September 16th, 2014
We’re heading down the gardening home stretch now, that time of year when we’re tempted to dig in a few mums and call it a season.
Not so fast. We should have another 6 to 8 weeks of decent gardening conditions – weeks that happen to be some of the year’s best for planting.
“Fall is for planting” isn’t just garden-center hype to get rid of plants the stores don’t want to overwinter. Fall really is a good time to plant most things. Here’s why:
* The soil temperatures are warm enough to support good root growth at least through the end of October.
* The shorter days, less intense sunlight and cooler temperatures of early fall mean less stress (i.e. “transplant shock”) for plants being evicted from their cozy pots into the untamed ground.
* Newly planted plants lose less moisture through their leaves in fall than summer, which lowers water demands.
* We usually get more rain in fall than summer, which further reduces the hose duty that new plantings require.
* Fall-planted plants will have two growing seasons under their belts instead of one (now and next spring) before having to face the grueling challenge of a summer in central-Pennsylvania clay.
* The bugs are mostly gone.
* A lot of plants go on sale from here on out.
* And, last but not least, it’s a heckuva lot more pleasant to be out there digging in late September than in an August furnace.
When plant-shopping this time of year, you’ll run into both fresh fall stock from the growers as well as spring leftovers that may not have had immaculate care over the summer.
Check the leaves and branches for bug damage, leaf spotting, leaf streaking and other signs of trouble. I’d pass on those.
If the leaves are just tired and browning, or if the spent flower stems just haven’t been snipped, or if the plant is a bit gangly or ratty from spending the summer in a small pot, don’t worry about that… especially if the price tag says 40 or 50 percent off.