Have you noticed a change in the weather over the past couple of weeks? It hasn’t been a drastic change, only a subtle change. The temperatures are moderating, it is raining more often and the days are getting shorter. This is a sure sign that fall is coming.
As fall descends deeper upon us, we again remind you that fall is for planting. Why? For the reasons cited above – days continue to be warm, nights are cooler, rain has returned and the soil is cooler. All of these factors combine to help plants adapt to their new homes better.
This year, spring planted trees and shrubs were at a distinct disadvantage. They did not have time to adapt to their new environments before Mother Nature turned off the faucet. That meant that either you irrigated or the new plants got very stressed. I saw many new plants that didn’t make it. They succumbed to the drought. Those planted last fall had a better chance because their roots had time to become established and acclimated to the new soil conditions.
Many nurseries and garden centers order new plants for fall planting. You will be able to tell which are new and which survived the summer drought. If you are looking for a bargain, you may be able to negotiate deep discounts on the survivors. Personally, I don’t like to do that. I would rather pay list price and get new stock.
Planting in fall is no different from planting in spring. Select a planting site whose conditions are right for the plant you select. Remember – right plant, right place. Dig the planting hole two to three times bigger than the rootball, but only as deep. If potted, remove the plant from its pot. If balled and burlapped, remove the wire basket or rope but leave the burlap around the ball.
Set the plant in the hole and backfill, stopping occasionally to press the backfill to fill in any air pockets. Do not pile soil up against the trunk. Finally, water well.
It is good to mulch any new planting, but it is especially important in fall. The mulch will help moderate the temperature shifts during the winter. Spread 2 to 3 inches, but do not pile it up against the trunk in a mulch volcano. Before winter, add another inch of mulch, but be prepared to remove that in spring.
We went through a long hot summer with few gardening chores other than weeding. Now, everything is right for planting. That’s why fall is for planting.