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September 14, 2009   Email to Friend 

Fall is Best Time to Plant Woody Landscape
Lois Chaplin

Did you know that fall is better than spring for planting most landscape plants?

Trees, shrubs, ground covers and perennials set out in fall have months in their new home before their roots are asked to support new spring growth. This gives the roots time to take hold and increase so they are better able to soak up water and nutrients from the soil in spring. In autumn the ground is warm, but the air is cool, which is perfect for roots. The roots can grow and the top is winding down, going dormant so everything is quiet upstairs, leaving the plant to do its underground work. About the only things you don't plant now are tropical and half-hardy plants such as palms and hibiscus that are damaged by winter.

It goes against the grain to plant things now that peaked weeks ago such as hydrangeas, spirea and forsythia, but if you plant them now, they'll be happier next spring. This also includes daylilies, heuchera, rudbeckia, bee balm, coneflowers and just about all hardy perennials. You may even find some on sale as garden centers move inventory to make room for pansies and Christmas trees.

Don't miss adding some yearly fall blooms to your garden with lasting plants that you find at the garden centers in full glory this month and next: swamp sunflower, mums, fall sedums, asters, sasanqua camellia and pyracantha. If you're looking for items that come back year after year, make sure they are hardy in zone 7 if you live in north Alabama, and zone 8 if you are south of Montgomery. Plant tags will reveal the zone lines.

The same holds true for spring-flowering annuals and bulbs. The pansy season begins in October, while November is the best time to plant bulbs. However, you'll need to buy your bulbs as soon as they appear in the garden centers beginning this month. Bulbs always show up too early in the South; hold them in a cool, dark place until mid November.

If you're in the market to do some landscaping, now is a good time. Even lawns may be sodded now, especially tall fescue, which is a cool-season grass and is going into the beginning of its growing season. In north and north central Alabama, fescue blends make good lawns for light shade. Although tall fescue can be sodded, many people start it from seed because it is so easy to get and more economical. There has been a lot of work done on developing finer texture, lawn-quality fescue varieties for our climate. Check with your local garden center for a quality seed blend such as Rebel, Falcon, Dynasty, Mustang and Monet. They have finer textured blades and grow more densely than Kentucky 31, so they make a better lawn. Many times a bag of seed will be a blend of several varieties to take advantage of the strengths of each variety.

So, start making your landscape changes now, taking your time through fall and you'll be glad you did. ___________________________

Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.


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