Fall is For Planting

A term in the green industry – an oldie, but a goodie – is “Fall is For Planting”.  The term sort of begs the questions: Planting what? And why?  Good questions, because some things are more suited than others.  In short, the items for planting are: trees, shrubs, turf, perennials, some veggies and even transplanting some herbs for the kitchen.


Why is fall so good for planting? This is the best time of year, ‘cuz soil and air temperatures are warm (not hot, not cold), sunshine is plentiful, and rainfall is plentiful but not overwhelming.  In fact, in the mindset of a horticulturist, fall is the start of the season, with a short rest for winter and then resumption of growth in spring.  The contrast is spring, when temperatures and rainfall are variable.


Trees and Shrubs: The key factor for success of trees and shrubs is to dig a wide, shallow hole.  Another is to inspect the roots before planting and spread out any that have circled in the pot, which is common after spending the summer at the garden center saying “oh, please buy me…please”, happy that someone knew the value of planting in fall.


Perennials:  Most garden centers relish the prospect of selling perennials, and slash the price to avoid overwintering them.  This means bargains and real value for gardeners who think ahead.  Planting in groups of 3, 5 and 7 is a guideline to keep in mind.


Veggies: Short season vegetables such as radish, lettuce, beets, collards, spinach and even green beans are ones to succeed with.  Get a jump on fall veggies by ripping out any spring or summer crops, fortifying the soil with compost and choosing early maturing cultivars.

compost sb

Herbs:  Chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme and basil are great additions to winter soups and stews.  If you have a sunny window, you’ve got it made.  Just use a pitchfork to loosen the soil around plants, cut off any extra twisted roots and plop them in clay pots.  Make up for any space in the pots with a mix of perlite, Canadian peat moss and vermiculite.  Turn the pots 1/3 each week for a well-rounded plant.


John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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