Perhaps the better question we may ask is “When is fall?” Ask 20 folks and you may get 20 different answers; “When football season begins,” “When pumpkins turn orange and leaves turn red” or “When I get stuck driving behind school buses again.” Whatever you associate with the beginning of autumn, from a gardeners perspective, fall typically begins on August 15th. Why August 15th? First off, this is the time of year when we typically begin to see a break in high summer temperatures towards cooler, more comfortable weather. Precipitation typically becomes more consistent and plants in the landscape slow in their apparent growth focusing their energies towards root development in preparation for the upcoming winter months.
All these conditions favor landscape planting and gardening activities. Let’s take a look around the yard and see specifically why fall, in fact, is for planting.
This is the ideal time to make all types of lawn improvements. Grass is still actively growing so fertilizing now will improve turf immediately. Weeds can be controlled with selective herbicides and fast growing turf will help choke out these weeds and fill in the voids left behind. Our warm soils will quickly germinate grass seeds in bare spots or in new lawn installations. Aeration now will help develop a more durable turf down the road and now is the ideal time to thatch lawns that are choked with thick mats of dead grass at the soil surface. Finally, by planting grass now your new lawn can take hold before trees drop their leaves which can be stressful on newly sprouted grass plants.
Many of your perennials may look sad this time of year but make no mistake… they are still hard at work growing strong roots that will drive their growth and performance next year. Fertilize them now while they are actively growing and you will see the results next spring. (Use organic Plant-Tone or Flower-Tone fertilizers) This is the ideal time to divide and transplant most all spring flowering perennials. Peonies, Poppies, Iris and Bleeding Hearts divided/transplanted now still have plenty of time to “root-in” before winter arrives. Of course, any potted perennial can be planted now and will benefit from the warm soil, frequent rains and cool temperatures of fall.
Most of us have put the vegetable planting in the rear view mirror but there is still time to grow some nice fall crops.Beets,Carrots,Lettuce,Peas,Radishes, Salad Greens and Spinach can still be successfully grown by seed.Broccoli,Brussels Sprouts,Cabbage,Cauliflower,Kale, Kohlrabi and Swiss Chard can be grown by starter plants. Garlic and scallions can be planted now by bulbs. Even if you do not choose to plant fall veggies now is the ideal time to build your garden soils while they are dry and easily worked. Test your soil for nutrient levels and Ph and adjust accordingly. Eliminate all weeds and work compost into your garden so you can be ready to plant first thing next spring.
While there are some plants that are sensitive to fall transplanting, autumn is an ideal time to plan and plant your landscape. Cooler temperatures mean less transplant shock and, now that most plants can be harvested, there is a wide variety of plant material available.
So many folks have asked me “What is the best time for planting?” Well, I came across a few quotes that can spell it out much better than I ever could; "
Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
” - Les Brown
“ A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit. ” - D. Elton Trueblood
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” - Chinese Proverb
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!