Fall Planting

On Friday I talked about garden myths in general and one in particular. Today I want to talk about fall planting.

All the garden centers and box stores are practically giving plants away right now. And everyone is saying fall is the best time to plant. So how can you go wrong, right?

Well, first of all, look at what the garden centers are saying to you. They are not guaranteeing those plants for a specified time period, the way they would have if you had bought them in the spring. So right there, you know that something is different.

They’re not holding back on that guarantee because you got such a great deal on those plants! That may be the stated reason they give you but that’s not it. Those plants have sat in their containers all summer at the nursery on benches or on the ground with sporadic watering (sprinklers or employees doing their best). They are definitely pot and root bound.

Now you are going to take them home and put them into your soils–which admittedly are nice and warm–warmer than the air, in many cases. But again, you will not water properly until the ground freezes. No one ever does, and that includes me!

So you’re taking stressed plants and putting them in the ground and not watering properly. Some will live. Some won’t. But if you’re getting 40-50% off, it’s not a catastrophe.

What shouldn’t you plant in the fall? Certain things like warm season ornamental grasses.  Certain evergreens also don’t like to be planted in the fall. Mind you, my advice is for the Northeast in the United States. Different parts of the country vary greatly. The south and southwest are planting all sorts of things now that I would be putting in in April or perhaps early May.

And of course, spring-flowering (sometimes called Holland) bulbs must be planted now because they need a long period of chill to develop their blooms. Here in the northeast we have maybe a month or so left to plant them.  Warmer regions often have to buy “pre-chilled” bulbs in order to get bulbs that have an adequate number of weeks of cool weather.

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