Spring ahead with fall planting
While crisp autumn days await, now is the perfect time to get home and garden landscapes ready for prime time come spring. Warmer soil temperatures in the fall encourage strong root development and growth, setting the stage for vibrant blooms throughout the spring season.
“With a healthy root system, the plant will thrive,” says Dominic Mannarino, senior horticulturalist at West Bridgewater-based Schumacher Landscaping. “Any root development that occurs allows the plant to take in—and store—that much more water,” which, he notes, will help keep plants hydrated throughout the winter. For the best chance of success, Mannarino advises planting by mid-to-late October.
In selecting fall plants, Bill Witkowski, design construction manager for Pocasset-based landscaping company Chris Mark and Sons, says gardeners should think long term. “What really looks good in the fall are plants that have that nice fall color, like an oak leaf hydrangea. People buy those because they look good at that time, but for the rest of the year, they don’t look that great,” he explains. “You want to get a plant that looks good in the springtime, too, and has nice foliage.” Witkowski recommends hydrangeas, rose of Sharon, butterfly bush and daylilies.
Other fall plants that are attractive year round, Mannarino says, include echinacea, black-eyed Susan, ornamental grasses, sedums, and springtime favorite forsythia. He cautions against planting leafy evergreens in the fall, as the leaves will be exposed to the cold during the winter.
When it comes to planting, start by digging a hole that’s at least twice the size of the plant’s root mass, Mannarino says. The top of the soil in the plant’s container should be the top of the planting. Because the soil on the Cape is sandy, Witkowski advises adding compost and peat moss to help plants hold more water. Mannarino recommends also leaving a small ridge of soil around the plant. “That helps to introduce the water more slowly and not allow it to just run off the surface and disappear,” he says. “You might think you’re watering, but if the water doesn’t penetrate, then it doesn’t help.”
For Witkowski, less is more with landscape. “If you’re doing a foundation planting in front of your house,” he says, “you’re better off putting half as many plants but getting them twice as big so they’re more mature.” Mannarino notes that plants should be spaced—and layered—according to mature size and can be arranged in triangular patterns, “drift” patches, or straight lines.
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