Local gardening experts say fall is the best time of the year to plant, fertilize, and weed. Avon garden store owners and managers shared their advice on what to do now to get a head start on next spring.
Jamie Haas, general manager of , explained: “Fall is an excellent time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. Why is fall planting so good for plants? Fall often gives us dependable rainfall so you are sure to have prime soil conditions!
“In the fall, the warm soil encourages root growth. Roots continue to grow through the winter. In early spring, roots continue to develop at a faster rate, and top growth begins. Fall-planted plants quickly become well established features in your landscape. Because roots are established early, your plants are now better equipped to deal with heat and drought.”
He also said now is the best time to plant bulbs. “A crisp, sunny day is a great time to plant bulbs. Pick a time that will allow at least six weeks before the ground freezes. In our zone, that means planting between late September and early October.”
Water your plants
Jeanne Traxler, owner of , which primarily sells trees, said people should be aware that when they plant trees in the fall, they should still water them in the spring like they've just been planted.
“When you plant a tree in fall, it goes dormant and sits there all winter,” she said. “In spring, it's like a newly planted tree, so you need to water it like it's a newly planted tree. Just because you planted it in the fall, a lot of people don't realize spring rain isn't good enough. Spring rain just runs off, so it's not enough.”
Her advice? “Get a five gallon bucket and punch a hole in the bottom. Fill it and water your tree three times a week. That should water it sufficiently.”
For bulbs, Haas offered some advice: “At planting time, I always add a teaspoonful of Bulb Tone for each bulb in the planting hole. Bone Meal is also an excellent additive for the soil at planting time as it promotes root and flower growth.
“Cover bulbs with soil and water them generously. When the ground cools, apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the surface. This helps to prevent the soil from drying out and to help keep soil temperatures stable through the winter,” he said.
Get rid of weeds
Jerry Gift, manager at Forthofer's Garden Center, said weeds grow rampant in the fall, so now is the time to get rid of them.
“Fall is a time when weeds are setting their roots, especially the young weeds,” he said. They're getting ready to go dormant for the winter, so it's a good time to put down fall weed preventives. Anything you do to your flowerbeds and gardens now prepare you for spring. If you cut and trim and put down weed preventives, come springtime, you're ahead of the game.”
If you don't fertilize any other time of the year, Gift says now is the time.
“If you don't fertilize your yard but once a year, fall is a good time to do that because it's getting ready to go to sleep,” he said. “People often don't realize that plants are living things, so they need the same care we do. They need to be fed, watered, and taken care of. Plants need our help to keep them healthy. We put insecticides and fungicides on them so they don't get sick. We feed and trim them to keep them healthy.”
Not just grass needs fertilization, though. Even the plants that thrive in the frozen months need it.
“Evergreens should be fertilized once in fall and once in spring,” Gift said. “What that does is helps them take in nourishment now while the ground's still warm, not frozen.”
Nourish your garden
Haas advised adding compost and planting winter rye, a “cover crop,” to vegetable gardens this fall to help nourish them before the winter frost. “It adds nutrients into the soil when it is tilled in and allowed to grow the proper amount of time,” he said.
For flowerbeds, Haas suggested tilling annuals with compost and manure and covering (not tilling) perennials with mulch, compost or manure.
“Perennial beds should not be tilled, due to their roots, which should not be disturbed,” he said.
Gift wanted to reiterate that nourishing and caring for gardens now will reap great rewards in the spring.
“If you cut and trim and put down weed preventives, come springtime you're ahead of the game,” he said. “You get a warm day in March, and they'll start getting a little wake-up call. Whatever you do to flowerbeds, shrubs, and trees prepares them for a bright spring.”