Come July, everyone but the most fanatic of gardeners turn their backs on purveyors of plants. I totally get it – it’s too freaking HOT to labor in the garden! The soil has turned to impenetrable rock, and all you want to do is sip a cool drink in a shady spot. Or, in my case, crawl under a rock and die. By August, parking lots outside nurseries are veritable heat reflecting deserts, schools are about to start up again, and the last thing anyone wants is more stress in their lives. But THEN – after Labor Day – when temperatures start to come down, that fresh smell of fall is in the air, and a breeze rustles through summer’s crisp-edged leaves… THEN is when you need to put your garden gloves back on, and put the kids to work with the shovels. Really – I would not lie to you! But, this is one of those truths that most people simply refuse to take to heart. It’s like telling a 3-year old not to touch the hot oven. They will still do it. Not until after they successfully try it, they will know there was a reason that mommy told them “NO”. Same thing here. Once you’ve experienced the joy of a spring full of surprises you had forgotten you planted the previous autumn, you will know why I keep harping on this. Fall planting makes a world of difference in the spring garden! So, for the benefit of both you, and perhaps even future generations, here is a list of compelling reasons why you should indeed buck the trend, and do it now, instead of later.
1. The soil is already warm! If you plant now, your plant will have at least a couple of months to develop a good root system before winter sets in. The root growth won’t really slow down until the soil temperature goes below 55°F. By comparison, a greenhouse grown treasure thrown into the cold, soggy soil of April, will try to assimilate and adjust until – as the soil slowly warms – it gets its bearings, and it can begin to develop some roots.
2. Months of free irrigation! Except for those last few dry weeks of our Pacific NorthWest summer, you won’t need to water again until late next spring. Just imagine how much you’ll save on water bills!
3. Plants planted in fall will be at a HUGE advantage compared to their freshly planted compadres come next spring. Planting in the fall will give you a massive head start, come spring!
4. Not having to work so hard to keep it alive means less post-plant’em-stress – both for you and your new plants!
5. After spending the entire season – or more – in nursery pots, many plants are dying to get out and in the ground. I imagine it feels like the equivalent of having to wear shoes a size or two too small. Grant them the relief, and they will reward your kindness for years to come! 🙂
6. If you choose a plant with great fall color, its fall glory will lift your spirits even on a gray day – even if it’s small. And, gratification is instant! You won’t have to wait until next year!
7. You know those torrential winter rains we keep having? If you choose to plant a tree, it will do more than its fair share to absorb the wetness. When a large trees reach mature size, it will do more to absorb moisture than even a good-sized rain garden would!
8. Planting a tree before the rainy season will aid in storm water management and filtration, thus help clean our rivers and watersheds.
9. If you live in Portland, OR, planting a qualifying tree on your residential property may make you eligible for a “Treebate” that will be credited to your water/sewer bill. This is the City of Portland’s way of thanking you for keeping our city green.
10. Speaking of green – this has been a disastrous summer with wildfires raging over thousands and thousands of acres. Orange is the new green. Granted, fires are said to be rejuvenating for forests, but still… At the rate we’re polluting our planet, anything we can do to increase the absorption of carbon dioxide in our over-stressed environment is a good thing. Woody plants will sequester carbon, so go ahead, why don’t you… Plant that fabulous shade tree you have always wanted! Get more info on the fabulous benefits of trees here.
11. Just about everything is on sale! Nurseries don’t really want to care for unsold goods over winter, so they start slashing prices. You may just find the best deal of your year! Stop by your favorite independent plant hawker or independent nursery, and pick your favorite!
12. The last reason is deferred to the following spring. While neighbors are scurrying around with wheel barrows full of soil, and doing laps in nursery parking lots, trying to find a spot, and paying full price for shrubs and perennials, you can relax, fire up the grill, and harvest the first herbs of the year for the salad. Trust me – it’s a good feeling!