We have had a pretty mild fall here in Baltimore, and the weather remains balmy here at the beginning of December. Are you thinking of selling you home next spring or summer? It is definitely the time to consider your curb appeal, and what you can do now to make the most of your landscaping in the spring.
Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, and here’s why:
Short, bright days
All of these factors help promote healthy root growth in plants that return each year.
Despite the cold weather lurking around the corner, there’s still time for spring planning and autumn planting.
THINGS TO KNOW
Ideally, give the roots at least six weeks to settle into their new home before the ground freezes.
If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. You can always move them come spring if you change your mind.
Provide supplemental water when needed. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but that doesn’t mean that new plantings should be ignored, particularly if weather has been dry and/or windy. Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.
Mulch. Just as you pile on blankets and quilts when the temperatures dip, mulch acts as insulation for plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. While even established plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, newly planted specimens especially appreciate the protection it offers from the challenges of winter.
THINGS TO AVOID
Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to drying out when the soil is frozen and the winds are blowing.
Avoid planting anything that’s pushing it in terms of hardiness. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, and lots of gardeners happily experiment with them. If you’d like to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s far better to plant it in spring so it gets the whole season to grow roots instead of just a few weeks.
Fall is not the best time to prune shrubs. When in doubt, don’t prune! Most shrubs don’t require regular pruning in order to be healthy and beautiful.
Evergreens like arborvitae and boxwood are best pruned in spring, after new growth has flushed out.
THINGS TO DO NOW
Do an honest evaluation of your garden. What worked this year? What wouldn’t you repeat next year? Do yourself a favor and start a list now that you can use when you shop next spring. Fall is also a good time of year to evaluate:
Which plants should be moved to a better spot in the garden
Where you need more privacy or screening for less-than-ideal views
Where you could use more plants with fall color/interest
Plant spring blooming bulbs. Fall is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and a wide variety of others you’ll find at your local garden center this time of year.
Cut select perennials back. Once your perennials have gone dormant, it’s a good idea to clean at least some of their foliage out of garden beds.
Protect sensitive and newly planted perennials and shrubs. If you’re pushing the hardiness zone on a few of your plants, heaping a pile of shredded leaves or evergreen boughs on top of them once they are dormant may help them make it through the winter.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to mulch newly planted perennials and shrubs that aren’t well-rooted in yet to prevent the rootball from heaving out of the ground during the freeze/thaw cycles of winter. Mulch helps to keep the soil at a more consistent temperature.