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Fall Perennials

by Robyn Rogers

The days are getting shorter. The breeze is getting colder. The garden is winding down. Nature knows it and plants go to seed for new growth next year. Now is the perfect time to plant perennials.

There are many reasons why planting perennials in the fall is a great idea. They range from better temperatures to plant health. While planting perennials in the spring and summer is fine, consider the following…

Better Temperatures

The weather in the fall is generally more consistent than the summer with fewer hot days. The cooler weather above ground means that the plants will not have to worry about stress from intense sunny days. Not only are the temperatures better above ground, but you can also still take advantage of the warm soil below ground. Warm soil allows new plants to really establish roots and take advantage of the beneficial microorganisms that have not gone dormant yet.

Why not spring? Spring is a great time to plant, but the weather can be tricky, with fewer stretches of good weather for gardening. And the soil will still be cool from the winter, making it harder for roots to establish themselves. And really, with veggies and weeding, who has time for more chores in the garden in spring?

Fewer Weeds, Pests, and Disease

How many aphids do you find in the cool days of the fall? None. That’s right. Most of our garden pests are fair-weather friends and as the temperature drops, they disappear. In addition to a decrease in insect activity, most diseases die back in the fall, giving your plants an excellent opportunity to establish themselves without fighting outside attackers. Weeds are also not as likely to thrive as the weather gets cooler. This means less competition for your newly planted perennials and less weeding for you.

Plant Health

When perennials are planted in the fall, they are usually finished or close to being finished blooming. This means that they can use all of the temperate fall days to really focus their energy on roots. And since they aren’t working on growing above ground, they can live without fertilizers that promote upward growth. Come spring, they will have a head start on all the newly planted perennials that are trying to prepare blossoms and build roots at the same time.

With these benefits in mind, there are a few things that will ensure your perennials a good fall start.

  • Give your plants a good long soak before putting them in the ground. This will ensure that the root ball is able to absorb water easily when you give them a drink.
  • If the weather stays nice, remember your plants still need water. Watering should continue until the first frost. After that, the plants will not need a drink until late spring.
  • Make sure to mulch your perennials after the soil has frozen hard just in case it thaws again while it’s cold. This helps to prevent “frost heave” – something that happens when the thawing soil causes plants that aren’t fully anchored to raise up out of the soil – which puts the plant in danger of being killed by cold.

 

So, as you watch the prices fall on those perennials in the nursery, don’t spend your time dreaming about spring. Choose some perennials and plan for a beautiful bounty in the following year.