Most home gardeners assume that Spring is the best time to build and plant out a new garden, and yes, it is a good time to do some things – like pop a few plants into the post-winter gaps or work on a small project. But a fall project is every landscaper’s dream and here are 5 reasons it you can work it too…
1) If you’re planning to plant a new garden bed, this is the best of times. The potential for summer’s heat to cook new or divided plants is behind you and depending on where you live, you still have plenty of softly sunny days ahead to help get any plant settled in before winter arrives.
2) Here’s another good reason to plant in fall. If you head off to the garden center in spring, while the plants you find there are healthy, they can sometimes look a little young. Head down in fall and you’ll often find the plant stock that’s available has beefed up and is looking ready to hop out of those pots and into your garden beds – at bargain prices. Not every type of plant hangs in there long enough to be a worthwhile end-of-season-bargain though. There are no hard and fast rules, but as a general guide, plants that hold their own in the garden through a long summer are often good bargain candidates. Think agapanthus, roses, lavender, camellia, etc. Look for signs of life, like new buds or new sprigs of growth.
That impressive display of Flower Carpet roses that you spotted at the nursery in spring may now be reduced to a hand-full of plants that are looking a little scrappy. But don’t be fooled. These leftovers are time bombs ready to burst into action once you get them home and released into their new environment.
3) Don’t forget the TLC: Late season plantings often need a little more tender care than they may have in the spring, depending on your climate and location. You probably won’t get much growth or blooms on them now, but it’s important to focus on establishing a strong root system, especially if you live in a cold-winter area. When planting, it’s best to not use fertilizer this late in the season, but it’s OK to add a few handfuls of compost or a bit of phosphorus to the planting hole to promote strong root growth. If you live in USDA Zones 6 or colder, add a few inches of mulch around the base of new plants to protect them from winter frost heaves, which can weaken the roots.
4) Scheduling a significant garden makeover in fall is a practical decision from a garden-users viewpoint. In nice weather, you don’t want to have anyone ripping your perfectly functional (if tired) old garden out. But you’d be happy for them to do it when you’re less likely to be entertaining outdoors on warm evenings. Likewise few landscapers enjoy the pressure of working around clients who need access to the garden – it makes for unnecessary tidying up of a site in transition. This is why fall is such a good time to tackle an especially large project. If it goes over-time, no one will be too inconvenienced.
5) Fall is also a great time to divide your overgrown perennials – whether to share with friends or simply move to new locations. At this time of year it’s easy to see what garden spots may need a little filler, and after a few years of watching your perennials perform, you’ll know where they’re best suited from a height and size standpoint. For more information on dividing perennials in the fall, check out Marianne Binetti’s video on dividing Volcano phlox and other perennials.