There are several things to consider when planning a perennial garden. Is there enough sun or shade? What plants will work in which area of the garden? When is the best time to plant? Is the soil healthy? How do I plant each plant? Will the plants compete or complement each other? Let us chip away at this with a rule of thumb: You should plant your perennials in the fall instead of in the spring..
Why should I plant my perennials in the fall?
Many of us don’t realize that the best time to plant perennials is in the fall. Most people associate planting gardens in the spring when the weather starts to warm up and all the new growth starts happening around us. Yes, it is usually best to start an annual garden in the spring. But, perennials, are different. Most prefer to be planted in the fall.
There are several reasons it is generally better to plant perennials in the fall. Weather is cooler in the fall and it causes less stress on the plant and the roots when they are being moved from place to place. The soil is still warm enough to encourage healthy root growth. Planting in the fall also gives the plant time to heal and put all of its energy into good healthy root growth instead of focusing on foliage and fruit growth. Even though the top of the plant may not show signs of life, the roots can still grow This prepares them with a head start for spring.
How do I know when my plants are dormant?
The rule of thumb for knowing when a plant is dormant is that it has dropped all of its leaves. This rule doesn’t quite work for evergreens but even they go dormant. Generally speaking, almost all plants in areas with cold winters go into dormancy between just before the first frost and shortly after the first hard freeze of winter. This is where the temperatures drop below 32° Fahrenheit and remain there for several hours.
But many people get concerned with whether the plant is dormant or dead. For trees and more “woody” type plants, you can make a small scratch on the bark. If the under side of the bark is green, it is still alive. With “non-woody” plants you could cut into the roots or crown to look for signs of life. However, we prefer to let the plant be and simply trust that nature has taken its course.
Get a jump start on your food garden
By planting your productive perennials in the fall, you can get a jump start on production. We do our best to find ways to plant our garden in the fall because it puts as much of the plant’s energy into our soil to help support the plant’s long life. It doesn’t do much good to leave those root tips in the nursery’s soil. You should do what you can to plant your trees, shrubs, herbs and other perennials in the fall.
Next we’ll talk about why buying trees grown in pots will kill them slowly.