Steele: Five great reasons to plant in the fall

There are many advantages to doing some major gardening projects in the fall.

  • Sep. 30, 2012 6:00 p.m.
Lisa Masini  plants spring bulbs and does garden renovations in the Mediterranean garden of the unH2O Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens on Gordon Drive.

Lisa Masini plants spring bulbs and does garden renovations in the Mediterranean garden of the unH2O Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens on Gordon Drive.

After more than 40 years of gardening in the Central Okanagan, I’ve discovered there are many advantages to doing some major gardening projects in the fall.

1) Xeriscape/water conservation:

When planting an area that’s difficult to water, fall planting ensures a much better survival than spring planting.

Choose the most drought tolerant species (check the plant database at www.okanaganxeriscape.org). Drought tolerant Okanagan native plants are a great choice and low maintenance. Many beautiful species are available.

2) Root growth:

The soil is warm but the air is cool, creating good growing conditions. Plant root systems become well established to cope with next year’s drought. They will need less attention and watering next summer.

3) Perennial bed renovations:

In fall, perennials are at their full growth for the season, making it much easier to judge spacing for making changes in a garden. It’s a good time to divide perennials that bloomed earlier. Cut foliage back and soak roots well before digging plants.

4) Planting spring bulbs:

Spring bulbs are only available in fall. They give lots of colour in early spring, then die back to leave room for later blooming plants. For mass plantings, choose naturalizing varieties of early, mid and late season Narcissus, species and dwarf tulips, Scilla and grape hyacinth. Yellow Eranthis (winter aconite) are the earliest bloomers. These spring bulbs are drought tolerant, going dormant before summer. Narcissus and alliums are deer proof.

5) Extending the beauty of your garden:

Many varieties of late blooming perennials and ornamental grasses are not readily available in nurseries until later in the season. Visit nurseries now for long blooming and fall blooming varieties to extend the colour in your garden for years to come.

Fall planting essentials

Space plants for mature size to avoid pruning tasks and crowding in the future.

Soak plant root ball in a bucket of water before planting.

Loosen the root ball —many plants are pot bound in the fall.

Soak planting hole well.

Make sure roots are covered in soil.

Leave a slight depression in the soil around the plant so water soaks down onto the roots.

Water and then mulch. Spread organic mulch (such as Ogogrow, compost or well-rotted manure) over the soil two inches deep to insulate the plant against the freeze/thaw winter weather.

After the hot days of summer, it is refreshing to be out working in my garden in the fall—my favourite time of year.

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I will be teaching Easy Maintenance Gardening with Ornamental Grasses on Saturday, Oct. 13, 1 to 3p.m.,  at Kinsmen Fieldhouse. Cost is $20 (barcode: 126042). Register online at kelowna.ca/recreation or call 250-469-8800.

Kelowna Capital News