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Dispelling Fall Planting Misconceptions

Landscaping Expert, Rob Schucker, fills us in on the truth about Fall gardening, offering tips on how to take advantage of this misunderstood gardening season.

It’s easy to tell fall has arrived. The daylight hours have decreased and the air is brisk. The leaves are changing colors and cascading from the trees onto driveways and lawns. Most flowers have lost their bloom and look tired and spent. It might seem counter intuitive to think about planting now, but the fall landscaping/gardening season is one rife with misconceptions.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that many think of spring as the planting season, but actually, fall is the preferred time for planting a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and trees because of the cooler weather. In fact, from roots to blooms, most plants are more likely to establish successfully when planted in cooler weather.

When a plant is first installed in the soil, the delicate root system needs time to become established in its new soil. Think of it like a person readjusting to a new home. The cooler fall temperatures help this growing and adjustment period move along. 

One bonus of planting in the fall is water conservation because the plant does not need to be watered as often as it would if planted in the spring. Lower temperature means less evaporation, which in turn leads to a lower water bill.

Also, the roots of fall planted shrubs will continue to grow until the soil temperature falls below 50 degrees, which can give them several months of concentrated growth time before the winter months. This will give your plants a great head start.

Most perennials, trees, and shrubs are past their blooming season come fall. While everyone loves a colorful garden and wants to see immediate results when planting, planting after blooming gives the plants the time they need to conserve energy for the following year's bloom season. By planting after the bloom time, a plant does not need to use its energy for both establishing its root system and creating its beautiful seasonal flowers. In the fall, it can focus more energy on establishing the root system. In the long run, this will create healthier plants.

Additionally, plantings with established root systems absorb more water and nutrients from the soil. This will benefit your garden twofold. First, the root system is more likely to establish without complication. Second, the next season's blooms are more likely to be numerous and the bloom time last longer than it would if planted in the spring.

Another common misconception is that fall is the best time for trimming all of the plants. While the fall is the perfect time for cleaning up your gardens, there are some plants that will not fare as well if they are cutback in the fall. For example, be sure not to prune evergreen shrubs in the fall because doing so will encourage new growth that will not have a chance to harden off and can be burned from the winter’s frost.

There is a misconception that lawns don’t need watering in the fall, however that depends on the amount of rainfall in the area and whether you have a cool- or warm-season grass. The fall is the perfect time to take on some lawn projects such as seeding because the cooler temperatures are perfect for seed germination. Core aeration in combination with slit seeding will fill in weak or thin lawn areas. You can take it easy on treating any crabgrass you find because it will naturally die off at the first frost.

The educated homeowner has lived through many seasons with his or her landscape, and has learned some hard lessons along the way. By putting aside some common misconceptions, your lawn and garden can flourish and provide your home with years of admirable beauty.

To contact Rob Schucker for a landscaping consultation, visit www.rscape.com or call 201-447-6205.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

RdgwdGRock October 17, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Great article. I planted some new shrubs several weeks ago. Thanks!

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