Late Summer and Early Fall Planting

Many people feel their gardens lack appeal at this time of year. They think about planting spring-flowering bulbs in the fall, but often don’t think of what also does well in the garden when planted in the fall. There's more to plant in fall than bulbs—you can plant perennials, grasses, trees and shrubs, and even vegetables! April-June doesn’t have to be the only time of year that you dust off the willies, take a trip to the garden centre and stock up the garden with plants that are flowering when you buy them.

Early fall is a great time to place plants in the garden. Air temperatures are cooler, reducing the stress on the plants, while soil temperatures are still warm, promoting root growth. Not to mention the plant has plenty of time to build a healthy root system. Rainfall may also be more abundant and generally there are fewer insect and disease problems.

Fall planting can also stretch your gardening budget. Many garden centres offer good sales to reduce their inventory before winter. As long as the plants have been well cared for during the summer, these plants are just as good as the ones you would buy in the spring.

Home gardeners can begin seeding their lawns in mid-August. Seeding should be completed by mid-September. Late summer and early fall seeding has several advantages over spring seeding. The cool-season grasses germinate quickly in the warm soil of late summer. The warm days and cool nights of early fall promote rapid turf grass growth. The growing grass also has less competition from weeds as few weed seeds germinate in the fall.

A new lawn can also be established by sodding. The best times to sod are spring and late summer/early fall. Fall sodding can be done until the ground freezes or is covered with snow.

Trees and shrubs
Balled and burlapped, and container-grown trees and shrubs can also be planted in late summer and fall. Evergreens should be planted from mid-August through September. Planting during this period allows evergreens to become established before the onset of winter. Evergreens planted in late fall are susceptible to desiccation injury and death. Deciduous trees and shrubs (those that drop their leaves in the fall) can be planted from August through early November.

While most trees and shrubs do well when planted in late summer and fall, some woody plants root slowly and should only be planted in the spring. Slow-to-root trees that should be planted only in the spring include fir, birch, yellowwood, ginkgo, magnolia, ornamental pear and hemlock.

Trees and shrubs planted in late summer and fall should be watered every 7 to 10 days during dry weather. Continue watering until the ground freezes.

Late summer and early fall is an excellent time to plant many perennials. It is also a good time to move or divide perennials, such as peony, daylily, garden phlox and oriental poppy. Perennials planted in late summer and early fall should be mulched with 2 to 4 inches of straw in late fall. Mulching helps prevent repeated freezing and thawing of the soil that can damage recently planted perennials.

Spring-flowering bulbs
October is the ideal time to plant tulips, daffodils, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Plant bulbs in groups or cluster to achieve maximum visual impact. Bulbs planted individually or in single rows are generally not as effective. Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted as late as December if the ground remains unfrozen.

Late summer and early fall is a time for gardeners to enjoy the fruits of their labour over the past several months. It's also time to plan and plant for the future.

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