We often get the question “is it too late to landscape this year?” The short answer is “no”. While most people think about landscaping in the spring, there are many reasons why fall is a better time, and only a few reasons to wait.
We just completed one of the largest projects we’ve installed this year; it was a total “makeover” that took us a month to do. We built a three-foot high stone wall, stone steps, 750 feet of natural stone bed edging, three 20-foot seating walls and a 75-foot paver walk. The plantings included 150 perennials, 500 groundcover plants, over 100 shrubs, and eight large trees.
Aside from some wet weather, we had perfect working conditions. We’d much rather handle tons of stone and pavers in cool weather. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, hardscaping and planting is a pleasure at this time of year.
The plants like it, too. Most of them were already dormant (stopped growing and dropped their leaves) so they didn’t really mind being handled. We didn’t have to worry about them wilting or drying out, or getting wind-burned during transport. We did some transplants, and again the plants didn’t stress because they were “asleep”.
The owner is happy not to have daily watering challenges now that we’re finished. In fact, most of the plants should never need supplemental watering at all. They will get established during winter and spring, with plenty of rain and little heat. By the time summer heat and drought come, most of them will be well rooted and able to take care of themselves.
The last step was to repair the lawns where we’d scuffed them up or re-graded. We put down seed, fertilizer and straw, so that as soon as the weather warms next spring we’ll see new grass sprouting. We’ll have a nice new stand of grass well before the ground dries out enough to work the soil and plant. Again, the owner doesn’t have any watering challenges.
So, what are the disadvantages of fall planting?
First, we expect to lose a few of the evergreens and ornamental grasses because they won’t grow roots in the cold ground and the winter wind will dry them out. There will probably be less casualties that we’d get in late spring or summer, but certain plants don’t do as well with late season planting. That’s why we have a warranty.
It’s harder to prepare new beds in fall because our first step is to kill the existing weeds and grass in new bed areas. We do this by spraying Roundup or Remuda, nut-grass killer and clover-oxalis killer a few weeks before we till the new beds and plant. Weed killers work much more slowly in cool weather or when weeds are going dormant. We had to wait almost three weeks for the weed killer to work, in this particular case.
Fall planting is for the patient, because the plants don’t look all that great at this time of year so the finished job can look like a sea of mulch with bare sticks poking out. On the bright side, spring will be like Christmas as all the perennials emerge and start to bloom, shrubs and trees leaf out, and lawns turn lush and green. Fall landscapes are already popping before most people even start their spring cleanup and landscaping. By Memorial Day, landscapes planted in fall have a huge head start and they’re looking terrific!
Steve Boehme and his wife Marjorie own GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. More information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.