Fall is Great for Planting

Plant a Juniper

Perhaps you’ve always thought the best time for planting is in the spring and although you’ve probably heard that fall is also great for planting you’re not sure you believe it. Here’s why fall really is a good time for planting:

  • Autumn’s cooler temperatures are easier on the plants and the gardener. The soil is still warm which allows roots to grow until the ground freezes. In the spring, the plants’ growth is often hindered by cold soil temperatures.
  • In addition to cooler temperatures, the weather is more predictable. Remember how we had late cold-snap last May? That can happen in the fall, but my experience is that it’s less likely.
  • Most pest and disease problems are reduced in the fall. The colder night time temperatures hinder insects and microbial diseases allowing the plants to become established before they must fight off an infection. Rabbits and deer, however, are hungry and can be menacing to your plants at this time of year. 
  • Deciduous trees and shrubs are naturally focused on root development at this time of year. Fall is really ideal for trees and shrubs – in the spring they are already set in place and ready to go when it gets warm. Evergreens will require supplemental watering over the winter if you plant them now and if you plant a tall tree, it will need careful staking to withstand winter wind.
  • Spring-blooming bulbs and many biennial plants need a period of cold dormancy. We plant them in the fall so they have a cool-down period.
  • One more good reason: bargain time at the garden centers! Because they’d rather sell it than have to nurse it along all winter, the garden centers mark down much of their remaining stock.

My ideal is to have everything I’m going to plant in the ground by September 30th; bulbs by October 15th. This gives the plants just enough time to settle in before the soil freezes hard. Yet if I get a really good deal at the nursery, I’ll probably give in to temptation and plant it even if it’s late.