Ask the Chuckster: Preparing for fall — already!!!

Preparing for fall — already!

We’re now past the mid-point between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox and the weather projections say that we’re past the extreme summer heat in our region. Looks like we can start our fall planting early, and with the variability of weather conditions in our area, getting plants in the ground early this season seems like a good idea.

In this post I cover questions we hear this time of year. Please enjoy the season and savor your garden’s offerings. Blessings to you and your garden.


Now that we’re past the midway point between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox, I can see the signs of plants transitioning out of their growth stages.  I’m delighting in an abundant summer harvest of blackberries, blueberries, Chickasaw plums, late bush cherries, and Cornelian cherries.

From the weather predictions, it looks like the extreme heat of summer is past and we can get an early start on fall planting so I’ll cover a few of the questions we hear this time of year.

What plants are good to plant in the autumn?

In general, you can plant anything that is cold hardy for your area this time of year. For these plants, the hardest time of the year is the hot summer, so planting them in the fall gives them the most time to become established.

Plants that are on the edge of their cold hardiness tolerance would need good siting and winter protection. Planting a larger plant with a bigger root ball, such as a 3-gallon fig instead of a 1-gallon fig, can also help them get through the winter. Also, the sooner you plant them, the more time they’ll have to get established before the severe cold arrives.

In fact, I’m already starting to “fall plant” in August since we have returned to a regular rainfall pattern and things have cooled down a bit.  I just make sure to provide supplementary water for the next month or so to newly planted trees and shrubs.  My thinking is that if you can keep your plants watered now, you’ll be rewarded by additional root establishment time, rather than waiting another month or two for fall planting season.

This should lead to more fully established plants going into winter and even better spring growth in 2018.  In fact, if you want to get less hardy plants in the ground yet this year, NOW, not later, is the time to be planting figs, pomegranates, citrus, or any more marginally hardy trees or shrubs.

Anything special about planting this time of year?

The main thing is to be sure you can follow the watering guidelines on our planting instructions during dry spells.  Don’t let newly planted leafed out plants dry out after planting in hot sunny weather.  It’s also a good idea to use a drench of Nature’s NOG or seaweed solution at transplanting to help plants get over transplant shock quickly.

From now on, you don’t want to push plants into new active growth this late in the season.  So, continue to incorporate rock powders, especially rock phosphates, at planting time, but hold off on nitrogen containing fertilizers.  A seaweed solution drench at planting should get plenty of new root development going quickly, without stimulating new top growth.

Be sure to mulch in all plantings about 2” deep, keeping the mulch away from the plant’s trunk.  Before winter add an additional 1-2” of mulch for insulation for the root zone.

What about pruning this time of year?

I’m a big fan of summer pruning, especially for established trees and shrubs, because it doesn’t stimulate excessive spring growth that then has to be managed severely. The ideal time is around the Summer Solstice. Now that we’re closer to the Autumn Equinox, I’m still doing some smaller corrective pruning on most everything, using lots of pinch pruning and small directive pruning.  And, as my blueberries and blackberries finish fruiting, I’m removing older stems and canes.  I’m also taking off the taller growth from the fruit trees that I want to keep more compact.

Of course, if a tree or shrub has damaged or diseased wood, this is a good time to remove that wood before the pests hunker down for the winter and infest the rest of the plant.

May you cultivate ever greater abundance in your life and in your garden and orchard!


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