Fall Gardening – It’s Not Too Late to Plant Your Garden

Procrastinators Rejoice (Fall Gardening is Great)

Mother and Son Tree Planting

In most years in Northern Virginia, we can successfully plant trees, shrubs and perennials well into December. Fall gardening is great. Traditionally we think of Spring as the best time to plant but, surprisingly, this is not the case for many perennials, shrubs and trees.

In Fall, the soils are still warm from the hot summer sun, the air is cool and refreshing and rains are usually abundant.  New plantings love these conditions and eagerly spread their roots into their new surroundings.   When spring arrives this head start creates larger plants with more flowers!

Perennials, planted in the Fall, will grow to their full size the following summer. Perennials planted in the spring may take two to three seasons to reach their full size, and often, this is also true of trees and shrubs.

Almost any plant will thrive if planted before the ground has frozen. The Spring planting tradition is a carry-over from years of planting annuals. As our gardening prowess has improved we’ve developed a distinct fondness for perennials over annuals to develop season-long color in our gardens.

Plants to Avoid

Avoid planting marginally hardy shrubs such as camellia, rosemary, holly, evergreen magnolia and loropetalum in the Fall unless you are willing to protect them through the winter. If you feel you must plant these varieties or already have them in your garden, you can protect them by wrapping them in burlap.

Also it is not recommended to prune anything but deadwood from Fall planted trees and shrubs. Wait for Spring to shape shrubs.

Even Vegetables

Garden Vegetables in a basketBelieve it or not, even some vegetables can be sown in the Fall. Here is a list of vegetables that will over-winter in Northern Virginia:

  •  Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Mache
  • Mustard Greens
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

(We gratefully acknowledge Colleen Vanderlinden at Treehugger.com for developing this list. Click Here if you are looking for vegetables that can be sown in the Fall in other parts of the country)

Year-Round Excellent Soil Prep is Key

Fall planting, like Spring planting, still requires excellent soil preparation. Dig a hole two to three times the size of the root ball. Properly position the tree or shrub, taking care not too plant too deep or too shallowly. The base of the tree or shrub should be positioned so that the area where the root meets the trunk is neither buried nor raised. Tamp the soil in place, then water.  A soil mix of ⅓ organic matter and ⅔ loose, friable soil is preferable for great root development and highly recommended for perennial plantings. You’ll need to water your new plant throughout the Fall and into next Spring.

So if you are a procrastinator there is hope for you and your garden. You can break out your shovel and enjoy the time outside while the weather is temperate and cool.

Enjoy ! Fall is a great time for gardening !