Being able to garden and plant in the fall is our reward for surviving yet another hot and dry Texas summer. Planting in the fall may be a new idea to some gardeners, but there are many benefits to it.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.
So the proverb goes…
(My late father-in-law in his family’s garden seventy or so years ago. Check out those iris! A topic for another post…)
In Texas, Arbor Day is celebrated on November 1st, while the rest of the country celebrates the planting of trees in April. Why the difference? Because trees (and shrubs) planted in the fall get off to a much better start than those planted in April.
Our soil never freezes in zone 8a, even in our coldest winters, which means that plant roots continue to grow year round. Plants that are put into the ground now have time for their roots to get established, with at least six months of cooler temperatures and heavier rainfall before summer sets in yet again. The soil is still warm from summer, while the air is cooling down, thus creating better growing conditions. All of those factors give plants an advantage come August to plants that weren’t planted until spring.
If you are in the market for trees or shrubs and fall leaf color is a consideration, fall is a great time to visit nurseries and see plants while their leaves are turning color. Leaf color varies from tree to tree, even within one variety, so look for individual plants that have the most vibrant fall colors.
If you are in the market for trees, visiting a botanical garden or arboretum is a great way to look at many types of trees in one location. The Grapevine Botanical Garden, for example, is free and open to the public and features several dozen different trees, all native or well adapted to North Texas.
Need another reason to plant now? Fewer insects are out and about in the fall, which means less pest management and a more enjoyable gardening environment.
Trees, shrubs, hardy perennials and winter hardy annuals (such as pansies and ornamental kale) can all be planted now. Availability of plants will vary by garden center, with independent garden centers carrying the best selection in the fall.
Don’t forget that we can also grow vegetables, such as lettuce and beets, through the winter. Check with your county extension office for a chart of what vegetables can be planted now.