By Paul James
With the arrival – finally! – of fall temperatures this morning, I feel a sense of rejuvenation. And with that comes a strong desire to get out in the garden. The timing of the two emotions is perfect, because fall just happens to be the ideal time to plant just about everything that grows. And there’s a very good reason for that.
There’s also a very good reason I’ve been harping on the importance of fall planting for decades: I’ve witnessed firsthand the enormous difference fall planting makes. Allow me to explain by getting to the root (or rather, roots) of the matter.
Planting in the fall gives roots a chance to grow quickly, because the plant isn’t forced to devote nearly as much energy toward producing foliage or flowers (or seeds or fruit) as it is in spring. Instead, it devotes nearly all of its energy into producing roots, a process that continues for weeks, even months. The reverse is generally true in the spring – a plant’s energy is devoted to new top growth at the expense of root growth.
Consequently, what you plant in fall will be far more prepared for the surge of new growth in spring, and be far better equipped to handle the heat of summer, thanks to its larger root mass. And fall planting greatly reduces the chance of transplant shock, largely because air temperatures are cooler and rainfall is more dependable.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you shouldn’t plant trees, shrubs, and perennials in spring. But I am saying that given a choice, I’d opt to plant the vast majority of plants from those categories in fall. And I’d encourage you to do likewise.