Benefits of Fall Planting

Discover the Benefits of Fall Planting. As we head deeper into fall and the dark days of winter, many gardeners tidy up their gardens and retreat inside their homes. However, fall provides an abundance of opportunities to get a head start on the next gardening season and enhance the beauty of your home landscape for years to come.

The main advantage of fall planting is that it allows plants to concentrate their energy on building a strong root system that will then produce bigger, fuller plants. Plants established in the fall also produce bigger blooms earlier in the spring. Plus, with cooler temperatures, there is less competition from weeds, fewer insects, and reduced need for watering. The gardener benefits, as well, since cool, dry weather in the fall makes planting a much more pleasant experience.

Perennials add color and drama to your garden year after year. Consider planting some spring-flowering perennials around your property in early fall, so that the plants have sufficient time to establish themselves before the onset of cold weather. Alternatively, plant perennial seeds in well-prepared soil in your garden. Choose perennials with the growth habits that suit their planting location to get the desired effect, and group plants of the same variety in clumps for best appearance and for feeding the pollinators.

Bulbs, a type of perennial, are some of the easiest and most dependable ornamentals in your garden. They are also the earliest bloomers come spring time. Spring-blooming bulbs, like hyacinths, narcissus and tulips, should be planted in the fall before the first hard frost, since they rely on an extended cold period to develop foliage and blooms. Select bulbs for the color, flower size, and location you desire, and follow planting guidelines for the bulbs you have chosen.

Trees and shrubs add beauty to our surroundings, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, support pollinators, provide shelter and protect the food web for birds and other wildlife, and sequester carbon to limit the effects of climate change. Trees also help cool our homes and yards on hot days.

Choosing the right location, selecting the right tree or shrub, and planting the right way will benefit your family, neighborhood, the wider community, and the environment. Our mantra, “Right Plant, Right Place!” Before picking a tree or shrub, consult this list of native plants of Virginia. Native plants have evolved to provide food and shelter for native animal species, many of whom require specific plants for their survival. Layer plant canopies (tree, shrub, groundcover) using native plants to promote habitat for beneficial insects, birds and wildlife upon which ecosystems depend.

As gardeners have become more aware of the importance of native plants and supporting our ecosystems, there has been increasing interest in intentionally building habitats in the home garden for bees, birds (including hummingbirds), and other wildlife. Bringing natives into our backyards is a great way to beautify our landscapes while helping to build a more stable and sustainable environment.

There are so many more ideas that can enhance your fall planting experiences. Although we are well into the fall vegetable growing season, there are ways to extend the season with cold frames, hot beds, or methods for growing herbs outside or winter sowing of seeds. Fall gardening is definitely about more than just clean-up!

Enjoy these lovely fall days, however you like to garden!

Other References:

Is Fall for Planting, Penn State Extension

Problem-free Trees for Virginia Landscapes, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Planting Trees and Shrubs, Virginia Department of Forestry

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