If you ask any experienced gardener, they’ll tell you that the best time of the year to plant spring flowering bulbs is the Fall. But is it the same for planting trees, shrubs and other flowers? How about transplanting a struggling plant to a more sufficient location in your yard?
Fall is our favorite time to plant. Firstly, Autumn is cooler than Spring, so we can put in a full day in the garden without getting overly hot, thirsty or sunburned. On top of that, plant roots thrive in fall temperatures. Planting in the fall, roots continue to grow until the temperature of the soil drops below 45 degrees, giving them plenty of time to establish before becoming dormant. This is especially important for any type of tree, shrub or flower that will bloom early in the spring. Plants will also experience less transplant shock, since they won’t have to deal with the types of heat spikes and dry spells spring often delivers.
According to Dr Ken Tilt, a Horticulturist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, “By planting in the fall…you get root growth that will be ready to take up water during hot spring temperatures. When leaves unfurl and expand, the increased roots are better able to access the reservoir of water, and the stress of transplanting is greatly reduced.”
Since Autumn is much cooler than other seasons and less likely to have the heat spikes that spring does, your plants will hold on to more water, which means that the water you use on them will be used more efficiently and not lost to evaporation and transpiration.
In the same way as you do in Spring however, you should mulch around the newly planted or transplanted plants freely in the Fall and Winter. They’ll need plenty of insulation during the winter to protect them against frost heave. Mulch also helps to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Remember your basic planting rules:
- When transplanting, dig the plant out past the drip line in order to preserve as many surface feeder roots as possible. Feeder roots in any smaller plants might extend as far as 1 foot past the drip line, with trees and shrubs roots extending even further. This makes a huge difference in the plant’s ability to withstand the shock of transplant. You also want to keep as much of the soil clinging to the rootball as intact as possible.
- The new hole you’re planting in should be at least twice as wide as the rootball of the plant you’re dropping into it. Fill it with good soil mixed with some compost. Water the area thoroughly after planting.
- Use an organic fertilizer beginning six inches from the crown of the plant and continuing past the drip line, since the feeder roots are the primary recipient of any fertilizer.
One more reason we love planting in the fall is that there are terrific bargains to be had at nurseries. Trees, shrubs and flowers need to be sold off because many won’t keep well over the winter. It’s common to pay less than half price for a normally expensive plant at the end of the season.