Focus Underground this Fall
October 4, 2021
In the spring and summer months, successful gardeners measure the results of their hard work by the sight of healthy plants emerging from the soil. As deciduous plants and perennials return year after year, we have a tendency to focus on the visible signs of progress like renewed growth and abundant blooms. Now that the growing season is winding down, it’s the best time for gardeners to consider the health of their garden below the soil. Fall is the best time for planting because of the perfect growing conditions underground; read on to learn how you can work below the surface of your garden this season for a big payoff in the spring.
Fall is the absolute best time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. In the cool months before winter sets in, plants recover from the growing season by shedding foliage and shrinking back. Instead of actively growing, they’re spending their energy underground to strengthen their root systems for next year. Cool temperatures combined with increased rainfall and fewer pests provide excellent conditions for new plants to become established. Without having to contend with heatwaves and drought, they thrive through the fall months. If you’re looking to install a new tree or add perennial plants to your garden, now is the perfect time. Stop by Cross Creek or search our online inventory to shop plants.
Planting fall bulbs is another great way to prepare your garden for maximum color in the spring. Many bulbs need to be planted in the fall to experience a period of chilling before sprouting. Beyond traditional bulbs like tulips and daffodils, we recommend planting crocuses, ranunculus and giant allium. For extra flavor next year, try planting garlic bulbs!
Plant cover crops in your vegetable garden to properly overwinter your soil. Cover crops are planted in the fall and removed in the spring for different purposes: to fix nitrogen back into the soil, to aerate compacted grounds, or to control erosion. In tired vegetable gardens, planting a cover crop of clover can help raise nitrogen levels in the soil and prevent errant weed growth. Crops with deep root systems like oats work to break up compacted soil beneath the surface. By the time the cover crop is removed in the spring, the soil will be ready for another year of growing!
Provide nutrients for growing root systems underground by laying down a top dressing of high quality compost. Avoid using a synthetic fertilizer because sudden fertilization will trigger foliage growth, which will only die back as the weather cools. A top dressing of compost allows for slower, more controlled fertilization over time. The nutrients from rich compost will mix with rainwater and seep down to soak the roots. When the spring comes, your plants will have received months of steady nutrition and be ready to spring into life.
Take advantage of the cool autumn months by tending to your garden underground. All of the hard work to plant bulbs, perennials, and cover crops now will result in a healthy and beautiful garden next spring.