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Fall has arrived

Fall has arrived

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams

The autumnal equinox has arrived. In my hunting days (it seems long, long ago), fall was my favorite season. It has been supplanted by spring.
After the rains of a couple of weeks ago, I was actually able to dig a couple of inches deep. That was about it.
I wanted to set out a nice specimen of plum yew in our woods, but the shovel struck concrete about 2 inches down. We need a foot of rain over a month or so to really break this drought.
Anyhow, I got down as deep as I could, then filled the hole with three gallons of water. After another day or so, I could go a few more inches, then add more water, and so, by degrees, I got deep enough to plant.
At least with cooler nights and days, evaporation is not so severe and watering, virtually constant since May, has become a bit less onerous.
Fall planting, of both woody plants and herbaceous perennials, is recommended for several reasons. Under normal conditions — that is, when rain has been reasonable — the ground is friable and easily dug.
A plant set in fall has all winter to get roots comfortably ensconced into the soil. It will be several months before the stress of our miserable summer sets  in. The plant will have a better chance to make it than a similar one planted in spring.
Even if the soil is already wet, muddy the new plant in well, squeezing down the soil around the root ball so as to eliminate any air pockets. Then mulch well (leave a “donut hole” around the immediate base of the plant) and further watering, this late in the year, should not be necessary, barring exceptional heat and further drought.
Another advantage to fall planting involves thrift. Not the plant, the money. Most box stores and some nurseries and garden centers put plants on sale in fall, not wanting to overwinter an excess of stock. This is your chance to get bargains.
My philosophy on half-price merchandise is not that I save half my money, but that I can buy twice as much for the same price. So I do.
At two-thirds off, you get three times as much, and at three-fourths off four times as much, and so on. At the latter rate, even if half of them die (not a remote possibility) you’re still ahead of the game, except for those empty holes. But you can fill them later, with more plants of course.
We’ve been talking here mostly of container-grown material.
It is more economical, and easier, to deal with these than balled-and-burlapped plants, which will be heavier and generally available only in larger sizes.
Container plants are lighter and easier to handle, and all the roots are right there in the pot, though if they are wound around inside the container it is good to tease them apart to allow free extension into surrounding soil.
The great majority of perennials can be fall planted, the most notable exceptions being those that are yet in bloom, i.e. chrysanthemums.
Spring planting is preferred for late bloomers. However, these are not, of course, flowering if they are available in spring and it is up to you, the customer, to know what to expect in that regard.
Jimmy Williams is the garden writer for The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at (731) 642-1162.

Published in The Messenger 9.25.12