Don’t quit now! Even though there’s been a little frost about, September and October are perfect gardening months. Cooler temperatures and no bugs make working in the garden a pleasure.
Gardening is fun — really, and the benefits are endless. It’s obviously a source of joy and satisfaction given the way people flock to garden centres in spring, but then spring gives way to summer and the concept of gardening for fun is set aside. It’s too hot and buggy, and the beach or cottage beckons. Then fall arrives; the grass turns green again and begins to grow, which means more mowing, and before you know it, there are leaves to rake.
But there are lots of other things to accomplish at this time of year. Fall is just as good as spring is for planting, even better in some cases, especially for trees and shrubs. They love this season, yet I’d hazard a guess that 70 – 80 percent are planted in spring compared to fall. Part of the reason is the natural inclination for gardeners to get out and do something in the garden, but it’s also because of the strong marketing that goes on, plus the plants look alive. They have green leaves and plenty of flowers, whereas at this time of year they might look dead.
Don’t be fooled. Trees and shrubs — and perennials, are going into dormancy rather than coming out — perfect for planting, whereas in May, just as the poor tree or shrub at the garden centre pops a few leaves, it’s tossed in a trunk or truck, shipped across town, dumped from the pot and stuffed into a hole in the ground. Someone runs the hose on it — when they remember — or they drown it, then it’s left to survive on its own while it bakes under a blazing sun. The poor plant has used what energy it had to pop those leaves, and now it’s supposed to grow new roots to support itself, with precious little help? For a tree, it’s the worst time to begin multi-tasking.
Plant a tree in early fall and what happens? Soon as it’s in the ground, the leaves fall off. But that’s okay. It’s not dead; it’s not even dying. Despite its appearance, it’s probably flourishing. Since it doesn't have to shove out leaves and impress the planter, it can focus on what plants do best in fall — they grow roots. The soil is warm, the sun is kinder, and there’s usually more moisture available.
With the help of a layer of mulch, the soil will stay warm enough to encourage roots to grow for months, even as late as December. Come spring, after a good spell of root growth, the tree or shrub will be bursting to produce leaves. One important note here, evergreens, unlike deciduous trees, lose moisture over winter, so they need to be well watered before freeze-up.
What’s even better about planting in fall is the price. Plant material is always less expensive. There’s a good reason for this. It costs money to store plants at a garden centres or nurseries due to the huge amount of work required to prepare containers for winter. In some cases, it’s necessary to provide heating. They’d much rather sell the stuff and restock in spring.
Everything I've said about trees and shrubs goes for perennials. They’re cheaper too and most will appreciate fall planting. If there’s an exception, it’s plants that flower in early spring. They may be reluctant, but then they probably won’t flower much in the first year anyway.
So, take a trip to the garden centre where deceptively dead looking plants and great deals are waiting, then get out in the garden and have a little fun.