season tends to have more rainfall than spring so less watering is needed on newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials. If in doubt, pull back some of the soil (a couple of inches deep) near the base of the plant. If it is dry, water. If it is moist or damp, check again in a few days. You should only need to do this for a couple of weeks.
- With winter on the horizon, be sure to consider the outdoor critters such as rabbits and mice which so enjoy eating the bark off trees and shrubs. What can you do about animal damage to plants over winter? Use our Tree Shelters to wrap around the base of plants (also sink them into the ground a couple of inches to secure). Tree Shelters arrive flat and can be wrapped around the plants as needed. This will go a long way to keeping the nibbling critters away from the tender tasty trunks of your shrubs and trees.