There are many clichés in gardening, but some are more pertinent than others.
"Fall is for planting," was coined back in the 1980s and did a remarkable job helping the nursery industry extend its season.
Many gardeners already knew that the cool nights and warm days, with usually more predictable rain, made establishing plants easy. But prior to the advent and widespread use of plastic nursery pots from one gallon size all the way to bathtub size 90 gallons, there was a reluctance to dig and disturb plants in the fall.
Chances were, 50 percent of plants dug in the fall didn't make it to spring.
But now, so much plant material is grown in plastic, and even the balled and burlapped (B&B) plants are so much better kept and managed thru the season at nurseries with good irrigation, one does not have to worry about planting in the fall.
In fact, high tech root-pruning and advanced digging practices have enabled nurseries to offer even freshly dug stock on request. Formerly, you were at the mercy of what was in stock.
One of the main reasons for fall planting is that trees and shrubs can still produce roots thru most of the warm fall and into the winter. They also become active very early and these roots will give your plant a head start and not need as much summer watering.
Fall can also be a great time to bargain hunt. Many nurseries close and have clearance sales, and if you are planning on ordering stock, often there’s a discounts on larger quantities or planting charges.
Look for plants that are not root bound, or dried out. With deciduous plants, check the growing tips for new buds and supple twigs. For evergreens, the color should be deep in the leaves with no brown edges.
When you plant your stock, be sure to always mix in some organics, like peat humus or even manure if dug in well; add peat moss to hold more water. There is no need to fertilize now. When you back fill you can create a bowl-like earthen ridge around the outside of the ball to hold water when you fill with a hose and to catch more rain.
Remember, just two-three inches of mulch across the open soil. Do not pile it up like a hill as so many people do, as this only creates problems with the bark and insects and can even shed water. If your new plantings include trees, or top heavy large evergreens, staking will save the plant a lot of energy and protect it from many potential injuries.
What to plant? Always consider your garden's frame. Do I need a shade tree, a screen, or a sound barrier? Planting the things that need to get the biggest first, is what designers always consider.
So how about some pin oaks, willow oaks, various maples and elms? Or go native and plant red cedar, bayberry and American holly. For flowering trees, try Hawthorne, crab apple and serviceberry are so useful for wildlife, but very underutilized.
Consider also evergreen magnolias, viburnums, and crape myrtles. And of course, daffodils — dozens of them. Nothing eats them, and they come back for decades!
Call Cape Shore Gardens & Crow Creek Studio, 1028 Rt. 9 S. Cape May Court House, 609-465-5161 (office), 609-827-6423 (direct), or log onto www.capeshoregardens.com, or www.crowcreekstudio.com.