The key to a successful spring garden
by Jonathan Johnson
know what you're thinking – "I planted everything back in the spring and I'm done until next year." That's what most people do, but an avid gardener like you should realize all of the benefits of planting in the fall.
Easy on the plants
First, and most importantly, is the mild weather. We love this time of year - not too hot, not too cold. And guess what, your plants love it too, and for the very same reason! If you take the time to plant hardy perennials during these pleasant temperatures they can focus all of their energy on root growth. Don't be surprised when you don't see much happening to the plant. The real work is going on underground. Down there the plant is busy developing feeder roots. Those are the roots that will be ready to bring water and nutrients up to the top of the plant in the spring and give your garden a big head start over the neighbor's garden. Make sure you give your new additions a chance to get good and cozy before winter comes. You should allow six to eight weeks for trees and shrubs, and four to six weeks for perennials and ornamental grasses. A good rule of thumb is to plant by the end of August in the North and by the end of November in the South.
Easy on the water bill
The second important factor to remember about fall planting concerns watering. The cooler daytime temperatures and mild nights will reduce the amount of water your garden needs. This will be a blessing to your checkbook after trying to keep the grass green all summer. Immediately after planting, give the plant a good long drink. Add enough water so that it soaks all the way down below the depth of the plant. Then, keep an eye on it and water as needed to prevent the soil from completely drying out. Always be sure to plant in a well-drained area. Over watering or lack of drainage can cause as many problems as under watering.
Easy on the fertilizer
The third benefit involves fertilizing. You don't have to do it until spring! How easy is that? Fertilizing this late in the year could stimulate a flush of tender growth that may not have time to harden off before cold temperatures arrive and could be subjected to winter damage. Stop fertilizing all of your plants by September 1. This allows the plants plenty of time to comfortably harden off and enter a dormant state for winter.
Easy on the wallet
And the fourth benefit is cost. Most garden centers and nurseries will have many plants for sale at discounted prices this time of year. Be sure to look over the plants carefully for signs of pest or disease damage, and don't buy anything that looks unhealthy or improperly cared for. While you're there, buy some mulch to put around the plant. The mulch will help maintain even soil temperatures and resist root heaving that occurs after repetitive freezing and thawing of the ground.
So, now that you know that fall planting is easy and inexpensive, postpone chopping wood until next week and plant some flowers instead. You'll feel better and your yard will look great!
Jonathan Johnson runs Cottage Farms Direct; click here to determine your hardiness zone: http://www.cottagefarmsdirect.com/hardiness.asp