Follow these ground rules for fall planting
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Oct 24, 2012 | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fall planting is preferred by many gardeners, but there are some ground rules. First, you must do the fall planting early enough to allow the plants to become well rooted before the ground freezes for the winter. A general rule in determining which perennials will do well if planted in fall is that perennials which bloom in early spring will do well planted in late summer or early fall. Then those plants which bloom in late summer or early fall should be planted in the spring. These “rules of thumb” are generally proven true over many, many years. Phlox and Oriental Poppies are best divided shortly after blooming. But, on the other hand, Chrysanthemums, Lupines and Anemones must wait until the beginning of warm weather. So, as you may gather, the best plan is to know each plant when deciding when to transplant or plant. I have a very old gardening book which was given to me more than 50 years ago and if I forget when to plant some perennial, I check with my old, worn-out gardening book. I like to plant and transplant, or move, as many plants as possible in fall since spring is such a busy season and I never seem to have time for transplanting.

There is a little trick which will benefit your perennials when transplanting and that is to arrange soil about the crown, so that water flows away from it. The plants will settle and be injured if a pool of water stands and freezes during winter. That only takes a minute extra and makes a difference.

I sometimes feel vindicated in writing some little tidbit of information and that happened this past week when a friend picked up our local paper and reading my column, said, “So that’s why my hydrangeas don’t bloom”. Seems her husband is a big fan of trimming everything back. One plant which I see often ruined by excess trimming is the forsythia. They are supposed to have the long stems when in bloom but I often see them trimmed as in a hedge. Proper shaping in a few cases is a good thing but can ruin the blooms in other instances. So you must know your shrubs when deciding to trim or not to trim. That is the question.

There is also a time to fertilize and a time NOT to fertilize. Young trees should not be fertilized until they are at least a year old. One tip about planting trees or shrubs this fall; place a piece of tile pipe down to the roots to aid in watering next summer.

One thing which is deadly to plants is salt. If you plant shrubs or perennials near a highway which gets salted every winter, you are very likely to lose said plant. Now that is a “rule of thumb”. On the other hand, one of my Ma’s favorite stories is of the old silver maple which grew just a few feet from her front steps. She would always get a real kick out of this story. Seems her mother-in-law, Grandmother Caroline, hated that tree with a passion but her husband wouldn’t allow it to be cut because his mother had planted it. As some of you know, silver maple trees put up shoots for many yards around the tree making it necessary to constantly cut back the sprouts. One day, when her husband was in the fields, Grandmother Caroline bored a big hole in that tree and stuffed the hole with salt, then put sawdust back in the hole and covered it with bark. And then she waited for the tree to die. And waited, and waited and nothing happened. So she and her daughter-in-law both had to keep cutting down those sprouts which came up. Another old “rule of thumb” shot down.

Ma adored her mother-in-law and many of Ma’s favorite plants had been planted by her. She was a collector of rocks and wild flowers and had little beauty spots hither and yon in the big yard. Imagine a peony so old that it had been planted 60 or more years and still bloomed profusely. Also there was the Mock Orange, Lilies and many other plants that Ma tended faithfully because Grandmother planted them. Houses of today are rarely owned and tended by just one family as was the case of the old Lewis home. It had been owned by the same family since before the Civil War. The woman who had planted the old, much hated silver maple was named Rachel and was buried in a little graveyard on the farm near the old house. Ma and I put flowers on those graves many, many times.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions, suggestions or just to chat. To receive a copy of my book, “Going Through the Garden”, please send a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.
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