Vibrant swaths of flame-stamped foliage coupled with cooler morning temperatures sees summer’s fleeting tail, making way for fall and its tradition of celebrating a successful harvest and capping an end to the growing season of the year’s hard work. Although it might be signaling the end of the growing season for your established yard residents, the fall season presents an ideal time for undemanding gardening and ensures your plants are healthy and thriving for the garden’s spring show.
Fall gardening in many aspects is the best time to plant, particularly for trees and shrubs where the summer heat and drought can keep you from getting any of your wanted plants into the ground. With cooler and wetter fall conditions arriving, the soil will be a much more forgiving place for your plants compared to summer and spring. While the ambient temperature is dropping and slowing top growth of plants, the soil’s temperature still retains some of the summer’s relatively warm profile (compared to cool spring soil), effectively providing your plants an extended rooting season that will encourage more root development and faster establishment—making for stronger, healthier, and better-looking plants in the spring. Coupled with dropping temperatures, the fall season brings with it higher amounts of precipitation which aides plants in the reduction of drought conditions and frequency of heat-induced stress states that hinder potential and optimal growth as well as their overall health.
While gardening in the spring and summer requires more watering and maintenance, your plants need a less intensive approach in the fall. Resulting from the Earth’s annual tilting from the sun (fall-winter seasons), less direct sunlight and consequently cooler temperatures provide your flora a break from the needs that the sun and heat put on them, helping each plant devote more of its energy and resources into a successful dormancy for the quickly approaching winter. Fall is also a desirable time to transplant the established individuals you’ve been meaning to relocate but haven’t been brave enough to commit to in the summer. Fall transplants need little water and maintenance to ensure they are happy and healthy. “Less watering is better watering,” so they say.
Planting in the fall is also desirable if you are wanting to establish and divide perennials in your garden. Native perennials that bloom from spring to summer (i.e Garden Phlox) are excellent candidates to plant, divide, or move across your garden when the cooler weather arrives. Spring gardening is generally a rushed affair. With every other task you have for the spring, dividing and establishment of perennials just add to the list. However, waiting until fall (post-Labor Day) to purchase and transplant or divide your garden perennials will allow ample time for your warm-season bloomers to establish. Fall dividing will ensure that your garden’s flowering potential is at a maximum, leading to a substantial increase in blooms compared to a spring division.
Working your yard in the south is a tough measure, summer’s long drought and high temperatures make for unpleasant and undesirable conditions when wanting to enhance your garden, killing any ambition of starting your planting projects; fall can provide a respite from the daily maintenance needed to keep what you have alive and will let you get to the more exciting parts of gardening. Whether you’re dreaming of buying and planting the flora that will finally make your garden pop or simply moving your shrubs and trees to fill in empty spots that will round out your yard perfectly, fall gardening will keep you and your plant cool and happy.
- Dylan L. Hackett
Reflection Riding Native Plant Nursery
Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash