Why should I be planting in the autumn?
The shorter, darker, autumn days may send many of us into the retreat of our cosy armchairs, but the wiser gardeners amongst us will be reaching for our spades and getting stuck into some planting! Whilst it may all seem that November is nature’s month for shutting down, it’s ironically the perfect time to kick off a new gardening year.
Most trees, fruit, shrubs, climbers, roses, conifers and perennials were all traditionally planted at this time of year. It’s only in the last four or five decades that modern container plant production has enabled us to plant in the spring and summer. Previously, many of these plants were only supplied to gardeners at this time of year as bare-rooted plants. If they weren’t planted before spring started you had to wait nearly a year for the arrival of the next planting season!
With the modern day gardener demanding more instant gratification, it’s getting much harder to find bare-root plant stock. Almost all shrubs, climbers and conifers are now container grown and most of us will also opt for pot grown perennials too. Hedging is still commonly supplied as bare-root plants and if you’re lucky you’ll find bare-root trees, fruit and roses too. You will probably have to pre-order these however as few garden centres will stock them on the off chance.
What to plant in the autumn
With the exception of the more tender plants, the vast majority of garden plants will be very happy to find a new home in the garden in the autumn and early winter too. After the deciduous plants have lost their leaves there’s no foliage to take any harm. Consequently, the plants will take little harm even in sub-zero temperatures. And by getting your plants in the ground before the onset of spring, they’ll be ready to take full advantage of the new growing season. They will get established early and so be much more able to be self-sufficient when summer arrives.
It’s surprising how much root growth plants can make in the autumn, even after you think that they should have “switched off” for the year. That’s because even long after the air temperatures drop, the soil takes much, much longer to cool down. This is especially so the deeper you go (think of how a ground source heating system works).
But with the soil temperatures being obviously at their peak earlier in the year, why wouldn’t we prefer to plant then? Drought is obviously an issue right up until autumn rains replenish moisture levels in the ground. At that point the moist yet still warm soil offers perfect conditions to encourage new root growth that we simply don’t get presented with in the spring.
For further advice about planting and plant availability contact The Green Team at Green Pastures Plant Centre, Mill Road, Bergh Apton, Norwich, Norfolk NR15 1BH or telephone 01508 480734.