Friday, October 18, 2013

Plant in the Fall

Planting in the fall may seem like a poor choice. Winter is knocking on the door, and whether we like it or not will soon force its way into our lives. With freezing temperatures and snow on their way it may seem like the worst time of year to plant, but it's actually a great time. Bulbs, shrubs, and trees can do very well when planted in the fall.
Fall planting works well because of the weather associated with it. While it may seem cold and wet outside when compared to the summer we left behind, fall weather is often more pleasant than spring. The weather is still warm during the day, but not overly hot. There are usually less rainy and cloudy days, but rain still comes fairly regularly. Also the soil is quite a bit warmer in the fall than in the spring.

Bulbs that have been in the ground for over a year follow their own natural rhythms. It's only the first year that can cause them some issues as they adjust to life back in the ground. Bulbs normally sprout in the spring, grow, and then go dormant in the fall. When planted in the spring it can take a little time for the bulbs to start the process of sprouting. They have to adjust first. Planting in the fall can remove some of the issues of spring planting. The bulbs have a chance to acclimate to the soil before going dormant for the winter. This leaves them well prepared to start spring growth based on their natural rhythms. Plant bulbs too late in the season and they might miss the signals necessary to start growth. This may lead to them developing far later in the year than normal, or they might not sprout at all.

New shrubs and trees, when planted in the spring, spend a lot of their first year trying to establish a good root system. The resources spent on root growth are necessary, but at the same time they limit resources available to other plant growth. Water requirements the first year are also quite higher than subsequent years due to the lack of an established root system.
Fall planting can remove these issues. Even though shrubs and trees are headed towards dormancy in the fall they still have time to grow. Planting them in the fall gives them a month or two to establish roots without also trying to grow the other parts of the plant as well. This preparation allows the plants to grow in the spring without diverting so many resources towards root growth. This helps cut down on the watering necessary the first spring and summer.

The last benefit to fall planting is money. Often the plants available at the end of the season are much cheaper than they were during spring or summer. By fall most businesses with plants still in stock just want to get rid of them. Anything they have left that you want will typically be much less expensive.

Hopefully this gives you an option to consider when planting, instead of automatically planting in the spring. Next time you have plans to plant in the spring; consider the alternatives and plant in the fall. You'll save yourself time, effort, and money. When spring comes you'll be able to enjoy your new plantings without slaving away in the muck trying to get them in the ground. 

Make sure to tune in again next week for another article. I plan to talk about fungi next and explore some of their roles in our environment.


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