Fall is a great time to plant in the south. The weather is cooling off and typically, the rainfall is plentiful. The cooling temperatures make gardening more enjoyable for us doing the work and for the plants that are trying to establish themselves. While the soil is still warm but the air is cold, plants use all of their energy into establishing roots instead of focusing on what’s above the surface. This makes for a very successful start! If you are looking to add plants to your garden beds or to embark on a landscaping project, now is a great time to do it. We’ve put together a list of tips for planting this season.
- Always start with some type of plan. You don’t have to have a formal landscape drawing but it’s good to have an idea or vision of how you’d like to use the space. In other words, just take a minute to think and brainstorm. This isn’t as important if you’re adding a single plant but if you are working on a new area it’s a good idea to at least measure the space before you head out to our garden center so our staff can help you with selections. Considerations to keep in mind are: sun exposure of the area, moisture level and existing plants surrounding the area. See this article for additional tips on landscape planning.
- When planting, make sure to amend your soil. We love Daddy Pete’s planting mix. It’s a great soil full of composed pine bark and manure plus it’s a local product made right here in North Carolina. Adding a planting mix to your existing soil helps with drainage and helps the roots ease their way into the surrounding soil as they develop. When digging your hole, make sure it is not quite as deep as the root ball of the plant and is 2-3 times wider than the size of the root ball. Use the excavated soil and mix it with Daddy Pete’s (1 part existing soil to 1-2 parts planting mix), use the mixture as back fill around the plant. The best way to water in your plant is to add water to the planting hole as you are adding the fill dirt. Watering in well ensures that their is no air trapped around the roots. For more help with planting see our Successful Planting Guide.
- Amending your soil is especially important when planting deciduous plants this time of year. If you soil is heavy or full of clay, it’s very important to amend soil for proper drainage. Since deciduous plants are loosing or about to be loosing their leaves, they don’t have a way to get rid of excess moisture. Wet roots will rot and kill the plant.
- If planting evergreens now don’t forget about them this winter. Once the weather cools off it’s easy to forget about watering new plants. If the winter is particularly dry, or we have a period of a few warm weeks, it’s important to continue to water.
- Newly established plants need to be watered well for the first few weeks. It’s better to water deeply twice a week than to water lightly everyday. To water properly, use a hose and hold it close to the ground and water it for 5-10 minutes.
- Pansies are an excellent way to add color to the landscape. They love cold weather so plant them now and they will perform great until spring or early summer when it starts to get hot. There are many other cold weather plants that look great this time of year including snap dragons, fall blooming perennials, ornamental cabbages and kales as well as evergreen perennials such as ferns and heuchera.
- Fall is also the prime time for planting fescue lawn seed. Whether starting a new lawn or re-seeding an existing lawn, be sure to first aerate your soil before you lay down your seed. We have plugging aerator rentals at reasonable rates. Our staff is always available to help answer questions about your lawn should you need more help and assistance. You’ll want to get your seed down before the leaves fall and cover your lawn.
- Be sure to rip out all of your dead and dying summer vegetable plants if you haven’t already and, plant cool season crops like lettuce, greens, kale, carrots and other root vegetables to harvest through the winter. If you don’t want to plant a fall/winter garden, it’s a good idea to till your soil and plant a cover crop such as clover or rye grass. We offer tiller rentals should you choose to use one and don’t have one. At a minimum, dispose of dead plants and clean up debris as to not over winter pests or disease.
- Spring bulbs should be planted from Halloween to Christmas. These are easy to plant and there are lots of ways to keep the pests away if you’ve had problems in the past. See our article on deterring pests from bulbs.
For more fall gardening tips see our article on Fall Gardening Tips for Zone 7B.