Autumn will officially be here in a few weeks, and many people know that it is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. Why is it the best time, however?
1. Cooler weather means happier plants. Plants are stressed when they are planted! Cooler weather helps them be a little less stressed, and it's also the time of the year where they are about to go dormant. During dormancy, they rest and rejuvenate before spring's arrival. Planting right before they go dormant helps them rest before being expected to grow roots deeper and flourish the next spring.
2. Heading into what is usually a wetter season (winter). Winters in Middle Tennessee are typically pretty wet, which can be very beneficial for newly planted trees and shrubs. If planting this fall, however, know that fall is historically our driest season. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered deeply every 3-4 days (for the first year of being planted) when we aren't receiving adequate rainfall. You'll want to place a hose at the base of the plant on a slow stream of water for approximately 20 minutes per plant. Alternatively, tree gators work great for newly planted trees; we offer them at the garden center.
3. You can plant all thru fall and winter. Yes, we are blessed to be able to plant most months of the year! In our climate, the ground doesn't usually freeze (to where you can't dig easily!) until mid-January or February, meaning we can plant a good 10 months out the year usually. If you aren't able to plant this fall, know that you can in winter, as long as the ground isn't frozen yet!
4. It's easier to plan a 4-season garden. 4-season gardens are delightful gardens that have been truly thought out well. They contain interest for each season of the year and often contain unique plants that aren't used in every landscape. By planting in fall, you are resisting the "its spring and everything is blooming" temptation (trust us, we've all been there, too!). Unless you know exactly what you're looking for, in spring, it can be tempting to purchase what's in bloom for that season only, but then that "leaves" (did you see what we did there? :) ) you with less or no interest in the cooler months of the year. In fall, you can see plants that have interesting fall foliage and add them in your landscape (look for evergreens of course, but also plants such as 'Arctic Fire' Dogwood, Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, Witch Hazel, Burning Bush, Weigela, and Blueberry- yes! Most have great fall foliage!).
5. It gives plants many months to get situated before hot, humid summers come again. We touched on this a little bit above, but it is very important. We have such hot summers in Middle Tennessee! By planting in fall, you're giving your tree or shrub many months to get settled before that heat comes again. There are some plants that it is best to plant in spring- Peonies and Camellias are examples of that- but for the most part, fall is best for most trees and shrubs.
If planting in the fall, know that most plants do not need pruned in fall. If you need to do any major pruning, it is best to wait until late winter/ early spring, and even then, there are a few exceptions. Ask us pruning questions at the garden center regarding your specific plant.